Benefit from Experience


Hey everybody, welcome to episode 136 of Ominous Designs. I was inspired this week and I came up with the idea of doing experience counter a different way. Let’s see what it looks like, shall we?

Davkas SermonFirst we have Davka’s Sermon.

The original experience cards from Commander 2015 only care but how many counters exactly you have, and give you a linear reward.
This time, the card wants to know if you have more than your opponent. If you do, you are going to get nice exile effect. I could obviously not just turning the card on and off based on experience, so if you don’t have enough you still get small tap effect.

Overall the design is largely based on New Phyrexia’s Dispatch.

Huntsmans GearHuntsman’s Gear.

This experience counter theme opens up a huge design space so what I want to do now is use it for yet another card type. It will be an Aura.

Gear is very straightforward. It will make your creature bigger the more experience counters you have. What’s a actually new here is the introduction of thresholds.
If you have more than 3 experience counters, you get trample, and if you have more the 5 you can regenerate. If you think about it it’s pretty close to the level up mechanic.

And those are you cards for the week. Like I said the design spaces is great and easy to explore, so the cards came naturally and are reasonably clean and elegant. As tradition demands I will note that they might very well need to be balanced a notch, but that’s a task for play testing and the upcoming peer review, when I broadcast this article on my favourite social outlets, rather than during our free flow design session.

Now that’s really it for this article. I hope you enjoyed, I’ll be seeing you next week for 137. Have a good one!



Hello everyone and welcome to episode 134 of Ominous Designs. Today we are going to look at modal spells. This isn’t the first time, so let’s try and make it a little special. We are going to look at three cards with four modes each, some of which we have never seen before…

Planned BetrayalFirst is Planned Betrayal.

Most of those modes make a build-your-own Threaten effect. The fun part here is that you can have it be instant speed, which we know is great on those effects.

If you choose to cast it sorcery speed though, you will get a bonus +2/+0 for your trouble. The other interesting bit is that you don’t even have to use all modes on the same target. You might even pick modes to create some weird combat trick.
On a side note, I do hope it’s within the rules to pick flash as a mode when casting a spell.

Planned MachinationsPlanned Machinations is a simpler design.

The original mode here is can’t be countered. For the rest, we are making a blue cantrip. Power level wise, I based myself on something below Preordain but most likely better than Serum Visions.

I also based the design on the assumption that the modes will resolve in the same order they appear on the card, which I believe is true.
Those could easily be tweaked if needed for power level, as I did when creating the card, toying with different positions for the Draw a card mode.

Planned ExplorationI couldn’t help but make a third card this week!
Planned Exploration wants to do every thing ramp.

It’s an expensive card though, which should help containing the power level for such effect. As far as I can tell the most you could get out of it is two extra land drops and untapping a land, which makes it close to Explosive Vegetation.

It definitely looks like it could be broken somehow though, and it would be at least fun in cube storm. Thinking back, maybe I didn’t need to restrict it to basic lands though.

I had a fantastic time building those, so I hope you will enjoy reading about them. Let me know what you think!
I’ll be seeing you next time for episode 135. Have a great week!

From Above

Hi everybody. Today for episode 133 of Ominous Designs we are going to do something different than usual: top down designs from illustrations. What I did in the video is I went through some images I have sitting in my vault, picked the most evocative ones and created cards based on what they inspired me. As a consequence there is extra value to my Twitch/Youtube clips this week, so don’t hesitate to check them out!

Brutal AssaultBrutal Assault.

This one should be easy to figure out. I loved the idea that this was an action picture, and that it was mostly green. A fight spell seemed to be the obvious choice here.

Since we are doing flavour designs, I had to go for the Samurai writer here. With a base of one extra mana on Prey Upon original casting cost, I think it works quite well and is a somehow playable spell for limited, maybe even good in a set that actually includes samurais. Maybe we will need it when we go back to Kamigawa…

Lithomancer ShepherdLithomancer Shepherd.

As mandated, this illustration is as well very flavourful. The stone golem being raised just has to be an awoken mountain from Zendikar!
I had a quick look and to my great surprise only one red card – Boiling Earth – features the mechanic Awaken.
Since the visual focus is on the Shaman here, I tried to enable him to create multiple elementals. Shepherd now basically creates a 2/2 for 2 – or reinforces a land with 2 +1/+1 counters – every time you cast an instant or sorcery, which I think is nice but far from too powerful.

Simple, straight forward, flavourful. Yes? This week I am rather happy with both the creative and the power level of the cards. None of them are too good but they are definitely fine enough for limited, perhaps even casual constructed.

I hope you enjoyed those as well, don’t hesitate to comment on them either way! Now is time to bid you farewell for this week, so see you next time and have a great one!


Things Used To Be Free

Hello and welcome to episode 132 of Ominous Designs. I had complete random inspiration this week, and decided I would add to the cycle of Force of Will. To my knowledge only Contagion, in black, follows the same pattern but today we are making a white card and a green card.

Cosmic RayCosmic Ray is first.
The effect that you get here is a pseudo removal of the fairly rare kind previously seen in Celestial Flare. We won’t have much to say about the 5 mana cost that I kept from the cycle, but rather ask ourselves: can this be free?
Removal is a basic effect, albeit powerful, but the fact is there are plenty of great ones for as little as 1 mana – or 0 for Slaughter Pact – and the question almost becomes do you want to pay to cards for it? It seems great against combo decks based on a creature, – hello Griselbrand – and I could imagine hate bears or death and taxes be all over this, but I’m not even sure at all.

Might of the WildThe green card is Might of the Wild.
I started by creating a card that ended up being much less powerful than Invigorate, and yet I was really afraid it would be to good for legacy infect. When I discovered it about Invigorate I decided my card would be a mini Overrun instead.
For this one I have to say I am not sure who would actually need it. Maybe Zoo decks? You would be looking at a deck going wide, with a multitude of creatures and yet having an extra spare card to spend instead of mana for the final effect.
The good part is even with the full price you’re going to get something very similar to the original Overrun, which is good but not played still.

Quick mention that I just realized not having changed the color of the card you have to exile to pay the alternate costs. It is very much an error and Cosmic Ray should exile a white card, Might of the Wild a green one.
That’s going to be it for the day though! This one was particularly hard. I didn’t want either boring or overpowered designs! Turns out that’s a tall order for free cards.

I hope you enjoyed the designs though, I’ll be seeing you next week for more. Until then have a good one!

Mini Me

Hello everybody, welcome to Responsible Gaming for Ominous Designs episode 127. Today we are going to look at a couple of very famous cards and we’re going to see if we can make them into smaller, more humble designs.

Lesser Necromantic RitesFirst one is Lesser Necromantic Rites.

It is a real challenge making a smaller Necropotence. My original idea was to limit the amount of draw to 2 cards per turn. I did not add the “skip draw step” when I started out and it turned out to be, well, quite insane.

With that first line of text though, you will find yourself with a Dark Confidant that isn’t target to creature removal and only ever costs you 2 life, except you can never again draw your first card a turn without it.
Weird but I think playable, wouldn’t you say?

Flamecaster MageSecond card is Flamecaster Mage.

This one is pretty straightforward, it is obviously a Snapcaster Mage without flash who will always cast Shock.

I think it is sufficiency tuned down to make a red Snapcaster ok. It is also a mini Flametongue Kavu of sorts, or even a Goblin Dark-Dweller. Always be sure to balance those! My take is that a 2/1 for 3 in red is sufficiently terrible to justify getting a free Shock most – but not every – the time. I could be wrong so I guess do let me know what you think about this one as well.

That does it for the week. Pretty efficient one, that was. The enchantment needs tweaking but I like the Mage. This will also be a mini article, I guess.
Now is time for me to wish you a great week and see you next time!

After the Maths

Hello everybody, welcome to episode 122 of Ominous Designs. Today we are finally going to see the mechanic I teased last week: Aftermath. It took me a whole day to upload my video this week but I had recorded it a day early so everything is fine. Since our mechanic is so interesting and pretty easy to come up with cards for, we are going to see three of them today. Starting with…

Survive the SlaughterThe first card is Survive the Slaughter.

As you can see, aftermath is a variation of flashback where the second time you cast the card causes a different effect. It was pretty hard to find a template for it and I don’t think I came up with the best one yet. Either way as you can see Survive the Slaughter is a mass removal spell that hopefully will give you a creature back.

I wanted the card to be over-costed enough so that it isn’t too oppressive but it definitely will still be very good, especially when combined to other removal spells.

Toy with MindsOur second card is Toy with Minds.

This one is very straightforward. It starts with an over-costed mind rot and follows up with a very over-costed divination.

We obviously don’t want a card of the sort that doesn’t cost something like four extra mana, because it is a 4-for-1! I still think it’s good as it is.

I decided to go for black cards with an aftermath cost of an other color, and that’s entirely arbitrary and mostly an esthetic choice. We could play with any color combination instead.

Succumb to RageFinally, we have Succumb to Rage.

This one is either two combat tricks or a removal, albeit conditional.
I didn’t want a card to be a removal and also two efficient combat tricks, but as a result the trick parts seem fairly boring. I’m pretty sure we can do better but then again there is the whole “trick + trick + removal” upside.

As it is, the deathtouch part can give you a 1-for-2 and sometimes a 1-for-1, while the aftermath can give you a 1-for-0 so even playing it that way is somewhat acceptable.

And that’s going to do it for today! Aftermath is worth thinking about and coming up with lot of new cards, as well as other wordings or templates. Let me know if you can think of other designs I’ll be happy to look at them.

Before I leave, I want to announce a couple new features for Ominous Designs and Responsible Gaming. I am still updating our branding, you might have noticed a couple changes on this site’s header. I also booked the url, you can now go check out Responsible Gaming portal there, which contains most of my social links. You can also contact me at, which is pretty sweet.

That’s about all for this week, once again thanks for reading/watching. I hope you liked the cards and all have a great week. See you next time!

Doing Several Things

Hi everyone, it’s good to be back! Those holidays were long and eventful and I am now here to resume our little weekly habit. I am somewhat rushed today as per that other habit of mine – work – but I’ll do my best to entertain! We are going to get right down to it though, as today we are looking at Instants that do several things, and as it turns out they both contain the Izzet colors.

Ward Against AllFirst is Ward Against All.

The idea came to me that we could have counterspell and misdirection in the same card.
What prevents this card from being too powerful is that there aren’t that many opportunities to have two targets for both sides of the spell. Correct me if I’m wrong but I am not aware of Double Negative being a staple.

What I just realized though, is that the mere flexibility of doing either one effect might be very good. Do you think it’s too much for a 4 mana counterspell? My gut feel is that it’s not.

Master the ArtsMaster the Arts.

This one comes from the cute idea to have a tempo spell / combat trick / removal doing a little bit of an effect for each colors of the Jeskai clan.

For the low low price of RWB you will get to deal 2 damage, bounce and tap up to 3 respective targets. I think the main contention point here is to be able to remove a small creature and bounce another one for only three mana. On the top of my head I can only think of Far/Away or Silumgar’s Command doing that for at least one extra mana, but not three colors! Is that a deal breaker?

I would be interested in hearing your opinions on the power level for both cards so don’t hesitate to let me know on any outlet of your choosing – Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc. Now though, is time to get back to work, it’s like I never left!

I hope you are all doing as good as when I left, I will see you again next week for article #119. Have a great one!


On the Commutativity of Spells

Hi all! The rather convoluted title on our article today is meant to introduce the following question: in Magic, is doing the same effect 3 times the same thing as doing an effect three times stronger once? I think the answer is quite obviously no and we are about to see why, thanks to a partial cycle of cards that I have – uninspiredly – named ceremonies.

Kindle CeremonyKindle Ceremony.

This one was the first design that came to me. A rather simple and straight forward spin on something we have seen a couple of times before, more recently in Fiery Confluence.

Being able to chose between one damage to three targets and three damage to one is great, even though definitely less powerful than Flames of the Firebrand.

Does that allow us to pay only two mana – albeit one more red – and have it be instant? You tell me.

River CeremonyRiver Ceremony.

This one was quite predictable. As is turns out there aren’t many X effects in each color, and by that I mean effects that can grow linearly, based on a number.

Green mainly has +1/+1 counters. Life gain and card drawing only come next, and aren’t the greenest in spirit.

Power-wise I based myself on cards like Cached Defenses and Reap What Is Sown, hopefully finding a good balance for a flexible sorcery.

Deadwood CeremonyDeadwood Ceremony isn’t too surprising either.

Apart from draw X, lose X – which really wouldn’t make sense with 3 targets – I couldn’t think of many black X effects at all.

The black ceremony could be very powerful, though somewhat similar to the red one. As such you can see I decided to make it a sorcery and make it cost one more.

I costed it based on comparisons to Marsh Casualties and Drown in Sorrow in order to get something that would be powerful but fair.

What do you think? There is something extremely satisfying in the symmetry of those effects. Even though I am not certain of the costs, I think they will get a lot of Magic designers excited. As an exercise, you can try and come up with a white and blue one. Those look quite harder to design!

Hope you enjoyed this week article. Now is time for me to wish you a great week and I’ll be seeing you on Christmas day!

Wishes Coming True

Hi everybody! Now that we are out of Thanksgiving and other birthday specials, Bullzzai is back to something a little tamer. But only a little! This week I’m actually featuring a full 5 color cycle for a new mechanic: Prayers.

Prayers are meant to be the Instant version of clones, and by that I mean a clone that doesn’t copy a creature but rather an Instant spell. I will now walk you through how this works, in WUBRG order…

Hope for HelpHere you have it: your first Prayer, Hope for Help.

In a classic fashion, the white representative of the mechanic is a 2/2 for 2, which is never terrible and often quite reliable.

The Prayer mechanic, as you can see, means that whenever a player casts a Prayer, all players can then decide to copy it by casting their own Prayers in response.

Anyone can match your Prayer with theirs. You will see soon that most other prayers cost 1 so far, but I don’t foresee this being an major issue.

Hope for a SignHope for a Sign.

I don’t think I have ever made such a simple cantrip card and that in and of itself is exciting. Those aren’t free as they do use a card slot in your deck and a mana, but some times they can be great when you are looking at playing a lot of spells or churning through your deck.

Hope for a Sign has the added value to be able to copy other players’ Prayers for only one mana. Often enough it shouldn’t be better than casting dispel on them but the flexibility is strong there and I do think it would be a great limited card.

Hope for the WorstHope for the Worst.

Tasty, black removal spin on Prayers.

One thing that I knew I didn’t want to do, it make a -2/-2 instant speed spell for one black mana. -2/-1 goes quite a bit further than -1/-1 though, if you know how to work it though, and I know all of you limited players will!

That’s about all there is to it; I do believe it would make for a rather solid removal spell, even though -1 toughness is far from being a universal answer. The flexibility of Prayers should make up for it.

Hope for PainHope for Pain.

Yes, for pain. Why not? This looks to me like a sweet sweet take on Shock.
There are many of those already, and I would say Hope for Pain is one of the good ones.

Prayer is obviously a parasitic type of design – a design that only works in a particular set – but I see no wrong in doing that in moderate amounts.

Note that while some Prayers can be virtually countered when copied, this one will just let your opponent do as much damage as you did them.

Hope for StrengthHope for Strength.

The market for +2/+2 spells for one green is also quite busy, though even a vanilla version of it should be playable in limited.

This Prayer in particular could be invalidated if your opponent decides to copy it. As such I considered making it give +2/+3 so that if copied, the creatures would be more likely to bounce of each other. That didn’t really feel green though.
It might make it the weakest Prayers, as it could really be tricky having any of your opponents able to copy your combat trick. Any opinions?

And that my friends was the Prayer mechanic! I do understand it is a bit unpredictable, but it’s a trade off for the flexibility and what I think is a reasonable color bleed. I don’t think I would want to see Prayers as commons though; it would get rather messy. Let me know what you think about them.

That will be it for today, once again thanks a lot for reading and I’ll be writing to you again next week. Have a good one!



Snap Snap

Hi everyone. Welcome to a new episode of From the Vault: Custom Designs. I came up with this theme a week or two ago, which feels a bit like cheating compared to me scrambling for ideas to write this week’s article but it really shouldn’t.

The theme in question is trying to add colors to a Snapcaster Mage cycle. In case you didn’t know there is already a Dualcaster Mage in red. It is a tasty card, even though not as powerful as his blue cousin but let’s be honest, we DO NOT want that anyways. One all-formats powerhouse is enough for now. We will look into Golgari colors today, let’s start with black.

Ghastcaster MageGhastcaster Mage.

What should a black creature do with your graveyard? Reanimate creatures!
This one was plain obvious to me and the main remaining goal was to make it not broken. Using Ojutai’s Command as base I figured we were safe but looking at Gravedigger I am wondering…

This one is a rare with a different mana cost and a restriction on the target so I’m still not fully certain. One thing is sure though, it has a crazy interaction with Snapcaster, in a way that reminds me of Shouta Yasooka’s Eternal Command deck.

Thorncaster MageThorncaster Mage.
When trying to make a green creature for this cycle that wasn’t Eternal Witness, I naturally gravitated around land reanimation. I had to push my design enough so that it wasn’t worse than witness though, hence the idea that it could put the land directly onto the battlefield.

This would provide ramp when used with fetch lands, which I now realize would also mean you have to lose life again. I didn’t want this card to be an instant speed ramp that comes with a body for only 3, but looking at all the restrictions on it I now wonder… Thoughts anyone?

Those are it! Green and black snapcasters would probably revolve around similar themes I have used today though I think they would definitely need balancing. Do let me know if you have other ideas about what those could be, as well as inspirations for a white one if you can come up with it!

Now is time for me to wish you a great week and say goodbye. Until next week!