Previous Unstable Set Reviews

Limited:

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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?])

Animate Library

Limited: 4.0

Flavor: 5.0

Not only does this pack a punch, but it does exactly what a card called “Animate Library” should. I love this card, both in form and flavor. Also, don’t play extra cards in your deck if you have this—a 16/16 and a 20/20 really aren’t that different.

Blurry Beeble

Limited: 3.5

Flavor: 4.0

Wow, and here I thought LASIK had no downside. Be prepared to side this out against glasses-wearing opponents, but otherwise be happy with your 1-mana unblockable looter. There are some metagames where this gets worse, but it should be pretty easy to read the table while drafting. This also incentivizes wearing those hipster glasses without lenses, and really is the only excuse for ever doing so.

Chipper Chopper

Limited: 2.5

Flavor: 3.0

Cards like this make the Limited format go ‘round, even if they aren’t exciting.

Clocknapper

Limited: 4.0

Flavor: 4.0

This does about what I’d expect a Clocknapper to do, which is a flavor win, and is an effective card in Limited to boot. Most commonly, you’ll steal their beginning phase, which means that they don’t untap or draw a card, and you do. That would already be insane, but the ability to steal their combat step and attack them is relevant, and every now and then you’ll steal a main phase or even an end step. This is a broken clock, but it’s right way more often than twice a day.

Crafty Octopus

Limited: 2.5

Flavor: 3.0

I’ll buy an Octopus being crafty, and if you are playing Contraptions, this will ensure that you’re well-armed.

Crow Storm

Limited: 3.5

Flavor: 5.0

Not only is the wordplay on point here, but the card is quite good. With one spell prior, it’s already great, and if you can stack up 2, getting 3 Crows for 3 mana is incredible. 10/10, would murder again.

Defective Detective

Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 4.0

Weird hand-revealing nonsense aside, this is still a 2/1 unblockable for 3. That plays, and the funny flavor is a nice bit of upside.

Five-Finger Discount

Limited: 4.0

Flavor: 4.0

A 6-mana kill spell is already plausible, and drawing the card instead of killing it is way better. This is an easy way to steal games, and gets a thumbs-up from me (along with four other fingers). Also, is a thumb technically a finger? Discuss.

Graveyard Busybody

Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 3.0

Given the abundance of flavor text, this should be pretty big most games. It also opens the door for some weirdness with returning cards from “your” graveyard, which is a nice bonus. The flavor is decent, though a 10/10 Spy doesn’t quite do it for me.

Half-Shark, Half-

Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 3.0

I suppose if the joke is that a Shark never stops moving, or in this case, triggering each upkeep, I’m into it. The card is also a powerful one, and one of the better ways to take advantage of the Host/augment mechanic.

Incite Insight

Limited: 4.0

Flavor: 4.0

Contraption-Geyser is powerful and sweet, and looks like one of the better build-arounds in the set. It also oozes with flavor, as an inventor going mad and making 10 contraptions at conce seems perfect.

Kindly Cognician

Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 3.0

Solid on both fronts, Kindly Cognician is the grease that makes the wheels turn.

Magic Word

Limited: 3.5

Flavor: 5.0

Not only is this pretty close to just unconditional removal, you get bonus points if you pick a word that sounds disturbing when whispered (and if we are being honest, that’s really any word—whispering is pretty disturbing).

Mer Man

Limited: 3.5

Flavor: 3.0

I’m never one to turn down a cantrip creature, and this has the possibility of triggering numerous times. The flavor gets a pass too, since you can keep going fishing for extra cards.

More or Less

Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 4.0

I don’t know what this can do, but I’m sure it’s something ridiculous. The flavor text is a nice one too, and I’m willing to give it extra points for that.

Novellamental

Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 1.0

This card will play well, especially in multiples (one good tern deserves another, as the saying goes). The flavor isn’t there, unless I’m missing something about books with wings, and the flavor text is incomprehensible.

Numbing Jellyfish

Limited: 1.5

Flavor: 2.0

You need to be able to trigger this many times before it becomes good, so it’s more of a build-around than most Host cards. Like actual jellyfish, the flavor isn’t great here either.

S.N.E.A.K. Dispatcher

Limited: 3.5

Flavor: 4.0

While the whole watermark thing doesn’t quite do it for me, I can appreciate the flavor of a dispatcher telling agents where to go. The effect here is also quite powerful, as it draws extra cards and can do some good deck manipulation when targeting either player.

Socketed Sprocketer

Limited: 3.5

Flavor: 5.0

Even by itself, this is a very slow card-drawing engine, and given how many dice rolling cards are in the set, it has a ton of utility. It also lives up to the name beautifully, making it a win on all fronts.

Spell Suck

Limited: 2.5

Flavor: 3.0

This doesn’t suck if you have Contraptions, but does suck if you don’t. Plan accordingly. As for flavor, the flavor text gets me there.

Spy Eye

Limited: 4.0

Flavor: 4.0

This perfectly captures the flavor of a spying robot, and does so while being very powerful. You will get stuck with uncastable cards in hand sometimes, but as soon as you spy a land or two, that problem goes away. I spy a first pick here.

Suspicious Nanny

Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 4.0

I love the flavor text here, and this Nanny does look as suspicious as it gets. It’s a solid card too, with decent stats and a powerful ability if it gets through (in some matchups, at least). If you draft this, be prepared to side it out against those who aren’t assembling Contraptions, but I’d lean toward starting it.

Time Out

Limited: 3.5

Flavor: 4.0

In a normal set, this would get a 3.0, but good interaction is scarce in Unstable-land. Putting their permanents on time out seems both effective and flavorful, and even has synergy with dice-altering effects.

Very Cryptic Command

Limited: 4.0

Flavor: 3.0

This is a decent riff on Cryptic Command, though the abilities are pretty random, and don’t combine all that well. The most powerful use is to bring back a spell and tap some things down, but I’m sure you can find plenty of things to do with this.

Wall of Fortune

Limited: 3.5

Flavor: 4.0

Time to spin the wheel (wall)! I like this card a lot, and it looks like a ton of fun while being quite effective (and has a sweet name). Winners all around.

Top 3 Most Fun Blue Cards

3. More or Less
2. Socketed Sprocketer
1. Wall of Fortune

I like the dice-rolling mechanic, and it’s no surprise that multiple ways to mess with die rolls are the cards I want to play with most. More or Less also looks like it can lead to some absurdity, and I’m hoping I can draft it in the one or two Drafts I’ll end up doing.