Published on 12/04/2017

Unstable Frontier

or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Silver Borders

Cranial Translation
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Note: This article is over two years old. Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes. Proceed with caution.

I thought silver-bordered sets were dead, too.
Buckle up everyone, we're in for a bumpy ride. It's been more than 13 years (Yes, really.) since Magic's last trip to a silver-bordered setting, and I'll be your guide through all the craziness to be found as we prepare for the release of Unstable this Friday. There's a lot to cover here, so I'll be leaving the basics to Mark Rosewater and his wonderful Unstable FAQAWASLFAQPAFTIDAWABIAJTBT over on the mothership. Please give it a read.

Remember, you can contact us if you have a rules or policy question, or just want to tell us about how adorable your half-kitten, half-kitten is. We might even use your question in an upcoming article. If you have a short question, you can send us a tweet at @CranialTweet. But if you have a longer question, feel free to e-mail us at .

Q: If my library is enchanted with Animate Library and my opponent steals it with Mind Control, what happens?

A: Unstable introduces the concept of controlling another player's zones, such as their library. If your library is being controlled by another player, it's not "your" library or anymore. Animate Library won't be attached to something it can legally enchant anymore, and so it will go to the graveyard the next time a player would get priority. When this happens, your library stops being a creature and Mind Control also goes to its owner's graveyard. You'll only lose control of your library for the briefest of moments here.

Q: OK, but what if my library that's also a creature phases out,
due to Vanishing or something?

A: Then your library is phased out and will phase back in normally at the beginning of your next turn. This doesn't do anything special since your library is still your library and you can still draw from it or search it or whatever you'd normally do with it while it's phased out. About the only thing that can't happen to it is that Circu, Dimir Lobotomist won't be able to target it.

Q: If I animate my library with Animate Library, and it gets turned into a land with Song of the Dryads, is it still a library?

A: Yes, it is. Nothing can stop your library from being a library.
Song of the Dryads makes your library a library that's also a land rather than a library that's also a creature, that's all.

And no, none of the auras fall off here. Song of the Dryads keeps your library as a permanent, so it can still legally enchant it, and Animate Library is still enchanting your library and keeps your library on the battlefield.

Q: I know that if I cast Soul's Grace to gain infinite life off of my opponent's attacking Infinity Elemental that I'll still be at infinite life after it damages me. What happens if the order is reversed and I can't lose the game when Infinity Elemental hits me?

A: As soon as your life total goes to either positive or negative infinity, your life total can't change anymore. When Infinity Elemental hits you, you go to -∞ life. Gaining ∞ from Soul's Grace after that will still leave you at -∞ life because your life total can't change. I sure hope you can do a good job protecting your Rules Lawyer!

Q: If I'm at infinite life due to an Infinity Elemental with lifelink, and someone exchanges life totals with me, do we both end up at infinite life?

A: No. Your life total can't change, so that means it can't be set to a specific, non-infinity value. Since your life total can't be set to your opponent's life total, the exchange can't happen. Both you and your opponent will remain at your current life totals.

Q: Can I use More or Less to change "first strike" on a creature into "second strike"? If I can, does the ability do anything?

A: No, you can't. "First" is an ordinal word, not a number word. More or Less can only change actual numbers or their spelled out equivalents. Have fun turning Ring of Three Wishes into a Ring of Four Wishes, though! (You still only get three wishes, though.)

X gon' give it to ya.
Q: Cards like Gimme Five and Skull Saucer require me to perform physical actions. What should I do if I'm unable to perform these actions due to a physical limitation?

A: Playing with silver-bordered cards is all about fun, and so you should be having the most fun possible when you play with these cards. If you can't do exactly what the card is asking you to do, then figure out something you can do as a substitute for that action that still fits the spirit of the card. For example, if you have trouble raising your arm, maybe people can give you fist-bumps instead of high-fives for Gimme Five.

Q: What happens if I put another player's card into my hand with Five-Finger Discount and then the game ends before I can cast it? Where does the card go?

A: The card goes back to its owner's deck or sideboard for their next game. Nothing in Magic other than playing for Ante will ever allow you to keep another player's cards once a game ends.

Q: How does Graveyard Busybody interact with Over My Dead Bodies? Thinking about it makes my head hurt.

A: Graveyard Busybody's first ability is worded ambiguously, but what it means is that you control all graveyards and the owners of those graveyards no longer control their own graveyards. Because you control all the graveyards so you can attack with all the creatures in those graveyards. Since your opponents don't control their own graveyards anymore, they can't block creatures from the graveyard that are attacking.

Q: What happens if I control Split Screen and my opponent targets me with Traumatize?

A: When Traumatize resolves, you'll choose one of your four libraries and then carry out Traumatize's instructions on that library. Half of that library's cards will go to your graveyard. The number of cards in your other three libraries doesn't matter.

Q: Can I counter Slaying Mantis with Force of Will?

A: No. Just a second is a variant of split second. Just a second has the same restrictions as split second (i.e. players can't cast spells or abilities while the spell with just a second is on the stack) in addition to stopping permanents from moving around the battlefield while it's on the stack. I know that this isn't clear from the reminder text, but this is how it works.

Q: Does trample on Super-Duper Death Ray actually do anything?

A: Yes, in silver-bordered Magic it does. Super-Duper Death Ray is letting you "assign" its damage the same way damage is assigned in combat by an attacking creature with trample. Just remember, silver-bordered Magic is all about letting you do things that don't work in normal Magic.

Q: What exactly is all this secret word stuff about with Hangman? I don't get it.

A: Hangman is having you play a game of Hangman. If you're not familiar with the game, you can read the wikipedia article about it here.

Let's look at a quick example of a few activations, though: I play Hangman and choose EXAMPLE as my word. I secretly write down EXAMPLE and let the other players know that there are seven letters in the word. (_______)
The first opponent to activate Hangman chooses "E". I tell my opponents that the first and last letters are E. (E_____E).
The second guess is "A". I say that A is the third letter. (E_A___E)
The third guess is "R". There are no R's, so Hangman gets a +1/+1 counter.

Q: What happens if I control Soul-Scar Mage and target a 5/5 creature with Just Desserts?

A: Just Desserts will put π -1/-1 counters on the creature, which gives it -π/-π. Its power and toughness are each approximately 1.8584.

Q: If I have Rules Lawyer out, and losing is a state-based action, what happens when my opponent uses Baron Von Count to destroy me? My reasoning is that I am destroyed but have not lost. If my reasoning is correct, does having been destroyed hinder my ability to play?

A: Rules Lawyer just has state-based actions ignore you and other permanents you control. While some state-based actions cause you to lose the game, just losing the game is not a state-based action. You can still lose the game if an effect says you lose the game (or, in the case of the Baron, you're destroyed, because according to the Unstable FAQ, a player being destroyed is the same as that player losing the game). So no, Rules Lawyer will not prevent you from being destroyed or losing the game due to the Baron's triggered ability.

No, it still doesn't work in black-border.
Q: What happens if two players each control their own copy of The Grand Calcutron? Does each player get a second program?

A: No, players only ever have one program since their program is also their hand. The only difference that the second Grand Calcutron will make is that players will be able to change the order of their programs when the second Calcutron's enters-the-battlefield trigger resolves.

Q: If I use Grusilda, Monster Masher to put two Augment creatures onto the battlefield combined (let's say Serpentine and Ninja), and Rules Lawyer is in play, what happens when the resulting monstrosity deals combat damage? What happens when their abilities trigger?

A: So, you're the new proud owner of a Serpentine Ninja. Your lovely new pet is a black and green Ninja Hydra creature. It has "Whenever this creature deals combat damage to a player," and "At the beginning of your end step, if you rolled a die this turn," in addition to its augment abilities.

It can deal combat damage just fine, since the +1/+0 and +4/+4 are added onto its undefined base power and toughness, which is taken as 0/0 for the calculation, making it 5/4.

Its triggered abilities can trigger just fine since they have properly formatted trigger conditions. When either trigger resolves, nothing will happen since there is no effect clause to either ability.

This monster isn't all that monstrous or problematic, really.

Q: Can I change Hoisted Hireling from being on the battlefield to above the battlefield at instant speed? And vice versa?

A: Hoisted Hireling's ability is a static ability, not an activated ability, so you can change whether or not it has flying any time you're allowed to touch it, which is basically always.(OK, yes, "just a second" is the exception.)

Q: I'm really excited for Unstable, but can Unstable drafts even be sanctioned? I'm worried that my local game store won't want to run them if not.

A: Yes, Unstable drafts can be sanctioned. They have to be sanctioned as casual, non-rated events. This is the same type of event that's used for events like multiplayer Commander and Conspiracy drafts. A casual, non-rated event is still a real Magic event, but it only grants one planeswalker point to each attendee. Your local game store still gets credit for running the event, and casual events can be run as FNM just like rated events! (A rated event is one where the number of players and the number of match points you receive will also grant planeswalker points.)

Q: Player A activates Kindslaver's ability targeting player B, causing Spectator C to control them. Player B has Subcontract in hand, and Spectator C casts it targeting player A. Who can choose which card is discarded? Spectator C, or only a fourth person?

A: Technically, Spectator C is still outside the game and can have Player B choose them for Subcontract. However, this definitely goes against the spirit of silver-bordered rules and Spectator C should have Player B subcontract Spectator D to choose instead.

Q: When choosing abilities for Modular Monstrosity, what counts as different abilities? Can I give it Afflict 12 and Afflict 7 as different abilities?

A: Each keyword counts as its own choice, so if you've given Modular Monstrosity Afflict 2 already today, you can't give it a Afflict 3 as well. Also, you can only choose an ability that has actually been printed on a creature card, so the biggest Afflict ability you can give it is Afflict 4 from Wildfire Eternal.
(My personal suggestion is to give it Herald of Leshrac's cumulative upkeep ability.)

Q: Do you like squirrels?

A: I do! Also, I think that Squirrel Dealer you just played might have something for you.

Q: I heard that silver-bordered cards are legal in Commander now.
Is this true? Has the commander rules committee lost their minds?

A: While I can't speak to your last question about their sanity, the Commander rules committee has indeed made most silver-bordered cards legal in Commander until 15 January 2018. (Click here for the announcement.) This is a limited-time change to the rules meant to allow multiplayer Commander players to celebrate the release of Unstable and to enjoy silver-bordered cards in an already casual format for a short while.

Remember, individual play groups have the right to say what is and isn't allowed in their Commander games, so if your group doesn't like this decision, then you don't have to go along with it. Yes, some people will abuse this. Yes, some people will use this as an opportunity to go against the fun intent of silver-bordered shenanigans. In these cases, it's up to the play groups that include these people to rein in this behavior and make whatever decision is best for that group.

Q: Why you didn't talk about contraptions at all?

A: Because the Unstable FAQAWASLFAQPAFTIDAWABIAJTBT talks about contraptions in exhaustive detail. Also, the execution of contraptions is really straightforward and not nearly as confusing as any of the other stuff I talked about here.

Ok, so that concludes our first trip into the land of Bablovia. I hope everyone still has all of their arms and legs. Oh? What's that? You have more arms now? Didn't I tell you to stay away from Crossbreed Labs? *sigh* Anyway, that's it for today. Carsten will be with you next week to talk about something a lot less crazy, I hope.

- Charlotte

For Modular Monstrosity, I'm pretty sure you're looking at rule 702, "Keyword Abilities". If all of those work, then there are 128 different base black-border keyword abilities. I look forward to someone actually putting all 128 on a Monstrosity at one time, then complaining to WotC that there aren't enough abilities.
#1 • Date: 2017-12-04 • Time: 07:17:14 •

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