We're excited to continue Coast to Coast Casual (CCC), a blog series written by East2West, published on MTG Cardsmith.
Happy April everybody! On this, the month of fools, I feel like it's an appropriate time to share some thoughts on Un Sets. Today I want to talk about the wacky, wonderful, and whimsical world we see in the silver bordered sets. Specifically, what happens when they're legal in EDH, what cards are fun in cube, and some other fun tidbits. Without further ado let's get into it.
Section 1 - EDH
For anyone that was playing Commander around the time Unstable dropped you'll all remember a short time where Silver Bordered cards were officially legal in the format. Now obviously this couldn't last forever but lord what a time. Of course during this time certain cards were banned to make sure the format wasn't instantly broken, that list is still on the WOTC ban site. During this time a new group of Commanders became playable. This list of legends is going to be what this section is about, specifically if they are safe to play as generals and what kind of decks could be built.
Off the bat I'd like to knock off the ones that are instantly unsafe, some may not be broken but I just don't like what they open the game up to. Of the 14 possible silver border generals (Richard Garfield is Illegal) two stand out to me as instantly being unfun and they happen to be part of the same cycle. Spike, Tournament Grinder and Johnny, Combo Player are both cards I hope never to see as a general. Spike is unfun for a clear reason, ban lists exist for a reason. Being able to tutor up a Shahrazad in Commander is not something anyone wants, and before you say it wouldn't be able to be played in a Spike deck let me remind you City of Brass, Rainbow Vale, Mana Confluence, and other rainbow lands have no color identity. Johnny is slightly more playable but the second he comes out it just becomes a race among the other players for who can remove him faster. Tutor effects like that are usually tap abilities on permanents (Planar Portal for example) and even then they're really good, Johnny is the kind of card I can see being super broken in the right build.
With that out of the way let's get to the tier list of Un-Manders and their playability
No Tier - X / Jalum Grifter
The No Tier is reserved for generals that are playable but you still probably shouldn't play just for ease of other players at the table. X is straight up confusing for some players and is just kind of a drag to have at the table. He's not inherently broken but it's still something I'd urge players away from.
Jalum Grifter is similar to this mindset. He's not broken but his ability is confusing and something to be steered away from. In all honesty though Jalum is much better than X play wise so I'd be willing to move him up a tier if someone could make a good case.
Jank Tier - Dr. Julius Jumblemorph / Grimlock, Dinobot Leader / Mary O'Kill
The Jank Tier is home to generals that would be awesome if there were just a couple more pieces for the deck. Dr.Julius is really cool but the amount of Host and Augment cards is low so a whole EDH deck with him might not find success, him being all creature types is pretty solid though especially given his colors. I could see random tribal working here, a Mistform Ultimus type deck.
Grimlock is similar here, just not enough Dinosaurs and Vehicles for it to work, if there were this would actually be in the Fun Tier, it would make a sick deck.
Mary O'Kill is the same story. There's only a single Killbot in existence otherwise an awesome and evasive beatdown strat would be the line here. I hope we get the pieces for these guys someday.
Fun Tier - Phoebe, Head of S.N.E.A.K. / Timmy, Power Gamer / The Big Idea
Fun Tier is where we start to get into the playables, these are decks that would lose to most actual EDH decks but would still kick butt. Phoebe is my personal fave at this tier since her ability is so unique. Her high cost and to use that ability and her lack of removal protection is what makes it fall flat. Still, I might have to make this deck.
Timmy is sort of a legendary version of Elvish Piper which itself is an EDH staple but Timmy's ability costs more. There's a deck here, like this ability is super powerful, there are just commanders that can do it better. Timmy is 100% safe to play but if he was legal there really are just better options.
Finally the Big Idea is a Rakdos Aristocrats/Token decks dream. This madman would enable that deck like no other General really. The main problem is once again his cost. He costs a total of six to play and his ability can't be used on play due to summoning sickness. Even if you did give him haste that's ten mana a max of only six 1/1 tokens. He's good, just not good enough.
Good Tier - Baron Von Count / Frankie Peanuts / Grusilda, Monster Masher / Ol' Buzzbark .
Finally, Good Tier, the decks that actually work! Let's start off strong with Baron Von Count. This guy is a dream for brewers. His ability is such a build around, taking out threats while inching the clock closer and closer to doom. Most importantly though he's fair. You clearly see the threat and have time to deal with it before the big boom making it a fun General that encourages table talk and interesting games.
Frankie Peanuts is actually a commander I have experience with. My old LGS allowed him as commander and I played him for a solid couple months. He is a super fun pillow fort General that is completely fair, completely playable, and deceivingly tricky. I'm a big fan of Frankie and he holds a special place in my heart.
Grusilda is a great card, she's like a cooler version of Grenzo, Dungeon Warden in my opinion. A sort of toolbox reanimator deck is where I see her niche, filling the grave then creating powerful and unique monsters. God I want to build this so bad now.
And lastly we have Ol' Buzzbark, in my opinion and awesome take on Gruul in EDH. He's got an ability that involves the whole table and will definitely cause some major plays and memorable moments. I'd love to see him in action more.
Part 2 - Cube
Out of the 600 or so cards in my personal cube only 21 have silver borders and the ones that do are, in my opinion, the best of the best from among all the Un Sets. Some are just in there because I had them and they seemed fun (Knight of the Kitchen Sink, Modular Monstrosity, Very Cryptic Command, Split Screen, Goblin Tutor, Strategy, Schmategy, and Everythingamajig.) The others however I'd like to go into some detail about.
Un Cards in a cube environment should do one of maybe three things. Enable unique strategies, cause memorable play moments, and encourage table talk.
- Magical Hacker / Grusilda, Monster Masher / Earl of Squirrel / Symbol Status / Goblin Haberdasher
Magical Hacker lets you play control and aggro but most of all it enables a deck in my cube called Ultwalkers. Imagine ultimating a planeswalker every turn as long as you can pay one blue. Enough said. It's powerful so add it with caution but it's really fun.
I already said my piece about Grusilda earlier so no need to go over that again.
Earl of Squirrel makes token strats just a little better and a little goofier. I was also lucky enough to get the promo so of course I had to put it in, besides Squirrel Nest is in the cube.
Symbol Status creates another type draft experience where you're trying to find permanents from different sets. This card can create an army of 1/1 tokens out of nowhere, hands down a fave of mine.
Goblin Haberdasher serves a similar role, have you ever drafted a creature based on whether or not it had a hat on? I have and it's some of the most fun I've ever had drafting Magic.
- Spike, Tournament Grinder / Richard Garfield, Ph.D / Urza, Academy Headmaster / Sword of Dungeons and Dragons.
Spike is not safe for EDH but in cube she's cause some amazing sequences. Ever played an 8 player Shahrazad? I have and it was insane!
Richard Garfield is essentially as good as your knowledge of Magic. An experienced player dropping this will lead to a quick game but with the right players this will lead to the wackiest game ever played, swear to god.
Urza is the fun kind of random, either a flop or a bomb but either way very memorable.
The Sword of D&D is sort of an in joke but it is powerful as hell. I'm the DM for the same people that make up my MTG group so they got me this as a gift. It's been a much used piece in the cube ever since.
- Jalum Grifter / Ashnod's Coupon / Bronze Calendar / Chaos Confetti.
Jalum Grifter is really fun in a casual format like cube, a sort of game within the game that I've come to appreciate.
Ashnod's Coupon is a really funny card, whether in someone's house or in a more public space there's never a reason not to play it. It really makes for some funny conversations and forces you to talk to the others at the table. Did someone board wipe? Well now they're getting you a soda, perfect revenge.
Bronze Calendar is just extremely funny. I've lost more than once to my girlfriend beating me down with giant creatures while speaking in a horrible british accent, I highly recommend it.
Chaos Confetti is a weird one, trust me you don't want people ripping the card. I personally took a piece of paper as big as the card sleeve and keep it in there with Chaos Confetti. Once played that's what's ripped and used. It's one of those moments that feels so good, if the chance comes to play it, take it.
Part 3 - Tidbits
Do you want to use Un Cards in your cube or with your friends? Here are 5 tips to remember when using them.
1 - The salt can be real.
For all players losing to a goofy card can be a really feel bad moment, especially if it's the goofy mechanic that causes them to lose. Make sure your players know what they're getting into when they agree to use Un Cards. A common case of this when a card like Kindslaver causes a player to lose the game.
2 - Don't punish players for playing Magic and/or speaking.
There are plenty of Un cards that punish players for normal things and that's just simply not the environment you want to have. A lot of cards with the Gotcha mechanic are like this, they're fun for a bit but the line between fun and annoying gets crossed really fast. Use common sense, think about if you'd have fun playing against the card before putting it in.
3 - Complication does not equal fun.
Cards like Bureaucracy and Gerrymandering are good for a laugh but at the end of the day they are so overly complicated that it's just not worth playing them. Make sure the cards you put int are understandable and funny, not just one or the other.
4 - Fun does not equal playable.
Similarly, not all fun cards are playable. Cards like Face to Face and Side to Side are really fun but their effects can make them unplayable in certain circumstances. If you notice cards never being played it's best to remove them entirely.
5 - Cater to your play group.
Your playgroup are the people you want to have fun with, if they're not having a good time it's not worth it. Make sure everyone's on the same page about using Un Cards in cubes and EDH. If some players don't want to that's okay, Magic should be fun for everyone. Accommodate those players, maybe save the Un idea until you find a player who wants to.
That's all for this month folks. The Future Sight article is going to be on hold indefinitely at this point. I need to trim down the list of cards before I can actually finish it. Expect to see some of the promised supplements coming soon though. If you have any ideas for future articles comment below, message me on the forums, DM me on twitter @East2westmtg, or you can even email me at [email protected] As always this has been East2west with CCC, I'll see you guys on the battlefield.
East2West is an aspiring writer from NJ currently seeking fame and fortune on the internet. She's been playing Magic since Zendikar block (the original one) and is a commander player with one deck for each two color pair and one for each single color. The only non EDH deck she plays is her own personal Pauper brew, Pauper Eggs. Follow her on her newly created and probably soon to be underused twitter @East2WestMTG.