A Guided Tour of the Wizard’s Tower

September 12th, 2023 — Alex Houstoun

Has your Battle Box left you feeling a little boxed in? Did you miss the boat on Dandân and are now put off by the way a bunch of weird, niche cards have spiked in price (looking at you, Crystal Spray)? Fear not. There’s another self-contained way to play zero-setup Magic: (Re)introducing Wizard’s Tower!

Wizard’s Tower is a self-contained Magic format created by Ryan Miller and first introduced in a July 2013 article for the Wizards of the Coast Blog. While Miller’s version of the format used sealed booster packs, Wizard’s Tower allows for the flexibility and customization of Cubes or Battle Boxes. Although it’s been a decade since the format was originally introduced, if the Dandân craze has taught us anything, it’s that Magic players are always willing to revisit an overlooked, quirky format.

How to Play

Miller writes that a Wizard’s Tower is comprised of nine booster packs (about 135 spells) and 80 basic lands (16 of each color). The result is a 215-card deck that is 37%-41% land1.

To start a game, shuffle your tower and choose a starting player at random. Each player draws three cards. Starting with the first player, each player may put any of these on the bottom of the deck and redraw. Finally, exile the top seven cards of the tower face-up. (That’s it!)

These seven exiled cards are the most interesting aspect of Wizard’s Tower: during each player’s draw step, the player will first put an exiled card into their hand, and then they will draw a card as usual from the shared library2. The bonus, face-up “draw” helps players sculpt their hands for the situation, whether that’s fixing colors or responding to the opponent’s actions.

Each time the last exiled card is drawn, repeat the process of exiling the top seven cards of the library face-up. Apart from the special draw step, these seven cards are not considered to be in any game zone and are non-interactable.

In addition to sharing a library, players will share a graveyard, adding an interesting strategic aspect to mechanics like Flashback, Unearth, etc. Any spell or effect that targets a zone will target the shared graveyard or library.

Aliban's Tower
Arcane Sanctum
Coastal Tower

Building a Wizard’s Tower List

Wizard’s Tower exists in a similar design space to Battle Box. Both formats use a single shared library and graveyard, and their cards can be of any color(s). However, Wizard’s Tower shuffles lands directly into the tower, while Battle Box makes lands playable from outside the game. This critical distinction reflects Miller’s original desire for a Magic experience with the “essence” of Cube Draft without the “time, knowledge, and cards” that Cube asks of a designer.

Although the format was originally designed for freshly opened draft boosters, a Wizard’s Tower can contain any cards you like, just like a Cube or Battle Box. However, the altered rules and general random nature of Wizard’s Tower mean that some card evaluation heuristics need to be adjusted.

Typical Structure

As Wizard’s Tower was originally designed for 16 of each basic land shuffled in, a good starting point is to give your Tower roughly equal color distribution. Because players must draw their lands, you’ll want to give players flexibility to play spells of any color. A list that skews too heavily towards one or two colors runs the risk of color-screwing players for those majority colors.

A flat power level is generally recommended, to avoid situations where a player grabs a power outlier in the face-up pile before anyone else has access. As to what your preferred power level is, that is up to you! A quick search on the Cube Map yields Towers like Syz’s Wizard Tower at a Legacy power level, and more restrained examples like Blindfremen’s Budget Wizard Tower.

Many lists online maintain a singleton restriction, with exceptions made for the manabase (e.g., multiple sets of tri-lands or cycling lands). That said, the format allows for duplicate cards, and the popularity of Dandân shows that there is interest in a shared-library format with playsets. It all depends on your goals for your Tower!

Recommended Restrictions

Wizard’s Towers, like Battle Boxes, often eschew effects that cause shuffling or searching of libraries, as they go against the spirit of quick and easy games – especially with a bulky tower to shuffle.

As manabase risk is baked into Wizard’s Tower, this format is less unbalanced than Battle Box by mana acceleration, mana dorks, and/or land destruction. (That said, land destruction is [un]fortunately frowned upon in most casual formats, so it would be advisable to leave it out of your tower.) This is an area where one should feel free to experiment – the bonus “draw” in Wizard’s Tower gives your players the ability to compensate for many design choices.

Finally, keep an eye on cards that interact with shared zones. For example, Deep Analysis and Scour All Possibilities present quirky little mini-games that some players may appreciate – how highly do you value card draw and shared library manipulation if your opponent may be able to Flashback from the shared graveyard?

The Foundations of Your Tower

Flexible cards are the key to Wizard’s Tower. For example, though Savannah Lions is fine on turn one, alternatives like Knight of the Ebon Legion will scale better in long games and/or multiplayer mêlées. Other mechanics like kicker, cycling, and flashback all allow cards to scale between different game states.

In a pinch, Battle Boxes can be sources for design inspiration in light of the dearth of Wizard’s Tower resources. Much of the advice in our Battle Box article can be readily applied to a Wizard’s Tower.

It is also important to consider each card’s castability in Wizard’s Tower. With a five-color deck and a mostly-basic manabase, players will lack some agency over their mana sequencing and land drops. I have avoided cards with a high "devotion" and aimed to keep the curve of my Wizard’s Tower relatively low for my players to have choices at all stages of the game.

Sharing the Tower

Wizard’s Tower, like Battle Box before it, offers the new dynamic and tension of shared game zones. Myriad Magic mechanics allow a player to interact with their own library and I was immediately curious how such effects may be utilized against an opponent. Can scry be used offensively to trip up an opponent’s next draw? How does that change if they have a looting effect or their own scry? What does it mean to be “Brainstorm locked” if at least one of those cards is going to be drawn by an opponent? I don’t have the answers, but you better believe I am keen to find out.

My Own Wizard’s Tower


Resilient Wanderer
Deftblade Elite
Benevolent Bodyguard
Angelic Page
Longbow Archer
Benalish Knight
Pianna, Nomad Captain
Youthful Knight
Mystic Penitent
Advance Scout
Reborn Hero
Nomad Decoy
Mistmoon Griffin
Pearl Dragon
Guided Strike
Breath of Life
Angelic Renewal
Seal of Cleansing
Secluded Steppe
Ruins of Trokair
Forbidding Watchtower
Abandoned Outpost
Drifting Meadow
Nomad Stadium


Merfolk Looter
Waterfront Bouncer
Cephalid Looter
Rishadan Airship
Hapless Researcher
Cloud of Faeries
Riptide Mangler
Keeneye Aven
Cloud Dragon
Mana Leak
Memory Lapse
Arcane Denial
Frantic Search
Choking Tethers
Deep Analysis
Seal of Removal
Lonely Sandbar
Svyelunite Temple
Faerie Conclave
Seafloor Debris
Cephalid Coliseum
Remote Isle


Phyrexian Rager
Undead Gladiator
Faceless Butcher
Nantuko Husk
Putrid Imp
Brood of Cockroaches
Bone Shredder
Doomed Necromancer
Catacomb Dragon
Fledgling Djinn
Skulking Ghost
Morgue Theft
Chainer's Edict
Seal of Doom
Diabolic Servitude
Barren Moor
Ebon Stronghold
Spawning Pool
Bog Wreckage
Cabal Pit
Polluted Mire


Keldon Champion
Arc Mage
Goblin Patrol
Mogg Fanatic
Mogg Maniac
Pardic Arsonist
Ghitu Slinger
Bloodrock Cyclops
Volcanic Dragon
Goblin War Buggy
Goblin Brigand
Grim Lavamancer
Kris Mage
Solar Blast
Fiery Temper
Arc Lightning
Reckless Charge
Volcanic Hammer
Seal of Fire
Forgotten Cave
Dwarven Ruins
Ghitu Encampment
Ravaged Highlands
Barbarian Ring
Smoldering Crater


Centaur Chieftain
Nimble Mongoose
Basking Rootwalla
Arrogant Wurm
Pouncing Jaguar
Wild Mongrel
Seton's Scout
Lone Wolf
Wild Dogs
Canopy Dragon
Simian Grunts
Heart Warden
Primal Boost
Aggressive Urge
Sylvan Might
Exoskeletal Armor
Seal of Strength
Tranquil Thicket
Havenwood Battleground
Treetop Village
Timberland Ruins
Centaur Garden
Slippery Karst


Pyre Zombie
Voracious Cobra
Anurid Brushhopper
Consume Strength
Death Grasp
Diabolic Vision
Temporal Spring
Squee's Embrace
Quicksilver Dagger
Wings of Aesthir
Caldera Lake
Salt Flats
Pine Barrens
Skyshroud Forest
Geothermal Crevice
Ancient Spring
Irrigation Ditch
Sulfur Vent
Tinder Farm
Coastal Tower
Urborg Volcano
Elfhame Palace
Salt Marsh
Shivan Oasis
Archaeological Dig
Grand Coliseum


Blasted Landscape
Stalking Stones

I have included my own opinions and interjections about what makes this format fun, but my experiences are far from definitive! I was introduced to Wizard’s Tower in the spring of 2023 (shout out to couchlife). I was in a bit of a rut with my Battle Box and wanted more tension in the gameplay, so when I first learned about Wizard’s Tower, I quickly put together a tower from my collection. Once I had a loose sense of things, I went about building a more intentional list, the Deserted Tower.

My first goal was to use strictly old-border cards printed before 8th Edition – partly because I had a bunch laying around, and partly because the art and design evoked the feel of a “Wizard’s Tower”. It was a fun design challenge to recreate the casual and quick play experience I remembered from my childhood Magic games in the school cafeteria, all using a static card pool!

Deserted Tower features no tokens, counters, or additional game pieces. (It turns out that 215 (unsleeved) cards will fit snugly in a GameGenic +100 deckbox with little room for anything else.) When I first began designing my Wizard’s Tower, I wanted something that emphasized the ease and portability of the format. An entire Magic format that can accommodate multiple players, all in a small deckbox, makes Wizard’s Tower an ideal travel format, and the absence of additional game pieces makes it welcoming to players of all skill levels.

Finally, and most importantly, I have tried to incorporate many of the appealing features of the format highlighted in this article into my tower. There are library manipulation effects, rummaging, looting, and cycling effects, and mechanics like flashback that all put emphasis on the shared library and graveyard. While I do not want to distract from the gameplay, I want players to be mindful of their shared zones.

Like all things Magic, a lot of the fun is really found in your creative interpretation, design, and experimentation. Let my own tower serve merely as a guiding light – a place where you can begin your journey!


Wizard’s Tower offers a quick and easy way to play Magic. Non-negotiable manabase risks present variance and tension, and the modified draw step can scratch a deckbuilding itch without the time and player count that drafting requires. More than anything, Wizard’s Tower presents another opportunity to make use of the cards in your collection that couldn’t make it into your Cube, Commander decks, or Battle Box. The portability and simplicity of Wizard’s Tower make it a nice companion for games in between rounds at the local game store – or in any setting where folks want to play Magic!

More Wizard’s Tower Resources

  1. The proportion is 37% lands if you ignore the fact that sealed draft boosters contain lands; if you add these extra lands in, you get Miller’s original recommendation of “approximately 41%” lands. Regardless, the resulting tower should be what “someone would need if he or she wanted to build some sort of monster deck!”
  2. Miller’s original article is silent on whether the first player gets to select one of these seven cards on their first turn. Some searching online has lead me to believe that the general consensus is that the player on the play gets to both pick one of the face-up cards as well as draw a card off the shared library. That said, the wonderful thing about a sandbox format like this is you should feel free to adjust the rules to your own enjoyment.

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Ivory Tower — Margaret Organ-Kean