Cardsmith Blog

CCC: Edge of the Multiverse

Izzet League Letter

Hey folks, I’ve been super stressed with school work lately so I wanted to do an article that's a bit less research-intensive, something more personal. It’s a story I’ve never told in its entirety but one that’s very personal to me and my history with the game. Don’t worry if you came here for card design content though, there’s a lesson to this tale. As with all good stories, let’s start at the beginning.

It’s the summer of 2010, and at this point, I was barely playing Magic. I had a starter deck my Dad grabbed for me at Comic-Con. It was a Blue/Green midrange (I think) deck that I remember had Paralyzing Grasp. It wasn’t great and I always got my butt handed to me by the other players, but still, something about it had resonated with me. I would keep it in my pocket at all times, unsleeved and tied tight with a rubber band. Whenever I was bored or had a moment to myself I’d take it out and flick through the cards, memorizing the flavor text and the art. It was like standing at the edge of a world I couldn’t enter, soaking in as much as I could from what little I could see. I didn’t know that Magic had a real story so I’d make one up in my head, different every time I took the cards out. Every once in a while I’d get a pack, add in whatever cards looked the coolest or had the best words (I still didn’t really know how to play), and thus the story in my head would grow.

Flash forward to 2012. I’m now around 12 years old and my Magic knowledge has grown a bit. I know how to play the game more, enough to do prereleases. My first one ever was that year, Return to Ravnica. I remember walking into the glue-fume filled attic of my hometown local game store (LGS) and being surrounded by real Magic players for the first time. (It was a horrible first impression). I was guided over to the main desk and offered my pick of the prerelease kits. It was then I saw the red and blue box that would change my life. Emblazoned with what looked like a phoenix I picked up the Izzet kit and immediately tore into its contents. Despite my promo being Hypersonic Dragon (a card I was told to be a “bomb” in limited) I was much more focused on the slip of paper included in the box. For those who don’t know, these kits each came with a letter to the player, addressed from a high ranking member of their chosen guild.

I read the letter carefully. Then again. Then again. I couldn’t get enough of this thing! The way it described this guild was exactly what I wanted. I felt a genuine connection to this imaginary organization through the words printed on this small slip of paper. I still have the letter to this day, it’s hanging on my wall actually. It was my first real foray into the world of Magic. I had finally put a foot over the edge and into the world I’d only observed for the past few years. (I went on to go 0-5 at the prerelease)

Moving a little bit forward to 2013. It was early September, Theros was around the corner. I was now an actual player of Magic. I wasn’t great, but I finally understood the game that had settled its way into my heart. I wasn’t really a fan though, I didn’t know about spoilers or much about the lore at all. I was still just on the edge. 

I remember I was at a local second-hand store; my sister loves to thrift shop and I had tagged along. I was walking the aisles of toys looking for anything cool and had stumbled upon the book section. I decided to take a look, maybe I could find a cool comic to keep me occupied on the way home. It was here that my eyes settled on that familiar logo, stamped on the spine of an old and bent book. “Chainer’s Torment” it read. I stared at the thing for a solid minute, just in shock, before picking it up and quickly forking over my saved up allowance. I had always loved to read and this combined my two favorite things to read -- books and Magic cards. I couldn’t even wait until I was in the car to read it! I literally walked into the glass door on the way out because I couldn’t take my eyes off the page. Chainer’s Torment was my obsession for the next week. Any free time I had was sunk into the book until I had finished it, I genuinely cried at the end. No spoilers, but it’s a sad ending. As I closed that book it was as if I’d finally taken that step over the edge. No longer was I just an observer to this world of planes and magic, I walked through them taking in the real stories that I’d missed all along. 

Chainer's Torment Book Cover Distant Planes Book CoverTapestries Book Cover

The next few months were spent at the local library, greedily reading the two Magic books they had (Distant Planes and Tapestries). This frenzy all culminated in me finally finding the Magic website and wiki, where I would spend the next few years taking it all in.

The final part of this story ends in 2016 with the release of Kaladesh. I’m finally a fully-fledged player of Magic, I’ve got a ways to go before truly being skilled but I’m actually playing well. I make friends, I have a better LGS, and I now own the Onslaught novel (also picked up from the same second-hand store.) It’s this year that a friend introduced me to MTGCardsmith, through the tumblr WhyMTGCardsmith to be specific. It took a year, but eventually, I did sign up for an account and began making cards, leading us to today.

So why do I bring any of this up? Why is any of this important to making cards? Because there’s a part of designing a magic card that I think people don’t talk about enough. When we make a card the actual mechanics and function of it are only half of what we’re really creating. These pieces of cardboard are a window into worlds beyond our own, an entire multiverse of stories and people just waiting to show themselves. As designers we get to give these windows life, we become the architects of these places and the tellers of their tales. Sometimes a 1/1 for one mana with a bunch of good abilities is cool. But for my money, a vanilla 1/1 for one with gripping flavor text and killer art will always take the cake.

That’s all for this month my fellow cardboard crafters. If you have any thoughts on the distant planes of magic or you just want to talk lore hit me up in the comments below. You can also find me on twitter @East2Westmtg or email me at East2westmtg@gmail.com. As always this has been East2West and I'll see you guys on the battlefield.

Sep 17, 2020 by East2West
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It's Time For Interceptember!

Last month we had our Third Annual Artful August Challenge with over twenty amazing entries. We know how much you love our annual event, but how do we follow that up? That's the dilemma we find ourselves in every year, but this year we think we've knocked it out of the park... It's time for Interceptember! Instead of trying to out-do the previous month, we're bringing you the one thing we know you HATE!

Counterspells!

Some of you out there, and you know who you are, have gone so spell crazy that even the caped crusader has had to step in! It seems he doesn't like ANY of your spells! He's even gone so far as to issue a mandate requiring all spells be countered effective immediately! Bring us some of your most creative counterspells (They don't have to just be blue) and you might see one or two of them on the front page! If you don't, the Dark Knight himself might want to have a word with you!

And now, on to our Featured Cardsmiths!

Alextorrez6 was an easy pick to become a Featured Cardsmith for this month! We love his effort and creativity, and he's also an active member of the forums, including his amazing design work in the Custom Set Symbols thread... and did we mention his card skills? Take a look and see for yourself...

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Vert is our second Featured Cardsmith this month, and no one will be more surprised about it than him! Since joining MTG Cardsmith, Vert has quickly amassed over 1200 cards, and really good cards too! Don't just take our word for it... check out Vert's cards for yourself by clicking on the samples we've provided below! We think you'll enjoy them just as much as we do!

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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!

Sep 07, 2020 by Corwinnn, & Tomigon
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CCC: Ranking the Guilds of Ravnica

Ravnica, the Multiverse’s biggest city. Full to bursting with people and planeswalkers alike, all under the palm of the guilds. Ten great institutions representing the 10 two-color combinations available in Magic. I’ve talked about the guilds in the past, specifically about how the Simic and its abilities really only favor the Green side of its Blue/Green combination. So, what about the other guilds? How do they rank when it comes to their mechanics flavor and function? Well today we’re gonna answer that with this guide to Ravnica. I’ll be ranking each guild, from 1-10 based on which one’s mechanics fit both the flavor of the guild and the actual game mechanics present in Magic. Let’s get started.

Counting Down the Top 10

10. Simic Combine

Mechanics: Graft, Evolve, Adapt
I’ve already gone over the Simic but as a quick recap. None of these abilities feel at all Blue and all deal with +1/+1 counters which Blue doesn’t really have access to. On a flavor level they're fine, but I honestly feel like Mutate fits better as a Simic mechanic than any of their actual ones.

9. House Dimir

Mechanics: Transmute, Cipher, Surveil
Oh Dimir mechanics, what the hell are you? Transmute is really cool gameplay-wise and arguably has some of that sweet Dimir spy flavor of gathering intel. It also fits nice in both Blue and Black. Similarly, Surveil is amazing on all fronts. While Transmute is only arguably flavorful, Surveil is a knockout mix of flavor and function, fitting cozily between Black and Blue while having the best spy flavor yet! Then you have Cipher. I don’t even know where to start here. The mechanic is cool, but it’s needlessly complicated and doesn’t really fit the flavor of Dimir or the functionality of Black and Blue. The failure of Cipher and the borderline nature of Transmute are what land Dimir the number 9 spot.

8. Gruul Clans

Mechanics: Bloodthirst, Bloodrush, Riot
The Gruul are an interesting case with none of their abilities feeling super out of place in the Gruul guild but they do seem out of their colors. Riot is fine, but the real offenders are Bloodrush and Bloodthirst. Both of these abilities just don’t really feel like Gruul mechanics, in fact both fit more at home in a Black/Red color pie. Similar to the Simic neglecting Blue, Green just doesn’t feel represented in either of these mechanics. Riot however fits perfectly on all axises so that earns it the 8 spot.

7. Azorius Senate

Mechanics: Forecast, Detain, Addendum
Good news, Azorius, you’re where things start to get better. Addendum and Detain are great mechanics for the law-loving guild, fitting both the colors well on top of the flavor win. Each mechanic represents the two sides of the guild, the lawmakers and the arresters. And then there’s the odd one out, Forecast. It’s a good mechanic that fits in the colors but honestly, what the heck does the Azorius have to do with the weather? It’s just a weird one that doesn’t fit in my opinion.

6. Boros Legion

Mechanics: Radiance, Battalion, Mentor
Boros is a little bit more clear cut. Similar to the Azorius it has two mechanics that fit and one that doesn’t. Battalion and Mentor are great fits here, each really giving off the vibes of an army of soldiers. Radiance however, doesn’t really fit at all. Arguably it shows how the soldiers work together but that’s not a super defensible case. The only reason the Azorius ranked lower is Forecast makes even less sense than Radiance.

5. Cult of Rakdos

Mechanics: Hellbent, Unleash, Spectacle
Alright! Half way through, this is where things started to get hard. See all three Rakdos mechanics actually fit the guild pretty well. The reason why it scores the fifth spot is because of Unleash, even though it fits the colors pretty well. Of the guild mechanics remaining it fits the guild the least well. Unleash is a mechanic that would fit just as well in the Gruul Clans as it would in Rakdos.

4. Izzet League

Mechanics: Replicate, Overload, Jump-Start
Although all Izzet mechanics all work pretty well, it scores fourth because, in my opinion, Overload is really the only interesting one. Replicate as a mechanic is cool, but the cards that have it are nothing special and Jump-Start is just a tweaked version of Flashback.

3. Orzhov Syndicate

Mechanics: Haunt, Extort, Afterlife
The Orzhov are pretty great when it comes to mechanics, they get points off though because of Haunt. Similar to Cipher, Haunt is complicated and only sort of fits the Orzhov. It’s a mechanic that feels more at home on Innistrad. But with the ghostly themes of the Orzhov, it still fits more than a lot of other mechanics, getting the Orzhov the bronze.

2. Golgari Swarm

Mechanics: Dredge, Scavenge, Undergrowth
The Golgari really earned the Silver. All their mechanics completely fit the guild’s flavor and it’s colors. However it gets 2nd because they’re also all kind of boring. Just like the Izzet, the mechanics here lend to very linear types of strategies. Still, the second best mechanics in all of Ravnica ain’t too bad!

1. Selesnya Conclave

Mechanics: Convoke, Populate
I mean, it wasn’t even close. The Selesnya only have two mechanics but Jesus do they work. Convoke is wonderful for a guild that’s all about working together and Populate makes so much sense considering their themes of community! Both mechanics also feel right at home in Green and White, making the Selesnya fit all the criteria.

That’s all for this month. If you have any thoughts on the Ravnican guilds and their mechanics I’d love to hear about them in the comments below. You can also find me on twitter @East2Westmtg or email me at East2westmtg@gmail.com. As always this has been East2West with Coast to Coast Casual (CCC), I'll see you guys on the battlefield.
Aug 17, 2020 by East2West
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The 3rd Annual Artful August

The 3rd Annual MTGCardsmith Artful August!!

Artful August has returned, just in time for our third annual Artwork Contest!

As in past years, we're looking for your Original Custom Artwork Cards to help us celebrate the month of August! Show us what you've created for this years challenge! We've added more prizes and that means more opportunities to win! And just like last year, we're going to dedicate the Featured Space to Custom Art cards and Featured Cardsmiths!

The creator of nearly 500 cards, ArmisJoe is known for making realistic and interesting cards. We wanted to showcase a few of the wonderful creations from our first Featured Cardsmith of August, so take a minute and check out these cards!

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Yesterday is one of those Cardsmiths who doesn't come around too often, but whenever they do, we find ourselves intrigued with the cards and the non-traditional artwork chosen to go on some of them. See for yourself why we feel this Cardsmith is worth checking out!

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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!

Aug 01, 2020 by Corwinnn, & Tomigon
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CCC: Gladiator

I know I don’t have to tell you how difficult it has been to play Magic the Gathering lately. A lot of my close friends have been taking a break from the game until the quarantine lifts where they live. Arena is there of course, but it’s not the savior we all hoped it would be. Sure, it’s fine if you’re into Standard or Brawl, but it’s a limited place to play. Originally, I didn’t think that anything could make me want to use Arena more. Yet, it sort of sits there on my desktop. Then along came Benjamin Wheeler of LRR (LoadingReadyRun) fame. For this month’s topic, I want to talk about a format I’ve personally been having a lot of fun with -- and the only reason I still have Arena downloaded -- Gladiator.

Gladiator is a 100-card MTG Arena singleton format that uses the entire Arena database as it’s card pool. There is a banned list, but it’s literally just Oko, Thief of Crowns. This makes the format super open, a brewer’s paradise. Gladiator also has a very active and friendly community and even a Discord server that I’ll link below. There’s not much else to go over when it comes to rules so I’d like to show off the decks I’ve been playing. They’re perfect examples of how open the format truly is.

Bloody Esper Humans


“Humans” is kind of my pet deck. I try to force it in all 1v1 formats I play (Aside from Canadian Highlander.) I’ll be the first to admit, the deck’s transition to Gladiator isn’t perfect, but it’s far from bad. “Bloody Humans” can hold its own against a lot of the more popular decks (Except for pod, it’s difficult to win that matchup without a Settle the Wreckage). It’s a fun, removal heavy, tribal-themed, mid-range deck that I’ve had a blast with.

Temur Not Enough Wildcards


Temur NEW was birthed from the fact that I didn’t have enough wildcards to finish the 4C Spellslinger deck. I realized I could tweak it, retool it with what I did have, and see what happened. This led to cutting White and adding in cards such as Quirion Dryad and Sprite Dragon. The end result is a very smooth feeling deck that can play both an aggressive creature game and a longterm spell-based plan.

Traditional Green


Traditional Green was made because personally, I hate crafting lands with wildcards. I know it’s necessary but it just feels so wrong to waste valuable Rare wildcards on lands. Traditional Green is a basic, mono-green deck that does all the basic Green things. Play creatures, buff ‘em, and get them in your enemy’s face! It’s simple, it works, and there are hundreds of ways to build the deck, so feel free to tweak and experiment. This list is a little rare heavy, but like I said, there are a bunch of ways to build the deck, this is just the way I like it.

Overall, Gladiator is a format that already is amazing and will only get better with time. It’s the perfect format to take advantage of Arena’s environment and it’s been one of the most fun things I’ve been able to do with Magic over this quarantine. I cannot recommend it enough.

If you have any sweet Gladiator: Arena Singleton decklists flying around your head or you just want to chat, hit me up in the comments below. You can find me on twitter @East2Westmtg or email me at East2westmtg@gmail.com. As always this has been East2West with CCC, I'll see you guys on the battlefield.

Discord Link https://discord.gg/dfk3aBN

Gladiator official website https://gladiator.blog/decklists/
Jul 15, 2020 by East2West
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