Are Unfinity Cards Right For Your Commander Games?

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Gigantic Caveats

This is Cheatyface my favorite Un-card. I have a side goal of sticking about 50 of them under a play mat and sneaking them into play. Of course, Cheatyface allows you to literally cheat and would never be allowed at an official event. It's just for fun, you say. Fun for who? Well, the cheater in this case.

I can and have used silver-bordered cards in Commander decks and purely casual constructed decks as well. Besides Cheatyface, I also love Booster Tutor and Ashnod's Coupon as some of my all-time favorites. However, I never take umbrage when someone vetoes my silver-bordered stuff.

What is the difference between an acorn card from Unfinity, Cheatyface, a homemade card, or a proxy? To me, there is very little difference. None of these cards are "legal" for Magic tournament play. Unfinity is unique, though, for having both cards that are not legal for tournament play while also having cards that will be allowed in eternal formats. From this point on, however, we have to make an assumption.

Huge Assumption

A casual play group accepting acorn Unfinity cards must accept silver-bordered cards. This creates some tangible problems because there are hundreds of silver-bordered cards that tables have not considered.

So yes, if your playgroup has never allowed silver-bordered cards it's less likely you will opt to allow the new acorn cards. However, new players especially are going to want to give them a try. I think that means that silver-bordered cards will see a resurgence, at least briefly.

A Slippery Slope

To quote Mark Rosewater:

"Over the years, silver border slowly shifted to end up meaning "not for any official format, casual or not," which flies in the face of what it was originally intended to do."

"They were silver border only because the set was silver border, not because they couldn't work in black border. Why were we making cards casual players could play and then not allowing them to play them?"

No, Mark, I'm just not sure that lives up to my Commander experience. Since day one people have brought silver-bordered cards and decks to casual Commander pods. Part of the proof of this is the high prices that some silver-bordered cards carry to this day because there is demand for some of these cards.

The assumption has always been that you would ask the group if they were okay with silver-bordered cards. Sometimes a group said "Sure thing" other times "No thanks, play a regular deck please." No representative from Wizards ever showed up at my tables and stopped us from playing with silver-bordered cards in casual games.

If I sit down with other players for Commander our rule zero discussion is what we have. Some people do not enjoy Stax, others hate mill. Even legal, black-bordered cards get vetoed regularly at casual Commander tables. Then there's the power level.

Outside of that, the Commander Rules Council has done a fabulous job of keeping the format fairly healthy. It is my belief that the format itself is mostly self-regulating but does need a bit of help from time to time. Introducing this new class of "black bordered but really silver bordered" cards is strange. It's solving a "problem" that does not exist and I feel that it muddies the waters, considerably, in multiple ways.

What Is The Harm? Backward Compatibility, Assumptions, And Power

There are a significant number of cards from previous Un-sets that are drastically powerful. Ass Whuppin' is not one of them. However, does this card works on the new black-bordered acorn cards of Unfinity? This article written by Matt Tabak indicates that yes, Ass Whupin' will work with black-bordered acorn cards, as will any other cards that reference silver border such as Underdome. Is this a big deal? No, however, there are far more than just these two examples of confusion and necessary errata and the article even references an exception. I can't think of anything my casual table enjoys more than being forced to check rules errata for supposedly casual cards during games.

What About Power?

Take a look at the price graph for February-March of this year. What happened? Speculators saw the idea of Unfinity and made some guesses as to some particularly powerful cards that might be in high demand as a result. If you're not familiar with it, Richard Garfield, Ph.D. is one of the absolute most powerful Un-cards allowing you to engage in a game called "Mental Magic." Now, don't get me wrong, Mental Magic is fun! We would often play this with draft boosters between rounds and it is a blast. However, in a format like Commander, it is far too easy for Dr. Garfield to become a one-card, game-ending combo with counterspell backup.

Is making all your premium foil cards cost one less good? Super Secret Tech has gone way up in price. Considering how common foil cards have become, this makes everything in your deck cost one less. As a side effect, your foil creatures also get +1/+1. This is a very decent card and would show up in a massive number of Commander decks if it were implicitly allowed. Would it be too powerful? Potentially. Would it be completely ubiquitous? I think it would.

Another inarguably powerful Un-card, Mox Lotus adds infinite mana to your mana pool. For "only" 15 mana the game ends. It's colorless and works best with decks that use a commander that wins with infinite mana like Kenrith, the Returned King or Tasigur, the Golden Fang. Much like the reasoning behind banning Emrakul, the Aeons Torn too many players would play the card and it would inevitably create too many "oops the game ends" moments, and Shape Anew decks.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Assumptions

Have you ever heard of someone flipping a table at their local game store (LGS)? It's happened more than once in more than one place. Now, instead of that, we get animating the table. I joke but only a little. Lots of the new Unfinity cards will cause physical issues. Several of these cards are going to be difficult to use across SpellTable. I'm not sold on many of these cards being fun concepts and some are making my head ache when I'm trying to figure out what they do.

I can see this causing a bit of a row in the playerbase in the near term. As mentioned previously, not everyone wants to play casually, or competitively, versus Stax, or against mill. There are a lot of preferences to balance in a healthy pod. Revisiting the concept of silver-bordered cards won't make finding compatible pods any easier. This is, of course, different than releasing another Un-set because this time it's more confusing. Some cards are perfectly legal to play and some are not. Mixing them all together with black borders seems like an unwise decision that will cause confusion.

Changing Things for The Sake of Change

In a few weeks, players will get their heavily playtested and designed "unofficial official" Unfinity cards. But not for tournaments. Well, only certain cards. Most cards will be allowed. But not everything! And this is good and makes sense because, uh, yeah because! It's new and different, and did we mention new? Plus these cards will be Commander legal... except for the cards that aren't, of course. Yikes!

There was something unique and special about pursuing the idea of silver-bordered cards as a purely casual endeavor in and of itself but that idea did not resonate with Wizards R&D. Why make a purely casual format when we can inject potentially competitive cards into it? I simply do not buy into the idea that casual players at casual tables never built decks or played games utilizing silver bordered cards because, well, I've played with and against said casual cards. Maybe my experience is just an outlier?

Time will tell if I am correct in asserting that if Unfinity does well, we are going to see a surge in demand for silver-bordered cards, even temporarily. But if not, maybe the whole idea simply does not appeal to as many people as Wizards suspects and a big part was the very nature of silver-bordered itself.

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Joe Mauri

Joe has been an avid MTG player and collector since the summer of 1994 when he started his collection with a booster box of Revised. Millions of cards later he still enjoys tapping lands and slinging spells at the kitchen table, LGS, or digital Arena. Commander followed by Draft are his favorite formats, but, he absolutely loves tournaments with unique build restrictions and alternate rules. A lover of all things feline, he currently resides with no less than five majestic creatures who are never allowed anywhere near his cards. When not Gathering the Magic, Joe loves streaming a variety of games on Twitch( both card and other.

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Posted in Casual, Cheating, Commander, Free, News, Opinion, Proxies, Rules, Tournaments, Un-setsTagged , , , , , , , , ,

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