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Back in 1998, when Magic was a breakout hit but still only 3 years old, Wizards of the Coast released Unglued, a parody & humor set for Magic that used silver borders to designate that while not legal for tournament play, they are indeed "real" Magic cards and fine to use if your play group allows it. From breaking meta rules, to working outside the rules, to making in-jokes and starting new ones, it broke a ton of ground. It had a followup in 2004 with Unhinged. Many mechanics from these sets were later refined into actual "black border" set years later.
Unstable releases on December 8, the long-delayed third entry in "The Un-Sets", with many updates to the concept of "silver border" that moves it far beyond the parody and in-jokes of the originals (while still including plenty of that). No longer content to be merely funny, Unstable relentless breaks rules and explores new design territory that isn't possible in black border, but may or may not be in the future depending on how it plays to a wider audience. It also scratches a few itches for long-time Magic players whose niche favorites can't get expanded any further in normal sets.
The marquee feature of the set is "Contraptions", a mechanic teased a decade ago in Future Sight with the card Steamflogger Boss which also refers to "Riggers" that build said Contraptions. We never had any context for what those words on Steamflogger Boss meant (several Future Sight cards have keywords for which no rules currently exist, making them only partially usable), and it was rumored that Contraptions might never come to exist due to the complexity implied by that card. But they have been "solved": Contraptions are artifacts that exist in a separate 45-card deck that has its own set of rules. They a "rigged" onto one of three "sprockets" to get them into play, then the sprokets can be "cranked" to trigger the contraptions on it. The deck they are drawn from and the pile they are discarded to are separate from your library and graveyard. The set specially reprints Steamflogger Boss in black border to fulfill the condition of Future Sight's promise (that its cards, whenever possible, would appear in a future set in black border). Many of the cards in Unstable are either Contraptions or Riggers to support this complex new mechanic, and 2 cards of every 16-card booster pack are reserved as Contraptions.
Just a few other things happening in Unstable:
I was always greatly amused by silver border sets back in the day, but never got to play with them. This looks leagues beyond the old gag sets in terms of both limited and constructed game play, and I can't wait to give it a spin. Much re-calibrating has been done based on past research (for instance, no more "tear up this card" mechanics or cards that encourage you to remove your jeans) and the design space being played in is super Magic-nerdy and super fun. After seven years in development and more than an extra decade of set design experience, you'd expect a very refined product, and Unstable delivers.
The complete Unstable visual spoiler list is up on WotC's website.
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