Drafting Unstable – A Noob’s Perspective

Last Friday, I participated in a draft of the new MTG joke set, Unstable. I had heard of the previous un- sets from friends who raved about how fun and ridiculous they can be, and had decided to get in on at least one draft, as this seemed like the best way to experience the random fun. So it was that, without any prior research or knowledge, I rocked up to the Games Shop in Charlestown to have a few Friday Night laughs.

The draft began with the six of us cracking our first booster, furiously reading cards, frequently chuckling, and eventually passing. It was definitely not the fastest drafting process, as we all have to come to grips with the various ways Wizards of the Coast had decided to break their own game rules. From my first booster I grabbed Graveyard Busybody, since the sharing of graveyards seemed like an interesting way of fooling around with the basic structure of the game. With this as a start, I decided to grab all the blue and white cards I came across. I was interested in the Host – Augment mechanic, which involves first playing Host creatures, such as Adorable Kitten, all of which have an ‘enters the battlefield’ effect. When combined with an Augment card, such as Humming-, the front end of the creature and text are replaced to give the effect a new, and recurring trigger. Unfortunately, I managed to grab about 7 Hosts, and only one Augment creature, leaving me with far too much arse and not enough brains.

My drafting technique, if I can be accused of having such a thing, was further disrupted by the opportunity to grab Urza, Academy Headmaster. I am a sucker for random effects which may not, or almost definitely will not, be of any use in winning the game. Urza, a planeswalker which utilises a website to generate random effects for its various powers, was irresistible to me. Thus, partway through our second booster (yes, that’s right, somehow other people had passed on this card) I changed from chasing blue and white cards to attempting a five colour deck (the card costs one of each), which I had no idea how to do in constructed formats, let alone in a draft. In the end I just grabbed a bunch of cheap cards of each colour, and assumed that cheaper ones would somehow be easier to play. I also tried to avoid anything with double coloured mana in the cost, despite my very first pick and original guiding card having exactly that. 

Along the way I also grabbed a handful of cards that required a person from outside the game to make a decision, such as Subcontract or Sacrifice Play. This was mostly in order to annoy Jack, who was running the draft, and whom I called on every time, despite his reminder that I could call on anyone else outside of my particular match. I also ended up with Squirrel Dealer and Gimme Five, for some extra audience participation (Do you like squirrels?). I did manage to gain 6 life from the latter, though I could have gained another one if Jack would have allowed me to high five myself for a life point. I count as a person too!

In the proceeding games I did manage to play Urza a surprising amount of times. This was probably due to my luck in playing my one copy of Split Screen nearly every game. With this amazing card I had four options for what to draw, all of which I could see in advance. Unfortunately, my luck in always getting this card was balanced out by the frequency of all four libraries simultaneously having land on top when I already had all the land I needed. Urza was good fun, and I loved the randomness and the exciting ceremony of pressing the button on the website, but unfortunately I never had the creatures to support it. Each time it saw the battlefield, it only survived a few turns before my opponents superior numbers ruined the dream.

In the end, I don’t believe I actually won a game. My opponents had each designed their deck well around one concept; one deck made use of rolling many dice to add counters to things, another did a good job of cranking various contraptions to get things going. My deck, however, could hardly be called designed at all. If anything, it was designed for hilarity, and I certainly laughed myself silly, or even sillier than usual. Other cards I threw in for hilarity included Hoisted Hireling (which I had to hold above the battlefield to give it flying), Knight of the Kitchen Sink (each copy of which had a different variety of protection, mine was from loose lips, ie. anything with an open mouth in its art) and Staff of the Letter Magus, which gave me life for each instance of a chosen consonant in the title of any spell that was played. Unfortunately, each time I played the staff I was too silly to look at my hand, and just picked a consonant from the top of my head.

I highly recommend drafting with this set, or grabbing a box and playing with a bunch of mates. The various game effecting cards are fantastic, and there are some decent mechanics for those spoil sports out there who actually want to make well considered choices in deck building. Get some cards and get involved.

Now, how long is that Urza site going to be up, and how can I build a commander deck around it…

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