Cardsmith Blog

​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 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, 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 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 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 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

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

Wrapping Up 2020

Last month you showed your fellow Cardsmiths some love by giving thanks and showcasing a few of the cards they made that you appreciate, but this month is all about the gifts!

The Gift of Giving.

The Featured Card section this month will not only feature our two amazing Cardsmiths that were hand picked for December, but you will also see cards picked by those who completed all four tasks in last month's Thanks Giving Spectacular! They helped show off some wonderful cards made by others, and now we're showing off some wonderful cards made by them!

The Gift of the Season

This month we've got another incredible avatar coming that was custom created by MTGCardsmith's own Chris Blackstock. He designed the amazing Pumpkin Avatar for Halloween, and he's put his incredible talent on display once more with the Snowman Avatar! Here's a sneak preview! Keep your eyes peeled for it in the Edit Profile section here on the Main Site!

The Gift of Legends

As luck would have it, we're not done yet. There will also be an upcoming Circuit Challenge this month, that you can get started on right away! In this challenge, you'll be asked to Make a Gift for a legendary creature or Planeswalker that was made by another Cardsmith. Some of these gifts might even find their way into a Saga or two!

Featured Cardsmiths

Our first Featured Cardsmith of December is none other than seaspray4TF3. seaspray4TF3 has been a member of MTGCardsmith since 2015 and since then has made some really great cards. We featured just five below, but if you spend a little time in his collection, you'll see that seaspray4TF3 has a lot more than these few cards to look at and enjoy!

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For our second Featured Cardsmith we had to pick Involutus. While this Cardsmith doesn't always make the best cards or even credit the artist as much as we'd like to see, Involutus is an ambitious, out of the box thinker that we believe might just inspire you to look at your own designs a little differently. If you find yourself with some free time, check out this amazing Cardsmith's creations, we think you'll find some pretty interesting cards!

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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!

Dec 03, 2020 by Corwinnn, & Tomigon

CCC: Let's Get Legendary!

Psst, hey you. Yeah, you! Wanna buy some... uuuhhh... legendary creatures? Well boy do I have some good news for you! In case you’ve been under a rock for the past few months, Commander Legends is finally around the corner and I could not be more hyped! Elder Dragon Highlander (EDH) is my favorite format so I wanted to take this month for a chill article and go over my personal Top 10 new cards from Commander Legends. As a quick reminder, I’m not saying these cards are good, all I’m saying is that I am personally extremely hyped to start brewing with them.

Honorable Mentions - Dargo the Shipwrecker and Armored Skyhunter

These are both sweet cards, but I’m not excited about them in EDH. Rather, I’m excited to see these in my other favorite format Canadian Highlander. Dargo is a potential turn one 7/5 which is just absolutely nuts! Armored Skyhunter slots perfectly into Death and Taxes, a deck super close to my heart.

Soul of Eternity Magic Card

10. Soul of Eternity

Lifegain has long been something passed over in EDH, cards like Soul of Eternity give me hope that one day it will become a real archetype. It’s incredibly easy in this grindy format to net a lot of life over time. I’ve played decks that can easily climb to life totals in the triple digits. Soul of Eternity provides these decks with a way to turn that life into damage, and even if it gets removed that Encore ability means you can still get one last swing in with it! I think with a few more solid cards, a green-white life build, featuring cards like Ajani Mentor of Heroes, Serra Ascendant, and the soul sisters might just manifest itself.

Feast of Succession Magic Card

9. Feast of Succession

I feel like a lot of people are really passing over this card, and to be fair it doesn’t look like much. At first glance it looks like a more expensive Languish that has the Monarch tacked on, but hear me out. The Monarch is incredibly powerful and fun in EDH, it encourages interaction and table talk that you don’t normally see along with providing a massive source of card draw. Paying an additional two mana for that is well worth it in my eyes. The board wipe effect that it has helps as well, killing off a solid amount of creatures, which helps ensure that the crown stays yours.

Frenzied Saddlebrute Magic Card

8. Frenzied Saddlebrute

Frenzied Saddlebrute opens the doorway for a kind of Boros deck that’s been in the back of my mind for ages, politics! With cards like Agitator Ant and Orzhov Advokist I think that a really interesting new shell can finally come into existence! Specifically, Saddlebrute gives other players incentives to fight each other and not you while also giving your board haste for when you need a speedy hit. There’s not a whole lot of downside here except for that cost, but between signets, Sol Ring, and other ramps I think Saddlebrute is going to be better than most people expect.

Tormod, the Descecrator Magic Card

7. Tormod, the Desecrator

Tormod represents what I think might be my favorite concept of a self mill deck in EDH. I see this as playing as many creatures as possible that interact with milling and reanimation, then some side pieces such as Tormod’s Crypt, Soul-Guide Lanter, and of course Syr Konrad. What you end up with is a super unique reanimator build with a crazy good token subtheme that would let you flood the board in an instant. Plus he gives you a solid defense against a lot of traditional graveyard hate, netting you a board instead of nuking your plans. Whether you’re running him as the commander or in the 99, I think there’s a real case for him in most graveyard decks.

Nadier's Nightblade

6. Nadier’s Nighblade

Cards like Blood Artist and Zulaport Cutthroat are already insanely good and do trigger when tokens die, but there are other ways to get rid of tokens. Bouncing and blinking tokens is a very common way to avoid death triggers, but Nadier’s Nightblade gets around that little trick. Because the Nightblade triggers whenever a token leaves the battlefield and not just on death it can make your token/aristocrat decks a lot more resilient to board wipes such as Cyclonic Vortex or Settle the Wreckage. Personally, I think this is an absolute auto included in any token deck that can run it, whether or not they intend to sacrifice your own tokens.

Slash the Ranks Magic Card

5. Slash the Ranks

Board wipes are a staple in commander, but it’s always annoying when they end up hitting your commander. Now your game plan is likely disrupted and will cost a bit more to set up again. For the measly cost of one more mana than average, you get the wonderful ability to not kill commanders on your board wipe! Now to be fair, it doesn’t hit other players’ commanders either, but I think that’s a price worth paying. There are near-infinite situations in which this card outpaces most of the other wipes you could be playing and I’m really excited to see them play out.

Flamekin Herald Magic Card

4. Flamekin Herald

Okay so cascade is an amazing ability on its own, but I feel like most people don’t get just how good this card is. Every time you play your commander you not only get a massive piece of your game plan but also a randomized free card! Plus there’s the combo potential of only including certain cards with a CMC lower than your commanders. Doing that would allow you to assemble a combo every single time you cast them! As a side note, I don’t know if playing your commander from other zones also triggers the Herald but if it does I’m even more hype!

Kwain, Itinerant Meddler Magic Card

3. Kwain, Itinerant Meddler

Something I personally love to do is create decks with stories, one of the oldest ones I had was a deck based on the Princess Bride with Chulane at the helm (representing the grandfather reading the story to his grandchild.) Kwain is the perfect bunny to helm my new pet project, an Alice in Wonderland deck. I know that might be a dumb reason to put him this high since honestly I don’t think he’s actually all that good, but this is my list so stay mad.

Belbe, Corrupted Observer Magic Card

2. Belbe, Corrupted Observer

Break out your all-black flannels and put on that plaid dress because we got ourselves a Hot Topic elf heading to an artifact deck near you! Ever since I got my hands on a promo Glissa, the idea of a Golgari artifact deck has fascinated me. All the pieces have been there; Priest of Yawgmoth, Marionette Master, Disciple of the Vault, and many more but we never had any commander aside from Glissa, and let’s face it she is very one-note. Belbe on the other hand lends herself to a very fun and unique variety of ramp, potentially netting us nine mana on turn three! I’ve already disassembled my old Daretti deck and will be converting it into a new home for my favorite goth elven princess. (No she literally is a princess, look it up.)

Obeka, Brute Chronologist Magic Card

1. Obeka, Brute Chronologist

When I was younger I came across the card Chronatog Totem and ever since I’ve been trying to find a place for it. There are a bunch of cards that let you skip your own turn and after all this time, Obeka gives them a home. Now I keep seeing people wanting to use her to skip the end of your turn triggers, and that may be cool for those nerds but if you wanna be a real cool kid just skip your whole turn! You could do what I plan on doing and run mutual effects like Bottomless Pit, or you could go Cumulative Upkeep tribal and skip your upkeep to never pay the cost, hell you can even play cards like Notion Thief to maintain card advantage! There are so many different ways to build and experiment with Obeka, oh it’s going to be amazing!

That’s all for this month, I hope you’re as hype for Commander Legends as I am. What are your favorite cards from the set? Tell me about them in the comments below. You can also reach me on Twitter @East2WestMTG or at As always I’ve been East2West and I’ll see you guys on the battlefield.


Nov 16, 2020 by East2West

Thanks Giving Spectacular!

November is all about Thanks Giving this year. We're not talking about Turkey and Pumpkin Pie, what we're talking about is more like a Thanks Giving Spectacular! Each week we're going to reveal a task for you that gives thanks to other Cardsmiths around you. Check out the BLOG each week for a new task. The Spectacular part is that each Cardsmith who completes all four tasks will get to pick one card to be Featured at some point in the future!

Featured Cardsmiths

CassZero hasn't been with us long, but has really jumped in full steam ahead, despite English being their second language! Check out CassZero's cards, including their Pauper collection of 250 cards! We think CassZero is poised to become one of the Top Cardsmiths around, but don't just take our word for it... check out these cards and see for yourself!

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Daedalus_The_All_Father has been with us here on MTGCardsmith for almost three years and has been a stalwart in the Colonisers Saga and always favorites the cards of his fellow Cardsmiths, something we admire! Check out Daedalus' cards this month, starting with the five below, and be sure to favorite the ones you like!

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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!

Nov 01, 2020 by Corwinnn, & Tomigon

CCC: Straws

I love Magic the Gathering, but it’s that love for the game that makes watching all this go down so painful. Between Secret Lair: The Walking Dead and the recent ban talk, a lot of what I enjoy about the game and it’s community is coming into question. Pretty much every other content creator for Magic has already talked about Secret Lair: The Walking Dead and the problems we’ve been having with standard bans. I have no interest in rehashing what’s already been said. (If you need to know the short version of how I feel is that it was a dumb idea, don’t buy it).

What I want to talk about today is the actual problem I see facing Magic. Power creep and ban frequency. As a paper card game we don’t have the luxury that digital games do of editing a card after release (except in extreme cases). Sometimes when something breaks, Wizards will try to remedy this by printing hate cards. However this often fails, leaving the ban hammer as the only solution to a broken card. This used to be a rare occurrence, but lately it’s been happening with startling frequency. So, as a creator of unofficial cards who has aspirations of one day making real cards, I thought it would not only benefit myself but the Cardsmith community at large to take a look at the banned cards from the recent standard era. The main body of this will be brief explanations and categorizations of all cards banned in Standard and Modern released since Kaladesh. If you are already familiar with these bans skip down to the TL;DR and you’ll get the gist. One final note, I want to make it clear this is not an attack or judgement on R&D. The people who make these cards are incredible and I hope to one day be counted among them, what this is meant to be is an opportunity to learn from the past so we can craft a better future. With that in mind, let’s begin.

Magic Card Selection and Card Advantage

Let’s start with two of the main tenets of Magic as a game, card selection and card advantage. For those who don’t know, card selection refers to the ability to have the card you need available when you need it and card advantage refers to drawing more cards than your opponent. These two are inherently intertwined because the more cards you draw the more likely it is you’ll have the cards you need in hand. Because these are important and powerful aspects of the game, very often we see cards that enable one or both of these ways too easily. Smuggler’s Copter and Once Upon a Time are both examples of card selection with next to no drawback. 

Smuggler's Copter Magic Card Once Upon a Time Magic Card

Copter gave aggressive and midrange decks a very powerful body with evasion that could dodge traditional removal spells while making sure they always had threats or answers in hand. OUaT was a card that could be cast for free and showed up in any deck able to run because there was no reason not to. 

Growth Spiral Magic Card Arcum's Astrolabe Magic CardVeil of Summer Magic Card

As for card advantage, we often see this show up tacked onto cards, examples here include Growth Spiral, Arcum’s Astrolabe, and Veil of Summer. Growth Spiral, Astrolabe, and Veil are all cards that were ramped up versions of cards we’ve already seen in past sets. Growth Spiral is very similar to Explore but replacing the generic cost for Blue and making it an instant. Arcum’s Astrolabe was similar to Prophetic Prism, trading a 2 CMC for a single Snow Mana. Veil of Summer is literally identical to Autumn’s Veil but it has “draw a card” tacked onto it. The cards all three of these were based on had at one point or another been played in Standard without being banned, ramping their power level up is what broke them. To be fair, Explore and Prophetic Prism both allowed you to draw a card, but these new versions made it easier to do so. Growth Spiral being an instant means you not only potentially get an extra card and land drop, but you no longer need to sacrifice resources on your turn to do so. Arcum’s Astrolabe costing only a single mana as opposed to two meant that you could have a full grip and fixed mana as early as turn two.

Of Ban and Punishment

The next big repeated issue is simply keeping your opponent from playing Magic. A lot of cards that have been banned in the past few years have effects that punish people for playing certain strategies or at worst for playing at all. Examples here include Reflector Mage, Rampaging Ferocidon, Oko Thief of Crowns, Agent of Treachery, and Teferi Time Raveler. 

Reflector Mage Magic CardAgent of Treachery Magic Card 

Oko, Reflector Mage, and Agent of Treachery all punished players who played creatures with no drawback. Reflector Mage not only bounced the creature but made sure it couldn’t be played for another whole turn, plenty of time to advance your own board enough for that creature not to matter. Oko made it so it didn’t matter how much mana you invested into a threat, it would always be a 3/3. Agent of Treachery made it actively detrimental to play good creatures because not only would you lose the creature and mana investment, you’d also be left open to attacks. Agent was banned specifically because of how it interacted with Winota, but I can tell you as someone who played Thassa in brawl, it was a problem if you could play it.


Rampaging Ferocidon was made specifically to counter a combo we’ll talk about a little later, but it had the added effect of punishing traditional counterplays to aggressive red decks, token and lifegain strategies. This made mono-red decks insanely hard to sideboard against since just one of these could shut down your hate cards.

Rampaging Ferocidon Magic Card Teferi, Time Raveler Magic Card

Finally, Teferi, Time Raveler just has so much going on. It not only really screws with aggro by letting you bounce creatures with tacked on card advantage, but also by allowing you to play sweepers and board wipes at instant speed. It also shut down any opposing control players by shutting off their instants making counterspells and other trickery totally worthless. Often control mirrors became a battle of who could stick a Teferi first. 

The High Cost of Mana

Converted mana costs (CMC) have always been the default restriction for cards in Magic. High CMC cards and cards with multiple color requirements tend to be better than low CMC and monocolor ones from a pure power standpoint. This is why cost reduction and fixing can be genuine problems for the health of a format. If you have enough dual lands and mana producers to have perfect fixing, why would anyone play anything besides 5 Color Good Stuff? And if cards can make themselves consistently cheaper, then why play low drops at all except to enable them. Cards like Hogakk Arisen Necropolis, Fires of Invention, and Emrakul the Promised End are all guilty of this cost reduction sin.

Hogakk Arisen Necropolis Magic Card Fires of Invention Magic CardEmrakul the Promised End Magic Card

Emrakul and Hogakk both slot into the same area of massive creatures that can reduce their own cost based on the graveyard. Notably the graveyard is one of the easiest zones to abuse in Magic history. Emrakul dominated her Standard format and Hogakk broke Modern and to a lesser extent some eternal formats because both came before opposing decks could really have enough presence to meaningfully impact such a threat.

Fires of Invention, however, is sort of on the mirror side of the cost reduction spectrum. Even though it limited the amount of spells you could play, it completely removed fixing and mana costs from the equation by essentially doubling your mana output (For example, if you had five lands you could play two different five CMC cards). This gave way to a few different decks running the enchantment with the most popular being variations of the Superfriends archetype. This card circumvented a lot of the resource management and pacing that make Magic an interactive game. Also, as a sort of sidenote, in the ban announcement for Fires it was cited that it would be a problem for the future of standard if not banned. Now that we’ve seen just how prevalent land Ramp decks are post Zendikar Rising, this ban makes a lot more sense than I originally thought.

When Combos and Combo Deck Become Too Powerful

Card interaction is the core structure of all games like Magic. Because of this framework, combos and combo decks are always going to show up. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a good thing, combo decks are an important part of a healthy meta. It’s when these combos become too strong that problems occur. Sometimes cards are printed that interact better than expected or they never tested the interaction the players eventually find. These combo cards include Felidar Guardian, Aetherworks Marvel, and Cauldron Familiar.

Aetherworks Marvel Magic CardCauldron Familiar Magic Card

From reading the ban announcement for Felidar Guardian I genuinely can’t tell if the combo that it enabled was intentional or not. For those who don’t know, Felidar Guardian’s (Enters the Battlefield) ETB effect and Saheeli Rai’s -2 ability allowed for an infinite number of Felidar Guardian tokens to be created as early as turn three. Two card combos are amazingly strong as they only need the aforementioned two cards and not a whole Rupe Goldberg machine, this makes them harder to disrupt and way easier to assemble. 

Cauldron Familiar is similar to the Felidar Guardian ban but differs in a few key ways. Mainly that the combo isn’t infinite and we know it was intentional. Cauldron Familiar, combined with Witch’s Oven, allowed players to drain life and block threats repeatedly while also giving access to life gain if needed. The combo was very powerful and annoying, slotting well into sacrifice strategies that made the deck absurdly good. 

Finally we have Aetherworks Marvel. So there’s a lot going on here but let’s start at the top. The intention with this card is that you’d spend a few turns racking up Energy then maybe get to shoot this off once or twice. Now, as we know in the future, this went horribly wrong. Fellow banned cards like Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner combined with a few other bits and pieces allowed these decks to get insane amounts of Energy. This of course led to a standard full of cheating massive creatures, such as the previously mentioned Emrakul, into play very early in a game.

And the Rest...

Finally we have the other banned cards that didn’t fit into the previous categories but need to be discussed and will be relevant to the overall point.

Ramunap Ruins is a card that I honestly didn’t get the hype about until much later. It’s not exactly a powerhouse on it’s own, but it gave a free and hard to remove win condition to Red aggro decks which otherwise have a tendency to burn out after the early game (pun intended). 

Ramunap Ruins Magic Card Field of the Dead Magic Card

Similarly, Field of the Dead is a land card that just pumps out free Zombies after a certain point in a match. Its threshold of seven lands with different names might seem heavy but if you’re playing a two-color deck you’d likely be able to turn this on without much effort, and if you’re in three colors it’s almost guaranteed to happen.

Wilderness Reclamation Magic Card

Next we have Wilderness Reclamation. This card is deceptively strong and honestly I think it could've been Rare. It makes it so that there’s no penalty to tapping out on your turn in decks that normally would want to leave mana open. It gives control and midrange decks that play Flash cards or even just instants a huge advantage on mana and tempo.

Lastly we have Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath. This 6/6 that repeatedly gains life, draws cards, ramps you, and is hard to remove for good shouldn’t really need an explanation as to why it was banned, and yet here we are. Uro died for Omnath’s sins. If they were going to ban Uro, they should’ve done it way sooner.

TL;DR - There are around five main reasons why functionally cards are more powerful. Card selection, card advantage, player punishment, mana cost circumvention, and combo potential. There are some outliers but even then they have elements we can still identify as being in those five reasons.

Okay, so that was a lot, but what can we take away from this? Well I’m glad you asked, for example, I’ve imagined for the sake of segue, the answer is actually a bit complicated. 

To understand what comes next, you need to understand the reason why these cards are only cropping up recently. The term Power Creep gets thrown around alot in discussions about Magic and other games like it. At a base level it refers to the fact that over the course of a game’s life, the power levels of printed cards will increase. This is mainly because it’s the easiest way to keep the game fresh and to make sure older players want to buy the new sets and for new players to feel like they have something powerful. This is by no means bad on it’s own; the bad stuff happens when the creep reaches a certain level. To put all this in Magic terms let’s look at an example I mentioned at the start of this article, literally in the first section. Arcum’s Astrolabe is strictly better than Prophetic Prism. I know strictly better gets thrown around a lot, but let’s actually look at them side by side. They’re both commons that have the exact same text box. The only differences are that Astrolabe is a snow artifact (something that doesn’t really matter, as of now) and that it costs one snow mana instead of two generic. Prism has never been a Modern powerhouse, it saw fringe play in some variations of Tron but even then it was outshone by single use cards such as Chromatic Star and Chromatic Sphere. Astrolabe however enabled Tron decks like never before by giving the same card draw and fixing as Chromatic Sphere and Chromatic Star but it was repeatable. It was clear that R&D thought the hurdle of Snow Mana would be higher than it was. That is one instance of Power Creep, where a random card with a reduction of one mana became so good it needed to be banned. Another simpler example is that of Alabaster Leech and Isamaru, Hound of Konda both being rares.

Now that we have all the pieces, let’s put them together. It all comes down to card design and the intention behind these cards. They are meant to be exciting and powerful but are clearly outperforming the expectations of R&D. One possible solution to this is a tweak in how cards are designed. It’s become clear with more recent sets that all formats are kept in mind when crafting a set. (The issues with Hogakk and Astrolabe are purely power creep and lack of internal testing so I’ll be focusing on the others.) Cards from Ikoria have already made themselves staples of multiple older formats like Modern and even Vintage. This is obviously cool and exciting for players of those formats, having fresh cards enter into the metagame. However it hurts Standard and can be overall detrimental to newer players when they buy a playset of a card for their deck only to have it banned in Standard, the most accessible format to them. We’ve seen from sets like Modern Horizons and even reprint sets like Eternal Masters that there are ways to get cards to those older formats without having them go through Standard first. Discounting the cards from Modern horizons, all the cards mentioned here would never have been an issue if they hadn’t had to go through Standard first. I don’t think anyone would’ve been all that bothered if Smuggler’s Copter showed up in something like Pioneer Horizons instead of in Kaladesh. 

But even if that happens, it’s not a perfect solution, so what else can we do? Well we can change the way that Magic’s power level rises. As of now powerful cards we’ve seen build off of existing ideas. For example let’s take Felidar Guardian: Without Saheeli it just looks like a cool new addition to a Blink deck. It’s not inherently broken in Standard. What this means we can do is start innovating with effects instead of increasing them. I’ve mentioned before my desire to see exile interaction in White, that’s an example of innovation over increase. It’s a new type of mechanic and effect that we haven’t seen. It has the potential to be viable in older formats but is unlikely to break Standard due to the more curated and recent card pool. There are tons of concepts like this that can be done with ease, and all it takes is a new idea instead of the rehashing of the old.

Thanks for reading all that, I know it was a doozy. If you have your own ideas about bans and the future of Magic design let me know in the comments below. You can also find me on twitter @East2Westmtg or email me at As always this has been East2West and I'll see you guys on the battlefield.

Oct 16, 2020 by East2West
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