Magic: The Gathering Nixie Life Counter

Someone sent in a tip that pointed us to this Magic: The Gathering forum thread where a user named [DistortedDesigns] made a life counter for Magic: The Gathering out of Nixie tubes. While there’s not many details for this build, it’s just too cool to be forgotten in a single forum.

The project began by etching some plexiglas. There’s some earlier examples of [DistortedDesigns]’ work that look very professional. The electronic are extremely simple – the 25 LEDs run off of 2 AA cells, and the nixies run off of 2 C cells. We were wondering when [DistortedDesigns] would drop the A-bomb, but it looks like this build doesn’t use a microcontroller.

The controls are back are toggle switches to power the LEDs and nixies. There are two knobs on the back, and from the write-up it’s pretty easy to infer that these are 10-position rotary switches. [DistortedDesigns] says, “the knobs in the back rotate around and supply power to each digit one at a time,” so with a transformer this seems like a very simple build.

It’s an excellent build that didn’t get enough attention when it’s author posted it. If you know of any under-appreciated builds, send it in send it in to our tip line.

26 thoughts on “Magic: The Gathering Nixie Life Counter

  1. The only problem I can see with that is you could never use it in any kind of tournament, because you’d be so constantly mobbed by impressed passersby that you’d never have time to play the game. :D

  2. well thats just great but its a little big, and it doesnt count down how many “lives” you have, it counts down your life points you have remaining, cool build but a bit big for gameplay.

  3. Looks like the knobs control the counters. neat design but needs some form of embededness. maybe add a webcam that looks at your cards and keeps track of stats via a small lcd screen, save the tubes for keeping score of wins/loses.

  4. @jake

    Yeah, if you have a decent number of rare cards. If I recall each booster had 1 rare, so you ought to be able to get atleast some money if you have a decent number of cards. Mayber even tons of money.

  5. Magic is still going. However, your old cards only have value as collectors items. Every edition increases the strength of the cards. So using old cards vs new cards will be a slaughter.

  6. “So using old cards vs new cards will be a slaughter.”

    Only if you suck at playing.

    I regularly utterly own n00bs that think they can only play with the new cards. In fact I have a very old deck that I built that will nail most anyone in 3 turns… Poof you are dead. and no it does not use any banned cards.

  7. First, let me say, I’m not really a Magic fan. I do think the art is cool though. But this project is beautiful, well-done, and also useful to the game. Great job Magic Nerd!!!!

  8. @Daid – The very first edition has some of the most powerful and broken cards in the whole game. I have a mono-red burn deck with old cards that can hold it’s own against any three decks with only new cards. If anything I ‘d say they try to balance it more with edition that comes out

  9. I was inspired by this article to build my own. Pat and I made three of them, steampunk-themed. Google ‘MTG nixie life counter’ and you will see it. Three digits. I designed an extra circuit to strobe the display to save power (70hz so that it doesn’t interfere with 60hz overhead lighting), but other than that, it runs off 4x AA cells for about 12 to 18 hours. Rotary switches allow you to select a digit. We built them in 2017, I think, and have been using them ever since.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.