You would be forgiven for thinking that world-famous collectable card game Magic: the Gathering took itself too seriously. After all, this is a game played by millions of people, with those at the highest ends of the tournament scene earning serious amounts of cash out of it. It is effectively a sport, but without all that tiresome running about.
So too many, the ‘Un-‘ series of cards is a bit incongruous. Unstable is a series of boosters for Magic: The Gathering that isn’t designed for tournament play. Instead, they’re tongue-in-cheek cards designed for social play. Magic is meant to be fun, and Unstable brings in an element of silliness that is sometimes lacking.
It’s not all silly; token cards are foils and the land cards are gorgeous. Those looking for very pretty decks might want to take a look at the land cards; fully compatible with all forms of play and the so pretty you’re probably going to want them in poster format at some point.
The Un series means the cards have rules on them considered too silly or too impractical for normal play. For example, quite a few of the cards require rolling six-sided dice, something you never see in the ‘proper’ game. Our favourite of these is ‘Go To Jail’, which mocks one of Monopoly’s most irritating rules. We also get ‘host creatures’ and augment cards. A host creature may be an adorable kitten. An augment may be a Rhino. Shove the two together and you have a Rhino-Kitty. Or a humming bird-stegosaurus hybrid. Or Half-Orc, Half-Orc hybrid, if you fancy. There is a sequence of cards based on High-Fiving each other, and one that allows you to count your ‘library’ of cards as its own creature. These gags are highly social, deeply daft and quite fun.
We should mention contraptions; this is an overly complicated rule set that lets you set up combos. They require a side-deck of 15 cards and some planning. The entire Unstable release is set on the steampunk land of on Bablovia, and the theme is crazy invention. Hence the hybrid monsters animated books and impractical time machines. Each card looks gorgeous, which is the standard we expect from Magic.
We found the best way to enjoy this set is to buy a big box of boosters, get your buddies together and do a draft. Many of the cards are deeply silly, and drafting means that you not only get to see a whole load of cards, you also get to play with cards you wouldn’t usually use. Drafting does make using contraptions a bit tricky, but it’s worth fudging that (and you can always shuffle and play again anyway). Well worth seeking out, especially if you play Magic and are starting to think that it’s serious business.
MAGIC: THE GATHERING - UNSTABLE / DESIGNER: MARK ROSEWATER / PUBLISHER: WIZARDS OF THE COAST / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW