Right after Unstable came out, I went to some release tournaments despite the heavily snowy weekend and picked up a few boxes that I’ve been drafting and adding to Cube projects here and there for a few months. With those few months of play, I’ve learned a lot about the set.
Unstable is not a normal draft or prices set. Most of the value is tied up in lands and tokens. Right now, over at CoolStuffInc.com, the full art basic land is going for between $3.99 for the Island to $2.49 for the Mountain and Plains. That means you’ll make at least a $2.49 result from your pack, and these lands are obviously going to go up. In two or three years, that could each be five dollars and rising. Many of the tokens are also around fifty cents as well. That means your Basic + token is guaranteed to be around $3. The part of the pack worth the least in most sets is, very ironically, worth the most in Unstable.
The result is that singles prices are incredibly tame. For example, take Angelic Rocket.
If Angelic Rocket had been printed in Commander 2017 rather than Unstable, and was only legal for Legacy, Vintage, and casual play, it would have been a heralded all-star and started at a few dollars. A 4/4 flying Vindicate for every color? That’s so good for colors that need answers! Or flyers! Or both! (Cough, Green, cough, and the eight-mana casting cost isn’t as bad in ramp either). This card would already be an all-star at the kitchen table. But, because it’s a silver-bordered card from a set where there’s just not a lot of financial room to grow, it’s a quarter. In the same token, Do-It-Yourself Seraph is an amazing tool for Johnnies everywhere, and yet it’s also just a buck, despite being a very powerful mythic. It has no business being a buck!
So the set is cheap on the secondary market, but boosters are all tied up in lands and tokens. So the disadvantage in drafting Unstable is that you have to pay full price for the boosters, and then other than lands and tokens, your singles are looking pretty poor. You come out of a draft with some lands (that you already owned copies of), some tokens (which you don’t need to play) and the new stuff that you want is worth a buck fifty. It’s an odd feel.
But what isn’t odd is the draft. The draft format is very good.
For example, this weekend I played in three casual kitchen table drafts, and won each of my drafts with these decks.
Rakdos Control ? Unstable Draft | Abe Sargent
- Creatures (15)
- 1 Bumbling Pangolin
- 1 Common Iguana
- 1 Ninja
- 1 Old-Fashioned Vampire
- 1 Painiac
- 1 Skull Saucer
- 1 Target Minotaur
- 1 The Big Idea
- 2 Dirty Rat
- 2 Wrench-Rigger
- 3 Feisty Stegosaurus
Great control deck, with burn, dorks, and style. It’s nice to beat down with an Old-Fashioned Vampire. This deck featured enough removal to go deep and I have enough creatures to either add to that removal (Skull Saucer) or feature some fun times of my own. Three Feisty Stegosaurus are just an awesome trio-tastic amount of Stegos.
UBG D6 Fun Times ? Unstable Draft | Abe Sargent
- Creatures (20)
- 1 Beast in Show
- 1 Big Boa Constrictor
- 1 Clocknapper
- 1 Ground Pounder
- 1 Hydradoodle
- 1 Mother Kangaroo
- 1 Numbing Jellyfish
- 1 Phoebe, Head of SNEAK
- 1 Sly Spy
- 1 Sly Spy
- 1 Snickering Squirrel
- 1 Steel Squirrel
- 1 Wall of Fortune
- 1 Wild Crocodile
- 2 Blurry Beeble
- 2 Chipper Chopper
- 2 Willing Test Subject
- Instants (1)
- 1 Time Out
This deck was good at holding the forts and added some d6 fun layered in as well. I drafted some serious d6 rolling crazy shenanigans as well in my contraptions for my Riggers and spells to assemble, and I had a lot of fun smashing faces and taking names for later smashing of faces. I really would have liked a third Test Subject, but they are pretty heavily coveted as build-around-me commons in the format. Phoebe is a game-winning force.
Mono-Green 4-Color ? Unstable Draft | Abe Sargent
- Creatures (16)
- 1 Beast in Show
- 1 Bumbling Pangolin
- 1 Dirty Rat
- 1 Eager Beaver
- 1 Garbage Elemental
- 1 Gnome-Made Engine
- 1 Half-Orc, Half-
- 1 Joyride Rigger
- 1 Labro Bot
- 1 Mer Man
- 1 Multi-Headed
- 1 Robo-
- 1 Voracious Vacuum
- 3 Wild Crocodile
- Enchantments (1)
- 1 Magic Word
- Artifacts (1)
- 1 Mad Science Fair Project
This was a fun deck, built around a lot of Green land-fetching stuff and multiple colors. I will swear by Wild Crocodile in most shells. Selfie Preservation and the Mad Science Fair Project are both useful as well to getting the right mana or lands. With that foundation, I had a number of solid hosts out there netting me mad triggers, like Mer Man’s card or Dirty Rat’s discard. And I have stuff in here like augment, a pair of Really Epic Punches to both pump my creature permanently and fight some foe down, and run havoc. I splashed a little removal and tricks with Time Out, Just Desserts, and Magic Word, as well as had a fun, solid deck to play with. Love it!
There were a few cards that dominated or played incredibly without me realizing it. The more I played though.
One was Blurry Beeble. If you can’t block it, then It begins to dominate the board. I regularly had it in my opening hand, and leading with an unlockable one? One is good, but that card exists already. Leading with a Looter il-Kor that just costs one mana is incredible, and the card flow offered by turn after turn of getting the best cards was incredibly. Even against someone who can block it, you can often get in a hit or three before things get blocked, and just one or two looting effects early in the game is quality in any draft format, including a silver-bordered one.
Another cards that really rattles my Abe-dar is Wrench-Rigger. Was it the tempo and early success of Blurry Beeble and would it provide the pressure I needed? It was amazing! For example, in one game I won the die-roll, and went first. I dropped Wrench-Rigger on the first turn. I had drafted Dispatch Dispensary as one of the five strong contraptions I had gotten for in my deck. It flipped. I moved it to the first position. On my second turn, I cracked it, and made a 2/2 Black Rogue with menace. I cast a Target Minotaur as well, and suddenly my foe was facing at least five power on the 2nd turn, two of it evasive, and I won that game. Netting a 2/2 every turn on turns two, five, and eight is nasty. Don’t sleep on Wrench-Rigger in this format.
I also loved our great two-drop, Ground Pounder. Take a look!
In this game, you need creatures that attack and do things, ideally on the curve, and a silver-bordered set is no different. Ground Pounder is a common Grizzly Bears that also can be pumped. And let me tel you, people play very cautiously around it. They assume you’ll get a big number on the die roll and play around it. And I did, on the 5th or 6th turn of some game I closed it out with a 7/7 trampling Ground Pounder that Krark's Other Thumb helped to get dangerous. Also note that unlike many Green pump abilities, such as Rootwallas, this can be used over and over again, making it great in ramping strategies. You don’t have to grab it in a d6 deck for it to work really well. It plays nicely with others. It’s a solid, on-curve threat that gets mad respect.
There are a lot of beaters and features like these folks in the set. When you start to explore the set with heavy playing, you’ll unpack a number of these powerful surprises. For example, there are only four creatures with a toughness of five or more, and thus almost everything is kill-able by Super-Duper Death Ray. (One rare, one mythic, two uncommons, and one of the uncommons is one-of-many Garbage Elementals, so you aren’t likely to see it). One you know that, your valuation of the card, already high, rises even more.
Also, while my evaluation of host creatures in Limited could not be higher, my evaluation of augment has dropped. It plays like an aura that I can only cast on anywhere from ¼ to ½ of my creatures. They don’t even have the flexibility of an aura.
For example, I’d rather run Hazmat Suit (Used) in a lot of situations than Ninja. Now, you can see my Ninja above, and there are times when it or Humming- or something are really strong. But Hazmat Suit can be played on anything from a cheap beater to a utility creature you want to grow, or a mid-range beater you want to get a little more juice too. But where is the value of Ninja outside of a Host creature? It’s not there!
The problem is that I often have a great Augment card just sitting in my hand with either no creatures at all or no Host creatures to put it on. After just one draft I quickly learned not to count Augment cards as creatures for my creature count in my draft decks. Here, let’s take a look at my 4-color deck above a s a good example. It has a full 16 creatures if you count everything, including Host and their Augmenters. But Augment doesn’t count. So it was really 13 creatures, which is a little light to my mind, so I played like I was running a creature light deck, not a 16 creatures deck, and I was fine.
The value of contraptions has risen after play considerably. I will highly pick a contraption that has a lot of synergy in my deck, and a lot of contraptions aren’t drafted highly but do a very good job in my deck. Almost every deck winds up with a few Riggers or other cards that assemble contraptions. You’ll find a Spell Suck to counter something or a Finders, Keepers as removal. Take advantage of that by drafting contraptions that fit your deck. My control deck ran some controlling contraptions, like card drawing of Faerie Aerie or the removal of Guest List. My dice rolling deck ran Boomflinger or Gift Horse. I had Applied Aeronautics to pump and give something flying, great in Limited, and a card that never goes earlier than around pick 10.
A contraption is a free effect, every third round, until you have won or lost the game. That long term grinding is not normal in Limited, and thus the game can go longer. The format can be a lot of fun!
And with that in mind, what cards out there are good for Cubes or other Limited projects? What cards have value elsewhere? Do you have a Cube or even a Peasant build where Ground Pounder makes a perfect addition? Blurry Beeble?
What else works for your Limited and Cube experience? What are you looking forward to after success in drafts or sealed events? I’d love to hear more!