Branding with Magic Origins

Chandra as a KidEditor’s Note: I wanted to get this in before the Magic panel at SDCC, where hopefully they will talk about some of this stuff.

My three-year-old daughter doesn’t know who Chandra is.

She knows Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Iceman, Spider-Man, Firestar, Captain America, and Hulk are. She knows R2-D2 (whom she affectionately calls “Buddy”) and anyone in the Star Wars universe with a hood is called “Doom” (Yes, after Dr. Doom). There’s Red Doom (Darth Maul) and White Doom (Darth Sidious).

Nicol Bolas and Ajani are a mystery to her.

She rummages through my extra Dice Masters cards because she knows the characters. “Who’s this?” She asks, holding up Hawkman. I mention his name and she just shrugs. “Ok,” she uncaringly remarks while shoving the card into her pumpkin basket that she carries with her along with the Batman, Wonder Woman and Hulk cards.

She doesn’t play Magic, so she can’t just appreciate the game or the characters just yet. There’s been very little exposure to the game aside from the Pop Funko figures above my computer while we play LEGO Star Wars. Is it my fault?

Or is it WotC’s? Continue reading

Data Dump – Categories of Banned Cards in Modern

Dig Through TimeThe new Banned and Restricted list was announced today. I don’t have much to say about that since I don’t play the formats regularly. But with the three cards banned today from Modern, I thought it might be good to take a look at why these cards got the axe. This is by no means an extensive list nor the only reason why these cards are banned, but they give you an idea of what kind of cards continue to be problem cards.

You should care about this because when you’re looking at mechanics you should analyze them from a Spike’s point of view. The Spike player wants to maximize any and all value our of every card they have and usually a card gets banned because it has become too oppressive. You need to get some perspective from people who play the game competitively to see if your cards are balanced (besides playtesting to see how they operate of course).

Good designers are not always good developers, and vice versa.

When I saw Treasure Cruise for the first time, I didn’t think it would make it out of Standard as the cost of exiling seven cards in a format where you might want your graveyard (Modern/Legacy) was a bit too much. Obviously I was wrong.

You obviously need playtesting to see how your created cards pan out, but don’t just subscribe to what someone on the internet about cost. In recent years, I’ve tried to stay away from that more and more since you need to know too many things to get the cost just right (Like the environment the card is being printed in, for example). All I can do is give you a best guess based on previous cards that do roughly the same thing. A vanilla 2/2 for 1G is going to be a safe bet; a vanilla 2/2 for U is a much harder sell.

This is just an observational list to see if your cards fall into any of these categories. This doesn’t mean that don’t design any cards that fit into any of these (some of my favorite cards can fit into these categories), but just pay attention of what the cards do. Please pay attention that the more ban worthy cards fit into more than one category like drawing cards cheaply. Some cards I leave off this list because they weren’t broken unless they were combined with another card (Dark Depths, the Artifact Lands) or they were just too good without really breaking any of these rules (Deathrite Shaman).

Cards that reduce their own casting cost:

  • Ancestral Vision
  • Blazing Shoal
  • Dig Through Time
  • Dread Return
  • Hypergenesis
  • Mental Misstep
  • Treasure Cruise

Cards that cheat a cost:

  • Ancestral Vision
  • Birthing Pod
  • Blazing Shoal
  • Bloodbraid Elf
  • Hypergenesis
  • Stoneforge Mystic

Cards that provide more than 1 mana:

  • Cloudpost
  • Rite of Flame
  • Seething Song

Cards that have repeatable effects:

  • Birthing Pod
  • Green Sun’s Zenith
  • Jace, the Mind Sculptor
  • Punishing Fire
  • Skullclamp
  • Sword of the Meek
  • Umezawa’s Jitte

Cards that draw extra cards cheaply:

  • Ancestral Vision (3 cards for free)
  • Dig Through Time (2 cards out of next 7 for UU)
  • Glimpse of Nature (X cards for G)
  • Jace, the Mind Sculptor (1 card out of next 3 for free)
  • Ponder (1 card out of next 3 for U)
  • Preordain (1 card out of next 2 or 3 for U)
  • Sensei’s Divining Top (1 card for free)
  • Skullclamp (2 cards for 1)
  • Treasure Cruise (3 cards for U)

Cards that extend game time that for tournaments:

  • Birthing Pod (Repeatable Shuffling/Decision Making)
  • Jace, the Mind Sculptor (Repeatable Decision Making for 2 Modes)
  • Second Sunrise (Repeatable Loop)
  • Sensei’s Divining Top (Repeatable Decision Making)

This is not a commentary on any of these cards, just an observation.

My 2015 Magic Resolutions

66 - Worldwake - Quest for Renewal - Tomasz Jedruszek

A new year means a new beginning, right?

I’ve decided to share my Magic Resolutions for 2015 with you.

Write About Magic with More Consistently 

This one should be obvious. I haven’t written enough lately and I really should rectify that. I was hoping that the November challenge for myself would be able to help stir it up for me, but it didn’t (more on this later).

My large overall resolution this year is to work on my time management. With my increased responsibility at work and chasing down my two daughters has taken time away from everything else for me. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to spend less time with them of course, I’ll just be rearranging my life to do the things that I want to do.

There are plenty of things I want to accomplish, but it’s becoming obvious that I can’t do them all. I’ve walked away from other things I enjoy to take care of my family, because that’s first in my life. Long time readers know that, and I appreciate all the support I’ve received for it. But Magic is important in my life as well; it’s been a true passion of my life for years. I have much to give back to the Magic community and I want to continue what I used to do.

Now, I know that I’ll be here and hopefully, but there might be a chance I will show up elsewhere. I’ll let you know if and when that happens. I’m not trying to get ahead of myself here.

Complete My Commander Decks

On Halloween, I posted this tweet:

That’s twenty different Commander decks. With Fate Reforged, that may or may not grow. The goal is to make each deck play differently from each other; why do I want to play two decks that have the same style? Even though I’m a Johnny and I love to tinker around with ideas, I want to keep a staple of around that many. If I can get some more mono-colored Commanders in there, I’d love to.

I’ll be working on those decks over on, keep the Commander separate from everything else here. I’ll post on the progress of each and I think I’ll try and really relax things over there (relax meaning maybe not so formatted, I don’t know yet. it sounds better).

Work on the Star Wars Custom Cube

Hey, there’s this in here.

I can honestly say that this was an utter disaster. I thought I could do it but it just didn’t work out. There’s no excuse here. This, among other projects, is a huge reason why I’m working on my time management skills this year. I could be distracted by something else, but this is important to me. Plus, the friend that I was making this for is now expecting his second child this year. Maybe, just maybe, get it done in time for its birth (sometime in June).

This will be worked around here and there and I won’t try to make it as a big of a deal like I was trying to do before with the subreddit, and daily updates. Obviously that was the goal but when it didn’t work out like that it just snowballed down from there. I’ll work something out where you can follow its progress.

Rework My Regular Cube

I’ve been meaning to talk about this Cube for well over a year. This will be one of my posts I’ll be focusing on first. I created some rules on how to create my first non-Pauper Cube and I think it was a wonderful thought exercise but not the best experience. More on this soon.

Make it to a Prerelease

This shouldn’t seem like it should be a big deal, but it is. From Mirrodin to New Phyrexia, I only missed maybe two or three prereleases and those were for good reason (I got married, you know, events like that). Since the large prerelases were disbanded I’ve been to a handful; of course my personal situation has changed as having kids can do that to you. But the last one I participated in was Dragon’s Maze.

I’ve got a shot with Fate Reforged, but that’s not a certainty just yet. I know that this seems like it’s a small resolution and silly to plenty of Magic players out there but it’s still something I want to check off my list.

Play more Wacky Formats

Or, just play more. I’ve got the complete set of Vanguard, and Planechase, and the three “Horde” decks from the Theros block, and my Zombie Hoard deck. Plus I’m working on Conspiracy for drafting. Let’s all mix that up with Commander. Grinding with Standard decks to play in a PTQ isn’t my idea of wanting to spend my Magic time. I found my Timmy side: I want to have fun when I play Magic. Never played Vanguard Planechase Commander?

You should; it’s so choice.

Get my collection up on

I have no affiliation with other than I like how it’s keeping my cards organized when I put them up there. The real part of this is to go through my collection in the first place and cataloging everything. This is also for insurance reasons in case something bad happens to my collection I have a list of what I own.

Create Other Content

I wish I had the ability to create something different everyday. Unfortunately my job is not to work on Magic all day so my time goes elsewhere; I’m just a guy with a blog who cares passionately about his hobby. I’ve got a nice DSLR that I want to shoot a video with; I’ve got video editing skills to put together said video. Maybe it’s time to work on abandoned projects from the past. Maybe it’s to create new ones and just forge forward.

Or I just might be getting ahead of myself and expecting too much without coming through. I don’t want to do that; but this is just something I want to get out there as well. I’m trying to be realistic but just saying that if you see some weird project by me this year, it was me branching out.


– I’d love to be on another podcast again. The last one was Erin Campbell’s Deck Tease and I had a great time on it. Of course, I have to provide a reason to join in rather than being me; I haven’t done anything of note lately, in my opinion.

– I’m planning to go to PAX Prime this year (My Daughter’s surgery the day before prevented this past year’s). This is all predicated on my brother deciding not to get married that weekend.

– The one other area of focus I would like to do is bring back Magic blogging. When I first started there were a bunch of us who wrote, got brought it to some major sites, or started their own, and at the moment there aren’t too many who write independently. I’m not really talking about Tumblr here as I feel that’s a much different experience.

Writers need to come from somewhere. If the major sites keep getting people who win events, then that’s the content you’re going to get from them. Not to be cold, but they aren’t writers, just some person who won and has to write something. I started this blog so many years ago because no one was creating the content that I wanted to read. You have the opportunity to make your own mark in Magic history.

Both 99CMDRProblems and this blog have over a million hits each for a total of 2.6 million page views. I have over 4,500 followers on Twitter, including members of WotC, for one of the largest twitter followings of a non-Pro/R&D member. It might seem like I’m bragging but I’m telling you what you can do: I’m just a normal guy who loves Magic and writes. This is so cliche, but this is something that you can do.

Believe me when I say what WotC reads what people put out there. I think recently there’s been too much of a emphasis on Reddit and Tumblr and not enough long form writing. Start a blog here on or and write. Maybe you go the Vorthos route and write about fiction. Write about MTGO (write, don’t complain). You can focus on anything you want (Mike Linnemann’s recent piece on Gathering Magic is something that a person could and should devote a whole blog on (and I’m not just saying this because I know Mike and he name-checked me over there, I’ve written about it as well – over five years ago). Tell me if you start something, I want to encourage as many as people as possible to write. Create content, don’t just consume it.

I’ve felt like I’ve let people down recently and I can’t do that. Writing about Magic makes me happy and a part of something bigger. I want to encourage you to do the same. If you follow me on Twitter say hi, ask a question, show me something you did. Not being as engaged with the Community as I’ve been in the past is a sin of mine.

This is a new year and with that comes a new beginning.

What are your resolutions for Magic this year?

NaCYOCMo – Day 1 – Thoughts

AT-AT Imperial WalkerDay 1 (This didn’t get posted late last night thanks to a funky error)

If you read the links in the previous post, you would see they’re all about Development and not about Design. If there’s one thing I know I’m weak at it’s judging power level. I can gauge things alright but it’s all contingent on what the environment allows. Spiritmonger is a fantastic card in a vacuum: a 6/6 regenerator for 3BG that grows when it kills things. If you showed that card to someone just learning about Magic, they can see how powerful it is.

And it was powerful in the environment that it debuted in. Spiritmonger passed the “Flametongue Kavu Test” (doesn’t die to four damage) and it was helped that Pernicious Deed was in the same colors and worked rather well together. Back then, the spells were more powerful and the creatures weaker compared to today so Spiritmonger could reign supreme back then. When the creature was reprinted in Conspiracy, I asked some friends if it would even make a dent if it was legal in Modern.

No one said yes.

But with Cube, and any closed limited environment, we can create a situation where any card is powerful. Want to make Spiritmonger the most powerful card that can be drafted? Done. That’s part of the appeal for people who build Cubes: they can become an all-powerful being if they want.

With great power comes, well, you know…

Continue reading

NaCYOCMo – Introduction

Royal Assassin

She is a royal, who is an assassin. Is the name wrong here?

Honest moment: With everything going on in my life, there hasn’t been enough time for Magic. I’ve played less recently for such a long time, though I still keep buying cards (and I’m really excited for the new Commander product on November 7th). I obviously haven’t written much lately either; I’m working on a project for something that I’ll share when the time comes.

But I’m changing this Magic drought.

Sometimes to get out of a drought you need to bury yourself it in. That’s what I intend to do. November is many things: “No Shave November” (which makes Thanksgiving a little awkward – ask my brother), and a month dedicated to creating things: NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and NaGaDeMo (National Game Design Month). I’ve always wanted to participate in one of these things so I decided to start one of my own: NaCYOCMo.

National Create Your Own Cube Month

This is not just building a Cube, this is creating new cards for a brand new Cube. Magic Design. You know, what I used to talk about on this blog? I’m going to build a Cube from scratch in 30 days. I encourage you to do the same thing.

Now, there are plenty of stipulations about what I’m doing for myself so let me lay down the ground rules for me (you don’t have to follow them if you don’t want to):

  • IG-88 CardMost of the cards in the Cube have to be new. There can be reprints if you want, but the goal of this is to make something new.
  • If you take the smallest Cube size 360 (15 cards a pack, 3 packs = 45 cards per player, 8 person pod = 360 cards), that equates to creating 12 cards a day. Not an outlandish goal by any means. But we’re not going to stop at 360 cards because we need to design more than that in case some cards don’t work out. Just think of 12 cards a day as a minimum goal.
  • If we were really going by the design process, we wouldn’t worry about templating, art, card names, power level, etc. I would agree with you if we were looking for this to be 100% like what you should do. Time restrictions for me don’t give me that luxury. I’m looking to do actual full cards (more of that in a minute).
  • The other issue is playtesting. That’s going to be the part where this is going to be tricky for me. You really need to playtest your cards to see what works and what doesn’t. You can’t always judge cards in a vacuum. I want to set up for some online testing, but we’ll get to that in a little bit into the month.

Since we’re designing Magic cards (a known quantity), we really aren’t breaking ground in too many “we need to test this to see if the game works” type of stuff here. I’m going to encourage you to try new things (take chances, make mistakes, get messy) because that’s what I’m going to do.

I also want to make the Cube playable, and here’s why: One of my good friends and I met in college as we were playing sports. It wasn’t until Attack of the Clones came out that we really confided to each other that we were geeks. We found that WotC had released a new game, the now defunct Star Wars TCG and we started playing, which got us both admitted into playing Magic and our friendship grew stronger.

Anyway, he wanted help building a Star Wars TCG cube last year (one Light Side and one Dark Side that we draft separately then play together), and we had a fun time building it and playing it. He’s in the processes of getting the final cards he needs and starting to foil out the Cube (contact me if you have any of these cards). His wife gave birth to a daughter earlier this year and I wanted to build a Star Wars related Magic cube for him. It was pushed to the back of other things going on until I realized that I could do that this month. And by “do”, I mean add another thing to my list but work on this as well.

I’m going to document the process. It’ll get me writing, and creating cards once again. I think this is a good opportunity to do this. The goal is to post something everyday, either a couple thoughts about Magic philosophy that I come across or even those day’s cards. I might not post everyday (shocker), but that’s my goal that I want to hit. At the end of the month, I want to print them out in black and white, and do a full playtest draft with my friend to see what he likes. Then, it will go back to the drawing board about what works and what doesn’t. I do not expect a perfect Cube at the end of this month, and neither should anyone who wants to participate.

If you want to partake in this project by helping me, I highly encourage it. If you want to build your own Cube, that’s perfectly fantastic. I’ll talk more about this at the beginning of the month. If you want more space to post things, I started a subreddit: r/NaCYOCMo, so you can follow along and post your own creations there. It’s a spot where you can work on your own Cube and post some thoughts there. I didn’t want to fill up a place like r/CustomMagic and this way it can survive as its own entity. You might find me posting more stuff over there than on the blog here, but I don’t know yet. There will be spreadsheets and other documents that I’ll throw up from time to time.

This is a creative endeavor that I’m excited about. The idea here is that this does not simulate what WoC does to create new cards, but I will still enforce power/color pie issues because that’s important to me. Is this a bit like having my cake and eating it too? Sure, I’ll admit that. But this is a personal creation just to see what would happen if I tried something like this. If you want to read up to help you get started about what I think we’re going to need to focus on (rather than just creating cards), I suggest you read the following articles:

Why are these Development articles and not Design ones? We’ll get to that.

See you next week.