A primer on the step by step instructions on how to test your custom card creations
Hi Everyone I've written yet another primer for custom card creation on a topic that I believe to be super important. Playtesting!
If I had to name one thing which I believe is undervalued and underused in the mtg custom card community it would be playtesting.
I've seen dozens of talented designers create and iterate on great designs for mechanics, duel deck and whole sets. But when asked what playtesting has been done all to often the answer is "very little." I understand why this is, playtesting is hard, time consuming and it isn't exciting like creating the next cool card. This is then exacerbated by the difficulties of getting lots of players together and a lack of step by step resources on how organize these playtests.
In this guide I'm going to run step by step on how to coordinate your own both physical or online playtest sessions so you can improve your custom card designs.
Doing physical playtests involving proxy cards, creating boosters and then playing draft or sealed events is by far the most rewarding and productive method. However it can be difficult to setup, expensive and time consuming and thus I usually only rely on this method as my custom set is getting closer to completion.
The general setup of my paper playtests is to do draft or small sealed events of 6-10 players with high quality color proxies that are sleeved in front of a regular magic card to give it weight and rigidness. I then sort these by rarity and arrange these into booster packs to create events as similar to a regular MtG event as possible.
NOTE: The MSE2 templates are designed to have a resemblance to normal magic cards but deliberate are have differences to real MtG cards to prevent the program being used to create fake cards. This is also why high res templates are not available to the public. Don't worry the normal templates work great for playtesting, just don't expect them to ever hold up to close scrutiny.
Note that there are actually many different ways to do this kind of playtest such as stickers, unsleeved cards or manually creating lower quality proxies. However I'll be going step by step on how I personally do it so you have a guideline to follow.
24 booster packs and sleeved lands for my Dreamscape playtest
The first thing I need to do is make PDF documents of the card sheets for easy printing. To do this use the print option of MSE2 with CutePDF writer, this takes a bit of time to render but I end up with clean sheets like THIS ready to be printed professionally. If your doing a lower quality playtest or you have access to a high quality printer you can use the MSE2 print option directly and cut out the need to create PDF documents.
For a full print run to create 24-30 boosters I usually print two or three copies of each common (202-303 cards) + 50-150 random commons, 120 uncommons and 30 - 40 rares/mythics. This gives me enough cards for all the packs plus a little extra for variance. Also be sure to print extra copies of cards that you want to test specifically if they have undergone major changes recently or are on your watch list as potentially unbalanced or unfun cards. Another reason I print extra cards is that the random generator inbuilt into MSE2 isn't the best and creates clumps of the same card while giving you no copies of others.
Once I have PDF's of all the cards I want printed I take them to a printing shop like Officeworks and have them do color printouts and guillotining. For my cards I use 200gsm bond paper which is slightly thicker than normal paper to make them easier to sleeve and harder to damage.
Now be sure to get a test sheet printed if possible as I always have to have the printer lightness settings increased by 10% otherwise the cards turn out too dark, however this will change depending on the printer. Finally Officeworks also guillotines them for me, saving me a huge amount of time cutting out cards for only a few extra dollars.
In total printing of this quality and quantity as well as the guillotining will set me back about $40-$60 but will save me huge amounts of time. Printing and cutting a set for a full draft by yourself will not only give you a lower quality product but also can take days of work.
A scattering of card printed, guillotined and ready to be sleeved
The next step is to sleeve all our custom cards. I just buy the cheapest sleeves I can, put a junk common normal magic card in them and then slip the custom card in front of the real magic card. This can be somewhat time consuming but can be done while watching TV or other activities. Be sure to do this about a week before hand so that If you see any mistakes or haven't printed enough then you have time to print a new small batch.While sleeving your custom cards sort them into piles based on rarity, this will make creating your booster packs easier.
Once all the cards you need are sleeved and sorted simply shuffle the rarity piles and then lay out the top 10 commons, then the top 3 uncommon, and then a rare or mythic. This will give you a very rough booster pack which you then want to check against a couple of simple rules that will help simulate how WOTC creates print runs and prevent color imbalances.
A pack must never have more than 4 commons of the same color
A pack must have at least 1 common card of each color
A pack must have at least 1 common creature
A pack must never have more than 2 uncommons of the same color
A pack must never have repeated cards
Once the packs are completed tie them up with rubber bands, put them in a bag or box with any spare cards, plenty of spare sleeves and sleeved basic lands. Now you ready for the fun part of organizing an event and then getting to play your cards.
Online playtests use the Cockatrice card client and take far less time and money to setup compared to a paper draft. However it can take more technical knowledge to setup, but once done once you can easily playtest with nearly anyone.
The power of online playtests is how quickly you can iterate on your designs, quickly testing mechanics you are unsure of. For example I nearly always start my projects with online playtests as doing several weeks worth of work only to find your cards are absolutely unfun at the first playtest is a disaster. Quick online sealed playtests allow you to avoid this, are easy to setup (as you often only need two people), and you can ever prebuild the sealed decks to make this process even faster.
Recently playtesting custom cards online has become far easier due to the creation of the custom Webdrafter site by CommanderZ. What was once a tedious and technical process to setup sealed decks has now become easier and it even allows you to draft your sets online which was nearly impossible previously.
The first thing we need to do is create a zip file package of our set that we can share with others to easily play our cards on Cockatrice. This package will contain a .XML card file, a folder of card renders, and a read me to give directions on how to use the package.
The first thing to do is make sure we have both the MSE exporters correctly added to MSE. Make sure you have downloaded the exporters and extracted them to the MSE's data folder found at: C:\Program Files (x86)\Magic Set Editor 2\data
After restarting MSE, go to File -> Export -> HTML and export your set with the Cockatrice Exporter, being sure to enter your set code and leave the "images location" field blank.
Exporting Dreamscape with the exporter
The exporter will save a your .XML file for Cockatrice to read but you still need to export your card images, in MSE File -> Export -> All Card Images... is the option you want.
Export all the card images to an empty folder with the same name as your set code, using cad.name.full.jpg in the card format field. This will ensure that your images correctly import into cockatrice at the best quality.
Finally zip both the image folder and the .XML file together an add a readme for others to follow, as well as any credits or notes.
You can find an example readme here which you can use as a template.
To install your set onto cockatrice put the folder full of card images into the cockatrice pic directory
This is usually in the app data location:
or in your main cockatrice folder
Then put the .xml file in the customsets folder usually found at:
When you restart cockatrice it should mention detecting a new cardset, accept the prompt and your cards should now be available in cockatrice.
Uploading to Webdrafter
While we now have a custom set package we can share with others it is still very difficult to use this for playtesting any limited environment. So we need to now upload the set to Webdrafter which means players can play draft and sealed with our custom cards
If you need help you can often find the developer or myself on the /custommagic IRC Channel where we can help you if you have any issues. Otherwise comment on the article if anything is unclear.
Once your set is uploaded you can go to "Browse sets" to double checked it worked and then login and Host a Game. Their you can choose different limited formats to host and then export your decks to cockatrice and play online using the package you made earlier.
Remember that no amount of theory crafting will beat frequent and varied playtesting. You will discover mistakes, imbalances and unfun mechanics, but in the end this iteration will improve your designs dramatically.
I'd like some context as to why the link was removed, as this is a topic that is worthy of discussion in CCC. Not trying to say that it shouldn't have been removed necessarily (Without knowing what it is I don't know if it contains malware etc) but plenty of other outside links have been permitted in the past.
You can find the guide easily - the primer is about preparing the material for playtests (physical and online). The section about physical playtest preparation goes into making proxies, obviously. I think splitting the primer and using only the second part (setting up an online draft and using MSE2 to export a set to Cockatrice) might be allowed, but Doombringer should check with Moss_Elemental.
Private Mod Note
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Planar Chaos was not a mistake neither was it random. You might want to look at it again.
[thread=239793][Game] Level Up - Creature[/thread]
The proxy issue is a nonstarter if Doombringer is suggesting the usual thing - MSE2 image exports have clearly identifiable different background images for cards. To the extent that any proxying attempt of real cards is laughable.
Discussion with the moderators has cleared up the issue.
Quote from Cythare » »
It was the MSE info coupled with the printing information that made it feel like it was too close to actual proxy discussion. While your intention was to discuss items that aren't actual proxy creation (since they are custom cards), the concern was that you were providing information that would allow others to make actual proxies. After reviewing Piar's statement, though, I've come to agree with his assessment. I was unaware of the visual distinction between MSE cards and regular cards.
I've added a small section tht mentions how the MSE templates are deliberately lower res and different to proper magic cards. This makesit clear that the techniques in the article could never be used t make realistic fake cards.
I've also move the article in-thread but you can find the original article on The Gray Merchants website if you would prefer to read it there.
I hope this proves useful to everyone and let me know if you spot any mistakes or improvements I can make
Serious post: What CC is referencing is the Clan Flamingo that actually existed several years ago, and now has devolved into pretty much just a skype chat between the old guard and a mostly-defunct clan thread.
Based on my experience with how a focused group of designers can accelerate the whole process, I suggest that you try and organize a second generation custom card Clan/IRC channel/Skype group and open that up to CCC as a whole. There's a lot of new designers pumping out content these days, and nothing beats real-time chat for hashing out designs and organizing testing. We actually just finished up a draft of a custom set not too long ago! We've also done custom set battles on Cockatrice, etc. etc. With enough interested people you can get things done fairly effectively with a real-time chat and not fragmented threads.
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Can we have Megiddo removed from the forum forever please?
i'm pretty sure i can find your penis online within 3 minutes