Unstable, the third iteration in Magic’s Un- sets, which is essentially a collection of fever dreams that Mark Rosewater has had about Magic cards over the last several years, is right around the corner, and spoilers are coming thick and fast! Today I’ll be going over some of the most interesting cards that have been spoiled thus far, and give them each a letter grade. Let’s jump in!

The Grand Calcutron

This card is amazing. To me, this is exactly what Un- sets should do. They should impose some sort of ridiculous rule on the game and force players to adapt to it while still playing Magic. The best part about this particular rule is that it doesn’t punish players for not thinking far outside of the box, but rather rewards players having good foresight and being creative with where they place new cards in their hand. My only gripe with this is that it takes a lot of the surprise out of what your opponent could have. After all, this is an Un- set, where you don’t expect your opponent to have any remotely fair or balanced in their hand, and the reveal is the most exciting part.

B+

Split Screen

Just like The Grand Calcutron, this card imposes an odd rule on the game (although this time just on one player) that rewards players for thinking critically and taking interesting lines of play. Wizards of the Coast has been printing a lot of cards that reveal the top card of libraries recently, and this fits into that theme. I can only assume came from universal top-of-library reveal effects which cause players to always long for what the opponent has on the top of their library and wishing that they had access to multiple decks. I like this card a lot, but it gets a little shaky with search effects, so I won’t give it top marks.

B+

Three-Headed Goblin

I think that this card comes from a good place, and the mechanic introduced on it is a nice “breaking the rules”-style mechanic that many players had fantasized about now and again. That being said, a 3/3 triple-striker for 5 mana is a game-ender most times that it hits, making it a pretty un-fun card, and one that will end games quickly, preventing players from using their exciting and goofy Unstable cards.

C

Slaying Mantis

This card is unbelievably satisfying for a couple of reasons. In terms of gameplay, it’s powerful enough that you’ll want to jam in it your deck most of the time. It provides a powerful effect tacked onto a good body, and the 6/6 is usually good enough to take a couple of your opponent’s creatures out. In terms of design, this card is just as satisfying, if not more so. What you have to do outside of the game (throwing a card and trying to accurately land it on one or more creatures) is perfectly analogous to the flavor of this card. The Mantis isn’t necessarily accurate, but you can bet that it will fight anything that it hits. When playing this card, you can almost imagine the Mantis wildly landing on the battlefield. Also, the one-off mechanic “Just a Second” is perfect here, both in gameplay and name.

A+

Do-It-Yourself Seraph

This card is just odd enough to not be allowed to be printed in any normal set of Magic, so it’s a perfect time to print it in Unstable. This card could lead to a bunch of interesting game states and has the perfect level of influence on any particular draft it’s in. I look forward to doing fun things with it!

A

Rules Lawyer

It’s great flavor that this card has one line of relevant text and the rest of it is literally telling you how the rules work. That being said, I think this card is a little unfun to play with. Wizards has stopped printing these types of “I don’t lose” cards recently because they cause undesired board states. This one for me had the right intentions and I think flavorfully it’s great, but I don’t think it’s a good addition to the set overall.

C

The Countdown is at One

The art is great on this, and it’s a great addition to most red aggressive decks. Do you have a lot of burn spells or aggressive creatures in your deck? Good news! This is also a callback to the style of deciding tournament matches once time expired where the first change in life total decided the match. My one gripe with this card is that it should really be an enchantment with an enters the battlefield trigger on it!

B+

Wall of Fortune

Another example of A+ flavor text. This is a nice nod to casual Magic and D&D, however Magic is an inherently combative game, where you’re looking to be victorious over your opponents, so I doubt this card will act as more than just a wall most of the time, unless you stack your deck with roll effects.

B-

capital offense

This card is another creative way to kill opposition creatures and punish them for playing complicated creatures! Most of the time this card will be a straight-up kill spell phrased in a creative way, but I’ll be excited to play with this card, as it’s a perfect example of the creativity that can be released through interesting designs in Un- sets.

b+ (in the flavor of the card, i won’t use a capital letter)

Summon the Pack

A powerful effect on awesome wordplay! What more could you want from a mythic in an Un- set? For me, this is the best type of this effect that we’ve seen, and although it only grabs creatures, I think flavorfully it fits better in black. Y’know, greatness at any cost and whatnot. My only concern here is that it might be too powerful and get you too much of a mana and card advantage over the opponent.

A-

Hangman

This card has been getting a lot more hate than I thought it was going to, and I think this is largely due to it not perfectly representing a game of hangman. This card is more interesting as a way of testing a player’s greediness and creativity when picking a word. It makes combat interesting and pushes players to the limit of how far they’re willing to go to get a big creature.

A-

Spike, Tournament Grinder

We finally get a Spike card! The flavor here is great, as Spikes are willing to go to any lengths to win the game, and risking life total is absolutely one of the ways that Spikes do this. Searching for a banned/restricted card also fits perfectly with Spike, as they’re the reason why the cards were banned to begin with. My major grip with this card is that I don’t think it’s very good. There comes a limit with how much life you can spend in any given game, so searches will frequently become extremely expensive. Now that being said, search up a Yawgmoth’s Bargain and you’ve got a real Spikey stew goin’ there. If this card was one of the best in the set it would get an A+ from me, but I think the balancing brings its grade down.

B+

Crow Storm

Memes.

A+

Basic Lands

These basic lands are amazing, and look like a user-made creation. Shoutout to Forest, which I think is my favorite. It might be sacrilege to say that I like these more than the Unhinged lands… but I think I do. I’m definitely looking to pick up a bunch of these whenever I can.

A+

Final Thoughts

I, for one, wait with baited breath for every new Unstable spoiler. Sets like these are a perfect way of taking a step back from Magic to appreciate how great this game is. These cards aren’t serious, they’re not powerful necessarily, and they’re certainly not in the vein of competitive Magic, but that’s what makes them great. It sometimes gets easy to get caught up in the game. To get caught up in winning at all costs. Un- sets are a great reminder that even though winning is nice and striving for excellence has its obvious merits, in the end we’re all playing the same game, casting the same cards, trying to achieve the same goal: having fun.

This weekend I’ll be in Baltimore for the SCG Team Constructed Open, and I’m teaming with Spellsnare writer Riccardo Monico and former Spellsnare writer Sam Chapin. It should be a very fun tournament, where I’ll be playing Standard with Esper God-Pharaoh’s Gift. And who knows, maybe all it takes is good friends and a good atmosphere to take home a trophy.

Until next time,

Jonah

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