When I started writing weekly almost three years ago, I’d never have thought that I would have written three different articles talking about silver-bordered cards having a mostly positive place in Commander. The topic brings about a lot of sour feelings among Commander aficionados and I was very vocal both online and off for a long time about my feelings regarding the first two un-sets. I saw the appeal, but only personally enjoyed Unglued and Unhinged when the jokes are based more in visual than sophomoric humor.

But then something changed. Since Unstable, silver-bordered sets as a whole have become a more refined package than the previous outings. In the new era of silver-bordered sets, a unified push for silver-bordered worldbuilding generated factions, giving Unstable a specific overall feel. And I believe that Unsanctioned may be currently benefiting from being a smaller pool of cards, giving each of them more room to shine and breathe.

But what is Unsanctioned? This go around we’re getting a box set of five 30-card decks. You shuffle together two decks and play against a friend who has done the same. While I have obviously not played this strange un-format yet, I find the premise rather genius. Add in the fact that we get a full cycle of enemy color identity legendary creatures, Unsanctioned is going to offer a lot to Commander players who want to include unorthodox cards into their games.

And on that note, let’s pull the focus to Commander and discuss each of the new generals offered up by the new set.

Alexander Clamilton

There is no question in my mind that there is a viable deck to be had here, yet I personally don’t really feel drawn to Alexander Clamilton.

This is, however, a very good time to praise Wizards and the designers of Unsanctioned on their decision to make these legendary creatures fit into a two color identity for the purpose of Commander. This even extends into the Constructed portion of the product, pushing to you to find the wedge that’s right for you. But allowing “Unmander” decks to be two color is a great reason to love this product.

Finding wordy cards—those with four or more lines of rules text—is not really hard in Blue/Red; you could practically just pick a mechanic like landfall or constellation and have the basis of a fine theme deck. I just know that my plans would involve tutoring for Magebane Armor and Thornbite Staff to mow down the battlefield. Adding in the typical Izzet spells skeleton and you have a fairly potent deck, something Alex Szeto would beat me with. Like I said, there are plenty of people who will really enjoy Alexander Clamilton, he just happens not to be for me.

Syr Cadian, Knight Owl

I love Syr Cadian, Knight Owl. I love that they are a knight lord, an owl, and that they play differently depending on the time of day.

Knights have been getting a lot of deserved support lately, with Valiant Knight and (unofficially) Kwende, Pride of Femeref joining the fray with Knight Exemplar and Kinsbaile Cavalier. Add to that The Circle of Loyalty and Knights’ Charge also coming to us last Fall, this Syr Cadian is going to be the push for me to build Knight tribal that Aryel, Knight of Windgrace couldn’t be.

Looking exclusively at Syr Cadian, the activated abilities are cute, but the static ability has so much upside on a five mana 4/4. By layering on a form of lifelink that stacks with the staple mechanic, I believe that a properly running deck will never have to worry about their life total. This leaves room for abusing a card like Greed or Erebos, God of the Dead to gain untold card advantage. Get your Karlov of the Ghost Council, Dawn of Hope, and Archangel of Thune ready, they are about to see even more play.

Pippa, Duchess of Dice

Dice have always been the part of un-sets that I think is the closest to just being part of normal Magic. While there are of course six faces on a die, the cards are often designed to really only care about three different results at most. Either way, Pippa, Duchess of Dice is a fun looking commander that not only does her own form of token creation, but can also change a bad roll with Hydradoodle or Chicken à la King in your favor—that’s timing that makes sense, right?

This deck could be certifiably zany; get out your Arcane Adaptation, make your dice into bears and start going to town with Ayula, Queen Among Bears. Gain card advantage off Keeper of Fables and Sage of the Falls. And try to find a way to properly mark +1/+1 counters after casting Curse of Predation on an opponent. I would advise making sure the table you are playing at is sturdy, as once again un-sets make every aspect of a game of Magic something to consider.

Stet, Draconic Proofreader

I’m happy that the Red general is the most unorthodox of the options we have to talk about from this product. Finally we have a place for Spy Kit!

For this deck, I want to take a page out of Aurelia, the Warleader and try to maximize the amount of attack steps I can take. A little bit of self mill to get some options into your graveyard, go wide with Helm of the Host and then stacking up damage with Dictate of the Twin Gods or Relentless Assault. Whichever flavor of damage you like. My favorite part is that you can tailor the cards in your deck to the names of the players in your group or the creature and planeswalkers you might be worried about. Not to mention, the infect win with Grafted Exoskeleton.

In truth, my only real criticism here is that there is not any support for this strategy within the product. That’s probably what keeps this card from steamrolling over any other strategy. Though, I wish we could have gotten a card that renamed creatures or players—that would have been perfect. Regardless, I’d be very interested in digging into this deck and what it can do.

Acornelia, Fashionable Filcher

What a great feeling—we finally have a squirrel commander. Since the preview of Earl of Squirrel, the satirical members of the Commander community have been awaiting this course correction by Wizards.

Acornelia, Fashionable Filcher highlights one of the genius elements of un-sets: the ability to leverage aspects of the cards like art to become parts of gameplay. While it doesn’t happen very often, versions of cards like the Monstrous Growth in Portal Second Age or Might of Oaks from Urza’s Legacy gain extra value.

Having played a squirrels deck in the past, I can reasonably say that the deck is not that powerful but it is incredibly fun. There is something about the first few turns where players are judging you based solely off their knowledge of the commander of choice, then you cast Squirrel Mob into Squirrel Wrangler and they honestly don’t know how to react. I will likely be converting my Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice squirrel deck over to this in the near future and finally test drive Deep Forest Hermit alongside Deranged Hermit after the long hibernation of the deck.

Surgeon General Commander

I fall on the side of many who believe that Surgeon General Commander is meant to be some kind of plant by featuring the mutate keyword with no other context. That’s why they are going to be so hard to properly assess—maybe I’ll promise to write a full article about them if mutate ever surfaces.

My instinct at this point is that we can make this into a secret Dr. Julius Jumblemorph deck, allowing a player to include all the host and augment creatures in print. The only thing required is to weigh the deck with a little more card draw than usual, combined with something like Eladamri’s Call to cut to the chase and find our real general. A little bit creature ball with a mixture of enchantress, having beefed up Beast Whisperer as your general is rather attractive. Especially when they can create any kind of mana you may require.

Over the last three years my position on unsets has changed a lot, yet my stance on their inclusion in Commander has changed very little. I still believe that each player has a role to play in their own playgroup. That any reservations should be presented in a respectful way that spells out why you might be opposed to this subset of cards’ inclusion. But this should be a casual and relaxed format after all.

My personal stance is that Unstable forward could be legal in Commander and not really hurt anything. But in a compromise scenario, I believe each of the legendary creatures or planeswalkers—maybe not Spike, Tournament Grinder—should be legal as Commanders, but that I am not personally in favor of making all silver-bordered cards legal because it would create too long of banned list to remove the “unfun” cards. This compromise directly contradicts the vision for my secret Dr. Julius Jumblemorph deck and may leave some generals all but unusable or overly confusing like Phoebe, Head of S.N.E.A.K. or Richard Garfield, Ph.D., but I think the generals most people want to play with could find a place in the metagame. But once again, the real discussion needs to happen with your playgroup.

Ryan Sainio is a Graphic Designer who writes about EDH and the EDH community. He has been playing Magic: The Gathering since 7th Edition in 2002 and values flavorful and fun gameplay over competitively optimized decks.

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