Unfinity was supposed to release on April 1st, 2022. This would have put it six weeks after Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty and four weeks before Streets of New Capenna. Due to printing issues with the sticker manufacturer, Unfinity ended up delayed until October 7th. This put it on the same day of release as the Universes Beyond: Warhammer 40K Commander decks, one month after Dominaria United, and six weeks before The Brothers’ War. And in this slot, wedged between announcements of Magic 30th Edition, multiple new Secret Lairs, Game Night 3, and Pioneer Challenger decks, Unfinity was stranded amidst a sea of other products.
In the wake of the overwhelming success of the Warhammer 40K product launch, Unfinity suddenly wasn’t even the most anticipated outer-space-themed Magic set being released on October 7th, 2022.
On top of this, the set itself had been horribly maligned by a series of product and design choices. Pundits and internet critics sent out wave after wave of negative reviews of the set, before ever getting a chance to physically hold the product. Sales were anemic. All indications were that Unfinity was going to be perhaps the biggest misstep of a Magic: The Gathering product in a year that saw previous missteps in Innistrad: Double Feature and Commander Legends 2: Baldur’s Gate.
Through Another Lens
Where some see failure, though, others see opportunity for success. I’m here today not to tell you that Unfinity isn’t a mess (it is a mess). I’m here to say it’s a beautiful mess. There are so many interesting ideas, concepts, and yes, even executions within Unfinity.
It took thirteen years for Mark Rosewater to convince Wizards of the Coast (WotC) to give silver-bordered Magic a second chance between the 2004 release of Unhinged and the 2017 release of Unstable. I don’t want to wait that long to see the potential that was in this set and concept; I want to get my thoughts down now, in 2022, so people see what could have been and what could be, instead of what may never come.
A Brief History of Un-Sets
Un-sets have always been the personal pet project of Mark Rosewater. The first Un-set, Unglued, came out in August 1998. Whereas tournament-legal sets had black or white-bordered cards (white-bordered at the time being reserved for reprint sets), Unglued introduced silver-bordered cards to Magic. There were 83 silver-bordered cards, six tokens (the first official Magic tokens ever printed), and five full-art basic lands (the first full-art basic lands ever printed).
At the time, Unglued was not a success. The original follow-up to Unglued (the aptly titled Unglued 2: The Obligatory Sequel) was slated for a Summer 1999 release but was cancelled. It took another six years for an Un-set to see the light of day – and that set was Unhinged.
To say Unhinged was a colossal failure would be an understatement. Almost every aspect of Unhinged was poorly executed – from the Ass theme to the 1/2 mechanic. Generously, I could describe the winning strategy for Unhinged events as “literally talk as little as possible, don’t move, and hope you’re good at arm wrestling or holding your breath.”
Retailers and distributors were stuck with mountains of unsold product. A buyback program was initiated, and every chain of the process took a massive loss on Unhinged. We’re talking boxes being sold at $30-$35 each (which was half wholesale cost at the time), and there being few-to-no takers even at that price. I cannot understate that Unhinged can be mentioned as one of the biggest failures of any Magic product ever launched, alongside Fallen Empires and Homelands.
Nostalgia is a hell of a drug, and it has a way of coloring people’s memories of history. Somewhere between 2004 and 2017, the basic lands of Unhinged hit the $8-$10 mark (and up to $100 for foil Islands). The foils from Unhinged were genuinely scarce due to how little of the product had been opened. Commander as a format opened a portal to a lot more casual play, and many Unglued and Unhinged cards became staples of both 100-card-deck and Cube play, such as Who/What/Where/When/Why.
Somewhere along the way, Mark Rosewater got the green light to produce one last silver-bordered set. He essentially had minimal resources, had to get people to help design/playtest the set between other projects… and the result was a massive success – Unstable! Based around five different factions, this set sold through multiple times (unofficial estimates are four to five distinct print runs), gave birth to the Unsanctioned box set, and led to a slam-dunk green light of a follow-up set.
Unstable was so good, it won Best Fantasy/Sci-Fi CCG/RPG at Dragon Con in 2018. It was that well received.
Which brings us to the present.
Unfinity or Bust
Given the success of Unstable, how is it that Unfinity is already deemed a failure? There are a number of factors at work here, including but not limited to:
- Lack of silver-bordered cards
- Product fatigue
- The success of Universes Beyond: Warhammer 40K
- Mechanical set complexity
- The glut of awesome-looking basic lands that exist in Magic
The Success of Warhammer
Let’s just get this one out of the way: Universes Beyond: Warhammer 40K is the most successful, selling-through, outperforming-expectations product that WotC has put out in 2022. Full stop. End of story. For the sake of brevity, let’s just say that all eyes and praise were on Warhammer on October 7th 2022, and none of them on Unfinity.
There’s been a lot of talk about terms like wallet fatigue and product fatigue when it comes to the slate of Magic products being released. 99% of the time, the people throwing around these terms have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. They use wallet and product fatigue as meaningless buzzwords.
Wallet fatigue is when consumers spend so much money repeatedly that it limits future purchases. Magic as a product line is not inducing wallet fatigue. Any one individual person or player might have experienced wallet fatigue, but the collective whole of consumers who purchase Magic has not. Products continue to sell through (see Warhammer), and WotC continues to see record profits because consumers are purchasing products at a healthy pace.
Product fatigue, on the other hand, is when there are so many different products being produced that players have to pick and choose between products they may otherwise want, because there are so many different products released in a short period of time. Magic is absolutely experiencing product fatigue right now, and it’s hitting retailers the hardest. There are so many different products packed into such a short period of time that we’ve seen several instances of retailers having to sell product below cost in order to pay distributor bills before moving onto the next product.
Unlike players, most Magic vendors don’t really get to pick and choose which products to buy. If we don’t stock any given product, we’re going to lose a customer who might have purchased not only that product, but other ancillary products (other sealed products, singles, supplies). This means that at the time of Unfinity releasing, retailers were realistically dealing with bills (either due or upcoming) for Dominaria United, Warhammer, Pioneer Challenger Decks, Jumpstart 2022, Magic 30th Edition, Magic Advent Calendar, Warhammer Secret Lair, Game Night 3, and The Brothers’ War.
Lack of Silver-Bordered Cards
This is a huge one. The entire identity of Un-sets was previously tied to being silver-bordered. It was announced in late 2021 that Unfinity would be all black-bordered. It was also announced that half the set would be legal for tournament play, and the way to distinguish the two would be the security stamp on cards. Tournament-legal cards would either have no stamp or would have the normal oval anti-counterfeiting stamp. Non-tournament-legal cards would have an acorn stamp.
This was poorly received at the time and was even more poorly received by release.
Making a larger portion of Unfinity tournament legal was absolutely the right call, in my opinion. There have been plenty of Un-cards in the past that could have been tournament-legal, such as Novellamental, and players have been asking for cards like those to appear in black border.
The issue here is execution. WotC has the technology to print part of the set in silver border and part of the set in black border. This is how Unfinity should have seen print. If this had happened, the split between tournament-legal Unfinity cards and non-tournament legal Unfinity cards would have been lauded as an overall positive for the set!
Yes, there may have been some grumpy Legacy players who don’t want Embiggen in their infect decks. Overall, though, the majority of players would have reactive positively. It would have made the cards easier to tell apart at a glance (they are not right now), and it would have kept the main identifying feature that every Un-set had since 1998.
Mechanical Set Complexity
I can’t count the number of people who had negative opinions of how Unfinity would play, prior to Unfinity being physically in their hands. This wasn’t a fair assessment of the set, and the overwhelming majority of players who played in Unfinity release events the past weekend reported the set is a blast to play with!
There is one complaint that is valid, however; the set has too many complex mechanics going on at once. Between robots matter, hats matter, stickers matter, attractions matter, and countless cards that care about what are essentially mini-games (got a fire extinguisher handy?), there’s a little too much to keep track of.
Let’s talk about stickers.
The idea of stickers as a gameplay mechanic is a bridge too far. There are differing rulesets for sticker sheets between Limited and tournament play. The fact that stickers-matter cards are not only tournament-legal, but potentially the best tournament-legal cards in the set, such as ________ Goblin, is pretty far out. The idea of putting stickers on your Magic cards, sleeves or not, is really counterintuitive to everything that players have learned over the past decades of, you know, don’t put stickers on your Magic cards or else it’ll ruin them!
That being said, the idea of including stickers in Unfinity packs is actually a brilliant idea! In fact, I’ll tell you a secret: stickers are selling really well. And I mean “second only to lands” well. Why is that? Because this is the easiest, most official way to get stickers of famous Magic characters …and the sheets are only around $0.25 right now!
Let’s say you’re a fan of Chandra. The Zombie Cheese Magician sticker sheet (6/48) is for you! Want to put Fblthp all around your house? Grab Familiar Beeble Mascot, and you’ve got everyone’s favorite Homunculus for days.
I think that non-functional stickers would have also been a grand slam for Unfinity. People would have openly cherished getting sticker sheets for fun. The execution would have been maybe the name stickers, and then four picture stickers and no ability or power/toughness stickers.
Then I would have stuck a single card in the set, at mythic, that cared about stickers. That execution would have been really cool and wouldn’t require players to hoard their sticker sheets for gameplay reasons in either Limited or Constructed.
The Glut of Awesome-Looking Basic Lands
Among the prime features of Un-sets are the black-bordered full-art basic lands. Over the years, WotC has more or less made this a mainstream feature of sets. Just in this calendar year alone, we’ve seen the following treatments:
- Full Art “The Moonlit Lands” Promo lands (Innistrad: Double Feature)
- Full Art Ukiyo-e Lands (Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty)
- Full Art Cityscape Lands (Streets of New Capenna)
- Full Art Stained Glass Lands (Dominaria United)
- Full Art Astrology Lands (Secret Lair)
- Full Art Tokyo Lands (Secret Lair)
- Full Art Shades Not Included Lands (Secret Lair)
- Full Art Fortnite Lands (Secret Lair)
The dirty financial secret of all previous Un-sets is that the basic lands alone made the packs worth opening for singles. The Planetary and Orbital full-art basic lands are amazing. In particular, the Orbital lands (which picture entire planets from outer space) stand out even in a crowded field where they are the tenth full-art land type released this year alone.
This doesn’t change the fact that the Planetary and Orbital full-art lands are the ninth and tenth full cycles of full-art lands released in the 2022 calendar year. No matter how astounding these lands look, they aren’t as unique or as much of a draw as they were even five years ago, when Unstable debuted borderless full-art lands.
A Beautiful Mess
Somewhere within the finished product of Unfinity and the design of Unfinity, there’s an amazing home run of a set. I believe that if the following changes had been made to Unfinity, it would have been received in much of the same ways that Unstable was received – a very above-average set that sold well up front.
- Non-tournament-legal cards have silver borders.
- Stickers are fun add-ins with no gameplay use.
- The release moves to a different date that doesn’t overlap Universes Beyond: Warhammer 40K.
I truly believe that if these three changes were made, the entire perception and discussion about Unfinity changes from negative to positive. It took thirteen years after the failure of Unhinged to see another silver-bordered set. I don’t want a repeat of that mistake. Initial impressions started looking like Unfinity is more Unhinged than Unstable, but Unstable proves that the concept of silver-bordered sets is not only workable, but can be a critical and commercial success.
I feel like I’m alone shouting from rooftops that Unfinity isn’t a bad set! It’s deeply flawed for the reasons that I’ve laid out in this article – I won’t deny that. But the truth is this – whether a card has an acorn symbol or a silver border, it plays the same way. The difference is aesthetics – and while aesthetics count for a lot, the play experience of Unfinity has been undeniably positive from most reports.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Discount Bin
So you would think that with all these factors working against Unfinity, we (the community) would have written off the entire set as a failure and a loss. Going into release weekend, it looked like Unfinity was going to be yet another set that had a race-to-the-bottom mentality on singles. I figured stores would look to blow out product at or below cost to make distributor bills, and that we were looking at the third set of the year that just didn’t perform – Innistrad: Double Feature and Commander Legends 2: Baldur’s Gate being the other two.
And then a funny thing started happening.
Non-foil shocklands began selling out across the internet and going up in price.
Foil shocklands held their preorder prices, and about half of them started going up in price as well
Galaxy Foil shocklands dipped from $120 to $80, and then rebounded hard to the $150-$200 range.
The sales rate on basic lands (foil and non-foil) started going through the roof, both for Planetary and Orbital lands.
Nobody started blowing out Unfinity sealed product.
I spent the entire weekend, and the better half of yesterday, tracking vendors on multiple platforms, and in multiple countries, to see how we wanted to handle Unfinity come the Monday after release. I was shocked when I came to the following conclusions:
- While there may not have been a large demand for Unfinity sealed product, there was a huge amount of organic demand for the basic lands, shocklands, and non-acorn playable cards.
- Because Warhammer 40K was such a huge success, Unfinity slipped under the radar of the public eye – but the singles from Unfinity were performing much better than the singles from Warhammer.
- Most importantly – retailers had adjusted their orders from Unfinity to the point where the amount that was opened / ordered by vendors was actually below demand from players for the singles mentioned above!
Everything in Magic acts on a supply/demand curve. In the long term, I knew that the demand for Unfinity would be there – I lived through Unhinged and saw how it recovered years after the fact – but it was a matter of time. I figured that time would be measured in months and years. As it turns out – that time can actually be measured in days and weeks!
Because retailers are so pinched on distributors bills and product fatigue, and because Warhammer had taken up the majority of the orders from retailers, the amount of Unfinity purchased and opened was a fraction of the expected amount – and the singles that are there on the market are selling faster than supply is hitting the market. With The Brothers’ War looming, not many retailers are going to be able to go back and order any significant supply of Unfinity either.
Against all odds, Unfinity is starting to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat!
The community and retailers seemed ready to write off Unfinity as a failure before it even hit the shelves. Based on presales numbers, you could count me among those numbers. Unlike many other people, though, I felt like the set was getting unfairly maligned, but like many other people, I’m at the whims of how the market acts.
Unfinity singles are defying expectations on the secondary market. It’s almost a rule that post-release sees a race to the bottom on singles prices. Unfinity singles prices are going up. Supply on singles is going down. I predict that by the time The Brothers’ War comes around, Unfinity will be viewed as a minor success, rather than a colossal failure – and I think it’s the only Magic product released in this entire year that I can say that about.
WotC – if you are reading this – don’t let Unfinity be the end of this sort of set. In the end, despite the major flaws in set design (particularly eschewing silver borders), Unfinity is going to work out fine. It’s a testament to how awesome the lands look, the fun of sticker sheets, and the actual gameplay contained within the set. There should have been an additional consultant helping on the set design (I feel most if not all of the mistakes with Unfinity were avoidable), but there is both a place and demand for a set of this type done right.
Appendix: Cool Math
Because so little Unfinity is being opened at the retailer level, there are lots of interesting facts that could be lost to time. I’d like to document them here for the sake of posterity!
Un-sets often have hidden rarities within the set. For example, there were six versions of Very Cryptic Command in Unstable. Each one was printed at 1/6th the rate of a normal rare. This means in actuality, any given version of Very Cryptic Command is six times rarer than other rares from Unstable, and three times rarer than any given mythic rare in the set!
Unfinity has a slew of cards that have hidden rarity levels.
Standard disclaimer: These are not official WotC odds. These are based on my own experience with opening packs / seeing inventory levels. These are informed statistics, but by no means official!
Much like Very Cryptic Command, the foil Attractions split duties on the print sheet depending on version. Each rare foil Attraction was split evenly between each of the two printings. For example, there were even numbers of foil Centrifuge (3/6) and foil Centrifuge (4/6). However, and this is important, the total number of foil Centrifuges we opened were half that of a normal foil rare, such as Saw in Half. So to give concrete numbers: if we opened 40 copies of foil Saw in Half, we also opened only ten copies of foil Centrifuge (3/6) and ten copies of foil Centrifuge (4/6). This means that the foil rare Attractions that had two versions are twice as rare as foil mythic rares!
For foil common and uncommon Attractions, several were short-printed compared to others. I’ll use Balloon Stand as an example. If you expected to open 100 copies of foil Balloon Stand, the breakdown would be as follows:
- 2/6: 33
- 3/6: 33
- 4/6: 17
- 5/6: 17
Or in short, 33% were 2/6, 33% were 3/6, and only 16.5% are 4/6 and 16.5% are 5/6. This again puts the shorter-printed foil versions of these attractions at twice as rare as foil mythic rares!
The short-printed foil Attractions are as follows (these are the ones that are rarer compared to the other printed versions):
- Balloon Stand: 4/6 and 5/6
- Bounce Chamber: 3/6 and 5/6
- Concession Stand: 2/6 and 4/6
- Costume Shop: 2/3/6 and 3/4/6
- Cover the Spot: 2/3/4/6 and 2/3/5/6
- Dart Throw: 2/4/5/6 and 3/4/5/6
- Drop Tower: 2/3/6 and 4/5/6
- Foam Weapons Kiosk: 2/6 and 4/6
- Fortune Teller: 2/4/6, 3/5/6 and 4/5/6
- Guess Your Fate: 2/3/4/6 and 3/4/5/6
- Information Booth: 4/6 and 5/6
- Kiddie Coaster: 2/4/6 and 4/5/6
- Pick-a-Beeble: 2/5/6 and 3/4/6
- Roller Coaster: 2/6 and 3/6
- Spinny Ride: 2/4/6 and 3/5/6
- Trash Bin: 4/6 and 5/6
There are 35 combinations of double-sided foil Unfinity tokens. A sheet of Magic cards is 121 cards, so the Unfinity foil token sheet most likely looks as follows:
1 per Sheet
2 per Sheet
|Clown Robot #2||Food #11|
|Clown Robot #3||Storm Crow|
|Teddy Bear||Treasure #12|
3 per Sheet
|Clown Robot #2||Food #10|
|Clown Robot #3||Food #11|
|Food #12||Teddy Bear|
|Storm Crow||Teddy Bear|
|Storm Crow||Zombie Employee|
|Teddy Bear||Treasure #13|
4 per Sheet
|Balloon||Clown Robot #2|
|Clown Robot #3||Treasure #12|
|Clown Robot #2||Treasure #13|
5 per Sheet
|Clown Robot #3||Food #10|
|Clown Robot #3||Treasure #13|
|Food #10||Teddy Bear|
|Food #10||Zombie Employee|
|Clown Robot #2||Storm Crow|
6 per Sheet
|Balloon||Clown Robot #3|
|Clown Robot #2||Treasure #12|
|Food #13||Zombie Employee|
This makes Balloon / Squirrel and Cat / Storm Crow extremely rare (once every 121 packs each, or one every ten Collector Booster boxes) compared to all the other tokens.
All foil cards on the Unfinity version of The List are equally printed except the following:
Foil versions of Everythingamajig and Ineffable Blessing each have two versions. Each version is half printed compared to the other cards on The List. There are 60 total cards on The List, and so the sheet likely looks to be 2x copies of 58 of the cards, 1x copy of each of the versions of Everythingamajig and Ineffable Blessing, and one blank card (this is where the Discard misprint cards come from). This means that those four cards in particular appear once every ten Collector Booster boxes.
The vast, vast majority of product opened for singles on Unfinity are from Collector Booster boxes, which are 100% foil cards. In the case of Unfinity, the only way to open non-foil cards is from Draft Booster boxes. Since so few Draft booster boxes were opened, there are significantly fewer non-foil shocklands out there than foil shocklands.
The original Unfinity article stated that shocklands appear about one every 24 packs in Draft Booster boxes. What that article didn’t mention is that 10% of these are foil shocklands! So if you were to open 100 Draft Booster boxes, you’d end up with the following on average:
- 100 foil shocklands from box toppers (10 of each)
- 15 foil shocklands from the foil slot of the packs (1.5 of each)
- 135 non-foil shocklands from the land slot of the packs (13.5 of each)
These 100 Draft Booster boxes would put 11.5 of each foil shockland and 13.5 of each non-foil shockland into circulation.
In Collector Booster boxes, the odds are as follows:
- 1 foil box topper per box
- 0.5 foil shockland per box
- 0.5 Galaxy Foil shockland per box
100 Collector Booster boxes would put the following into circulation:
- 100 foil shocklands from box toppers (10 of each)
- 50 foil shocklands from foil land slot (5 of each)
- 50 Galaxy Foil shocklands from Galaxy Foil land slot (5 of each)
So the total would be fifteen of each foil shockland and five of each Galaxy Foil shockland.
If you check any website (including ours), the Galaxy Foil and the non-foil shocklands are virtually non-existent. If I had to guess, vendors opened Collector Boosters at between a 2:1 to 4:1 clip against Draft Boosters for listings around the Internet.