Cardsmith Blog

Making Cards More Realistic

Making Cards More Realistic ...or... Correctember!

In the quest to make our cards as realistic as possible, we thought it would be a great idea to explore eight of the most common mistakes that Cardsmiths often make.

Color Pie Break

If you want your cards to be seen as realistic, it's important to choose the right color(s) to go along with the effects on your cards. Here is a great link to help you see if the mechanics of your card make sense with their color identity.

Mechanical Color Pie

Monocolored cards are very straight forward, but cards with more than one color can be tricky if you don't know the difference between gold bordered cards and hybrid cards. Even an experienced cardsmith can sometimes fall into this trap, so to avoid it you should always keep the following in mind when selecting the type of mana in your casting cost.

*Hybrid cards can only do what BOTH of its colors are able to do.
*Gold bordered cards can do what one of its colors is able to do.


If a card is too wordy and too complex, most people will skip over it while browsing the site. It's easy for us to lose sight of this as cardsmiths, because we're constantly trying to explore new dynamics in our card construction. Understanding how to control the complexity of your creations will greatly improve the end results. Common cards must be especially simple.

Gamepedia talks about this briefly in New World Order

Put, Get, Have and Gain

The first of the most commonly mixed up wordings is knowing when and where to use "Put", "Get", "Have" and "Gain".

"Put" is used when a counter is placed on an object and when cards are moved into different zones.
Target creature gets a -1/-1 counter. (X)
Put a -1/-1 counter on target creature. (O)

"Get" is used when an effect modifies a creature's power and/or toughness. It is also used to distribute counters and emblems to a player.
Target creature gains +1/+1 until end of turn. (X)
Target creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn. (O)

"Have" is used when a static effect from a permanent gives abilities to objects.
Other permanents you control gain indestructible. (X)
Other permanents you control have indestructible. (O)

"Gain" is used when an ability is temporarily given to a permanent. Players can also gain life and gain control of permanents.
Creatures you control gain flying. (X)
Creatures you control gain flying until end of turn. (O)

Card, Spell and CARD NAME

Magic cards are described differently, depending on where they are, and using the correct form in your creation will enhance it's realism. As you may have surmised by now, knowing where to use "Card", "Spell" or the card's name is the next most commonly mixed up wording.

When a card is in your hand, library, graveyard or in exile, it's referred to as "card"
Search your library for a creature spell, .... (X)
Search your library for a creature card, .... (O)

When a card is on the stack it's called "spell".
As an additional cost to cast "CARD NAME"... (X)
As an additional cost to cast this spell... (O)

When a card is on the battlefield, it is called by its permanent type or its card name.
When this card enters the battlefield,... (X)
When "CARD NAME" enters the battlefield,... (O)

Searching the Library

Quite possibly the most forgotten wording faux pas is forgetting to reveal cards and shuffle the deck after searching a library. If you search a library for a specific card and put it into your hand, you MUST reveal it so that your opponents know you're not cheating. Don't forget shuffling after searching too!
Search your library for a card, put that card into your hand, then shuffle your library. (O)
Search your library for a creature card, put that card into your hand, then shuffle your library. (X)
Search your library for a creature card, reveal it, and put that card into your hand. Then shuffle your library. (O)

Damage Source

Another thing we can't forget is identifying the source of damage. There are cards that don't work if sources of damage aren't identified.

Any target takes 2 damage. (X)
Deal 2 damage to any target. (X)
"CARD NAME" deals 2 damage to any target.(O)

Using the : In the wrong place

The colon ( : ) is a very important component in the Text Box. It is only used in activated abilities. Costs appear on the left side of the colon, and the effects appear on the right side of the colon.
Choose one: ...(X)
Flying: vigilance: ...(X)
{t}, Pay 2 life: ... (O)

The Order of WUBRG

Some people follow the WUBRG-line order when they make multicolored cards, but it should be viewed more as a WUBRG-wheel.

Two-colored Pairings follow a clockwise pattern.

Allied color pairs
WU - UB - BR - RG - GW
Enemy color pairs
WB - BG - GU - UR - RW

Three-colored Combos have variations based on Primary Colors thus Wedges and Shards

The primary color within a Wedge is the color that is enemy to both of the other colors.

Abzan - WBG - Primary color is black. Tarkir clan color is white.
Jeskai - URW - Primary color is red. Tarkir clan color is blue.
Sultai - BGU - Primary color is green. Tarkir clan color is black.
Mardu - RWB - Primary color is white. Tarkir clan color is red.
Temur - GUR - Primary color is blue. Tarkir clan color is green.

A shard is a series of three colors in an unbroken chain on the color pie. The middle color in a shard is its primary color, allied to both of the shard's other colors.

Bant - GWU - Primary color is white.
Esper - WUB - Primary color is blue.
Grixis - UBR - Primary color is black.
Jund - BRG - Primary color is red.
Naya - RGW - Primary color is green.

Four-colored Identities

Artifice - WUBR
Chaos - UBRG
Aggression - BRGW
Altruism - RGWU
Growth - GWUB

Featured Cardsmiths

DeepSky has been an inspiration to Cardsmiths for quite some time now, and we felt this Feature was long overdue! His contests are always fun and he always provides great feedback at their conclusion. Check out DeepSky's cool Lord of the Rings set and if you're lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the rarely seen "DerpSky". We think his cards are pretty amazing, and we think you will too!

Our second Featured Cardsmith for September is one that isn't very active on the Forums, but one that we felt needed to be seen. AtlasXII is very creative and a top notch designer. Just take a look at some of what we brought to show and tell, and we think you'll agree that their cards are worth taking a look at!

Each month we're excited to highlight just a couple of Cardsmiths that have helped make MTGCardsmith the best interactive online Card Creator. We hope you'll take some time to check out their creations!

Sep 02, 2019 by Corwinnn, & Tomigon

CCC: Simic Slaw

We're excited to continue Coast to Coast Casual (CCC), a blog series written by East2West, published on MTG Cardsmith.

Ever since the dawn of Magic a battle has been waged between the two greatest factions of the game, flavor and function. The elegant joining of themes and mechanics against the overwhelming chaos of power! Okay, it's not actually all that epic but with Ravnica in the rearview I wanted to talk about The Simic and how they really emphasize this struggle from almost every angle.

(Disclaimer: If you don't know what the guild is, look them up now, explaining that could be its own article)

Everytime Magic has visited Ravnica the Simic get a mechanic that involves +1/+1 counters (Graft, Evolve, and Adapt). Flavorfully this makes sense, the experimentation of Blue and the growth of Green combine to make their creatures strong. However mechanically +1/+1 counters are a very Green thing. To put in perspective how much Blue sucks at +1/+1 counters here's how many cards each color has that in any way mention +1/+1 counters.

  • W - 126
  • U - 59
  • B - 145
  • R -82
  • G- 300

Blue literally has the least representation of this mechanic anywhere on the color pie. When you think about it from this angle The simic are Blue and Green in flavor and colors alone, mechanically they are very much dominated by green. This sort of domination also creeps into their cards quite a bit. A lot of multicolored Simic cards just tack on "draw a card" and consider that enough.

For some examples of Green domination in Simic design, let's look at the cards that exemplify it best, the Blue cards. See a lot of Blue Simic cards are basically Green with something thrown in to make it seem more blue (Usually flying or card draw). A prime example is Benthic Biomancer. The design of the Biomancer feels like a multicolor design. It gets it's card draw from Blue and the counter synergy from Green, this makes it odd to see as a monocolored card. Two other cards have a similar problem, Clinging Anemones and Frilled Oculus. Both of these cards are Blue but have no reason to be Blue instead of Green, in fact all that keeps Frilled Oculus from being a below rate, vanilla creature is a Green activated ability.

So what does this all mean and how can we apply it to our own card designs in the future? The main lesson here is that flavor and function is a careful balance that must be watched and maintained. When creating your own worlds, characters, and multicolored cards try and answer these questions.

-Why did you choose the color or colors you did to represent this card.
-Why isn't this card Monocolored?
-What does this get from each of its colors and how are they shown mechanically?

Hopefully in the process of answering these questions you'll find not only the perfect mechanical fit, but also a flavorful reasoning for them.

That's all for now, if you have any questions I'm happy to answer them on twitter, through email, or in the comments below. As always this has been East2west with CCC, I'll see you guys on the battlefield.

East2West is an aspiring writer from NJ currently seeking fame and fortune on the internet. She's been playing Magic since Zendikar block (the original one) and is a commander player with one deck for each two color pair and one for each single color. The only non EDH deck she plays is her own personal Pauper brew, Pauper Eggs. Follow her on her newly created and probably soon to be underused twitter @East2WestMTG.

Aug 11, 2019 by East2West

Artful August

Welcome to...

This month MTGCardsmith is hosting it's second annual Artwork Contest!

Just as we did last year, we're looking for your Original Custom Artwork Cards for the month of August! Show us what you've created for the challenge, and watch for it to be featured!

Featured Cardsmiths

Something you may or not be aware of is that ZAHADOOM is leading the way in MTGCardsmith Instagram posts! A relative newcomer to the world of MTGCardsmith, ZAHADOOM has only been making cards on this site for just over a year, and has amassed over 600 cards to date! Stop by and take a look at this Featured Cardsmith and all their wonderful creations!

Our second Featured Cardsmith for August is another newcomer... oh wait! It's not really a newcomer, it's the Cardsmith Formerly Known As Mysterious_Gangsta! Fyresis (M_G) has been a contributing member of the Forums for quite a while now, and we're always excited to see what he comes up with! We've posted a handful of cards here for you to check out, and if you like these, there are over 500 more to check out!

Each month we're excited to highlight just a couple of Cardsmiths that have helped make MTGCardsmith the best interactive online Card Creator. We hope you'll take some time to check out their creations!

Aug 01, 2019 by Corwinnn, & Tomigon

CCC: The Legend Continues

We're excited to continue Coast to Coast Casual (CCC), a blog series written by East2West, published on MTG Cardsmith.

As of July 14th Coast to Coast Casual turns a whole year old. It's been an amazing year and I'm excited to keep writing for more to come. Since it's a special month I figured I'd like to do a sequel to my personal favorite article I've written so far. Back in December CCC: True Legends was posted running down some MTG characters who are often overlooked for those more popular. And now, in honor of our first year, please enjoy five more characters I think deserve a little bit more than they're getting, specifically highlighting their viability as future Commanders.

Before we get to the main list I want to give an honorary mention to Fblthp. This funky homunculos has been a fan favorite ever since we first saw him in Gatecrash. The fact that he just got a card printed is mainly why he doesn't make the main list but I wanted to mention him because not many know that he actually has a bit of story to him. Fblthp actually works for the Azorius Senate as a sort of custodian. An Azorius arrester named Parisha once used Fblthp as bait to capture a deviant Rakdos criminal named Vadax Gor. Vadax actually stole Fblthp for a short time (thus causing him to become Totally Lost) but Parisha saved him pretty quickly. For his efforts Fblthp was given the prize of the possibility for his descendants to petition to get him a plaque.

Now, without further ado, let me introduce you to...

5: Agnate and Thaddeus

Agnate and Thaddeus are twin brothers hailing from Dominarai. They were created as part of Urza's Bloodline Project (the same one that birthed Gerard, Sisay, Crovax, etc) to be generals to the Metathran (who were created as the perfect race of warriors to fight the phyrexians). The brothers share a mental connection so strong that they could not function without each other. Their story is long and sad with no happy ending for either brother. Thaddeus was vivisected by Tsabo Tavoc after being captured during an early siege of Koilos. Agnate would find Thaddeus during the taking of Koilos but Thaddeus had learned just how similar the Metathran were to the Phyrexians and wished to fight for Urza no longer. His final wish was death, which Agnate gave him. Agnate too would find a horrific end. In his grief Agnate trusted Dralnu, a lich who bore a striking resemblance to his dead brother. Dralnu secretly poisoned Agnate, hoping to turn him into a powerful zombie for his horde. Agnate discovered this however and asked his fellow commander Grizzlegom to kill him and take control over his portion of Urza's forces. Grizzlegom did so before taking the troops he now controlled into Dralnu's home of Vhelnish and slaying his entire horde. Agnate and Thaddeus represent a darker age side of Magic's story, one that we don't see much of now. Given their brotherly bond and positions as commanders, I'd love to see the two featured as partner Commanders in a future Commander product.

4: Nibb and Gyik

Speaking of partner Commanders lemme tell you about two idiot goblins who don't know nothing about tool safety. Nibb and Gyik has literally two references in all of Magic and both are just three or four lines of flavor text. On Lorwyn these two gobbos were originally black aligned delinquents who had been given axes and sent into the forest to do what goblins do. They are implied to have died there in a not so epic battle with a Treefolk (or possibly just a tree.) After The Great Aurora they became red aligned arsonists with a penchant for burning scarecrows, in this world they are implied to have burned themselves to death by accident. I love these two screw ups and it'd be cool to get a new black/red Goblin commander. I'd love to see these two partnered up in a sort of Goblin aristocrats deck (similar to The Shattergang Brothers)


Guff is a total goof and a member of The Nine Titans. This wild haired wizard lived in a secret library hidden somewhere on Dominaria. This library contained every book that ever was or ever will be written within the entirety of the multiverse. This gave him a massive amount of knowledge to the point where he went mad, luckily it was the fun kind of mad. During his time with The Nine Titans Guff would continuously break the fourth wall and crack jokes at the most inappropriate times. During the fight against Phyrexia Bo Levar, a fellow titan, discovered that Guff knew Phyrexia would win the war and attempted to convince Guff to change that. Going against his own code Guff erased part of his archives and rewrote the worst bits. Guff was killed by Yawgmoth's death cloud form. All in all this crazy guy deserves a better shake in the lore than just a few good jokes and snippets of flavor text. I'd love to see him head a sort of fate manipulation/chaos deck. Only Guff truly knows if that will ever happen though.

2: Krark

Krark would be number one if not for the simple fact that he's too well known. You've definitely heard of Krark-Clan Ironworks, Krark's Thumb, or even Krark's Other Thumb. Krark was a goblin adventurer from the plane of Mirrodin. He traveled the whole of the plane and cataloged his adventures and thoughts in a journal, this book would eventually become known as The Book of Krark. This book rallied a cult around it, The Cult of Krark, whose belief that Mirrodin is hollow was eventually proved true. Little is known about the goblin himself but given the flavor of Krark's Thumb I think a coin flip matters deck would be path for Krark. Let's get this lad back in the spotlight!

1: The Unluckiest

The Unluckiest is the name used for a character whose canon name is unknown. If you're a commander player you might've guessed who this person is. Featured on a cycle of Curses from Commander 2017 is a sharply dressed and very unfortunate man. According to the artist prompt and Rosewater himself this man is in fact a planeswalker known as The Unluckiest. This guy has a knack for planeswalking into situations that leave his life on the line yet always making it out alive. He has also been confirmed (sorta) by Rosewater to have been one of the planeswalkers present on Ravnica during War of the Spark. I'd live to see The Unluckiest finally get a canon name and a card, maybe something that makes opponents target you in exchange for high value? I dunno but I think there's some real potential here.

Now that I've got you thinking about legendaries, let's talk Commander for a minute. Lately I've been thinking about an endless war that's waged in the minds of all Magic players, Flavor v.s Function. When playing Commander I believe you should feel as if you are your commander, that's why I tend to build decks around commanders I can relate too. This has been on my mind because I've spent some time looking at the deck lists for past Commander products and I noticed a total lack of cohesion or story. Sure, along with each product WotC will release some small snippets telling us about the legends in the deck, but that's hardly enough. I want to know more about what Zedruu's doing right now. I want to read a small story about Damia and her unknown plane. WHAT EVEN IS THE MIMEOPLASM? The printing of Kaalia into the new Core Set is a step in the right direction but y'know what would be even better? A reason why the precons are fighting in the first place.

Bear with me.

Imagine, for a moment, that instead of four or five random generals fighting for who knows why we got an actual story along with the precons. This could even allow WotC to flesh out plots they had previously left hanging. Imagine one years precons are new versions of the Praetors from New Phyrexia fighting for dominance! Maybe a set of new political players bribing and bashing their way to the top of Paliano. We could even see the return of the Khans or maybe the Dragonlords dueling for supremacy over Tarkir. This is the direction the decks should take, not just to give players new cards and experiences but to enrich the lore. Seriously Wizards, hit me up, I've got a lot more in the chamber.

That's it for this week folks, since it's our anniversary I'd love to answer any questions you might have for me in the comments below. If you want to talk more about obscure lore, cool card ideas, or really anything find me on twitter @East2Westmtg or email me at [email protected] As always this has been East2west with CCC, I'll see you guys on the battlefield.

East2West is an aspiring writer from NJ currently seeking fame and fortune on the internet. She's been playing Magic since Zendikar block (the original one) and is a commander player with one deck for each two color pair and one for each single color. The only non EDH deck she plays is her own personal Pauper brew, Pauper Eggs. Follow her on her newly created and probably soon to be underused twitter @East2WestMTG.

Jul 16, 2019 by East2West

How Can I Play Test This?

How Can I Play Test This?

We've all done it at one point or another. We go through the long process of making a card. We come up with an idea, we find the perfect piece of art, we put it all together with all the best intentions and then we finally, after about an hour of deliberations with ourselves, finally... hit Publish.

It usually isn't until this point that we start to think: Is this too complex? Did I cost this too high or too low? What kind of problems will this card create? Does it work as I imagined? Well the best way we know to find these answers is PLAY TESTING!

"But Corwinnn & Tomigon, how can we accomplish this play testing of which you speak?"

We're glad you asked... We sat down and put together a little tutorial for you, to help you make proxies and play test your custom cards in real life, so let's get started!

What you'll need:

Color Printer. White Paper. Cutting Mat. Ruler and a Razor Knife (Or Scissors). Spray Glue (optional). Extra Commons and Rules Cards. Card Sleeves.

Make a list or set containing all the cards you want to print.
Open up the full view of each of your selected cards.
Save the image or copy and paste into a document or image editing program.
Resize each card image to 3.48"x2.49" or 63mm x 88mm.
If you use A4 paper or 8 & 1/2" by 11" paper, you can print 9 cards. Some people like thick card stock paper, but I think for our example just regular paper is good enough.

Cutter knife, cutting mat, and ruler are what you need if you want ultimate precision, If you're just looking to put your card in a sleeve, then a little patience and a pair of scissors will do the trick.

Just a small amount of glue is enough to keep your printed card attached to it's new backer. If you prefer not to use any glue, that's fine as well.

Make sure that you're not using cards you ever want to use again before taking this step! I suggest not gluing any cards at first, until they've been play tested enough that you feel they have become dialed in.

Now your cards are ready to be shuffled into your deck! The cards will feel slightly thicker than normal cards, but you won't realize the difference when you play! If you didn't glue your cards together, just slide them into a sleeve together, and it will create the same effect

Playing with your own custom cards is super fun! We recommend you mix your custom cards into real decks so you can get a feel for the way your customs interact with real MTG cards.

Tomigon feels that limited is the first format we should keep in mind when designing cards, while I have always designed with vintage in mind so the best way to play is probably going to be different for everyone. Playing solo, playing one on one or even playing with a group of friends will, in our estimation, be so much more fun with the addition of custom card play testing. Tomigon's favorite way to use custom cards? Cube draft with his friends!

"You can test your custom cards with many cards, and sometimes you'll find unexpected synergies!" -Tomigon

Also check out Custom Tokens

One of our favorite Cardsmiths over the years has got to be Damnation. He carefully designs his cards around amazing, out of the box artwork and is always looking for, and giving out, advice on card design. Take a few minutes to check out this incredible Cardsmith!

Orzhova is another incredibly talented Cardsmith that we've long admired. Orzhova puts a great deal of effort into, not just the design, but the flavor text s well, so check out the cards designed by our second Featured Cardsmith of July!

Each month we're excited to highlight a few Cardsmiths that have helped make MTGCardsmith the best interactive online Card Creator. We hope you'll take some time to check out their creations!

Jul 01, 2019 by Corwinnn, & Tomigon
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