Zeu's Guide to Fun and Success with Custom Magic is reproduced here with permission of the author.
Success on Discord
The Custom Magic Discord Server is one of the largest custom Magic communities on the web, and the place of discussion for some of the most successful custom Magic set creators. It is a complex place, with multiple ways to make use of it for your own benefit when doing custom Magic. In this section I provide the wisdom I’ve gained on how to do that in my time being a part of that community.
Here is a link that invites you to the server: https://discordapp.com/invite/BC7zbts
For full disclosure, I (Zeu) am a moderator on this server.
Generally speaking, the culture of this Discord server is one of high standards, and a desire to make cards that abide by understood best practices. The culture also generally considers critique of other designer’s ideas and cards to be normal and healthy. Depending on your personality and goals, this may mean that the server won’t be very useful to you, or might cause you frustration.
Posting Cards to “custom-magic-1” or “-2”
Your average commenter in custom-magic-1 or -2 will have some assumptions that will affect the way they judge the cards being posted.
- Usually they will assume that a posted card is either a one-off or meant to be part of a set.
- Usually they will assume that whatever project a card is posted for is working within a standard power level, i.e. a power level similar to that of a recently released standard-legal Magic set.
- Usually they will assume that you want to abide by New World Order.
This does not mean that you shouldn’t post cards that don’t adhere to the restrictions of NWO or a standard power level, just that you should declare that your card wasn’t made under these restrictions when you do post. If you are making cards for a duel deck or cube this is also a good time to specify that. Making these statements will help avoid confusion and frustration on your part and on the part of commenters.
Spurring Discussion With Questions
Nothing makes a card more likely to be ignored than posting it without any accompanying question. Even a simple “Yay or nay?” (Basically: “Do you like this or not?”) is enough to spur some discussion. You can also ask more specific questions, either ones that about your concerns about a card or ones that are more general to what category of cards your card is in.
- E.g. “Is this card too confusing? I’m not sure people will understand how the second ability works.”
- E.g. “Is this exciting enough for a mythic?”
Try to avoid things that will distract people from thinking about the meat of your card (the design, the development, and the flavor). These are often cosmetic in nature.
- E.g. You don’t want to hear the same response about your weird custom frame every time you post a card using that frame. Move to a normal frame when posting a design to avoid this.
- E.g. You don’t want people to avoid commenting on your card simply because they don’t like the heavily stylized art you used. Use placeholder art or remove the art while posting to avoid this.
- E.g. You don’t want people spending five minutes critiquing your templating. Thoroughly learn proper Magic templating to avoid this.
Who Needs a Project Channel?
Project channels are a way to gather feedback and discussion related to a single project in one place. However, not all projects need one: It is very possible to run a successful project on the discord server without using a project channel.
You should pursue a channel if you are already succeeding in getting significant discussion or enthusiasm in #custom-magic-1 or in #project-design. What this means is that, when you receive a project channel, you will be able to get even more discussion than before and you will be able to collect feedback and data faster and more conveniently.
Remember that project channels that lack content for more than three weeks are frozen by the server staff (The staff give a warning one week before a channel reaches this mark). Therefore, do not apply for a project channel if you do not think that you can sustain creating continuous content.
Applying for a Project Channel
When you have decided that a project channel would be beneficial to you, you can create some proposal materials and use those to fill out the project channel application form hosted in the server rules.
The purpose of the application and your proposal materials is to convince the staff that your project fits the needs of a project channel. Most importantly, you want to show that you would be able to drive traffic to your channel. The staff does not want a channel being left unused or abandoned, since it takes up attention and space unnecessarily.
In your proposal you should include: your set concept, the mechanical themes and keywords you have developed, a storyline if you have written any, and at least a few rendered card images of card designs you’ve made for the project. Very little material will not be convincing, but lots of material will be difficult to sift through. Try to focus on specific and important things.
Currently the staff procedure is as follows: Each weekend, the staff votes on each proposal submitted during the previous week. Multiple proposals are usually being voted on in one batch. What this means is that if you submit on a monday, you may not be receiving an answer back until the next monday. In addition, you will likely be competing for attention with at least one other project. Even more reason to make sure your proposal is convincing!
Using Your Project Channel
Once you have acquired a project channel, it is up to you to make good use of it. This means that you want to do a few different things.
Inform People About Your Project
Use pinned messages to give a quick rundown of your project for anyone who looks at your channel for the first time. In addition, pinned messages can be useful as references for when you or others are talking about your project in your channel.
Useful things to pin include:
- Your project concept
- For sets: Mechanics, archetypes, and other draft info
- The most recent problem you are trying to solve
- The most recent batch of new or changed cards
Reward the people who follow your set by giving them updates on your progress.
- Give summaries of any changes that you are making.
- Announce when you upload a new version of your set to planesculptors.
- Hype people up for completions of certain milestones
Collect Feedback and Data
In your set channel, post completely new ideas to receive feedback. You can also post several potential ideas that you have that you want help deciding between.
You can use the discord "reactions" feature to provide different options underneath what you post, to let people quickly show their opinion. These can be thumbsup/thumbsdown on individual designs, or maybe votes of 1,2,3… when deciding between multiple versions of a card. Running one of these polls can also be a great way to advertise your project. Advertising oin #custom-magic-1 or #project-design that you have a poll running in your channel can help you gather lots of data quickly while also maybe getting more people interested in your project.
Use your set channel to ask for advice on solving any problems that you are experiencing. People who are following your channel can answer your questions or point you in the right direction.
In addition, you can use your set channel to run draft/sealed events using Planesculptors.net (covered in the next section). This is one of the most important ways you can gather data.
Running a Playtesting Event
One of the great strengths of the Custom Magic Discord community is the ability to pull people together for playing custom Magic relatively quickly and easily. A part of this comes from infrastructure dedicated to helping people organize drafts and sealed events hosted on Planesculptors.net.
Announcing a Future Event
When you want to plan an event for the future, head over to the #upcoming-events channel. Use this channel to post a single message that announces the details of your event. In the pinned messages there is a description for what the staff want these messages to look like.
You’ll usually get more success with an event if you give people at least one days notice. This is even more so when drafting or doing sealed for a set that is untested and hasn’t built up a reputation.
Starting the Draft
Use this section of the tools and techniques guide to get a guide on starting a draft event on Planesculptors.
Running a Draft on the Discord
Once you know how to manage the Planesculptors side of things, you’ll need to know how to actually get people to join the draft and complete it.
Advertising the Draft
When announcing that an draft is open, you can use a special ping to alert people who have marked themselves as “WantToDraft” (a special role users can add to themselves with a server bot). They will hear a sound and get a notification about your message. In this message, give a the draft link, and also give a short description of what the event is. The best place to make this message is either in #playtesting or in your project channel. At this point, if your project isn’t well known, this is a good time to give potential drafters some information about the project overall.
Warning: Do not ping @WantToDraft more than once for the same event. This annoys people, and the staff will get mad at you.
At this point, wait for people to express interest and join the draft. Sometimes people will need some convincing. Giving updates on the number of people you still need can help, as people are more interested in joining a draft that already has 4 people than one that has no one. Gaining a reputation for running successful drafts also helps to get more interest in the future. You can also briefly advertise the event in #custom-magic-1 and #custom-magic-2.
Dealing with Lack of Interest
Expect it to take up to a half hour to reach the correct number of people. When waiting a long time to fill out, it’s polite to ask the current entrants how long they are willing to wait and if they’d prefer you to run the event partially full or to wait for more people. If you reach a point where no one is coming in and you have 6 or 7 attendees, don’t hesitate to add AI bots to fill out to 8. Eventually, its best to close an event if its not getting enough attendees.
Once a Draft has Finished
If you are the creator of the set that was drafted, you can spend this time getting feedback and data. Have people who actually build their decks at the end send their deck links (URL of the deckbuilding area) to you or put them in your project channel for looking at later.
At this point you can also have people play each other using the decks they drafted. Check out this section of the guide on how to enable people to use Cockatrice to play with your cards.
Other Useful Server Functions
The server provides a variety of other miscellaneous technical functions.
- Use the @JUDGE! ping to ask the judges on the server to answer a rules question, to evaluate the wording of a card, or to resolve a rules conflict in a custom playtest.
- Each constructed format on the server has its own member ping that you can join using Nadeko bot. Use this ping to ask other people involved with that custom format to play with you.