Jeff Zandi is a four time pro tour veteran who has been playing Magic since 1994. Jeff is a level two DCI judge and has been judging everything from small local tournaments to pro tour events.

Jeff is from Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, where his upstairs game room has been the "Guildhall", the home of the Texas Guildmages, since the team formed in 1996. One of the original founders of the team, Jeff Zandi is the team's administrator, and is proud to continue the team's tradition of having players in every pro tour from the first event in 1996 to the present.

 


 

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Getting Unhinged With Magic’s Newest Set These Are a Few of My Favorite ‘Tings
December 3, 2004

by Jeff Zandi

Unhinged was released all across the land last weekend, again proving that Wizards of the Coast has a keen sense of humor and are not afraid to laugh at themselves, as well as at the game of Magic. Unhinged is a set NOT intended for competitive play. In fact, the cards in Unhinged, like those produced six years ago in Unglued, may not be fit for ANY kind of play. This is not an insult to the cards of Unhinged or an insult to the hard work that went into their creation. Unhinged is a joke set. You can’t take these cards seriously. When Wizards of the Coast produced their first set of “funny” cards back in 1998, called Unglued, players immediately fell in love with the goofy set. The cards in Unglued had no reverence for the rules of Magic, for the rules of good graphic card design and often, no reverence for good manners. While Magic players of every kind loved Unglued, there was clearly a split for WHY they loved the set. Half of the Magic world embraced Unglued as pure parody, a collection of inside jokes poking fun at every aspect of the game of Magic, taking down any pretentiousness that the game may have accumulated in the years it had been around. I definitely fell into this first group of Magic players where Unglued was concerned. The other half of the Magic world loved Unglued for the idea of ACTUALLY PLAYING with the cards. These players love the idea of playing with fun card abilities that are unlikely to ever be included in so-called “Real Magic”.

UNGLUED: THE SEQUEL

No matter what group players fell in when they first saw Unglued, one thing was almost universally true. Players immediately wanted to know when the NEXT Unglued set would be coming out. Magic players were disappointed to learn that company line was that Unglued was most likely a once in a lifetime occurrence, and that it was unlikely that a “sequel” to Unglued would ever be created. At some point, the crazy ideas that ended up as actual cards in Unglued continued to accumulate at Research and Development at Wizards of the Coast. There can be no doubt that Unglued was a set close to the heart of Magic designer Mark Rosewater. As long as Rosewater was a part of the Magic design team, I suspected that another Unglued-like set was somewhere in the future of Magic. I was THRILLED to learn as recently as two months ago that Unhinged was going to be the “sequel” to Unglued, and that this new parody set would be released in November. Admittedly, I don’t always stay as glued (no pun intended) to Magic’s website as much as I probably should, but I was floored that Unhinged was going to arrive in stores practically as soon as I even heard about its possible existence.

UNHINGED GOES BOTH WAYS

Unhinged is a great gift to all Magic players, no matter which side of the Unglued fence you might find yourself on. Six years after the August, 1998 release of Unglued, I’m still on the pure parody side. When I look at Unhinged, and this set is INCREDIBLE to look at, I see the cards the same way I see Unglued. I see a great collection of funny cards that have honestly made me fall out of my chair laughing for hours. I don’t see these cards as being playable. Wizards in general, and Mark Rosewater specifically, don’t see it that way. In my opinion, Research and Development has gone out of their way to make Unhinged much more capable of being played than Unglued. In fact, not only does Wizards hope that you WILL play games with Unhinged cards, they hope that you will mix Unhinged cards with non-silver bordered cards. Indeed, some of the coolest cards in Unhinged are just itching for a fight involving “realistic” competitive play.

The Gotcha mechanic in Unhinged is evidence that these cards really are intended for play. Each of the five Unhinged uncommons with the Gotcha mechanic provides some basic Magic ability, the black one, Kill! Destroy!, destroys a target non-black creature. Here’s the Gotcha: whenever an opponent says the word “Kill” or the word “Destroy”, you may say “Gotcha!”.

If you do, return Kill! Destroy! from your graveyard to your hand. Kill!

Destroy! may be the most dangerous of the Gotcha spells, since it can destroy (oops, I said the d-word) almost any creature in play. Deal Damage is a close second. Deal Damage, er, deals four points of, ahem, damage to a target creature or player. If an opponent says “Deal” or “Damage” and you say “Gotcha!” you return Deal Damage from the graveyard to your hand. The other Gotcha spells include the blue Spell Counter that counters a target spell, the green Creature Guy is a 3/3 Beast and the white Save Life, the most confusing of the uncommon Gotcha cards, allows you to gain 2.5 life or prevent 2.5 points of damage that would be dealt to a target creature. Kill!

Destroy! has a funny interaction with at least one other card in Unhinged.

Carnivorous Death-Parrot is a 2/2 flying Bird for 1U. At the beginning of your upkeep, Carnivorous Death-Parrot requires you to read its flavor text aloud or sacrifice it. The flavor text is “Save a kill spell to deal with this guy.” Of course, if you read this flavor text and your opponent has a Kill! Destroy! card in their graveyard, they WILL have a kill card for your Carnivorous Death-Parrot.

Knowledge of card artists and general card text virtually becomes a mechanic of its own in Unhinged. Symbol Status is a green sorcery for 2GG that puts a 1/1 colorless Expansion-Symbol creature token into play for each different expansion symbol among permanents you control. Persecute Artist is a sorcery for 1BB that tells you to choose an artist, then target player reveals his or her hand and discards all nonland cards by the chosen artist. My First Tome is an artifact for three colorless mana. Spend one colorless mana and tap My First Tome, say the flavor text on a card in your hand. Target player guesses that card’s name. You may reveal that card. If you do and your opponent guessed wrong, you draw a card. (If you have a second My First Tome in your hand when you activate a My First Tome in play, you should probably try to use some OTHER card in your hand…the flavor text of My First Tome is “This card is named My First Tome.” Cards that require knowledge of Magic artists include no less than nine commons, two uncommons and one rare. I am a lover of Magic art trivia, more than anyone I know, and EVEN I found these cards annoying and hard to play, yet these cards inclusion is a pretty clear indicator that Wizards intends these cards to be actually played in games.

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE ‘TINGS

The following are a few of my favorite cards from Unhinged, twenty in all, split into two top ten lists. First, my top ten favorite Unhinged cards that certainly push the boundaries of playability, to say the least, but which were extremely funny or amazingly clever or both. The second top ten list includes my favorite Unhinged cards that you can actually play with, if you really think such a thing is wise. Finally, some of the funniest things in Unhinged are found in the cards’ flavor text, so I have included my top ten funniest Unhinged flavor texts.

TOP TEN UNHINGED CARDSYOU CAN’T REALLY PLAY WITH (These cards are ranked in order of how much I like the card with no consideration of how relatively playable or unplayable they are…)

10. R&D’s Secret Lair is a legendary land that taps for one colorless mana and requires you to play all cards as written and to ignore all errata. The flavor text is fun “Let them complain. As long as the addictive ink is working we can do anything we want.” There is also an industrial-looking warning sticker near the bottom of the card that warns ‘play at your own risk’. I don’t want to take any time to note how many cards NEED their rules errata to work correctly, but believe me, this card, though funny, is a really bad idea.

9. Old Fogey is a 7/7 Dinosaur for GG who has Phasing, cumulative upkeep 1, echo, fading 3, bands with other Dinosaurs, protection from Homarids, snow-covered plainswalk, flanking and rampage 2. “These kids today with their collector numbers and their newfangled tap symbol. Twenty Black Lotuses and twenty Plague Rats. Now that’s real Magic.” The art for this card was created by one of Magic’s original and possibly finest artists, Douglas Shuler. (Serra Angel ring a bell with anybody?) The picture is a Dinosaur wearing glasses, walking with a cane away from the wreckage of a time machine. Not just any time machine, by the way, but none other than the machine pictured on the Unhinged card Time Machine. Old Fogey also features the original type faces and border configuration used by ALL Magic cards previous to last year’s Eighth Edition.

8. Mox Lotus is an artifact for fifteen colorless mana. Tap Mox Lotus to add an infinite amount of colorless mana to your mana pool. Spend 100 colorless mana to add one mana of any color to your mana pool. You don’t lose life due to mana burn. The art is a picture of a very pretty red haired woman from the lower part of her face down to the middle of her chest. Around her neck is hanging the beautiful Mox Lotus pendant. I couldn’t find any information to confirm this theory from Wizards, but I think the girl in the picture is Rose, the character from the movie Titanic played by Kate Winslet.

7. Loose Lips is a creature enchantment for one blue mana. Enchanted creature has flying. When Loose Lips comes into play, choose a sentence with eight or fewer words. Whenever enchanted creature deals damage to an opponent, you draw two cards unless that player says the chosen sentence.
“Your sentence can’t be longer than this one” reminds this card’s flavor text.

6. Question Elemental? Is a 3/4 flying Elemental for 2UU. The text that describes this creature’s special ability reads like flavor text, but its not. When you read this next sentence, realize that this is the actual text box for the card: Are you aware that when you say something that isn’t a question, the player who first points out this fact gains control of Question Elemental? In other words, when Question Elemental? is in play, you must speak only in questions. If you speak a sentence that is not a question, the Elemental moves under the control of the first player (your
opponent) that points out that you failed to speak only in questions. Of course, if this happens, it will become that player’s curse to speak only in questions. Game play sounds a little like this: “Did you know that I would like to enter my attack step? Would you like to see which creatures I’m attacking with? Does tapping my Question Elemental? make you sufficiently aware that I’m attacking with him? Would you like to go to damage dealing?
How would you react to me telling you that I’m finished with my turn?

5. Enter the Dungeon is a sorcery for BB that requires players to play a Magic subgame underneath the table starting at five life each, using their libraries (just as they are with no additional shuffling) as their decks.
After the subgame ends, the winner searches his or her library for two cards, puts those cards into his or her hand, then shuffles his or her library. For those of you that think a card like this, while humorous, is a good idea for Magic, try not to hold your breath. Enter the Dungeon is not likely to become “street legal” anytime soon!

4. Time Machine is an artifact costing five colorless mana. Tap Time Machine, remove Time Machine and target nontoken creature you own from the game. Return both cards to play at the beginning of your upkeep on your turn X of the next game you play with the same opponent, where X is the removed creature’s converted mana cost. Wow! This card breaks one or two of the most basic Magic laws, but breaks them so elegantly and beautifully that you wish this card were actually a part of competitive Magic.

3. Pointy Finger of Doom is an artifact costing four colorless mana. Spend three colorless mana and tap: spin Pointy Finger of Doom in the middle of the table so that it rotates completely around at least once, then destroy the closest permanent the finger points to. Incredibly difficult to officiate colorless removal card or the best card since Chaos Orb, you be the judge. I’d have to say the answer is a little bit from column A and a little bit from column B. I think the funniest thing about this card is the very idea that it would ever actually be useful. Imagine the things you would have to do in order to make this card useful. Tell your opponent, “Uh, I know the card says to put it in the middle of the table, but I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind if I put it in the middle of all of YOUR cards. You see, when I spin it, I don’t want the finger thingy to end up pointing at any of MY stuff…” Good luck with all of that!

2. Ass Whuppin’ is a sorcery for 1WB that destroys a target silver-bordered permanent in any game you can see from your seat. If this card was a movie, it would be called VINDICATE 2: THIS TIME IT’S PERSONAL! Actually, Ass Whuppin’ is impersonal, if anything, since it can mess with other games besides the one you happen to be playing in. This is a really funny idea.
Limiting this card to being able to target only silver-bordered cards makes me wonder how badly Research and Development really wanted this card played.
It would be pretty amazing, parody set or not, if it could target ANY permanent, not just those from Unglued and Unhinged.

1. Booster Tutor is an instant for one black mana that allows you to open a sealed Magic booster pack, reveal the cards, and put one of those cards into your hand. You must remove the added card from your deck before you begin your next game. GENIUS! This card has everything. It’s incredibly powerful, since you could use it to rip open anything from a Black Lotus to a Counterspell to a Fireball and about six thousand other things. This card totally breaks the rules, allowing you access to cards outside the game, yet marketing loves this card because it causes you to open more booster packs!
The flavor text says it all, “Real men us Arabian Nights boosters.”

TOP TEN UNHINGED CARDS YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO PLAY

10. Double Header is a flying 2/3 Drake for 3UU. When Double Header comes into play, you may return a target permanent with a two-word name to its owner’s hand. Granted, this is a rather plain creature with no major comedy angle to make it memorable among Unhinged’s funniest cards, but I like it because it’s coming into play ability is realistic, well flavored and yet still silly and fun.

9. Rocket-Powered Turbo Slug is a 3/1 Slug for 3R. The slug is the first creature ever, and maybe the last creature ever, to feature the ability Super Haste. With this creature, the hype is a lot more fun than the reality. The hype was that Rocket-Powered Turbo Slug was SO FAST that he “comes into play the turn BEFORE you play him!” Funny stuff! When you read the fine print, the card becomes much less of an experience in cheating the normal Magic rules and much more of a study in how much of a drawback is a player willing to risk in order to gain some kind of advantage. In the case of the Turbo Slug, you may put him into play attacking during your declare attackers step without paying any mana cost. On your next turn, you must pay the Rocket-Powered Turbo Slug’s mana cost or lose the game at the end of that turn. Considering the nature of this creature’s drawback, you would think they would have made the slug a little larger and/or given the poor creature Trample. As he appears in Unhinged, he’s really a completely plausible card from a power to cost perspective, but probably not good enough to really be played very often. MAYBE in just the right burn deck, though…if you played TWO of these, attacked for a bunch, attacked AGAIN on the next turn without paying for them, and then finished off your opponent with some burn cards…

8. Punctuate is an instant for 3R that deals damage to target creature equal to half the number of punctuation marks in that creature’s text box. This is a decent spell that is likely to deal three or four points of damage to a creature. Obviously, Lightning Blast is still a better spell for the same mana cost, but Punctuate is completely playable and yet still retains the fun flavor of Unhinged.

7. When Fluffy Bunnies Attack is an instant for 3B that gives a target creature –X/-X until end of turn where X is the number of times the letter of your choice appears in that creature’s name. The artwork features a sad, funny looking dragon cowering in fear as a dozen or so cute white bunnies appear ready to strike. The flavor text is “Get it? Bunnies, letters, -X/-X?
Me neither.” –Bucky, flavor text writer. Magic’s creative team is not afraid to make fun of themselves.

6. Frazzled Editor is a 2/2 Human Beaurocrat for 1R. The text box of this card is a mess of printed text and red editorial marks. The red marks are actually being penned by the figure pictured in the artwork, bending over to reach below the art box with his extended hand into the text box. I thought this was the whole joke, that the character on this 2/2 creature card had essentially marked out all of his own game text. I thought this was a ‘vanilla’ 2/2 creature. They got me! In order to understand this card’s special ability, you need to “read between the lines”, that is, you need to struggle through the edited text thusly: Protection from wordy (Something is wordy if it has four or more lines of text in its text box. This creature has protection from all cards that contain four or more lines of text in their text box! This creature, in effect, has protection from a very large number of threatening cards and is quite a bargain for two mana. The flavor text is something you really have to see on the card to believe. The CORRECTED flavor text reads less humorously than the unedited flavor text beneath. The CORRECTED flavor text reads “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

5. Duh is an instant for one black mana that destroys a target creature with reminder text. (Reminder text is any italicized text in parentheses that explains rules you already know.) This card really made my day when I first saw it! I love this card, I wish it would be put into a real set RIGHT NOW!
I hate reminder text. I’m one of those people who think that if Wizards went to the trouble to invent a name for an ability, like Haste or the more recent Vigilance, then they shouldn’t include a complete description of how that ability works on every new card with the ability. The other good thing about Duh is that it is very cut and dried. A card either has reminder text or it doesn’t. Another very funny thing about this card is that it might work on one version of a card and not work on another version of the SAME card. Example: Bog Wraith is a 3/3 black creature for 3B that has Swampwalk.
He has appeared in most of the Magic: the Gathering base sets from Alpha and Beta all the way through Seventh Edition. Duh does NOT destroy the Alpha, Beta and Unlimited editions which include only the keyword Swampwalk in its text box. The Seventh Edition Bog Wraith, however, CAN be destroyed by Duh, because the Seventh Edition version of Bog Wraith includes the reminder text for how Swampwalk works. Funny.

4. Johnny, Combo Player is a 1/1 legendary Human Gamer for 2UU. For four colorless mana, this card allows you to search your library for a card and put that card into your hand. Then shuffle your library. I may not be the biggest fan in the world of combo decks, but I can completely understand the usefulness of Johnny, Combo Player in such decks. I do not believe this card is too powerful. This card’s cost and the brittle nature of its one toughness combine to make this card risky enough to balance its power. Of course, from a card design perspective, Johnny, Combo Player is the perfect Unhinged compliment to Unglued’s Timmy, Power Gamer. The difference is that Unhinged’s Combo Player is a lot more realistic card, all the more evidence that Wizards of the Coast has taken Unhinged more seriously in general than they ever did Unglued.

3. AWOL is an instant for 2W that removes a target attacking creature from the game, then removes that creature from the removed-from-the-game zone and puts it into the absolutely-removed-from-the-freaking-game-forever zone. I absolutely love this card! I am quite sure that when the first cards that remove cards from the game were created (my mind leaps immediately to Swords to Plowshares), Magic designers were not considering the realistic possibility that future Magic cards would be able to reach cards that had been, well…REMOVED FROM THE GAME. What do the words “removed from the game”
mean to you? I would have thought those words indicated a zone that was completely outside of the game, sort of a safe haven for your ill-fated cards where they stay until you retrieve them from there after the current game. Then came the Wish cards, each intended to access cards that have been removed from the game. I simply love this card.

2. Rare-B-Gone is a sorcery for 2BR that causes each player to sacrifice all rare permanents, then reveals his or her hand and discards all rare cards.
This is a great card against so many decks that are composed of almost entirely rare cards. It is a comical fly in the ointment that Rare-B-Gone is also a rare card. But, for any player that is tired of Bobby Bigbucks bashing them down with ANOTHER of his endless supply of rare-filled decks, Rare-B-Gone can be the thesis that helps you get your PHD. Your PLAYER HATIN’ DEGREE, that is!

1. Richard Garfield, Ph.D. is a 2/2 legendary Human Designer for 3UU. When Richard Garfield, Ph.D. is in play, you may play cards as though they were other Magic cards of your choice with the same mana cost. You can’t choose the same card twice. This card is simply a stunner, featuring a truly unique card border elegantly framing a highly stylized portrait of the man without whom there would be no Magic: the Gathering, Dr. Richard Garfield. This card legalizes Mental Magic, an ‘underground’ way to play Magic with any old pile of commons. This card just BEGS to be played in decks with lots of cards with the same mana cost, preferably having good abilities on their face, but with a mana cost in common with a large number of good cards. I kind of like the mana cost of 1U, a cost shared by such goodies as Time Walk, Accumulated Knowledge, Copy Artifact, Memory Lapse, Arcane Denial or even Impulse.

TOP TEN FAVORITE UNHINGED FLAVOR TEXT

10. Shoe Tree, “It grows several feet a year.”

9. Number Crunch, “Can you digit?”

8. Frankie Peanuts, “Don’t cross him or you’ll end up sleeping with the merfolk.”

7. Carnivorous Death-Parrot, “Save a kill spell to deal with this guy.”

6. Keeper of the Sacred Word, “This is not a subliminal message.”

5. Punctuate, “Ooh---right in the colon.”

4. Yet Another Aether Vortex, “It puts the ‘vortex’ in ‘flavortext’.”

3. Double Header, “Players that don’t read flavor text aren’t too bright, sorta smell and dress funny. But let’s just keep this between us, okay? They can get kind of violent.”

2. Supersize, “You want ‘mise’ with that?”

1. Graphic Violence, “WARNING: The Dominarian Surgeon General has found that savage beatings can lead to chump blocks, life reduction and even game loss.”

SUMMING IT ALL UP

In the end, I have to admit that even though I think Unhinged is a funny parody set that is purely intended for show, we did include an Unhinged pack in a Champions of Kamigawa booster draft at our most recent team practice, and it was definitely fun. Simply trying to take some of the sillier cards seriously can be the most fun. We had to argue about where it was legal to balance cards on your body, how quickly you had to say “Gotcha!” in order to retrieve a Gotcha card from a graveyard, and whether touching a card with something wrapped around your hand was the same as touching it with your hand. As a tournament judge (who DID help out last weekend at an Unhinged release event) I am VERY glad that I don’t have to face the HUNDREDS of headaches created by these cards on a regular basis. Still, these cards were fun to play with. A year from now, however, I can assure you that the fun of actually playing with Unhinged cards will be gone and these cards will go where they belong, in collector’s notebooks where they belong.

Everything about Unhinged seems to be a sharp improvement to Unglued, even though the two sets are very much alike. It seems like Research and Development went to a lot of trouble to make these cards playable. In some cases, they seem to have watered down the actual power of several cards just in order to make some funny mechanic a little less “broken” or to make some less-than-plausible aspect of some card slightly more realistic. In my opinion, they should have worried less about playability and stuck to the ultimate spirit of Unhinged, which is pure spoofy fun.

As always, I’d love to know what YOU think.

Jeff Zandi
Texas Guildmages
Level II DCI Judge
jeffzandi@thoughtcastle.com
Zanman on Magic Online

 

 

 

 

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