The Force is Strong With This One

mse

Magic Set Editor – everything you need to make Magic The Gathering cards, except Mark Rosewater’s sense of humor.

I’ve written many times about my geek love for both Star Wars and Magic: The Gathering.  One day I got to thinking, what if there were a Star Wars-themed Magic set out there? The very concept led me to such an over the top nerdgasm that I simply had to make it a reality.  I remembered a time, oh about fifteen years ago or so, that I had playfully designed a near entire Magic set based on The Simpsons.  It proved not only that I am incredibly geeky, but that I often have far too much free time on my hands.  To make the images of the cards themselves I employed a little piece of software called Magic Set Editor. It was cool and included all the little WOTC-centric elements that go into making up a perfect mock Magic card.  Unfortunately I didn’t have the software anymore (I also don’t have any of those old Simpsons card images… alas) and had no idea whether it was still available.  Surely Hasbro (Wizards of the Coast’s parent company) sued everybody involved with that gem by now.  A quick Google search showed me that not only is the program still available, but it has been updated considerably to keep up with the multiple changes made to Magic over the years.  It now includes templates for the old and new card face designs, support for “special” cards such as full frame art, split cards, planeswalkers, and all the other gems that weren’t in the game back when I made my Simpsons cards.  I downloaded the freebie and started making my Star Magic.

You have to admit its a cool ability...

You have to admit its a cool ability…

I didn’t actually start out intending to design a full set of cards that no one would likely ever play with.  In fact, I really started with a joke card.  For those of you who don’t know (is there anyone who doesn’t know this tidbit of info?), Director J.J. Abrams (Super 8, Star Trek, and the upcoming Star Trek: Into Darkness) was recently confirmed to be the director of the seventh Star Wars film, an announcement that caused excitement and fear in the hearts and minds of Star Wars geeks everywhere.  Sure, most people agree that Abrams did a superb job on the 2009 Star Trek reboot (my roommate, a staunch Trek fan, is about the only person I know who didn’t like the Abrams take on the Trek mythos).  Star Wars fans have an issue with the same guy who runs the Trek franchise also running the Wars franchise.  There’s long been a bit of a disconnect between fans of either franchise, illustrated hilariously in the 2009 film Fanboys, by the way.  So my first card was of J.J. himself.  Blue, Blue, tap: gain control of target scifi franchise (Star Trek) then gain control of another target scifi franchise (Star Wars). Fun! at this rate, by the end of the game, J.J. will run Star Trek, Star Wars, Alien, Logan’s Run, Planet of the Apes, and Buckaroo Banzai.

"We would be honored if you would join us... for a game."

“We would be honored if you would join us… for a game.”

Then I started designing cards in earnest.  To do so I drew on my knowledge of the game of Magic, my knowledge of Star Wars and my limited knowledge of Magic design, most of which I picked up from Mark Rosewater.  Rosewater is a longtime Wizards of the Coast employee who currently works as the head designer for Magic.  He writes a weekly column on the Wizards website called “Making Magic” in which he discusses various aspects of Magic design.  He talks a lot about balancing things like flavor (the “feel” of the cards and how they play. If you’re designing, say, a card that represents a snake, for example, it shouldn’t have an ability like Trample. Flash is a more snake-like ability, or maybe First Strike.), power level (something i admit my cards struggle with… to match the “cool factor” of Star Wars, a lot of these cards are terribly overpowered), and the “color pie” (this is something Rosewater discusses a lot.  In Magic the five colors are defined by the things they can and can not do and the things they “want” to do or the things they “care about.” Black {my personal favorite color in the game}, for example, is about selfishness and decay and winning no matter the cost.  It is the color most likely to cause the player to use life as a resource [as in a card like Necropotence], while white is all about order and obedience.  It is the color most likely [along with green] to have spells that gain life).

"Strong am I with the Force. Your ass you bet."

“Strong am I with the Force. Your ass you bet.”

So I started thinking about how the colors of Magic would relate to Star Wars.  Star Wars is, at its most basic level, separated into the Light and Dark sides of the Force. A card depicting Darth Vader or Emperor Palpatine would be black, obviously, while a Luke Skywalker card would most likely be white.  How about Yoda though? Clearly Yoda is all about the Light Side of the force, but he just didn’t “feel” white to me. At least, not entirely.  When we meet Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back (yeah, prequel fans, that’s the first time he showed up, originally), he is living on the swamp covered world of Dagobah.  He is surrounded by trees and moss and all manner of animals and creatures. Yoda would have to be green.  But he’s got to be white too.  Originally I made him just green and white, but the more I thought about him I realized that he really needs to have blue as well. I gave him a boost Jedi ability as that seemed to make sense for his green aspects and gave him Hexproof, which is also traditionally a green ability.  So where is his white and his blue?  To appease white I gave him Lifelink and added a card draw ability when he comes into play.  This justified my jacking up his mana cost from 3GW to 3GWU and adding another point of power and toughness.

"I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father."

“I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father.”

Then I got thinking about planeswalkers.  What is a planeswalker in Magic?  Originally the term referred to the players.  In the backstory of the game there were often powerful mages who were planeswalkers. Characters like Urza and Mishra, Teferi, and so on were deemed to be awesome planeswalkers who weilded the most powerful magic imaginable. Though players were clamoring for a card depicting, say, Urza, WOTC refused to make one, saying he would be too powerful to depict even as a legend (Legendary Creature in today’s game).  Then, when the Lorwyn block was released, WOTC announced a new card type: Planeswalker.  The Planeswalkers would function as an addition player that shows up to help you out.  They were given various abilities that either added or removed “loyalty counters,” representing just

"So be it... Jedi."

“So be it… Jedi.”

how willing to help they would be. Most have an ability that adds a counter or two, another that removes a counter or more, and an “ultimate” ability that usually removes several counters.  this basic formula may differ slightly from one planeswalker to another, but the “ultimate” is typically a game changer on almost every one of them.  So, naturally my Star Wars set had to have Planeswalkers.  But just who in the Star Wars universe would qualify?  I really wanted Vader to be a creature (a fucking awesome Legendary Creature, of course), but Palpatine seemed a perfect fit to be a Planeswalker.  We’d need a Light Side planeswalker as well, of course, so I chose Luke Skywalker.  Yoda, after all, was already a creature and I really wanted Obi wan to be a Legendary Jedi as well.  In fact, I thought about making two of him and did.

Obi-Wan Kenobi Obi-Wan Kenobi2If you think about it, Obi wan Kenobi is almost two characters in the Star Wars saga. Not just because he is played by two actors in the origninal trilogy and the prequels, but much of what defines Obi Wan as a character is the mistakes he made in his youth that he makes up for as an old man. “I thought i could train him as well as Yoda,” he tells Luke of Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi, “I was wrong.”  Young Obi Wan, in The Phantom Menace, is very flawed,  he is impatient and inexperienced and mistrustful, even of his Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn.  In fact, many of the attitudes and behaviors he displays foreshadow those of Anakin Skywalker in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.  The old Obi Wan who we meet in A New Hope is a complete turn-around from his younger self.  Of course we’d need two cards.  And, to make sure we couldn’t see old Obi and young Obi in play at the same time, I gave them the same name.  Legend rule applies.

R2-D2 Astromech DroidI also felt that R2D2 and C3P0 had to be represented.  They’re central characters, after all, and are the only ones present (and alive, anyway) in all six films, save Darth Vader (and Palpatine, although we see him only briefly in Empire and not at all in A New Hope).  R2 is, in my opinion, the real hero of the entire saga, so I felt he had to have multiple abilities.  I decided it would be fun to give him one for each color.  C3P0, on the other hand, really isn’t good for much… but he had to be able to do something in line with his character. I felt letting him slightly stack your deck made sense for his abilities as a translator.  The ability to speak Bocce doesn’t play well into any other aspect of Magic, really.  Giving him a tutor ability when he C3P0 Protocol Droiddies made sense to me too, as he’s likely to die pretty quickly.

Of course rare and mythic rare cards do not define a Magic set. While we will always associate a card like Jester’s Cap with Ice Age or Ernham Djinn with Arabian Nights (okay, Juzam Djinn), you just don’t have a set without a nice base of commons and uncommons.  Card types other than creatures are important too, of course, and I found the instants, sorceries, and enchantments much more difficult to come up with than the creatures.  Probably because Star Wars is its creatures and characters so much more than anything else, turning concepts from the franchise into interesting “deal x Banthasdamage to target creature or player” or “draw x card” effects are just not coming to me as easily. Nor are cards that should really be at common.  I did manage to make a few, however.

Magic always needs a fairly cheap beefy green trample creature. In past sets these are usually represented by elephants or rhinos or various beasts.  Seems like a perfect place for Banthas, the Tusken Raiders’ chosen mode of transport.  And speaking of the Tusken Raiders, I wanted to represent them as well.  while making their card I kept thinking about Erg Raiders, the Arabian Nights common, but settled on a “must attack” ability as opposed to the damned if you don’t ability of that Tusken Raidersoriginal card.

As i write this the Star Wars Magic set is a work in progress, something I’m doing in my free time and just for the fun of it. I did post a lot of the card images on Facebook and got positive responses from my own kids (who I taught to play Magic when they were young and who have gotten back into it recently), saying that they’d like to play with the cards. Maybe I’ll figure out a way to print ’em out and paste ’em over lands or Laces (some of the most useless rares ever printed) or something.

Of course there are still several important characters I haven’t addressed.  There’s got to be Ashley J. Ash Williamsa card for Princess Leia Organa, of course, and Han Solo’s card is referenced on Boba Fett’s even though it doesn’t exist yet.  and I have a long way to go on the commons and uncommons and instants and sorceries and such.  For the fun of it I did design another card unrelated to this set recently. In celebration of Ash Wednesday (not the start of Lent, but the day geeks everywhere honor Mr. Ashley J. Williams, Bruce Campbell’s character from the Evil Dead films – they happen to fall on the same day), I created an Ash Williams card.

Love it!

Boba Fett Death Star Hes no Jedi Jawas Jedi Mind Trick Lightsaber Stormtroopers TIE Fighter Use The Force X-Wing Fighter

 

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3 comments

  1. kristerjones · February 22, 2013

    Utterly brilliant! You do have waaay to much time on your hands, but as far as I’m concerned that just gets you even more kudos. Good work sir!

  2. Seth · May 2, 2015

    Can I actually get these

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