___ Goblin | Unfinity | Art by Chuck Lukacs
14, May, 24

Recent MTG Bans May Spell the End of Black-Bordered Un-Sets

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Article at a Glance

By now you’ve probably heard the news. As of yesterday, every card from Unfinity that places Stickers or opens Attractions has been banned. A massive 56 cards overall. For the most part, this stroke of the ban hammer has been met with relief from players. On the other side of the coin, however, are the implications it poses for future black-bordered Un-sets.

Including cards in Unfinity that could be played in real formats was a huge gamble for Wizards. Based on these bans and its official statement, it’s one that has most definitely not paid off. This is unfortunate because, as we’ll get into here, black-bordered Un-sets have huge potential to introduce unique, interesting mechanics into Magic. Sadly, this opportunity may just have been squandered.

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The Sticker And Attraction Bans

Black-Bordered-Un-Sets-Bans

Before we get into their implications, let’s look at the latest bans themselves. Announced yesterday, May 13th, Wizards banned all cards that bring a Sticker or Attraction into the game from Pauper, Legacy, and Vintage. That’s 55 cards, banned from three different formats. Card for card, this is probably the biggest ban announcement in MTG history.

In terms of impact, however, this is a case of many cards catching a ban for the sins of a few. Out of the 55 Sticker and Attraction cards, only two have seen any real eternal play. These being The Most Dangerous Gamer in Legacy Nic Fit, and _____ Goblin in Legacy Goblins. The former was a scalable Deathtoucher who could destroy any permanent, lands included, when you grab an Attraction reward. The latter was essentially a huge ritual effect stapled to a 2/2 body, capable of powering out a Muxus, Goblin Grandee early for a huge value swing.

Curiously the reason for the bans wasn’t the power level of these cards. Instead, it was the cumbersome nature of their associated mechanics. Using copy effects on either of them requires the player doing so to have a Sticker or Attraction deck of their own. Naturally, this is something that not everyone brings to every tournament due to the added logistical complexity.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, Sticker Sheets are functionally only single-use. Unsurprisingly, this created no end of awkward situations as physical Legacy tournaments. This is to say nothing of the myriad issues that Stickers and Attractions caused online too.

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The Good Apples

In the official ban announcement post, Wizards walked through this reasoning, and concluded with the following statement:

“When we released Unfinity, we knew that its partial legality in Magic’s broader formats was an experiment with risks. The concept of widening a set’s appeal to more players is at its core a good one. Moving forward, we won’t be revisiting this kind of experiment any time soon.”

Wizards of the Coast

Technically, this statement is open to interpretation, however, it does appear to be rather clear-cut. The most likely outcome here appears to be that black-bordered Un-sets are off the table for the foreseeable future. And while this may be a good thing in the context of clunky mechanics like Stickers, it also closes the door on a lot of other interesting design spaces.

You only need to skim through the other eternal-legal cards in Unfinity to see what I mean. Space Beleren is a brand-new Jace that splits the battlefield into three sections; something we haven’t seen since Alpha’s Raging River. Saw in Half is an interesting addition to Aristocrats decks, letting you essentially sacrifice a creature and get two copies of it. Captain Rex Nebula turns any nonland permanent into a Vehicle, then lets you roll a die to potentially crash it into any target.

These are bold, interesting designs, and they explore space (literally and figuratively) that Magic hasn’t before. None of them have seen substantial play, it’s true, but the fact that they could is still a net positive for eternal formats, Commander in particular.

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Enter The Un-finite

What’s problematic in one format is not necessarily problematic in another. This can often cause problems as Commander is a format where almost everything goes. In the ban announcement, Wizards even mentioned Commander as the main reason behind having playable cards in Unfinity at all:

“The primary goal behind making some cards in Unfinity legal was that sticker cards and Attractions could be played in Commander, but there’s no existing way to make a bunch of cards legal in Commander and not Legacy.”

Wizards of the Coast

This is an interesting statement, given that Wizards of the Coast is the company in charge of the rules. If they really wanted to, surely Wizards could just implement a ‘Legal in Commander only’ rule… right? Sadly, while this seems simple, there are likely multiple invisible issues at play preventing it from doing so.

Without such a rule in place, it’s likely that Unfinity will mark both the beginning and the end of Eternal-legal cards in Un-sets. Potentially, this could even spell the end of Un-sets as a whole. Since the release of Unfinity, Mark Rosewater has stated time and time again that the chances of another set don’t look good and this could make matters worse.

Going forward, should Un-set cards not be Eternal-legal, their appeal is going to be dramatically limited. Sure, Un-sets are a fun time and a great Draft experience, but if you can’t really play them outside of Draft, how many people will care?

Personally, I hope that Wizards takes a less sensible approach here. As needed as they might have been, I hope these bans aren’t seen as a failure, but an experiment worth repeating. Ultimately, I just hope we get another Un-set that pushes MTG’s trend of innovation one step further. Whether or not that will happen, however, is anyone’s guess at this point.

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