Silver Is Gold: Un-Cards In Commander

Six weeks of silver-bordered cards being legal in Commander…what’s a 100-card-deck lover to do? Well, Bennie Smith will be making lists soon, but for today, he’s rounding up his top picks from Unstable! Who’ll make the list? Dr. Julius Jumblemorph? The Big Idea? What about X?

In case you missed the announcement from the Commander Rules Committee regarding silver-bordered cards (as featured in the new expansion Unstable), here it is:

Until the next banned list announcement (January 15), silver-bordered cards are legal in Commander.

Yes, you heard that right. Dust off those Fruitcake Elementals and unleash the unsanity! It’s time to celebrate Unstable.

The following cards are banned. They have rules that span multiple games, which is problematic for single-game multiplayer, are variants of cards already banned, or are too nightmarish for even us to contemplate:

Ashnod’s Coupon

Double Cross

Double Deal

Double Dip

Double Play

Double Take

Enter the Dungeon

Magical Hacker

Mox Lotus

Once More With Feeling

R&D’s Secret Lair

Richard Garfield, Ph.D.

Staying Power

Time Machine

You should be careful with the following cards. They work OK within the framework of Commander, so we aren’t going to ban them, but are likely to give your playgroup a headache or lead to problematic games if you’re not careful. Use them responsibly and remember that if you’re playing cards your opponents don’t enjoy playing against, they probably won’t want to play with you any more:

Ach! Hans, Run!

Collector Protector


Infernal Spawn of Infernal Spawn of Evil

Johnny, Combo Player

Mirror, Mirror

Topsy Turvy

Yet Another Aether Vortex

Personally, I recommend avoiding the Gotcha cards, as they’re a fast way to lose friends, but they’re not terribly broken in the wider context of silver borders, unless you use them to collude. But, if you’re doing that, you’ve missed the point entirely.

Contraptions don’t count against your 99. The correct thing to do is put one of every one of them into your contraption deck, but that’s up to you. Make sure you have at least fifteen.

So for about a month and a half, when you play a game of Commander you should be aware that crazy things might happen, over and above the normal crazy things that happen in Commander!

I actually think this is a very elegant and fun decision. Prior to this announcement, I was trying to figure out what to do regarding Commander decks once Unstable was released. I know many people are looking forward to drafting the wacky set. I was around for both Unglued and Unhinged. They were crazy, wacky and fun… but they stretched the bounds of Magic to the point that some games just did not feel like games of Magic at all. Which is fine in small doses! However, I understand some people do not like playing with “joke cards,” even in a casual format like Commander.

I was envisioning times when some people would show up with one deck, and half would have silver-bordered cards and half would not, so half would be playing a different game from the other half. Sometimes everyone would be cool with that, but I imagine sometimes there will be a player who won’t be. My solution was that everyone be willing to bring a regular Commander deck, and then have one where they were cool with silver-border games, and maybe alternate between the two. The problem there is that not everyone has more than one Commander deck.

So that leads to trying to arrange Un-friendly games ahead of time. But that doesn’t always work. Sometimes you just go up the local game shop or a big tournament and try to hunt down some Commander players to jump into a game. “Are you playing with or cool with silver-border cards?” Yes? No? Maybe, depends?

The RC did a great job of helping with all that uncertainty. What this decision does is give us a short window of time where the silver-bordered cards are legal, so everyone who plays Commander can expect crazy things to happen. Those who are fans of Un-sets can go nuts with their wacky ideas. Those who aren’t can arrange some “normal” Commander games. Or maybe just give it a try! It has been a long time since the last Un-set, and maybe the player you are now is a little different from the player you were then.

What I love about this small window of legality is that it is just long enough for people to give the new cards a try and get a good feel for the wackiness that Un-sets bring to the table, but then everything goes back to normal. And those who enjoyed the Un-sets in their Commander can keep a deck together and get together with like-minded folks regularly or sporadically and go wild.

I did hear some grumbling from people about the decision. I am amused at the Commander Spikes who are mad about silver-border cards being allowed in Commander pods during three GP weekends. Sorry about there being a little too much casual in your competitive casual format! Here is a tip from someone who goes to high-level events and plays plenty of Commander: you don’t have to sign up for side events to play Commander! I personally prefer to just play in unorganized pickup Commander games out in the free play tables with nothing at stake and just take enjoyment from the fun of the format and meeting new people.

The important thing to remember is that silver-bordered cards exist to shake up the bounds of normal Magic, to do wild and crazy things. To delight us with something different. Even if you are skeptical, I would recommend giving a Unstable draft a try, and maybe stick a few of the cards you draft that amused you in your Commander deck for a little while. It is only until January 15th. You might enjoy yourself!

Speaking of Commander, I thought I would give the new legendary creatures a look over for potential Commander potential.

X is a great example of a card that very much breaks the rules of normal Magic. Putting cards you own in other people’s hands is nuts. There will be players who are highly uncomfortable with this sort of thing, but for those who are onboard with the craziness, this is a very flavorful card with a very cool ability. You could easily play this as the only Un-card in your entire deck. You will want to include many “everybody draw” cards like Dictate of Kruphix so that players have hands fully stocked for X to play. And you’ll want lots and lots of mana acceleration so you can take advantage of the bigger haymaker spells in players’ hands.

If you are playing against X, it might feel like, once the spy is in your hand, there is nothing you can do. Just keep in mind that “loot” cards that let you draw a card and then discard a card can get rid of this pest. Key to the City or Smuggler’s Copter are top-notch Commander cards anyway and can hit the battlefield early enough to dissuade this super-spy from jumping into your hand. There are even a few Unstable cards like Blurry Beeble or Dictation Quillograph that can help too.

Destroy target player, whoa! Baron Von Count is certainly a villain worthy of the distinction and another Commander where it could easily be the only silver-bordered card in your deck. Building a deck around the Baron is going to require careful consideration: when I build Commander decks, I usually make piles by converted mana cost and make decisions on what to play and what not to play based on having a good mana curve.

A good Baron deck is going to require an extra step: first you’ll want to group cards by having a number in it from one to five, and then you’ll want to choose your cards with a good mana curve but keep your number counts balanced. The last thing you would want is to draw too many of one number and not be able to decrease the doom counter on time! I would also recommend keeping a pretty low mana curve so you could potentially cast multiple spells in a turn to tick down the doom counter.

You will want to load up on cards like Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots to protect the Baron from targeted removal. If you’re playing against the Baron, keep in mind it’s just a 3/3 vanilla creature outside of counting down the doom counter—if you can kill it before it gets to one, the doom counter resets back to five when the Baron comes out again. Giving yourself hexproof is another way to ensure you do not become the “destroy target player” target!

I love the acronym S.N.E.A.K. – Serious, Nonstop Espionage and Kidnapping. So funny! Phoebe has some odd tension in her abilities. She cannot be blocked with creatures that have flavor text, so she cannot be blocked by a fair number of creature cards. “Can’t be blocked” is a nice ability to have on a Commander, but it is not reliable enough to count on and Phoebe is too small to really want to lean on for Commander damage victories.

Her activated ability even removes flavor text so then she can be blocked, which is that odd tension I was talking about, but let’s be real: that’s a fine tradeoff, given that’s she’s probably stealing some pretty sweet abilities. This scales quite nicely with whatever power level your opponents are playing at.

Like X, you would probably want to play a fair number of “everyone draws” cards so that people are playing plenty of creatures with abilities you would like to steal. Use counterspells to protect Phoebe from an early demise. And make sure you have plenty of mana to activate Phoebe’s abilities and whatever activation costs are involved in the abilities you have stolen. Speaking of which, you will probably want to play with Fellwar Stone, Exotic Orchard, and “five-color” mana rocks like Darksteel Ingot so you can create colored mana for stolen activated abilities that require mana outside of blue or black.

Broaden your targets with something like Karn, Silver Golem to make artifacts into a creature you can steal the abilities from. Dust off the obscure Mishra’s Groundbreaker to do the same with a land.

Keep in mind Rule 13 from the Commander rules: Abilities which refer to other cards owned outside the game (Wishes, Spawnsire, Research, Ring of Ma’ruf) do not function in Commander without prior agreement on their scope from the playgroup. So unless you have made an agreement with your fellow players to allow a “Wishboard” of banned cards, Spike is just going to be a 1/1 vanilla Human Gamer. While Spike, Tournament Grinder is incredibly flavorful, I do not think the card really fits in Commander, which, let us be real, makes perfect sense, right?

One of the greatest reasons to play this card is because it will give your opponents the ability to say “What’s the Big Idea?” when they ask to read it. The Big Idea comes with a fun subgame built in that lets you start churning out 1/1 Brainiac tokens, with such cool artwork that it is worth doing just to giggle at the picture. I love that the Brainiac tokens you make can help you make even more Brainiac tokens. Rustle up Krark’s Other Thumb for even more dice-rolling fun. Don’t mind me; I’m just going to be over here rolling dice and making Brainiacs. What’s the Big Idea?

But let us get serious: what are you going to do with churning out 1/1 creatures? Well red has no end to cards like Purphoros, God of the Forge that can ping opponents when creatures enter the battlefield, and black has no end to cards like Blood Artist that ping opponents when they kill those creatures. Okay, so may you should mind me over here rolling dice and making Brainiacs, but that will not stop me. I am a villain, after all—mwahahaha!

You say you like rolling dice, but don’t like black? Unstable has you covered; how about green instead? I love that Ol’ Buzzbark weaponizes dice rolling, and the bigger the dice, the better! As someone who has played D&D for decades, I can confirm there is nothing better than the sound of a bunch of dice hitting the table, so you will want to have lots and lots of mana ramp for your Ol’ Buzzbark deck… and you will most definitely want to have Krark’s Other Thumb on the battlefield too! How does that work? Well I’m not entirely certain, but how I think it works is that you’ll want to roll two dice at a time for each X, keeping one result before you go to the next pair of dice.

Keep in mind, though, that the bigger the X value, the higher off the table you have to roll the dice from. Six inches seems to be close to the limit I would want to roll from, since otherwise you run the risk of the dice bouncing off the table.

This card seems much better suited for casual 60-card formats rather than Commander. For one thing, you can only play one copy of Curious Killbot, and Mary O’Kill starts the game in the Command Zone rather than potentially being in your hand. Does anyone have any fiendish ideas for this card in Commander? I am not really seeing it.

I am actually not going to go into these two cards because I think Host and Augment cards are worthy of their own column and I am already pushing my word count this week as it is. Be sure to circle back around next week as I dive into building Commander decks with these two Commanders and having fun splicing creatures together!

What do you think about having a month and a half of wacky silver-bordered cards in Commander? Which Unstable cards are you looking forward to playing in Commander?

New to Commander?

If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:

Commander write-ups I’ve done
(and links to decklists):

Zurgo Bellstriker (Bellstriking Like a Boss)

Dragonlord Ojutai (Troll Shroud)

Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund (Dragons, Megamorphs, and Dragons)

Dromoka, the Eternal (One Flying Bolster Basket)

Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest (Tempests and Teapots)

Tasigur, the Golden Fang (Hatching Evil Sultai Plots)

Scion of the Ur-Dragon (Dragon Triggers for Everyone)

• Nahiri, The Lithomancer (Lithomancing for Fun and Profit)

Titania, Protector of Argoth (Titania’s Land and Elemental Exchange)

Reaper King (All About VILLAINOUS WEALTH)

Feldon of the Third Path (She Will Come Back to Me)

Sidisi, Brood Tyrant (Calling Up Ghouls with Sidisi)

Zurgo Helmsmasher (Two Times the Smashing)

Anafenza, the Foremost (Anafenza and Your Restless Dead)

Narset, Enlightened Master (The New Voltron Overlord)

Surrak Dragonclaw (The Art of Punching Bears)

Avacyn, Guardian Angel; Ob Nixilis, Unshackled; Sliver Hivelord (Commander Catchup, Part 3)

Keranos, God of Storms; Marchesa, the Black Rose; Muzzio, Visionary Architect (Commander Catchup, Part 2)

Athreos, God of Passage; Kruphix, God of Horizons; Iroas, God of Victory (Commander Catchup, Journey into Nyx Edition)

Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient (Ghost in the Machines)

Jalira, Master Polymorphist (JaliraPOW!)

Mishra, Artificer Prodigy (Possibility Storm Shenanigans)

Yisan, the Wanderer Bard (All-in Yisan)

Selvala, Explorer Returned (Everyone Draws Lots!)

Grenzo, Dungeon Warden (Cleaning Out the Cellar)

Karona, False God (God Pack)

Child of Alara (Land Ho!)

Doran, the Siege Tower (All My Faves in One Deck!)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Shadowborn Apostles & Demons)

King Macar, the Gold-Cursed (GREED!)

Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind ( Chuck’s somewhat vicious deck)

Roon of the Hidden Realm (Mean Roon)

Skeleton Ship (Fun with -1/-1 counters)

Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)

Anax and Cymede (Heroic Co-Commanders)

Aurelia, the Warleader ( plus Hellkite Tyrant shenanigans)

Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)

Bruna, Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)

Damia, Sage of Stone ( Ice Cauldron shenanigans)

Derevi, Empyrial Tactician (Tribal Birds)

Emmara Tandris (No Damage Tokens)

Gahiji, Honored One (Enchantment Ga-hijinks)

Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)

Ghave, Guru of Spores ( Melira Combo)

Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)

Glissa, the Traitor ( undying artifacts!)

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)

Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord (drain you big time)

Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge ( Suspension of Disbelief)

Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)

Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo’ Myrs)

Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)

Konda, Lord of Eiganjo ( The Indestructibles)

Lord of Tresserhorn (ZOMBIES!)

Marath, Will of the Wild ( Wild About +1/+1 Counters)

Melira, Sylvok Outcast ( combo killa)

Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker ( Outside My Comfort Zone with Milling

Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)

Nicol Bolas (Kicking it Old School)

Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius ( new player-friendly)

Nylea, God of the Hunt ( Devoted to Green)

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic (Life Gain)

Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)

Phage the Untouchable ( actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)

Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)

Polukranos, World Eater (Monstrous!)

Progenitus (

Fist of Suns and Bringers


Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)

Riku of Two Reflections (

steal all permanents with
Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts


Roon of the Hidden Realm ( Strolling Through Value Town)

Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)

Savra, Queen of the Golgari ( Demons)

Shattergang Brothers (Breaking Boards)

Sigarda, Host of Herons ( Equipment-centric Voltron)

Skullbriar, the Walking Grave ( how big can it get?)

Sliver Overlord (Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)

Thelon of Havenwood ( Campfire Spores)

Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice ( new player-friendly)

Uril, the Miststalker (my “more competitive” deck)

Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)

Vorosh, the Hunter ( proliferaTION)

Xenagos, God of Revels (Huge Beatings)

Yeva, Nature’s Herald (living at instant speed)