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Of Villains and Spies: Unstable in Commander

Of Villains and Spies: Unstable in Commander

With all the hype around the sheer wackiness of Unstable, it’s easy to get lost in all the possibilities of drafting the format. With clearly defined factions and mechanics, they’ve streamlined the Limited process to guide you and your friends to building coherent decks. However, Unstable is far more than Limited fodder and full frame basic lands. While previous Un-sets gave us on average two legendary creatures, this time we get a whopping ten creatures that we can use as potential Commanders. If you thought Unstable was crazy before, wait and see what happens when you build around it.


The most talked about card in the set is easily Spike, Tournament Grinder. For better or worse, this card has grabbed a ton of attention, and as a Commander she truly is broken. Grabbing any banned or restricted card from any Constructed format is just insane, since you can grab anything from restricted Vintage cards like Necropotence to obscurely banned cards like Thawing Glaciers, which was banned in Ice Age block Constructed. You can even get banned Commander cards like Griselbrand and Braids, Cabal Minion, so the sky’s the limit. The only drawback is that she’s mono-Black, so in the spirit of the format I suggest sticking to only getting cards you could play in a regular mono-Black deck.

Dimir players received a pair of really interesting Spy Commanders in X and Phoebe, Head of S.N.E.A.K. X is unique in that you effectively play the spells in your opponent’s hand at instant speed for just 3UB, so you can focus your deck entirely around resolving and protecting X. This Commander is all about using your opponent’s cards against them, so you essentially get to play two decks at once. Just put X in the hand of the scariest combo player, and always remember to tell them to stop hitting themselves. Phoebe, on the other hand, plays in a similar vein to Mairsil, the Pretender in that you’re stacking text boxes on top of one another to create a monstrosity. Where Phoebe really shines is in the late game when you can activate her multiple times in a turn. Commander is all about big, splashy effects, so you can turn those effects into a bizarre amalgamation of rules not seen since Ice Cauldron.

Rakdos Commanders really got the lion’s share of options with The Big Idea, Baron Von Count, and Grusilda, Monster Masher. The Big Idea is effectively Krenko, Mob Boss with the potential go go even wider, while Baron Von Count is an amazing Commander for spellslinger decks. Just pack your deck with rituals and burn spells of varying numerals and you can easily chain together spells to destroy multiple players at once. Also, with Strionic Resonator, you can double Baron Von Count’s trigger and take out two players for the price of one.


My personal favourite, Grusilda, Monster Masher, plays very similarly to The Mimeoplasm, except you can fuse creatures together over and over rather than just the one time. There are a bunch of ways to build a Grusilda deck, but I lean more toward the classic reanimator-style deck like Chainer, Dementia Master. Combined with fast Red discard like Faithless Looting and Cathartic Reunion, we can dump giant monsters into our graveyard early on to meld into one later on. There’s no end to the different combinations of creatures you can make, so there’s plenty of flexibility for this deck.

Finally, for sheer hilarity and the nostalgia of Chaos Orb, Ol’ Buzzbark gives players a use for all those extra dice they accumulate over the years by turning them into pump spells and board wipes. I can’t wait for the day someone busts out the giant fuzzy novelty dice, plays Ol’ Buzzbark for 1, and drop it from an inch off the table with the six-side up. This might end up being one of those decks you play once just to do that, but the fun of this strategy is the story you get to tell afterwards.

It’s worth noting that while Dr. Julius Jumblemorph and Mary O’Kill are certainly unique, but I find that they have too many restrictions to make an actual deck around them. Mary O’Kill, for example, does some seriously game breaking things by switching states with a Killbot. However, with only one Killbot in the set, you have to either tutor for it or get very, very lucky to even see it. Also, since she can only be switched from the battlefield or the hand, she actually doesn’t do anything while in the Command zone. As such, I feel like Mary O’Kill will end up being more of a casual 60 card Constructed creature rather than a fully fledged Commander.


With only nineteen total hosts and augments available to a Green/White deck, Dr. Julius Jumblemorph is severely hindered in its options, so if you go that route, you may have to instate a house rule to allow other colours of hosts and augments. If you are allowed to do that, there are hundreds of combinations for your prehistoric professor to assemble, so I would try to angle for that exception to the Colour Identity rule as much as I can. When in doubt, remind your friends that it’s a dinosaur in a lab coat. That’ll usually sway people to your side.

Unstable is poised to be the most polished and interesting Un-set to date. It feels like they actually fleshed out the mechanics rather than trying to jam as many jokes and references as they could, so it feels like a finished product. This lends itself to Constructed formats like Commander, and with the bevy of options to build around, I’m expecting a lot of shenanigans at the Commander table. I anticipate most Unstable packs being used to draft, so Commander gives these cards a welcome home after the drafting is done. So if you’re looking to get even more use out of your cards, let your creativity run wild and play some Commander!