Wizards of the Coast Employees, this article is going to feature custom card designs.
Goodness me, this project took some time. The opening documents you’ve read so far have all been done, weeks, no, almost months in advance, but as I sit here and pen this, it’s only two weeks before it goes up – and my goodness it has been a time to get this project finished.
First, let’s introduce you to the cards, and then we’ll talk some afterwards.
The Full Spoiler
Presented here is a full gallery of this set.
Colorless and Lands
Staying The Same
There’s a lot you might notice is just a straight up port from Kamigawa. I tried, as much as I could, to make every single card as similar to its earlier incarnation as I could, and in many cases that meant a straight up copy. With more and more cards coming from their earlier incarnations, that meant they slowly filled out slots. Eventually all I was doing was printing existing cards with less onerous mana costs, or spreading them into two colours where they were pretty decent versions in each colour. Oyobi, for example, was a perfectly acceptable Big Awkward Flier, that in red plays into a spell theme and in white plays into an army theme.
Old Kamigawa was a draft set of your old school, with the same third-set problem most sets had. White was built around a 1/2 defensive flier and a 2/2 offensive flier, and that meant that the second and third set had to introduce more fliers like that, when really they just wanted you to have more chances to draft Mothrider Samurai. The same was true of green, where there were just too many big dumb idiots designed to hold the ground, and two or three cards that wanted to try and fill the role of Kami of the Hunt.
It wasn’t all frustrating recognitions of my own limits. There were also opportunities to make some cycles feel more lined up.
The Epic spells previously had three cards that cared about what’s in a library, and two that didn’t. These new versions don’t have the keyword any more, and there’s some formatting oddness on Undying Flames (hey, it’s an open-source program), but I really like these designs.
Another cycle that I was able to change in a way I find more aesthetically pleasant is the Onna:
In this case, they have an increasing mana cost – 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 – and a consistant body size. I really like this cycle, especially with the new flavour for the Kemuri-Onna – a woman who would lure people into the fog where they’d get lost.
What Didn’t Fit
There are a few themes and cycles that I couldn’t make work here, in the time frame and limitations I had. I was also building to try and leave space for a second set, the Champions of Kamigawa. That set would be built on ally colour pairings, and show humans that interacted with multicolour spells.
The Maros! There’s a cycle from Saviors of Kamigawa of cards that have power and toughness equal to the cards in your hand, and they do extra stuff that express their colours. I really like them, and they’d probably be costed differently if printed today. They might get to appear in the next set, if Champions has room for the wisdom subtheme.
The Patrons! Since the tribes are mono-colour, their spirit patrons would want to be as well.
Toshiro Umezawa! Here’s a big one – I simply couldn’t find the space to put Toshiro in without binning an existing black card that I feel is just as important to the story as Toshiro. Kiku and Marrow-Gnawer are both important hyozan reckoners, and Kiku is there to work with her Shadow. Still, Maga was necessary for the Heartbeat deck.
It’s not so bad though because Toshiro is an easy auto-include in the next set, and a total dick so it isn’t like you miss much without him.
All the demons! Yeah, demons are red and black, so they don’t really fit in the hybrid black-white and green-black spaces, which meant the ogres that care about demons all had to be shifted to the next set.
Then as for the cards that could be made to represent underserved characters? Almost none of them got in. Uyo – who is one of the most important characters in the novels – and the bulk of the actual characters from the novels. No Kubo! The Hyozan Reckoners themselves! Boss Uramon!
Changes From The Design
One perk that I almost ran with was that the shift to multicolor as our Kami trigger meant some cards could be rethemed as hybrid, and I almost did that with the Shrines. In the end the only card that got this treatment proper was Promise of Bunrei, but you could definitely hybrid pair the shrines with this design idea. The reason I kept them as they were is because hybrid shrines require slightly different effects.
The Planeswalkers are both all total fabrications, and the part of the design I think have the most room to give. If I was handing this set over to development I’d happily tell them to change the planeswalkers to be whatever the colours needed, since they’re all basically queer-signalling mythic figures from Japanese myth, chosen because they were what Genzoman had done art of.
There’s not a lot of flavour text! Some cards that were Very Busy got less busy, and I’m just not big on writing new flavour text. Especially since in this case, the flavour would want things like haiku – I tried writing one and it’s not very good so we move on.
Also, some cards just can’t work under the design needs I had. Without changing names, creature types, or art, there are some oddball cards that really shouldn’t be there but it’s kind of hard to do them any other way. Seizan, Perverter of Truth is used here to show a kami that feasts on corpses in a poisoned swamp, giving tainted knowledge, for example, so the name doesn’t quite work any more, and Sire of the Storms just shouldn’t be a no-strings flier. If I had art of that Sire on the ground, I might make it hexproof or something else. The Kodama of the North Tree also suffered – I couldn’t bring myself to make it a straight rip of its original 6/4 form with hexproof, because that’s very efficient beef. Hopefully the lost point of toughness makes it more fragile and means blue has to more aggressively protect it.
What Comes Next
My plan for the next set would be to produce an ally paired set; this lets you dig into more familiar ground, enable mono-colour spirit decks (as they can draw from both ally and enemy colour pairings), and make more staple spirits than oddball spirits. You could also include O-Kagachi in this set, and add the protector spirits (the Maros and the Kamigawa death-trigger dragons).
But that’s more of a thought exercise – not one I’m going to do. I mean jesus christ look at this.
Errata: Nighteyes the Desecrator should have its default 4/2 power. Maga, Traitor to Mortals should be a 0/0.