Cardsmith Blog

CCC: Kaldheim

Okay, so this is a bit of a weird article for me. I don’t tend to write about specific sets but Kaldheim has kind of caught my attention, for reasons both good and bad. 

I went into this set mostly blind with only a few spoilers that had shown up on my Twitter feed. I sat down on release day and played an amazing draft, one of the most fun I’ve ever had. It was a Mardu deck chock full of removal and late-game Angels and Giants. Every play felt tight and powerful, every card had its time to shine! After totally crushing it there I thought “Wow, with cards this strong I can’t wait to see how it shakes up Standard!” But here we are, about a week later, and the metagame is pretty much the exact same. Some decks have slotted in one or two new additions from Kaldheim, but most haven’t needed to make any adjustments at all to keep up. So today I want to dive into Kaldheim, specifically its limited environment and impact on other formats, most specifically Standard.

Let’s start off with the good news, Kaldheim is an amazing limited experience. I’ve spent a lot of gold on Arena hopping into drafts for Kaldheim and they all feel really fun! The cards are strong enough to make every match feel kind of explosive and exciting. Oddly, the built-in archetypes have actually been the weakest for me. I didn’t drop a single game with the Mardu Midrange deck but in other drafts, I ended up losing out pretty badly while piloting Azorius Foretell and Golgari Elves. Still, even those losses felt more like bad rng and pilot skill. Kaldheim has a high power ceiling, but enough answers to make the limited format feel fair, fun, and clean to play.

The real meat here, though, is its impact on Standard. To me, Kaldheim fits into the same category as sets such as Kamigawa and Amonkhet. All three are objectively fun sets that entered Standard at a time when it was dominated by cards and archetypes from the previous sets. All three also did next to nothing in terms of answering the broken decks from those sets. The difference is Kaldheim’s sheer power level. On paper, Kaldheim should be kicking absolute ass right now. It’s a set that has cards that double damage output, search up any card in your deck on attack, enable wild new combos, and even double your Treasure mana. Sure some of those cards are seeing play, but mostly just to enable already existing decks. As of this writing, the metagame page for Standard on MTGGoldfish remains dominated by Eldraine strategies that have slotted in maybe a few Kaldheim cards at most. 

Despite that, there is hope. On that same metagame page, we do see a few new contenders cropping up that seem to use Kaldheims power to their advantage. Azorius Snow, a variant of Dimir Control, and even some Vorinclex decks. All that’s nice, but unless we see a lot more shake-ups, I fear that Kaldheim will be left by the wayside of Standard.

Before we end, I do want to take a minute to talk about Commander and Brawl. Brawl is the main way I play Magic these days and Kaldheim has genuinely ruined it. All I see are Tergrid sacrifice and discard decks (which suck to play against), Esika/Prismatic Bridge decks that are just unbeatable unless you have enchantment removal, and Koma decks which are just a whole other breed of annoying. In my opinion, formats like Brawl shouldn’t have a meta, they’re more about fun and self-expression. The fact that it’s starting to feel like you either play one of these decks or you lose is exactly what I don’t like about other formats in Magic. And this worry extends to commander. I am a little less worried there, both because of the social contract and other factors, but still I have my concerns.

Well that about wraps up my feelings on Kaldheim. If you have the time and gold, I highly recommend hopping into some drafts, I hope to see you there. Let me know what you think about Kaldheim in the comments below. You can also find me on Twitter @East2Westmtg or email me at East2westmtg@gmail.com.

As always I’ve been East2West, your resident Brawl defender and snow lover, and I’ll see you guys on the battlefield.

Feb 15, 2021 by East2West
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CCC: Diversify

2020 was a weird one for Magic. With all close proximity interaction being dangerous, one of the most important parts of Magic was lost -- the gathering. Some of us migrated to places like Spelltable for our social fix and others swapped to Arena as a means of filling the time.

Others still made what is arguably a wiser decision and decided to take a break from the game. I was talking recently with a friend of mine who took that path and they told me something that got my gears turning. They told me that they’d actually been able to measure how much time out of their day Magic was taking, and it was honestly more than I expected. This person is by no means a casual player, but they’re nowhere near the level of immersion into the game as I am. Still, it turns out they were spending anywhere from 5-6 hours a day on Magic. Whether it was brewing, playing, reading articles, etc Magic had become a major time sink. So I took a page out of their book and set Magic aside for a bit and honestly…. It felt really good. So I come to you here today with something of a palette cleanser for those who have sunken into the Magic rabbit hole. Below I will provide you with my personal top five pieces of non-Magic related media (in no particular order) to ring in the New Year on a clean note. 

5. Night in the Woods

Night in the Woods is the greatest video game of all time and I will die on this hill. I played it for the first time in early August last year during a time when everything was kind of falling apart. I was living with my partner and their family for the summer due to covid and I felt almost separated from reality. When I started playing this game it gripped me. The characters felt real, the choices held weight, and the story flowed effortlessly from humor to heartbreak to eldritch. I very fondly and vividly remember crying after finishing the game because I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness that I'd never get to experience for the first time again. I genuinely can’t recommend this game enough.

4. Gwenpool

Comics have always been a sort of haven for me, lore to study and absorb. It was only natural that with my lifelong comics obsession I ended up working at a local comic shop for a few months back in high school. It was a sweet gig. I could read anything I wanted all day as long as it didn’t keep me from the customers. It was during a slow afternoon that Gwenpool issue #1 was quite literally dropped into my lap. My boss had thrown it at me and said, “Hey check it out, she’s basically you.” From the second I opened those pages my life was never the same. Gwenpool is a love letter to comics and comics nerds everywhere. It’s a series full of emotion, action, and humor. Gwenpool genuinely has influenced my life more than almost any other piece of writing, do yourself a favor and pick it up.

3. The Night is Long, Walk on Girl

So there’s this animation studio, Science Saru, that as far as I’m concerned is the next Studio Ghibli. The Night is Long, Walk on Girl is one of only two movies they’ve released so far and holy hell is it a treat. It tells a whimsical story that manages to stay grounded and feel real despite its fantastical elements. The closest comparison would be to stories such as Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz. It’s a beautifully animated pseudo fairy tale that I haven’t really seen anything like it before. It’s the perfect movie for a cold night in with those you love or even something to just kick back and vibe with. Everything from the soundtrack to the visuals combine to create an experience that needs to be seen first hand.

2. Alice in Borderland

I watched Alice in Borderland on a call with friends and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in quarantine. It’s the kind of episodic show where having a group to watch with will enhance it tenfold. Alice is sort of like Saw if Saw had incredible character writing, a unique aesthetic, and an actually gripping story. I don’t want to go too in-depth here as it’s hard to say much about the series beyond this without spoiling it, but I promise you it is an incredible piece of media and well worth the time. It’s only 8 episodes long atm and season two is in development.

1.The Sheepfarmer’s Daughter

I first picked up The Sheepfarmer’s Daughter at a train station in my hometown. There’s a small book carousel where people can put books they don’t need so that readers can grab something for the train. Its classic fantasy art cover stood out from the usual stock of self-help and parenting books, so I picked it up. I started it then and there and was fully absorbed. The Sheepfarmer’s Daughter is the most grounded piece of fantasy I’ve ever read. It’s realistically human, featuring believable and relatable characters, yet still features classic fantasy elements. The whole book is an emotional ride, making me feel more than any other piece of fiction since. I went from laughter to tears within minutes. Every chapter is a perfectly crafted bite of the story that urges you to keep going, to see where it all ends. I love this book, and if you haven’t read it or even heard of it, do yourself a favor and pick it up.

Well, that’s all for this month folks. Sorry for the delay, life’s been a bit hectic. Regular article timing and subject matter should resume next month. What’s your favorite piece of non-Magic media? Let me know in the comments below, You can also find me on Twitter @East2Westmtg or email me at East2westmtg@gmail.com.

As always I’ve been East2West, your resident radical reader and part-time planeswalker. I’ll see you guys on the battlefield.

Feb 08, 2021 by East2West
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Card of the Year and More!



The Card of the Year

You nominated them, and then voted for your favorite cards from 2020. Once all the votes were in, we tallied them up and now we have your winners!

In Third Place is Architect of Legends by shadow123

In Second Place is Penny for your Thoughts by Animist

And in the top position,coming in First Place, and Card of the Year for 2020...




Congratulations to shadow123, Animist and all the other nominees this year! 2020 was a tough year, but you all made it better with the cards we all enjoyed so much!

Theme of the Month

As we've done in the past, this February our Theme of the Month is the Zodiac Animal of 2021: The Year of the Ox! This month we'll be looking for newly forged cards made with the Ox as it's theme. To commemorate this event, we've asked our resident Artist Extraordinaire, Chris Blackstock, to design an earnable Avatar that you can get by entering your Ox themed card to the February Forum Thread!


Featured Cardsmiths

This month we are featuring two more of our incredible Cardsmiths... HeroKP and IonStorm66n



Anyone who loves the Sagas category in our Forums knows HeroKP as the creative mind behind the Colonisers Series, now in it's 7th Season! We never run out of nice things to say about HeroKP, and so we thought you should check out some of the cards that have been crafted by this very creative Cardsmith!

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Our second Featured Cardsmith is IonStorm66n. We've been a fan of this Cardsmith for a while now and thought it was about time you got a chance to see a little more of their craftsmanship. Don't be alarmed when you're checking out all of IonStorm66n's cards however, as they have an affinity for re-imagining official MtG artwork as custom cards. We imagine you'll find some you might like!

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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!

Feb 02, 2021 by Corwinnn, & Tomigon
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A Welcome Journey

2021 Is Upon Us!

Welcome to the first step in our Journey Ahead. We're looking forward to a brand new year, filled with changes and possibilities all around us! In honor of that, our first Theme of the Month for 2021 will be cards with the word Journey in their name. Post your cards in the January thread on the Forums. We'll be selecting a few of them to be featured as well.

Something New

Speaking of Features, you may have noticed something new last month if you're a fan of the Mystery Box Challenges. The Mystery Box Feature.

Every month you have a chance to win this magical prize and pick a card of your choice to be featured, and all you have to do is participate in one of the most popular threads on the forums!

How to Critique other Cardsmiths

One of our most favorite Cardsmiths was kind enough to dedicate her entire monthly blog to Designing With Kindness. We wanted to follow up on that with some advice on how to critique others in ways that you may not have thought of before. The first method of critiquing that I wanted to highlight is the one used by Master Cardsmith Tomigon when people ask him for feedback after challenges.

The Card in question is this

Corwinnn Treetop Mentor

And here is the method and some examples from Tomigon himself.

When people DM me and ask for feedback, this is what I keep in mind.

(1) Respect the creator's intention
(2) Explain the issue
(3) Make suggestions
(4) Let them know why my suggestions would make the card better
(5) Be nice

And here are examples of feedback, including how I grade each example. I think #5 is the optimum choice

Example #1

Broken.

Feedback Used (2)
This is merely an ineffective comment trying to explain the issue, and not a good piece of feedback.
Feedback Grade - F

Example #2

Just remove one of those abilities and it’s still a decent card.

Feedback Used (3)
A suggestion was made, but not a lot of your reasoning behind it
Feedback Grade - D

Example #3

This loops itself. The 2nd ability should say “nontoken”.

Feedback Used (2) & (3)
Here the issue was addressed and a suggestion was made.
Feedback Grade - C

Example #4

Wow! This is a cool commander for token strategy! However I have one problem with this. Those two abilities make an infinite loop. Perhaps the last ability shouldn't let you draw a card?

Feedback Used (2)(3) & (5)
This kind of feedback is good, because you're engaging the Cardsmith and making a positive connection
Feedback Grade - B

Example #5

I like the idea of making those two abilities interact with each other. But this loops itself and lets you draw an infinite number of cards. Both of those abilities are very powerful, so you can fix that issue in the process of nerfing those abilities.
“Whenever you draw a card, ...” doesn’t feel like mono green’s trigger. I suggest “Whenever a Forest enters the battlefield under your control, ...”
The 2nd ability reminds me of The Great Henge, except this doesn’t have a nontoken clause. But if it says nontoken, this no longer interacts with the first ability. What about “Whenever another creature enters the battlefield under your control for the first time each turn, ...”?
Considering all those values this card generates, I think {3}{g}{g} [2/2] is a fair balance.
The card that makes drawing a land card in the late game less disappointing is fun. Making a card that has a synergy on itself is a great attempt. Keep it up!
Oh, one more thing. Crediting wrong artist is not good. If you credit the right artist, the card is less likely to be deleted and more chance to get featured!

Feedback Used (1)(2)(3)(4) & (5)
Now were in elite level feedback. In our opinion, this is the kind of deep feedback that anyone who's looking to make MTG accurate cards is looking for.
Feedback Grade - A+

Giving feedback and critiquing cards is one of the coolest things we do aside from forging our own custom creations. We don't expect everyone to give top notch feedback on every card, and not every Cardsmith is looking for someone to point out flaws in the design space of their card. That's why it's important to approach the comments you leave for someone in a way that you would want to hear it.

MTGCardsmith has always been the best interactive online card creator for a reason, and that reason is our Cardsmiths. We want everyone to feel welcome and free to make as many mistakes as they want, even the "on purpose" kind. That's why it's important that when we leave criticism, we do so with the best of intentions!

Card of the Year

Nominations for 2020's Card of the Year are open until January 7th, 2021. Any card made in 2020 is eligible for nomination, just stop by the FORUMS and nominate the card of your choice.

Featured Cardsmiths

First up for 2021 is a Cardsmith that many current Cardsmiths feel is at the top of their game. Irihihi has created nearly 800 cards and two complete sets in full MTG fashion. We're confident that you'll enjoy Irihihi's cards as much as we have, and below we've gathered a small handful, in the hopes it will draw you in to check out more!

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Our second Featured Cardsmith of the new year is none other than SpellPiper2213. We wanted to spotlight this Cardsmith because we've always been a fan, and their cards are always balanced and realistic. When you have a minute, check out SpellPiper2213's cards. When you're there, you'll find not only amazing cards, but some really cool art choices as well!

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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!

Jan 01, 2021 by Corwinnn, & Tomigon
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​CCC: Designing With Kindness

When I first started making cards I didn’t understand the color pie at all. I played Magic just enough to understand some basic wordings but not enough to truly grasp what certain colors can and can’t do. The card that really thrust me out onto the MTGCardsmith.com stage was a prime example of this.
 
Cherry Dragon MTG Cardsmith card

Cherry Dragon is a mess, a red one-drop creature that creates enchantments that gain you life. Nothing about it is truly red except for the art. But here’s the thing, why does that matter? Why can’t I create a red card that gains life and creates enchantments?
 
Every day on MTGCardsmith.com, hundreds of cards are created by people with design knowledge ranging from absolutely none to rivaling that of Research and Development (R&D). This has created a bit of a weird environment where cards that functionally make no sense and break all the magic rules end up next to well designed and elegantly balanced creations. It has also led to a weird quirk of the community where if something isn’t exactly how Wizards would make it, someone will point it out. 

Now that’s in no way a bad thing. When I first started my journey on here those comments helped me improve. They taught me how to use syntax, what rules worked on what layers, and led me to eventually understand the color pie. But sometimes these comments go overboard. Instead of being helpful, they can come off as rude or devaluing of the creator and card. This is where two of the greatest forces that drive MTGCardsmith.com clash. Creativity versus Constraints. In today's article I’d like to really lay bare what that means and my own personal take on it.
 

Part 1: What is Creativity Versus Constraint?

To start off, let’s make sure we all know what I mean when I say “Creativity versus Constraint.” On MTGCardsmith.com we create custom Magic The Gathering cards however we so wish. We can create characters, world mechanics, and obviously card designs that don’t exist on paper and may never even come close to it. This is the Creativity side, the ability to create whatever we want, however we want. The other part, however, comes from exactly what it is we’re creating, Magic cards. R&D has very clear (for the most part) rules on what works and what doesn’t within the design space of magic. The color pie is a great example. You don’t see Red blowing up enchantments because that’s not something Red is allowed to do. These are the mostly-agreed-upon constraints within which we create our cards.

Just to summarize all that, Creativity versus Constraint refers to the battling forces of full creative freedom allowed by MTGCardsmith.com and the constraints placed upon Magic by R&D.

It’s this struggle between the two powers that lead to cards like Cherry Dragon existing, but also what leads to them being panned by a large group of creators for not conforming to the color pie. This is where I would like to step in and give my two cents, because there’s something that I feel that we as Cardsmiths kind of forget sometimes.
 

Part 2: No Gods, No Masters

We are not bound by the rules of R&D. Now that doesn’t mean you should go ahead and completely ignore things like the color pie and individual card balance, but if you want to, who am I to stop you?

We create these cards for fun. For some of us that can be making realistic designs that would play well with existing pieces. For others that could mean making a Blue card that deals direct damage or a massive 30/30 creature in White that only costs four Phyrexian mana. Either way, it doesn’t matter because we are free to create as we so please. R&D does not govern us because we exist outside their scope, create however you so want.

If you don’t like the color pie, there’s nothing stopping you from tweaking it. Want Green to have direct creature removal? Want Black to be the color of big beefy creatures? Well go ahead, have fun! That’s what this is all about!

Don’t misunderstand me though. This isn’t me saying you can just ignore what R&D says for the game. They created it after all, and their dictates are valid and true. But as Cardsmiths, we play the role of R&D, and that gives us the ability to work outside of their rules and restrictions. We get to tweak whatever rules we want to at our own discretion. That’s amazing! That’s beautiful and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We are the creators of our own restrictions and that can breed innovation for sure, but it’s important not to impose your idea of fun on someone else.
 

Part 3: Wrapping it up all nice

If someone creates a Green card that deals direct damage to a player and it’s really rubbing you wrong, go ahead and comment just don’t be a wad about it. Be gentle, they made that card because it’s fun for them. Sure it may not be what you want to make but that’s okay, you’re both different people and will get your joy from different places. 

Keep your criticisms constructive. Saying something just straight up doesn’t work or saying that a card is bad can come off as mean, especially because tone is hard to pick up from text. Fixing syntax errors, spelling mistakes, and ruling infractions are all fine but when you start getting into discussions about the actual card design, remember to approach it with care and compassion for the person on the other side of the screen.

We are all here creating together. Whether you’re the mad scientist rebelling against WotC and breaking all the rules or you’re the elegant craftsman intricately detailing each mechanic and line, the most important thing to do is to have fun. Never ever forget that.

Thanks for reading ya’ll. It’s been a crazy year out there and I hope that things start to settle soon. If you wanna talk shop about your design space, hit me up in the comments below. You can also find me on Twitter @East2Westmtg or email me at East2westmtg@gmail.com.

As always I’ve been East2West, your resident rule bender and wannabe planeswalker. See you next year friends, happy holidays.
Dec 21, 2020 by East2West
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