Cardsmith Blog

CCC: Secret Lair

Okay so, off the bat, I’m not interested in rehashing what I’ve seen other people saying about Secret Lair. I’ve seen every viewpoint from people saying they’re a godsend to people claiming it’s the end of magic, and I’m pretty tired of all that. Still, I want to talk about what Secret Lairs represent in a more meta context as well as some further things I haven’t seen brought up yet.  If that’s not your bag, there’ll be a TL;DR at the end since I know this topic has been beaten into the ground.

Part 1 -- Art Style Expansion

I want to start with my favorite thing about Secret Lair and really the main reason I’ve actually purchased a few -- the art styles. Unlike in the olden days, Magic has a well-cultivated art style. Sure, we still get a few off-the-wall pieces, but mostly Magic art has a pretty consistent vibe. Secret Lair has allowed for cards with art that would never be printed on these cards to come into existence, and that’s awesome! My favorites have been Party Hard, Shred Harder, Faerie Faerie Faerie Rad, and Full Sleeves. Some people might be a bit skeeved out by the odder art, specifically I saw a lot of hate for the Box of Rocks drop. Honestly, I believe that Magic art should come in all kinds and this sort of experimentation is awesome! New artists and styles can help attract new people to the game and provide new windows into the world of this game we all love! The reason I adore these wildly new art styles is the same reason I love the Faithless Looting art from Mystical Archive! At the end of the day, this new essence can only strengthen the game!

Part 2 -- Singles and Cash Flow

After my gushing about the art, let’s get a bit more gritty. Buying a Secret Lair is essentially buying singles from WOTC, and lots of people feel a lot of ways about that. I think it’ll help the game in the long run, but not the way it’s handled now. Let me explain. See, I love this game to death, but it’s really expensive. To play Magic at tournaments, or higher levels in general, you need to be willing and able to drop hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on cardboard. Secret Lairs often have cards that are a bit more pricey packaged together for a much cheaper price than normal. However, this isn’t always true and sometimes the cards included are kinda...well...bulk. I think that Wizards should start using Secret Lairs to get reprints into the hands of those who need them, new players looking for a point of entry! Imagine a line of Secret Lair:(Deck Type) where each lair had cool alternate art of staple cards for different archetypes, how awesome would that be!
Still, the main problem with this sort of single selling is that price point. For every well-priced lair there are the pure bling ones, like those Full Text Basic Lands. I mean sure they’re funny, but are they 40 bucks for just five lands funny? You can get lands for free, as many as you want if you ask nicely. Beyond just the lands some drops just don’t justify the pricing. Once you get that hammered out, this seems like a total win to me.

Part 3 -- That Neat Little Triangle

Are you ready for my most controversial Magic opinion ever? Secret Lair: The Walking Dead isn’t all that terrible.

Before you obliterate me though, please allow me to explain. First things first, the only really bad thing about the Lair was that those cards became legal in Legacy. That was stupid given their scarcity and the fact that Legacy doesn’t allow proxies. Commander on the other hand, just print that thing out, my dude. That aside, we Cardsmiths should be excited about this Lair Drop. Why you might ask? Well, dear friend, that little triangle mark means that there is now precedent for cards from ancillary products (Like Secret Lair) to enter the game without being traditionally legal first. This opens up the possibility of something similar to those guest creator cards from Magic 2015. Now I’m not saying that we Cardsmiths would get to make some, I mean we can hope, but it does mean that we could get some really sweet and unorthodox designs in the future if they decide to go that route.
But then again, that’s assuming they actually utilize this and don’t just let it rot, in which case Secret Lair: The Walking Dead sucked.

Well, that’s it for this month folks, hope you enjoyed it. Before fully wrapping up I want to announce that I’ll be going away to work this summer, so the next three articles are prewritten. I think you’ll like what I have in store!
What do you think of Secret Lair? Let me know in the comments below! You can also find me on Twitter @East2Westmtg or email me at
As always I’ve been East2West, your resident Secret Lair shell out and WOTC community plant, and I’ll see you guys on the battlefield!
May 17, 2021 by East2West

10 Years of Cardsmith

Happy 10th Anniversary MTGCardsmith!

Time To Celebrate!

It's hard to believe that MTGCardsmith has been around for 10 Years now! We've been reminiscing about all of the Cardsmiths who have come and gone throughout the years. It would be impossible to list everyone, or even acknowledge all of the folks who've left their mark on the website since day one. 

We're still going to try, but it really is an impossible task! When we first started, there were already legendary Cardsmiths who were no longer making custom cards, and we had no idea how many countless others would come along and leave their mark on MTG Cardsmith. Creators like NilGravity, who posted the first set of entirely custom artwork cards, Looverse, who brought a larger than life personality and cards that matched, Grimshac who made not just amazing challenges, but created the original Circuit Challenge that we're still using today! We could list a virtual cornucopia of early Cardsmiths such as MrRansom,  Cryptonight, Shinobi, krazykobold, Memnarchitect, DeepSky, Crimson, Noobplayzgames and of course the incomparable Beeswax, and only scratch the surface of people who have made our site, YOUR site what it is today!

So in our attempt to honor not just our past, but our present as well, this month you'll find Featured Cards from just a handful of the amazing people who you may not have met, some that are still around, and some that joined our family not too long ago. The designs featured are some of the most incredible and mind-blowing custom cards ever crafted on MTGCS, or anywhere else! If you don't find yourself with a Feature this month, it isn't because we forgot you or you haven't made some great cards, it's only because we could only fit a few of the thousands of masterful cards that WE have created over the past 10 years!

Survey Says...

We're not as famous as Steve Harvey, but recently we posted a survey and asked YOU... What's your inspiration to create custom cards? We've picked a handful of excerpts from your responses to share in the blog this month, but there were so many great responses, that we've decided to post them all on the May 2021 Forum Thread.

Cardsmiths Say...

Here is some of what you had to say about your inspiration for creating custom cards...

Some of us like to keep things simple...

"What's the coolest thing I can do without a bunch of words?"

"Get a vague idea, find art, and try and make it work from there."

"I like making fun cards that aren't cards you would normally see in an official Magic Pack."

"I think, what makes this card unique? Is it the amazing art? Is it the sick flavor text? Is it the crazy one liner?"

Some of us like to design around stories...

"If the focus is on something like artwork or story, I'll begin by trying to translate it best and as interestingly to Magic mechanics as I can, or otherwise finding the best "fit" for it."

"I want to make cards that inspire people to write things, and think on cool ideas."

"What I really like to do is to surf across art sites, find some neat artworks, then give them a story/character by creating a card from the artwork."

Some of us design around sets...

"Generally, sets are roughly concepted top down."

"I personally tend to find the most interesting and engaging way to create new cards to be through set design. By designing a set, I am able to direct my designs toward a single unified purpose and theme, both flavorfully and mechanically. The biggest motivation at that point is that it culminates in a draft environment that I can share with both my IRL playgroup and the MTGCS community."

"My ideas for a set can come from all over the place. Most commonly, however, my set ideas stem from music."

We design around formats...

"What kind of game do you want to play? And how does this hypothetical card, which is of course yet another piece in a sprawling game, help you realize this vision?"

"I like to create cards that I would like to play in custom cube draft. If I add this card to the cube, would people enjoy it or not?"

We design around art...

"I look at the card like a piece of art. Rarely do I actually consider a format for the card to be played in... I want to express my reality through the card."

We design around abilities...

"I'll start by trying to find a fitting set of abilities to what I'm trying to convey flavorfully, or vice-versa if I have interesting ability ideas. I then will move on to finding artwork usually, or if it is based off art, I brainstorm the abilities the art would have."

We try to bring our designs to life...

"When I come up with an idea for a card, I try to actually visualize their effects like they are part of an action anime. I feel like being able to visualize a character's actions gives the card much better reasoning for its abilities rather than just giving a card some random keyword in order to make it stronger."

And we design to inspire...

"Seeing other people's creative works is inspiring, and they influence me heavily, and I encourage other card designers to find their own creative inspirations to draw from, so they can take that motivation and inspiration and design something that is truly their own."

Speaking of Anniversaries

We're just a few SHORT months away from the 4th Annual Artful August Event. If you want to get a head start on your designs and drawings, now is a great time to start!

It's Coming in just three short months!!

Featured Cardsmiths

This month we've picked two more deserving Cardsmiths to be our Featured Cardsmiths for the Month of May. Because we're spending the entire month of May celebrating as many old and current cardsmiths as we can possibly fit into 31 days, we're going to Feature them here this month and on the front page next month, along with June's Featured Cardsmiths!

Without Further Ado... Congratulations @Red_Tower & @Shelko

Red_Tower joined us in 2015, and has been a welcomed Cardsmith ever since! Not only do they throw down in the challenges and contests, but they also battle hard in the Sagas as well! We've been enjoying their cards for years now, and if you haven't had a chance to check out Red_Tower's creations, now is the time!

As a slight contrast to our previous Co-Cardsmith for may, Shelko doesn't participate on the forums, but still makes great cards and is a contributing member on Disqus. Often commenting and helping out in their own way, we felt it would be a shame if this Cardsmith went without being acknowledged for their contributions, so check out the cards and Cardsmith alike!

Each month we're excited to highlight a few Cardsmiths that have helped make MTGCardsmith the best interactive online Card Creator. We hope you'll take some time to check out their creations!

May 04, 2021 by Corwinnn, & Tomigon

CCC: Elegance

Magic is a game that relies on the human understanding of systems. Unless you’re playing on Arena or MTGO it’s up to you to understand your cards and how they interact with the game state. This isn’t something we talk about a lot because it tends not to come up outside of new players. But recently, Strixhaven got me thinking about this concept and how it affects design. So sit back, relax, and let’s talk about why Strixhaven is a beautiful monster.
First, let’s hammer out what “human understanding of systems” actually means. Let’s say you and I sit down to play a game of Magic. You play a mountain, tap it, and cast Shock targeting me. I would then tick my life total down by two points. Now this probably seems incredibly simple, but let’s break down what actually just happened in game terms.
  1. Play a land
  2. Activate the tap ability, adding a red mana to your mana pool
  3. Declare the casting of shock, paying the red mana.
  4. Shock is placed onto the stack targeting me.
  5. I pass priority with no responses.
  6. Shock resolves.
Now that might not be totally accurate, I’m not a judge and priority is still a bit of a headache to me, but the real point is that there are a lot of steps that most Magic players just skip over. We’ve all gotten used to this game and it’s mechanics, so we just naturally go through the motions. That’s why a line of play like Shocking someone to the face takes seconds to resolve when it’s actually a huge chain of game actions.
So now that you get what I mean when I talk about the systems of Magic, we can get to the meat of Strixhaven.
This set is magnificent, like genuinely I think it might be my new favorite set. The world, the characters, the mystical archive, and of course the actual cards themselves all kick ass! 
The problem that I’ve seen though, is that a lot of them are just complicated for no real reason.
For an example, let’s take a look at Uvilda/Nassari.
Both sides of this card have walls of text that make me tired just looking at it, and what’s your payoff for reading through them? Well Uvilda gives cards pseudo Suspend and Nassari lets you get some sweet impulse draws. This is an interesting and innovative design that I actually really like, but that’s the real rub here. The problem isn’t with entrenched players like you and me, it’s with new players.
When I went to college I talked five of my friends into learning how to play Magic, they all got pretty into it and I even gave them their own commander decks. Some even stayed on their game with Arena during quarantine. Strixhaven has put a huge roadblock in front of almost all of them. Cards like this make sense to older players because we were around for Suspend, so Uvilda just clicks for us. But to someone like my friends, who started playing in Theros:Beyond Death, well these mechanics just don’t click well. 
So what’s the solution? Innovative designs shouldn’t be shelved just because a few players won’t understand them, but new players shouldn’t feel threatened by overly complex design.
In my mind there are two real solutions here.

Solution 1: Mentors

This is what worked for me and my friends. They all knew that if they needed help with something Magic related I would gladly help them out. We played a few rounds, I explained the cards, and everything worked out pretty well. This seems simple, and that’s because it is, but it’s also riddled with problems. Not all new players have someone they can call on for help, and even if they do they might not feel comfortable doing so. Mentoring is basically a short-term solution, a band-aid over a larger issue. So what could be done to help this at the source?

Solution 2: Starter Decks

Not the ones you’re thinking of though. See most starter decks I’ve seen playing Magic are overly simple and extremely baseline decks that serve as amazing introductions to the game, but kinda flop out after that. What I think needs to be done is having a series of starter decks, a whole product line ranging from beginner to advanced. Make them in a variety of colors and combinations so that they not only teach game mechanics, but also the ins and outs of colors and their pairs. I’ve already started some mock up decklists so I can test this on my school friends! This is the real solution, teaching the player base in a way that’s just inherently fun and something they want to do anyway!
What do you think about Strixhaven and it’s designs? Do you have any ways you think the innovative design vs new player issue could be solved? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below! You can also find me on Twitter @East2Westmtg or email me at
As always I’ve been East2West, your resident Silverquill drop out and Prismari honor student, and I’ll see you guys on the battlefield!
Apr 23, 2021 by East2West

Let The Great Egg Hunt Begin!

The Great Egg Hunt has arrived!

The time for 'Gunters is now!

In The Oasis, 'Gunters search for Halliday's Easter Egg. On MTG Cardsmith we've managed to hide not just one, but quite a few Easter Eggs for you all to search for! With the help of some of your favorite Cardsmiths, and with your help as well, April is going to be our most adventurous month ever!

Right now there are no less than NINE Cardsmith accounts with up to three hidden Easter Eggs each. You job will be to sniff out those Cardsmiths and post the hidden challenges, as well as the cards you make for them, to the April 2021 thread, which is linked below. We will be awarding points to our Hunters and our Hiders throughout the month. Anyone can make cards for the discovered challenges, not just the person who uncovered it.

The rules of the hunt!

-Each person can hide up to three challenges they come up with in their cards. (Example: This is an example card and not part of the hunt. Check out the Featured Comment on the card for instructions on how to hide your challenges.

-If you are a premium member, you may hide your challenges in your cards made before April 1st. If you do, send us(@Corwinnn or @Tomigon) a message and let us know how many challenges you hid (Up to 3).

-People may post challenges they find to this thread->[Click] with cards made for those challenges. Some of those cards will be featured.

-A person who posts a newly found challenge gets 1 point, and the person who hid that challenge also gets 1 point. If the challenge was hidden in an old card by premium member, that member gets 2 points and the finder gets 3 points instead.

-At the end of the April, top three winners will be announced. 


1st Place- 1 month of Premium membership and one featured card of your choice

2nd Place- One featured card of your choice

3rd Place- One featured card of your choice

Something for your egg basket!

If you haven't seen it, an amazing Egg Set Symbol has been made available to use on your cards!

All participants who post their themed cards will also earn the incredible Egg Avatar as seen below!

The top three will also receive the highly coveted Golden Egg Avatar!

2,000,000 Cards

It seems like just yesterday that the 1,000,000th card was created. Last month we surpassed 2,000,000 cards made on MTG Cardsmith. And while every card created isn't the perfect card ever made, that number is a testament to just how much MTG Cardsmith truly is the best interactive card creator online, and how much you enjoy being a part of this community. Thank you to everyone who made a card over the years and helped us become one of your favorite online destinations!

If you're curious to see it, here is Card 2,000,000!

Featured Cardsmiths

This month we gathered up two more incredible Cardsmiths to feature... ThePhantomJoker & IanLowenthal!

A prolific Cardsmith, ThePhantomJoker has already filled up his main account and has started making more cards on his secondary account, TheSecondJoker!  Check out the custom work this Featured Cardsmith has crafted, including custom planes, abilities, and mechanics. Don't forget to check out the five below and drop some favorites on them!

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Long time Cardsmith, IanLowenthal has been crafting custom cards since 2015. Check out all of the fun sets over on his main page while you peruse the craftsmanship of this Featured Cardsmith, My favorite is the Bob set! We put a few cards below for you to check out and add favorites to.

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Each month we're excited to highlight a few Cardsmiths that have helped make MTGCardsmith the best interactive online Card Creator. We hope you'll take some time to check out their creations!

Apr 01, 2021 by Corwinnn, & Tomigon

CCC: Once Upon a Future

I’m gonna be honest with you, Time Spiral Remastered might be the set I’ve been the most hyped for in a while. I wasn’t playing at the time when Time Spiral was released, but the block had some of my favorite themes and cards I’ve ever seen in Magic. The idea of Futureshifting and Colorshifting cards is just so cool to me! If I had the cash, I’d be swimming in Time Spiral Remastered.
Alas, with no funds to blow on my cardboard vice, I have instead decided to inject my love for it into this article! Today let’s talk about the Timeshifted and Colorshifted cards from Time Spiral block and what lessons we, as designers, can take from them!
Let’s start with the Colorshifts since they’re the easier of the two to understand at face level. Each of these 45 cards is, in most cases, straight-up reprints of older cards with the color, well, shifted. Each one is switched to a color where the mechanics still fit, sometimes even more than the original printing. I’ve chosen one of each color to briefly go over, just to highlight what I mean. 

Mesa Enchantress

A white version of Verduran Enchantress. Both white and green are colors that both deal heavily in enchantments. 

Gossamer Phantasm

A blue version of Skulking Ghost. The original card had the “If targeted, sacrifice this creature” ability that we commonly see today on Illusion creatures, making this a very good shift in terms of flavor and function. 


A black version of Wrath of God. This card clearly illustrates the bridge between black’s kill spells and white’s mass removal abilities. 

Prodigal Pyromancer

A red version of Prodigal Sorcerer. Back in the old days of Magic, pinging was a blue ability, but these days that sort of direct damage is a very red thing to do. This card bridged that gap. 

Essence Warden

A green version of Soul Warden. This shows that both white and green care about creatures and life gain.

As people who design cards, even as just fans, it’s important to think about this when making a card. Just because you’ve designed it to be a certain color, does that mean it has to be? What other colors could that card possibly represent and would it be a better fit there? These are all questions that you must ask yourself when assigning designs to colors and vice versa. Remember that the color pie does not have real separation and often has certain mechanics bleed into other colors over time.

Next up is perhaps the more interesting batch of cards to me, the Futureshifted designs. This group of 93 cards was printed as hints at future sets, planes, and events. Each one featured some kind of mechanic or place we’d never seen and had to look forward to! As of this writing, we’ve seen a bunch of them reprinted, but only nine of them have been reprinted in sets that tie them to a plane. (I actually have a scrapped article where I go one by one through them and discuss where they might be from.) 

Now design-wise you might say that there’s not a whole lot to go into here, but that’s where you’re wrong, dear reader! You see a lot of these cards have incredibly interesting designs, with some even featuring mechanics that we still have yet to see. I think that if you’re ever stumped on what card to make next, take a look through the Futureshifted cards and pick one of these mechanics, then make a card featuring it! This can be an exciting way to get some fresh ideas in your head. Or even better why not design a whole set around these mechanics and planes from Future Sight? Hell, you could even create a whole set just to fit in one of these cards that has never seen a real reprint!


But y’know, maybe that’s just me.  
Let me know what you think about Colorshifting and Futureshifting in the comments below, especially if you have any designs in mind! You can also find me on Twitter @East2Westmtg or email me at  

As always I’ve been East2West, your resident time traveler and color pie anarchist, and I’ll see you guys on the battlefield!

Mar 15, 2021 by East2West
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