I’ve been extremely surprised and pleased by the volume and quality of responses to my dailies so far this week. Thank you to everybody who read my articles about Regionals Attendance, the lack of a public Ravnica Block Constructed season, and the theoretical Psychatog-inclusive Standard environment. In today’s article, I’m going to keep on the theoretical track and explore two of the last non-tournament legal sets in Magic: Unglued and Unhinged.
Unglued and Unhinged were both intended as humorous, casual-friendly sets. However, both sets contain cards that are completely off-the-curve on their power level. In fact, multiple cards in Unhinged and Unglued are so powerful, that they would warrant a restriction in Vintage were they tournament legal! Which silver-bordered cards would make the cut in Vintage and Legacy? Would any other cards from these sets be Standard staples, if printed in a black border?
Before I answer these questions, let me set some ground rules. First of all, all cards that could not function within the realm of normal Magic (such as cards which require you to balance them on your head, do the Hokey Pokey, or tear them up to get an effect) are not up for consideration. This means Blacker Lotus, Chaos Confetti, Volrath’s Motion Sensor, and Handcuffs are sadly not going to be discussed in this article, except in this paragraph. Other funky, non-mainstream-Magic type cards (such as those which involve speaking certain words, or the such) will be discussed in passing.
Gleemax: A potential Tinker target. It would also combo extraordinarily well with any card which considers converted mana cost, such as Erratic Explosion or Undying Flames. Be careful — don’t use it with Heed the Mists!
Jack-in-the-Mox: This zero-drop artifact would end up on the Vintage restricted list. There are many decks that would love to run a sixth Mox (not counting Chrome Mox and Mox Diamond), such as Grim Long, and many Workshop decks. The drawbacks to this card (potentially losing Jack-in-the-Mox and five life, and/or not controlling the color of mana produced) seem negligible compared to the benefits of adding another zero-drop, no-cost-to-play Mox to your deck. I see the drawback on Jack-in-the-Mox as comparable to the drawback on Mana Crypt.
Mana Screw: Mana Screw, for all intents and purposes, reads 1: eventually generate infinite mana. Mana Screw would also degrade tournaments into hour-long coin-flipping sessions. Mana Screw is so ridiculous that it would likely have to be banned in Vintage, both for power considerations and time constraints.
Mox Lotus: Nobody would be hard casting a 15-drop artifact, but they sure would Tinker for it. Would there be an instant-kill that is readily available with Mox Lotus? This means that if you use it to cast, say, Blaze for five billion and your opponent has Force of Will, you’ll be caught with your, well, you know, in your hand. Yes, I know good Vintage players would be using Kaervek’s Torch or Demonfire. I’m illustrating a point… let it go!
Urza’s Hot Tub: I’m sure that there would be a use for this card, such as turning Vampiric Tutor into Demonic Tutor, or Mox Pearl into Mox Sapphire, or transforming Cunning Wish into Burning Wish. I don’t see turning Swords to Plowshares into Wall of Swords, but I could see swapping Hurkyl’s Recall for Ancestral Recall, or swapping any Goblin in your Goblin deck for another Goblin. Think of this as Survival of the Fittest, except with words instead of creatures.
Aesthetic Consultation: This would function in much the same way as Demonic Consultation, but more/less risky depending on the card you’d want. If you want to get Mishra’s Workshop, chances are you can build your deck to have the Workshop as your only Kaja Foglio card. Naming Mark Poole might hit Ancestral Recall — but it also might hit Balance or Library of Alexandria. Well, I guess you would play the Consultation, and leave Library and Balance out of your deck. Either way, Aesthetic Consultation would have to be restricted in Vintage, due to power level concerns — it’s an instant-cost tutor akin to Demonic Consultation.
Booster Tutor: Would Booster Tutor need to be restricted, due to power levels? Probably not — even if you had access to Unlimited packs, you don’t have a great chance of pulling an extra Mox or Lotus into your hand. Booster Tutor would be great in the right deck at the right time, but would be too unreliable to be restriction-worthy. Now, would Booster Tutor be more at home in Standard? Sure — if you’re playing a B/G dredge deck, grab a pack of Ravnica and go to town! Try for something useful out of Guildpact for your Ghost Dad deck. As a one-mana tutor, Booster Tutor would be worth playing in some decks. Just remember — Tempest and Torment were great for Black; Judgment, not so much.
Duh: This would kill many 9th Edition threats, along with a majority of block-mechanic creatures. This would beat the crap out of any Ninja deck. It would also create interesting metagame choices for versions of cards being played — Ravnica Birds cannot be hit by Duh, whereas 8th Edition Birds die to Duh just fine.
Double Cross: Would it be viable to build a deck in Legacy or Vintage that abused the Double cards in game 1 (basically conceding the game) to build ridiculous position in games 2 and 3? If you lose the first game, but get off three double Crosses, your opponent will start minus their three best cards game 2. You could probably take your time and nail them another 2-3 times before game 3, because you’d already have board position.
With that said, Double Cross probably costs too much to get played — but it is worth considering a deck that is built to lose game 1, but win games 2 and 3 based on the spells played game 1.
Enter the Dungeon: Let’s forget the “play a game under the table” clause and imagine this card as a life-restricted Shahrazad with the reward of a two-card tutor. This would get played — a single Ritual/Negator would equal a two-card tutor in the real game, for the cost of BB. This could backfire (such as if your deck gets comboed off on the first turn by Grim Long), but it might also be powerful enough to facilitate Black Weenie in Vintage. After all, since you only need to deal five damage, you are probably going to win the shortened game against most control decks.
Jumbo Imp: Jumbo Imp would be a randomly large flyer. Jumbo Imp could be as large as 11/11 the first time it could attack (roll a 6 when it comes into play, roll a 1 at the end of that turn, and roll a 6 again during your upkeep) or it could just plain be dead. If it survived the first turn, it’d probably attack as a 3/3 or 4/4 flyer — making it ahead of the curve as a three-drop flyer. Would it be worth the risk in playing him? Very possibly, but more so in Legacy and Vintage.
Necro-Impotence: This card is disqualified because it requires the payment of half-a-life, but if it were under consideration, it’d be good enough to be hit with restricted status, as it would fuel combo decks probably better than real Necropotence.
Zombie Fanboy: Someone would build a Zombie Fanboy/Armageddon deck. Zombie Fanboy would be 9/9 on turn 4. There would be a deck for this guy, somewhere. Not in Vintage, but probably in Standard, and maybe in Extended.
Ambiguity: The ability to double-up on Countermagic is powerful (Mana Drain plus a free Hesitation anyone? Double Force of Will?). Ambiguity also can act as a Doubling Season of sorts. The first ability is definitely more relevant.
Avatar of Me: If you’re a freakishly-large nine-year old with a glandular problem, and your shoes are larger than the short bus you ride on, then this card could be the biggest creature ever printed at four mana. If you are that person, chances are that you’re playing Magic at that age, anyhow, so crack into a cold one and snap into a Slim Jim. Banzai!
Cheatyface: You’d be DQed for Cheating, even if this card allows you to cheat. Or would you? Could you draw extra cards and claim that you were just trying to disguise Cheatyface? Never mind — Cheatyface is conned into not being mentioned in this article.
Denied: Would Denied get played? Yes, because it has such a low mana cost. I don’t know how good it would be, but players who are good at blindly naming cards with Cabal Therapy (hi Mike Turian!) would be aces with a one-drop Counterspell.
Double Take: Steve Menendian would love to start with a nine-card hand in game 2 of his match. Would it be worth playing a five-cost, two-card-draw spell in game 1? Probably not, but the benefits for this card in combo decks would be insane in any games past the first.
Framed: Framed would be busted in half in Solidarity (the High Tide deck in Legacy), acting as a two-mana Turnabout. You’d also run it in Standard for your Heartbeat Combo decks — it costs one less than Early Harvest, and could untap your non-basics (play with Rob Alexander basic lands to go with Rob Alexander shock lands). This would be a mainstay of any deck that wants to untap multiple lands at once.
Free-For-All: With one creature in play, your opponent gets the creature. If your opponent has two creatures in play, you’ll break even on card parity. With four creatures in play, you’ll end up a card ahead. If you kill Free-For-All while your opponent has multiple creatures in play, you’ve achieved Wrath of God. Probably not good enough to see play, but worth consideration. It also gigs all token creatures permanently.
Johnny, Combo Player: Probably too fragile to live past a turn, but it would be Planar Portal on crack if it did. Might be viable in Standard in an Urzatron build (where it could be activated the turn it entered play), but too slow and clunky for other formats.
Magical Hacker: Meishin, the Mind Cage would make all of your creatures ridiculously huge once Hacked. There are a few cards that would function swingingly well when hacked (you’d turn Last Gasps into Giant Growth), but Magical Hacker would be too narrow in most instances. Most… but not all.
Mise: Mise + Brainstorm = Ancestral Recall. Mise + Sensei’s Divining Top = Ancestral Recall. Mise is actually the most broken card-drawing spell printed since Ancestral Recall. Mise would be restricted in Vintage, because between Vampiric Tutor, Brainstorm, Enlightened Tutor, Mystical Tutor, Imperial Seal, and Sensei’s Divining Top, you’d be drawing three-for-Blue almost every time.
Richard Garfield, PHD: Much like Denied above, the use you get out of Richard Garfield would be equal to your Magical knowledge and experience. If you untap with Richard Garfield in play, you should win the game. Lands become Black Lotus or other lands, any U-cost card in your hand is Brainstorm, and Misdirection becomes Force of Will. Would Richard Garfield be powerful enough to warrant restriction? Possibly, and I know that Vintage players would be trying their hardest to break him. To bring up Steve Menendian again — I find it hard to believe that Steve would lose a game in which he was playing his Grimendian deck, and got Richard Garfield into play.
Cardboard Carapace: Would a six-mana enchant creature that granted a creature +1000/+1000 be playable? Probably, since Cardboard Carapace + unblocked creature = instant win. Still, this would be more a Standard card, and not so much a Vintage or Legacy card. This would work extremely well with Auratouched Mage.
Double Play: See Double Take and Double Cross, above. This is the third Double card that is playable in a lose-first-game/win-second-and-third game gambit. It’s not as good as the other two, but would be extremely good in, say, Heartbeat/Early Harvest combo.
Elvish House Party: I’d play him the first few rounds of Swiss (when he’d be 9/9, 10/10, 11/11 or 12/12), and would side him in again in the finals (when he’d be 8/8). Six mana for a 12/12 seems like a good bargain to me. Call the judge if your opponent stalls.
Ghazban Ogress: She would be quite good in Swiss play. She would not be so good if you lose game 1 — but you simply sideboard her out and don’t worry about playing her until game 3. A natural Stompy addition.
Hungry Hungry Heifer: This would be great with Coldsnap, since I’m sure there are cards that could use to lose cumulative upkeep/Age counters. In general though, HHH doesn’t seem too strong.
Incoming!; If you cast Incoming!, you should win on the spot. Biorhythm wasn’t entirely unplayable, and neither was Tooth and Nail. I’m sure this would be played in some Urzatron variant, and would frustrate players around the world.
Mine, Mine, Mine!: See Incoming!, above, except less powerful, and prone to drawback since your opponent will be the first one casting a spell (Mine, Mine, Mine! counts as your spell for the turn.)
Remodel: This would probably have seen play during Mirrodin Block, and might see play in Vintage, thanks to Dan Frazier.
Symbol Status: At the least, Symbol Status would make four 1/1 counters, as you’d play four different expansion symbols worth of land. Symbol Status could easily make between four and ten 1/1 creatures on the fourth turn, give or take how many permanents your Green deck can lay to the board with Sakura-Tribe Elder, Early Harvest, Llanowar Elves, Birds of Paradise, and basic lands. Symbol Status would be worth playing in Standard, and possible in Extended as well.
R&D’s Secret Lair: You want to combo off with Flame Fusillade and Time Vault? Here you go! Heck, just go off with Twiddle and Time Vault! Play a two-drop Alpha Orcish Oriflamme or Orcish Artillery. Shuffle after Impulse! There are hundreds (if not thousands) of cards that have had some form or another of errata. Have fun discussing the most broken R&D’s Secret Lair combos in the forums of this article — I know you’ve thought of them.
Blast from the Past: For RR1, you could both cycle and Madness Blast from the Past, which would make it akin to a single-target Electrolyze. Add in the flashback and buyback abilities, and you have a card that would see play in Legacy, Standard, and Extended, and would be considered among one of the most versatile burn spells ever printed.
Face to Face: I know several players who would turn this into a sure-handed (pun intended) Lava Axe for two mana every time. Since this card requires physical action, I’m not going to discuss it at all. You just imagined the two sentences preceding this one.
Goblin Tutor: Much like Booster Tutor above, Goblin Tutor would often be a complete crapshoot. When it worked, it’d be amazing — and when it didn’t, it’d be horrible. Unlike Booster Tutor, chances are that you could find one of the five non-one-roll cards in your deck, and one that would be useful at the time. Any one-mana tutor has to be considered, especially when it can be cast at instant-speed.
Orcish Paratrooper: I know plenty of decks that would pay 3 for a 4/4 Goblin. Thankfully, this is another physical skill card that I’m not talking about in this article.
Six-y Beast: This guy would probably see play in Standard, as it would often come into play as a 4/4, 5/5 or 6/6 for four mana. The odds of Six-y Beast getting into play are in your favor, unless you’re playing against Mr. Turian. Thankfully, he’s a member of R&D now, so we shall not mention him as a player. Still, we serenade his memory. Potato!
Frankie Peanuts: Assuming nobody was cheating, Frankie Peanuts would allow a superior player to absolutely dominate their opponent. “If I attack with my Frankie Peanuts this turn, will you block it with your one creature? Yes? Okay, cast Giant Solifuge, swing in with both guys. Sucker! Do you have any countermagic in your hand? No? Okay, let’s cast Armageddon now. GG! Will you counter the first spell I cast this turn? Yes? Okay, it’s Ornithopter time!”
Look at Me, I’m R&D: This would potentially get played in Vintage because it would work ridiculously well in some combo decks. Make one equal to zero, and play Sol Ring for free. Make three equal to four, and draw extra cards off of Brainstorm and Ancestral Recall. I’m not fully exploring everything you could do with this card, but creatures could be bumped up a power/toughness, spells can cost less, spells can do more — I’m sure someone could break this card if they put their minds to it.
Wordmail: Wordmail + Our Market Research Elemental = lethal swing. Playing W/G with those two cards = you lost. Still, with all the funky names in Kamigawa Block, you’d have to wonder if Wordmail would be worth playing. Probably — think of it as Blanchwood Armor for Kamigawa. Samurai of the Pale Curtain would swing for seven on turn 3, and Kami of Ancient Law would swing for six. I take it back — Wordmail would be equivalent to Empyrial Armor for many White Weenie decks.
Meddling Kids: Meddling Kids would hose Sliver decks. They’d probably be a bit too pricey to use as a silver bullet though — Meddling Mage and Pithing Needle come down first. Meddling Kids would come down fourth or sixth or some number arbitrarily larger than first.
Rare-B-Gone: This would hose any number of decks. Imagine playing against Greater Good/Gifts, and hitting a board of Greater Good, six shocklands, three painlands, and a hand full of Gifts Ungiven? Wait, why did your opponent have Gifts Ungiven in their hand with nine mana up? Seriously though, Rare-B-Gone would hose so many decks in Standard, that it would be a serious consideration for restriction. In many formats, Rare-B-Gone would be equivalent to Balance in Balance’s heyday.
Who / What / Where / When / Why: Individually, all of these effects are underpowered, However, this card offers rare utility, and would be played because of that.
Special Note: Come back tomorrow for an unforgettable Magic column that you will kill yourself if you miss. Or maybe you’ll kill yourself if you don’t miss it. Either way, tune in tomorrow and people will be dying.