My process for designing my custom sets
edited December 2021 in Custom Card Sets
As I'm sure there are others who are planning on making custom magic sets or even blocks, it might be beneficial to learn what I have learned while creating my own custom blocks. Links are provided to both the accounts and sets so you can look through them. I'm also okay with people voicing their own opinions on my sets and cards as well as posting what they've learned when making their own sets.
Set: Rigo (link:https://mtgcardsmith.com/user/TheGamingBolasChannel/sets/10106 )
Info on set: Every new plane always starts off with an introductory set. This set is no different. This set introduces the player to the plane of Rigo. Rigo is dominated by five major races. Those races are angels (white), mermaids and merfolk (blue), orc (black but bleed into red), humans (red but bleed into all colors) and finally the Kokiri (green) although with only a single member alive during the Rigo block, green focuses more on Rigo's wild beasts instead. There are also fairies present on the plane as well as a small number of goblins.
Set design: When designing this set, I had initially planned on cobbling it together with cards I found created by other cardsmiths, but decided to create an account instead to save all the cards easier. This is where Angelis, Alexander and Saria come from. I also wanted to test out a custom mechanic of my own as Melody was being added in from the card for Saria, Sage of the Deep Forest (made by Saveria 201) and as a result I didn't consider the mechanic to be of my own design. As a result I created the Enslavement X mechanic. The mechanic takes a creature an opponent controls and turns it into a 0/Y with defender. Some cards within the four Rigo sets enter enslaved and can be unenslaved by targeting them with an Enslavement ability instead of an opponent's creature to remove the enslavement from the creature. This can't be done with other enslaved creatures however.
Set issues: One of the most glaring problems, personally, is that the set doesn't follow a concrete story outside of the obvious story spotlight cards (which use planeswalker symbols to denote them). The other glaring problem that others will likely also notice is that the number of black cards is very low which makes the color virtually unplayable if using only cards from Rigo. This specific issue later resulted in my concept of the 4th Rigo set, Siege of the Dead Continent. I also hadn't payed much attention to rarities when I was first making the set and only cared later on.
Takeaway: As my first set I am still extremely fond of the cards I created, but if Wizards were to translate it as an actual magic set I would add more cards to black and mess with the rarity of cards to balance out commons>uncommons>rares>mythics.
Set: Rise of the Slivers (link: https://mtgcardsmith.com/user/TheGamingBolasChannel/sets/14575 )
Info on set: I had always enjoyed the slivers mechanically and I wanted to take a shot at a sliver heavy set. As a result I was testing myself quite vigorously on only my second set ever which may not have been smart at the time, but considering I originally planned on the slivers taking over Rigo I might have made a good idea with taking a different route for the plane's fate. Story wise, a sliver from Shandalaar, Slivern, manages to ignite a spark, he is exceptionally intelligent, before traveling to Rigo and unleashing the sliver hive upon it.
Set Design: While making this set I kept Melody and enslavement. However, I introduced a new mechanic. I had used battalion in the previous set as the human focused mechanic and wanted a harder version of it to achieve for this set and Overwhelm was the result. Overwhelm is battalion, but instead it requires a total of 6 creatures to be attacking instead of 3. Later on in the design I added another mechanic (have procrastinated on putting it onto all slivers I intend to put it on) which would limit how big some of the legendary slivers in the set could get as I wanted to add more balance to the sliver part of the set.
Set issues: This set avoided this main two issues of Rigo. Rise of the Slivers had a far more concrete story with characters being active all across the plane. Black also was far more plump that in Rigo thanks to a zombified Elspeth I featured in the set giving me an excused to have zombie cards and return from graveyard effects that the Orcs couldn't provide in the Rigo set. The biggest issue comes when one removes non-sliver creatures from this set as many came out extremely strong. I also happened to be paying attention more to rarities, but hadn't yet gotten super strict on how many cards I would allow within each color.
Takeaway: Considering how limited slivers were in my following two Rigo based sets, I think it is quite clear that the takeaway here is that adding slivers to a set in large quantities results in too many overpowered cards when used outside of the set they were designed in.
Set: Battle For Rigo (https://mtgcardsmith.com/user/TGBC_Battle_For_Rigo/sets/59943)
Info on Set: I designed the Battle For Rigo block as if other sets had occured between the Rigo block and this blocks. For one thing, the set focused on the natives of the plane in their struggle against the massive sliver hordes. The defenders are aided by new allies, including a brand new planeswalker from Earth (yes i did Earth and that will likely have a very long info on set section). Rise of the Slivers saw a single legendary creature die within its chapters, but we lose a far more important figure in Battle For Rigo, the queen of the angels, Anlex. This set also sets the stage for Siege of the Dead Continent.
Set Design: Since this set was going to be a contrast to Rise of the Slivers I wanted to not only bring back the original mechanics from the Rigo block, but also show the united effort of the plane's inhabitants. As a result, the Ally creature type is heavily featured. It was more used as a story aspect on the cards and not as much of a mechanic, but some cards do focus on having creatures with the Ally type within the set itself. I also utilized Exalted as I felt it showed the idiodic bravery that would clearly show up during a fight for one's world. By this time, devoid had been out for some time since battle for Zendikar and I felt it fit well with the few slivers I planned on having in the set, so as a result I used devoid for the slivers as it made sense based on the story behind Slivern's spark igniting (He had a bump in with Emrakul's true form). This is also one of the first sets I feel confident in saying has properly thought out cycles excluding the mandatory no ability creature within each color. Also, as I was introuducing Kokiris as a creature type that wasn't on just Saria I quickly realized that I needed more artwork and so I made them the equivalent of Rigo's elves.
Set Issues: If anything, some cards are likely still far too strong or are not balanced properly (what do you expect when one person makes a set in less than a month with no playtesting going on?).
Takeaways: Planning ahead on the majority of the set's cards can be a great way to have a good framework as to what you want to do within a set and make it easier to create the cards rapidly. Leave room though for sudden inspiration cards as this will occur while looking for art for a specific card.
Siege of The Dead Continent (https://mtgcardsmith.com/user/TGBC_Battle_For_Rigo/sets/59944)
Info on Set: As mentioned in the Rigo set's set issues, the lack of black cards eventually lead to a set that would be the exact opposite of my first set. AKA, too much black. This set focused on zombies and demons and makes it clear by forcing a player to include black if they were to solo draft this set. The Dead Continent, as it is known to the natives of Rigo, is one of two major continents of the plane with the main on being called Furur. The land is tainted by demons and zombies. the natives of the plane had once destroyed the demon race a long time ago, but one demon managed to survive, that being Satan, who slowly plotted his revenge on the other races of the world.
Set Design: I wanted to add a feeling similar to the eternalize mechanic in hour of devastation without making it a mechanic. I added a non-mechanic effect on some cards, and even some artifacts akin to an hour of devastation artifact, that crated 5/5 black zombie demon creature tokens. Many of the zombie demons also had a mechanical effect where killing creatures gave them a +1/+1 counter and these counters could be lost when damaged by non-creature damage (instant, sorceries, planeswalkers). I added in the mechanic Alliance as a way to show that the natives of Rigo and the slivers had created a truce to deal with the demons of the dead continent. The mechanic also showed the growing connection the races were having with each other due to the need to fight side by side. I also wanted to hint at the mechanic for the next block I was going to be doing which was Earth. This mechanic was hinted at on three different cards. I will talk about the mechanic when I talk about Earth.
Set Issues: As noted, this set is specifically designed to be black as a way to work my creative muscles with black card design due yo my lack of black in Rigo, but Siege of the Dead Continent is black heavy which can make it not as fun to play for those who don't play black (i prefer white, green and red). The fact that I utilize a new mechanic with little support is also an issue, but due to the next set in order (if made by wizards) would be Earth, the cards would quickly get more support.
Takeaways: I'm never making a set intentionally filled with cards of one color. I wouldn't change this however if Siege of the Dead Continent became an actual set.
(Its late right now for me, 10:20 pm . I'm tired and I want to see how people think of this kind of forum post/ blog entry? I will be doing Earth, Battle for Freedom and Corrinella tomorrow. Milina's Revolution hasn't been started yet so I can't say anything about it yet.)
Set: Earth (link:https://mtgcardsmith.com/user/TGBC_Earth/sets/60281)
Info on Set: Lets be clear about one thing. This set was surprisingly difficult to plan out, especially for how Earth could fit into a Magic set without feeling out of place. While coming up with my concept for the block I knew that I had to keep both the feel of a normal MTG plane yet make it still feel like Earth as we know it. I quickly realized that the best way to do this would be to look at our own history as a species. Specifically, the fall of Rome to the enlightenment period. The reason I mention this is that prior to and right up to the end of the dark ages, tales of dragons and monsters were common, but after that those stories became myths and legends. I used this as a starting point and added an event into our history for this alternate Earth. That event was a separation from the multiverse, decreasing mana accesible to the plane. This would lead to Rome's fall and the dark ages after that. However, there was still one issue. How do I prevent planeswalkers from appearing on Earth from other planes. That is when I looked to see how long ago the mending had occurred. Luckily, it was far more recent that the fall of Rome. Why specifically was I looking at this? I deemed that the only good way to prevent planeswalkers from traveling to Earth would be due to a pre-mending planeswalker placing a field of some sort around the plane (which would also prevent mana from entering). Some of the events around this time involve Corrinella so I will talk about those events when I get to that block, but it should be noted that Corrinella and Earth were once part of a single plane. In other words, Earth was separated from Corrinella, then sealed away from the rest of the multiverse. For how Earth returns to planarhood was also quite an interesting work around I had to figure out. I didn't want to planar barrier to be able to be taken down from the outside, but from the inside. However, Earth wasn't seeing any planeswalkers awakening on it either, so I had to get creative. This is where we get to my character (yes I put myself into my own custom set). When I was coming up with this idea I was in High School (im now a senior in college) and I was going through some things mentally and so I built that into my character. I made it that, since Trump is the villain for the entire Earth block, Trump starts having muslims arrested and I fight against this in my high school. This conflict resulted in a more monstrous side of me (would later to revealed to be one of two planar souls present on Earth) and caused so much stress for the plane that the two souls, Earth and Krevnon, created a spark and threw me off of the plane (Krevnon traveled with as he was is the soul inside of my character). This also destroyed the planar barrier around Earth and the plane recieved large amounts of mana for the first time in almost 2000 years. The actual set story follows my character, some of my friends from high school and others as I get reaquainted with a new version of Earth where Dwarves, Elves, vampires and humans exist along with dragons, hydras and even dinosaurs.
Set Issues: For one thing, Earth itself is not a good plane for a MTG set, but the challenge of creating a set on Earth was really interesting to me. Also, having a single mechanic like Rage Mana can limit the number of cards that don't require it to get additional affects. Another issue is that, since my set is based on Earth as it was around 2017/2018, the use of historical and actual individuals could cause problems and even controversies for the game/set.
Takeaways: While a fun challenge to make an Earth related set, I would never see wizards doing anything like this, even if they decided they wanted to try making an Earth set in the future.
By this time, I knew that I wanted this set to be a library-matters set but I didn't have any mechanics yet. Soon after I made a plan for this character, I got the idea for my sink mechanic, which cares if three or more cards have left your library in a single turn.
I'm probably gonna have 270 cards in my set, 101 commons, 80 uncommons, 64 rares, and 20 mythics (only 5 basics since there isn't much land in a world that is mostly underwater).
Info on Set: This set takes place in Spring/Summer (northern hemisphere) or 2018. Things have gotten pretty bad after an attack by the United States on the resistance's base at Area 51. With Lennier having mastered the abilities and powers granted to him thanks to Krevnon, the resistance launches an attack on Washington DC. The set focuses on the battle and post battle events.
Set design for Battle For Freedom: It is basically Earth, but with more rage mana generation and crazier rage costs at times. Besides that it isn't much different from Earth itself.
Set Issues: Pretty much the same as Earth.
Takeaways: Once again, same as Earth.
Set: Corrinella (link: https://mtgcardsmith.com/user/TGBC_Corrinella/sets/64215)
Info on set: Corrinella, as mentioned earlier, is the sister plane of Earth. Corrinella's history post separation resulted in a plane where augmentations are common place among civilians which results in a very cyber punk feel while in the main city, Krevnonia. Outside of that, one finds many augmented individuals who have animal features, the most common being Nekos (cats), Lupos (wolves), Kitsunes (foxes) and Oni (demons). These individuals tend to take refuge in the city of Gaea. You'll have to read the story to learn more (and I need to do a lot of writing, aka there goes my vacation)
Info on set: The main mechanic of Corrinella is known as augment. This mechanic takes two forms, Bio-Augment and Mech-Augment. The name of it the mechanic only denotes the end result for the creature, remaining a non-artifact creature or becoming a colorless artifact creature respectively. Due to this, there is also a theme with counters in general (+1/+1 and -1/-1). Black has a focus on removing counters to force sacrificing creatures (removing an augment counter from an augmented creature causes it to be sacrificed). I also made use of conjuring which was suggested to me by @Jadefire as I was initially using token spells. This was also the first set where I divided up how many creatures I wanted per mechanic (8 bio, 8 mech and 7 neither) as well as setting aside 12 cards for non-creatures with 2 of those being enchantments and attempting to get 5 sorceries and 5 instants when possible.
Set Issues: The only issue I could see occurring would be getting mana to augment creatures, but I added in a land cycle and two artifact cycles that should alleviate this issue.
Takeaways: Don't feel afraid to ask the community for advise as it can help make cards work easier within the actual rules of MTG.