Welcome to the land of Un-! I love the Un- sets to a disturbing degree…
Given all of that, it won't surprise you to find that every article I write between now and the Unstable release on December 8 is going to involve Unstable, Unhinged and/or Unglued in some way.
This week, I thought we'd talk about some Un- cards that should be part of your casual Magic scene. I know, many of the Un- cards are simply broken. Have you seen "Ach! Hans, Run!" pulling your best creature onto the battlefield turn after turn? Whether it is the mana cost or because the card asks you to do something embarrassing, there are cards that simply shouldn't see the light of day in regular casual decks. However, there are plenty of cards that are a lot of fun that require only the most basic tweaking to be great in your casual games. My group has a basic rule when it comes to silver-bordered cards: ask first, and the group will probably say yes.
There are plenty of cards in the Un- sets that can easily be ported into regular games. Artful Looter, AWOL, Carnivorous Parrot, and even Granny's Payback are all cards that could easily be played at your kitchen table. In fact, I'd guess that over half of the silver-bordered cards could be played without any problem, other than many of them just aren't good enough to make it into decks! You can spot plenty of these cards in Unglued and Unhinged. Even cards like Mesa Chicken, that require you to cluck like a chicken, can easily be added to decks, especially if like me you have little to no concern about people staring at you.
The cards I'm going to look at today offer a little more of a challenge. These cards will turn your games on their head a little bit. If the goal of your group's games is memorable, fun moments, I think you'll want to give a few of these cards a chance.
I do love this card. A 1/1 trampler for two mana wouldn't be worth it on its own, but when you consider the upside, why not! The Un-official rules say that three in a row includes horizontal, vertical and diagonal so a full card gets +72/+72. I would happily settle for a single row and a 9/9 trample creature for two mana. There are some tough mana costs to get no matter which way you try to get your row of chips, but playing Commander can make some of them easier. If an opponent chooses not to play a spell because it would finish a row for you, then I'd say you definitely hit BINGO!
I don't generally like board resets. I want the game to play out naturally, but some games need to end. I like the idea of taking a Commander game that is getting out of your control and simply exiling the battlefield and graveyards, then resetting everyone's hand to seven with a starting life total of 10. If you find your group's games are dragging on, Once More with Feeling may be just the card you need to get everyone moving.
This isn't a card that is going to change your metagame or provide for a crazy moment. This card is only an Un- card because of the name and the fact that it creates a chicken. If this was called, "Ewe Lose," and turned the creature into a sheep, it could be a regular card… Well, maybe not, but you understand that playing three mana to turn a creature into a 1/1 with no abilities is not particularly Un- like. I include the card because I used it as removal until Snakeform and others that were just better came along. Fowl Play is blue only and can be another option in a deck that is looking for removal. Besides, three mana is a pretty poultry sum to spend for removal in blue.
The practical aspect of this card doesn't necessarily jump out at you on first reading. You are getting the same number of lands back that you had and all of those lands are untapped. So once you have more than three mana on the battlefield, Gerrymandering can get you extra mana just by tapping out before all the lands are shuffled together. When you have nine mana, Gerrymandering can get you to Emrakul, the Aeons Torn mana.
Obviously, the real fun of Gerrymandering is messing with your opponents' lands. Plenty of nonbasic lands shifting from one player to the next. If you are a mono-green player, you aren't going to be too concerned, since you'll likely get at least a few cards back that can produce the green mana you need. If you are a five-color player, you'll be getting lands back that you'll be able to use, but naturally, you are taking a chance that you'll miss on something you need.
My Nissa deck finds plenty of land, so Gerrymandering is not scary at all! In fact, Genesis Wave or Green Sun's Zenith are particularly fun right after Gerrymandering, while playing Avenger of Zendikar is something you want to do before casting Gerrymandering!
The only downside is that some players get annoyed that they'll have to keep track of who owns which lands. This can lead to some retribution, but given the prevalence of sleeves in most groups, that shouldn't be a real issue at the end of most games.
My group loves Goblin Bookie. There is one player who has a coin flipping deck that relies on the Bookie and Krark's Thumb to get plenty of coin flips landing the way he wants. The deck can get degenerate but only if the table allows it to happen.
And that is the joy with Goblin Bookie. It only really does something in decks that are already using chance as part of their tactic. They are generally taking a 50/50 coin flip and using Goblin Bookie to make it 75% in their favor, or if they are rerolling a die looking for a particular number they can increase their odds from 17% to 31%. I'll happily give anyone those better odds in a Magic game if they are willing to run something as crazy as Goblin Bookie!
I'm not a fan of tutors generally, but a card that doesn't reliably get another single card sounds very interesting! With Commander games, Goblin Tutor is going to completely miss on a one or a two, leaving you with a respectable 67% to replace the Tutor with another card – but only a one in six chance of getting the card you really want – appeals to the part of me that loves unpredictable games. Goblin Tutor is also great at setting up your five-card combo, since you'll likely find something you were looking for. Any anyone attempting to set up a five-card combo gets a thumbs-up from me!
My friend Josh has this card in his Rare Cube and I got a chance to play with it a couple of times recently. You are playing a 1/1 creature that has no way to defend itself. It costs four mana. Then it costs four mana to search for the exact card you want from your deck. Then you have to cast the card. Now in Commander, you can play a Demonic Tutor for two mana to get the exact card you want, so the real benefit of Johnny, Combo Player, is that you can get more than one card. The problem now is that you need 12 mana to find those two cards, and the mana to cast them.
In draft, this was going to mean that it would be several turns spent to get two cards out of my library and get them onto the battlefield. It just took too long to be useful. In Commander, there will be games where you'll have enough mana to tutor for the two cards you'll need, however it is unlikely you'll have enough mana to tutor for the two cards you need on the same turn that you cast Johnny, Combo Player. And even if you could, you'll likely have to wait another turn before casting them. If your opponents can't destroy this glass cannon, you likely deserve to win.
This is another card in Josh's Rare Cube. I was looking to change all instances of one to zero, with the thought that a couple of the planeswalkers I'd drafted would be very interesting. The thing to remember is that this changes every one to a zero. All one-toughness creatures would die, all instances of one generic mana would become zero instead. It is likely you have not considered the full implications of what you are going to do.
The other part to remember is that this affects your opponents' cards as well. If you are trying to make your cards cheaper, you are doing the same for your opponents' cards. Their creatures also get bigger. Their activated abilities also change. This is the equivalent of the genie granting your wish. You are not going to foresee all the changes and pick correctly. Pick the line that works for you and hope it doesn't bite you too badly later on!
I used to think this card was great because it encouraged players to do something. Who wants to take three damage? Better to attack or do something so you aren't taking the damage. Then I saw the reality of the card in multiplayer games and realized just how cruel it was.
You play Burning Cinder Fury of Crimson Chaos Fire and pass the turn. Your buddy Jenny plays Glorybringer and swings at Frank. Jenny then passes all the lands she tapped to play Glorybringer and Glorybringer to Becky. Frank takes his turn and plays Nissa, Steward of Elements. Frank takes three damage for not tapping anything, and passes the five lands he tapped to pay for Nissa to you. Becky, using Jenny's lands, plays Tilonalli's Skinshifter and attacks Frank with the Glorybringer and the Skinshifter as a copy of Glorybringer. At the end of her turn she passes Jenny's lands, Jenny's Glorybringer, and the Skinshifter on to you. You attack with the Glorybringer and Skinshifter at Frank, then tap Jenny's lands for no reason, other than to pass all of it on to Jenny, who will continue the assault on Frank.
The vicious politicking that can be done with this card is amazing. If any player is left out, they are dead soon enough since they only get to use their cards once, then they will probably never get them back again. This sounds less like an Un- card and far more like a Conspiracy card that changes the way the game is played!
There are so many great cards in these sets that are being ignored, simply because they have a silver border. Talk to your group and open up the possibilities in your games. It is Unlikely you'll be Unhappy about letting some Un into your games!
P.S. Now is a good time to start following me on Twitter. The Unquirer just released its first edition yesterday and plans to release Monday-Friday until Unstable is released! Don't miss out!