Custom Card Game Design

I’m back!

Hello all!  After several months of sporadic internet inactivity due to increasingly demanding duties with my job, I’ve found myself with enough time to hop online and work on some custom cards again.  The first thing I did was check here and MTGS, where I got pretty excited about Iamur.  Apoquallyp/Antares has rocked it out with that one, and I can’t wait to get the chance to play with the set.  If you haven’t taken a look at it yet, or if you’re just stumbling onto this blog from a google image search (as my site tracking tells me happens a lot), you should poke around and take a look at it – it’s pretty awesome.

As I’ve mentioned before, shortly after I started work on the Caeia block, I began working sporadically on another project.  I had realized all too late with Caeia that the best limited play (in my mind) for custom sets is the Cube.  Having a singleton format removes much of the logistical complexity of having truly random packs of a custom set that can be difficult to print and play (and there are few electronic mediums that can simulate a draft effectively).  I was already committed to the Caeia block following WotC conventions that made it hard to design specifically to be a cube (although I did determine to only balance for cube limited), specifically the lack of rarity, but with a new project anything goes.  So, I would occasionally open up the set file and play around with my custom cube.

I was both excited and slightly discourage when Justin Parnell and Ali Aintrazi announced their custom cube project.  Excited because, hey, more custom cards and from a high profile source too!  The simple fact that they began that project brought in a lot of interest into the custom card creation world, as many tournament players had never really seen custom cards, or at least had never seen them to this extent.  Disappointed, because I knew since they were a high profile bunch, anything I ever did (like make public my own custom cube project) would be viewed, at least by some, as ripping them off.   Hopefully nobody here thinks that, but there you have it.

Originally, the cube was supposed to be based on Ravnica.  With Caeia being an exercise in mono-color strategies, I wanted to branch out and experience multicolor design.  When Return to Ravnica was announced, I went back and re-designed the cards I had and ended up with ‘shards’ instead of ‘guilds’.  Yes, this project will feature the five 3-color groupings from Alara, with a slight twist.  Instead of having a Primary color and two allied Secondary colors, I’ve opted to change the primary color so that it is paired with an ally and an enemy.  While the color combinations stay the same, their philosophies arein many ways quite different to their Alara cousins, enough so that (I hope) it provides a different gameplay experience.

Thematically, the idea is that legendary creatures and planeswalkers matter.   In the first 180 card ‘mini-block’, for instance, there are 10 planeswalkers and 15 legendary creatures so far – with possibly a few more on the way.  In addition, many cards in the set become more powerful in the presence of legendary creatures or planeswalkers.

As for story – there is none.  At least not right now, and probably not even once it’s done.  There will be flavor, of course.  You’ll see a card and hopefully recognize what it represents.  But there isn’t going to be a cohesive story to any of this, no explanation as to why these guys are fighting.  This set is being built primarily for function, to create a high powered standalone limited environment.

One last note on the set, and then I’ll preview a few cards – it’s a high powered set.  Once this is done and people are playing with it, it should feel similar to playing with a powered cube.  This means that many of the cards featured here are of a very high power level and are likely unprtinable in an actual WotC set.

That being said, here are a few preview cards from Set 1 of 3 in my custom cube (codenamed Duty, Honor, Country)


The Pillage mechanic is found the UBR ‘Pirate’ Shard, and the shard itself is built around using this stolen mana to cast powerful spells and summon an army of ruthless pirates.

The WUB ‘cultists’ shard features a cult of zealots who aim to convert all to their cause -willing or not.

The RGW ‘nomads’ shard is my personal favorite. The shard features very defensive creatures who rarely strike first.

The BGR ‘barbarians’ shard features a focus on creature combat, with ruthless creatures like this guy who come with their own, one-sided pseudo inquisitor’s flail.

The simplest usage of the embolden mechanic, which strengthens the ‘legendary creatures and planeswalkers matter’ theme.

Many cards in the set feature the preparation mechanic, allowing you to pre-cast spells to enhance your tactics (or to simply get a discount).

This card comes from a cycle of enemy-color auras that enchant a legendary creature or planeswalker. Curious to see how this is received. Note: this hasn’t been correctly costed yet, the UR is just a placeholder.

That’s it for now!  I plan on popping up a few more posts in the coming days, including one talking about my thoughts on one of magic’s forgotten tribes – the dwarves!


2 responses to “I’m back!

  1. antaresmtg January 2, 2013 at 7:12 am

    One comment on the Justin Parnell / Ali Antrazi cube: From what I’ve seen, it’s good but not great. And it’s not like it’s the first custom cube anyone has ever made. I wouldn’t worry about it.

    • adventmtg January 5, 2013 at 2:08 pm

      Oh I’m not worried about it necessarily… I love what Aintrazi/Parnell are doing, would love to have the opportunity to meet those guys (or have them look at some of the designs here, just to see what they’d say)

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