Two weeks ago, I spoke about my issues with the two Un-sets; my overall feelings that the sets highlighted mechanics I might like from other games, but were not I needed in my games of Magic the Gathering, added length to game in ways that I didn’t perceive as enjoyable and the fact that the jokes the sets were trying to tell not that funny to me. On the eve of the set’s release, I would like to talk about Unstable and how I am happier with the set as a cohesive whole. Then, I will dive into a few of the legendary creatures from the set and how I might want to build with them under the pretense that my playgroup allows for it. But first, I feel obliged to talk about some current events in Commander.

Interrupting Cow Wh–

In my last article I made my case for the legality of silver-bordered cards in Commander, saying that they should be discussed with your playgroup and the existence of any – not necessarily by name – should be disclosed at the start of the play session. I was also of the opinion that the Rules Committee should not have to weigh in on this issue.

So what happened? Well, of course the Rules Committee weighed in on the issue. Until mid-January silver-bordered cards will be legal in the format, besides a dozen or so cards they deemed banned and a handful that they advised against, but did not outright ban. This created a bit of an uproar as people complained about this choice and others made a mad rush for Now I Know My ABC’s. In hindsight, I understand why the Rules Committee felt they needed to step in. By making it official it added some legitimacy to people’s request to play with Un-cards; and since people are allergic to active discussion, they needed to do that.

But to those complaining, just talk to your groups. Tell them in a respectful way why you might be opposed to this subset of cards’ inclusion. Like the preconstructed Commander decks, you’ll see a lot of new cards for a few weeks, but soon the unfun and tedious cards will disappear from people’s decks. I am on your side for most of the cards printed in Unglued and Unhinged—they are dumb and the Gotcha mechanic was a mistake. But this should be a casual and relaxed format.

Uncanny Recovery

As I alluded to, I went into the Unstable preview season really not especially hyped. I recognized that this product was just not for me, but was cautiously curious to see what this set would bring to Magic’s ever-growing design space. My skepticism was met very quickly by overwhelming excitement as the first few previews came out and the more refined design of this set came into focus.

It should be no surprise that Unstable as a whole is a more refined package than previous outings. With approximately six years of blended design and development on the set, I can only imagine that a lot of ideas were heralded as “perfect” only to be looked at again six months to a year later and determined that they could be even better. I really enjoyed the use of jokes that were based more in visual than in sophomoric humor. Also, the number of dexterity cards feels much lower while also being simple to resolve. Most importantly, the unified push for worldbuilding generated factions that gave the set a much better direction.

With limited exposure, the smaller themes of the set have balanced out nicely on a gut level. I look at things like the “watermark matters” and “outside of the game assistance” cards as being fun includes in Cube, the one-off mechanics like blurry, triple strike or protection from black borders all work within the rules of the game provided that you’re open to the idea of them, the squirrel theme feels completely black border if the game allowed for more whimsy (easily a topic for another article), and a good chunk of the legendary permanents seem very well suited for Commander. And on that note, let’s get into the Commander-focused part of this article.

Weird Science

Dr. Julius Jumblemorph is an interesting case. While it is completely valid to design around his host/augment rules text in Commander, I feel like the list of available cards for this color identity is too short to make it a major theme of your deck. But I might consider including those cards to help fill out my other 99. Where I would like to go with this deck is a Green/White Mistform Ultimus style deck, using tools like the Morningtide tribal equipment—Obsidian Battle-Axe or Veteran’s Armaments—or more recent but obscure equipment like Bladed Bracers and Sharpened Pitchfork to empower Dr. Julius Jumblemorph.

Additionally, the change in color identity means that we gain access to some fun cards that care about creature types. This can be as simple as having the full benefits off of Moonmist, always being able to champion your Unstoppable Ash, overload the power of Alpha Status/Stoneforge Masterwork, or always drawing a card off of your Rootgrapple. There is a weird and probably very fun deck to be built here.

Splice Into Creatures

Besides having a really great name, Grusilda, Monster Masher has renewed my faith in the Rakdos color identity. While I cannot guarantee that I will ever be able to blend together Platinum Angel with True-Name Nemesis, I look forward to packing my deck with spells like Entomb and Buried Alive to set-up my own graveyard while using Anvil of Bogardan, Cunning Lethemancer, or Chandra Ablaze to fill up everyone else’s graveyards as well. This deck is probably subtly difficult to build, seeing as you’ll want to pack your deck with fun creatures to combine with others discard/mill spells, and answers to your opponents. You know, a functioning deck skeleton.

I really like Grusilda for the sheer fact of just being so customizable—just another example of a card whose text is out there, but still possible to reason out. This gives the Rakdos color identity some really interesting space to play in that I can’t say they’ve ever had the chance to dig into. I hope that combining creatures can be figured out in some fashion for black border one day, even if in a limited card pool.

Too Long; Didn’t Read

This is next level Dimir, going beyond characteristically ill-defined shapeshifters, and I love it. I feel content with Phoebe, Head of S.N.E.A.K. because she will be copying the text boxes off good things in play, and Commander decks are almost entirely good things to put into play. The real puzzle here is what you include in your deck. The instinct is to play a sinister version of a “Group Hug” deck that allows people to play out all their cool stuff for you to reap the benefits from. Unlike something like a Nekusar deck, this doesn’t need to be quite as vindictive, considering you want things to survive on the battlefield long enough for you snatch each text box up.

I suppose this means you’ll want to make your deck primarily protective spells to keep Phoebe safe, use black for removal and have a light smattering of creatures whose text you want grafted onto your general. A few favorites thus far are creatures with protection like Enemy of the Guildpact or Etched Champion, creatures that are hard to remove like Darksteel Colossus and Inkwell Leviathan, and fun mix-and-match combinations like Triskelion meets Anthroplasm. Additionally, removing the text box from a Death’s Shadow is a legendary EDH play.

Slice and Dice

I never dreamed there would be a deck that would want both Furnace of Rath and Doubling Season more than Thromok the Insatiable, but Ol’ Buzzbark might be that deck. Possibly the most linear of the generals I will be profiling today, the gimmick here really favors a line of play that wants to cash in on big mana—Mana Flare, Heartbeat of Spring, Mana Reflection—and heavy token production—Box of Free-Range Goblins, Artifact Mutation, Gelatinous Genesis—to profit off the general with the most dice hitting the most creatures on our battlefield. On the offensive, we can wipe a player’s board with Goblin Infestation and then sink a large mana pool into Ol’ Buzzbark to use him like a Wrath effect.

Culling our opponents creatures while also beefing our creatures up then pays off with Dictate of the Twin Gods and Angrath’s Marauders in play to make our game super fast. I imagine the very straightforward nature of Mr. Buzzbark will cause opinion of him to be divided between those who love him for his fast gameplay and those who see him as the least Un of the generals printed in Unstable.

Does Not Compute

Speaking of divided opinion: The Grand Calcutron!

Let me lay down an opinion that is counter to the vocal parts of the community I’ve seen thus far: The Grand Calcutron can be a general. Mark Rosewater said so on his blog —for Unrulings, I consider that official—and frankly, the card is built like a general. I understand that people are more likely to take to the internet to complain than praise anything, but I don’t understand the stick in the mud behavior here. If we’re already in silver-bordered legal territory, this is not a huge stretch.

In terms of what we do with the deck, there are competing forces here. On one hand, you could set your program up to alternate between control spells and instant speed drawing to allow you to manage your program effectively. Or you could just abandon control spells altogether and just play your game with sequenced plays that are public knowledge and plan to win in spite of that. It also can’t be overlooked how having Telepathy as your general can actually take a lot of the attention off yourself, as everyone knows what everyone is up to. This deck is huge question mark to me, but it’s very exciting at the same time, I really feel like creative people could do exciting things with this at the helm of their deck.

Alright folks, I think that’s my time for the week. I really look forward to Unstable, time will tell if the previews were more exciting than the actual gameplay, but I have faith. If you build around these generals let me know what you decide to do, or if you are completely against the idea of silver-bordered cards or even just The Grand Calcutron as a MaRo-approved general, I’d like to hear from you too. Discussion and feedback is the lifeblood of content, so don’t be afraid. Until next time, thanks.

Ryan Sainio is a Graphic Designer who writes about EDH, the story of Magic and the EDH community in his down time. He has been playing Magic: The Gathering since 7th Edition in 2002 and values flavorful and fun gameplay over competitively optimized decks.
Pet Deck – Shattergang Eldrazi

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