Un-Cards have a weird place in Magic history. For some players they’re awesome; they like approaching the game from a sillier angle where at times the game transcends the cards and our actions and attitudes play a part in how a game pans out. For other players, there’s already enough to think about in a match of magic that they don’t want to be distracted by having to keep a thumb on the table or to watch out and make sure a certain cheating efreet has not made it onto the board. Or they don’t want to waste their time with cards that aren’t tournament legal, which is understandable.
But in a custom format like cube, who defines what is legal? As far as I know, Wizards has never came to any group drafting a cube and said “you can’t play un-cards, they aren’t legal!” Cube is great in that way: since it’s a custom format, you can do whatever you want. Fully powered singleton? Go for it! x500 Icatian Javelineers as the entire pool? Sounds awful, but if your playgroup likes it, power to you! If you wanted to, Un-Cards are totally within the realm of possibility of playable, and some are super powerful as well.
As a general rule, I would never include cards that require dexterity, physical skill or have no effect on the game. No chaos orb effects, no cards where we have to avoid saying certain words or have to make certain actions, and even though Ashnod’s Coupon is a funny card (that’s surprisingly expensive at ~$5 to buy), no drink vouchers. While cube is fun, the gameplay is serious; minute mistakes can cost you the game, and I don’t want to distract players or give them an excuse not to play with us again by making him discard 3-5 cards because he flicked his own. Also I avoid errataing cards as well, like the tear-up clause on Blacker Lotus.
Magical Hacker: With Planeswalkers, this guy will end a game. If you have enough mana in play, you can drop a variety of Planeswalkers, play him, pay U to give the ultimate a + symbol, and then go to pain town. It’s tough to overcome a regular ultimate, and it’s way harder to beat an ultimate the turn the Planeswalker drops. Against equipment and Jitte counters he’s nuts as well. Aggressive decks might be trying to beat you down with a sword, but Magical Hacker counterfeits the bonus and can kill a lot of creatures with the equipped Disfigure.
Personally I don’t like throwing Hacker into a deck with only 1 or 2 Planeswalkers, as it’s pretty awful if you have the hacker but nothing to do with it and it’s sitting in your hand, being useless. You can’t depend on always having equipment or anthems to shut down either. If I drafted a deck with 3+ Planeswalkers—something I’m always looking to do, since I love the Planeswalker deck—he is an all-star there.
Blast from the Past: For all intents and purposes, this is the most “regular” of the playable un-cards. Other than the fact that it has a million different modes in terms of how you cast it, there is nothing “un” about the card, as all the mechanics have been seen before. It’s super versatile and one of the stronger burn cards you could run, since all the possibilities leave it so much utility for when you can use it.
Casting it for 2R is pretty weak, but it has flashback so you’re almost guaranteed to get a 2-for-1 out of the card. The best mode is to cycle it for 1R, and then cast it for it’s Madness cost, with a final total casting cost of 1RR netting you 2 dmg and a card. You’re getting 3 cards out of it, with the spell itself, the cycle, and the inevitable flashback once you play it from there. At instant speed flashback can surprise some people as a game goes on and they forget that the 2 dmg is sitting in the graveyard. If you get to the late game you can use it as a more-expensive damaging Capsize, and I’m not sure this works entirely but cycling it, casting it for it’s madness cost, and then buying it back is value that is tough to overcome and an inevitability that will take down a lot of decks and boards. For added bonus you can kick it to get a Goblin, though I don’t think I’ve ever used that mode on the card.
Booster Tutor: This is a card that I have no experience with, but looks really cool and I’ve heard good things about it. The concept is interesting—cracking a free cube booster to grab a card out of it seems insanely strong. (I imagine this is what is used in a cube draft.) But it could also do nothing. And if you keep your cards separated by type and color and not in a giant, mixed-up color, how do you choose color distribution? Do you mix a bunch of cards together to get a random pool? Once you figure out the dynamics of the card and how to work the details like which pack and how to construct, it seems like an interesting one to run.
City of Ass: This is one of the better, if not the best, lands you can run if you’re trying to play 3+ colors. If you’re OK with a Grand Coliseum coming into play tapped, then City of Ass should present no problem. Tapping for any color without any other clause is sweet. Combined with Garruk Wildspeaker, City nets you an extra mana off of the +1, and casting x-spell counters off of one land by using the ½ mana to use for the x is brutal, unexpected, and an awesome feeling when you’re casting. Other than the ½ symbol on the card, this is one of the more “normal” Un-Cards, like Blast from the Past.
Elvish House Party: If you play between 10 and 12 on the clock, this card is probably good enough. I think I would play an 11/11 for 4GG.
Rare-B-Gone: While this looks like a cool card on paper, there are few decks that would be able to properly abuse it. Cube is full of rares, and that is not color exclusive. In addition, you’ll need to know which cards without the colored symbols are rare or not. Does Sarcomancy seem rare? Because it is. How about Sol Ring, that HAS to be rare, right? Nope, it’s an uncommon, depending on the printing. The card does not seem consistent enough, and even though you can easily look up any question card, it’s annoying to have to stop the game to check on X amount of permanents for new players.
Symbol Status: If you run many different basics with all different symbols, Symbol Status is one of the best—if not THE BEST—green cards in cube. SS is seriously bonkers; for four mana, you are usually, as a floor, getting 4 tokens out of it, and that is a conservative estimate. I have seen many games where Symbol Status is casted for 10+ tokens, for the low cost of 2GG. The card is absurd! Once you start regrowthing, snapcasting, or Firebranding it, Symbol Status enters “this is just silly” mode.
Some people complain that it takes too long to get the symbols organized, but I have never found that to be the case. It’s real easy to take a moment, lay out all your permanents, and as long as your land selection is wide picking out the appropriate forests and whatever other color you’re playing takes 3-5 minutes, tops. If you’re playing with an odd amount of people, you can sort your symbols while they play. (And also get a sneak peak and what they both are doing before they get a glance at yours.)
Topsy Turvy: Recently someone on the MTGSalvation forums presented this card—which got me thinking about making this article—and if played properly the card is a thorough, thorough beating. Topsy Turvy really does make everything Topsy Turvy, in a good way for you and in a terrible, awful way for your opponent.
Ideally, you go through your turn like usual. On your second main phase, you play Topsy Turvy, which is where things get funky. From there you go into your combat step again, allowing attackers you left back or vigilance guys to get in there again. Then it’s your main phase, and hey, it’s time to draw a card during your draw step! You go through the upkeep, untap during your unstep then it’s your opponent’s turn. Of course, he starts at the end of turn, continues with all tapped permanents remaining tapped, and only untaps at the new end of turn. If you start throwing bounce cards into the mix, like Venser or Capsize, you can effectively lock your opponent out by bouncing the Topsy Turvy during their end step so their turn automatically finishes. Topsy Turvy can be seriously brutal.
Enter the Dungeon: While the effect is nice, 40 card decks make this a bit of a lame card. Also, games of cube can take long enough without having to play a second game in it. Cool card, but I’m not looking to make cube games go any longer than they are. (EDIT: It is true that this is included in more aggressive decks; this is a case of me not playing with a card and making a quick judgement. Also you have to play under the table, so that’s awesome.)
Free-for-All: Free-for-All can do some cool things in creature-light decks that can lock out your opponent. (In the same vein as Topsy Turvy.) First of all, playing it on a board with only your opponent’s creatures in play is really strong; they get a creature first, but you’re also getting at least one of their threats, potentially the better one, and potentially stopping any aggression they might have been bringing before hand. It’s a nice way to kill their tempo and help yourself stabilize with their own creatures.
If you can start bouncing or blink Free-for-All, things get silly quick. When Free-for-All leaves play, all the face-down cards go to the graveyard. Combine that with a variety of permanent bounce effects and you have a wrath you can repeat over and over again. Put him with UW Venser and you have a mini wrath you can pull off at least once, and while they get a creature again, you can keep on bouncing it to at least keep the board clear. I haven’t tried Free-for-All so I don’t know how well this strategy works, but it would be awesome if you could make a deck to abuse it.
Incoming!: This card is Eureka on steroids. The Eureka decks would love to play a card like this. Putting an Eldrazi from you hand into play is strong; putting all the Eldrazi in your deck into play is even better. Unfortunately, 4GGGG is an insane cost, even in the green decks, and like Eureka, the symmetrical clause could hurt. I don’t have much experience with it, but in a slower cube it looks pretty neat.
Jack-in-the-Mox: Random, punisher-style cards are awful in cube. Formulating a plan only to have a dice roll not go your way to ruin the plan is a crappy feeling. While there is only a 1/6th chance of this busting, hitting that percentile can be like getting Time Walked by your own card. In powered cubes there is no reason for this card as there are plenty of Mox anyways, but perhaps in an unpowered cube with a playgroup of gamblers JitM could see play.
Johnny, Combo Player: While slow and super fragile, Demonic Tutor—sometimes multiple times a turn, sometimes on your opponent’s turn—for 4 is quite nutty. If you have the mana open, your opponent really can’t do much, as you have access to any counter or piece of removal your deck has to offer. This is the one Unhinged card I haven’t played that I want to try the most. Even though Johnny dies to just about everything, untapping with him and keeping him in play seems like it would win games pretty quick. Maybe not quick enough against some decks, but given the time, this card will get you there.
Who/What/Where/When/Why: While this card is cool on an Isochron Scepter and the versatility is nice, most of the modes are over costed. But, as with all things in Magic, versatility can chump bad casting costs if the versatility is wide, and this card does a lot of different things. If your play group sees a lot of 4+ color decks, or if you have players who love Isochron Scepter, give this guy a go. I personally don’t have a ton of experience, but from what I read having the 5 options is useful.
Staying Power: There are some fun things you can do with Staying Power. Mimic Vat becomes insane, as all your tokens last as long as Staying Power does. Channel gives you mana whenever you need it without a problem. (Other than paying life.) If you play Act of Treason style cards, they become red control magics, so cards like Zealous Conscripts become fairly bonkers. It’s worth taking a look at your cube list and figuring out if this is a card that can be abused easily or if it synnergizes with only a few cards.
“Ach! Hans, Run!”: I like this card as an alternate Sneak Attack/Wildfire/Tooth and Nail style of win-con. If you rock massive creatures that can end the game when they attack, like Eldrazi or Blightsteel, Ach! is great as it allows you to pull them out of your deck, play them, and hopefully find a way to get them into your graveyard or hand if they didn’t win the game and you reach the end of the turn so you can potentially get them into play again. If your playgroup likes playing big creatures that can win the game in one swing, Ach! looks like it could be a serious all-star.
If there are any cards I forgot to mention, let me know! Un-Cards are fun, but it’s not always so easy to see the value of the card at first glance because they are so bizarre, so it’s definitely possible I missed some easy ones.