What happens if you get a robot hooked on Magic: The Gathering, promote it to head designer, and then leave it to come up with cards all on its own? You get Spiral Chaos, a set of 360 MTG cards that’s been put together entirely by AI. Chaotic by name and chaotic by nature, in Spiral Chaos you’ll find frogs with every ability under the sun, foot tokens, and expensive artifacts that let you pay nine mana to simply “choose a number”.
RoboRosewater Masters is the ‘robot’ behind Spiral Chaos, a neural network bot trained on every Magic card in creation, and able to spit out quite functional original cards as a result. “The best part about the AI cards is the absurdity of what it can produce,” Reddit user Cocoamix86, the lead dev on Spiral Chaos and creator of the neural network, tells Wargamer. “Sometimes just word salad gets a laugh out of me. But there are times where it produces actually very interesting designs not yet explored in the game.”
Since March 2021, the best (or simply the silliest) of these designs have been publicly shared, complete with AI generated card art, at the Twitter account RoboRosewaterM. But now a full, playable MTG set is in the works.
The current neural network is actually the second iteration of RoboRosewater. The original shut down in 2019 and Cocoamix86 built their own version the following year upon the ashes (publicly available github files) of the first. Once Cocoamix had finessed the program and could produce cards instead of messy text files, they began sharing their work around and building the ‘MTG Neural Net’ Discord community. The idea grew in popularity and it wasn’t long before a motley crew of fifteen like minded people was formed. It was time to start work on a functional set.
Inspired by a Cube Draft played in 2019 by YouTube channel LoadingReadyRun – which used cards from the original RoboRosewater – Cocoamix says: “We wanted to do something bigger and more sophisticated than that for Round 2.” In August 2021, the team set about producing Spiral Chaos, which would include their own Cube – a large set of cards built for the purpose of playing a Limited game.
“By the time we started putting together the set, the AI had pumped out many thousands of cards, so we had a lot of content to work with,” Cocoamix explains. But while producing cards was easy, curating them for sense and balance was another matter. “We all delved through the past output of the AI and brought together all of our favourites, culled the list, and filled gaps with other newly generated stuff that was equally funny or interesting.”
— RoboRosewater_Masters (@RoborosewaterM) March 27, 2022
Creating a full set of balanced archetypes for Spiral Chaos would’ve been impossible without spending “many, many more hours,” Cocoamix says. Therefore, you won’t find ten carefully constructed themes for each colour pair within the set – things are a little more loosey-goosey in the world of Spiral Chaos.
But for those needing a little more structure, along with the 360-card strong Cube, Spiral Chaos also contains four Commander decks, each centered around a single set of mechanics. The four decks are Gravestorm, Spirits & Arcane, Energy, and Stompy, each one using mechanics and themes the MTG Neural Net team felt were underused in regular Magic: The Gathering and could create cards that were wild and wacky. “These decks are heavily curated to work and be balanced against each other, but still, all the text is 100% AI generated and untouched by humans,” Cocoamix assures.
As for what keeps Cocoamix interested in the project: “I enjoy evaluating the cards the AI produces alongside the community. Making up fake judge rulings when a card can’t be explained by the rules. Laughing at hilarious names and sentences. Figuring out why a card really is overpowered and meta-changing, or so horrendously bad. Seeing others use the bot and create commentary on these cards is a huge blast!” They add that their favourite card of all has to be Reaper of the Bearf.
Reaper of the Bearf pic.twitter.com/7p0wdzy7zp
— RoboRosewater_Masters (@RoborosewaterM) September 14, 2021
Spiral Chaos has been in the works for a little under a year, and is now on the verge of completion. The cube is finished and the lead dev says the EDH decks should be finalized within the week. After that, it’ll be released to the public for free, in all sorts of formats, from simple print sheets for paper proxies, to Tabletop Simulator deck objects. Spiral Chaos is an unofficial fan project that’s not affiliated with MTG publisher Wizards of the Coast.
Want some more Magic: The Gathering knowledge that’ll boggle your brain box? Try gawking at the prices in our guide to the most expensive MTG cards of all time. Or if you want to know more about the official human-made Magic cards coming soon, check out our Streets of New Capenna guide, for the full lowdown on the next set.