This week Unstable was released. The third installment of the infamous Un-Sets. These silver-bordered sets are typically not legal in constructed formats and are intended for strictly casual play. However, they do come with a premium John Avon borderless basic and a foil token with some foil tokens having full art backs.
I’m judging the set on four criteria: limited play, constructed play, financial forecast and all around quality.
Limited Play –
All I have to say is High Five, Mark and rest of the R&D team. I give it a Storm Rating of 8 because it was just fun. I’ve now drafted this twice now and both times were a blast. I am excited about doing it again and trying sealed. Truth be told, I was a little worried about all of the shenanigans being too disruptive to the gameplay but R&D did a fantastic job. All the outside-the-game interactions, running around giving high-fives, card sharing and games within games just added to humor and fun to the set. Augment was a super cool mechanic. If it was implemented correctly, I could see it released in Standard. Also, I could see contraptions release as part of an alternate format (like Planechase). I hope any future Un-Sets will include these. Don’t take my word for it, go to your local game store and discover it for yourself.
Constructed Play – maybe
In short, the last two unsets I would have given graded their constructed prowess. However, I can see a place for many of these cards in kitchen table Commander. None of the cards seem overly broken or at least not as broken an many of the other cards already legal in Commander. As a result, WotC announced a temporary unbanning of most silver border cards in Commander until Jan 15th. I suspect that some playgroups will embrace this and permanently embrace silver borders cards. If these cards see widespread permanent into Commander Groups I would change my Storm Rating from 1 to 5 because this set has a number of cards that would see Commander play if they were introduced in a normal block set.
This brings me to my next point, the reserve list. If silver-bordered cards become readily accepted in Commander, WotC may have found a loophole in the reprinting reserve list items. According to the reserve list rules, “All policies described in this document apply only to tournament-legal Magic cards.” Silver-bordered cards are not tournament legal and Commander is a casual format. Therefore, if WotC wanted to they could print many of the reserve list items with silver borders. Probably will never happen but they did say they would never do another unset and mechanics that rate high on the Storm rating will only be printed if all the perfect situation would call for it. Madness was a 9 at the time of Shadows over Innistrad was released and or Phasing is still a 9 with Teferi’s Protection from Commander 2017. They keep introducing new cards that Mark Rosewater said: “I will never say never, but this would require a minor miracle.” Just my two cents.
Financial – maybe
As with its predecessors, Unstable has little value except for basic lands, special tokens and a couple of fan favorite chase mythics with the rest being bulk. That said I think that this set may have more long-term value than the previous Un-Sets. I foresee two scenarios: 1) It will be just like other Un-sets only Basics, Foil Basics and Tokens have any value. OR, 2) Unlike the other Un-Sets, most of the cards are actually playable and become popular in many commander groups and cube builders. Personally, I suspect that the second will be the case but as of now, I can only give 3 Storm Rating for value because you get a basic land in nearly every pack along with a high chance of getting a desirable token. Scenario #2 become more relevant than I suspect that a 5 will be in order but never higher since this set will never see play in any competitive constructed format.
This is a tough one because of the unique nature of this set. First, I was disappointed in the non-foil versions of the basic lands which is one of the big selling points of the set. The colors seem muted and do not have the same pop as the Unhinged lands did. The only land that seems to have any definition was the Plains. However, the foils of these lands are beautiful. The foiling gave the cards the additional contrast these basics needed. On the flip side, the tokens are all awesome. The full-bleed token all look great and the foil flip site is awesome. Though I am disappointed there is not a full-bleed foil version of these. Unlike a some of the other printing over the last couple of years I found no real issues with the quality.
Two other things I’d like to point out are the cards that have alternate art, abilities and flavor text AND contraptions from each faction when pieced together correctly create one of five pictures. This is awesome.
Overall this is set is a super-fun limited format, may see some commander play in causal groups and has a potential long-term positive financial value because of the basic lands. As with any set, if you want single don’t buy packs buy singles from your local game store. Packs are for drafting.