Custom Card Creation: An introduction

What is custom mtg card creation?

Have you ever played a match of magic and thought to yourself: “I wish a card like [BLANK] existed.”?

Maybe you think a UB sphinx would be really cool for your commander deck, or you want a Crux of Fate that says Allies instead of Dragons or maybe you just wish your favourite minor character like Tiagam deserved a card.

With elements like Deckbuilding and many different formats, MtG is a game about customization and playing the way you want. Custom card creation is the ultimate expression of this customization, where you can design these cards and understand the systems that make magic a great game as well as joining a great community of game designers to showcase your creations.

How can I start?

Now while you can scribble down or type out designs, the best thing to do is download Magic Set Editor 2 (MSE2). This great tool will allow you to easily mockup, export and share your creations. It is simple to use and allows you to edit any attribute of a card from its rarity, P/T and textbox.

This also has many useful features such as custom keywords, creating reminder text for you and exporting text versions of your cards that are easily readable within a standard format.

From ideas to cards

So you probably have all these cool ideas. But how do you turn these ideas into cards?

Well the first thing to think about is what the core of your idea is. Lets give an example:
Say I love Ooze cards. Thus I want a cool Ooze creature.

Ok well what about this card:
White ooze card

This card doesn’t really feel like an ooze does it? It says its an ooze but it has flying, is an artifact and is in a weird color for oozes. In fact it nearly feels like an angel creature which is definitly not what we want. (Though seeing “Creature – Ooze Angel” would be pretty sweet.)

So what makes a creature feel like an ooze? This is an important question for us to answer as it can vastly improve the quality of our custom card creation if it matches precedents set by MtG.

Well MtG has a 20+ year history of cards for us to reference including quite a few oozes. Lets look at some of my favourites.

scavenging oozemitotic slimegobbling ooze

Looking at the Ooze cards above what do they all share?

They are all green creatures that exchange resources from one state to another, they eat, split and mutate. This allows us to latch onto an identity for our custom card, which is important to making it “feel” authentic.

Ooze making a card

So now we have a better idea of what we want the card to do, I’m going to walk you through as I create a card step by step.

First I start by adding a new card in MSE2 and then making it a Creature – Ooze.

a blank ooze card

Next I add a WIP name and a rough mana cost, making sure it is a green card to fit with the other Ooze creatures we looked at earlier.

unfinished ooze card

Now for the hard part, lets create the creature’s abilities. I really like the idea of Gobbling Ooze and how it creates and grows by eating creatures. But I also love how Mitotic Slime really captures the way an Ooze can be made of little mini oozes and split and change.
So lets make our ooze be able to create other oozes by digesting your creatures into oozes and then reform into a single large ooze if you need.

unfinished ooze card
Now this ability is fairly complex so lets change it to a rare. Don’t worry I’ll be talking about rarity and complexity in more depth in future articles.
Finally I’m going to change the mana cost and power and toughness and finally add the artist credit (very important) and we now have our card.

unfinished ooze card

Where can I get feedback?

So creating cards can be a fun exercise but even better is getting feedback and showcasing your creations to others. Their are a range of custom card creation communities with lots of competitions, guides and places to get feedback.
I’d high recommend the MTGsalvation custom card creation forums, its got a large group of talented designers that can give advice on everything from cost/balancing , wording tricky abilities and creation larger projects such as full custom sets.
A good place to start is the CCL and MCC competitions that run every month, consisting of a range of challenges to help give you a starting point for your designs while also giving good judging that you can use to improve.

Finally other resources to checkout are:
Remaking Magic: My podcast on game design and custom mtg.
Goblin Artisans: Run high quality weekend challenges
Custommagic reddit: A bit more of a free for all but a good place to post single cards. They have a great primer with lots of must read resources.
The Lion’s Lair: A great series of articles on the more advanced side of custom card creation.

A Challenge

Now I hope this article has shown you the basics on how to get started but the best way to get better at custom card creation like anything is to practice. So at the end of each article I’m going to put out a challenge to design a card or cards and I’ll be happy to give feedback to anyone that  is looking to improve.
You can leave your submissions in the comment section below or email me. Those wondering about the best way to format text submissions should read this.

So the first challenge is nice and easy: Design a white creature card.

I look forward to seeing what people come up with and I hope this article has providing a place to get started if your interested.

Next time I’m going to go over common mistakes to avoid when bringing your imaginary cards to life.

About the Author

Reuben Covington is a Melbourne games programmer, game designer and MtG enthusiast. He runs a podcast called Re-Making Magic about MtG custom cards and game design as well as works on projects such as his custom MtG set, Dreamscape.


Twitter: @reubencovington

Further Reading

Design 101-104 – Mark Rosewater




  • salmonofdoubt12

    Exclusion Cleric XWWW
    Creature – Human Cleric (Mythic)
    Exclusion Cleric enters the battlefield with X +1/+1 counters on it.
    Remove a +1/+1 counter from Exclusion Cleric: Exile target creature until Exclusion Cleric leaves the battlefield.

    • salmonofdoubt12

      Sorry, I’m not sure how formatting works here. I’ll try again.

      Exclusion Cleric XWWW

      Creature – Human Cleric (Mythic)

      Exclusion Cleric enters the battlefield with X +1/+1 counters on it.

      Remove a +1/+1 counter from Exclusion Cleric: Exile target creature until Exclusion Cleric leaves the battlefield.


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