USP-06: June’s Custom Cards

The Palace boats like to pretend they’re free from the concerns of lands. They like to imagine that the vampire estates are free and fluid and empowered by dangerous ideologies. They’re not subject to things like the weather and the mountains and the demands of forests and birds. But they’re not the only people in the world, and it seems that for all of their exclusion and demands, for all of their superiority and aloofness, there are always going to be people ready to reach out, and with fire and rage, bring them down to earth.

The logo for the Usurper's Palace, showing the title text overlaid on a six-pointed spiral vortext.

Warning: Wizards employees, this post contains unsolicited designs of custom magic cards.

Once again it is Pride month and once again that means I return to one of the most successful phrases I’ve ever written onto the English-speaking Magic: The Gathering internet. The phrase is NO TERFS ON GRUUL TURF. It’s a month of cards in which every card relates to a red-green lands deck, and any character indicated is absolutely not a cis het straight person.

Shout out to Quake Channeler, who I like to think is a trans dude wearing a fantasy-art version of a binder.

I like thinking about red-green land decks. The thing is, there’s a lot of stuff red and green can do with lands, they can want to play them, they can sacrifice them, they can want to search up more, and there’s so many different things you could do, but the thing is, they’re also so open? You wouldn’t just jam all these land cards into one deck and go ‘time to go,’ because they don’t quite work so well together. Some of these do overlap – and some of them are kinda just general good stuff. Check out Qacha – she’s a good, all-purpose mana-improvement card, she’s very solid, and she can hate out nonbasic lands, but also, you wouldn’t run her as your whole win condition.

On the other hand, there are some cards here for blowing up a lot of lands, there are cards for building up your mana base, and there’s at least one card here that’s so obviously about just getting more landfall triggers! It’s just a nice grab bag.

One final thing is that in previous years when I’ve done this, I’ve been able to use single representatives of multicolour land cycles in this month. But this year, because I was making a whole set, multiple multi-colour land cycles eats tons of space, and I didn’t want to do that. Instead, I wound up with… almost no land cycling (so I guess I assume the basic land slot in these boosters has snow duals or something).

The Barren Crawlers are kinda interesting to me because I think of them as a different take on how to handle ‘legendary’ rules. The Barren Crawlers are a group of survivors who banded together and spent their time searching the Barrens to find people who wanted to restore the Outlands, who were willing to take war to the Palace Boats. In this case, they’re legendary because they’re not a single individual, but they’re always a loose grouping hanging together. I dunno, anything too complicated here would turn into a kind of ‘new Army mechanic’ and then you lose the mana rock and the ability to slow-grow on their own.

Tsolmon is one of the dangerous, terrifying leaders of the Outlanders. They’ve been endangered, they’ve seemingly died, and every time, they’ve come back, like an enraged, regrowing wildfire. Tsolmon seemingly keeps on endangering the Palace boats. Where the various political positions across the Outlanders can go in a lot of directions, it’s Tsolmon who sees the proper retaliation to the scourging of the Outlands as being absolute and equal. Burn down the boats! Sink the vampires to the bottom of the Vast! Wreck everything!

Qacha is a Planeswalker, drawn here by the Reckless love of Ullaine. But while those planeswalkers spend their time ricocheting about the Palace boats dealing with their politics, Qacha went out to the Outlands to check out the land there, and help it regrow.

Oktai is the last of the legends shown here, who, yes, should look familiar to Legacy nerds. They’re an artisan, the artist intensely obsessed with finding what it is inside the iceberg, shaping the palace and trying to learn of the secrets, deeper and deeper in the ice. Obsessed, intense, inquisitive, and unfortunately unaware of the dreadful horrifying thing that lurks underneath the ice and was slowly unspilling itself in his brain.

There’s a pair of other characters in the flavour text, and don’t worry, they get cards later that are going to work themselves out: Astar, and Gan-endel. Astar’s seems to be a bit of an angry one, though, but we’ll see how they work out.

Undaunted was a tool I perhaps overused in this set.

Like here, this is a flat-out ref to the card Squandered Resources, a classic card from Mirage. This was a really powerful card, but it’s always bugged me that it’s a card that doesn’t belong in green-black any more, because black doesn’t do the rituals any more. I wanted to put it in green-red, but I also didn’t want to just give some existing deck a powerhouse kick in the pants. This should be a silly little card for fuelling a life from the loam style landfall thing.

See also:

This is a reference to Dryad Sophisticate. I don’t think in a heads-up duel format, this, as a 4 mana 3/3 nonbasic landwalker is very scary. But I do think that in a proper commander table, this is a two mana 3/3 that’s hard to block. I don’t think there’s a lot of room for this kind of aggressive cheap creature in a typical commander format, but if you want to apply physical pressure with lot of attacking bodies on the board, this is an option!

And you know, there a lot of reasons to want something to attack, and this critter is cheap and fast enough to make sure you can usually get an attack trigger somewhere if you make a raid deck or something like that. Plus, it’s great at picking off planeswalkers!

The Usurper’s Palace (USP) is a collection of Custom Magic cards made with the general structure of a commander draft set. The cards are posted, one per day with different themes every month, to the Custom Magic subreddit, on my Mastodon and Cohost. Follow along for more!