Last updated on December 16, 2022
Space-ic Forest (Unfinity) | Illustration by Adam Paquette
Magic is a serious game about epic battles between godlike beings across the Multiverse. It’s also a silly game about squirrels and goofy robots. Magic’s Un-sets highlight the funny side of the game with cute creatures, wonky mechanics, and tongue-in-cheek jokes.
WotC has released more than a few of these sets throughout the years. Today let’s take a closer look at each of Magic’s Un-sets and what makes them unique.
Ready? Let’s get started!
What’s an Un-Set?
Double Header | Illustration by Richard Sardinha
The Un-sets are MTG sets of (formerly) silver-bordered cards with jokey and fun effects that parody Magic, the players, and the game’s history. The cards aren’t covered by the comprehensive rules and are “not for tournament play,” notably different from being not “tournament-legal.” While it’s true that silver-bordered cards aren’t legal in any Standard, Vintage, or Modern decks, Wizards still intended them to be used in casual black-bordered formats rather than exclusively with each other.
The silver border on Un-set cards is replaced with a black border in Unfinity to encourage their use with other black-bordered cards. Certain cards that won’t be for “regular” black-bordered play will instead have an acorn security stamp to indicate their Unfinity origins.
The actual cards in Un-sets have a bunch of silly effects and abilities. Some include a physical or vocal component, like Blacker Lotus or the “Gotcha!” mechanic on Rod of Spanking, some have rules that specifically reference flavor text or artists, like Carnivorous Death-Parrot and Drawn Together, and some require interacting with people or objects outside the game (Ashnod's Coupon being my favorite). A handful make use of “half” mana, and the sets typically feature uncommon creature types like clams and donkeys.
Each Un-set features unique black-bordered basic lands. These gorgeous full-arts have always been highly coveted by players, and a matching playset makes an excellent centerpiece for any library.
How Many Un-Sets Are There in Magic?
Four Un-sets have been released so far, with a fifth on the way later this year. They are Unglued (1998), Unhinged (2004), Unstable (2017), and Unsanctioned (2020), with Unfinity slated for release in October 2022.
List of MTG Un-Sets
Unglued was the first silver-bordered set, released in August of 1998. It included 83 silver-bordered cards, five black-bordered full-art basic lands, and six black-bordered tokens.
The set focuses on abilities that require players to perform physical actions (see: Mesa Chicken), but many of its other elements have made their way into black-bordered releases. Dice-rolling, sideways-prints (Burning Cinder Fury of Crimson Chaos Fire), “fused” cards (B.F.M. (Big Furry Monster)), and extended art all found their way into premium Magic sets. Infernal Spawn of Evil is a cute joke about Magic’s avoidance of the demon creature type because of Satanic-panic pressure.
Unglued cards were sold in booster packs of “10 Bizarre and Broken Cards,” or as a full booster box for a Draft experience.
The Un-set notably had a sequel planned, but it never released. Unglued 2: The Obligatory Sequel was slated for release in 1999 but was canceled while it was in design. The Un-set was perceived as a smash hit but was overprinted and ultimately netted a negative profit. Unglued 2 was scrapped as a result, but some of its mechanics made their way into future Un-sets and even some black-bordered MTG sets.
Unhinged followed Unglued in November 2004. The set included 135 silver-bordered cards and five black-bordered, full-art basic lands (all five featuring art from the incomparable John Avon). It was announced on April 1, 2004, originally leading to some confusion as to whether or not the set was real. It was the first MTG set to include the “13+” age rating on its packaging since it was the first Magic set released after WotC implemented the age-rating policy. It was sold in 10-card booster packs, same as Unglued.
Unhinged made use of a secret message theme in its design and layout. A lot of the cards’ foil versions include secret art or a hidden message. For example, the foil version of Goblin Mime reveals an invisible box trapping the goblin, and Richard Garfield, Ph.D. has Garfield’s autograph. The Un-set also included a secret message detailing cards that didn’t make it into the set in a Christmas Story-esque decoder ring-adjacent challenge. Each Unhinged card has a single word printed after its collector number and artist credit, and arranging each card in reverse alphabetical order spells out the following message:
Here are some more cards that didn’t make it: Moronic Tutor; Lint Golem; Wave of Incontinence; I’m Quitting Magic; Bob from Accounting; Castrate; Mishra’s Bling Bling; Dead Bunny Isle; Circle of Protection: Pants; Time Fart; Sliver and Onions; Kobold Ass Master; Thanks, Barn; Mild Mongrel; Robo-Samurai; Obligatory Angel; Chump-Blocking Orphan; Wrath of Dog; Celery Stalker; Hugs-a-lot Demon; Assticore; Codpiece of the Chosen; Hurl; What the Cluck?!; Nachomancer; Scrubotomy; Arcbound Noah; Darksteel Spork; Look at Me, I’m Accounts Receivable; Hydro Djinn; Bad Stone Rain Variant; S.O.B.F.M.; Pinko Kami; Purple Nurple; Form of Uncle Istvan; Them’s Fightin’ Wards; Spleen of Ramos; Fifteenth Pick; Squizzle, Goblin Nabizzle; Zombie Cheerleading Squad; Two-Way Myr; Bone Flute 2: Electric Boogaloo; Magic Offline; Nutclamp; Bwahahahaaa!; Dragon Ass; Phyrexian Sno-Cone Machine; Chimney Pimp; R.T.F.C.; Greased Weasel; Flame War; We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Merfolk; Ting!; and Disrobing Scepter (again!).Unhinged secret message
Unhinged introduced a slew of new Un-mechanics and tribes. A lot of the cards reference the names of cards, requiring you speak it aloud (like Emcee) or checking the name for a quality of some kind (like Double Header or Wordmail). The Gotcha! mechanic returns a card with that ability when an opponent does or says the trigger. My favorite Gotcha! card is definitely Stop That, but anyone in my playgroup can tell you I’m the serial card-flipper.
The second Un-set makes a ton of references to both Unglued and old Magic in general. Blast from the Past and Old Fogey were both printed with the classic border and featured mechanics long since taken out to pasture (Old Fogey was the first dinosaur creature card, a type reintroduced in Ixalan). Infernal Spawn of Infernal Spawn of Evil completes the demons-to-beasts-to-demons pipeline that started in Unglued.
Unstable arrived in December of 2017 after a 14-year wait. It was also considered a financial failure, so once again our good friends at R&D were forced to make real Magic cards instead of fun ones. Its design was actually finished in 2014, but the schedule couldn’t allow for its release until three years later.
Unstable contained 216-ish silver-bordered cards and five black-bordered full-art basics, as well as a single black-bordered “Rigger” creature. It was sold in the standard 10-card booster pack and a 16-card draft booster. While the first two Un-sets were designed to be drafted and played alongside other black-bordered cards, Unstable was best drafted alone.
Two flagship mechanics dominate the Un-set. The assemble mechanic allows you to create Contraptions pulled from a separate deck of cards and placed in their own special “Sprocket” zones. Each upkeep you can move the special “CRANK!” counter to the next sprocket, then crank all contraptions in that sprocket to activate them.
The second main Unstable mechanic was host creatures and augments. Host creatures all have enters-the-battlefield effects, and their art and name are divided by a vertical line. Augment creatures can be played and attached to them, replacing part of the name and ability text and modifying the creature’s power and toughness.
Unstable also saw the return of now-classic Un-mechanics, like wordy cards (Garbage Elemental) , art-matters (Goblin Haberdasher), and flavor-matters (Graveyard Busybody).
One of my favorite bits WotC pulled off in Unstable are the multiple different printings of cards with the same name. Knight of the Kitchen Sink, for example, has four different printings depending on which obscure kitchen utensil he’s forgotten. This is a cute joke, until you realize you need to organize each of those Very Cryptic Commands with four different effects. Another example, Extremely Slow Zombie, has four different arts showing the zombie slowly reach out to grab you over the course of a full year.
February 2020’s Unsanctioned is a reprint-heavy Un-set with a slight wrestling theme. It features only 96 cards, 16 of which are new. The reprints include 19 Unglued cards, 24 Unhinged cards, 27 Unstable cards, and 1 Hascon promo card reprint: Sword of Dungeons & Dragons.
The set was sold in five preconstructed decks of 30 cards each, with the intent that players would purchase two decks and combine them to play against their opponents. Sort of like a board game.
Unsanctioned featured the return of classic Un-mechanics like wordy, art matters, etc. It also introduced a cycle of legendary creatures to be used as Un-commanders. They’re mono-colored creatures with an enemy-colored activated ability; Acornelia, Fashionable Filcher, Alexander Clamilton, Pippa, Duchess of Dice, Stet, Draconic Proofreader, and Syr Cadian, Knight Owl (this is the only one that makes me chuckle).
Unsanctioned also saw the reprints of Johnny, Combo Player and Timmy, Power Gamer, but interestingly not Spike, Tournament Grinder. Maybe it’s become too powerful and needs a ban?
The upcoming Unfinity set is scheduled for release on October 7, 2022. It’ll feature cards themed around a retro sci-fi “space circus” and amusement parks.
Unfinity marks a departure from the silver-bordered cards. It replaces the silver border with an acorn foil security stamp to denote that the cards are not for tournament play.
The changeover was done in part to encourage playing with the Un-cards outside of the vacuum-sealed environment of an “only silver-border” format. Some of the few spoilers we’ve seen so far illustrate how an Un-effect can work in a regular game of Magic. For example, there was a lot of hubbub when Saw in Half was spoiled. It’s a surprisingly powerful effect for an Un-set card, and it’ll be legal in Eternal formats when it’s released.
Unfinity is the first Un-set with a storyline to speak of. It centers on “Myra the Magnificent’s Intergalactic Astrotorium of Fun,” a space carnival that travels the galaxy as a series of interconnected spaceships that can move from planet to planet. The employees of the park include typical Magic creatures like elves, zombies, and goblins.
Unfinity will be sold in draft boosters and collector boosters. The collector boosters will be entirely foil cards, with three of the fifteen getting a special “galaxy foil” treatment. Like the other Un-sets, Unfinity will include full-art basic lands, two of each type, with space-themed artwork lovingly dubbed the “Space-ic lands.” It also has a special selling point: the 2-color shock lands cycle will be reprinted in borderless art variants in the set.
Unfinity is shaping up to be the largest Un-set ever. The entire set hasn’t been spoiled yet, but we can predict at least 244 individual cards with close to 300 more variants based on the collectors numbers.
Are Un-Sets Tournament Legal?
Most Un-sets aren’t tournament legal. Silver-bordered and acorn-stamped cards are designed for casual formats, but Unfinity will include cards with the regular security stamp that will be legal in Eternal formats (Commander, Legacy, and Vintage).
What About Un-Lands?
The Un-set basic lands can be used as basics in any format. Unfinity’s reprints of the Ravnica shock lands will be legal in any format they were already legal in.
What Are Acorn Cards?
Acorn cards are cards from the newest Un-set, Unfinity, that aren’t legal for tournament play. They include mechanics that would be impossible to include in a standard MTG set.
Acorn cards are black-bordered and stamped with a foil acorn security stamp. This effectively indicates what a silver-border originally did: that the card isn’t tournament legal.
Acorn vs. Silver-Bordered Cards
Un-sets were originally printed with silver borders to indicate that the cards are meant for casual play and aren’t tournament-legal. But as of Unfinity, the Un-sets will be printed with black borders and an acorn security stamp on the cards that aren’t tournament legal.
Can You Play Un-Cards in Commander?
Silver-bordered and acorn-stamped cards from Un-sets can’t be played in a typical Commander game. But you’re encouraged to use the card in casual formats, so just check with your playgroup beforehand if you’d like to include some in your deck!
Killer Cosplay | Illustration by Leonardo Santanna
The more than 20-year journey from Unglued to Unfinity has seen a wide variety of goofy mechanics made to poke fun at this ridiculous card game we’ve all become so invested in. These sets, while not the most popular or the most financially viable for WotC, serve an important purpose in reminding us that Magic is, ultimately, just a game.
We should have some fun with it when we can! Take a break from grinding on MTGO and just flip through the ScryFall page for Unglued. It’ll do wonders for your mental health, I swear. Let me know what card makes you chuckle the most in the comments down below or over on the Draftsim Twitter.
Thanks for reading, and remember to find something to laugh at this week!
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You forgot Born of the Gods.