Prehistoric Set - Exploratory Design Phase

Hello there, it's your acquaintance in desperate need of an introductory catchphrase, Tigersol. I'm far from brilliant at writing introductions to my discussions, so I'll be concise and to the point. I have wanted to design a custom card set for some time now, and I have tried too, but usually when I work by myself I rush things or don't think things through. Inspired by the work of @ningyounk on their Rezatta thread ( I decided to open up my own little design thread for another custom card set. That custom card set, the Prehistoric Expansion Set, is what I'm about to explain now, but first, a little word about exploratory design.

What is exploratory design?
Exploratory Design is a phase of design in which the basic concept of a set is discovered. It's the phase where a set goes from a pitch to both a basic creative concept (i.e a basic description of a world) and a basic understanding of the underlying mechanical theme of the world.
The best example I can give is the exploratory design for Dominaria. The starting pitch was, quite obviously, 'return to Dominaria.' What exploratory design worked out was the following:
- Dominaria is regrowing from apocalypse. This set will be focused on a new, vibrant Dominaria.
- Dominaria's mechanical theme will be 'history matters.'
Exploratory design is not where mechanics and archetypes are forged. While I don't mind at all if you send in your amazing ideas for cards and mechanics, please realize that this is not what this stage of design is for. Right now, we need to figure out how to take the cool idea of a 'prehistoric set' and turn it into a basic concept for a world and mechanical theme.

What do I mean by 'prehistory set?'
One of the areas yet to be explored by Magic design is the fantasy genre's take on prehistoric history. We've seen Wizards take fantasy to many famous ancient civilizations and mythologies, but they have never strayed further back in time. With this set, I'm looking to create a fantasy world that exemplifies most of the standard pop-culture images for prehistoric times. This covers a lot of time, but, as of now, this is what is generally what's on my list:
- Primitive peoples of the Paleolithic Era.
- Dinosaurs.
- Giant insects of the Carboniferous Period.
- Giant mammals from the Pleistocene Epoch.
- Extreme climate (such as an Ice Age).

I would like to note that I am not a man of science. My goal is not to replicate ancient history, but is to instead bring the most famous elements of prehistoric eras into a fantasy world. I will get facts wrong, and I urge you not to scream and shout, but to instead roll along with it. This is intended to be fantasy's take of prehistory, and I'm going to treat it as such. There will be dragons and magic, and science will have to take a few blows for the team.

Anyway, that's where I am now. I look forward to seeing what you brilliant people have to say about this little project of mine and all of your wonderful ideas that will contribute to it. I don't really know what to say as a closing statement, but here's my best shot:
I hope this doesn't die in two weeks!
- Tigersol


  • First, Ixalan. Second, snow permanents. Third, what are the main factions? How will you incorporate all the main fantasy races?

    Otherwise, this will be a fun set to help out with!
  • Can't have prehistoric without dinosaurs and cavemen.
  • Are pterosaurs dinosaurs?
  • @sanjaya666 They were not, but it would still make sense to include them.
  • @Bowler218
    Not all sets necessarily need to be faction sets. Of course, we might end up there, but as of now, I don't see any reason to jump into designing factions.
    You do bring up a very valid point about fitting standard fantasy races into a prehistoric world, though. One very interesting way I saw this handled was in Ethan Fleisher's custom set Epolith, which he designed as part of the Great Designer Search 2 ( In this, he tackled the concept of a block where time flowed very fast. In his first set, to signify evolution, all humans in the set were Ape Humans and all merfolk were Fish Merfolk. We don't necessarily need to do this, though. Several races, by their nature, are generally uncivilized and tribal, and we could use those races. Examples include the majority of goblins and certain types of elves.
    Anyway, those were great points to bring up! I'm glad to have you on the team.

    About dinosaurs:
    Expect my level of scientific accuracy with dinosaurs to be only slightly better than Wizards were with Ixalan's dinosaurs. For example, I will classify the dimetrodon as a dinosaur (which is inaccurate), but I don't think I'll have dinosaurs looking like this.
  • edited August 6
    Ah, the prehistoric set is on the official short list of sets that players often ask for so this should be interesting ^^ Here are my first thoughts:

    - Are there going to be enough resonant tropes to support the set? Off the top of my head, I can think of Dinosaurs being a major trope, cavemen, caves, wooden clubs, fire, hunting/gathering, stone carving and that's about it. I'm not sure there are many stories that people would associate with Prehistory. This is important for a top-down sets, for instance with themes like Roman/Greek mythology, fairy tales or horror I can think of dozens of well-known stories that each contain at least half a dozen tropes that can make cool card ideas. Prehistory probably don't have that much depth, so you'll need something to add more substance to the set, another theme to mix up with the Prehistoric aspect, like Ixalan brought Dinosaurs within a south-american theme.

    - I like the idea of an Ice Age as it can bring a lot of tropes all by itself, but there might be a few problems that come with it:
    • There's already the Ice Age set and a few other sets including the recent Modern Horizons that already have used a lot of tropes, and mechanical space attached to snow mana.
    • It shouldn't prevent you from using illustrations that don't fit an icy setting or you'll end up with less material to use than if the theme wasn't in the set.

    - Since Dinosaurs should be a major trope, I'd try to explore some different design space than Ixalan, for instance by branching the heavy tribal stuff into non-Naya colors. Blue was considered originally for instance, as it has a lot of affinity with big creatures. Also I would stay as far away from Enrage as possible.

    [EDIT]: I just looked at Deviantart in search for a good secondary theme, finding enough illustrations where you don't have complex buildings and clothing is definitely going to be a challenge, you should probably start by amassing as many illustrations as you can that could fit the world and see where it leads you.
  • I believe Ethan Fleischer did a prehistoric plane for his GDS2 submission. Might be worth checking out for inspiration.
  • This should be muraganda. I love this, and it should be muraganda.
  • Mechanics that sound like they belong on this plane.

    +Tribal (Dinosaurs, Humans, Insect, Beast...)
    +Skulk (some mammals and insects survive this way, maybe this could be a go-wide vs go-big subtheme)
Sign In or Register to comment.