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?])

Gold

Baron Von Count

Limited: 4.0

Flavor: 3.0

A 3/3 for 3 that wins the game after you cast 4 spells is awesome, and even if this takes a little more work than that, it’s still very good. It counts so many different numbers that it shouldn’t be hard to doom the opponent, and the fallback of being a 3/3 is perfectly fine.

Better Than One

Limited: 3.5

Flavor: 5.0

Splitting up permanents/cards in hand is a net disadvantage, but it’s definitely outweighed by the extra card your teammate draws each turn. If you can stabilize the board enough that the game will last a while longer (but not too long, because of decking), this is a powerful finisher of sorts. It nails the flavor perfectly, and looks like a lot of fun along the way. This loses value rapidly if you don’t have easy access to amenable teammates, so keep the environment in mind when drafting.

Cramped Bunker

Limited: 1.0

Flavor: 5.0

This is a cute card but not a very good one. It’s slow enough that your opponent can just jam their good creatures into the bunker for long enough that it doesn’t matter if their lands eventually blow up. At 6 mana, tapping out for this and not affecting the board is rough, even if the flavor is quite good.

Dr. Julius Jumblemorph

Limited: 4.5

Flavor: 4.0

This seems like a legit bomb. Not only is the good Doctor a 4/4 for 4, it works with all tribal synergies and generates cards and mana in an augment deck. I’d windmill slam this and see what you can stitch together, which is pretty low risk given the high floor on the card.

The Grand Calcutron

Limited: 2.0

Flavor: 4.0

Functionally, this seems like it doesn’t do a ton. It’s a card-draw engine if you can get with the program and empty your hand, and it makes cards play in an awkward manner, but it’s really hard to say that this will consistently do anything. On the other hand, it looks really funny to have in play, and I’d advocate drafting it and having an orderly good time.

Grusilda, Monster Masher

Limited: 4.0

Flavor: 5.0

It feels like there’s a song that describes this card, but I just can’t place it. Either way, this makes some good and powerful mashups, and is easily worth first-picking. Even without the menace ability, this reanimates creatures at a very good rate, and if the opponent doesn’t kill it, they are going to be the one getting mashed.

Hot Fix

Limited: 1.0-4.0, depending on how fast you are

Flavor: 5.0

I love this card and will take it if I see it. It’s not the best for everyone (for some streamers, this would just be unplayable), but it’s going to be a lot of fun no matter what happens. Just reading this makes me imagine the frantic stacking, and I love it.

Ol’ Buzzbark

Limited: 5.0

Flavor: 5.0

The buzz is real, and this may be the best card in the set. At worst, this is a 2-mana 3/3, and paying 1 mana to average 3.5 damage or +3.5/+3.5 (minus the chances of missing cards in play) is incredible. Slam this and watch your opponent’s die, though I have to warn you—don’t be a jerk and grab giant dice. Damaging other people’s cards is not in the spirit of things at all. Also, don’t be a coward, and just pay the maximum you can every time.

Phoebe, Head of S.N.E.A.K.

Limited: 4.5

Flavor: 5.0

These legends are killing it, as Phoebe is efficient and brutal. She can steal games easily, and there are plenty of truly absurd combinations of abilities she can stack up, all while blanking the opponent’s creatures.

Urza, Academy Headmaster

Limited: 2.0

Flavor: 5.0

If you don’t first pick this, you have no soul. The casting cost makes it dubious, regardless of what the abilities end up being, but why are you playing Unstable if not to first-pick Urza? I’ll be honest. I have no idea what the “average” set of abilities is, but it doesn’t really matter—the casting cost is what makes this rough, and the text box is fun enough that you shouldn’t worry about the result.

X

Limited: 4.0

Flavor: 4.0

This hits the spy note very well, and X=4 for ratings across the board. X is more of an Aura that lets you steal cards from the opponent’s hand at will, and gives them only one turn to react before X marks the spot. Pro tip: Don’t make your opponent discard once you’ve put this into their hand.

Mary O’Kill

Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 4.0

The joke with the name here is a good one, though I’ll pick the option where readers discover it for themselves. If you pick up some Killbots, Mary becomes awesome, and even if you miss she is a solid 5/5 for 6.

Artifacts

Angelic Rocket

Limited: 2.0

Flavor: 3.0

Eight is a hefty amount, though this does a lot of work if you’re playing a slower version of Host/augment. I would also play this in any ramp deck, as it’s a big flying Vindicate regardless.

Border Guardian

Limited: 3.5

Flavor: 4.0

I’m assuming that you’re playing with all silver-bordered cards, minus the occasional Steamflogger Boss, though the rating doesn’t change too much regardless. This grows quickly and can sometimes hit for a million unblockable damage, with solid flavor on top of all that.

Buzzing Whack-a-Doodle

Limited: 4.0

Flavor: 2.0

The only ability you are guaranteed to get is the best one, which means that you will almost never get any of the others (unless you know something the opponent doesn’t, since they should never match with you by game theory). That takes away from the flavor, as this essentially is Buzzing Buzz-a-Buzz.

Clock of DOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

Limited: 2.0

Flavor: 3.0

I deducted a full point on flavor because I got annoyed at counting how many O’s there were, and in fact gave up. The card is fine in a heavy Contraption deck, but I honestly don’t know if it’s a 2 or a 4 without knowing more about how Contraptions really end up playing.

Cogmentor

Limited: 2.5

Flavor: 2.0

I’m underwhelmed by both sides of Cogmentor, though it could make the wheels turn in the right deck. Most Contraptions just aren’t worth paying this much for.

Contraption Cannon

Limited: 2.0

Flavor: 1.0

I demand this fire Contraptions, and am docking the flavor appropriately. In some decks, it can be a nice finisher, but if you have that many Contraptions in play I’d assume that you were in fine shape.

Curious Killbot

Limited: 1.5

Flavor: 3.0

If you have Mary O’Kill, this is an early pick. Otherwise, it’s filler.

Entirely Normal Armchair

Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 4.0

I both love and hate this card. It can lead to some  funny situations, but the added stress of knowing this could be hiding anywhere is kind of annoying. I want to see this happen like once and never again. As for power level, it’s fine, and gets a lot better if your opponent isn’t observant.

Everythingamajig

Limited: 4.0

Flavor: 5.0

I got tired reading this, so I imagine it lives up to the name well. Everythingamajig gives you crushing inevitability, given enough time, and there are so many ways to make this busted that I’m not going to worry about listing them. This, plus any number of counter-based cards, is a sure-fire way to go off, and even by itself this eventually gets there.

Gnome-Made Engine

Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 4.0

This is an actual engine, while also being an engine in the gameplay sense. I like it, and wouldn’t mind taking it for my Host/augment deck.

Handy Dandy Clone Machine

Limited: 3.5

Flavor: 5.0

This card tickles my fancy, and has both a flavorful and real cost associated with it. If you can run it, making 2 Clones at once is very cool, but most people will just have the one.

Kindslaver

Limited: ???

Flavor: 5.0

How good this is relies entirely on who you can hand the reins to, and how much they like you. As a result, I refuse to grade it, though it’s a sweet name and awesome gameplay experience, so you really should be slamming it.

Krark’s Other Thumb

Limited: 1.0 // 3.5

Flavor: 5.0

I’ve been digging the flavor of the cards in this installment, and this card is included. This Thumb is savory and crunchy, all at once. It’s a good callback to a black-bordered card, and will play well in any die-rolling deck.

Labro Bot

Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 3.0

I guess this is a bloodhound of some sort, and that works reasonably well, flavor-wise. This is a welcome addition to any Host/augment deck, and an underdog to show up outside of that.

Lobe Lobber

Limited: 1.0

Flavor: 1.0

Don’t get the flavor, and don’t like the power level. This is a no-brainer for me.

Mad Science Fair Project

Limited: 2.0

Flavor: 4.0

I’d only play this in a 3-color deck, but it’s fine there. It also plays like the name suggests, as you don’t really know what you’re going to get each turn.

Modular Monstrosity

Limited: 4.0, then 3.5, then 3.0, etc.

Flavor: 5.0

This looks like a very fun mini-game, and one that gets more and more difficult over time. The fact that it says “today” means it really drops off fast, as you only get the really good keywords once (and soon enough, you are naming rampage, assuming that even counts). I love it, though you need to do a good job of mixing good and bad keywords so you don’t spew all the good ones in the same game.

Proper Laboratory Attire

Limited: 4.0

Flavor: 4.0

I like the value here even without the protection aspect, and that’s a very meaningful part of it. This is a proper first pick, and a card every deck should be pretty happy to run.

Robo-

Limited: 3.5

Flavor: 3.0

Even with the normal risk of augment, I wouldn’t mind taking a gamble on Robo-. It can trigger tons of times in the right deck, and there are plenty of Hosts that combine with this to be completely degenerate.

Split Screen

Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 5.0

This is kind of like a complicated scry 3, as you have your choice of four cards when your next draw step rolls around, though the cards you choose not to draw remain on top of their respective libraries. It sounds funny and is flavorful, making it a winner in my book.

Staff of the Letter Magus

Limited: 2.0

Flavor: 2.0

Pure life gain is usually not great, which spells doom for this card. It’s also kind of annoying to count letters in every card, so I’m going to pass on this.

Stamp of Approval

Limited: 3.5

Flavor: 3.0

In a dedicated deck, this is very powerful. As long as you pay attention to watermarks, you should end up in a good spot, and at fairly low cost too.

Steam-Powered

Limited: 3.5

Flavor: 4.0

The repeatable augments look really powerful to me, and this is even colorless, so you aren’t committing to much by taking it early.

Steel Squirrel

Limited: 1.5 // 3.5

Flavor: 3.0

In the dedicated die roll deck, this is straight-up Superman. Outside of that, it’s quite mediocre, so make sure you draft the deck where this is the nuts.

Sword of Dungeons & Dragons

Limited: 4.5

Flavor: 5.0

Sword of D&D is a home run in every way, and can even generate infinite Dragons off a single hit (given enough luck). This card is awesome, and if you’re lucky enough to see it, slam it. Most (all) of my D&D characters were wizards, so they wouldn’t even use a sword, but I still love this card.

Voracious Vacuum

Limited: 2.0

Flavor: 1.0

A vacuum should clearly remove counters, not add them, so I deem the flavor here unworthy. It’s a playable card, and in some decks I’d bump it a little higher.

Top 3 Gold/Artifact Cards that Reward Dexterity

3. Ol’ Buzzbark
2. Handy Dandy Clone Machine
1. Hot Fix

Hot Fix is busted if you think and move fast, and worthless otherwise. That is the card I most want to try playing, though skilled hands help with the other two cards too. The Clone Machine is literally twice as good if you’re a master, and Ol’ Buzzbark is probably fine in most people’s hands, but does get better if you’re good at it.

I’ll wrap up with Contraptions after this—the end is in sight.