Custom Sets: Pokémon Gold and Silver, part 1

Hello! For the next few weeks i’ll be revealing and talking about my new pokémon custom set. Today’s post is about mechanics.

In case you’ve not seen my previous pokémon set and/or need a refresher, the set’s intention is to represent a pokémon generation, this time the 2nd generation, exclusively by representing elements in the games. That means pokémon, TMs and HMs, and items. Since i don’t want to add any external elements, that means that the sets are heavy on creatures and low on everything else, giving them a Legions-like quality of needing creatures to pull double duty with additional effects. With that in mind, let’s start exploring what i came up with.

Disclaimer: i don’t have the means to playtest these sets, which means that certain elements, mana costs in particular, may be off. I do my best to balance them based on previously released cards, but that’s the extent of my ability.


Evolve (Not the Gatecrash One)

Evolve was the main mechanic in my first set. It was made before the Return to Ravnica block, which introduced an Evolve mechanic of their own. Given that i wanted this set to be a successor to the previous one, for the purposes of these posts, assume we’re in a parallel universe where Evolve isn’t an official Magic keyword (they called it something like Mutate, instead.)

Evolve continues to be the main mechanic in the set, allowing evolved pokémon to be cast for a reduced cost if you sacrifice their previous forms. The main method of evolving a pokémon is through experience points, represented here as mana, but there are also a few alternative ways. Because it’s a returning mechanic i didn’t add the reminder text, which helped a lot in making the text more readable. For new folk, the reminder text for evolve is: You may sacrifice a creature named <> and pay the evolution cost instead of paying for this creature’s mana cost.



Gold and Silver introduced the concept of happiness: a hidden value that increases as your pokémon travel with you and represents how friendly they are. This has a few in-game uses, most notably the fact that some pokémon only evolve when at high happiness. I decided to represent this value as a threshold mechanic that has some effect on your pokémon when they’re happy. Given that this is a creature-heavy set that promotes creature interaction, happiness in this case was represented as +1/+1 counters. This influenced the design of the entire set, as you’ll see down the line, despite the fact that very few pokémon are actually affected by happiness.


This gen also introduced the concept of pokémon breeding and babies, which are underevolved forms of basic-stage pokémon. Since i had no way to retroactively add an Evolve cost to previous creatures, instead i added a Grow cost to the babies, which works similarly. Some babies also only evolve through happiness, and these were represented at a higher rarity to lower complexity at common.



On my last set i had both the Poisonous and the Infect mechanics to represent poison pokémon. I still wanted a poison mechanic for this set, but infect’s -1/-1 counters clashed with the +1/+1 focus i had decided to follow; on the other hand, i still wanted the power interaction that poisonous, with its fixed amount, didn’t provide. The solution was to come up with a middle-way mechanic: one that added variable poison counters based on power, but interacted normally with creatures. There are very few poison pokémon in this gen, but i’m sure i’ll reuse the mechanic in future ones.



Snow returns to represent ice pokémon. As with last gen, there still aren’t many of them. Also as with last gen, my sixth basic land type returns, as i added no other basic snow lands to make them a little more challenging to use.



Proliferate isn’t directly related to any pokémon type in specific, but i added it late in design to support both poison and the +1/+1 counter theme.

Evergreen changes

Magic Origins brought about some changes to the evergreen keywords, that is, keywords that can be used in any Magic set without taking up a “mechanic slot”. I always try to keep up with the official decisions, so this set makes use of those changes. Intimidate, Landwalk, and Protection are no longer used (or, in the latter’s case, rarely at best), while Menace, Prowess, and Scry are fair game.



Equipment is evergreen, but it bears mentioning here because Gen 2 also introduced held items for the first time, that is, items you can give to your pokémon that will have some sort of effect during battle. Naturally, i had to bring those to the game. I decided to make a Magic 2013 ring cycle both because the type-enhancing items were asking for a cycle, and because it played perfectly with the +1/+1 theme. That does mean there is no equipment at common, however.



As always, all my sets have my custom keyword.


Next week i’ll be discussing the set’s reprints and how they affected the design. Until then!