Custom Card Game Design

Creating Custom Booster Packs


every so often, I am asked how I draft with my custom cards, so I want to share my method. Now, this is what works best for me. Everyone has different skills, equipment or amount of time available, so it might not be the best method for everyone. I have found that these work very well when you are looking to produce booster packs with respectable quality and acceptable amount of effort required.

Card Print Methods

I used various methods to print cards since I started doing so. The first cards I made I printed on cardboard paper and laminated them afterwards. Eventually, I decided that the effort required to laminate the cards was not worth it and I went over to printing the cards on standard paper, and using Magic cards as weight. This method, commonly used to quickly print a few proxies, requires very low effort but also yield very low quality cards. You can use glue to adhere the paper to the Magic card, but this has another problem: When the glue dries, it contracts, therefore bending and constraining the Magic card. Also, it is a very tedious task to glue hundreds of papers together.

Now, I print my cards on an adhesive paper. This paper has one segment on the front side, but the protection film is segmented. After you cut out the individual cards (nine cards per page), you can easily strip off the protection film. This method is very fast and yields a good quality, the cards being only distinguishable from real Magic cards after taking a closer look.

To print out the cards, simply use the implemented Magic Set Editor function. It works very well with a few exceptions: Long type-lines such as “Legendary Creature — Human Shaman” are squashed for some reason, which is a minor annoyance, and the printouts of split cards are unusable. If you experience the same problems, you will have to use an external program to do the printouts. However, the quality is generally inferior to those exported directly from Magic Set Editor.

How many cards to print?

When you want your set to be draftable, you need to print each card multiple times. Let n be the number of copies you need for each card, the number of players in the draft and c/u the number of commons/uncommons in your set. You use the following formula to calculate n:

n = minimum of N so that Nc > 30p

n = minimum of N so that Nu > 9p

Every set should have enough rares so that you do not need to print multiple copies of them. The closer you are to the minimum number of cards required to draft, the more uniform your common and uncommon distribution will be in the draft. For example, in a Theros draft, it is possible that six Gray Merchants of Asphodel are opened on one week, and zero on the next week. For your draft, the bomb common will always appear the same number of times. You can alleviate this by printing additional copies of each card, but you will never achieve a truly random distribution. To do so, you would need an infinitely large card pool. So I would simply not worry about it and go with the minimum number.

Inventory for Esparand.

Creating Boosters

In real Magic boosters, the common and uncommon distributions are determined by print runs. This means, that only certain combinations of commons respectively uncommons can appear in one booster. I have found this very hard to emulate, and also pointless to do so. To create a booster, simply shuffle up the entire common pile, and separate them into piles of ten cards. Then look at these booster packs and check for duplicates of one card, remove them and replace them with another. Also make sure that no color is represented with less than one or more than three cards, and replace cards accordingly. Then, add uncommons to that booster, here only checking for duplicates. For the rare/mythic rare slots, shuffle up the mythic pile, then shuffle the top X cards of that pile into the rare pile, where X is the number of rares divided by 8. From that mixed pile, take the top cards and add one to each of the booster packs. This way, every booster has an 1/8 chance to have a mythic rare in it. We do not need basic lands.

Finally, you need a cover sheet to hide the upmost common of the pack. You can use a basic land, or create one specifically for your set.

A simple cover sheet for Eternity. Art by Marc Simonetti

Bind the cards in each pile together and done are your custom booster packs. But now the hardest part: Get your draft group to not accidentally put the cards in their bags, lose the cards or negligently damage them. If you know a way how to do that, please tell me :(.


4 responses to “Creating Custom Booster Packs

  1. adventmtg July 23, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    This is awesome! Do you have a close up pic of one of the printed cards with the adhesive foil? Also – where do you get the adhesive foil?

    • antaresmtg July 23, 2014 at 7:45 pm


      This is what I use, I’m sure you’ll find something equivalent in the US. Important is that it’s in format A4 with a segmentation on the back.

      I can add a close-up pic tomorrow or so.

  2. reubencovington July 23, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    Really nice write up of your process.
    It is awesome to see that what you do is so similar to how I tested the paper version of my custom set: Coins of Mercalis.
    Only difference is that instead on adhesive paper I simply sleeve all paper cards with a normal magic card for weight.
    This means that the proxies are less permanent, making changes easier but has a slight higher setup time if sleeving a large amount of cards.
    However I do find the sleeve mean that player don’t take the cards home, and they are far less susceptible to damage which is a bonus.

    Also how do you bind the cards to a pack?
    I just use rubber bands but I find you can’t leave them on for extended periods or they leave indentations.

    • antaresmtg July 24, 2014 at 10:20 am

      It’s an advantage though, that you don’t need 400+ sleeves for a draft, but can tell everyone to bring their own sleeves.

      If the rubber bands damage the cards, you could try out hairbands instead.

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