Before we begin
I wrote the bulk of this article before Sheldon Menery’s rules announcement on Friday, December 1. I won’t be brewing silver-bordered EDH or incorporating any of the cards into my decks because I don’t find that sort of thing fun, but I do think that silver-bordered cards are interesting for a number of reasons. In this article we’ll delve into some of my favourite things about Magic’s past by brewing a black-bordered EDH deck that captures the feel of an un-set.
- Get as close to UNEDH as possible
- Use only black-bordered cards
- Build something that you could reasonably shuffle up and play in a casual setting
Silver to Black
In the past, R&D has used un-sets as a way to test some extremely weird design space, sometimes. If the community reaction is good, and they play as expected, sometimes we see things surface in standard-legal sets. I wanted to capture this idea by including cards whose design was inspired by something that originated in silver-border.
Nevermore and things like Meddling Mage were directly inspired by Look at Me, I’m the DCI. Nevermore can be somewhat playable in metas that have problem commanders (especially since the tuck rule change), so it’s going in the deck.
Decks need a way to win, and Barren Glory talks about winning the game right on the card. This was my inspiration for brewing this deck, and it’s probably the best example of a card making the jump to black border.
At one point in Magic’s history, they did this type of boundary-pushing in black border. A lot of the boundaries that were pushed here are things that are fairly sacrosanct in today’s world, such as the colour pie. Future Sight was a great resource for this deck because plenty of the cards in the set could have just as easily been released in an un-set without anyone batting an eye.
It also doesn’t hurt that Barren Glory was one of these cards!
R&D’s Secret Lair
This is my favourite un-set card of all time, because Magic went a long time before standardizing card text templating. I’ve chosen to include a selection of my favourite card texts of all time, as well as a couple cards that—even with the benefit of modern templating—have Oracle text that makes you go “Huh?”. I took a little bit of creative license here and included the cycle of lands that have the Lair subtype. We desperately need fixing and there are only a handful of on-theme ways to do it, so even though Lairs are awful they’re gonna make the cut.
This is the biggest thematic package in the deck because I’m a rules nerd and I get really excited about these things. Beyond the obvious rules text nightmares like Camouflage and Illusionary Mask, we also get a little more help fixing with Ice Cauldron. Including Floral Spuzzem allows me to be a pedantic assbag and slow play to my heart’s content while I wait for it to finally make up its mind about which artifact it wants to destroy. We’ve got some fun errata recipients like Lion’s Eye Diamond (which plays into Barren Glory, weirdly enough) and Impulse giving us access to some draw and filtering.
Bringing up the rear is a selection of mana abilities that do more than just create mana.
If you’re not sure why these are a problem from a rules perspective, ask a local judge and buckle up.
Rocket-Powered Turbo Slug
Mark Rosewater has mentioned in the past that Rocket-Powered Turbo Slug—that is to say, the mechanic that allows you to benefit from a card without paying its costs immediately—was the inspiration for the Pact cycle. I don’t quite know what we’re going to do with these, but I’m sure we’ll find an application.
Un-sets have a history of leaning really heavily on random effects, so I knew that whatever I came up with would have a sizeable coin flip theme. Fortunately for us, there’s a usable coin flip win condition in Chance Encounter, and we can use Krark’s Thumb to help get the job done. Frenetic Efreet and Frenetic Sliver combo with Chance Encounter, so I guess we’ve found a use for at least one of the pacts, which will help make this happen.
One Two of the most iconic un-set cards of all time, BFG made its way to black border when Eldritch Moon brought us the meld mechanic. I’ve chosen two of the two pairs of meld creatures to allow us to put a giant creature on the field. It’s intimidating, I know.
Feels like Un
I decided to flesh the deck out with a few other cards that feel like un-set cards – either because their names, themes, or mechanics are objectively ridiculous, or because they replicate things we see in un-sets.
Ever since I saw Ach, Hans! Run!, I can’t look at a Lhurgoyf without reading the flavour text out loud in my best Scottish accent (which is awful, for the record).
Flailing feels like an un-set mechanic, and it gets even better when you imagine semi-phenomenal, nearly-cosmic Planeswalkers arguing over how powerful a single soldier should be.
Hundred-Handed One has been one of my favourite cards since it was printed. I love the fact that there isn’t a substantial functional difference between a creature that can block 10 additional creatures each combat and one that can block 99 additional creatures each combat, and that allowed R&D to go ham on this mechanic and score a flavour win.
Honourable mention here goes to Fatespinner and Naked Singularity. I love the cards, and I think they have a distinctly un-feel. I’m a huge proponent of making sure your deck has a plan and follows it, though. They don’t really fit with anything I’m trying to do with this deck, and I have no way to take advantage of the effects. Resource denial without breaking parity is miserable to play with and miserable to play against.
Wordier is Better
Finally, we’ve got a package of cards that I’ve chosen to include because our market research shows that you’ll really like them. They’re not really going to add a ton to the deck aside from really dramatic spell announcements, but really dramatic spell announcements are important so they’re in.
How Do We Make This Work?
One of my goals is to make sure that this deck is actually playable in EDH. Wherever possible, I tried to get a little bit of function out of my on-flavour cards, like including Mana Crypt as part of my Coin Flip package. This deck will likely never make a splash at even 75% tables, which is okay, because there are plenty of tables that are more casual than that. I’ve chosen to include 10 cards that I think will help this deck run properly. We’re mostly talking tutors here, but there are also a couple supporting players for my chosen win conditions.
I may have gone a little deep on supporting Barren Glory, but that’s the kind of thing that I like to adjust after having played the deck a few times.
I realized pretty quickly that this deck had to be 5-colour to have any chance of operating while including my favourite cards. I was originally thinking Naya, but I really wanted Spellweaver Volute as part of my Future Sight package.
In my mind, the term “Protection from everything” is about as unset as it gets, because when you ask what it means, you often get a hand-wave of an answer like “Is it a thing? Good. Progenitus has protection from it”. Atogatog was a runner-up here because it’s fairly meme-y, but I didn’t really want to run an atog package just to make it functional. Progenitus gives us another win condition for the deck and ensures that if the game goes long, we at least have something to do even if the rest of the deck really sucks (which it absolutely will).
What we’re left with is… truly a monstrosity. If this doesn’t make your opponents wonder what it is you’re actually trying to do, I don’t know what will.
This is the kind of deck I’ll sometimes build to play with my buds. Usually I won’t tell them much about it until after we’ve played our first game because the point of the deck isn’t immediately evident. It brings me a lot of joy to watch them slowly unravel what it is I’m trying to accomplish or communicate with the cards I’ve assembled. If I actually end up sleeving this up I’ll probably find cuts for 1 or 2 more lands – likely from the supporting package for Barren Glory.
I’d love to hear from you guys, though. What’s your favourite part about un-set cards? Have you ever played with any of these cards successfully? Hit me up in the comments below!