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How to Make Your Own Magic: The Gathering Set January 13, 2012

Posted by James in : all, random, design , trackback

I have discussed how to make your own Magic cards, and now I will discuss how to create your own Magic set. It can be a daunting task to create an entire Magic set (including 150 or more cards), but what I have to say might make it a lot easier. In particular, I suggest that you can make a Magic set one step at a time. Some steps are larger than others. There are five major steps required during the game design process:

  1. The theme
  2. Mechanics
  3. Synergy
  4. Cycles
  5. Staples

I will briefly discuss each of these major steps.

The theme

The theme is the major gimmick of the set that distinguishes it from other sets. It can be another core set, a sequel to Arabian Nights, take place in Greek mythology, or involve an epic war between various factions. The set can primarily involve synergy with artifacts (Antiquities/Urza’s Saga/Mirrodin), involve synergy between tribes (Onslaught/Lorwyn), involve multicolor synergy (Invasion/Shadowmoor/Shards of Alara), and so on.


Mechanics are unusual abilities. There are several typical abilities found in sets, such as trample, flying, vigilance, regeneration, indestructible, first strike, etc. Unusual abilities include split cards, flip cards, transform cards, hybrid cards, flashback, cycling, and madness. Each typical set — other than a core set — has one to three mechanics. Generally at least one new mechanic is introduced in the first set of a block.


It can be a good idea to keep in mind what various kinds of synergy you want for the set. Synergy is very important when considering if there are multiple themes players can choose from when deciding what decks to make. These themes can involve color combinations (like Jund or Boros), tribes (like elves or goblins), or other creative card “combos.” Typical examples of synergy themes include burn, land destruction, mana ramp, and control. It can be a good idea to keep various synergy themes in mind so you can make sure to have the cards players need to make various decks.


Cycles are groups of similar cards found in every color. Cycles are often found revolving around various mechanics. For example, one common card of each color could have flashback. However, there can be other examples of cycles, such as a common creature card of each converted mana cost found in each color.

Cycles make it dramatically easier to make a Magic set because it can help you know what you want in your set before you think of the cards. It can be a good idea to create an outline of your set stating how many creatures, enchantments, instants, artifacts, etc. you want in your set. (Cycles can be added to that list.)


Staples are cards that are needed in every set, which are often reprints. Staples originally included Dark Ritual, Incinerate, Disenchant, and Counterspell. Now staples typically include Naturalize, Cancel, and something similar to shock. Originally most staples were reprints or functional reprints, but now staples are generally only loosely based on another card. For example, Dead Weight is loosely based on Last Gasp.

Staples make it much easier to create a set because it includes 30-80 cards. You can already have 30-80 cards in mind when creating your set once you figure out what staples to include. Of course, you are likely to make a unique variant of the staples, so some creativity is involved.

Next: How to Make Your Own Magic: The Gathering Set Part 2: Staples


1. Recoculous.com: Magic the Gathering Articles » 20 Rules That No Longer Exist - July 30, 2013

[…] Posted by James in : all, random, design , add a comment , edit post You can go here to see How to Make Your Own Magic: The Gathering Set Part 1 […]

2. Recoculous.com: Magic the Gathering Articles » How to Make Your Own Magic: The Gathering Set Part 2: Staples - September 27, 2013

[…] You can go here to see How to Make Your Own Magic: The Gathering Set Part 1 […]