Unstable Limited Set Review: Black

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Welcome to my set review of Unstable! There are a few things different about this review:

  • This set is supposedly designed for Limited. As such, I’m going to try and nail down how good the cards are. Wish me luck!
  • Some of these cards are really hard to seriously review. I’ll try, but if I feel like it’s unrealistic to evaluate a card, I’ll say so.
  • Cards will be rated on flavor. There are some hits and misses here, and it feels appropriate to call both out. More than half the fun of silver-bordered sets is reading the cards and thinking “that’s sweet,” so this grade is meant to capture that.

Here are the mechanics of the set, for reference.

For the card ratings, the old ratings scale will suffice:

Ratings Scale

Retired and inducted into the Limited Hall of Fame: Pack Rat. Umezawa’s Jitte. The Scarab God.
5.0: The best of the best. (Glorybringer. The Scorpion God. The Locust God.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Archfiend of Ifnir. Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh. God-Pharaoh’s Gift.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Sunset Pyramid. Angler Drake. Sand Strangler.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Open Fire. Ambuscade. Gravedigger.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Desert of the Mindful. Oasis Ritualist. Oketra’s Avenger.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Unsummon. Puncturing Blow. Naga Vitalist.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Tah-Crop Skirmisher. Harrier Naga. Counterveiling Winds.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Moaning Wall. Khenra Eternal. Without Weakness.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Defiant Khenra. Disposal Mummy. Djeru’s Renunciation.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Forsake the Worldly. Chandra’s Defeat.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Solemnity. Luxa River Shrine. One with Nothing.)

For flavor, I need a new scale:

5.0: Exquisite flavor, like a piping hot quesadilla with a side of fresh guacamole. (Form of the Dragon. Standstill.)
4.0: Delicious, but not perfect, like a burger when you’re ravenous, but one that’s slightly overcooked. (Manor Skeleton [is it a man, or skeleton?])
3.0: An average meal, one that fills you up and tastes good, like Chipotle. (Lightning Strike, or any other generic burn spell.)
2.0: Will keep you alive, but isn’t very satisfying or tasty, like Soylent. (Siege Rhino [what are these numbers??])
1.0: Disgusting, but technically still edible, like Shake Shack. (Pin to the Earth [HOW DOES THIS NOT LOSE FLYING?])

Big Boa Constrictor

Limited: 2.0 // 3.0

Flavor: 3.0

The coils of this ever tighten, squeezing the life out of the opponent roll by roll. This is one of the cards that gets better when you can repeat it, making it a fairly specific build-around (but one worth going for). The flavor lines up too, and despite Snakes being fairly weak and ineffective in general, this one plays. It is extremely slow, like most Snakes tend to be, so keep that in mind when drafting around it.

capital offense

limited: 3.5

flavor: 4.0

this plays well and is effective, killing all of the fancy cards you are looking to kill. in a set like this, removal is hard to come by, and i’m happy taking and playing this any time.

Dirty Rat

Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 4.0

I’m always hungry for card advantage, and this provides a good deal without any work and a great deal if you can trigger it multiple times. Making them discard a few cards can splinter even the best plan, and getting all that for 2 mana is a not-so-secret way of winning.

Extremely Slow Zombie

Limited: 2.5

Flavor: 5.0

Anyone with brains will realize that last strike is a pretty real drawback, though it doesn’t stop this from being playable. If you have good removal, this goes up in value, and it plays very nicely with combat tricks because your opponent will be falling over themselves to block. The flavor is excellent too, as this does exactly what Zombies do (except scary fast Zombies, which I consider not canon). Beware of double blocks, by the way, unless you want this to become dead dead.

Finders, Keepers

Limited: 4.0

Flavor: 2.0

You aren’t finding something so much as ripping it out of a creature’s heart, so I’m a little down on the flavor. The card is quite strong, though the rating is based on having Contraptions to assemble.


Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 4.0

I’m going to give this card the benefit of the _ _ _ _ _ and gloss over the fact that the word in the background should have noted the second “A” (I don’t buy that the word is “hangmen”). This is a pretty _ _ _ _ design, and one that I’m _ _ _ _ _ to play with. I also realize that not all these words are 6 to 8 letters, but if they can get the game wrong, so can I. This is a strong card, by the way, and should do a decent amount of damage if you’re good at picking words. It’s better against, uh, those with less extensive vocabularies, so pick your spots wisely. I’d advise siding it out against me, though it would be your best card against _ _ _ _    _ _ _ _ _ _.

Hazmat Suit (Used)

Limited: 3.5

Flavor: 5.0

This is hazardous to both players’ health, and at the very worst can lead to a good race. If you are crafty, you’ll use a pen or your sleeve to move your creature around, leaving you with a flavor win and a strong threat.

Hoisted Hireling

Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 5.0

This breaks the fourth wall in the best possible way (speaking of which, my favorite card designed by Tom LaPille is Fourth Wall, which is a Wall with the text: “This is a card in a card game”). In any case, this is strictly better than flying, as it can gain or lose flying without even using the stack, a point I’d make multiple times a turn.


Limited: 3.5

Flavor: 3.0

Frank Karsten used a Markov Chain to display the expected stats of this. Who is the real Inhumaniac in this situation? (It’s Frank.) He did a better job than I could, but suffice to say, the card is good.

Masterful Ninja

Limited: 3.5

Flavor: 5.0

I wanted to just leave a blank review here, but I know everyone would just assume it was incompetence, not a joke. I’ll just say that this is a powerful 0-mana creature, and should make an appearance in any deck with Swamps.


Limited: 2.5

Flavor: 4.0

The only reason this doesn’t get a higher grade is that augment cards are dead without a Host, so there’s extra risk. This is a solid one, and can ambush your opponent, which is quite solid flavor.

Old-Fashioned Vampire

Limited: 3.0 // 4.0

Flavor: 5.0

I love everything about this card. The only knock I have is that it’s still pretty powerful during the day, though it’s great at night. Still, I’m giving this perfect flavor, because I can. I’d also errata it such that if the opponent’s last meal contained garlic it gets -1/-1, but you can run it however you’d like.

Over My Dead Bodies

Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 4.0 // 1.0

As long as you just draft a ton of creatures, this will give you a bigger advantage than your opponent, especially if you aggressively get your creatures killed. The flavor is real here, but so are the annoying logistics, so it gets a split grade. This is the kind of silver-bordered card that seems like a nightmare to adjudicate, though I haven’t actually played with it yet.

Overt Operative

Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 4.0

This is pretty straight-up, much like the name suggests. I’m a fan.

“Rumors of My Death…”

Limited: 3.5

Flavor: 5.0

I love this quote and I’m a fan of slow and grindy recursion engines, so it’s hard to exaggerate how much I like this card. If you can loop cards with ETB abilities, that’s great, and it gives you a way to crush the late game with any number of sweet combos.

Skull Saucer

Limited: 4.5

Flavor: 1.0

This is peak Unstable. This card is way too powerful not to play, but it’s annoying as hell to need to keep your head on the table until it trades off. This is the kind of sauce I don’t like the taste of, even if I know that some are into it.

Sly Spy

Limited: 1.5

Flavor: 2.0

It’s hard to get this through, which calls into question the name. Is it really sly if it never connects? What’s it spying on? Isn’t it obvious that it’s working with the Russians?

Snickering Squirrel

Limited: 1.0 // 3.0

Flavor: 2.0

I know Squirrels have to do with die rolls in this set, but I’m still not sure why. This is a fine build-around, and is quite playable in the dice-heavy decks.

Spike, Tournament Grinder

Limited: 1.0 // 5.0

Flavor: 4.0

There are so many ways to instantly win the game that I’m not going to bother going into them, but suffice to say that Spike should end the game unless you are very low on life. The only annoying thing is carrying these banned cards around, which is why she actually gets a 1.0. As for the art, well, I’m a fan.

Squirrel-Powered Scheme

Limited: 1.0 // 3.5

Flavor: 2.0

This is either dead or the nuts, depending on your deck composition. It’s worth building toward, and probably a fine first-pick. My flavor critique stands—why Squirrels? Why die rolls? Why male models?

Steady-Handed Mook

Limited: 3.5

Flavor: 3.0

If you have Contraptions, this is great, and it’s a fine playable even without them. I’m in.

Stinging Scorpion

Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 2.0

Sorry, I just can’t buy Scorpions without deathtouch. This is unlikely to finish too many creatures, but it’s playable on its face. It also repeats well enough, if you end up augmenting it.


Limited: 1.0 // 4.0

Flavor: 5.0

How good this is depends on how well-liked you are. Without naming names, there are definitely people who should not play this (and people like Reid Duke who will have very good results).

Summon the Pack

Limited: 5.0

Flavor: 5.0

This is a home run in both effect and flavor, as long as you have some packs handy. As many have said, Legions is a good set to roll with, though Rise of the Eldrazi isn’t bad either. I’d recommend against cracking Alpha packs, for a number of reasons.


Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 4.0

Coming out of the graveyard is perfect for this, and it’s got a powerful effect, to boot. I like this as a late game plan, and especially like that it keeps coming back.

Top 3 Black Cards That Annoy Me

3. Hangman
2. Over my Dead Bodies
1. Skull Saucer

For whatever reason, black has a bunch of cards that don’t tickle my fancy, and I’m more likely to avoid it as a result. I like nonsense, but some of this is just unwieldy, and as I’ve said before, I’m the one doing the reviewing.


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