Custom Card Game Design

Brewing a “Sands of Time” set


this has been a side project of mine for a little longer now: A “Sands of Time”-flavored set, with Egyptian, Persian and maybe Aztec influences. I don’t have a name for this set yet, but I can show off the mechanics and some cards.


First of all, this is going to be a graveyard based set, à la Innistrad. The new graveyard mechanic for the set is Epitaph.

Epitaph {cost} — {ability} (When this is put into your graveyard from anywhere, exile it unless you pay {cost}. If you do, it gains its epitaph ability.)

It reads a bit weird, but it’s actually very simple. When a card with epitaph is put into your graveyard from anywhere, you can choose to pay the epitaph cost. If you do, it gains the ability after the dash for as long as it remains in your graveyard. If you don’t pay, you exile it. This eliminates memory issues whether the cost was paid or not.

Tomb RobberTemple Stomper


Time is the main cliffhanger of this set. The next mechanic, Foreshadow, has to do with prophecy.

Foreshadow {cost} (Pay {cost} and play with this card revealed from your hand. You can’t cast it this turn. Foreshadow only as a sorcery.)

Like kicker, foreshadow doesn’t do anything on its own, but the cards will have a bonus effect if they were foreshadowed. Basically, you tell your opponent what is going to happen to him on the next turn, giving him time to prepare, but you get a very powerful effect in compensation. Foreshadow can only be used on interactive cards; Grizzly Bear that enters the battlefield with two +1/+1 counters on it if it was foreshadowed is a bad design. What’s the point of showing it to your opponent the turn before? There’s nothing he can do to interact with it anyway.

Turmoil in the CityBeholder's Judgment


The third mechanic has to do with preserving knowledge. I don’t know if Consign is the best word for what I am trying to convey here, but I hope the cards speak for themselves.

Consign {cost} (Rather than cast this card from your hand you may exile it consigned to target creature you control. That creature gains “T: You may cast a copy of the exiled card without paying its mana cost.”)

Consign allows your creatures to cast your instants and sorceries every turn over and over again. The rules here are that you can consign a card at any time you could cast it and the ability can be responded to (the creature gains the ability once the activated ability resolves). The creature can activate the ability only for as long as the consigned card remains exiled.

Lich's SecretsHerbalism

As you can see, the effects are rather minor and the consign costs are still very high. I wanted to shove the entire cost into the consign activation, so that the decision what to do with the card is tough.

Durdly format

What do all these mechanics have in common? They’re kicker mechanics; they require additional mana payments to utilize. This should lead to a very slow and durdly format, where you can do lots of crazy stuff. Maybe you even have to run 18-19 lands in your draft decks.

Timeshifted cards

A returning mechanic of the set are timeshifted cards. I won’t be going so far as designing red bounce spells or black tappers like in Planar Chaos; I’ll keep it to reasonable color shifts that could be printed even as non-timeshifted cards.

Gladiator's StandPlanar Decay

Other cards

Taking extra turns will be a minor subtheme of the set (You won’t see extra turns at common, I’m not crazy!):

Gateway of Time

We need some cheap epitaph enablers for the set. A spell that’s good on its own, mills you for a few cards, makes you discard cards or sacrifice creatures, and is cheap so you can still pay epitaph costs on that turn:


How about a reprint of Pull from Eternity, to both enable epitaph and to hose consign?

We also need some graveyard hosers:

Pulse of Purging

Flashing this guy in response to a consign activation? Value!

Wasteland Bandits

And finally, Liliana makes an appearance again. Her first ability alludes to this being a -1/-1 counter block. I think it should be, although not having +1/+1 counters available really limits design space.

Liliana, the Tomb Raider

Also, despite not showing up in these spoilers: Zombies! Lots of zombies!


4 responses to “Brewing a “Sands of Time” set

  1. adventmtg May 9, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    Love it. I’ve had some ideas for an Egyptian themed set in the back of my mind myself, there’s a lot of untapped ideas there. Also, I like your Epitaph better than mine. Very compelling ideas – looking forward to seeing more of it.

    • antaresmtg May 10, 2013 at 8:17 am

      Your Epitaph did exactly what you wanted it to for your set; a minor subtheme for something new in the third and last set of the block. Minor subthemes are also important: When I tried to force myself to design cards that don’t use either of the three mechanics (which all demand that the entire card revolves around them), I found that lacking a minor mechanic is really detrimental. I’ll definitely have to come up with something along those lines.

  2. Matt Limoges May 11, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Looks great, but I believe Epitaph’s wording doesn’t work as written. I believe you need to add “As long as CARDNAME is in your graveyard” before the abilities.

    • antaresmtg May 11, 2013 at 2:55 pm

      It’s true that it should be written like you suggested if the Epitaph ability’s reminder text is interpreted exactly how it’s written. But I’d like to hardcode the “As long as CARDNAME is in your graveyard” into Epitaph itself and omit it in the reminder text to save space.

      So, Epitaph’s rules text should be:
      Epitaph {cost} – {ability}
      1. When this is put into your graveyard from anywhere, exile it unless you pay {cost}.
      2. As this card’s epitaph cost is paid, it gains “As long as this is in your graveyard, {ability}.”

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