Crafting a custom MtG set – Where to start?

So you want to start designing your own custom MtG set. You have an idea for the setting and you’ve made a bunch of original cards which your friends think are neat.

Great. Now create 250 more cards… daunting, right?

Here’s what I figured out for myself after a few evenings spent scratching my head staring at Magic Set Editor: you don’t need to re-invent the (color) wheel.

Pick a set you like, which has the closest feel to the one you want to create. Go on that set’s Wiki. Look at the cycles, mechanics, mirrored cards. Think about why you like that set exactly.

For me, at first it was “Guilds of Ravnica” because I loved the guilds, setting and mechanics introduced in that set, but after a bit of research I realized my goals were more in line with Shadowmoor, because in my set colors and tribes matter in a similar way.

Okay, you’ve looked at the wiki. Then, pull up the cards list for that set. Look through them. Find the most common basic cards for each color. The ones we seem to see in every block… Then copy them. Add them to your set.

Let’s face it, designing rares is where the fun’s at. Copying commons will help you fill out some annoying holes and help you move forward. You can always go back later and put your little twist on them, but at least for now you’ll have 5 slots filled already. After all, commons are the most… common card in your set, the ones you need to design the most of.

Here’s an example of what I mean. These are 5 cards, one for each color, that are simply copies of basic, recurring MtG cards. I’ve just added a little twist on them to showcase my set’s flavor.

First is a “Bounce” card for blue. Classic, right? I added an effect that has to do with “mutants” since that’s my tribe for blue. That way I make my setting more palpable in a very basic card.




Next is red’s bread and butter:  direct damage. This classic card has had numerous re-prints, re-designs, re-names and is always good. All I did was make it my own by changing the name and art.




What’s greener than ramp? Yuge beasts, of course. But right now I’m talking about commons, so here’s a complete lack of effort. Actually, Elf Gardener is weaker so my work here’s not finished. I might put her as a 0/2.




Here’s the very essence of black. Again, “Destroy” is a staple of black mana. Kokusho happens to be in my homebrew D&D setting (which is the foundation of this custom set) so I decided to put the dragon’s name in the card title.




The last color, white. For Black’s taking of life, you need a counter-weight: White’s giving of life. I’ve just recently added the Reserves mechanic to it to make it a bit more interesting.



Of course, those cards are not in their final version. I might modify them a bit more to make them more unique but for now, I can rest easy knowing that each color’s pillar of foundation is secured. Believe me, it’s a load off my mind.

I’d like to keep my posts snack-size so I’ll stop this one here. As always, if you have suggestions for the cards, any comments or just want to chat, or if you know the artists who drew the art I used feel free to write something in the comments below!

Thanks for reading.

2 thoughts on “Crafting a custom MtG set – Where to start?

  1. Hi Étienne,
    I just read your post on your customs commons Magic card. I just wanted to tell you that your Audience with Kokusho seems very over powered! Mana cost of 1 black for “Destroy target creature” doesn’t seems right for a common (even if you lose life = to mana cost). In comparison, see Bone Splinters, which has the additional cost of sacrificing a creature, which is a lot more expensive than losing a little life … or Dark Betrayal which is limited to “Destroy target Black creature”, etc.
    Here are suggestions for changes to your Audience with Kokusho:
    -Mana cost: BB with “You lose life equal to the destroyed creature’s power” (which would be the equivalent of receiving its damage before destroying it); or
    -Mana cost: 2B with “You lose life equal to the destroyed creature’s converted mana cost” (yes, it looks like a poor Murder, but Murder costs 1BB, while that would be 2B, so easier to play in a multicolor deck, hence the life loss – anyways it’s a common, so it would be normal not to be the major card of a set/deck)
    -Mana cost: B with “Destroy target creature unless its controller [pays 1/loses 2 life]”
    My suggestions may not be “power-balanced” either … I do not know how Wizards of the Coast balance all their cards. I imagine they have guidelines that scale all that. From experience, even small tweaks to existing cards need readjustiing the converted mana cost.
    Anyways, those are just suggestions 😉


    • Thanks for the comment! This card is getting a lot of attention for some reason. I’m considering changing its mana cost to BB.


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