No Goblins Allowed

You Make the Card: A Primer
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Author:  Ogre [ Tue Nov 26, 2013 11:10 pm ]
Post subject:  You Make the Card: A Primer

Welcome to You Make the Card!

Credit for version 1 and version 2 of this thread, including the design examples and the original structure goes to the brilliant tyranno6 and Imidazoline!

Note from the author

If you're new, chances are you're a bit dazed by the array of threads and cards posted all over the forum. Don't fret! This thread is designed to help you get a handle on how cards are designed, what the basic threads are for, and some general "dos and don'ts" of YMtC.

    Table of Contents

  1. Etiquette and Decorum
    ►Fair Play
    ►Rules and Balance

  2. Contests and Games
    ►Creation Threads

  3. Design and Development
    ►Individual Card Design
    ►Set Design

  4. Comments and Criticism

Part I: Etiquette and Decorum

In YMtC, like most forums, the Code of Conduct governs most of our behaviour. But in addition, the idiosyncratic nature of our forum has given rise to several other expectations. The most basic of these are outlined below:


    Like most other forums on these boards, YMtC is a place to discuss our ideas, not just to merely post them. Posting a card on this forum - anywhere on this forum - opens it up to criticism of varying degrees. A card posted on its own thread, for example, will attract heavy commentary, while a card posted on a game thread will get much less. You should be confident enough with yourself and your creation that you're okay with hearing reviews - both good and bad.

    Additional Reading:
    ● tyranno6 (edited by Imidazoline), YMtC Primer, Part IV: Comment and Criticism


    When you post a card on the forum, you'll generally want others to be able to read it. To further this end, there are commonly used and accepted ways to post your cards. Here's an example:

    Whip-Spine Drake |
    Creature - Drake
    Morph (You may play this face down as a 2/2 creature for . Turn it face up any time for its morph cost.)
    “I swear the clouds were created just so the drakes would have a place to lurk." -Kasharri, skyknight


    The bolding and italicising are generally optional, but most formats are similar to this. Some posters move the mana cost to a separate line and some move the power and toughness up by the creature type. To display manacosts, use the tags. For example,
    becomes , and
    becomes . There's no right way to post a card, as long as it's clear and cohesive.


    When you're posting a card, make sure it's appropriate for the thread you're in. As a rule of thumb, cards which reference specific posters or (nonfictional) people are generally frowned upon. Remember the rules of the thread you're in - don't post a card in a contest thread you're not a part of, and don't make a card in a game thread which doesn't follow the rules. You shouldn't post your cards in threads dedicated to discussing other people's cards, either!

    Additional Reading:
    ● tyranno6 (edited by Imidazoline), YMtC Primer, Part II: Contests and Games

►Fair Play

    In a lot of ways, card creation in YMtC is like a sport. While WotC are the big-time professionals, we're casual enjoyers of the game. To keep us all here without monetary compensation means that we've got to be nice to each other! While commentary is welcomed, don't be an ass! Don't make fun of people for their lack of skill, and don't laud your greater talent over others. Be modest and gracious. Don't disrupt the conversations of others. Discuss and debate, don't argue. Be nice, and you'll find your time at YMtC much more enjoyable.

►Rules and Balance

    Generally posters expect the cards they read to at least be passingly familiar with the rules. When you post a card, you should ask yourself two things. First: Does this card work under the rules as printed? Second: Is this reasonably balanced? No-one expects you to have an in-depth knowledge of the comprehensive rules - so to help yourself answer the first question, go have a look at already printed cards. Gatherer is a great resource and should be used by newcomers and YMtC veterans alike. How do they word things? Could you make it more like that? If your card is substantially different from anything that exists, then you might have to check out the rules - or at least know what changes you'd need to make so your card works. (The latest comprehensive rules are here.) The reasonably balanced part you can answer in much the same way: just look at past cards and see how your effect has been costed in the past. Again, no-one's expecting you to have extensive knowledge of the limited and constructed metagame, just to have a decent idea of how things are costed before you post your card.

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Part II: Contests and Games

YMtC is quite unlike other forums in that we have three general categories into which the majority of our threads fall into.


    Game threads are arguably the most casual of threads in YMtC. In a game thread, posters make cards which follow on from the card posted before them in some way - for example, in the You Make the Alphabetical Card! thread, each card is the same colour as the card before it, but starts with the next letter in the alphabet. Once we've reached the end, we start again with the next colour. The most important thing to pay attention to in game threads is the first post, which will contain the rules. People are less likely to be upset at a crappily made card than they are at a card which doesn't follow the rules. You should attempt a decent card on game threads nevertheless - it's a great place to practise making cards on a frequent basis.

    Game Example

    Additional Reading:
    ● tyranno6 (edited by Imidazoline), YMtC Primer, Part III: Design and Development


    If the game threads are the meat of YMtC, contest threads would definitely be the sauce. Contests, of all shapes and sizes, are run constantly by members of YMtC. The frequent 24-Hour contests have a strong history going back to The_Ogre and Gardevior. Then there are annual contests like the illustrious YMtC Idol, and random, classic one-offs like Noddegamra's famed Path of the Planeshaper. There is never a shortage of contests to join.
    Contest threads tend to occupy a large portion of the front page, and are often the most exciting part of YMtC. That said, contests are generally taken quite seriously, so be sure to read the rules outlined in the opening post, and try not to post unless you're directly involved in the contest. Generally, contests will have a sign-up period, and once that's closed, no more contestants will be admitted into the contest. Commenting on cards before the 'round' has closed is frowned upon and is generally considered bad form. You can usually feel free to make observations on cards that have already been judged in the contest, though.

►Creation Threads

    Individual creation threads are the oldest type of threads in YMtC. These are where you showcase the best of your best cards - it's a great way to get feedback about the creation of your individual cards, a set mechanic, or even some unexplored design space you're unsure about. Some posters post card threads daily, while others save them up and post entire sets of cards at a time.
    If you're new to the forum, it’s probably a good idea to lurk or restrict yourself to playing the games for a couple of weeks. While it's tempting to show everyone the stuff you've made, it's a good idea to get a feel for the community and how they will regard your cards before you post them. A sloppily thought-out group of cards is going to draw strong criticism and a lot of scorn, so be careful before posting your brainchild.
    That being said, when you do post your cards, do so with the understanding that you are posting on a forum of your peers who design cards – some a lot! No matter how much thought you put into your creations, it will draw criticism of some kind – don’t take it personally. The community genuinely likes to see good design, but we’re still a community of individuals. There will always be a level of discussion and disagreement. This is indicative of a healthy forum. Embrace it! But don’t get personal, and don’t be offended over genuine criticisms.

    Additional Reading:
    ● tyranno6 (edited by Imidazoline), YMtC Primer, Part IV: Comment and Criticism

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Part III: Design and Development

►Individual Card Design

Making cards is at once both trickier and easier than it seems. Here I'm going to walk through a straightforward way of creating a card. Keep in mind that there is no 'perfect' way to create a card. There's been numerous examples of cards being created in dreams listed on these forums! But if you're stuck, this might give you a leg up.

  1. First, you need to determine your aim for the card. Like anything creative, the best results come from focus, and for that you need to know what your goal is.
  2. Now you need to decide how you're going to translate that aim into a card-friendly form. Depending on what your aim is, that's going to mean different things - you might need to come up with an appropriate mechanic, or a good concept for a spell.
  3. Next, you need to refine your idea. You've come up with a good idea for a card, but will it translate well onto a single card? Will it be easily 'grokkable' by other people?
  4. Now you should have the most basic part of your card. Translate your refined idea into card-appropriate terminology.
  5. If you started with a card concept, now is the time to create the mechanic. If you started with a mechanic, you can go ahead and fiddle with the costs and power/toughness of your card.
  6. Now you need to go and fill in all the things that haven't been done. Cost your card, check the wording, write the flavour text and the card name, and make sure the card type is appropriate. That's all there is to it! Obviously there are other ways to make a card, but if you're stuck, don't hesitate in giving this a try.

Design Example #1 – tyranno06

Design Example #2 – tyranno6

Additional Reading:
● Mark Rosewater, Top Down and Goal, Design 101, Design 102, Design 103, and Design 104
● Wikipedia, List of Magic: The Gathering keywords


Though it's not card design, designers should always have a sound background in card development. At the very least, it's going to help you avoid embarassment when your peers point out glaring flaws in your card - but more than that, designers who have a good understanding of how metagames and the comprehensive rules work will definitely give you an advantage in card-making. Development is the process of taking inspiration and working into a final piece. You may be a brilliant designer, but your cards won't be impressive at all if you don't have a good understanding of development. When developing a card, the first thing you should always do is take a look at past cards (using Gatherer and here on the forums) with similar mechanics to yours. Does your card effectively make a creature unblockable or hard to block? Then look at effects like Invisibility and Metathran Soldier. Does your card deal damage to a player or cause him or her to lose life? Then look at Shock and Searing Flesh.

Things you should look for:
The wording of the other cards. Yours should hopefully be similar to the cards you've searched up, or if it deviates, you should be able to find precedent for the deviation! If you can't find any precedent for wording your effect, choose one that sounds as close to normal Magic wording as possible. If all else fails, go ask for advice in the Wording Clinic. Note that this thread is for wording advice only. You won’t get any advice on costing, colour or balance here.
Next you should look at your ability's power level. Compare its effects to cards you've looked up and see how much it costs compared to yours. If you have something that there's no direct analogue to, try a roundabout way of getting there - if you're making Shock a cantrip, then look how much cantripping usually costs for instants, and cost it at about that. If you're making a spellshaper version, look at the relationship between spellshapers and the cards they shape.
If you have a novel effect that you can't work out the power level of, you should still be able to get a good idea. Think about what sort of effect it would have on the game - are you bringing an opponent closer to death? By how much? Are you gaining a whole lot of card advantage? Remember things which don't directly have an effect on how many cards you have or an opponent has are generally considered weaker than those which do.
If all else fails here, open up a thread of your own to look for specific feedback – just make sure you’ve done your research first!.

►Set Design

Now we come to the most difficult part of Magic design. When designing mechanics and sets, not only must cards be designed well individually, but care must be taken that the cards themselves have good design as a group. This is much harder than it seems. The most important thing to keep in mind with set design is that each card in the set needs to have two types of synergy: intraset (it works well with other cards in the set) and interset (it works will with cards in other sets). You should keep the following things in mind when creating a set:

● Your set should have an overarching theme.

    ◦ This theme should link together your 'marquee' cards and your Mechanics.
    ◦ Not every card in your set needs to deal with the theme! Annex and Sea's Claim are cards from Onslaught that have nothing to do with Creatures, Tribal, or Cycling.
    ◦ Your theme should be apparent from a small selection of cards from your set. If I make a random 'booster pack' of cards, I should be able to determine what you're going for with this set, even if I don't understand the subtleties yet.

● Your set needs a cohesive world or flavour setting.

    ◦ This one is important, and here we have a much harder job than R&D. To keep the set feeling like it's all one thing, it needs to be set in an environment, and that needs to be apparent through most cards. For Wizards, they can show this theme with the artwork in every card. However, we don't have the luxury of hired artists, and so we might need to be a bit more liberal with names or flavour texts to help tie in each card to our world.

● You should have overarching mechanics derived from your theme.

    ◦ Your mechanic, if it's keyworded, needs to be clear, consise, and 'grokkable' - that is, it needs to be readily understandable. Finally, a keyworded mechanic needs to be necessary! There's nothing more telling of a designer's lack of skill than mechanics which are unnecessarily keyworded.
    ◦ Your mechanic should usually be spread equally around all five colours (though you may have special exceptions in your set) and it should be featured in multiple forms. Think of effects that your mechanic would go well with and make cards that exploit that synergy.

● Your set should feature the basics.

    ◦ You need to remember that cards like Shock and Terror are reprinted often for a reason - they're cards which fulfill a basic need of metagames. You may not wish to tread the same ground as WotC does, and that's great. But you need to remember that there needs to be efficient answers to common threats like creatures, no matter what the set.
    ◦ Also make sure your set has answers to its own cards. Having a bunch of cards geared around one theme means that you're giving a big advantage to decks with that as their focus, without helping their opponent. You should include at least a couple of cards which work against your theme, if only for the sake of balance.

Additional Reading:
● Mark Rosewater, Top Down and Goal, Design 101, Design 102, Design 103, and Design 104
● Wikipedia, List of Magic: The Gathering keywords

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Part IV: Comments and Criticism

Like all the boards on this website, YMtC is a discussion board. Which means it's not just a place for creating cards, but for discussing every aspect of card creation - from contests to see who can create the best card, to games where people just create cards for fun, to thread where people analyse why they make cards the way they do. However, since YMtC is a discussion board, whenever you post a card here, you are opening your card up to discussion. If you're new here, this can be tough! A lot of the posters here have been creating cards for a few years now, and they won't hesitate to tell you where you went wrong. You're fully welcome to argue back with them and state your case - no-one is a member of R&D here - but just remember that people will point out flaws in your creation. If you're not comfortable with that, this probably isn't the board for you.


  • Do post cards!
  • Do explain why you made particular choices, especially if it's going to be controversial.
  • Do explain keywords or rule changes you are making.
  • Do be friendly!
  • Do comment on others' cards.
  • Do point out flaws in wording and balance.
  • Do suggest improvements.


  • Don't be rude!
  • Don't take offense if someone criticises your card.
  • Don't deliberately be vague when people ask you questions - YMtC is a collection of peers, not an audience.
  • Don't insult the card creator or the criticiser.
  • Don't deem a card 'broken' or 'bad' without explaining why.
  • Don't ignore all feedback; people are likely to be annoyed with you if you don't change anything at all when they've spent a lot of time explaining why what you've done is flawed.

Additonal Reading:, No Goblins Allowed Code of Conduct

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If you're unsure about anything, feel free to ask! Everyone here is helpful and willing to lend you a hand if you're still lost. GobO_Furt and GobO_Blitz will be willing to help you with anything you have an issue with. Other than that, have fun! Enjoy your stay at YMtC!

Author:  Jak [ Tue Nov 26, 2013 11:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: You Make the Card: A Primer


>mfw i see this thread

Author:  Imidazoline [ Thu Jan 02, 2014 5:50 am ]
Post subject:  Re: You Make the Card: A Primer


Author:  MagicPablo666 [ Thu Jan 02, 2014 5:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: You Make the Card: A Primer


Author:  ty [ Fri Nov 07, 2014 10:07 am ]
Post subject:  Re: You Make the Card: A Primer

Ogre wrote:
Additional note from Ogre: The original article included several additional reading sources, which unfortunately appear to have been lost over the years, returning a 404 error. If you by some fluke happen to have any versions of the following posts, please contact me:

● tyranno6, "The Colour Wheel"

Here is a new one:


Author:  chinkeeyong [ Fri Nov 07, 2014 11:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: You Make the Card: A Primer

It looks like the guild symbols haven't been updated to the new versions. Compare the Rakdos symbol in the image with the one on Rakdos Cluestone.

Author:  Arcades Sabboth [ Fri Nov 07, 2014 2:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: You Make the Card: A Primer

I would maybe have arranged them differently, but that's awesome. I love the use of the Shards' charms for the arc symbols.

Author:  razorborne [ Thu May 07, 2015 2:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: You Make the Card: A Primer

the Planeswalker Sharing Compendium should be somewhere people can find so I'm putting a link here for when it drops off the front page.


Author:  AzureShade [ Sat Aug 25, 2018 7:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: You Make the Card: A Primer

beautifulboodle asked:
Hi Mark! I have no clue how the symbols work on multicolor cards, since they don't go in the typical WUBRG order. How and why are they ordered the way they are? (Example of my confusion: Commander 2016's commanders.)

markrosewater said:
Here’s the trick to remember three color mana order. First, learn the two color ordering:


For arcs, the color with two allies sits in the middle and connects to its two allies as the two color mana pair is written. For example, let’s take Bant (white, blue and green). White is the color with the two allies, so it goes in the middle. If you look at the two color pairs, you’ll see green comes before white (GW) and blue comes after (WU). That means Bant is written as GWU.

For wedges, the color with two enemies sits in the middle and connects to its two enemies as the two color pairs is written. For example, let’s take Mardu (white, black and red). White is the color with two enemies so it goes in the middle. If you look at the two color pairs, you’ll see red comes before white (RW) and black comes after white (WB). That means Mardu is written RWB.

I hope that helps.

Author:  Mown [ Sat Aug 25, 2018 2:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: You Make the Card: A Primer

Shortest, most-symmetrical, in clockwise order.

Author:  AzureShade [ Mon Aug 12, 2019 8:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: You Make the Card: A Primer

Updated color order:

theuninvitedghost asked:
What is the correct order of mana cost symbols for multi color cards?

markrosewater said:


























Author:  neru [ Mon Aug 12, 2019 10:58 am ]
Post subject:  Re: You Make the Card: A Primer

It's not updated, it's the same order.

Author:  EpicLevelCommoner [ Tue Aug 13, 2019 5:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: You Make the Card: A Primer

The Tarkir block apparantly set a new precedent of putting the enemy color in the middle of wedges because the Clans best exemplifiednone of the allied colors instead of the shared enemy color; honestly thought it was just for that block until I checked out Omnath 3.0

Intet, the Dreamer
Surrak Dragonclaw
Omnath, Locus of the Roil

Of course, Intet still uses the original URG layout in the Commander 2017 printing, so it may be a new update all together.

Author:  neru [ Tue Aug 13, 2019 10:00 am ]
Post subject:  Re: You Make the Card: A Primer

Yes, but if you actually read the previous answer, it is saying the same thing as the one just posted. The previous answer came out after Tarkir too. The first post and second post both say RBW. The second post just actually lists them out.

Author:  EpicLevelCommoner [ Tue Aug 13, 2019 3:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: You Make the Card: A Primer

Ah, my apologies then

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