A Look at Unstable’s Generals

 

It’s been a busy week here in geezer-land, as preparations for the holidays are underway. The tree is going up soon, decorations are laid out, and my son is very excited to meet Sant — ah, who am I kidding, he’s a baby, he’s not excited about anything but food right now. Heh.

Regardless, there’s been a lot of buzz in the MtG community this holiday season, with one excellent reason for it: a third Un-set, Unstable!

Though I have very carefully avoided social media and all spoiler sites, I have nonetheless seen a handful of the cards from this set, and I am pumped to play it in a week. Let’s take a look at more silver-border cards!

For the early part of my Magic career, I was a tournament player, and competing was a large part of my focus. I enjoyed playing strong strategies, and playing the most powerful cards from each set was always a thrill for me.

Now that the tourney part of my Magic career is over (I honestly don’t have the time to spend on it any more), I mostly play very casual EDH.

Having said that, each of the two previous Un-sets did strike a chord with me at the time, which no other set has ever done since.

I have always said that Unhinged was my favorite prerelease experience that I’ve ever played in, as I had a ball with silly cards (though the set definitely wasn’t designed for Sealed play, with broken cards like Frazzled Editor running around). Everyone that went to that prerelease, from the most hardcore tourney grinder to the most casual player, had a blast, and I have loved silly cards ever since.

I have always hoped that Maro could somehow convince the powers-that-be to let them make a third Un-set, and now… we finally have one.

(Side note: the two Conspiracy sets likely came closest to the experience of an Un-set, letting a draft be a super wacky experience. No other set was ever close, though.)

I enjoyed silver-bordered cards to the point that I was making a Cube, planned to be a mix of silver-border and Conspiracy, which I was calling the “Un-spiracy Cube.” I put this Cube on hold in the summer, just as soon as Un-3 was announced, because I knew I’d want to add in the new Un cards. I’ll be getting back to building it as soon as I have the full spoiler for Unstable, and I know this Cube will end up being awesome.

Unstable is most exciting to me because it looks (from the few cards that I’ve seen) to be much more balanced for draft than Unglued/Unhinged were, so it should be excellent to play both by itself, and in the setting of a Cube.

Next weekend, I have a group of friends getting together to draft a bunch of this set, which I know is going to be supremely entertaining. I have avoided nearly all spoilers from the set, except (ironically enough) the potential generals, the legendary creatures of Un-3.

Let’s take a look at what I’ve seen from Unstable.

THE FULL-FRAME BASICS:
These are, of course, gorgeous. Unhinged lands, for a long time, were much in-demand due to how nice they looked, and I have no doubts that these will be the same. Foil Unhinged lands go for a premium now, and are the main reason that boxes of Unhinged are worth anything.

I would imagine that these lands will be much the same, and I am planning to have these be the lands for my Un-Spiracy Cube, since they look awesome. Unfortunately, that means I’ll have to pick up 40-50 of each… a long-term project, to be sure.

THE UN-LEGENDS:
I expected a few things from Unhinged going in. I expected a full-art series of lands (which we got), I expected wacky cards, but most importantly, I expected a bunch of silver-bordered legendary creatures for EDH players to use as generals. And this set definitely has legends in spades!

Now, I do know that Un-generals are not for every Commander playgroup. My group, however, is quite casual and fine with them, so I know that several of us will be looking at building around a silver-border general, since many of these new ones are awesome.

If you look at legendary creatures from Unglued and Unhinged, this is what EDH players had to work with before:

Unglued:
Jalum Grifter
Timmy, Power Gamer

Unhinged:
Johnny, Combo Player
Richard Garfield, Ph.D.
Frankie Peanuts

There were very, very few commanders available for fans of silver-border cards going into Unstable (with Grimlock, Dinobot Leader being an honorary silver-border option as well).

I expected Wizards to up this number of Un-generals substantially in Un-3, since EDH has become such a phenomenon since the printing of the first Un sets. I really expected that we would see a ton of legends in this set.

I personally do have two of these Un-generals built (Jalum Grifter as my coin-flipping chaos deck, and Richard Garfield, Ph.D., built by my wife as mono-blue combo-control). Once Un-3 comes out, I’ll likely add to this number, since most of the new generals look fun as hell to play.

These are the ones I’ve seen:

X:
Spoiled by a friend, this is possibly the most devious “Angela” card I’ve ever seen (Angela, of course, being my wife, and a big fan of sneaky blue-black cards). Put it in someone’s hand, then steal their spells from their hand for the rest of the game. Without a Wheel effect (Wheel of Fortune and the like), this card is very hard for an opponent to remove from their hand, and I can only imagine how powerful the effect will be in a format like EDH, where creatures are giant monsters and spells are super powerful.

I can see X helming a blue-black control deck. Stick him in the opponent’s hand whom you think has the most powerful deck, and then steal their spells all game. Or, you can use the information you get from looking at their hand to choose which spells to counter, creatures to kill, etc.

If needs be, the X player can even include things like Whispering Madness, Windfall, and Dark Deal, so you can get your general out of that player’s hand when you need.

This is a very powerful general, and I can definitely see it being put to good use in EDH.

Baron Von Count:
Speaking of powerful effects, just how powerful an effect is “Destroy target player”? I would say that straight up causing someone to lose a game of EDH is really, really powerful, so naturally I expect the Baron to be quote popular.

Like all good doomsday weapons, the good Baron requires a lot of setup and thought. You need multiple cards with each of his numbers to go into his deck, as well as ways to keep him alive (let’s face it, when he gets played, he’ll be target #1 once he ticks down a few times).

I see a good Baron deck being one where each card you put in has multiple numbers on it, so it can tick down the Baron at multiple points. Cards like Lightning Greaves/Swiftfoot Boots would be excellent in here at keeping the Baron alive, as would cards that grant undying or other such abilities. From there, the deck could literally be anything, so long as you have different numbers and protection covered… it could be a control deck, where you stall long enough to tick down the Baron and kill people. It could be an aggressive deck, where you attack one person with creatures, and tick down the Baron to kill another player. The Baron deck could be one with a lot of planeswalkers in it, since they have lots of numbers in their text boxes for him to work with.

There are a lot of ways to build the Baron, which is pretty sweet. Of all the generals I’ve seen from this set, he is definitely the one I can see being the most popular, and I look forward to seeing “Destroy target player” in action.

Grusilda, Monster Masher:
Now this, this is my kind of general. I already have The Mimeoplasm built as my Sultai general, and he looks to have been the prototype for this card… but I do really like what Grusilda brings to the table (basically, a reusable Mimeoplasm ability, which is quite powerful).

Mimeoplasm has always been great at mixing dead creatures together. You take one creature, add the power from the second creature as +1/+1 counters, and BAM!, you have a super-creature.

What Grusilda does that Mimeoplasm doesn’t, however, is staple text boxes together. This is a hugely powerful effect, letting you turn two creatures with “When this comes into play” triggers into a giant version of those triggers together, or just stapling two powerful text boxes together (Akroma, Angel of Wrath mixes well with just about any creature, I hear).

Also unlike Mimeoplasm, Grusilda is repeatable (you can keep mixing creatures together as long as there are dead creatures, and you have mana to do so). She also doesn’t exile the dead creatures, which Mimeoplasm does… this is relevant in case you have to Wrath, the creature is put back into the graveyard, so she can reuse it again later on.

Finally, Grusilda even gives your combined creatures evasion! Is there anything this mad scientist can’t do?

Simply put, Grusilda is an excellent general, and of all the ones I’ve seen, the one I’m most likely to build.

Grusilda is likely the easiest of the Un-generals to build around. She wants ways to get creatures into the graveyard (either Wrath of God effects to kill off opposing creatures, or Wheel of Fortune effects to discard your own big creatures from hand). She wants large monsters to reanimate, ones with interesting, powerful abilities. Much like the Baron, Grusilda likely wants to run some form of protection, since she will always be a target (your opponents will always want to kill her). And given that her activated ability costs five mana, she likely wants to run some form of mana-ramp, to speed the deck up.

All of that is very doable, however, and I think she’s definitely the best of the new generals. I’m considering retiring The Mimeoplasm in favor of her, that’s how much I like this new commander. A very cool card.

Dr. Julius Jumblemorph:
I end today’s look at Un-generals with this guy, who is an odd one to look at without knowing the whole set. Dr. JJ is a question mark to me, as without the whole spoiler, I don’t know yet how many of these augments or hosts are in the set, or if they’re any good in EDH. Are there enough of these to build an EDH deck with? My gut says no, since this is just a small set, so I don’t think this guy will see any play.

Still, he has the changeling text on him (he is every creature type), so if nothing else, he may see fringe play as the general for various wacky tribes. For example: Knight tribal has never really had a good EDH general, and this guy could be one!

…Nah, I got nothing for this guy yet. I don’t think he’ll have enough support from this one set to be playable in EDH. He’s a disappointing general to end on, but I feel like the others were awesome enough to make up for him.

Conclusion: I have only seen a handful of cards from this set, but I know that Unstable is going to be a lot of fun. As I’d said, I’m doing a draft with friends next weekend, and I am greatly looking forward to looking through the new cards, and figuring them out as I draft.

From here, I know that I’ll be redoing the Un-Spiracy Cube in the new year. I want it to be multiplayer-friendly and super fun, so I’ll be testing it a lot in the coming months. I know for a fact looking at these generals that much of Unstable will be making it into the final Cube.

Now, let’s just hope that Un-3 sells well, so that we get a fourth Un-set!

 

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