20/05/2022: This story has been updated with additional quotes from the creator.
Fans love to create their own Magic: The Gathering custom cards, to show off their expert knowledge of the game and play around in new design space. But usually, a prolific custom MTG card maker will dart around a bit – they might design a powerful commander one day, a new planeswalker the next. Not Reddit user AnarchyStarfish though. They’ve spent an entire year putting out variations of precisely the same sort of card – mono red burn spells.
The Redditor seems has dedicated an enormous amount of time to designing and sharing red damage-dealing custom cards like the infamous Lightning Bolt. Eight months ago, they posted a gallery of 100 cards all fitting this mould to r/custommagic, but they’ve shown no signs of burnout (hah) and are still churning out new red cards to this day. Apparently this is because they “designed a few too many”, overshot their goal of 100 cards, and decided to just make 100 more.
When asked why they took on this mammoth task, AnarchyStarfish refers to a quote by American self-help author Napoleon Hill. “If you can’t do great things, do small things in a great way.”
“”I’m not reinventing the wheel or anything,” they say, “but I’ve found a little niche to call my own, within a niche hobby, that’s within a niche hobby. It’s not nearly as glamorous of a talent as basketball or debate or horseback mariachi, but I’m good at it and I enjoy it, so as long as people like the cards, I’ll keep making them.”
If you can think of a concept for a red spell that can damage creatures or players, chances are AnarchyStarfish has already made it. Some of their custom cards use niche keywords like Explore, some destroy artifacts or lands before dealing damage, and some can become board wipes with a little extra work.
That’s just the tip of the fiery iceberg, though. There’s no real way to summarise the collection, other than suggesting you go look for yourself. We will highlight a personal favourite, however – Hematic Reprisal, a burn spell all opponents can copy if they pay three life. We can imagine that one causing all kinds of chaos (of the best sort) in a commander deck.
It just goes to show how much room there is to iterate when designing Magic cards. There are some card archetypes that seem to show up in every MTG set. For example, there’s always a blue ‘transform’ combat trick like Suit Up, or a black discard spell like Mind Rot. If you were worried about Wizards of the Coast running out of new ideas for these sorts of cards, look upon the work of AnarchyStarfish and take comfort.
AnarchyStarfish is clearly not completely devoted to red burn decks, as in previous years they’ve tackled other card archetypes. For example, they put out 100 mono-black kill spells in 2018, and came up with 100 blue counterspells in both 2020 and 2019 – the monster. They jokingly call their habit: an “unsolicited and unpopular tradition”.
Eventually, AnarchyStarfish plans to make sets of green ramp spells and white pump spells, though they admit these are less fun to design. “Sometimes the work feels too unrewarding or repetitive so I take a break — I’ll go months without making anything,” they say. “But then one day I’ll make a single card and suddenly get back into things with a vengeance.”
If you enjoy finding out about the ways MTG fans get creative with cards, try our MTG proxies guide, to hear about another tradition – one with many adherents…