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How to Make Your Own Magic: The Gathering Set Part 3: The Power Level of Creatures June 15, 2012

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

It’s important to know a little about how powerful cards should be when making your own Magic set. There is a range and not all cards are equally good. Many cards are “strictly worse” than others. Even so, it would obviously be a waste of space to make a 0/1 creature with no abilities for five mana and it would be silly to have a 5/5 creature with no drawbacks for one mana. This article will explain what range of power level creatures can have.

The main factor that determines how powerful each card is allowed to be is the mana cost. The main factor that determines how powerful a card actually is includes it’s power, toughness, abilities, and drawbacks. We could measure a card’s “power level” in terms of how many “points” it’s worth.

The Mana Cost of Vanilla Creatures

We can determine how powerful creatures can be by considering what sorts of “vanilla creatures” (with no abilities or drawbacks) we should expect for various mana costs. The table below shows a range of four different power levels available for various mana costs:

mana cost terrible weak strong very strong
0 mana 0/1 0/2 1/1 1/2
1 colored mana 1/1 1/2 2/1 2/2
1 colored mana & 1 colorless mana 1/2 2/1 2/2 2/3 or 3/2
2 colored mana 2/1 2/2 2/3 or 3/2 3/3
1 colored mana & 2 colorless mana 2/1 2/2 2/3 or 3/2 3/3
2 colored mana & 1 colorless mana 2/3 3/2 3/3 3/4 or 4/3
3 colored mana 3/4 4/3 4/4 5/4 or 4/5

“Colored mana” refers to mana of a certain color (W, U, B, R, or G) and colorless mana can be paid with mana of any color. For example, Grizzly Bears costs 1G (one colored mana and one colorless mana).

Creatures that are terrible or weak tend to be commons, creatures that are strong tend to be uncommons, and creatures that are very strong tend to be rares. The “very strong” category is not seen very often and perhaps the first “very strong” creature was Kird Ape. However, the “very strong” category rarely features “vanilla creatures.” They tend to have a point less of power or toughness in exchange for various abilities.

Power Level Points

The above table suggests a “point system” for how powerful creatures can be. Every point of power and toughness are generally worth “one point” each. (Sometimes 1 or more extra point of toughness can be traded for a point of power. For example, Phyrexian Walker was a 0/3 artifact creature for 0 mana.)

Although every creature is worth 1-3 points, even if they have no mana cost, this fact seems to be irrelevant to the cost of most creatures. The fact that creatures require card loss should be worth something, but it doesn’t seem to actually make creatures worth any more points. Instead, the mana cost is generally the sole factor that determines how powerful creatures are allowed to be and 0 cost creatures are only slightly worse than one cost creatures often are.

How many points creatures are worth:

Creatures have points that determine how powerful they can be based on their total mana cost. For example, Hill Giant costs 3R and is a 3/3 creature (worth a total of 6 points). The point system suggests creatures with that mana cost can have a power level worth 5-9 points. Since Hill Giant is only worth 6 points, it would now be considered to be on the very low end of the power level range.


Abilities are worth points, so what could have been a vanilla creature could have one or more abilities instead. For example, Llanowar Elves could have been a 2/1 vanilla creature for G, but it is a 1/1 creature with “T: Add G to your mana pool” instead. Also, Will-O-the-Wisp is a 0/1 creature for B with flying and “B: Regenerate Will-O-the-Wisp” rather than a 0/3 creature.

There are various power levels of abilities, but most of them are treated as though they’re worth ½ to 1 point. Common abilities include the following power levels and point values:

Weak (worth ½ to 1 point each):

Strong (worth ½ to 1 point each):

Very strong (worth 1 point each):

For example, I believe White Knight is a 2/2 creature for WW with first strike and protection from black instead of a 3/2 vanilla creature because it traded 1 point of power for two strong abilities.


Drawbacks make creatures worse, but creatures have extra points when they have drawbacks. For example, Wall of Wood is a 0/3 creature with defender for G instead of a vanilla 0/2 creature.

Common drawbacks tend to be worth 1 point each, but creatures rarely have more than one drawback. They include the following:



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