Ozorion, the Harlem Music-Based Set - VISION DESIGN PHASE


About a month ago, a few other cardsmiths and I began working on a new custom set under the very general theme of "music." I came into the MTG Cardsmith community discord with a very rough idea of what I wanted to do, and over the past few weeks we have jumped far ahead of what I ever expected to achieve on the forums. 

You can find the original discussion here: Music-Themed Set- EXPLORATORY DESIGN PHASE

Throughout our discussions, we developed a basic outline of the plane, four great appropriate mechanics, and an empty skeleton for the cards. However, this stage is not for the cards themselves. It is an open discussion about the themes, stories, and logistics within the plane itself. If you are not the kind of person who likes to take time and develop storylines and plots, keep on reading (Or you can just skip to the end). There will be a place for everyone here...


(Credits to @ningyounk and one of the many Rezatta threads for that diagram.)

You can see several stages of design here, currently used by our favorite company, Wizards of the Coast. If you are unfamiliar with the concepts, allow me to break down the stages we will be using for Ozorion:

Exploratory Design

During this first stage, I introduced the general idea for the set. While the general outcome was supportive, I would love for more people to join if they can!

While looking at some original themes for the set, we settled on four interesting mechanics (See below). An important thing to note is that these are not nearly set in stone, as we are only beginning the Vision Design phase now. Anything can be changed, and I'd be happy for anything anyone has to throw at us! (:

Vision Design

If you read the title to this discussion, you will note that we are in this second stage. But what exactly do we want to accomplish? 
- We want to further develop the spirit, and the general "feel" of the set. (Does that make sense?)
- We want to develop stories, characters, deities, kingdoms, ect. 
- We want to set the main goals of set design and the mechanics we will use in stone. 
- We want to (Quite possibly) create the first draft of the set, beginning with the commons. While this may seem daunting, it is of course a necessary part of each design process. 
- Am I missing anything? Feel free to post it! 
This is meant to be a creative, relaxed process in which we have fun sketching out our world and our cards. 

Set Design

This will be a fun, lively phase in which we utilize the skeleton and all of the concepts we have developed in order to sit down with the cards and think. The set will contain around 250 cards, as is the usual in standard at this time. 

Play Design

This stage speaks for itself- We will be play testing the set on some kind of a platform which I have not yet discovered. This is for the sole purpose of determining if the set is fun, interactive, balanced, and engaging. 

This is the part where I completely lost my train of thought... Oh that's right. The mechanics. 

The Mechanics

Not much more to say at this point, here's what we're working with! 

Harmonize N (Put N +1/+1 counters on target noncreature artifact, enchantment, or land you control. It becomes a 0/0 song creature in addition to its other types.) 

This mechanic is meant to reflect the general theme of music, as well as something we've been working with: The plane at first glimpse may appear to be empty, however it is really always pulsing with music, and the entirety of it appears to be "alive" with music... A work in progress. 

Enlighten (As you cast this spell, you may tap an untapped creature you control.) 

We tried for a while to find a mechanic that fit the overarching "Enlightenment" theme of the set. However, as this theme is no longer a central part of the plane, I would be happy for suggestions for new name we could give it. 

OK, so those were the two new mechanics... We also decided on two older ones that haven't been seen in quite a while. 

Rebound (If you cast this spell from your hand, exile it as it resolves. At the beginning of your next upkeep, you may cast this card from exile without paying its mana cost.)

We thought this would go pretty nicely with the "constant movement" theme of the set. We were experimenting with several ideas in its place, however this turned out to be the most simple and fun. 

Inspired (Whenever this creature becomes untapped, EFFECT)

This also fits well into the set, as the music of the world continues to "inspire" its inhabitants. It also goes quite well with Enlighten, and they form a balance of tapping vs untapping. 



  • Themes of the Plane

    While this discussion is partly devoted to the plane and themes, there are some we already have, and some I've been turning over recently. 

    A.) Always awake, always alive

    As I mentioned earlier, the plane is constantly alive with music. An interesting idea might be that, as planeswalkers come into the plane, they can never leave due to the entrancing melodies. It might be cool to include a few planeswalkers that came here for a quest, only to find they could not leave. (Immortal Sun-type effect.) 

    B.) A school of Music

    One idea we had was a school completely devoted to music. This center for learning would be the pride of the plane, and it would be every young musician's inspiration to grow. It might include many different tribes, such as Humans, Vedalken, Vampires, ect. 

    C.) The outcasts

    Of course, we also need some conflict, and what better way to do that than to provide a group of non-Human rebels that despise the school? This would include, Elves, Trolls, Faeries, and perhaps some bears. They create their own kind of music in the far-reaching wilds of the plane, far from the civilized harmonies of the school. 

    D.) The seasons 

    This is an interesting theme that I have been thinking of more recently, concerning the four seasons of the plane. The only issue with this is the fact that there are currently five colors in magic, so it would not be symmetrical. If we could somehow come up with a fifth season for these purposes, it might be cool to develop moods of song, different tribes, and even gods/spirit-type deities based on each season. 

    E.) Harlem

    I'm not exactly sure where we want to go with this yet, but in general, many different sets in magic thrive on using different time periods and cultures from our world. During the Harlem Renaissance music bloomed in many different ways, and Jazz was created. While this may be unnecessary, I think it's definitely something to consider. 

    We have been struggling to find a version of Harmonize that fits the theme of the "living music", just as Living Art is apparent in Rezatta. We had also been having a hard time fitting our variants into the game rules. 

    This is an interesting one that could work, with some modification. I think it would be cool to have some double sided cards in the set, so maybe this is a way to make it work? What do you guys think?

    Note: In terms of balance and art, we can figure that out later. For now, the goal is to settle the mechanics. 


    Listen, I know why you skipped down here. You're not in the mood for developed storytelling and plots... You just want to make some cards! Luckily, that's OK. 

    You can find the current common skeleton for the set here. This is certainly not set in stone, and there is a great deal more work that has to get done. It can be adjusted whenever necessary. However, it should provide a basis for what we want to accomplish. 

    Below I listed some things you can do to help; There should be a place for everyone interested. 

    How can I help? 

    Great job: You've made it this far! That was pretty long, wasn't it? Whew. Even if you didn't read everything, that's OK. There are many things you can do to help:

    - You can help to develop the plane. This ranges anywhere from the tribes, to the heroes, to the villains, to the landscape. We need a story line, planeswalkers, legends, and more. I'd love for some feedback on the season and Harlem themes, too! Do you guys think we need to start another thread about this? Feel free to let me know! 

    - You can help to develop the mechanics. Four seems like a balanced number, however there may be room for more... Keep in mind the themes I mentioned while thinking about this. 

    - You can begin to post ideas for some common cards. I'd love to begin accumulating ideas using the different mechanics and themes; Be creative! 

    - You can help to develop the two-color archetypes. This is not a top priority right now, but it is certainly something we will have to consider, most likely in this design phase. There will be a cycle of duel-colored uncommon cards to reflect these archetypes, but as there isn't a story or any kind of a plot yet, this might have to be delayed. 


    I've really enjoyed working on this so far, but I think we can do so much more with it. Unfortunately, it can't be done without you guys. I'm very grateful for anyone who has taken the time to read this, and I think this will be a fun and exciting process. Let's create the vision of this set! 
  • I have absolutely no clue why I didn't think of this sooner, but Siren tribal should 100% be a subtheme of this world. There's no more musically-inclined tribe in Magic, and it would serve as a way to explain the immortal-sun-esque effect the plane has. Perhaps it isn't that planeswalkers even get trapped, but that they've all been lured into the Siren's call.
  • Also, in case you needed the specific rarity breakdown, and because I have it memorized at this point, a typical set without dobule-faced cards includes:
    101 commons
    80 uncommons
    53 rares
    15 mythic rares
    5-25 basic lands, depending on circumstance and/or 10 nonbasic dual lands to replace the basics (e.g. Ravnica guildgates)
  • @Arceus8523

    The Siren tribal sounds great! I knew there was some kind of tribe like that in magic, but just couldn't place my finger on it. I think they should definitely play a big role in the story like you said. 

    I did have that set breakdown stored on the spreadsheet I posted. It's about the same except for lands; We're currently planning on running 10 basics and 7 nonbasics (1 common, 1 uncommon, and a cycle of rares.) 

  • edited June 18
    Here is a possible color/tribe distribution for the set: 

    Bears: G

    Sirens: U/B
    Elves: W/G
    Vampires: B/R
    Vedelkan: U/R

    Faeries: W/U/G
    Humans: W/B/R

    It would provide 3 of each color within the tribes, and reflect more or less what we've seen in the past, as well as using all the tribes that we've gathered together so far for the set. 
  • @Ral1000 Green creatures with flying are normally a color pie break. If you do decide on having green faeries, you should probably use mono green faeries very rarely and at higher rarities!
  • edited June 18
    What if Ozorion is to the Siren tribe what Harlem was to African-Americans?
    You can watch this video on the Harlem Renaissance from PBS: https://youtu.be/Z3ozfYC9CZE for the history (but not at work on your speakers because there is some mention of sexuality and taboo subjects), and then maybe watch it again, reframing Sirens as the main characters? 
    Just a suggestion :wink:
  • edited June 18
    Carrying that thought experiment forward for just a second.  This is stream of consciousness, so take it for what it's worth: inspiration / seed / starting point. 
    So, maybe:
    • Sirens somehow came to Ozorion from other planes (like Theros?), and due to the plane's inherent musical energy, the Sirens - although they were foreign - were quickly accepted by most of the native inhabitants.  They were free, for the first time, to explore their own way of doing things and to create their own culture by expressing themselves in ways that previously seemed taboo and inconceivable before.  Perhaps there are "clubs" on Ozorion which can each be an "oasis of permissibility" to let the Sirens do things there which can not go on elsewhere.  Perhaps it is the Sirens who used their voices (improvisationally?) to create the first Song creatures?  Also, at some point, some group of the natives of this plane are shocked and offended by the things which go on in the Siren oasis-es ..?.. oasis's ... oases? And maybe these natives are the ones who don't like "jazz", LOL
    I dunno, just spitballing.
  • Oh, and in the music world, jam sessions are sometimes called "Collabs" now, so maybe your Enlighten mechanic can be called Collaborate? Since you're tapping an untapped creature to help you with the spell?  (I dunno if Collaborate is already a mechanic name. Sorry if it is!)
  • "Collab" (c) 2020, Music by: Ral1000 feat. Arceus8523 
  • edited June 18
    @tookie1 alright! It should be easy enough to focus the Fairies on W/U, and have a few green ones sprinkled in within the higher slots. 

    @TerryTags ;

    Thanks for the video, hadn't seen that one!

    About the Sirens: I really like the idea! I didn't think of this kind of theme originally, I'm sure we can include some variant on it. One thing I would like to be careful about is the racial theme- Some people might get offended.

    Some things I especially liked from your suggestions: 

    - I love the idea of Sirens immigrating from other planes. There don't appear to be very many of them in the newest Theros set, but looking back at the original Theros, I think it could work. If not, we could always say they immigrated from Ixalan or another plane. 

    - I like what you said about the original inhabitants of the plane (Vampires, Elves, ect.) being suspicious at first, but eventually welcoming them in due to their unexpected skill. At this point in the story, perhaps their conflicts are arising once again... This seems like a great plot point. 

    - We're currently planning on having a cycle of nonbasic legendary lands in five of the rare slots. One of them is going to be the music school, and another dedicated to the outcasts. It would be cool to make the third one an Oasis for the Sirens like you mentioned, and it would greatly represent the themes of their tribe. 
  • Not to be rude, but me, @LordTachanka123, @The-DM, and @Scaccogaming were already working on an enightenment mechanic for our set.
  • edited June 19
    @SNAPcreator7, I'm not angry or annoyed or anything, but which set is this again? I scrolled through your Veru, Land of Dinosours  set, and didn't see a mechanic named "Enlighten" anywhere...

    If it's a different set, could you post a link? Don't worry, we can change the name if nessesary, but I just want to make sure that someone else came up with it first. Thanks! (: 
  • @SNAPcreator7 I kinda dropped out of our project, I didn't really have a motive to stay, let's put it this way. And @Ral1000 it's a mechanic in a private chat, that's why you couldn't find it.
  • edited June 19
    Thanks for the heads up @Scaccogaming

    @SNAPcreator7, is it really a problem if I also use a mechanic named "Enlighten?" I can always change it later if our sets interfere too much. 
  • It's fine, didn't mean to be rude, just thought that was cool. 
  • Oh OK, sounds good @SNAPcreator7
  • Hello! 

    Here's some quick feedback from what I've see in the intro, essentially about the mechanics:
    • The version of Harmonise with the +1/+1 counters is slightly dicey because it will lead to a lot more land destruction in your set than normal, you will need to take that into account. That being said, it's not impossible to make it work, see how WOTC did awaken in Zendikar for instance. I believe the trick is making sure it's mostly on expensive cards. Losing an animated land when you have 6 or more is fine, but losing your third land on turn 3 or 4 is really bad.
    • On the same mechanic, it sounds really wordy. I understand it's worded this way because of planeswalkers? I don't think a couple Mythic rares in the set should impact the wording of a whole mechanic like that, especially if the issue is just "we don't want players to mix the two kind of counters" (I might be missing something more important?) If this is the reason, I'd advise ignoring planeswalkers and going for the cleaner "Put three +1/+1 counters on target noncreature permanent you control." I would also make it optional, by the way, because if it forces you to lose lands it's really problematic.
    • Enlighten is visibly a keyword ability, not an ability word ability, so you need to use the parentheses instead of the long dash on the card itself. I like the synergy with Inspired! However, the "kicker" cost is so cheap that the card will usually always be "kicked", I have a hard time imagining those spells would be cast in their non-enlightened version more than 5-10% of the time. 
    • I actually playtested the double-faced version of Harmonise for Rezatta (we called it Vivify, it ended up becoming Masterwork)! My conclusion is it's a trap xD You want the creature more than you want the spell usually, so I personally didn't like that it pushed decks to play less creatures and that it was super difficult to care about (usually, cards that cared about that mechanic didn't really do anything until turn 5 or 6). If you still go for it, here's one of my favourite cards from that playtest:

    • If you're going for a movement theme, maybe Vivify would be interesting as a mechanic that only animate things for the turn? E.g: Harmonise N (Up to one target noncreature permanent you control becomes a N/N creature until end of turn.)
    • Two returning mechanics (Rebound and Inspired) sound a little bit much, especially for a custom set where people are looking for innovation. Because Enlighten doesn't seem to do much, I'd probably ditch the Enlighten + Inspired package. Inspired wasn't really liked anyways the first time it was around, it's like a 9 on the Storm Scale, I'd be surprised if you found anyone who'd be like "Oh yeah! The return of Inspired, my favourite mechanic!" >.<
    • I'm still kind of missing a cool innovation here. What is exciting about the set mechanic wise? What's the Mutate/Devotion/Adventure/Morph/Transform/etc. of the set? 
    Here is one example of possible mechanical theme you could try: Caring about rhythm. You implement a mechanic where cards transform every turn for instance. This way you can try to create cool combos by synchronising the effects of cards together. For instance:

    The idea is that the rhythm with which you play those cards is important, you'd rather harmonise trample with deathtouch (because this way it deals 1 damage to a blocker and the rest to the opponent's face) and vigilance with indestructible (this way the attack is completely free of danger), than having trample + indestructible and deathtouch + vigilance which don't combo as well.

    It's just an example of course, the idea is that you need to find something that your set does mechanically that makes it more branded, gives it a mechanical feel.
  • Hey @ningyounk, thanks for all the feedback, this was really helpful! As I'm not an experienced set maker, it was good to hear all this from you. 

    Here are some responses to the points you made (Sorry, might be a bit out of order): 

    - About Harmonize: We were discussing all the errors you noted about the original mechanic in the first thread, and we couldn't come up with anything better than this for various reasons... I think we'll ditch that concept like you said. 

    - I was worried about the exact same thing concerning Enlighten: The fact that you can just about always pay the cost. Since Inspired is also frankly underwhelming, I like the idea of just ditching that package. 

    - About Vivify: I like the concept, but I see why people might only want the creature... It seems not to hand out that much variety, and I like the other double-sided card idea a lot anyway... 

    -About Harmonize N: The "creature until end of turn" mechanic is interesting, but I think it seems a little underwhelming, and it could potentially die out after just a little play. To build on that, it seems like there wouldn't be much design space for it to advance into the higher rarities. 

    - About the rhythm-based Harmonize: I really like it! I feel like there is so much design space for all rarities within it, and it just seems to fit the theme of the set so well. We'll definitely be playing around with that as a new mechanic. 

    - About the innovation for the set: This is the part that's been hardest for me by far. I know what you mean, concerning the creative themes of Ikoria, Theros, Ixalan, Rezatta, ect. This is definitely the most frustrating thing for me at the moment... I'll have to think on that. 
  • @Ral1000 The until end of turn won't be underwhelming. Take a look at this mechanic I made:
  • edited June 19
    I absolutely LOVE the rhythm-based mechanic where the card is cast face-up but transforms on every upkeep.
    @Ral1000  You could call it BEATS or TEMPO instead of Harmonize, if you wanted to change the flavor.  (Up to you! :smiley: )

    Oh, wait!  BEATS!!  What about this:
    • Each rhythm card could be either DOWNBEAT or OFFBEAT.
    • DOWNBEAT cards "clap" (work best) on beats "1 and 3" like folk music.  They're best the turn you cast them, less good the next turn, then great again the 3rd turn (and 5, 7, etc) because they're face-up again.
    • OFFBEAT cards "clap" on beats "2 and 4" like jazz music.  They're okay the turn you cast them, but on turn 2 (and therefore 4, 6, etc), they're better when they transform to their back-face side!
    Just a thought!  :smile:
  • #MakeBeatAThing
  • edited June 19
    If you DID decide to do Beat cards, "forced transform" cards would be great again, like in Innistrad...  You could make a Downbeat card suddenly Offbeat, tripping up their rhythm like a tongue-twister.

  • edited June 19

    I honestly do really like the "until end of turn" thing, now that I think about it. Do you have any ideas for another name for it though, since we need more mechanics and Harmonize has been taken (Below)? While Animate seems appropriate, it wouldn't fit too much with the theme of the set...


    As this is a fantasy-based world, I think Harmonize fits a little better as the name, since it's leans towards fantasy a little more, whereas "beats" seem a little on the modern side. Who knows though, maybe it could work! Do you want to post something to show what that might look like?  

    BTW, I love the Owlbears! We were already planning on having Bear tribal, so this is a great fit! 

    I'll start playing around with this and posting some new Harmonize ideas to see how it flows, and you guys are welcome to do the same. 
  • @Ral1000 I'll think on the names. I was just showing an example of what the until end of turn effect could do!
  • Harmonize is a fine name, I'm not saying change it :smiley: But I do like the idea of having some of your Harmonize cards work best on 1st,3rd,5th, etc with their face-side being the better side, and then other Harmonize cards better on the 2nd,4th,6th, etc with their back-side being the better side.  You can name it whatever you want :wink:
    I'm not married to the name Beat or Offbeat or anything.  To me, as an acapella singer who does barbershop, in my world the term "harmonize" means that one musician is performing one musical thought or theme or motif or melody, and then other musicians come in and do something synergistic but different.  To me, harmony is the synergy of multiple artists doing different things that, when put together, are greater than the sum of their parts.  But again, this is your thing, I'm just here enjoying your work and collaborating by throwing ideas on the wall to see if they stick, and inspiring your own creative process.  It's your masterpiece; I'm just here to hear! :wink:
  • edited June 19
    I hear the Command Zone podcast guys and Nizzahon talk about the "tempo" of a MTG game a lot, so maybe "Tempo: 1 & 3" or "Tempo: 2 & 4" might work better as a term instead of Beat? I dunno. [shrug]
  • edited June 19

    Here would be a "Downbeat"-flavored artifact which is good on "beats" 1 and 3, etc.

    I only spent a few seconds on this, so please nobody nitpick the equip costs or the frames or whatever, LOL.  It's not my best work.
  • @shadow123 sounds good! I'll be interested to hear what you come up with! 


    This is interesting! I see what you mean now about the Tempo thing; It could certainly help the mechanic develop. I definitely want to start playing around with it! 

    Always happy for your help; I couldn't do it without you guys! (: 
  • @Ral1000

    This is kinda my thought for an "Offbeat" card or a Tempo 2 and 4 card, whatever :wink:
    where the power of the permanent is better on the 2nd, 4th, 6th turns it's out, etc. 

    Anyway, I'm out until Monday, have a great weekend cardsmiths!
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