The Unstable Commander Review

The Godfather of Commander speaks! He shares his insight into how the official debut of silver-bordered cards in Commander came to be and gives his exhaustive review of the set! You won’t want to miss this one!

If you somehow haven’t already heard, as a celebration of the release of Unstable, silver-bordered cards were made legal in Commander for a limited time. Between now and the date of our next announcement, which will be on January 15th, you can play silver-bordered cards in your Commander decks. There are a few which will still be banned, since they really just break the structure of the game. You can read our full announcement here, but I’ll list the banned cards for your convenience:

Ashnod’s Coupon

Double Cross

Double Deal

Double Dip

Double Play

Double Take

Enter the Dungeon

Magical Hacker

Once More With Feeling

R&D’s Secret Lair

Richard Garfield

Staying Power

Time Machine

As we mention in the announcement, there are a few more which we won’t outright ban, but which you might want to be careful with:

Ach! Hans, Run!

Collector Protector


Infernal Spawn of Infernal Spawn of Evil

Johnny, Combo Player

Mirror, Mirror

Mox Lotus

Topsy Turvy

Yet Another Aether Vortex

Additionally, we’ll ask you to be sensitive to differently-abled folks with any physical action cards (like Side to Side). If there’s someone who might struggle using them, we ask that you make a different choice for your deck. And no matter what kind of crazy combo you put together, you may not damage property belonging to someone else or force them to concede with the threat. I don’t care if the cards say that you can; there are more important things than games of Magic, and being a decent person is one of them.

We knew going in that this would be a controversial choice. A major part of the motivation is that people love the fact that Commander is the format in which you can play cards which you can’t (or don’t want to) play in other formats. Letting the silver-bordered cards off the leash for a short period of time really allows folks to dig into their collections and have some fun in a different end of the pool. We support local groups making their own decisions, but sometimes groups get too large and return to the baseline banned list. This decision is for all those folks who want to play a silly Un-card (one of the not-broken ones, like Fruitcake Elemental) but get shut down by someone who doesn’t want to deviate from the official list (which is a fine stance). For this short period of time, Fruitcake Elemental players can have their moment in the sun.

For those of you who have asked, Wizards of the Coast didn’t put us up to this. We came up with it on our own, and they thought it would be a fun idea. This isn’t a test or an experiment; it’s just an opportunity to do something different. I’ll tell you that we discussed a longer period, but we didn’t want the idea to wear out its welcome. We hope it’s just long enough for folks to take a look and get a sense of things so that, once that date rolls around, they’ll be better-equipped to decide whether or not they want to add any silver-bordered cards to their group. There really is close to zero chance that silver-bordered cards will be legal after 15 January.

Remarkably, we don’t see any cards from Unstable which give us much pause.

Some folks might struggle a little with Rules Lawyer, but I’ll see if I can give you a little help when we talk about it. Otherwise, I’m going to run an Unstable review as if it were a normal Magic expansion. We believe that opening this window to play with cards you might not otherwise have access to will heighten your Unstable and Commander experiences, even if it’s just for a short time. I hope to hear more and more stories of players going to an Unstable release event and then taking some of the cards they get and putting them into their Commander decks for glorious battles.

You’ll note that there are a few cards (covered on the motheship) which come in different versions—and not just different art, completely different text. Commander legality is by card name, so you can still have only one of any name (so pick your Very Cryptic Command carefully). Killbots have different names, so have at it.

I’ll remind you that this is a Commander-only review, and in keeping with the Un-spirit, a little less serious than most. When you play in your Unstable release, some of the cards might do more and better things (or less and worse, I suppose). My best advice is to simply have fun.


Adorable Kitten: The Host/Augment relationship is an inspired mechanic, and who doesn’t love adorable kittens? I’m looking forward to adorable other creatures as well.

Aerial Toastmaster: Steamflogger Boss is getting some long-awaited friends! Assembling Contraptions is probably going to be the most fun thing to do with Unstable. I expect it’ll be just as much fun in Commander.

Amateur Auteur: A pretty straightforward card considering the set it’s in, eminently useful in Commander. Note that it only has the Human creature type and nothing more. I guess actors can be anything.

By Gnome Means: I’m not the biggest fan of puns in general, so some of the humor of Un-sets is lost on me. This card, however, is quite good with your strategies involving counters. Remember that cumulative upkeep uses age counters, which By Gnome Means can remove.

Chivalrous Chevalier: If you want to bounce a creature for its sweet enters-the-battlefield effect, I suppose you can be unchivalrous. If you are going to compliment someone, please make sure it’s an actual compliment.

Do-It-Yourself Seraph: Darksteel Forge seems okay. Stuffy Doll is probably more fitting with the Unstable theme.

Gimme Five: In your haste to get all your high fives in, please don’t trip over your bag. Or anyone else’s.

GO TO JAIL: For one mana, the 1-in-6 chance that it goes away seems worth the risk. There was a recent Black-ish episode that featured the family playing Monopoly. It’s worth watching.

Half-Kitten, Half-: Pretty sure Pony is the one I’d go for here.

Humming-: Even without the trigger condition, the +2/+3 seems decent. If you’re going on the Contraption plan, the Humming- Octopus will get you there.

Jackknight: Perfectly reasonable without Contraptions. If you have it in your Sharuum the Hegemon deck, that Jackknight is going to get huge.

Knight of the Kitchen Sink A: I don’t see too many white-bordered cards (save for lands, which some folks think is very techy), so this Knight pretty much has pro-everything.

Knight of the Kitchen Sink B and D: Protection from half the cards is still strong enough.

Knight of the Kitchen Sink C: I know that some of you were hoping “protection from loose lips” meant “players who talk too much.”

Knight of the Kitchen Sink E: Unfortunately, most legendary creatures, especially in the Modern era, have longer names. But get wrecked, Grizzly Bear.

Knight of the Kitchen Sink F: Remember, not just the watermarks in this set, but all of them. This Knight of the Kitchen Sink is coming for you, Khans of Tarkir!

Knight of the Widget: You’ll want to assemble some Contraptions do to with this Knight. Duplication Device gets my motor running.

Midlife Upgrade: If only there were a Corvette Contraption. Maybe in the next Un-set for the Midlife Crisis card. Oh, and sprockets.

Oddly Uneven: I suppose it’s the beginning of an archetype with Void Winnower?

Old Guard: It won’t matter since instants can’t become creatures, but I’ll remind you that there is a version of Time Stop with no reminder text on it.

Ordinary Pony: Humming-Pony. Adorable Pony. This set has all the ponies!

Rhino-: Even Rhino-Pony.

Riveting Rigger: Assembling Contraptions just seems cool. The more I look at the set, the more I’m interested to see how they’ll play. The whole idea of putting them onto sprockets (I feel like I should do the “Sprocketing” version of Rickrolling here and every time I mention sprockets going forward, but I like you all too much) and having the crank turn is elevated design.

Rules Lawyer: Okay, this is the one which is going to give some people nightmares, but I swear it’s not all that bad. Mark Rosewater covered everything on the card in the FAQ. The main thing to remember is that Rules Lawyer’s abilities don’t apply to itself. Of course, if you Clone Rules Lawyer, then they’ll protect each other. Rules Lawyer will create some head-scratching battlefield states, but you’ll figure it out. You just have to remember that when it leaves the battlefield, some stuff might happen.

Sacrifice Play: A person outside the game is any person. If you want to text Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and ask him to choose a creature, you’re allowed. He might tell you to stop wasting his time, but you never know.

Shaggy Camel: Shaggy Camel sounds like a late 1960s ska group. Or maybe a few decades later.

Side Quest: You might not have too many Commander games in which this is valuable, so double-check the other tables before you sit down. And make sure you trust the person you’re giving it to; they might just sacrifice it to Greater Good for some cards.

Teacher’s Pet: Adorable Iguana, here we come!


Animate Library: Among the silliest and most awesome cards in the set, Animate Library does everything you want it to do without the risk of losing your library. If you really want to live dangerously, add Greater Good. You can sacrifice your library, exiling Animate Library instead of putting “the creature” into the graveyard, to draw your library (and discard three). I’m sure that’s not the craziest thing someone can come up with.

Blurry Beeble: This might be weird for my opponents, since I put on and take off my glasses at odd intervals. I need them to read the cards in my hand, but not on the battlefield.

Chipper Chopper: It doesn’t do much good to blink Chipper Chopper, since you lose the counters that way. But assembling Contraptions is always money.

Clocknapper: I always wanted to be able to attack on someone else’s turn. Clocknapper makes dreams come true better than Disney.

Crafty Octopus: The bad news is that there’s a limit to how many Contraptions you can actually assemble, since your Contraption deck has exactly fifteen cards in it. The good news is that there are nearly 50 to choose from, so you can get the ones you want.

Crow Storm: There are storm decks in Commander, so I suppose it’s reasonable that we see a Storm of Crows.

Defective Detective: One of the first “that doesn’t really do much” cards in the set.

Five-Finger Discount: Way back when, Richard Garfield had a deck full of homemade cards which put stuff into the hands of players who didn’t own them. It was very Richard-esque, if you will, and the games always were a laugh a minute. Five-Finger Discount is a nod to that, and will likely create some interesting situations.

Graveyard Busybody: Of all the insane things which might happen with Graveyard Busybody, I think I’ll like most what happens with Immortal Coil.

Half-Shark, Half-: There had better not be a tornado in this set.

Incite Insight: Maybe you don’t want Riggers at all. Maybe you just want to do it in one big blast.

Kindly Cognition: Hey, anything that makes some of your spells cheaper is good, right?

Magic Word: Choose offensive words at your own peril.

Mer Man: The text “You may draw a card” is quite exciting. Ninja Man is the right usage here.

More or Less: When you need Star of Extinction to deal 21, here’s your answer.

Novellamental A-D: Should have been something else to do with the library, right? The card is the same, only it has different flavor text on the various versions (which matters in this set).

Numbing Jellyfish: Get a repeatable Host trigger onto the Jellyfish and you’ll be milling out people in short order. It’s no Phenax, God of Deception, but it’ll get there.

S.N.E.A.K. Operative: It’s up to you whether you want this to be fateseal or card draw.

Socketed Sprocketer: The only reason to play this card is to force other people to try to pronounce it without stumbling over themselves or sound like they’re saying something dirty.

Spell Suck: I’ve long been a proponent that counterspells in Commander have to do something in addition to countering a spell in order to be valuable. Spell Suck is such a card.

Spy Eye: If the name Thieving Magpie were still available, that’s what this card should be called. I might call it that anyway. Too bad it’s not likely to let you miracle something—although you might in combination with Clocknapper.

Suspicious Nanny: Obviously only good if other players have Contraptions as well—but who wouldn’t want them?

Time Out: Even though rolling the die is first on the card, remember you always pick targets when you announce the spell. You don’t get to decide after you see the die roll which permanent to choose.

Very Cryptic Command A: The modes are all potentially useful, so the card isn’t all that Cryptic. The card draw idea is hilarious.

Very Cryptic Command B: Except for the second ability regarding the one-word name, seems like a card we might find in black border.

Very Cryptic Command C: The first three modes are all very good. Maybe the cryptic part is why the fourth ability is there.

Very Cryptic Command D: Seems like the version which will get the least play.

Very Cryptic Command E: Another one with narrow choices, so you’ll only be putting it in if your deck does very specific things.

Very Cryptic Command F: Yes, you can use this version of Very Cryptic Command to make you pay zero life for your cards from Necropotence. I’m sure there are even techier things to do with it as well.

Wall of Fortune: I want someone to build me that floaty dice spinner.


Big Boa Constrictor: The card which will provide the best names, like Big Boa Octopus and Big Boa Man, but because the Host half with the cool name triggers on entering the battlefield, we’ll be able to get less use than some of the other Hosts.

capital offense: Let the search begin for the creature with the most capital letters. I count seven in Scourge of Kher Ridges. Hangman (see below) has eight.

Dirty Rat: Adorable Rat? Dirty Kitten? Not on my watch.

Extremely Slow Zombie: Last strike gets us emotionally prepared for Firstest Strike. Oh, it’s happening.

Finders, Keepers: The random nature of Contraption assembly might make this not worthwhile, but you have to give it a whirl anyway. If you’re only running the good ones, whatever you get will be good, right?

Hangman: Another very Garfieldian card, since Richard loves games within the game. You might need to agree on which language you’ll use, since it’d be a huge advantage for folks who speak more than one. If you want to use one with no repeating letters which also appears in Magic, try “acrolith.” Or maybe “valkyrie.”

Hazmat Suit (Used): Tech is to tap and untap the card with your pen. Or just wear gloves.

Hoisted Hireling: I know it’s not going to happen in Commander, but in Draft, someone is going to put a Hazmat Suit on someone else’s Hoisted Hireling.

Inhumaniac: Snickering Squirrel is a thing. That way, you’ll never have to remove counters.

Masterful Ninja: A nice way to get around mass removal effects, Masterful Ninja is even better with other Ninjas. If it’s unblocked, you return it to your hand and it’s still on the battlefield. It will deal damage right alongside the new Ninja. So masterful.

Ninja: Ninja Octopus is probably the scariest, Ninja Kitten the most adorable, and Ninja Man the strongest.

Old-Fashioned Vampire: Don’t play this card in Iceland in June. And you can’t pull the “it’s always dark outdoors somewhere” bit. It has to be where you’re currently playing the game. If you’re playing via Skype or online, then if it’s dark where one of the players is, that’s enough for me.

Over My Dead Bodies: This is my kind of card. In addition to being strongly flavorful, it’s simply strong. Now, instead of worrying that you’ll playing Living Death, people will have to worry that you can just battle with the graveyard. Combo with Graveyard Busybody and simply smash everyone’s face. With dead things.

Overt Operative: I’m more and more excited about assembling Contraptions. I’m just wondering how I’m going to get stuff out of the scrapyard.

“Rumors of My Death…”: I would pretty much exile anything to get back Over My Dead Bodies. Now I have to figure out how to get Legion of Dastardly Doom watermarks onto stuff.

Skull Saucer: Okay, here’s how you do it. You get out of your chair and sit or kneel on the floor, with your chin touching the table. Then you’re not all side-headed and worried that you’re going to get flicked in the eye with Slaying Mantis.

Sly Spy A: It would be the worst to lose X to Sly Spy. The worst.

Sly Spy B and D: If you have to argue over what is or isn’t a face, get a judge or impartial third party.

Sly Spy C: Again, with some of the physical cards, please be sensitive to the folks around you.

Sly Spy E: This is my kind of card, the S.N.E.A.K. variant of Dark Confidant.

Sly Spy F: If you’re playing this version, you’re play with the dice-manipulators too, so you’re going to rack up some life loss.

Snickering Squirrel: The card makes for some weird timing, since you can activate it in the middle of resolution of another effect. But then again, Un-cards aren’t regular Magic.

Spike, Tournament Grinder: Remember that Rule 13 exists. Wish sideboards are not legal in Commander. You may not use Spike, Tournament Grinder to bludgeon other players into letting you use them. Of course, if they freely agree, then have at it.

Squirrel-Powered Scheme: The Squirrels are taking over, and Toby Elliott couldn’t be happier.

Steady-Handed Mook: Nice combination of abilities—a good enters-the-battlefield trigger along with deathtouch, so it keeps large creatures off your face. Reminiscent of Acidic Slime.

Stinging Scorpion: The idea of Humming-Scorpion scares the crap out of me. Fortunately, the Scorpion side of the card isn’t that great.

Subcontract: Bonus points for contacting a person outside the game who is more than 5,000 miles away and getting them to choose a card. If I have friends in New Delhi, expect a call.

Summon the Pack: Yes, it’s cheaty to get a Legions pack, but you also run the risk of hitting Phage the Untouchable, so there’s that. Probably worth the risk.

Zombified: Another card in which Graveyard Busybody might come in handy. It’s way better to exile “your” stuff which actually belongs to other people.


The Big Idea: This idea is pretty big, all right. Maybe there’s a strategy with Conspiracy turning all of your creatures into Brainiacs. You can combine it with. . .

Box of Free-Range Goblins: . . .although no one is going to confuse those Goblins for actual Brainiacs.

Bumbling Pangolin: Repeatable artifact destruction is always good in the format. The enters-the-battlefield trigger is fine enough for one iteration, but we’ll want something like Half-Orc, Half- in order to ramp up the destruction.

Common Iguana: Perhaps the least interesting of them all, but your mileage may vary.

The Countdown Is at One: Shahrazad is illegal because it just makes miserable games. It’s one of those cards which seems like fun and then you realize it’s not. The Countdown Is at One will likely be quick, so the only time it’ll be as bad as Shahrazad is if it’s cast over and over again.

Feisty Stegosaurus: Also kind of meh about this one. Maybe more exciting once we get Repercussion online.

Garbage Elemental A: The name says it all.

Garbage Elemental B: Now we’re talking. Let’s get those machines running!

Garbage Elemental C: With the dice manipulation in the set, you’re likely going to be able to spit out a good number of Goblins every turn; battle cry makes them more dangerous.

Garbage Elemental D: A five-mana cascade for your Elemental deck seems nice enough. Then there’s the bonus of a little damage on top of it.

Garbage Elemental E: Hopefully there won’t be too many arguments over how many figures are on a card. And who blocks anyway?

Garbage Elemental F: Some drawbacks, but you can play around them relatively easily.

Goblin Haberdasher: I’m sure there is already some helpful person who has generated the list of all the Goblins with hats. Kudos to them for being a team player.

Half-Orc, Half-: Probably the best of the Augment creatures. It’s the one which I think will generate the greatest number of triggers for you. Then you just have to decide what it is that you want to get from those triggers.

Hammer Helper: This is a Threaten variant which I’d happily play, especially if we have all those Brainiacs rolling two dice for us.

Hammer Jammer: Could be good, could be bad. Hammer Jammer, by the way, does not wear a hat.

Hammerfest Boomtacular: In the running for the best name in the set, it’s not all that great because it only triggers on spells. If it also triggered when you assemble a Contraption with the watermark, I’d be on board.

Infinity Elemental: Math nerds rejoice that you can start an argument over whether or not infinity is an integer (I’m pretty sure it’s not, since integers have to be finite, but one of you numbers folks can correct me) and whip out Rule 107.1. We’ll play Infinity Elemental in the spirit in which it was created—so it will kill people. When someone argues with you on this point, tell them they’re right—but that they’re dead anyway. That’s the way Un-Magic crumbles sometimes.

It That Gets Left Hanging: A person has to actively reject your high five in order for ITGLH to gain haste. If there’s no one around who qualifies, you’re out of luck.

Just Desserts: Okay, follow me here. Furnace of Rath and Dictate of the Twin Gods are on the battlefield. On second thought, just be okay with the fact that there will be fractions.

Painiac: If you’re not hearing Flashdance music in your head right now, you’re not alive.

Party Crasher: Here’s to the most confusing combats ever! Only downside is that we need to come up with a new nickname for Verdant Force.

Steamflogger Boss: Future Sight told us it would eventually come, so here it is.

Steamflogger of the Month: Whoa! Way to deplete your Contraption deck.

Steamflogger Temp: I see we’re getting the whole Steamflogger team.

Steamfloggery: The word sounds almost too much to say on a family website.

Super-Duper Death Ray: An instant with trample is another life-long dream fulfilled. Now, we just need reverse trample (blocking trample, or “blample” as some folks have called it), and I’ll be content.

Target Minotaur: I’m hoping the retail chain does an ad campaign based on this card.

Three-Headed Goblin: Majestic Myriarch unfortunately lists all the abilities it can get, and triple strike isn’t one of them.

Work a Double: Clearly red is the color for assembling Contraptions. Is it still the worst color in the format?

Wrench-Rigger: Maybe there’s a Rigger and Pirate theme deck to be made.


As Luck Would Have It: Certainly more entertaining than Helix Pinnacle.

Beast in Show: Arguably the third best of the Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest films, after This Is Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind.

Chittering Doom: True story that Toby Elliott once suggested we require everyone to play Acorn Catapult in their decks. You can imagine how he feels about the Squirrels in this set.

Clever Combo: Now I want to make a Cheetah Chicken.

Druid of the Sacred Beaker: I swear that Crossbreed Labs needs to be a new corporation in a Terraforming Mars expansion.

Eager Beaver: Untapping permanents always leads me to think there’s an arbitrarily large combo lurking nearby.

Earl of Squirrel: They could have at least made the Earl legendary so that Toby could build it. And I’ll just remind you about Deranged Hermit.

First Pick: The two-for-one is worth the additional mana. You’re always going to have a target in Commander, so assemble away!

Ground Pounder: Still no hat.

Half-Squirrel, Half-: The inexpensive Augment cost will have you making all kinds of combos. An inexpensive Soul of the Harvest (with Merman) leaps directly to mind.

Hydradoodle: There will be so many six-sided dice rolling around, it’s going to look like a Shadowrun game has broken out.

Ineffable Blessing A: The idea of choosing which cards to put into your deck because of whether or not they have flavor text is what Commander has always wanted to do. This is what winning looks like.

Ineffable Blessing B: The art cards are a bit of fun. Back in the day there were tournaments in which you could only have the art from a single artist. Douglas Shuler and Serra Angel ruled.

Ineffable Blessing C: If you choose silver, it will trigger on itself, since the first ability mentions as it enters the battlefield (like with copy cards), so it happens before when.

Ineffable Blessing D: You know your deck pretty well, so you know what the odds are.

Ineffable Blessing E: Loads of style points to you if you build the deck with all even or odd collector numbers.

Ineffable Blessing F: Certainly the toughest one to make work, meaning it’s also the one which brings the greatest joy when it does.

Joyride Rigger: Still no damn hats.

Monkey-: And now we have an inexpensive Harvester of Souls! Is there nothing this set can’t do?

Mother Kangaroo: I started to search for cards that might sound awkward with this. Then I realized it doesn’t have Augment.

Multi-Headed: Just getting the +4/+4 buff might be enough.

Really Epic Punch: It’s not really all that epic when you think about it.

Selfie Preservation: By now, some other helpful person has a list of all the lands we can get with Selfie Preservation. Right off the top of my head, I know Forest, Island, and Swamp all have versions. There has to be a Mountain as well, right?

[Copy Editor’s Note: Here you go.]

Serpentine: Landfall is back! (And not particularly expensive to make happen.)

Shellephant: Once again, I make the demand that we get a legendary Elephant (that isn’t Frankie Peanuts). I actually once saw a playtest version of one, but the card didn’t end up getting made.

Slaying Mantis: Slaying Mantis is going to kill stuff and probably get killed in return if you don’t have an instant way to regenerate it or give it indestructible. That’s okay, because the fun has already been had.

Squirrel Dealer: You don’t really want to randomly call people, since they might say no. Remember that the ability triggers only once, so you can’t run around asking everyone hoping you’ll get the right answer. Obviously, if the person says no, they’re dead inside.

Steamflogger Service Rep: Until we got to the red and green cards, I was worried that we weren’t going to be able to assemble enough Contraptions. I worry no more.

Wild Crocodile: Putting the land onto the battlefield would be smarter, but no one ever accused Crocodiles of being Brainiacs.

Willing Test Subject: There’s a reasonable chance you’re going to hear someone at the Prerelease mention the card is broken if you have arbitrarily large amounts of mana.


Baron von Count: The Baron is going to kill people pretty quickly. I imagine creative deck builders could come up with a storm deck that gets there in a single turn.

Better Than One: Do not choose anyone who’s expecting (whether it’s them or their spouse) or a volunteer fireperson. You have to share your permanents with them (which is nice of you), but if they need to leave quickly, those permanents are gone. This might be one case in which I would waive Rule 13 for you.

Cramped Bunker: You’ll notice we didn’t ban any Unstable cards, but this one seems particularly mean-spirited. Depending on your group, you might want to think twice about including it in your deck.

Dr. Julius Jumblemorph: Dr. Dino can do many things. It’s extra sweet that it can also look into your graveyard (or all your graveyards, Graveyard Busybody!).

The Grand Calcutron: There’s quite a bit going on here, not the least of which is a nod to Richard Garfield’s successful game, Robo Rally. Drawing back up to five cards is quite spicy, although it lets everyone do it too. The major part is that the counterspell player is going to have to both show their hand and place the counterspell in a spot they can get to it if they need. Neat idea which will lead to a new layer in gameplay.

Grusilda, Monster Masher: The first line is already decent. The second ability is just bonkers. Reassemble your B.F.M. Combine two different Primordials. The graveyard’s the limit here. Grusilda is the card in Unstable which is going to lead to the most hilarious games.

Hot Fix: Do not wait until your deck is in your hands to formulate a plan. Know what you’re going to do, get in, and get out.

Ol’ Buzzbark: We’re going to have to build retaining walls around our table so that the dice get kicked around like on a craps table. I had to read the text about six times before I got it all, but that’s the fun of Un-Magic.

Phoebe, Head of S.N.E.A.K.: Phoebe seems like a commander that some folks will gravitate toward. Even if she goes away and you have to cast her again, she’ll have blanked something really good. Here’s to her having triple strike!

Urza, Academy Headmaster: Only an Un-set can do something like this, and I’m just fine with it.

X: I now want more cards that can go into the hands of players other than their owner. Note that the opponent can’t cast X, but they can discard it to an effect, so be careful with your wheels and whatnot.

Mary O’Kill: There aren’t many Killbots in the set. Still, you get around Mary’s hefty casting cost. Maybe the next Un-set is called Rise of the Killbots.


Angelic Rocket: It’s expensive, but you get immediate benefit. Once you create Half-Orc, Half-Rocket, your opponents are in serious trouble.

Border Guardian: White-bordered Sol Rings will be all the rage.

Buzzing Whack-a-Doodle: A fun little exercise in knowing your opponents; we’re all rooting for Buzz mode.

Clock of DOOOOOOOOOOOOM!: I will be pleased to see someone all-in on the Contraption plan. Crank away!

Cogmentor: While it seems that “reassemble” might mean returning a Contraption from the scrapyard, it just means to move it to another sprocket—likely so you can crank it next turn as well, a habit you can probably keep up if you do it right.

Contraption Cannon: When is the right time to sacrifice your Contraption Cannon? Always. Don’t wait. Just do it and Regrow it with Academy Ruins.

Curious Killbot, Delighted Killbot, Despondent Killbot, Enraged Killbot: As I mentioned, since they have different names, you can play one of each. I’m just curious as to why they didn’t make them killier.

Entirely Normal Armchair: The Judge in me doesn’t really want to encourage sleight-of-hand tricks, but if you’re going to do it, I suppose just sticking it under the land you drop is the right call.

Everythingamajig A: It’s the card that Contagion Engine always wanted to be when it was just a little contagion motor. I’ll remind you again that cumulative upkeep has age counters.

Everythingamajig B: The third ability is really the one you’ll want to play, because you’re going to have some kind of recursion like Academy Ruins to get it back.

Everythingamajig C: Again, the last ability is going to be the one to use. The thing about the first is one is that it doesn’t tap, so you can use it over and over, assuming you keep winning—and there are silver bordered cards which can help with that.

Everythingamajig D: This one costs six to cast, unlike A, B, C, and E. The middle ability is the kind of gamesmanship which Richard Garfield loves, so here’s another nod to that sensibility.

Everythingamajig E: Quite utilitarian, although in an expensive package. Once you have it out, it’s a combination Zuran Orb and Ashnod’s Altar with a cool little Un-tutor at the bottom.

Everythingamajig F: It costs eight. You’re probably playing it for the last ability which allows you to switch everything with a player. Once again, if you’re in control of a player’s cards, you’re not allowed to damage them in any way. The other two abilities are quite useful, but you don’t want to have paid eight in order to get them.

Gnome-Made Engine: If those Gnomes knew what they were doing, they would’ve made Squirrel Gnomes.

Handy Dandy Clone Machine: Someone showing up to the Release Event is going to somehow make a pile of little two-fingered hands just in case. I would.

Kindslaver: This is anything but kind, since the person outside the game doesn’t have to worry about any kind of in-game retribution.

Krark’s Other Thumb: That Krark was a gambler.

Labrobot: Of slightly limited use, but you need to make more stuff Adorable.

Lobe Robber: I’m putting this on King Macar, the Gold-Cursed.

Mad Science Fair Project: I don’t really see this getting played over Darksteel Ingot, but who knows?

Modular Monstrosity: Triple strike! Have your list ready, because five seconds isn’t much time.

Proper Laboratory Attire: It’s actually not terrible for one mana and two to equip. It’ll get some mileage in your Unstable games.

Robo-: Robo-Kittens. That is all. Because Robo-Octopus is just too creepy.

Split Screen: A very cool way of drawing the best of four available cards and a range of other library tricks, like keeping yourself from getting milled out.

Staff of the Letter Magus: If someone is playing a tribal deck, your choice is probably clear. In English, L is probably the next most popular letter, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for Magic. The card is obviously better when you play with people you know. I might choose P because I know I’m playing that Puppeteer Clique.

Stamp of Approval: Guild symbols are watermarks. Go forth and play Orzhov, the only true guild.

Steam-Powered: My Merieke Ri Berit Do Over is called Steam-Powered, so I’m going to have to figure out how to get this card into it.

Steel Squirrel: Maybe the Gnomes got it right after all.

Sword of Dungeons & Dragons: Nice Equipment even without the second ability; adding Dragons sends it right over the top.

Voracious Vacuum: You really could get lost in all the Host/Augment combinations. It’ll be loads of fun to see what people come up with.


Accessories to Murder: Somebody’s going to the emergency room, but nobody’s going to jail.

Applied Aeronautics: I might target opponents’ creatures more often with this, since becoming an artifact makes them easier to kill.

Arms Depot: Hello, “+1/+1 counters” matter decks.

Auto-Key: See Applied Aeronautics.

Bee-Bee Gun: Why, yes, I do have an Acidic Slime. Why do you ask?

Boomflinger: Not really flinging that much boom, although I suppose anything for free is worth it.

Buzz Buggy: Trample is the operative here. Makes some creatures quite dangerous.

Deadly Poison Sampler: This is one you might choose to move around with Cogmentor.

Dictation Quillograph: As I’m looking at many of these Contraptions, I keep thinking of Horobi, Death’s Wail (and making sure my team has hexproof).

Dispatch Dispensary: Remember that dealing damage with a Rogue lets you play Knowledge Exploitation for its prowl cost.

Division Table: Maybe not one at the top of my list, but a little life loss is fine.

Dogsail Engine: Lots of life gain, on the other hand, is pretty saucy. I imagine we’ll see this in decks with Serra Avatar and Lord of Extinction.

Dual Doomsuits: I can’t wait to multiply fractions.

Duplication Device: Another that’s going to lead to some wacky plays. The artifact clause still applies. Remember, you can use it in reverse and turn something really good into something much worse.

Faerie Aerie: At least they’re not Faerie Rogues. Bad memories.

Genetic Recombinator: Also sounds like a Terraforming Mars card. Yes, that game is all up in my head.

Gift Horse: Krenko, Mob Boss has a new friend. Assuming he has any friends at all.

Gnomeball Machine: A little Trash for Treasure?

Goblin Slingshot: Giving everybody trample makes this way better than Buzz Buggy.

Guest List: Nice graveyard, bro.

Hard Hat Area: Still no hats…in the Hard Hat Area!

Head Banger: Houston, we have a hat.

Hypnotic Swirly Disc: Your mill deck just got millier.

Inflation Station: Certainly very good in Draft, probably not robust enough to include in your Commander Contraption deck without some additional reason.

Insufferable Syphon: The problem with single discards in Commander is that people like things in their graveyards. No need to help them out.

Jamming Device: Keeps the weenies away.

Lackey Recycler: The cool thing is that you’re not recycling the lackeys, but the bosses.

Mandatory Friendship Shackles: I worry about the person who designed this card. Who hurt you?

Neural Network: The condition is a bit awkward, but it’s for free, so it’s tough to argue with.

Oaken Power Suit: Remember, this is a format in which you can play B.F.M.

Optical Optimizer: Great for when the card you draw has affinity for artifacts.

Pet Project: Whoa! For free? Very, very nice.

Quick-Stick Lick Trick: Weirdly, this week I was writing trivia questions involving four-word rhymes. What? You don’t just randomly write questions. Here’s one: Quite hesitant former Chicago Cubs broadcaster.

Rapid Prototyper: Your Contraptions count as artifacts, so you’ll always get at least a 1/1.

Record Store: High Fidelity is arguably John Cusak’s best performance, Gross Pointe Blank notwithstanding. Plus, it has a young Jack Black.

Refibrillator: Much better than the condition on Oversold Cemetery, so I’m, um, sold.

Sap Sucker: Might have caught my attention better if it were “all mana” instead of “this mana.”

Sundering Fork: Simple and effective. I like my cards that way.

Targeting Rocket: My bold prediction is that this card doesn’t mean the provoke mechanic is making a comeback.

Thud-for-Duds: Death Pits of Rath. Yes, Tempest cards still have a place (and this one is available in foil in Eighth and Ninth Editions).

Top-Secret Tunnel: Way better than provoke, this one leads to destroyed opponents.

Tread Mill: Vigilance probably does more for you than the power and toughness boost.

Turbo-Thwacking Auto-Hammer: Okay, maybe this is the best card name in the set. Double strike is nothing to laugh at, either. Big creatures get bigger, and somewhat deadly commanders become downright lethal.

Twiddlestick Charger: Untapping things needs to be done at a less restrictive time to be valuable. I suppose the tap side removes potential blockers.

Widget Contraption: This feels like some sort of combo happening. It’s not really, but it still feels like it.


Secret Base A-E: Neat that they did one for each of the factions, but the base is so secret that it almost never gives you colored mana unless you’re really faction-committed.

Watermarket: Here’s where you can be really techy (or have to be careful). The Dissension version of Azorius Signet has a watermark. The Modern Masters 2017 version doesn’t.


Unstable on its own looks like loads of fun. There are piles of intriguing cards in the set. Adding it and (most of) its sliver-bordered friends to the mix for Commander for a short period of time will allow folks to have the wackiest of experiences over the holidays. Hopefully it will provide an opportunity for local groups to see if there’s room long term to continue using them. Some folks will, and some folks will itch to get back to “normal” Commander. Both are perfectly valid.

Enjoy the time while silver-bordered cards are legal in the spirit in which it’s intended—to have some fun in a different way for a short period of time. There’s no other format which could bear the weight of an Un-set. We’re happy that Commander has such broad shoulders.

Check out our comprehensive Deck List Database for lists of all my decks:


Purple Hippos and Maro Sorcerers; Kresh Into the Red Zone; Halloween with Karador; Dreaming of Intet; You Did This to Yourself.



Heliod, God of Enchantments; Thassa, God of Merfolk; Erebos and the Halls Of The Dead; Forge of Purphoros; Nylea of the Woodland Realm; Karn Evil No. 9.


Lavinia Blinks; Obzedat, Ghost Killer; Aurelia Goes to War; Trostani and Her Angels; Lazav, Shapeshifting Mastermind; Zegana and a Dice Bag; Rakdos Reimagined; Glissa, Glissa; Ruric Thar and His Beastly Fight Club; Gisa and Geralf Together Forever.

Shards and Wedges

Adun’s Toolbox; Angry, Angry Dinos; Animar’s Swarm; Ikra and Kydele; Karrthus, Who Rains Fire From The Sky; Demons of Kaalia; Merieke’s Esper Dragons; Nath of the Value Leaf; Rith’s Tokens; The Mill-Meoplasm; The Altar of Thraximundar; The Threat of Yasova; Zombies of Tresserhorn.


Yidris: Money for Nothing, Cards for Free; Saskia Unyielding; Breya Reshaped.


Children of a Greater God


Tana and Kydele; Kynaios and Tiro; Ikra and Kydele.


Animar Do-Over; Glissa Do-Over; Karador Do-Over; Karador Version 3; Karrthus Do-Over; Kresh Do-Over; Steam-Powered Merieke Do-Over; Lord of Tresserhorn Do-Over; Mimeoplasm Do-Over; Phelddagrif Do-Over; Rith Do-Over; Ruhan Do-Over.

If you’d like to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPG group (in a campaign that’s been alive since 1987) which is just beginning the saga The Lost Cities of Nevinor, ask for an invitation to the Facebook group “Sheldon Menery’s Monday Night Gamers.”