Posted in Serious Fun on August 17, 2004

By Anthony Alongi

Assembling Unglued cards into tangible formats

What does a column devoted to unusual formats do when the theme week involves an unusual set, like Unglued?

First, the author actually studies Unglued.

See, the embarrassing thing for me is, I've never really played with Unglued cards. Even though the set was created for casual, non-tournament play, and this is a column about casual, non-tournament play...well, I'm afraid I never really bought into the concept. I believe Magic is one game, and that all the players who play it ought to have one set of legal cards they can depend on. That way, strangers who meet at a local store can count on inclusion, rather than exclusion, when trying to start up a casual multiplayer game.

But there's certainly another argument or two in favor of sets like Unglued (and the upcoming Unhinged). Knowing Mark, he probably laid out the case beautifully yesterday, and it probably had something to do with exploring design space beyond the confines of tournament play. And I imagine the R&D team had a blast designing these sets – some of the cards are really funny. (Giant Fan still cracks me up.) Who the heck am I to ruin the fun? I have my opinion, and I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority. I'm glad the sets are out there for everyone else.

(Quick comment here: I find after theme articles like these that some readers have an uncontrollable urge to try to win me over to a certain point of view – banding is actually good, coin flip cards are wondrous fun, Mark Gottlieb isn't really Spiderman's demented brother, etc. So I'm going to guess some readers will want to convince me to play Unglued cards. Of course, email me at will – but I recommend a different topic. Please respect the old maxim, “different strokes for different folks” – that's what sets like Unglued and Unhinged are all about, right?)

Tell you what I'll do. In preparation for this article, I've studied the entire set for the first time, and found ten cards I'd never heard of before. These ten cards would serve as foundations for interesting alternative formats. And after all, that's what Serious Fun is really about, right?

I had a good chuckle looking through the set – and I'll tell you, some of these cards wouldn't need too hard a tweak to find their way into a tournament-legal set. In fact, I found at least one bearing an uncanny resemblance to a card coming up in Champions of Kamigawa. Up to you folks to spread rumors on which one. Guess away!

Bronze Calendar

Color= Artifact Type= Artifact Cost= 4 UG(U)
Text (UG+errata): Spells you play cost {1} less to play as long as you speak in a voice other than your normal voice. ; When you speak in your normal voice, sacrifice ~this~. [D'Angelo 2000/03/09 - unofficial errata]
Bronze Calendar
  • You may use sign language, unless you normally speak in sign language. [Barclay 1998/08/13]
  • You can have someone else speak for you. [Barclay 1998/08/13]
  • The Calendar will reduce the total cost of the spell, so it can pay for part of the Gloom cost for a white spell. [Barclay 1998/08/13]
  • If you have two Calendars in play, you can use just one different voice to satisfy both of them. [QAS 1998/09/09]
  • You can switch voices as often as you want. You just cannot use your normal voice. [QAS 1998/09/09]
  • Your normal voice is determined at the time as casting as the voice you used most often during the past 24 hours. [TomHa 1998/09/15]
  • Volume alone does not make a voice "different". [D'Angelo 1999/02/21]
  • All tournament formats have banned cards from Unglued.
  • Note - Also see Unglued rulings, Rule 507.

Bronze Calendar encourages players to play “off personality”. When you're with friends, it can be fun to leave your comfort zone and play a different role.

Format idea: Play a deck completely different from your usual style. If you normally play aggressive decks, play controlling decks. If you normally hate white, go mono-white. If you normally play intricate combo decks, play single-minded red burn.

You can do this in one of three ways:

  • Build your own “anti-self” deck, based on your own knowledge of what you usually avoid.
  • Assign deck construction in advance – each person in the group gets to design and build a deck for someone else.
  • Simply use a deck from someone else's collection. For example, my friend Todd Petit has a deck that uses Land Equilibrium, Armageddon, artifact mana, and Barbed Wire for the win. I hate this deck. This would be my deck for the night.

Checks and Balances

Color= Blue Type= Enchantment Cost= 2U UG(U)
Text (UG+errata): Whenever a spell is played, all players, other than the spell's controller and his or her teammates, may discard a card. If all of those players do, counter that spell. Play ~this~ only in a game with three or more players. [D'Angelo 2000/03/09 - unofficial errata]
Checks and Balances
  • It only checks the number of players when played. Once in play it will stay even if the number of players drops to less than 3. [QAS 1998/09/09]
  • You can't agree to something that you can't do, so if you have no cards in hand, you can't agree to choose and discard a card. [QAS 1998/09/09]
  • The agreements and choices are all made on resolution. [Barclay 1998/08/13]
  • It affects all spells played, even yours. [Barclay 1998/08/13]
  • All tournament formats have banned cards from Unglued.
  • Note - Also see Unglued rulings, Rule 507.

The very premise of this card is an excellent foundation for a new format. Imagine a spell that everyone beyond the controller (and teammates) hates. Wouldn't it be great just to get rid of it? The only thing I'd do is increase the cost, so it doesn't get out of hand.

Format idea: Whenever a player plays a spell, all players other than the spell's controller and his or her teammates may discard two cards and sacrifice a non-land permanent. If all those players do, remove that spell from the game.

As with the original card, you would need to have three or more players (and I'd argue for three or more teams). Once the game gets down to two or fewer players/teams, I'd argue for a null effect.

Clam Session

Color= Blue Type= Creature - Clamfolk Cost= 1UU UG(C)
Text (UG+errata): 2/5. As ~this~ comes into play, choose a word. At the beginning of your upkeep, sacrifice ~this~ unless you sing at least six words of a song, one of which must be the chosen word. You can't repeat a song. [D'Angelo 2000/03/09 - unofficial errata]
Clam Session
  • If you're tone deaf (like I am), you should suffer a serious penalty (agreed among your opponents) for playing with Clam Session. Unless you sing heavy metal songs, where it doesn't matter too much anyway. [Barclay 1998/08/13]
  • If the six words you sing contain the chosen word more than once, you sacrifice the Session. "one" means "exactly one". [Barclay 1998/08/13]
  • "Happy Birthday to Dan" is considered the same song as "Happy Birthday to Dave". [Barclay 1998/08/13]
  • You must say your chosen word for everyone. [bethmo 1998/08/17]
  • The six words must be consecutive words from the song. [QAS 1998/09/09]
  • The six words don't have to be different. [QAS 1998/09/09] See the flavor text.
  • If you have more than one Clam Session in play, you can use the same song for each of them. [QAS 1998/09/09] But you're a wimp if you do.
  • All tournament formats have banned cards from Unglued.
  • Note - Also see Unglued rulings, Rule 507.

I've done this at a wedding or two – except you had to sing an entire verse at least. This is a riot. Once, the word was (unsurprisingly) love. One table at the reception came up with the Oscar Meyer commercial song from the 1970s-80s. (“I love to eat it every day, and if you ask me why I'll saaaaay...”)

Format idea: Encourage all art forms. Each player starts the game by naming a word and an opponent – one word to each player, so figure out how to make that happen randomly. During each player's upkeep, they weave that word into one of the following art forms: a song, a poem (haiku, anyone?), a clay figurine, a watercolor, computer code, whatever.

The idea here is for something completely different from the typical Magic game. Do you know all of the talents your friends have? Wouldn't it be interesting to discover some of them?

I occasionally take aikido classes at Carleton College – it's a class I took regularly as a student, and as an alumnus I love reconnecting with the younger people there. They're so eager to explore their own talents and learn from their friends. After each belt test night (which happens at the end of each term), they sit in a circle and celebrate their own hard work with pizza and songs. Everyone who tested that night has to sing a song. (I chose the theme from SpongeBob SquarePants, with help from my daughter. We killed.)

Wouldn't it be nice if Magic games were a bit like that, every once in a while?

Flock of Rabid Sheep

Color= Green Type= Sorcery Cost= XGG UG(U)
Text (UG+errata): Flip X coins. For each flip you win, put a 2/2 green Rabid Sheep creature token into play. [D'Angelo 2000/03/09 - unofficial errata]
Flock of Rabid Sheep
  • The tokens are of creature type "Rabid" and creature type "Sheep". [D'Angelo 2000/03/09]
  • You do not have to flip all the coins at once. [QAS 1998/09/09]
  • The opponent only calls heads or tails once, not once per coin. [Barclay 1998/08/12]
  • No, we don't know why Sheep are green. Maybe Seattle sheep graze near a nuclear power plant. [Barclay 1998/08/13]
  • Optional Rule: You do have to flip all the coins at once. Extra dexterity may be required. [Barclay 1998/08/12]
  • All tournament formats have banned cards from Unglued.
  • Note - Also see Token Creatures, Rule 216.
  • Note - Also see Unglued rulings, Rule 507.
  • Note - Also see X Costs, Rule G24.1.

Sheep, like most farm animals, work as a humorous offset to most Magic creature types. But there's an awful lot of territory to mine here.

Format idea: Rework Onslaught block. Choose a “real” creature type (e.g., clerics) and a “fun” one (e.g., chihuahuas). Build a deck with the first type and replace all instances of the first type with the “fun” one. (So, your cleric deck is now a chihauhua deck.) Here's where you have to stretch: you must (1) include at least eight token generators in your deck –four copies of two cards, or eight different ones, or anything in between – and (2) before the night begins, generate at least four copies of a token card using new artwork/materials/resources.

Maybe you scribble pictures of snails on some stickers and slap them on top of miscellaneous cards. Maybe you take your children's Play-dough and make your own parakeet figurines. Maybe you get a bunch of pin cushions to represent your 1/1 sea urchins.


Color= Blue Type= Enchantment Cost= 3U UG(R)
Text (UG+errata): When ~this~ comes into play, set aside all creatures in play, face down. At the beginning of each player's upkeep, that player chooses a creature card at random from those set aside in this way and puts that creature into play. When ~this~ leaves play, put each card still set aside by ~this~ into its owner's graveyard. [D'Angelo 2000/03/09 - unofficial errata]
  • It will set cards and tokens aside, but only cards come back. [Barclay 1998/08/13] Tokens are removed from the game as soon as they leave play.
  • Only sets creatures aside when it comes into play. It doesn't keep doing it to creatures that enter play afterwards. [Barclay 1998/08/13]
  • Treat B.F.M. as one creature for purposes of this card. [QAS 1998/09/09]
  • All tournament formats have banned cards from Unglued.
  • Note - Also see Unglued rulings, Rule 507.

Here's my question: what exactly is this card doing in a non-tournament-legal set? The rulings on this card do not appear to betray any horrific, unusual situations that might arise. It's certainly not any more complicated than Endless Whispers. Free-for-All should be red, a bit more expensive, and in an expansion set. A great rare to annoy tournament experts who want to open a foil chase card like Arcbound Ravager. Just my opinion.

Format idea: In a chaos game (especially a large one), allow a modest chance each round (say, 1 on a six-sided die) that all creatures will get removed from the game and reassigned randomly/evenly among all players. You can do the redistribution slowly, as the original card suggests; or immediately, to keep the game moving.

Get a Life

Color= White Type= Instant Cost= W UG(U)
Text (UG): Target player and each of his or her teammates exchange life totals.
Get a Life
  • You can cast this on a player with no teammates. It will do nothing, because you can't exchange one of something. [Barclay 1998/08/13]
  • If there is more than one teammate present, you get to choose which player gets which life total, but you must make sure that each life total goes to a different player. [QAS 1998/09/09]
  • All tournament formats have banned cards from Unglued.
  • Note - Also see Unglued rulings, Rule 507.

A natural for Emperor format, here's a nifty way to bolster your team's defenses – or wreck the opposition.

Format idea: As with Free-for-All above, allow a modest chance each round that life totals may switch randomly. Note that this will likely do two things: (a) slow the game down a bit marginally, and (b) ensure that at least some of the players will seek to keep life totals as even as possible as they sink down below 10.

Bear in mind players cannot “mana burn” in response to this card – mana burn doesn't take place until the end of a phase.


Color= Green Type= Creature - Gus Cost= 2G UG(C)
Text (UG+errata): 2/2. ; ~this~ comes into play with one +1/+1 counter on it for each game you have lost to an opponent since you last won a Magic game against him or her. [D'Angelo 2000/03/09 - unofficial errata]
  • "Lost" only counts games of Magic. [QAS 1998/09/09]
  • In tournament play, only games in that tournament count. [QAS 1998/09/09]
  • Gus is not a Legend since there is no one Gus. Gus is everywhere. [QAS 1998/09/09]
  • In a multi-player game, choose a player when this comes into play. [D'Angelo 1998/11/09]
  • Optional Rule: "Lost" means any sort of loss - losing a bet, losing a poker game, etc. [Barclay 1998/08/13]
  • All tournament formats have banned cards from Unglued.
  • Note - Also see Unglued rulings, Rule 507.

I love how the rulings say “Gus is not a Legend since there is no one Gus...Gus is everywhere.”

Format idea: The idea here is to balance out the win-loss record over the course of several nights of playing Magic. Here's a more complex method: assume a global enchantment in play all game long that states:

“Each creature has: [0]: This creature gets +X/+X until end of turn, where X is the number of games you have lost to target opponent since you last won a Magic game against him or her.”

If the players who tend to lose in your group favor creatureless decks, consider this option:

“Each player may spend [2] and discard a card, whenever they could play an instant, to give target creature –X/-X until end of turn, where X is the number of games that player has lost to target opponent since he or she last won a Magic game against him or her.”

Bonus format idea: Sometimes, when our group drafts in two-man teams, we take the time to pair up the better drafters with those who have less experience. This requires a bit of honest self-assessment, and a touch of diplomacy as well. But if you have a group of secure individuals, it's worth the effort to make sure struggling players get the advice they need in building and playing decks.


Color= White Type= Creature - Beast Cost= 3W UG(U)
Text (UG+errata): 2/3. ; Whenever ~this~ deals damage to a player, destroy target card in play, other than ~this~, with the most lines of text in its text box. If more than one card has the most lines of text, you choose which of those cards to destroy. [D'Angelo 2000/03/09 - unofficial errata]
  • Simply count the number of lines (including flavor text) on the actual card. Don't look at Oracle. This means that different versions of cards will be better than others. [QAS 1998/09/09]
  • It does count lines of flavor text. [QAS 1998/09/09]
  • Lexivore cannot eat itself, but can eat other Lexivores. [Barclay 1998/08/13]
  • Humility and Titania's Song don't remove text, they only remove abilities. [QAS 1998/09/09]
  • Portal lands have one line of text. Unglued lands have none. [QAS 1998/09/09]
  • All tournament formats have banned cards from Unglued.
  • Note - Also see Unglued rulings, Rule 507.

A white beast! Those are few and far between. Keep that in mind if you regularly play Unglued cards and tribal format week rolls along...

Format idea: Play with decks full of cards that have either no rules text or at least five lines of rules text. Flavor text doesn't count.

This sounds simple, but I'll bet some really crazy ideas come out of it. I'd be curious to hear from readers who build decks off of this one!


Color= Blue Type= Enchantment Cost= UU UG(U)
Text (UG+errata): Whenever a spell is played, if a card with the same name as that spell card is in a graveyard and the controller of that spell didn't say "Sorry" before playing the spell, any other player may say "Sorry". If one does, counter that spell. Whenever a player says "Sorry" at any other time, ~this~ deals 2 damage to that player. [D'Angelo 2000/03/09 - unofficial errata]
  • All tournament formats have banned cards from Unglued.
  • Note - Also see Unglued rulings, Rule 507.

This card is startlingly close to Cephalid Shrine and/or Dwarven Shrine, generally hailed as Two of the Worst Rares Ever. A guy in our group named George actually has a deck with both, sprinkled with Mesmeric Orb, Leveler, and a few other cards he feels provide “synergy”. Looking at a decklist of his is like reading one of my more far-fetched article ideas. Just plain painful.

Format idea: I think this card works fine as a permanent global enchantment. No need to get fancy.

Volrath's Motion Sensor

Color= Black Type= Enchant Player Cost= B UG(U)
Text (UG+errata): ~this~ can enchant only a hand controlled by an opponent. ; Enchanted player balances ~this~ on the back of that hand. When ~this~ falls off the hand, sacrifice ~this~ and that player loses 3 life. [D'Angelo 2000/03/09 - unofficial errata]
Volrath's Motion Sensor
  • "Enchant Player" cards are local enchantments. [Barclay 1998/08/13]
  • The hand may be a real hand, or one of cards, but it must be controlled by the opponent. [Barclay 1998/08/13]
  • No other part of the player's body may touch the motion sensor - if it does, it is considered to have fallen off. [Barclay 1998/08/13]
  • Tickling is allowed, as long as you can reach from where you're sitting. Touching your opponent's hand or arms yourself in an attempt to knock it off is not. [Barclay 1998/08/13]
  • Blowing on the card or actively acting upon it in any way to force it off the player is not legal. [D'Angelo 1998/10/22]
  • All tournament formats have banned cards from Unglued.
  • Note - Also see Unglued rulings, Rule 507.

Here's one card that, like Charm School or Handcuffs, works off of physical play. I'm always nervous when talking about cards like this, because we have to realize some players may have physical disabilities which make “correct” (i.e., most effective) play of this card rather unsportsmanlike. There are also situations where tickling, as the unofficial rulings suggest, is allowed – but perhaps not welcome. Please use your head and your heart when playing cards like this.

Format idea: For every permanent that a player controls, that player must balance a coin (or similar stackable item) on top of his or her head or hand. Whenever a permanent leaves play, that permanent's controller removes a stackable item from the stack. (Not the Magic “stack”, of course – the pile stack.) Whenever a balanced item falls, that player must sacrifice as many items as fell.

There are probably actually Grave Pact decks out there that could abuse this!

Enjoy the crazy sets and formats. Even from a distance, they're a blast to watch!

Anthony cannot provide deck help. He is currently in deliberations with a delegation of Clambassadors who want him to use Unglued cards.

Latest Serious Fun Articles


Hedron Alignment by, Bruce Richard

When I first looked at my preview card, I couldn't really wrap my brain around it. The card does so much that I wasn't really understanding its value. Kind of a "forest for the trees" thi...

Learn More


Eternal Pilgrim by, Bruce Richard

When religious belief turns into religious fervor, things get problematic—particularly on Zendikar. When the Eldrazi were originally imprisoned, stories were told to ensure no one would t...

Learn More



Serious Fun Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All

We use cookies on this site to enhance your user experience. By clicking any link on this page or by clicking Yes, you are giving your consent for us to set cookies. (Learn more about cookies)

No, I want to find out more