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Designing a Space-Themed Commander Deck for Unfinity

Unfinity is doing some very exciting stuff. Printing Eternal-legal cards in an Un-set is a bold move, and one that I think will shape the face of Un-sets and Commander games for a long, long time. I know there’s some fear about impact on Legacy and Vintage, but as I’ve said previously, I don’t think the conditions exist for problematic cards to spring out of Unfinity and into those formats. 

That said, the few new cards we’ve seen have been discussed ad nauseam, including by me in my most recent Commander newsletter (can’t wait to cast Saw In Half – I have my Infinitokens at the ready!). So what else could there possibly be to talk about? Well, I have good news – today, we’re going to talk about space.

 

 

Header - Design(ing) Space

The setting of Unfinity is a retro-sci-fi amusement park called Myra the Magnificent’s Intergalactic Astrotorium of Fun. The park itself is made up of “interconnected flying spaceships”, according to the article introducing the set, which likely left the designers a lot of latitude to explore different small-scale settings and themes within the overall set. However, one thing is for sure: we’re in space.

Now, it might surprise you to hear this, but we’ve been to space before! Well, sort of. Hypothetically, really. Waaaaay back in 2007, during the wild times of Planar Chaos, Kelly Digges penned a column for “What If?” week on the Wizards site called “Space Academy: Lesson One” in which he explored the question “What if Richard Garfield had used science fiction rather than fantasy flavor?”

 

Header - Space: The Convergence

This hypothetical universe (far beyond our own, should I say?) gave us Space: the Convergence, a mirror-reality version of Magic where concepts we know and love are translated directly into a space theme. Instead of a planeswalker, you’re a fierce interplanetary warlord using five types of “psi”, drawn from resources, to teleport units, create augments, power devices and enact strategies and tactics. 

People got pretty excited about this weird take on Magic, to the point where at least one person on the internet translated an entire cube into Space: the Convergence. An absolutely wild concept. 

But… doesn’t this sound familiar? Doesn’t this sound like something that’s actually happening?

 

Header - Oh, Right, Warhammer 40k

Unfinity releases in the first half of 2022 – specifically on the hyper-appropriate April 1 – but also coming “later in 2022” are four Commander decks in the Universes Beyond realm with Warhammer 40,000 theming. That means we’re going to get plenty of space to play in when we look at the world of Commander, and while there’s absolutely going to be a difference in tone between Unfinity and anything that involves Space Marines, the Imperium of Man, Necrons and Slivers – I mean the Zerg – I mean Tyranids – it should still be quite possible to put together a space-themed deck that feels unique and exciting.

 

Header - But Why?

Why put together a space-themed deck at all, Levine? Where’s the urgency? Well, if we don’t do that, how the heck are we going to play these amazing lands in the proper context?

Look, don’t get me wrong, you can play these lands in whatever context you want. They’re beautiful, they’re unique, and they feel like nothing else we have in Magic today. That said, they definitely have the potential to feel a little out of place in decks with more generic Magic theming. 

That said, there’s nothing stopping you from getting started on a space-themed deck today. In fact, there’s already some space-themed art in Magic!

 

Header - 3... 2... 1... Liftoff!

Let’s take a quick trip to space with some Commander-appropriate cards and see if we can’t figure out a larger theme with our galaxy brains.

Franz Vohwinkel gave us a fantastic gift here – a piece of mana acceleration with a really cool galaxy behind it. It puts me in mind of the Zohar floating in space in Xenosaga, or maybe a Boston record jacket. I’m also getting big Journey arcade game vibes, but that may be my own fault. What? You haven’t heard of the Journey arcade game? It’s an arcade game based on the work of the band Journey. I should think that’s pretty self-explanatory.

I took a quick stroll through the art of Franz Vohwinkel and picked out some more cards that might fit a space theme:

This card is deeply appropriate given that an armillary sphere is a real-world object that depicts celestial objects. Plus, it tutors up more sweet “space-ic” lands!

I mean, yeah, it’s a moon, but we probably want to steer clear of this if our goal is fun.

It looks like there’s an eclipse going on in the background of this art, which means this should fit right in with our existing cards!

What better to go with our planets than a sundial – and what better to go in a deck inspired by cool basic lands than a sweet landfall card?

That’s about all Franz has for us, so let’s move on to some more cards.

Could cycling be a mechanic with space implications? Well, we’re going to have to get good at reusing and repurposing resources if we don’t want to end up working low-paying jobs in space for – uh, right, card games. Sorry. Card games. Anyway, this is more rad Hubble Telescope-style art, and if we’re taking any traditional Magic mechanics to space, I think cycling is likely to be one of them – even if it doesn’t show up as a main theme in one of the four decks, my hope is there will be some cycling floating around.

I took a look through Anna Steinbauer’s work and couldn’t find anything else quite so spacey, so let’s continue.

More expensive/worse Timetwister, you say? I sure did build a Standard deck around this, Venser’s Journal and Psychosis Crawler at one point, and it sure was terrible. Did you know a deck with 12 five-drops that don’t really do anything is likely to be bad? Weird, right? Anyway, it turns out the process for reversing time involves climbing a weird Marvel universe staircase into space and swinging the planets around with the power of your fire staff. I don’t make the rules – in this case, Howard Lyon does! Speaking of Howard Lyon, has he taken us into space on any other cards?

Well, dang it, not really. This whole thing is way harder than I thought it would be! If only there were some set that took us up into the skies above the battlefield and really focused on celestial bo-

Riiiight. Theros Beyond Death. And original Theros block – you know, the one with the constellation mechanic. We got a whole Secret Lair drop of these – the 15 original Theros gods, with constellation art by Jason A. Engle, who just happened to illustrate the 11 matching Showcase versions of cards in Theros Beyond Death as well. Since we probably want to involve all five colors worth of sweet basic lands, alt-art shocklands, and star-crossed Gods, we’re going to need a five-color Commander for this deck, aren’t we?

Well, we can go off the grid a little bit with Genju of the Realm, I suppose. There aren’t really any traditional options that make any sense – Jodah is swirling mana, not planets, around himself, and Child of Alara is more of a mana-baby than a space-baby. That leaves us with everyone’s favorite we-wish-it-was-legal commander, Genju of the Realm, who is just vomiting an ocean onto a planet. Cool?

There are still a few more options in existence for space-themed cards – here are a few options.

Johannes Voss really did some great work on this one! I love what’s going on in the background, as the celestial bodies align to return someone from the dead, if only for a little while. Great theming. 

I love the Aurora Borealis going on in the background here. There’s enough that this card feels like it has some space theming, and it intersects with our God theme. 

There’s some cool space-mirror nonsense going on in this art, even if I don’t totally understand how that makes a Curator’s Ward. Are we curating these little galaxies? Which part is the ward? I’m not the most visually-attuned person.

I could go on for a while with various space-themed pieces of art, and that would be fun, but the more I look, the more I can see that we just don’t quite have the tools to build a real “space-themed” deck yet. We can build a deck with a kind of spacey look, but until we see more of Unfinity at minimum, blasting off into the outer reaches of the universe is just a little bit too far out of our reach. April 1 isn’t too far away, though, and I can’t wait to see what else Unfinity has in store – at least, once we get a little closer. We’re still a world of spoiler seasons away, after all.

 

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