No Favoritism

Hello everyone, hope you are doing mighty fine as we enter episode 162 of Ominous Designs. Today we are again going to look at simple and mostly elegant designs, a trend that makes me quite happy. The mechanic at play is enter the battlefield triggers offering a modular choice that will affect both players the same, hence the title.

abjudicator-of-the-law Abjudicator of the Law

Our first card is the genesis of the mechanic. A very straight forward design that might look purely fair even though good players know that giving someone the choice to move both needles 3 life points up or down is actually a great power.
I think putting this on a 3/3 body for 3 mana makes for an excellent limited card.

I hope people won’t complain too much about making a non regenerating skeleton, this one does a good job of selling himself like the knight, immovable deliverer of the law he his.

harbinger-of-the-law Harbinger of the Law

I have a little cute theme going on with the names here. Harbinger holds the second most obvious effect I could find that would benefit both players the same, as well as grant a simple choice of doing one thing or its opposite: draw or discard cards.

I also think that in the right hands, the opportunity to make both players have one extra card or one less is rather powerful.
When it comes on a 2/2 flyer for 3, you can’t really complain. This one was meant to be a specter though, my bad.

manifestation-of-the-lawManifestation of the Law

Bonus round! I couldn’t help but try and apply the mechanic to green, but it made me go to less obvious and elegant abilities.

You can really play around the targeting triggers for this one, and attempt to either make the card very one sided, or plan best you can to get a better advantage than your opponent will. Also note that when played on its own, it can be a terrible -1/-1 spell or a 3/2 deathtouch for 2 that gives your opponent a counter. Not bad on turn two if they don’t have a creature! I meant for it to be a zombie.

Three cards again, huh? Lucky you. Do let me know what you thought of those and if you can come up with similar cards for a cycle. Fun fact is that all of those are two color black creatures, but I couldn’t come up with something that would suit a red black variation.

That is all for today, time to say have a great week, see you next time and play responsibly!

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!

Life From the Loan

Hi everybody! The lot of you are all very welcome to the 115th weekly article of Ominous Designs. This week’s making of video is already available on youtube, do check it out.

Today we are going to do look at cards that are investments. Now that I think of it, it is about the exact opposite to debt but I couldn’t get myself to change the title. I think it’s a pretty good one.

Lakegreed Hellraiser is our first card. Lakegreed Hellraiser

You might remember Orzhov Hyprocrite, or more generally Phyrexian Processor.
This cute little demon priest here works the following way: you invest some life and you get rewarded by an army of lifelink zombies. It will take some time but the offer is pretty enticing, isn’t it?

You have to pay 2 mana and 3 life and wait a turn for your first, tapped zombie but somehow I feel like this might still be a little too powerful if left unchecked. You can create a 2/2 lifelink every turn! Return on investment: 3 turns after you casted it.

Gift of FireGift of Fire.

This one is a spin on Sulfuric Vortex.

Gift of Fire is all maths and power balance. It is actually pretty hard predicting what is the strength of a red damage spell that starts by giving your opponents some life!

Your reward though, is to have said enchant then burn them for 2 every turn. It goes: turn in play +3 life, next turn +1, next -1, next -3, and then 2 damage onwards. Return on investment: 2 turns after you casted it.

Sheltered GardenSheltered Garden.
What do you invest for in green? Mana. For balance, I tried to learn from Eladamri’s Vineyard and Frontier Siege. My intuition is that the card is mostly fine as is, possibly not too powerful. I don’t think I could make the ability cost 1 though and I can’t really tweak any other knob.

Garden is still a fun card to drop on turn 1 in limited, and I could see a heavy deck invest a couple more turns into making it a reliable source of ramp mana. Return on investment: Depends on your investment. 4 turns if you play it turn 1 and invest once on turn 2.

That wraps it up for the day! Those were fun, definitely even harder than usual to balance though. I am really looking forward to reading people’s opinions on their power level and how we can tweak them. I do hope you liked the cards, now is time for me to wish you a great week and tell you see you next time!


Big meanies

Hello everyone, happy new year! Welcome to this 113th episode of Ominous Designs. This blog is the last item on my rebranding task list, and I have been working a lot for that recently! As I have mentioned last week, you can now follow Ominous Designs at Responsible Gaming, on both facebook, twitter, even live on twitch and youtube! As usual from last episode and onwards, you can check out this article in the making as an episode on youtube here.

Today’s theme is bad, mean, not good villains, mostly casual and commander focused. Here we go!

Underworld PreacherUnderwold Preacher is a fun one.
Whenever anything comes back from a graveyard, he will reanimate something else of the same permanent type for you.

I assume this will mostly be useful with other reanimator cards, though right now I’m thinking it’s also quite awesome with things such as Persist, Undying and Unearth.

If you push it a bit, it can also be used with Crucible of Worlds or Obzedat’s Aid. Note that preacher will also do fun things whenever your opponent reanimates things themselves.

Merciless DemonlordMerciless Demonlord.
I wanted a splashy black bomb. And boy is it one!

Demonlord says whenever a creature enters the battlefield, destroy it. Just like that. The only similar effect I could find out there was Lethal Vapors.
I pondered the fact that it mostly means no more creatures, which isn’t quite as bad as Deathbringer Regent‘s ability, and still leaves the door open to some enter the battlefield shenanigans.
At the end of the day I think the game can survive a flying demon for 7 that says no more creatures, but it would definitely be fun for casual.

Those are your cards for the week! Creating my Responsible Gaming is definitely a bunch of work but I’m slowly getting the hang of it. I got some amazing logos made for it, and I’m quite happy with the state of the youtube channel already. Obviously you can expect a lot more progress to come.

Hope you’ll enjoy all of today’s content; do check out the videos, especially the latest one that I tried to keep shorter, and let me know what you think! I’ll be seeing you next week, until then have a great time.

Fallow Me

Hi everybody! I have a lot of news for this last post of the year so let’s get to it.

First, I just received my 2015 blog recap which you can find here. I was delighted to see that I had over 4 thousand views this year, most coming from the US but also a lot from Canada, Brazil, France and Germany. I was also pleased to see that my biggest daily post got over 175 views in a day, and it was not due to some referral anomaly but one of my solid designs of the year, Gruesome Sentence. Similar comment applies to my most viewed article of the year, which features two simple designs inspired by Magic Origins. Last trivia fact, I only missed my deadline and posted on a Thursday instead of a Wednesday 3 times for the whole year!

I am now going to keep the last piece of news for the end of this article, and proceed to introduce this week’s theme: the brand new mechanic Fallow – see terrible pun in the article title. The idea with Fallow is that you can discard a land as you cast the card, to get some extra effect. Simple! Now the cards themselves.

Plan for the FuturePlan for the Future is the first. Green uncommon.

Adding an extra effect to a fetch land when you discard a land is a trick that came very naturally to me. Plan for the Future starts as a Sorcery speed Rampant Growth, but there’s a twist…

If you discard a land as an additional cost, you get yourself a second land, this one in your hand. This is Cultivate for 2 and a land discarded.

Allegedly discarding lands isn’t what you want to do when fetching lands but if you look at it like a bonus, it’s an added fixing effect for your ramp.

Storming the Burning FieldsStorming the Burning Fields. Red rare.

The idea of a damage spell as well as the name was given to me by follower Magstarcraft.
I actually quite like the idea of a spell that can switch between dealing 3 to one creature and to the whole board. I think even at sorcery speed and sometimes costing you a land, it is still a fairly powerful and very flexible spell.

The reason to discard a land isn’t the most obvious but I figured that it could be an affordable cost. Ideally such things would be supported in a block containing the fallow mechanic.

Harsh SovereignHarsh Sovereign is our common of the day.

One of the tricky part about this new mechanic is there won’t be unlimited access lands for you to spend into fallow in a regular game of Magic.
Plan for the Future doesn’t actually cost you a land, and Storming the Burning Fields is situational. Harsh Sovereign himself is a reasonable creature, with a nice upside if you do have a land ready to be fallowed.

Drain for 2 is a 4 points of life swing, not too shabby for a common. 3 Would get us into Siege Rhino territory!

And those were the cards for this 112th article. Now for the big news… You have known for a couple of months that Bullzzai will be rebranded to Ominous Designs. Well there is something even bigger on the way, and it’s coming fast. Responsible Gaming is a new Channel that I am now starting, and it will include Ominous Designs as well as hopefully a bunch of other Magic and other gaming content.

As an opening act I have started live streaming on twitch – see link here – the making of my weekly articles. I also made this episode accessible offline on my Youtube Channel, here. You can finally see my weekly process and hear some of the reasons motivating my choices! Lucky you. I still have a bunch of things to put in order, such as logos, templates, and finishing the rebranding of Bullzzai, but you can already start following my channel and find Responsible Gaming on Twitter and Facebook.

I hope you like all of this new content! I had a great time setting all of that up, and I have yet more to do. Let me know if you have any advice or feedback, I’ll be sure to factor that in for my future work. I’m quite excited with it all.
I’ll be seeing you next week now, you all have a great new year!

Fix What’s Broken

Hello everybody! Today I will finally feature what I have been teasing for a while now: my own custom made set of about 250 cards!

IMG_20151113_153829My girlfriend had this made as an amazing birthday present a couple weeks ago, and I have been sleeving them, making them into decks and play testing them with her since then. Now I can finally show the world.
She had the help from San Francisco printing company in called HH Imaging, and the result looks pretty great! Click the images to see for yourself.

IMG_20151113_102653As you can see they have a beautiful back that sports the name Ominous, which is part of a rebranding that I am working on.
Bullzzai is my brand for Magicky things that I named after a life long nickname Banzzai. In the past few years I have taken on blogging, app making and streaming and I want to create a better brand under this more catchy name.

IMG_20151118_124320 (1)From having sleeved and played those cards I can tell you that they are at the same time amazing in quality and impossible to mistake for actual magic cards. They are slightly thicker, definitely glossier, and from a minor mistake slightly too big to fit in non clear sleeves.
At the same time, both the Ominous background and the Magic Set Editor template are well different from actual cards, which I think is great as I am not trying to make fake cards. Those still look and play fantastic though.
One minor issue was I ended up having to use clear sleeves and put Ominous cards in my basic land sleeves as well, to show the same back.

IMG_20151113_181810Now the play testing is definitely the best part.

It is a blast being able to actually play my favorite designs from the past two years against each other! It wasn’t the easiest making decks out of cards that were not created to function with each other, but with the help of mana fixing I could create two 3 color decks that are really fun.

Here you can see my girlfriend wrecking me by casting a rare Angelic War Leader, followed by Eternal War, that destroys all non-demon and non-angel creatures!

I was feeling a bit salty but couldn’t resist immortalizing the bad beat. Playing them made me wish my designs were perfect, and now I want them to better them even more.

As such, today I decided to feature two designs that I have been playing with recently and I think should be fixed. Let’s have a look at them.

Command the Winds(2)Command the Winds original version costed 4 manas.
I figured at the time that since I added the “only if you have a flying creature” clause it would be ok, but it turned out being all too easy to make happen for a killer effect.

I toyed around with the idea of making it draw only one card if you don’t, for the same cost, but that would then make for an either useless or amazing card.
With a cost of 5, Command the Winds becomes a less powerful version of Jace’s Ingenuity, which feels better to me. More playtesting to come!

Orzhov Hypocrite(2)Orzhov Hypocrite used to have first strike and lifelink and drain you for 2 when coming into play.

First strike on a 2 drop seemed way too powerful for my format, given that I was playing it in a Mardu deck facing much less aggressive green and blue designs, which didn’t help at all.

Even then, I feel like vigilance and lifelink makes for a more balanced design. I now wonder if I could have kept the initial drain to 2 instead of raising it to 3 as I did for this version. What I needed to do though is raise its toughness from 1 to 2, which makes total sense here.

What do you think? I am happier with the new versions of my cards; it’s definitely a minor bummer to realize your designs are broken but it feels great knowing that you can make it all better and keep iterating until they are truly fun to play.

I want to reiterate huge thanks to my life partner for this amazing gift. I was the happiest unwrapping it and I will love playing over and again and bettering myself as a designer in the process. I hope you enjoyed the story, I will probably revisit other ones in the near future, as I play more with them!

Look forward to it and until then, have a great week!


A Persecuted Artist

Hi everyone. We have ourselves an original theme this week, as I have been making cards in honor or one of my favourite artists: Rebecca Guay.  As you will see she creates gorgeous illustrations and has a great following, as represented in the card Persecute Artist which alludes to the backlash happening after Wizards announced they would be on a break from using her art – due to its softer qualities.
I have been reminded of Rebecca because she drew a magnificent Serra Angel for the upcoming From the Vault: Angels.

My personal story of enjoying her art goes way back. Over 15 years ago when I started playing Magic, one of my favourite cards was Priest of Titania. The art was no small part of my interest. 10 years ago I decided to send her a dozen cards to sign. Those didn’t show up for over a year, and I had completely forgotten about them until I received my signed Kaysa and Defense of the Heart in the mail, one glorious day. My love for her art also made me discover the work of Alphonse Mucha. Talk about Magic broadening my horizons!

That’s all for the stories, we should now start looking at the beautiful art of Rebecca Guay, because I have 4 cards for you today!

Eternal WarEternal War. My favourite. Mechanically it’s a five mana, two color wrath, which shouldn’t cause too much controversy. On the flavour side though it is amazing.

Angel and Demons are fighting an Eternal War, and everybody else is collateral damage. The Art is amazing and the rule text illustrates perfectly the idea. I don’t love the “non-Angel non-Demon” wording, but it is acceptable.

Eternal war is the kind of card I think should be printed if not completely broken, if only because of the flavour hit. See Merciless Eviction.

Celestial Half-breedCelestial Half-breed pleases me because it is a fair, common creature. I do believe those are among the hardest to design and I’m happy with the result here. Obviously it has been inspired by this awesome not-quite-angel art.

In limited I think this is a very good card, albeit not as good as some other 2/2 for 2 with upside we have seen in the recent past.
Green most often has the transformative ones though, and as such it makes our half-human half-angel even more interesting.

I would love to play test it in a limited environment.

Gift from the SeaGift from the Sea. It sure is fun to take great art and make cards from it. What would you think this illustration would be for? To me it looks like an trinket from the lords of Atlantis, and as such I tried to make it a low costed draw spell.

Now those are getting harder and harder to design, as lots has been done in this space already. Good ones too, like Brainstorm, Ponder, Sleight of Hand, Serum Visions, etc.

This version comes with Scry 1, and scry 1 again if you are trying to get rid of an island. Powerful but maybe ok. You will tell me what you think.

Sleep WalkSleep Walk is our last card. I love love love the art. It isn’t obvious what it should symbolize as a card, but I like where I went with it.

The idea with Sleep Walk was to refer to the tapped state of a card as sleeping. You can untap that creature and let it block, but it will be affected by that event next turn – or next morning – and then become tapped again.

As it stands you can use Sleep Walk to sneak-untap one of your creatures and block, with downside of mostly not using it next turn, or just use it to tap an opponent’s creature. Fun?

I am looking at those four cards again, aren’t they just beautiful? It goes such a long way to have pretty art. I hope you enjoyed those, they made me want to work based on illustrations again. It is a great source of inspiration!

I shall see you next week, until then I hope you all have a good one.

Bound in Black

Whatever that means. Hey everyone, as I announced last week, we are going to look at auras this week. What I didn’t tell you is those will be auras of a particular kind: black auras. The murderous kind. If you are ready to proceed, so am I.

Vengeful HexVengeful Hex is today’s spin on removal. I don’t remember how, but it came to me while working on legendary enchantments.

I’m having a great time playing with alternate ways of destroying a creature. This should be considered very – too? – strong in current limited environment because it destroys any creature, but don’t miss out on the fact you need to deal damage to that creature, which in most case should mean spend another card to destroy it.

Since the downside is more than largely compensated by the draw, still a powerful aura.

Binding of FateBinding of Fate comes from the same design space as Vengeful Hex.
This time though I think it’s more of a mix of One Thousand Lashes and Stab Wound. Same as previously binding has the downside of not killing the creature right away, though in this case it can happen on your next turn. I am hoping this offsets the sheer power of almost-direct removal that even gets through indestructible. Might be a tall order.

Cheery on top, every turn you get the possibility of subtracting 2 life out of your opponent instead of killing their creature. This is probably a greedy choice but I think it makes for a neat design.

And that’s all of it! I’m saying this just about every time but even more than the cards I’m really excited about the creative spaces we found here. If I had more time to make a full project out of them and polish them I do believe great things could happen.

As of now I hope those are a nice treat and tasty food for your thoughts, that would already be great. Enjoy them and have a great week!

Famous Last Words

Hi all. In a recent episode of Maro’s podcast, I heard explained that Fateful Hour wasn’t popular because players are too optimistic. I felt it was a bit dismissive and I wanted to create some more designs to make the mechanic more attractive. I’ll be honest, my conclusions weren’t too far off in the end, but I had fun along the way. Let’s see what I produced.

The problem with Fateful Hour is not quite that it doesn’t do anything most of the time, but it only synergizes with dying. Not exactly a feel good mechanic. It also only applies at the last second in the game, so either it barely saves you – not many card save you when you are about to die – or it kind of did nothing. So I went after this week’s assignment from two angles. First, make fun cards that just use the mechanic in an interesting way, and second try to create some real life saviours.

Thraben IncanterThraben Incanter is of the first kind. For some reason it was the first thing I came up with when I thought of the mechanic. Honestly, a bunch of extra mana is not exactly what you want when about to die, but I do think the concept is fairly elegantly implemented here.
First, I had to make the mana elf less powerful to being with, so that at the end of the day the balance is fine. A 0/1 making colorless mana isn’t quite constructed playable but it’s tolerable in some limited environments. If you are near death though, it’ll make you 4 mana! I went for 4 as I figured 3 wasn’t yet overly impressive for green, keeping in mind Somberwald Sage from the same block.

Patient WarleaderPatient Warleader is a first attempt at making Fateful Hour actually save you. I like that it’s a playable card without it too. In its original form it is pretty similar to Archetype or Courage, with a toughness bonus that might have been overkill. I really like that French Vanilla body and wanted to implement it for a while.
Now when you reach the 5 life mark, things get real interesting. 2 soldiers a turn, when they have first strike, can be big deal! I love the idea of defensive first strike too. Outside of Innistrad, more powerful soldiers – not to mention Elspeth – might make this card too good, otherwise I would have told you that the power level is similar to that of Stromkirk Captain.

One thing that will happen when trying to make a last resort mechanic more exciting, is we run into Timmy type of cards.

Thraben MartyrThraben Martyr is the Timmiest of them all. In his original form he is pretty boring, which is also some issue I ran into when making Fateful Hour cards. I do believe it might be a concession to make if I want to make the alternate mode more exciting, don’t you think?

Paragon of Sacrifice is a different story. He’s an angel, a fairly large one, and he can lifelink you out of danger! There is a catch though: to get that effect you will have to put yourself even more in danger by paying some life, when your total is already terribly low. Red deck are going to love that. To balance this design, I kept in mind the similar and contemporary to Innistrad Blood Baron of Vizkopa.
I decided that the setup cost was such that I wanted my Martyr to turn into something bigger than Baron. When I looked at what kind of creature that would make, I bumped the activation cost from 1 to 2. Would you say it was wise? The good thing with this card is it will be a big blocker by just a flip of a switch, as long as you are at low life. It is most likely still quite risky to attempt it, but I like the card.

And that wraps it up for today. Hope you enjoyed, it’s time for me to get back to work! Have a great one, I’ll see you in 7 days.

Life Always Finds a Way

Hi everyone. You might have guessed, another week without work on Monday and I mistook Thursday for Wednesday again! Sorry for the delay, everything should come back to normal now. Our theme this week is going to be life gain. Two designs came to me in a short succession. I wasn’t particularly trying to fill a contract but they are still linked by the fact that they will tend to make your life total go up.

Searing LightOur first card is Searing Light, which to my great surprise isn’t a used name already – probably too many other searing things existing.

I was thinking about Soulfire Grand Master, and how we now know that Instants and Sorceries can have lifelink but aren’t printed with it yet.

For some reason I ended up falling in the middle and made a spell that grants lifelink to others, much like grand master. Unless I misunderstand the rules Searing Light shouldn’t have lifelink itself, hence not be strictly better than Lightning Helix, which would be completely dumb.

Gereth Archbishop of DolnGereth, Archbishop of Doln is a typical design gone out of control. My initial idea was to make the life stealing ability, quite obviously.

I first opted for creating a white bear which is something I’m defaulting to too often, I can now see that. But then I decided to make it black as well, and found this illustration that I felt was calling for a legendary creature. Two abilities later, we have ourselves a tiny bomb.

I think I could have made this card a bigger creature with more interesting abilities, since it’s a legendary mythic.

I’m still happy with the way the designs turned out, especially the instant. It would make for an interesting constructed card, but not overpowered either unless I’m missing something. I doubt so, seeing that Soulfire Grand Master can already do the same things.

I hope you enjoyed the article! I’ll be seeing you next week, this time on Wednesday. Have a great week!