Magic's Unfinity Aims for Humor and Imagination

Artwork of a large space circus amusement park

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Magic's Unfinity Aims for Humor and Imagination

November 30, 2021

By: Tyler Chancey

 
 

Fans of the beloved card game, Magic: The Gathering have plenty to enjoy right now. The release of the vampire wedding-themed Innistrad: Crimson Vow has helped bring some sanguine thrills during Halloween. A brand new crossover with Dungeons and Dragons is on the horizon with the pending release of the supplement, Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos. Finally, there are the new details about the newest set coming down the line, Unfinity.

In an official post on the Magic: The Gathering website, Lead Designer Mark Rosewater opened up about the design process. Rosewater talked about how Unfinity would be the fourth Un- set made for Magic: The Gathering and are generally characterized for highly experimental mechanics and ideas as well as underlying absurd humor.

Rosewater explained that Unfinity was designed with a top-down approach in mind, which is basically coming up with the overall flavor and aesthetic of the project then building the underlying mechanics around those trappings. He even cites sets like Innistrad and Theros were designed from a top-down perspective. In the case of Unfinity, the big flavor and aesthetic was a giant amusement park/carnival/circus that traveled through outer space, going from planet to planet. Hence Myra The Magnificent's Intergalactic Astrotorium of Fun was born.

Rosewater continued to mention all of the various comedic talents he collaborated with to ensure Unfinity was as witty and funny as possible. He mentions a collaboration with the Canadian sketch comedy group LoadingReadyRun's very own Kathleen De Vere, Graham Stark, and Cameron Lauder as well as freelance creative writer Austin Bridges to make sure the cards are equal parts funny and enjoyable.

 
 
A colorful piece of art showing creatures and aliens at a space circus
Magic Unfinity artwork credited to Simon Dominic

But the biggest surprise for Magic: The Gathering's Unfinity was how it would handle silver borders and black borders going forward. Rosewater talked about how both Unfinity and the recently released Dungeons and Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms had cards that were silver bordered, which generally makes them only eligible in casual formats, due to them having abilities that had you roll twenty-sided dice. For those in Magic's competitive community, silver borders are usually written off as "not real cards," since they are not supported in their preferred formats.

To quote Rosewater himself, "This made me look back and rethink what exactly Un- sets were supposed to be. When the idea of a silver border was first conceived, there weren't a lot of supported formats. There was Type 1 (Vintage) and Type 2 (Standard), plus Type 1.5 (Legacy), which was Type 1 with its restricted cards banned. Everything that wasn't one of those formats was considered casual. When silver border was dubbed 'not for tournament play,' that meant not for Vintage, Legacy, or Standard, but for every other format, especially the casual ones. Over the years, silver border slowly shifted to end up meaning 'not for any official format, casual or not,' which flies in the face of what it was originally intended to do."

Rosewater's answer to this was to change up the criteria by using security stamps. Each Magic card usually has an oval-shaped security stamp; cards from their Universes Beyond printing have a triangle stamp that helps mark them as crossover material. Now, Unfinity would have acorn-shaped stamps while being printed as black border cards. In essence, this would allow a good chunk, by Rosewater's reckoning a little over half of the cards of Unfinity, to be viable for play in Eternal format, which would make them legal in Magic's most popular current format, Commander. As for whether or not certain individual cards are banned or limited, that will depend on the community's overall reception.

As for whether or not this shift of rules and viability will catch on with the Magic: The Gathering community, it is an interesting solution to a design challenge as the card game continues to grow and change. Magic: The Gathering's Unfinity set releases April 1, 2022.

a candid selfie of the staff writer, husky build, blond hair, caucasian.
Staff Writer

Born in 1990, Tyler Chancey's earliest memories were of an NES controller in his hands, and with it a passion that continued into his adulthood. He's written for multiple sites, has podcasted, and has continued to shape and encourage new talent to greater heights.

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