Saturday, March 29, 2014


Okay. I'm not proud of this, but if I'm gonna come clean and move on, now's the time to do it.

Last last year I went on a Magic: the Gathering binge. I made a monoblack EDH deck. I got caught up on the mythology, particularly of Mirrodin and Phyrexia. (For the record, the Scars of Mirrodin block was brilliant.) I even opened up Magic Set Editor, made some fake cards based on my old webcomics, you all laughed (or snickered lowly). As far as costly and time-consuming relapses go, the whole thing was a lot of fun. I've left my cards with a friend living in the backwoods of Massachusetts, so the habit's good as kicked...for now.

But it didn't stop there.

Long story short: over the last year or so, during fits of writers' block or everyday procrastination, I'd open up Magic Set Editor and make more phony cards. I'd already had my fun with 8EB cards, and it seemed even more unforgivably self-indulgent to make any more cards along that theme.

So....well, I made a bunch of cards based on Moby Dick. I hardly even noticed how many I'd slapped together over the last ten months until I stopped and looked them over. I'm not even sure I intended to show anyone but the two or three people with whom I've played Magic since my relapse. But I'm posting them here as a kind of confession.

Two things:

1.) I never kept track of the image sources. Unfortunately, I can only attribute them to Google Images.

2.) I don't know what the set symbol is supposed to be. The default symbol in Magic Set Editor is a square; all I did was pull the top left corner inward while messing around with the editor. Let's just call it a tail fin.

So let's begin with the three main characters:

I hope the function (and its contiguity with Ishmael's role as the sole surviving witness of a miniature apocalypse) is clear, even if the wording needs to be tighter.

Informed by these couple of sentences from one of Ahab's soliloquies: I thought to find one stubborn, at the least; but my one cogged circle fits into all their various wheels, and they revolve. Or, if you will, like so many ant-hills of [gunpowder], they all stand before me; and I their match. Oh, hard! that to fire others, the match itself must needs be wasting!

When the white whale attacks, it must be apocalyptic. Of course. (I love the art, but the one detail pretty much every illustrator gets wrong is the size of the eye. It should be much smaller.)

So: let's talk enchantment cycle. Who likes quest counters?

From Typee, not Moby Dick. (Moby Dick doesn't offer much possibility for green cards.)

From Benito Cereno (cf. the recently-published Empire of Necessity).

Now for a land cycle:

(From Typee.)

(From The Enchantadas.)

(From "The Tartarus of Maids.")

Before we get to the other people, critters, and things, let's meet the Pequod's harpooneers:

I would have preferred to use this sentence as flavor text, but there wasn't enough space:

He was such a creature as civilized, domestic people in the temperate zone only see in their dreams, and that but dimly; but the like of whom now and then glide among the unchanging Asiatic communities, especially the Oriental isles to the east of the continent—those insulated, immemorial, unalterable countries, which even in these modern days still preserve much of the ghostly aboriginalness of earth's primal generations, when the memory of the first man was a distinct recollection, and all men his descendants, unknowing whence he came, eyed each other as real phantoms, and asked of the sun and the moon why they were created and to what end; when though, according to Genesis, the angels indeed consorted with the daughters of men, the devils also, add the uncanonical Rabbins, indulged in mundane amours. 

Yes, that is one sentence. This is an extreme example of a problem I ran into while throwing these cards together: naturally, the flavor text had to come from Melville himself, but Melville's imaginative faculties are inversely proportionate to his talent for succinctness. (Now you notice and understand the small text size on some of these.)

Anyway: some cards based on events and people from the chapters before the Pequod casts off:

(Yes, yes, reprint. And yes, that's Orson Welles.)

Sea critters:

I really should have found a better painting. I hate how that shark looks.

Whalers and whaling:

(Again, the eye is much too big.)

Ahab and his hunt:


That horrible Gitaxian Sphinx is too awful not to democratize.

And some miscellaneous cards based on Bartleby, Typee, and "The Bell-Tower:"


  1. Fantastic stuff. It's been about 20 years since I really played magic, so a few of the new phrases are opaque to me, but the ideas are wonderful. Great work!

    I remember having the actual Preacher card from The Dark set. It was one of my favorites because of the artwork, along with Cosmic Horror.

  2. Here's a protip for MSE: type ~ in the text box, and it will become the name of the card that changes automatically when you change the name.

    I could wax on about proper wording and color pie issues, but that's not the point of this exercise. I do like how creative the executions are; I LOVE Fatal Pride in particular.

  3. These were pretty cool, and a lot of them would be devastating. However Tigt has a point. Sea Hearse tells you to put counters on Whale Hearse. That might get a bit tricky..


  4. Also Pat, you'd probably like these:

    Philosophers as MtG cards.