Crazy Unglue

Posted in Feature on August 19, 2004

By Mark L. Gottlieb

The only set specifically designed for casual play, Unglued has some intriguing mechanics that will surely alter the course of a typical game—yet, a bit surprisingly, it doesn't have that much to offer in the way of combo pieces. A careful examination of the set reveals a few hidden gems, though, including one infinite damage loop—



Oh, I see how it is. I'm supposed to be funny. “Unglued is the funny set. Mark is the funny columnist. He'll be funny today. Dance, little monkey, dance!” Forget it, bubsy. It doesn't work like that. I was funny last week. I was funny, uh, I don't know, a few months before that. I don't like being told when to turn on the humor hose and let the pure, burbling comedy splash out onto the bikini carwash that is this website. I write humor when I want, where I want, who I want. Period. The end. So there.

What was my point?

Chick Flick

Let's start with an Ungluedy deck. This deck is so Unglued, it's practically falling apart at the seams. About a year and a half ago, I was in a casual multiplayer game with a green-black hodgepodge of powerful cards and sacrifice effects. I had just gotten out Avatar of Woe and I was about to start ownzoring the table… until Peter, the player to my right, whipped out Fowl Play and turned the Avatar into a Chicken! Before: Fear-enabled 6/5 assassin-at-will. After: 1/1 Chicken. The whole table, including me, had a good laugh. (For the purposes of this story, full-on blown-gasket rants count as laughs.) I got my revenge later (or earlier, I can't remember) when Peter brought out a Chaos Confetti and tried to shred a proxy Plains instead of the Unglued card itself. That flies in the face of everything Chaos Confetti stands for, and I absolutely wouldn't allow it. You've gotta take the ung with the lued, you know what I mean?

What was my point?

Oh, right, Chickens. Unglued doesn't just have a chicken theme… It has a Chicken deck sitting in there. The ruler of the flock is Chicken a la King, the molting monarch—the rooster among roasters—that permanently pumps up all your Chickens as long as you roll enough dice to hit 6's. We've got to roll dice, huh? That can be arranged. The green Chicken and the red Chicken-to-be in the set both incorporate automatic dice rolling, as do Growth Spurt; Urza's Science Fair Project; Strategy, Schmategy; and Goblin Tutor. The Tutor needs a range of card types to hunt for, so that's another check in the “yes” column for Growth Spurt (an instant) and the Science Fair Project (an artifact). Strategy, Schmategy is there just because it's there. It's probably bad for you to play it as this deck wants to build up permanent count, so it really hurts the deck's strategy… and that seems perfect.

The whole point of this deck is to hatch some Chickens and then roll 6's. So it only needs two more things: More Chickens, and more 6's. Simple. Extra 6's can be accomplished by rerolling dice that aren't 6's. Like 3's. Let's face it—3's are half as good as 6's, so Clam-I-Am will help those 3's try to improve their lot in life. Goblin Bookie can take care of the rest. And more Chickens? I already mentioned Clam-I-Am and Goblin Bookie, right? Unnatural Selection will Chickenify both of those puppies and the Science Fair Project too. Mistform Dreamer, Mistform Wall, and Proteus Machine will Chickenify themselves. Riptide Replicator clucks out even more Chickens, and Mistform Ultimus starts out ahead of the game as the game's only black-bordered Chicken.

Who You Callin' a Chicken?

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Making Contacts

I actually don't play with Unglued that much. I prefer to make my own Magic humor by turning Wirefly Hive into a Wrath of God machine or cracking open a Summoner's Egg I've given to my opponent and revealing the Phage yolk inside. But I do enjoy the cards when they pop up at appropriate times. For example, the wackiest format of all, Reject Rare Draft can only be enhanced by the couple of Unglued cards like Strategy, Schmategy or Incoming! that always seem to sneak in. In the first RRD that I ran here at Wizards, Richard Garfield did obscene things with Incoming!, Angelic Chorus, and the fattiest fatties he could draft.

There are certainly combos to be had with this set—not all Unglued cards are based on who is or isn't wearing pants. Incoming! can do simple things (Pandemonium & B.F.M.) or complex things (Summoning Station, Arcum's Weathervane,… and I'll leave the rest to your imagination). I've explored the infamous Ashnod's Coupon combo that Simon Sandlake (aka Pyftig Jork) sent in—you can find the setup here and the solution here. Although it's slowed to a trickle now, I still get emails from people excavating the archives who stumble on the bombo article and suggest the answer to this befuddling conundrum… despite the fact that the solution was posted in the very next article.

Back in October, Kenn Mikos mailed in the first combo to break Urza's Contact Lenses: Urza's Contact Lenses + Lodestone Myr! As long as your arms don't fall off, the Contact Lenses can pump Lodestone Myr up infinitely. +8,000,000/+8,000,000 from a 0-mana artifact… seems pretty good. The free untaps turn Clock of Omens's ability into “Tap an artifact: Untap target artifact,” which can be silly. But let's think about this. The “Clapper” ability on the Contact Lenses was utterly pointless at the time of Unglued (which Mark Rosewater was the lead designer of) and it stayed useless until Lodestone Myr in Mirrodin (which Mark Rosewater was the lead designer of) and Clock of Omens in Fifth Dawn (which Mark Rosewater was the lead designer of). Hmmm. Let me reiterate: Hmmmmmm. Did Mark just pull off what I think he did? Was he seeding combo pieces in his niche set six years ago? Oh, it gets better—the Contact Lenses are a cog, so they're fetchable with Artificer's Intuition or Trinket Mage (also Fifth Dawn cards). Amazing.

Let Me See

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Don't forget to tap your Clock of Omens (cuz you might as well) and your Howling Mine (to shut it off before your opponent draws) to feed your Lodestone Myr and your Clock-driven untaps early in the game, before you find your infinite combos. Wait—what infinite combos?

Clock of Omens + Thran Dynamo + Staff of Domination + Urza's Contact Lenses = infinite colorless mana and blistered palms. You can replace the Staff with another Lenses or vice versa for the same result.

Clock of Omens + 2 Contact Lenses + Great Furnace = infinite red mana and bloody palms.

After you get that mana, you can draw your deck with the Staff and use Fireball or Telim'Tor's Darts (among other possibilities I didn't include) for the win. If you've got a Clock, the Lenses, and a handful of artifact lands, you can simply untap Thran Dynamo enough times (without needing to go infinite) to get a lethal Fireball going.

Sensible Censorship

I did mention something at the top about an infinite damage loop, right? I wasn't fooling around about that. Unglued is not a fooling-around kind of set. What combos exist in here? Gerrymandering + Zuran Orb (or Overgrown Estate) steals half your opponent's lands, Free-For-All + Phage is gamblin' man's way to end the game, and The Cheese Stands Alone + Decree of Annihilation is an instant win. (You can also put The Cheese Stands Alone on the stack and respond to it with Kaervek's Spite for the same result.) But those are too tame, and none of them is an infinite damage loop. Check out this insanity:

Censorship (set to “Ow”) + Ow + Opalescence = sudden death overtime

Finally, Opalescence finds a good home in a combo deck. With this combo on the table, the next player to be damaged by a creature will (barring something silly like Worship) lose the game. It doesn't matter if that player has a million life. In fact, it's better if that player has a million life. Feel free to spot your opponent a million life if he lets you go first.

How does this work? The combo is out on the table. I damage you with a creature. Ow triggers. If you say “ow,” Censorship will trigger and deal 2 damage to you—and since Censorship is a creature thanks to Opalescence, Ow will trigger again. Go back to the top of the loop! If, on the other hand, you don't say “ow” when you're damaged, Ow itself will deal 1 damage to you—and since Ow is a creature thanks to Opalescence, Ow will trigger again. Go back to the top of the loop!

Finally, Opalescence finds a good home in a combo deck.

Of course, the deck can easily backfire—it works against you as well. Don't assemble the combo if your opponent has an active Goblin Sharpshooter! Once the combo is active, you can't even inadvertently say “ow” or Censorship will start the loop and you'll lose! If your opponent hits you with a shovel (check Aaron's column tomorrow), I strongly suggest you say “ouch” or simply weep in silent dignity.

But the nuttiness doesn't end there. See, in order to win, the deck needs a way to deal damage with a creature while also preventing you from being hurt. Samite Archer and Stinging Barrier both fit the bill. One ping sets the loop in motion. But pinging with either of those creatures isn't nearly as fun as attacking with your animated, unblockable Ow! (After hours of careful consideration, I chose Infiltrate over both Teleport and Trailblazer as the means to grant unblockability.) For a more “What the hell is going on?” experience, I recommend Bureaucracy (also settable with a “Say 'ow'” command) and Sorry (which can interact with Censorship and Bureaucracy if you don't have the “ow” thing going on). The rest of the deck is made of boring good cards that help you find and protect the combo. Yawn.

Ow About That

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Until next week, have fun with Unglued!

Oh, and if you're at Gen Con right now, then so am I. I'll be manning the Gen Con Monster Hunt booth (that's the convention-wide puzzle contest I constructed with Teeuwynn Woodruff and Mike Selinker). Stop by and say hi!

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