Custom Card Game Design

Pirates vs. Octopuses: The set

I have wanted to complete my Iamur block for a very long time, but I always lost my focus or was too dissatisfied with my work to continue with it. The second set, Grim Tidings, went through numerous revisions. When I started working on it, I envisioned it as the set for the “overworld” of Iamur. On Iamur, the plane is covered by a giant ocean with only a few islands sprinkled in between. Although there are humans and other species living over the sea, the world underwater is far more interesting on this plane. The two worlds are separated by a magical barrier known as “The Great Pull.” In the first set, Iamur, we only get to know the underwater part of the plane and all of its inhabitants. But in Grim Tidings, so the idea, this barrier begins to fail, and the sea-dwellers are now entering the world that they call the “overworld.”

However, this concept had several problems. Grim Tidings was supposed to be drafted in tandem with Iamur, meaning that it had to fit into the draft format and assume most of its mechanics. But a set that focused on a seafaring, pirate-ruled world does not work well with the Iamur mechanics from a flavor perspective. And although the story progression felt natural, that it was being told from the point of view of the humans did not. After being introduced to all the seadwelling species, it makes more sense that the clash of the worlds is being told from their perspective instead.

This led me to do a complete revamp of Grim Tidings and I made it into a simple follow-up set to Iamur. Here, the barrier is broken but the set still plays majorily underwater. We have to visit the overworld at some point, though. This is an ideal concept for the third set: Overworld, a stand-alone, large set with new themes and mechanics. I prepared a small teaser with a few cards here. This is what I got for now:


Vessel is an ability word meaning “Vessel — As long as ~ is attacking, other attacking creatures you control have {ability}.” This mechanic is found on ships, which are all colored artifact creatures. Ship mechanics have been brought up every now and again on the forums, but I did not like any of those because they were all far too convoluted. So, my vessel mechanic is very simple. Here is the “haunted pirate-ship”-trope featuring the mechanic:

A haunted Pirate ship.

There are also other colored artifacts in the set:

Ramp and mana sink in one card? Sign me up!


Treasure is a mechanic for pirate-themed cards. It keywords the Gold tokens that were introduced in Theros block with Gild and King Macar. Here is a simple example:

A common with the Treasure mechanic.

Overworld will still be a ramp-heavy set with many giant monsters waiting to be cast. The treasure mechanic helps in casting them and takes the place of Melody and Swallow from Iamur and Grim Tidings.

Pirates and other tribes

The set will have a strong tribal theme. Pirates in blue, black and red are the most supported tribe. Many cards will also care about sea monsters, namely Krakens, Leviathans, Octopuses and Serpents, which will also get their own mechanic. There will be Turtles in green and blue and maybe one more tribe in white. I consider Elves for green and white.

This fine gentleman is not a pirate lord, because I have not designed any yet.

If you want to see more, check out the card spoiler! If I will actually complete the set, I cannot say. Nowadays, I avoid working only on a single set and just work on whatever tickles my fancy. So tell me what you think and if this is something you want to see more of!


8 responses to “Pirates vs. Octopuses: The set

  1. Circeus August 15, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    Treasure being a keyword action word makes the templating terrible on all accounts: it doesn’t actually makes the card text any shorter, and it just sounds bad, especially given what the verb “treasure” normally means. Although I understand the urge to keyword things, a keyword action seems to me to be by far the worst choice.

    As to vessels, I’m not sure there is much design space available for it at common, and flavorwise, it seems to me like this is one mechanic you want at all rarities. Basically, the last time there were cards that did that (i.e. unconditionally and “permanently” granting an ability to all creatures without restriction) was in Ravnica block with the Magemarks. Even as an activated ability all you have is Frostwind Invoker, and that cost {8}. Everything else either is restricted (Maze creatures, slivers) or has a trigger that is significantly harder to activate (humbler of Mortals, allies).

    • antaresmtg August 15, 2014 at 8:50 pm

      What word would you use for the treasure mechanic instead? It has to be a keyword action; the only alternative is not making it a keyword at all.

      For vessel, at common you can have first strike, trample, deathtouch, or +1/+0 for example without a problem. Other than that, it gets difficult, but there should be ways to make it work.

      • Circeus August 16, 2014 at 1:46 am

        If I were to word treasure, I would favor an ability word (duh), but given the flavorfulness of the token (which you can very well call treasure tokens at this point), I’m not sure a word is needed. I’m also slightly dubious about the mechanic itself. I mean, do you really need that much color fixing/semi ramping in every single color??

        On vessels, you certainly can’t have such essentially free indiscriminate ability granting (I’m not counting P/T bonuses here, only abilities). We have instants that do it, but no permanent would ever be printed under NWO that do this repeatedly for so little cost at common!

  2. Circeus August 16, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    Here’s a crazier option: “put an artifact token with treasure on the battlefield. (You can sacrifice it to add one mana of any color to your mana pool.)” Treasure’s full reminder text would be “Sacrifice this: add one mana of any color to your mana pool.”If you’re really concerned about the necessity of a name or subtype to put atop the token (rather than “Artifact”), you could make them “Artifact — Loot” (I’d make then Gold tokens, but “put a Gold artifact token on the battlefield” is a recipe disaster).

    • antaresmtg August 16, 2014 at 7:25 pm

      Currently, I like your previous idea of just not making it a keyword at all, in the same vein as the Eldrazi tokens weren’t keyworded. Making the sacrifice a keyworded ability instead sounds weird unless it’s used on other artifacts as well.

      • Circeus August 17, 2014 at 12:12 am

        Obviously, if I chose to do that for a set, I’d go for making it properly a mechanic and use it elsewhere. I was just throwing the idea out there. The designer proposes, the set lead disposes. XD

  3. Matt Limoges December 28, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    How is this set coming along? Been wondering how this and Lyanar are doing!

    • antaresmtg December 28, 2014 at 7:44 pm

      Overworld is coming along slowly, but steadily. I haven’t been working on Lyanar lately, so it’s still in the state it was in when I last wrote about it.

      Btw, you contacted me via E-Mail, but you never replied to my response. Kinda weird.

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