most common mistakes when designing cards?

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seven mistakes when building casual decks


1) The deck wants to accomplish something that is going to slowly make you win, but that doesn't prevent your opponent from beating you down meanwhile!

Some strategies are going to make you win in the end, but don't really affect the board situation, for example destroying your opponent's library. Your opponent is playing cards, is attacking with creatures, is dominating the game. You don't care what he or she does because you're trying to put cards from the top of his or her library into the graveyard. Although you're removing cards from his or her library, you're not disrupting what your opponent does. Half of the time, you're removing important cards and let him or her draw unimportant cards instead, but half of the time, you'll remove un-needed cards and let him or her draw much-needed cards instead. Also, your opponent gets to keep the first seven cards and gets to draw more cards every turn, and there's nothing you could do about that. You lose because your cards don't prevent your opponent from completely overwhelming you while you're just trying to do your thing.

Another popular strategy is gaining life, but that only delays your opponent's victory. When you're beaten down by five 2/2 creatures, because you can't destroy them or block them, gaining ten life only makes you lose one turn later. Most decks with this problem would lose to decks consisting of 20 x Forest and 40 x Grizzly Bears, which is a very weak deck. If your deck can't even destroy or simply block some creatures, you'll often lose quickly before you can finish what you just started. Some players think that their deck becomes less effective if you replace spells that support your strategy with spells that prevent your opponent from completely overwhelming you, but most of the time the opposite happens. That deck's efficiency decreses, but it probably loses a lot of its vulnerability, because simply destroying or blocking your opponent's best creature really hinders him or her winning too quickly.

2) Your deck is very slow and once you're finally able to put your first important cards into play, your opponent has already set up something that you can't deal with!

Especially decks with many large six-mana or seven-mana creatures have this problem. Later in the game, playing strong and effective creatures often won't help you anymore, for example because your opponent has already set up a little combo, like Gelectrode enchanted with Charisma, and steals any creature that you play. Your deck needs quite some time before it starts working, and then you have to deal with dangerous and game-warping cards and combos that your opponent has put into play. You don't have something that lets you interact with him or her, something that lets you deal with cards that are causing you heavy problems.

Maybe you're a slave to your theme and you're only running cards that are creatures with a certain type or that are spells that support your creatures. Maybe you want to play as many of these cards as possible, and you don't want to waste space for cards like Naturalize because this card doesn't have anything to do with your creatures, and then you don't have any cards that can destroy that Ensnaring Bridge, so you can't win anymore. Also, you hope that your creatures overwhelm your opponent's creature because they're larger, but that doesn't help against 2 x Royal Assassin on your opponent's side. Although everything mentioned here can be disrupted easily, you didn't have enough space for cards that can do that, because you're only running cards that do what your deck is supposed to do.

3) Your deck provides too many options to your opponents, and he or she has too much influence on your deck's performance!

Some popular cards around newer players have your opponent choose between two very strong effects. Let's take a look at Dash Hopes, where both options seem to be pretty nice. However, your opponent gets to choose the option that's currently much better for him or her, and more important is that you'll never get what you want: Often you'll really need the one effect and don't want the other effect, but your opponent is going to refuse to select that option. It's hard to make sure that both options are equally devastating everytime, so this card helps only few decks. There are many cards that offer choices and where this problem is not that obvious, for example Hissing Miasma. You can't use it to have your opponent lose life when he or she really needs that life, and you also can't use it to prevent your opponent from attacking when he or she wants to attack you. Many decks really need one effect, but then you'll always get that other one.

This card has also yet another problem, it's strong against opponents with many little creatures, but what if your opponent has only few large creatures or a creature-less deck or a creature-heavy deck that wins in some other way than by attacking you? Some decks are one-trick ponys, that are strong against specific types of decks (most of the time regular creature decks without twists) and perform really bad against every other type of deck. And some of them depend on your opponent playing creatures or even attacking into your blockers, which he or she can refuse to do. And many decks depend on your opponent not disrupting what you're doing and not destroying key cards or engine cards, although it's pretty easy to render strategies useless by dealing with a few specific cards. Average decks are capable of doing this and normal players won't ignore what you're up to.

4) Your deck has some combo pieces that are useless without the other pieces, and your opponent can easily disrupt what you're doing by dealing with few specific cards!

Many decks contain synergies or little combos where you don't need one combo piece unless you already have the other one, for example decks with 4 x Gelectrode as its only creature that are running many instants and sorceries and Charisma. It would be nice to have Gelectrode in play before casting instants and sorceries, but you absolutely must have that card in play before casting Charisma. If your opponent destroys it or you don't even draw it, the aura becomes useless and just sits in your hand. Your deck doesn't contain cards like Careful Study that let you get rid of it when you don't need it, and your deck also doesn't contain cards like Serum Visions that lets you not draw it when you don't need it. Also, your deck doesn't contain cards that let you find another Gelectrode when it's destroyed, which also decreases this deck's performance.

It's a bad thing when cards that you have in hand are totally useless because it's like if you have chosen to not draw a card at one point of the game. Because you're so excited of a specific combo, you're putting cards into your deck that have almost zero use when you're not able to accomplish your combo. Many decks contain even more cards that always do something, but are very weak and only work properly and make use of its potential if you have specific other cards in play. Your opponent can easily make lot of your cards weaker by destroying these specific other cards, and destroying your Gelectrode also deals with the Charisma that you have in hand. Because of that, your deck quickly becomes less dangerous although your opponent hasn't really done something other than played a single Doom Blade.

5) Your deck has more than 60 cards! / Your deck has exactly 20 land cards! / Your deck has four copies of each non-land card!

Some players just can't remove cards from the deck because all of them are good, but when a deck has more cards than it needs to have, it becomes harder to draw specific cards because there are so many other cards in the deck. Every deck has cards that are more important than others, and if you have four of them in the deck, you'll have a ~50% chance of having one copy in your starting hand and you'll draw another copy every ~15 cards. However, if you have a deck with 90 cards instead of 60 cards, you'll only have a ~30% chance of having one copy in your starting hand and you'll draw another copy every ~22,5 turns. That means, you'll have to have lots of luck and wait for a long time to draw cards that you need the most.

Newer players are often told that about one third of the deck should be land cards, and that way they get a general idea on how to build deck if they don't have much experience. However, you'll get quite different results when you change that number. If you have ~20 land cards, you'll often have to wait for your fourth land card, and that is a huge problem when most of your important spells are costing three mana. Then again, ~24 land cards are definitely too much for faster decks with many cheap little creatures, because they empty their hand pretty quickly while having only few land cards in play, and they don't want to draw much more of them, they rather want to draw more business spells.

Running exactly four copies of every card is a bad idea, because you'll often have useless copies of some of them in your hand. For example, many newer players love Asceticism, so they're putting four of them into their decks. But this card has the most common aspects that make them dead cards many times. The mana cost is very high, and you need even more mana if you want to activate its ability, so you can't even pay for it until later in the game. It's very situational, because you need to have creatures in play and they have to be in danger so that shroud and regeneration can keep them alive. Also, if you have played this card, the next copy that you draw is completely useless unless your opponent manages to destroy that card. If you're running four copies of that card, you'll have one copy in your hand that you don't need in many parts of the game.

6) Your deck is very slow because you're running stronger but costly spells instead of weaker but cheap spells!

Some newer players love impressive spells, they would rather put Plague Wind into their decks than Doom Blade. This is a drastic example because you won't be able to pay nine mana until very late in the game, at which point you have already been defeated by your opponent's creatures if that's your card that's supposed to destroy them. But even one mana more or less makes much of a difference, because many things can happen when you have to wait one more turn, and many times you'll have to wait two or three turns before you're able to pay that one mana extra. Compare Hallowed Burial with Day Of Judgement: The first card forces you to wait one or two extra turns before you get to destroy your opponent's cheap little creatures, but faster decks with such creatures can deal a lot of damage meanwhile, enough damage that can easily make you lose until then.

Very often, cards with a high mana cost don't make up for the disadvantage that you have when you're always behind and when your opponent dominates the board situation while you're quite struggling and defending. This is true for many larger creatures that just won't help when you're beaten down by many little creatures, because they can only block one of these creatures. There are some options to play extra mana sources, but some players refuse to replace just a few of the awesome high-mana spells with apparently unexciting and boring cards like Rampant Growth. Take note that without such cards you'll often need ten or more turns before you have the amount of mana sources in play to cast a seven-mana creature, at which point two-mana creatures can have already dealt 14-16 points of damage.

7) Your deck has "win-more" cards that only help you if you're already winning!

So you have established your superior board position and you're ready to deal heavy damage to your opponent and to cause him or her lots of problems. There are cards that strongly reward you once you're in this situation, while they become much weaker or even useless as long as you don't have the upper hand, and they're called "win-more" cards. For example,  does nothing unless you're putting many dangerous and very large creatures into play, at which point you can probably devastate your opponent. And then, Mighty Emergence makes these already large creatures a little bit larger, although you don't really need that. Read the flavor text on the card, it makes fun of this fact.

These cards don't help you when you're struggling and defending. Actually, these cards become very bad once not everything works perfectly fine, and in that situation you need the help of your cards to gain the upper hand and turn the tide. But such "win-more" cards won't help you, they're sitting in your hand and waiting for better times. These cards make it very easy for your opponent to defeat you, because they don't need to be dealt with. Your opponent has to simply destroy the cards that are supposed to be affected by these "win-more" cards. However, many players love these cards because they make for spectacular wins.



That's what I prepared for my comments in threads of the casual forum, so that I don't have to write the same things again and again.. I would like to prepare the same thing for my comments in threads of the YMTC forum, what are the most common mistakes when designing cards?
Forgetting p/t?

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192884403 wrote:
surely one can't say complex conditional passive language is bad grammar ?
You're right, but it's definitely ~not~ something that deserves a very large paragraph!

1) So you've made a card that references a friend, entertainment outlet (video game/TV show/popular novel), or an in-joke...

@mikemearls The office is basically empty this week, which opens up all sorts of possibilities for low shenanigans

@mikemearls In essence, all those arguments I lost are being unlost. Won, if you will. We're doing it MY way, baby.

@biotech66 aren't you the boss anyway? isn't "DO IT OR I FIRE YOU!" still an option?

@mikemearls I think Perkins would throat punch me if I ever tried that. And I'd give him a glowing quarterly review for it.

Why does that make the card a bad card?

Here are some other first ideas:

* hybrid-mana cards that violate the color pie
* cards with redundant / anti-synergic abilities
I'm sure there's a lot of things to talk about on un-cards.

I could probably mention some stuff on Keywords too. Mostly knowing when to use a keyword, and what you want from it.

Yxoque wrote:
This forum can't even ****ing self-destruct properly.

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Why does that make the card a bad card?

Often times (though not always) it leads to creating cards that are over-powered, break the color pie, have way too many abilities so as to require the tiny text, are poorly worded or have custom abilities that are either nonfunctional or are only functional for that specific card for flavor reasons but could not be spread to other cards, or just don't make sense unless you get the joke. 

I tend to correlate it with people who make a bunch of really silly cards, post them up for strangers to see, and then either refuse to accept criticism because the reviewer doesn't know the creator's inspiration well enough or because they believe their cards to be perfect in every way, even when they are not.

Granted that's more a social etiquette issue than a technical one.  I guess that's different than what you are looking for.

@mikemearls The office is basically empty this week, which opens up all sorts of possibilities for low shenanigans

@mikemearls In essence, all those arguments I lost are being unlost. Won, if you will. We're doing it MY way, baby.

@biotech66 aren't you the boss anyway? isn't "DO IT OR I FIRE YOU!" still an option?

@mikemearls I think Perkins would throat punch me if I ever tried that. And I'd give him a glowing quarterly review for it.

It really depends on context, I think. Loads of cards that are made here could never see print, but I'm not sure that matters if their designer never intended them to be.

The thing I can think of that seems to apply most often is that it's a bad idea to try and fit too much onto one card, and that building around one core idea will almost always lead to something better.

  • Doing cute things just for the sake of it, with no real application in a game of Magic.

  • Overcomplicating cards that can be designed in a much simpler fashion.

  • Not giving up on an idea and trying to make it work at all costs (I am very guilty of this one)

  • Putting colored mana symbols before colorless ones

  • Being GM_Champion.

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192884403 wrote:
surely one can't say complex conditional passive language is bad grammar ?
Having a creature lose all abilities without setting power and toughness.
I just gotta say that you must not be a very fun person if you restrict your casual decks.
Anti-synergetic abilities on a card that are flavorful or synergetic in a weird way are amazing. And anti synergy as a whole isnt a bad design unless you're not doing it on purpose...
As for me, I never play 60-cards decks! But most older players would advice that, and most newer players don't understand why..
I try to play a 60 card deck unless I have a good reason, and many decks are okay with more than 60.
I only play decks with forty cards. :/
Nothing really matters.
Anyone can see.
Forgetting rarity.

Not reading the comp rules first when trying to do something that hasn't been done, is very complex, or makes copies of things in an unusual way.

Not searching the gatherer database for appropriate templating, duplicate card name, or functional reprints.

Seconding Mown's thoughts on Keywords; could also expand to use of Ability words.

Somnia, the Evanescent Plane -- A 3-set Block
Set 1 — Somnia
Set 2 — TBD
Set 3 — TBD
Planeswalker's Guide to Somnia

Build Around This
A weekly MTG Cards and Combos forum game.
Build Around This #1 - Sage's Starfish Wish
BAT #1 was built using the Legacy format with Spiny Starfish, Sage's Knowledge, and Make a Wish. Winner: Dilleux_Lepaire with Fishy Starfishies. Runner-Up: JBTM

  • Putting all your best ideas on one card/cycle regardless of synergy

  • Putting crazy ground-breaking abilities on cards that don't do anything with them.

  • Trying to make cool rares by just pumping up the power level. Try and make it do something new!

  • Ovedosing on colored mana. Just because your card is really, really evil doesn't mean it needs three :B: symbols in the cost. Save that for something that is restricted to black's part of the color pie or something you don't want players splashing for.

  • Denying all commentary and criticism on your cards for non sensical reasons like you're the champion of greater megalomaniacs.

Putting colored mana symbols before colorless ones

Oh God


Forgetting that cards are meant to be played rather than designed. A card that is cool in design may be completely unbearable to play.


Elegance for the sake of elegance.


Complexity for the sake of complexity (here's lookin' at you, GM Champion)


Breaking the color pie (in uninteresting ways/ways that are harmful to the game)


Making your favourite color too good (I'm particularly guilty of this; I've been trying to get better. Poor blue and black)

When I can honestly say that your content lives up to mine Matt, then I'll accept your judgement. 

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When I can honestly say that your content lives up to mine Matt, then I'll accept your judgement. 



I can honestly say that little would terrify me more than if you said you liked the cards I'd made.
When I can honestly say that your content lives up to mine Matt, then I'll accept your judgement. 



I can honestly say that little would terrify me more than if you said you liked the cards I'd made.



I never said that I don't like them, but your logic is flawed as far as I can tell (at least when it comes to certain specifics).

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*Doing things that only work at instant speed on a planeswalker.
*"PERMANENT has ABILITY WORD.", for instance, giving a creature landfall, when not saying what the landfall ability is.
*Ignoring the tribal pie. What I mean is, giving a sliver an ability that it doesn't share with all slivers.
*Putting colored and hybrid together, not like , but like . A hybrid would be something like

Better Strobe 

Sorcery

Target creature gains double strike until EOT.

The only reason to make it red/white is so that any deck using red can use it, but so can any deck using white, but not a deck solely using a combination of green, blue, and black.

A traditional multicolor card is:

Protected Growth

Instant

Until EOT, target creature gets +3/+3 and gains hexproof.

(I could, of course, create a monogreen Growth that gave hexproof, but I'm looking at maybe for that. But blue doesn't usually get Giant Growth.)

Personally, my biggest one is that sometimes I have an idea but I either undercost it or overcost it, such as a quadratic Propaganda I was working on. It would make you pay for each creature attacking, where X was the total number of attacking creatures. (That is, if you wanted to attack with three creatures, you'd pay .) I somewhat undercosted it at .
139359831 wrote:
Clever deduction Watson! Maybe you can explain why Supergirl is trying to kill me.
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Listening to or communicating with bankai
Listening to or communicating with bankai



Preach on, sister. Preach on.
every once in a while... a thread like this comes up. And everyone sounds all righteous speaking up here.
funny thing is,
people who needs to hear it don't come here
people who say something here believe they dont need help here, and finally
people who actually read this thread realize it's all old news.

"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." - Antoine de Saint-Exupry

[spoiler MLP]Congratulations, you've found My Lie Policy: Only when i'm prompted, i might lie. (policy still in the refinement process.) [/spoiler] [spoiler I am both rational and instinctive. I value self-knowledge and understanding of the world; my ultimate goal is self-improvement and improvement of the world around me. At best, I am focused and methodical; at worst, I am obsessive and amoral.]I am Blue/Green
I am Blue/Green

[/spoiler]
- Not explaining a weird/complicated design. If you have an idea, give folks a little background on that idea.
- Assuming people know as much/the same things about Magic as you do, this goes both ways
every once in a while... a thread like this comes up. And everyone sounds all righteous speaking up here.
funny thing is,
people who needs to hear it don't come here
people who say something here believe they dont need help here, and finally
people who actually read this thread realize it's all old news.




Which one are you :P
I think the intention of the thread was to make a resource to point amateurs towards.
Ideally I guess what we suggest here could become part of a sticky thread (which is a really weird souding term) but I beleive the original poster just wanted notes to copy/paste into discussions.

Doing cute things just for the sake of it, with no real application in a game of Magic.


Elegance for the sake of elegance.


You guys are the absolute worst.

Yxoque wrote:
This forum can't even ****ing self-destruct properly.

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My article for casual decks was supposed to become part of a sticky thread, but we're currently not working on that community project.. I didn't have the same intention here, I don't even know if there's anything similar in the current sticky threads.. Does anyone think that writing this article is very important, and would anyone like to work on this article?
I agree with Mown, the best cards come from doing that.
One that I noticed on here a lot is regarding imports, where people will break the color pie either flavorfully or mechanically in order to make a character work. Many designers will choose to either violate the color pie or ignore the flavor of the character, which can usually be avoided with a bit of creativity. I think a lot of people don't realize how versatile the color pie actually is. Designing cards based on movie/video game/comic book characters is actually far more difficult that it appears at first, so many will just choose to ignore the color pir or the flavor of the character to force it into place.

Another common mistake when making imports is matching a character's color to their costume (such as making Batman and Hawkeye monoblack or making Spider-Man or Ironman :r.
Aw, I missed most of this, but here are a couple more:



  • Designing whilst intoxicated.

  • Using Caps Lock instead of Shift to capitalize letters.

  • Not using puns in flavour text.

  • Getting crumbs of edible substance or compound in the keyboard cracks while you type and eat at the same moment. Why not just eat and then type? Or perhaps, blend your food and drink steak through a straw?

  • Posting boring cards and then bumping them when no one is interested because they are so incredibly dull that I can't even think of anything to say about them.

  • Making Planeswalkers.


That's all I can think of right now. Now off to put some tri-tip in my cuisinart. . . Oh, just kidding - I don't have a cuisinart - those things are a tad outside my budget. I have a Magic Bullet, which is not quite as awesome as the infomercial makes it seem. . .

139359831 wrote:
That is a lovely painting of Richard Garfield. It really brings out his feminine side.
Aw, I missed most of this, but here are a couple more:



  • Designing whilst intoxicated.

  • Using Caps Lock instead of Shift to capitalize letters.

  • Not using puns in flavour text.

  • Getting crumbs of edible substance or compound in the keyboard cracks while you type and eat at the same moment. Why not just eat and then type? Or perhaps, blend your food and drink steak through a straw?

  • Posting boring cards and then bumping them when no one is interested because they are so incredibly dull that I can't even think of anything to say about them.

  • Making Planeswalkers.


That's all I can think of right now. Now off to put some tri-tip in my cuisinart. . . Oh, just kidding - I don't have a cuisinart - those things are a tad outside my budget. I have a Magic Bullet, which is not quite as awesome as the infomercial makes it seem. . .



I take offense to point #3.
Also magic bullets are every bit as awesome as informercials make them seem. They're bullets, that are enchanted with magic. How isbn't that cool? 
Making plainswalkers.
If you would read my design notes and highlights, you could learn everything you need to know.

It's a ton of reading though, and you don't have to start from the beginning. You could pick up at my new "Best of" series. It starts with Best of Bloodlines — Artifacts I.

IMAGE(http://cdn.bulbagarden.net/upload/1/1c/Spr_4p_389.png)

If you would read my design notes and highlights, you could learn everything you need to know.



Reading your design notes and highlights, if a person can be bothered hacking through the walls of text to get at the part where you say anything meaningful, is a great way to learn everything not to do in card design.

I know that. I do well to cover what's best, as well as using my own mistakes as examples for people to learn from. 

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If you would read my design notes and highlights, you could learn everything you need to know.



Reading your design notes and highlights, if a person can be bothered hacking through the walls of text to get at the part where you say anything meaningful, is a great way to learn everything not to do in card design.




Well, this is the "what not to do" thread, so maybe that's what he meant


I think one of the most common mistakes in card design is being overly concerned with corner cases.  This usually goes one of two ways.  The first is covering loopholes that let your opponent respond to your card in negative ways.  For instance you design a discard spell with some nasty side effects, but then you realize that the secondary effect is useless if your opponet chooses to discard nothing but lands.  And so you add a sub-clause that makes it do something else different when a land is discarded, or makes your opponent reveal their hand and select from nonlands only, etc.  The better solution would be to accept that the card has situations it's weaker in, and go with the simpler option.  The second way this shows up is making a powerful card and using odd corner cases to add a drawback instead.  Like a spell that's obviously overpowered for its cost, but the creator justifies the lower cost by letting your opponent counter it by paying or by revealing an unlikely combination of cards from their hand.  This one's much less common, but is often justified by flavor, such as a Demon who can be destroyed by tapping a Cleric.  And sometimes that can be cool, but often creators inflate the importance of the corner case so much that they give a ridiculous discount on the card's cost, rather than using that corner case purely for the flavor accent.
The World of Eldangard - a three act M:tG block by Fallingman Eldangard Stormfront Ragnarok
Here is the thing though, there are no "common" mistakes. If there was, it would just making something that's sadly overpowered. That's where everyone starts out. They make things that are SUPERoverpowered. Magic development though is a very complex and intricate thing, everything is technical and when it comes to what to do and what not to do, there are about a million rules you have to learn from experience. There are rules for every single different operation and interaction. People like me can try to teach you by example, but even so, you won't understand it as well as you need to until you've experienced it yourself. 

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