Xianlu by Mal

252 cards in Multiverse

101 commons, 80 uncommons,
53 rares, 15 mythics, 3 tokens

1 token red, 1 token artifact, 1 token blue, 44 white, 44 blue, 44 black,
44 red, 43 green, 3 multicolour, 17 artifact, 10 land

473 comments total

Duke it out with your opponent using a flurry of spells in this high-flying martial arts world based on Chinese fiction and myth.

Xianlu: Cardlist | Visual spoiler | Export | Booster | Comments | Search | Recent activity
Mechanics | Skeleton | Bequeath Abilities | Flavor & Plot | Intro Pack Decklists | Draft Archetypes


In case you're wondering about the influences of the set or are unfamiliar with Wuxia and Xianxia, this is a genre of primarily Chinese fiction (but other asian cultures have their own version of this) that captures a high fantasy ancient/premodern asian setting. A rough equivalent of Wuxia and Xianxia in the West would be the legends of King Arthur, or novels like the Wheel of Time series. There's a bit more focus on the martial arts side of things than those Western stories, but otherwise the overarching themes are similar. Grand adventures with large size and scope, battles between good and evil, chivalry and honor.

In this set, I'll be drawing influences and tropes from modern Wuxia and Xianxia fiction, as well as classic novels such as Journey to the West, since they're seen as the precursor to the entire genre. A lot of the fiction treads on similar themes to a lot of shounen anime as well, so expect similar, but not the same, themes to pop up. Many Chinese myths are also referenced or brought up as a source of inspiration for certain cards.

Design Principles

"Improve Yourself": The overarching theme of this set is to improve oneself and the creatures you control. Creatures will grow over time (or by your urging), or creatures will learn techniques and skills that will give them an edge in battle. Many of the cards have abilities that either cause them to improve over the course of the battle, or will encourage you to improve your creatures over the course of battle. Mechanics such as Bequeath or Monstrous encourage this style of self-improvement play. Bequeath lets you pass down strong abilities from creature to creature, making a creature with a long list of abilities after a couple of deaths. Meanwhile, Monstrous opts for a simple power/toughness improvement most of the time, usually with an accompanying one-shot effect. Combine Bequeath abilities onto Monstrous creatures for even better effects, as Bequeath abilities are often exponentially more powerful on larger creatures. Creatures in general have less variance in power/toughness than most sets (especially at common). +1/+1 counter distribution to break stalemates are included on noncreature spells, reducing the importance of curving out and playing threats every turn in the deck.

Softer Removal: Since a lot of this set is going to be focusing on improving a single creature (much like Theros), it is important that the removal is scaled back to match. However, one of the most frustrating aspects of Theros limited among players was the lack of strong removal to deal with cards like Wingsteed Rider or Favored Hoplite. To help remedy this, a lot of the removal at common will be Theros-costed for hard removal, but there will be a lot more temporary removal in the form of Seals - a card type that has its own archetype, but can be picked up by any deck as a form of early game removal that an opponent can remove later for a cost. In order to make removal weaker, most removal spells will be sorcery speed spells - however, some spells can be cast at instant speed for a higher rate via the Reflex mechanic, such as Strike Down. This is to weaken removal overall, but not lessen the as-fan of said removal. For example, Vanquish the Foul and Legion's Judgment are too weak and too powerful (respectively) for the level of removal I'm aiming for at common.

Instant Speed & The Combat Step: Due to the existence of Reflex and Sequence, a greater emphasis will be placed on being able to deal with spells on the stack. For that purpose, protective and delaying counterspells will be added to {w} and punishing counterspells will be added to {b}. Secondly, a greater importance will be placed on the combat step. Reflex cards, creatures with activated abilities, and combat tricks are heavily emphasized in this set, especially in regards to interacting with creatures in combat. However, as Ixalan and Amonkhet limited demonstrate, moving limited towards the combat step and including a wide variety of combat tricks in a set will tend to make the format more aggressive and punish blocking. To remedy that, much of the common removal and a couple of the combat tricks will favor the blocker rather than the attacker. Nearly all non-{r} Seals will discourage aggression while not discouraging blocking (see Neutralizing Seal, Pacification Seal, and Foretelling Seal), and removal and creature design is geared towards rewarding defensive play - or at the very least, not swinging with your entire board. Having multiple attacking creatures reduces risk on aggression, but increases risk on defense. On the other hand, having one or two main attacking creatures while other creatures might not attack opens more risk for aggression, but less risk on defense. There is a small concern that the format may trend itself towards defense too much, or at least a board flood and subsequent stall. This leads me to my other design consideration:

A More Focused Board: Due to the existence of Bequeath, there will need to be a fair amount of "token card" space dedicated to punch out cards. Therefore, there are no tokens at common and only a couple exist in the higher rarities. Instead, the traditionally-present token spots will be taken up by cards that can recur small creatures. This "tiny reanimation" exists on a single card at common and a couple at higher rarities. Obviously, since reanimation is a little more complex and color-specific than token creation, this effect will primarily exist in White and Black. Since many Wuxia and Xianxia stories focus on a small cast of characters, I wanted to capture that by avoiding "go wide" strategies in favor of combo or go-tall strategies. Many of the cards in this set that would traditionally provide board-wide bonuses (for example, a Trumpet Blast effect) are instead adjusted to be focused on a single creature, akin to Sigil Blessing. I don't want to discourage having a wide board, and there are certainly archetypes that will want a wider board, but I want to provide good reasons for you to focus on one or two creatures instead of a mass of creatures.

Easier Card Flow: Because of the emphasis on noncreature cards providing key roles in powering up your creatures, ensuring that all players have access to cards is also very important in the set. Every Seal can be turned into a cantrip late game, and more normal effects usually found on cards can cantrip or loot, to ensure that the player has access to more cards and sees more of their deck during a game.


Read the flavor and plot here.

Cardset comments (9) | Add a comment on this cardset

The set creator would like to draw your attention to these comments:

On Xianlu (reply):

With that, the first draft is 100% complete. Testing, then reiterating soon(tm).

What do you think of the set? What do you think of the cards? I'll be uploading this set to Planesculptors (without art) soon.

It's unlikely that I'll ever add art for this set, but if I do, it'll be a very long undertaking.

On Xianlu (reply):

Here is a (really bad) mockup of how the punch-out perforated cards for {+} abilities is going to look:


Recently active cards: (all recent activity)

Artifact Creature – Construct
Mirrordweller's power and toughness are each equal to the highest converted mana cost among other creatures you control.
“Like the heavens, they only exist when mortal eyes allow them to.”
last 2018-01-26 17:59:09 by Mal
Creature – Human Warrior
Reflex {4}{g} (You may cast this card any time you may cast an instant for its reflex cost.)
When Encouraging Compatriot enters the battlefield, target creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn.
"Don't fear, brother Li! We will take him down together!"
last 2018-01-21 22:42:55 by Mal
Reflex {1}{r}{r} (You may cast this card any time you may cast an instant for its reflex cost.)
Spells you control can't be countered.
"You are only as free as your will lets you."
-Dalama Rami, the Teacher
1 comment
2018-01-26 18:10:03 by Mal
Creature – Ogre Berserker
Wallbreaker can't block.
Bequeath (When this dies, target creature gains any number of {+} abilities on this creature.)
{+} When this creature dies, it deals 3 damage to each opponent.
1 comment
2018-01-20 02:02:11 by Mal
Creature – Human Monk
Deathwish Shifu attacks each turn if able.
Bequeath (When this dies, target creature gains any number of {+} abilities on this creature.)
{+} First strike
"Do this old man a favor, would you?"

Recent comments: (all recent activity)
On Xianlu:

Personally, I would consider Level up over Bequeath. To bring something new to the table by returning a mechanic, have auras that grant level up and levels. Venerated Teacher and Time of Heroes reprints seem quite fitting. Also, possibly stuff like "Rather than pay ~'s mana cost, you may tap Level 5 creature/Rogue you control." Having level up may also remove the possibility of monstrosity, but I don't see that mechanic as crucial in any way.

Having both Sequence and Reflex seems a bit redundant to me. Speaking of Surge, it's actually quite cleverly designed in that the reward (lower cost) also makes it easier to achieve the condition. For Sequence, maybe it could just copy the spell if you've cast another spell this turn?

Some other custom projects:

"Giants of Nangjiao"

Custom Return to Kamigawa block:

EDIT: Maybe some kind of pairing mechanic akin to Soulbond could be a thing.

Perhaps like https://www.reddit.com/r/custommagic/comments/7txc6i/threads_of_fate/ ? Like an extension of fight with a hint of soulbond or something...

On Xianlu:

Yeah, most of my mechanics are a means to an end in that respect - to me, they're pretty boring (esp. Unseal and Reflex) but they service the overall gameplay behind the set. The only one I'm really pushing is Bequeath. Personally, I've never really cared for exiling cards as a reminder tool. I understand its uses, but to me it seems like it's reducing fun graveyard shenanigans for reminder tools that aren't necessary for a set that's mostly going to be played on Cockatrice.

I think you may have missed the change in Sequence - much like Surge, it triggers off of any spell cast, rather than noncreature spells. It makes it a bit more "core set worthy" IMO, but the number of low-drop cards should improve that a bit.

On Xianlu:

Gongrats on the first draft - finishing it is no easy task.

Reflex is beyond forgettable - it's truly coreset worthy. Looking at the cards with it, they're just blah for me.

Bequeath: This probably depends on how it played out, but I never really bought it personally. Specifically, the punch-out implementation. What if it was something along the lines of

When this dies, exile it target creature and granting it's blaa ability

You know, more along the lines of convoke / haunt. Then on the bottom of the card, where it would usually have all the copyright / illustrator text (which now would be truncated), it would have the granted ability upside down. So you could, when exiled, turn the card upside down and below the creature it grants the ability and you could see the ability peeking out below from the top. Am I making sense here?

Sequence seems like it isn't that feasible most of the time. Considering how hard it can be to pull of, I don't whether the rewards are worth it. Why aren't there any rituals in the set? Wouldn't they be perfect with this mechanic?

Unseal is okay, but I don't see it as something that would pull players to the set by overly exciting them.

I never cared for Monstrosity - nothing wrong with it I guess.

On Xianlu:

With that, the first draft is 100% complete. Testing, then reiterating soon(tm).

What do you think of the set? What do you think of the cards? I'll be uploading this set to Planesculptors (without art) soon.

It's unlikely that I'll ever add art for this set, but if I do, it'll be a very long undertaking.

On Cai of the Four Eunuchs:

Might be a bit overcosted or a bit too fragile. Might bump it to a 2/4 and drop the menace.

On Erratic Reincarnation:

Gives creatures the ability rather than making a blanket effect so that you can't chain off polymorphs with a sacrifice outlet.

Might be a little too close thematically to Tanri, Celestial Daughter.

On Unshaking Resolve:

Very niche rare, but I'm sure someone can appreciate it.

This is also the only red Reflex card.

On Hundred-Ton Papers:

­Meishin, the Mind Cage is definitely what I was going for. I realize now that the flavor doesn't quite line up, but I wanted a Cumber Stone-esque effect and this seemed like a good fit for a controlling blue rare. I didn't want to have a don't-untap clause, mostly because I already have a don't-untap clause at rare in Spirit of Floods.

On Mirrordweller:

It's definitely a little on the pushed side, but in the end it's still a vanilla that requires you to play high cost creatures (even if it works just fine with a CMC3 or 4 creature on board). Since it's rare, I don't foresee it being too strong in limited. It may require getting bumped up to {3} if constructed testing with it goes poorly, but virtual vanillas that come down relatively late to make any impact at all (and get two-for-one'd early if your opponent has any removal) make me feel that the high upside to this card is negated by its high downside.

I can see some Delve builds with this in modern, but I don't see it breaking any other formats.

On Hundred-Ton Papers:

Reminds me somewhat of Meishin, the Mind Cage, Sphere of Safety, and Song of Serenity. I wonder why Song of Serenity doesn't use the term "enchanted creatures"? Maybe to make sure it isn't mistaken for an Aura itself?

So why does the second ability also affect not those enchanted?

Creatures that are enchanted lose flying, can't gain flying, and get -X/-0, where X is the number of Auras you control.

Or if we really go with Song of Serenity maybe just

Creatures that are enchanted don't untap during their controllers' untap steps.

The same favor could still apply, but it would be much cleaner and simpler.

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