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?])

Adorable Kitten

Limited: 1.5

Flavor: 2.0

If you need a Host body, this is a valid target. The ability isn’t all that spectacular, but a 1/1 for 1 that enables other cards is reasonable. I don’t get the flavor connection, but I guess adorable and life gain are somewhat alike?

Aerial Toastmaster

Limited: 2.5

Flavor: 2.0

In a world of random nonsense, a 3/2 flyer for 4 is at least playable. I’m not sure exactly how good assembling a Contraption is, but if you get a couple good Contraptions, it’s got to be pretty close to drawing a card, and possibly better. That’s a decent extra bit of text, making this an appealing addition if you have some Contraptions. As for flavor, I’m somewhere between burnt toast and edible, but either way I’m not thrilled.

Amateur Auteur

Limited: 2.5

Flavor: 1.0

This isn’t enchanting, but it’s playable. This is literally a card from multiple black-bordered expansions, so I’m not entirely sure what it’s doing here, or what the flavor is. Seems like amateur hour to me.

By Gnome Means

Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 4.0

This takes some work, but is a powerful build-around if you get there. At the very least it loops for 4 mana, and in a deck with counters as a drawback or in a deck with powerful counter-based cards, it can do a lot. I’d take this early and try to build around it. The flavor is great too, with the name and joke lining up quite nicely.

Chivalrous Chevalier

Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 3.0

A 5-mana 3/3 flyer is a fine deal, and it honestly can’t be that hard to come up with a compliment. For example, despite the high difficulty level, I’m able to compliment Paul Cheon extensively by saying such things as, “you’re pretty decent at Magic” and “your commentary isn’t the worst I’ve ever heard.” If I can compliment Cheon, you should be able to compliment a random opponent.

Do-It-Yourself Seraph

Limited: 4.0

Flavor: 4.0

Build-your-own is a classic, and this scales in a powerful and satisfying manner. It’s also a 4/4 flyer to begin with, and can stack up abilities to the ceiling. This looks like a hit, both in form and function, and I challenge you to make something really sweet. Also remember that many of the colored cards are artifacts in this set.

Gimme Five

Limited: 1.0

Flavor: 4.0

You’d need to gain like 10 life for this to be playable, and even then there are matchups where it does nothing. It does sound sweet, and can lead to a nice mad dash for high-fives. Hitting other players doesn’t count for the high-five part, so try not to be too aggressive.

GO TO JAIL

Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 4.0

Solid flavor and good gameplay makes this a decent early pick. As usual, I ran the numbers (a.k.a., I opened Frank’s article, and that gives the opponent about a 1/6 chance of escaping.) At this cheap a cost, I’m in.

Half-Kitten, Half-

Limited: 2.0

Flavor: 2.0

The stats aren’t too impressive here, and needing the opponent to hit you to trigger whatever this ends up being is a tall order. It’s also worth noting that the augment cards are weaker than Hosts, as they can end up stuck in your hand, doing nothing.

Humming-

Limited: 4.0

Flavor: 3.0

Not only does this give flying and good stats, it’s easy to trigger the ability over and over. This is an augment card I can get behind, and even has an aggressive flavor that I kind of buy.

Jackknight

Limited: 3.5

Flavor: 3.0

Contraptions aren’t the only things being assembled, and making this into a 3/3 or 4/4 seems reasonable. That puts this a cut above most 2-drops, and feels very on-theme. The flavor grade would get bumped up a bit if it could get more abilities than just lifelink, as would fit a proper utility knife.

Knight of the Kitchen Sink

Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 2.0

A 2/2 first strike for WW is a card I’m happy playing, even if the protection is rarely going to be relevant. I’m not sure what the kitchen sink has to do with black borders, so this gets a Chili’s flavor grade.

Knight of the Widget

Limited: 2.5

Flavor: 2.0

I assume you can cobble together enough Widgets to make this a 3/3 enough of the time that it’s worth it, even if I personally find it annoying as hell to count watermarks. Just for that, I’m docking it some flavor points, and you can’t stop me, because this is my review. Taste it, Knight of the Widget.

Midlife Upgrade

Limited: 1.5

Flavor: 3.0

You have to be pretty deep into the Contraption deck before this becomes appealing, and even then it’s not all that mana efficient. I think the answer to “can I upgrade you?” is largely going to be “no.”

Oddly Uneven

Limited: 4.0

Flavor: 4.0

Good flavor, good gameplay, and a powerful effect that rewards planning. I’m in for this, and you should get suspicious if your opponent starts making some weird blocks. Counting words in card names is part of the skill of Unstable—you signed up for this.

Old Guard

Limited: 3.5

Flavor: 4.0

I didn’t actually look at all the cards to see how many this taps, and I’m not going to, but I still assume it’s pretty good. I’m assuming “Old Guard” refers to annoyed veteran players who don’t need reminder text, and as such, I’m a fan of the flavor. Seriously, the first time they put reminder text on Walls (“walls can’t attack”) we thought they were crazy.

Ordinary Pony

Limited: 4.0

Flavor: 3.0

Not only is this great on its own, it combines very well with some good augments. Repeatable blink effects come with a lot of horsepower, and can wreak havoc on most board states. The flavor gets a pass too—I guess you are riding the horse around the battlefield, or something?

Rhino-

Limited: 2.0

Flavor: 2.0

I’m pretty skeptical of triggers that your opponent can control, and on-block triggers are pretty easy for them to avoid. As with all augments, not having hosts is a risk, and this isn’t strong enough to overcome that. I also think Rhinos attac more than protec, so the flavor is a bit of a miss too.

Riveting Rigger

Limited: 2.5

Flavor: 3.0

This works well if you’re heavy on artifacts and going down the Contraption path, while playing up the “scrap artifacts for value” theme quite nicely.

Rules Lawyer

Limited: 5.0

Flavor: 5.0

Not only is this card annoying as all hell for your opponent, it captures the flavor perfectly. While this is in play, you can’t lose, your creatures can’t die, and much more. It’s confusing, annoying, and powerful, leading to perfect scores all around. A few years ago I would say it would make the perfect Tom Martell invitational card, but he’s relaxed enough that the joke doesn’t really play. Oh well, can’t let the truth get in the way of a good beat, right?

Sacrifice Play

Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 2.0

While the name isn’t the most evocative, this is a pretty funny card. It rewards you for not being a jerk, as random people are more inclined to help you and choose the opponent’s better creatures, while still playing well even if you have a hostile audience. Pro Tip: This gets better when you are playing against someone even more annoying than you, so choose your opponent wisely, and maybe side this out if you are playing against a local favorite. That, or conveniently have snacks to offer someone before choosing them, which seems totally cool and definitely not like bribery.

Shaggy Camel

Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 1.0

I don’t know how Camels taste, but this one isn’t full of flavor. It’s a solid addition to any deck, and if you can find an augment card, that’s even better.

Side Quest

Limited: 2.0

Flavor: 5.0

If this were an instant, I’d be much more down, since it could save your creatures from removal. As is, it’s a dubious way to get two +1/+1 counters, even if the flavor is A+.

Success!

Limited: 3.0

Flavor: 1.0

+2/+2 for 1 mana with a slight upside is a fine deal, even in wacky silver-bordered land. This plays well, though it does so without being particularly flavorful. It’s necessary filler, like coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts—it’ll get the job done, even if there’s no flavor involved.

Teacher’s Pet

Limited: 2.5

Flavor: 3.0

A 2-drop with real upside is a fine card in my book, even if it’s a bit of a goody two-shoes.

Top 3 Most Flavorful White Cards

3. Old Guard
2. Side Quest
1. Rules Lawyer

Some decent flavor here, with Rules Lawyer easily taking the cake (and explaining to your opponent why they can’t have it).