Mark Rosewater fought for 13 years to see un-sets return to Magic: the Gathering. He finally achieved his goal with the release of Unstable on 8 December 2017. Unstable brings players all the zany fun they should expect from silver border Magic along with a new set of gorgeous full-art basic lands. Unstable will be available in booster packs and boxes with an MSRP of $3.99 (est. 3.37€) for a booster pack. In addition, Mark Rosewater wrote an un-story article for the Unstable’s plane – the world of Bablovia.
Bablovia is an interesting place given its five unique co-existing governments: The Order of the Widget, The Agents of S.N.E.A.K, The League of Dastardly Doom, The Goblin Explosioneers, and The Crossbreed Labs. Each of these governments represents the five factions players will likely draft as in Unstable. The Order of the Widget will be artifact focused, whereas S.N.E.A.K is focused on stealing and espionage. The League of Dastardly Doom is a reference to super-villains in comics. For instance, The Big Idea is a Braniac reference from Superman. The Goblin Explosioneers, led by Ol’ Buzzbark, focuses on assembling contraptions and normal goblin things, and hammers – lots of hammers. Lastly, Crossbreed Labs focuses on Unstable’s crazy augment/host creature system, which allows players to mix and match their creatures provided they have a host creature to place their augments on. The crazy world of Bablovia offers players tons of silver-bordered Magic fun with five different equally crazy factions and, if you are interested in the real power of Bablovia… squirrels.
In the end, though, any set – even an un-set – comes down to its mechanics and Unstable brings with it many new and interesting mechanics.
Contraptions are artifacts that you place in your extra deck. They are the most interesting new addition to the Magic universe, as they are a card type initially spoiled in Future Sight and additionally create an extra deck for silver-bordered Magic. For constructed players, your extra deck must contain at least 15 different contraptions. Whenever someone plays a card that assembles contraptions, like Steamflogger Boss and Work a Double, they place the top card of their contraption deck into one of three sprockets. At the beginning of each turn, you will move your CRANK! Counter to the next sprocket, and you crank or activate every contraption under that sprocket. This means if you have four contraptions under one sprocket, you will get every one of those effects when you crank that sprocket. Contraptions like Refibrillator can get creatures back from the grave, making contraptions powerful when a player can activate multiple ones per turn for zero mana cost.
Last Strike and Triple Strike
These finally make their way into MTG, although they do so in silver borders as the Magic Rules Staff still thinks it over-complicates the rules. Fortunately, rules do not matter in silver border Magic, so players will be able to use their Extremely Slow Zombie to strike last, instead of first. Last Strike works much in the same way as first strike does, but instead of happening before the normal damage, last strike happens after. This means that in Unstable, there are three steps in which combat damage can be dealt. Triple strike, therefore, occurs at every phase – once before normal damage, once during normal damage, and once after normal damage. Lastly, if a player gives first strike to a creature with last strike, then that creature gains split strike, which means it deals combat damage before and after normal damage, but not during normal damage, which is quite odd. So, be ready to call the judges often to ask weird questions about when your creatures deal damage in Unstable drafts and events.
The last major new mechanic in Unstable is the host creature/augment system. (Or is it the augment/host creature system?) Players may notice cards like Adorable Kitten with a bar down the center of the art and its card text split between a note and standard card text. These creatures are all host creatures with enter the battlefield triggers. They can, however, become much more with augment cards like Monkey-, which replaces the ETB trigger with a repeatable trigger. Augments have mana costs and can only be used on host creatures, but they allow players to mix and match creatures and effects, allowing for crossbred perfection. Be sure to experiment with all of the various augment/host creature combinations.
In addition to these major shifts, several other mechanics return and are changed by Unstable. Dice-rolling, for instance, is now a part of the silver border squirrel archetype, granting players the ability to increase or decrease dice rolls with cards like Snickering Squirrel. Players will also finally get the conclusion to the Johnny-Timmy-Spike silver-border mega-cycle with Spike, Tournament Grinder. Wizards additionally intends this set to be Commander friendly, adding in new Commander-viable legendary creatures like X and Baron Von Count.
Unstable, as with any un-set, pushes many different mechanics to their limits and it would take far too long to discuss them all, so players should explore what Unstable has to offer as some of these ideas may even make it into black border Magic one day. For now, sleeve up your Crow Storms and get ready to lose yourself in the world of Bablovia.