Vox Maxima Gallery 1: The Emperor’s World

Ten years, ten long years of life, disappeared from the collective memory of all citizens of the world. People blink and wake up, seeing about themselves a world defined by new factions, new ideas, and new technologies, many of which they may have even had their hand in inventing.

Where am I? What’s going on? This isn’t the body I remembered, people don’t call me the name I remember – what has happened to us.

This is the new world of the Vox Maxima – waking up the moment after, all the anxieties of before confronting a new world, and a new life. What is this world, and what is present here? What is strange and what is it that your damaged memory can manage as being somehow normal?

Vox Maxima is a custom magic set created by Talen Lee. It’s composed of 187 cards, with 71 commons, 60 uncommons, 41 rares, and 15 mythic rares. Vox Decima is a custom Magic: The Gathering set, with at least one card spoiled a day, on Cohost, Kind.Social, and the r/custommagic subreddit.

WOTC Employees: This post in full presents unsolicited custom Magic: The Gathering card designs, which I understand current employee practices forbid you from looking at unsolicited. You shouldn’t be here!

And now, the gallery of cards:

What these cards wanted to present, first and foremost, is some details about the world you’re in. It wanted to give you a brief acquaintance with the mechanics of the set, and a dash of awareness of the five three-colour factions that inhabit this world. Some of the cards here are meant to present what I think of as ‘edges’ and ‘staples.’ For example, there’s a common naturalise-style effect in Jatku Interloper, a common ramp effect in Autumnal Laminae, a common combat reanimate effect in Chitin Dancer, and a flexible common removal spell in the form of Buzzing Shards.

There are some names introduced here; the five factions, the Iacon, the Aszyt, the Jatku, the Verge and of course, the Kraivh Assembly itself. This is very much meant to be a first impression; you’re not expected to be able to piece together everything per se.

I want this collection to show that there is an Empire, and it has a presence and it can offer commands and distribute orders, but it is not free from conflict. That’s where the little signs of wars show up – and I tried to make it so these conflicts were things that had something in common with the empire. Of course, in a three colour faction set, it’s impossible to have two factions with nothing in common!

This is also a place to find the first Planeswalker. This Planeswalker is Belfaron and I’m not going to lie to you: His main job in the set is to show a symptom of something weird and wrong. The character wants conflict, he thrives in it, and he’s wearing giant chunky lava armour, but he has no idea why he’s doing it. Planeswalkers struggle to represent themselves on their cards about what they’re doing versus who they are: You can tell based on looking at this card that Belfaron is very loyal, Belfaron wants to thrive on conflict, and Belfaron wants to encourage you to attack as many people as possible, but that doesn’t tell you what Belfaron does after he introduces himself.

Some specific card notes:

  • Tenuous Grip/Grotesque Reassembly is a card inspired by the original Animate Dead. Something I say to people who present extremely over-wordy cards is that ‘when you have too many words on a card, you probably want two cards.’ I like how the front face of the card does work in most cases Animate Dead does – it’s an enchantment for the purpose of cards like Atraxa and it still gives you the size shrink and it makes the creature vulnerable to enchantment removal.
  • The Lairs are using a land type that already exists, Lair. They’re trilands from back in Planeshift, in 2002. Funny thing is, I only started using Lairs as a land subtype (and then started on ways to interact with that) because the two-faced cards like Tender Tambow have a weird reminder arrow on them if the back face doesn’t have a type. Last year I realised how much land cycles are boring and tedious (most of the time) if they do their job (most of the time) but also lands are really valuable for ways to represent the world and talk about the feeling of those places.
  • Tender Tambow is also an important part of the set, because it represents, yes, a cycle of big-mana payouts that have an early game way to stabilise and advance your mana. This lets me address one of the choices in this set: There is no card that uses the word ‘shuffle’ on it anywhere. This addresses the sort of design I’d normally use with a landcycling card. When I first designed it, the Lord of the Rings landcyclers were new and the idea of ‘landcycling’ being a deciduous thing wasn’t established yet.
  • There are threads of the original idea, where my idea of using June to be red-green lands cards with a subtle theme of ‘trans rights.’ But I decided to divide the cards up differently this year, and that means that while there’s definitely a ‘no terfs on gruul turf’ set of cards, they’re spread out throughout the year… but also there are cards with flavour text that hides various iconic trans memes, like such revolutionary ideas as ‘protect trans kids.’
  • The Verge Warcrafter is the only Snow card in the set (and the only card that references Battles), because it’s meant to show it’s from an extremely remote location, at the edge of the Verge’s territory.
  • This collection also should show a bunch of staple effects. An idea I realise I wanted, and I’ll talk more about another time, is that I wanted reprints. I wanted to be able to reprint cards into the set, like as a way to solve reinventing the wheel. Like there are only so many twists you can put on some effects and every time you iterate on an old effect instead of just represent the effect on a card you already know and like, you’re running the risk of making a version that eclipses the old card or that you’d never use because you have the classic. There’s a reason we saw so many Colossal Dreadmaws for a bit there.
  • Niamh is the main character of the story sections, but if you want to know about that you’ll have to tune in tomorrow.