Custom Card Creation Mailbag #1 - May/June 2022

Welcome to the first-ever mailbag column for the MTGNexus Custom Card Creation forum!

As the supreme leader moderator in charge of this forum, I feel like it's my responsibility to listen to the community, give prompt answers to burning questions, provide advice when called upon, and even just respond to any offhand custom card inquiry I get. This irregular column is devoted to answering every single inquiry from the CCC community, no matter how trivial.

I have to thank everyone who responded to the original thread with thought-provoking and witty questions. I didn't anticipate such a big turnout, and I'm humbled and grateful.

With that, let's get to the community mail for this time period!

Iso writes: Would you ever play or build a custom card cube? What would you recommend, balance-wise, archetype-wise, and so forth? How strictly should the color pie be adhered to for such a set?

That's a dandy for my first-ever mailbag question. Three in one!

Custom Cubes are a lot of work. Arguably, they're more work than a custom set, no matter how fully realized. But of course, the allure of Cube is a bespoke Draft environment, and that has undeniable appeal. I'm something of a Limited player myself and I think I see where the allure comes from. CCC is mostly a theoretical exercise for me - I think it's mostly theoretical for most people - but yes, playing with your own custom cards and others' is a lot of fun, and Custom Cube may be the ideal way to do that. I'd just need to round up some committed friends and colleagues - One day!

Balance-wise? There are powered Cubes and then there are unpowered ones. The latter are usually there to have fun with bulk jank cards. If you're designing the cards in the first place, there's little reason for it not to be a power fantasy imho. Since the Cube is a self-contained environment, your only concern is balancing the colors and therefore the archetypes against one another.

The conventional ten, color-pair-based draft archetypes for Standard releases can easily apply here — but, once again, Cubes are hermetically sealed. This should be your license to make the archetypes weird, at the very least.

But I think for maximum fun, you should pay attention to the color pie. While you can create innovative effects that may not have a lot of precedent, try to find a philosophical home for them. Most people enjoy playing decks whose colors give them a strong mechanical identity, rather than undifferentiated soup.

Pygyzy writes: What are some common design practices or guidelines that you either disagree with or would change given the chance?

From custom designers: Be suspicious of anything that's alleged to be a mathematical formula for design. Custom cards are more an art than they are a science.

From WOTC: FIRE design has produced its share of mistakes, but my all-time least favorite common design practice, which may now belong firmly to the past, is Fleshpulper Giant-style designs in core sets and similar. Aimless color pie breaks in the products that should hew most closely to the color pie - Why?

Sporegorger_Dragon writes: What's your philosophy on green flyers?

They have a specific place. Not a fan of the idea that four out of five colors can freely access the maybe most important creature keyword in the game and the fifth can only hose it. Green needs flying sometimes, whether it's for cycles or nostalgia.

Battle for Baldur's Gate has had an unusual stance on green flyers because Dragons are a GUR theme in the set. I wouldn't expect these developments to continue beyond other D&D-related releases.

spacemonaut writes: What's your take on the custom card competitions and games we're running? Are there any gaps you'd dare us to fill?

The monthly contests are essentially perfect in terms of structure. I'd like to get greater participation, and (this is largely something I need to improve on my end) to make sure they run closer to on-time.

Club Flamingo needs no notes.

There hasn't been a one-off contest in some time, and there's always room for new ideas for ongoing games, although I think there's already good variety. My small dare is to come up with ongoing game ideas that have never been done before, rather than MTGS imports, and my big dare is to run Magic Wars.

spacemonaut writes: Has anyone yet created a card more perfect than Charging Badger?

Bronze Sable

In seriousness, French vanillas are spectacular places to work on flavor or just plain fun feel. Charging Badger has both of these things to spare and that's why we love it, memes aside. It also came in a context with an extra high number of combat tricks and positive creature Auras - the best possible time to have a 1/1 trampler!

Megiddo writes: How closely should custom card design adhere to WOTC design philosophy?

I think you may need to un-ask this question.

While some of the motivation for custom designing for some people is disagreement with WOTC design philosophy, that same design philosophy happens to be the only common language and point of evaluation for custom cards in a vacuum.

It's really a wonderful paradox. Ultimately, there has to be some grounding in the basics before you can make truly innovative things. A bit like learning the principles of anatomical drawing before creating really stylized figures in art.

Legend writes: The Nexus Card Creator is my favorite. But will the art window in it be updated with tools that enable the adjustment of images such as positioning, zooming, cropping, and the like? Also, will retro frames be added to the menu?

Thanks for the high praise, which Feyd_Ruin deserves for building this tool (and the rest of the site). We're always working on updates. Classic frames are high up on the list, and internal image changing is a little lower (given that our many talented custom card makers can use the external image editing tool of their choice in the meantime - but that's certainly less convenient, and we're listening).

Venedrex writes: What is your personal favorite card and/or mechanic you have ever designed?

Wow, what a nice thing to end on - a chance to brag.

Favorite ever is almost unanswerable. My favorite card from recent years that I've done is Wrimborthy, Generous Provisioner from the 11/3/2020 DCC. Food/Clue/Treasure "tribal" was less explored then and I'm really proud of thinking of these effects, and actually of the whole cycle this card came from.

I know Gnolls are a thing in D&D sets now, but Wrimborthy is meant to be more of a werehyena in the vein of my much earlier legendary character Qwyreth vanBultungin.

A mechanic I'm proud of from the past couple years is glissade from Six Shoguns. Konjin is a very special setting to me in the Collaborative Create-a-Booster and I love when I'm able to create an interesting mechanic that has such short reminder text.

That's all for this time - thanks once again for all the great mail, and I look forward to another edition of this column to come soon!

Even if I pre-format the art I'm using, it comes out distorted. It's old pulp magazine & sci-fi novel .cover art. A bugger to work with even in MSE. If I had the digital currency, I'd have already sponsored the project. Ah, well.
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