Custom Magic Set devlog #4: Evolution of blue commons

Just like last in my last post, today we’re going to take a look at the commons of my set. Specifically, the Blue cards. Once again, we’re going to put them side by side with the older versions of themselves so we can see how the cards are evolving and I’ll explain the decisions that led to these changes.

Small behind-the-scenes comment: I’ve switched from building bottom-up to top-down and it’s helped me a lot in filling some holes and understanding what my set needed in terms of mechanics.

The 1st card is the early version or the inspiration, 2nd is the latest version. If there’s only one version, it’s because I haven’t modified the card.


arcane flight.jpg As Below so Above As Below so Above

As Above, So Below – As you can see, I struggle a lot with MagiGrammar (I can’t even copy an existing card right). I’m still thinking of a way to make this card more interesting. Also, the flavor is pretty cringe-worthy.

Information Broker Double Agent

Double Agent – Originally called Information Broker. Lore-wise, I wanted to show that The Aquamancer has informers everywhere. This card changed from a creature to an Aura to facilitate making dual-color decks. Lastly, I swear I can’t make this up, but M20 now includes a card that is exactly the same as this:


Talk about a coincidence!

Gill-face Gill-Face

Gill-Face – Virtually unchanged. I’ve seen a lot of small, unblockable creatures be the foundation stone for a lot of interesting decks on MtG Arena so I decided to put this one in for now. The advantage of playing paper MtG is the immense variety of cards available for you to make a deck. Playing with one custom set only will narrow down the sea of choices to a tiny stream, but there’s no reason why those available cards should stick to one style, one mechanic (well actually there’s plenty of reasons but I’m not working at WotC so I can do what ah wan’).

Goblin Net Caster

Goblin Net Caster – Oh boy, what has the Aquamancer been up to? Flavor-wise I want to represent a man that has been around for centuries, shaping creatures and lands in any way he sees fit. At first for research, then for pure entertainment – so while showcasing mutants, blue should touch a lot of creature types. This little dood was also the 1st card to sport the Slippery mechanic.

Aqua Blast Hydraulic Push

Hydraulic Push – I changed the name to from Aqua Blast to make it sound more like a D&D spell. It’s the quintessential blue mechanic: Bounce. Yes, it’s a Luvdisc on the card (water magic art is surprisingly not popular on the internet). I also added interaction with mutants to make tribes matter more.

Lillypad Runner
Art by Rafis Khuzin

Lillypad Runner – I quite like this little guy. Right now in our D&D campaign on which this MtG set is based on, my players are nowhere near the enchanted rainforest and the Aquamancer but I wish they were – I’m dying to throw these guys at my players. To me it’s an essential creature of fantasy. It bounces itself and it gives Scry and should be the cornerstone to blue combos possible within this set.

Lost Wealth

Lost Wealth – This card doesn’t have an early version because it appeared during my last creativity session. I’m a big fan of this one. It’s part of a cycle that I’m attempting to make for each color where if a certain condition is met, you can return a common card to your hand rather than putting it in your graveyard. Most of my players who have seen it have immediately declared that it’s over-powered. We shall see in playtests.

Muddy Grounds

Muddy Grounds – A classic blue card to slow down gameplay while you set up the board and which helps build the world of King’s Landing a bit. The lands around the city are covered in rice fields, which provide food and a natural defense against the heavy dinosaurs of the land who get trapped in the mud due to their weight.

Quickchange Mutate

Mutate – Here’s a card I changed after I decided to remove the “colors matter” aspect of the set. I simply swapped the effects from color change to creature type change. This simple card can create a lot of synergy between other colors of the set, especially red.


Piranhas – This is the first card I designed for the set and I find it hilarious. Any creature which enters the dangerous waters of the Aquamancer’s Rainforest will soon regret its choices. “Nope!”. The creature type is an Orc Fish as a nod to the fact in the first version I had written its type as “Orc” as a mistake. Also, it’s another card from my set that’s very similar to a new card featured in the core 20 MtG set!


What’s up with that?

Rainforest Orc Rainforest Orc

Rainforest Orc – I added the blue mechanic keyword to this creature to make it more prevalent in the set. I also changed its attack and defense to avoid stalemates that were common during playtests. Most of the playtesters reactions when seeing this were “Why would I want this in the deck” but coupled with Uncommons and Rares, this card should be another combo cornerstone.

Rainforest Veil

Rainforest Veil – One of the original Walls that I have kept in the set. I hope the mechanic helps represent the fact that the creatures are getting lost in the mist?

Riverside Meditation Turtle

Riverside Meditation – During my last design session I realized I needed a way to create tokens at common for each color and blue’s was missing. One advice I got from reading Mark Rosewater’s articles is that when you’re feeling cramped for space in your set, simply combine two cards into one.

School of Observants

School of Observants – Unchanged since the 1st playtest. I considered having the text say “when School of Observants leaves play” but considering the Slippery mechanics, it would have made it too powerful for a common card.

Surprising Speed Surprising Speed  Surprising Speed

Surprising Speed – This card was playtested a bit and the players thought it was too powerful. I didn’t think so but then again one of my weaknesses as a designer is finding the appropriate mana cost for cards. Here are three versions, please let me know which one you find the most balanced! I’ve also shared it on reddit and the users that bothered commenting mentioned the 1st version was the most appropriate one.


Tranquilize – Also unchanged since it’s 1st iteration. I despise counterspells and have almost never used them since I began playing MtG but I understand they are an integral part of Blue’s mechanic. One thing that bothers me is that you can destroy something that costs up to 6, 7, 8 mana for much lower costs – and counterspells slow down the gameplay incredibly. I decided to go with a spell that seemed fair to me in terms of mana cost.

Cavalry of the Deep Currents Rider of the Deep Currents Undertow Hunter

Undertow Hunter – This card started as an uncommon and had the “Cavalry” in the title as I meant to have a cavalry cycle involving all colors. Funny enough, the new M20 set has a Cavalier cycle! During my 1st “purge”, I deleted all the uncommon and rare cards I had made but this one had survived as I had moved it down to common. The “cavalry” cycle has since been moved to a creature type and I tried to make the cart text representative of what kind of creature I had in mind when looking at the art.

Watchman of the Deep Guardian of the Deep Watcher of the Deep

Watcher of the Deep – Here’s another card who had quite an evolution. I eventually settled on the fact that I needed more cards which showcase the color’s mechanic at common. I might go back to “Guardian” as a name since its toughness is higher.

Here are a few more cards that didn’t make the cut, just for fun! 

grn-194-ochran-assassin Lake Nymph Tempting Mirage

Tempting Mirage – This is a good example of cards designed based on the art rather than on the mechanic of the set (I think that design method fits into the top-down design category) and it shows. Basically it was just a blue Ochran Assassin but now that I look back at the Lake Nymph version from a couple of months ago, I like it more than its last version as a Tempting Mirage. It’s since been removed from the set altogether.

Latest Subject

I quite liked making this card as it’s full of lore for my D&D world but this type of mechanic really has no place at the common level.


This dude might come back, although probably not with that name.

Sky Thing

This is what place-holders look like.

xln-71-river-s-rebuke Tsunami

Jesse pointed out that this card already exists… and it’s a rare. I actually felt shame at the misstep in MtG card design I had committed.


So that’s my blue commons for the set as they stand for now. I haven’t playtested anything in almost a month because of time constraints and since playing with unbalanced commons is not very fun.

As usual, please leave your thoughts in the comments below!

I also like to share cards now and then on my Instagram and Twitter as well, so if you like to check social media while you poop go ahead and follow me on those!

Finally, I posted a video on the Saigon Geeks youtube channel yesterday. Here it is.


Thanks for reading, watching, and talking! May your enemies be mana-screwed.

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