Unstable Q&A with Mark Rosewater

Unstable releases today, and what better way to celebrate its arrival than a Q&A interview with the Un-Mastermind himself, Mark Rosewater!?

For those unfamiliar with the Un-iverse sets, Mark Rosewater was the lead designer for Unstable, as well as it's predecessors Unhinged and Unglued. There were full design and development teams for these sets, and even a world building team for Unstable, but they are often considered the brainchild of Mark specifically. He has been the main champion for them becoming a reality, and is synonymous with the Un-iverse. I had a chance to ask Mark anything I thought we'd want to know, and found myself coming up with thirteen questions that I thought we simply had to know the answers to.

Behold the golden acorn!
Earl of Squirrel by Milivoj Ćeran

Unstable is releasing today, and many of the Un fans consider this the Un Magnum Opus. As the third set in the Un series, do you feel like this ties up the "Un Block", or is such glorious work never finished?

I plan to keep making Un-sets as long as there’s a big enough audience that wants them. I finished Unstable’s design years ago. I have all sorts of ideas squirreled away. (And by squirreled away I mean written on the backs of squirrels.)

The Earl of Squirrels: is his title of nobility a title among the squirrel kingdom, or a larger kingdom of which he represents the squirrels for? Is there a Duke of Squirrels? Who's the Jester?

Earl is both is title and his name. I’m guessing his parents were thinking big when they named him. Also, I’m sure somewhere is a Duke of Squirrel. And probably a Jester’s Squirrel. Possibly even a Squirrel with the Dragon Tattoo. Also, Gone Squirrel, Squirrel Interrupted and the Squirrel with the Pearl Earring. Or possible Girl with the Squirrel Earring. Ooh, and an American Squirrel Doll.

Personally, I go nuts over squirrels.
Squirrel Dealer by Bram Sels

Of the five factions in Unstable, which do you relate to most, which would you feel most at home with, and which do you want to be more like?

I see bits of myself in each of the factions. I probably relate most with the League of Dastardly Doom. I’d be most at home with the Order of the Widget. I most aspire to be the Crossbreed Labs.

It appears most, but not all, of the animals in Bablovia are intelligent, sentient, beings. Is this a direct result of the Crossbreed Labs' experiments? Do sentient squirrels have squirrel pets?

Of the actual animals (and not just Crossbreed Lab members), I believe only the squirrels are sapient. Squirrels don’t have squirrel pets, Squirrel servants sure, but not pets. They aren’t savages.

Given the expanse between sets, there is undoubtedly a large list of Un designs and concepts that had to have gone unused. What's your favorite that wish could have made the cut?

There were a bunch of cards that were continuations of jokes from Unglued and Unhinged that we wanted to do but couldn’t find a good design for. Probably the one we tried hardest on was Infernal Spawn of Infernal Spawn of Infernal Spawn of Evil. The one that we didn’t spend enough time on and I wish we did was a third, Look at Me, I’m _____________ card.

My Squirrel-Pony Combo is unstoppable!
Half-Squirrel, Half- by Andrea Radeck

Seeing squirrels in Unstable is great, but I want to hammer down my opponent with a massive squirrel army at the next FNM. Will they ever make a return to black border?

Squirrels do occasionally show up in black border supplemental sets. I’ve been trying to get Squirrels back into Standard-legal sets for years. I even have allies. Sadly, I haven’t made much movement. Maybe if Unstable Squirrels are a huge hit…

Due to the real-life actions required for all of the Un sets, they will never be able to be released for Magic Online. Have you ever considered doing an online-only Un set, perhaps where you explore things the computer can make happen that the real world can't handle?

It’s an idea that’s been bouncing around since Magic Online began. Perhaps one day…

Do you think Bablovia still has enough design space for a "Return to" set? Could the plane ever work in a serious expansion? (You know, for black border squirrels...)

Bablovia is in a separate multiverse, what we call the Un-iverse. It’s the home of all the silver border sets. I don’t expect Bablovia making it to black border.

It says it's a "Troll" but I'm pretty sure that's a Squirrel.
Masterful Ninja by Matt Gaser

Keeping Unstable a secret, especially for the years it was greenlit but pushed back, had to be have been extremely hard. When was the hardest time that you had to control yourself from spilling the beans?

The hardest time was when I would do panels and one of the first questions was always, “Why don’t you do another Un-set?” and I had to always say “Let us know you want one” when really I wanted to scream “We’re doing it right now! Right now!"

Although Urza's Head is a beautiful card, why not explore a new planeswalker as well? If we have sentient squirrels, surely we can have a squirrel planeswalker?

At the time I did it, planeswalkers weren’t something we did too often in supplementary sets so I felt more than one would be pushing it. I had a lot of great planeswalker ideas, but Urza’s head seemed like the shoo-in. Players having been asking for Urza forever and Unhinged established his decapitated head as a silver border character.

Also, if Urza's head still exists, couldn't they clone him? If they clone him, they could make him a cyborg. Cyborgs can live forever. If he lives forever, he'll inevitably get a spark somehow. This card is actually just a plant for Urza's return, isn't it?

Only in the Un-iverse.

Gleemax isn't gone. He's just squirreled away for later...
Gleemax by Matt Gaser
Squrrel Token by Daniel Ljunggren

Without spoiling things for us, how many cards did you design for Unstable that are/will actually be printed in a black border set? Is one of them a squirrel?

We only lost one Unstable card because black border actually made it.

Alright, super serious question time. You've just released the third Un set. You've been crossing off many of the "short list" planes lately. I mean, Ixalan was pirate plane, dinosaur plane, meso-american plane, and possibly even viking or prison plane all in one. You're not crossing off your Magic bucket list because you're thinking about retiring are you? Are we going to have to get Gleemax involved again?

I’m not going anywhere. I’ve seen the future and there’s way too many cool things we’re going to be doing to leave now. Also, I’m waiting to get the green light for the fourth Un-set. Go buy a lot of Unstable and help me make that a reality. : )

You heard him! Go out there and get your Unstable packs today. Build an Un-Commander deck. Start an Un-draft with friends. Randomly show up at tonight's FNM with an Un-Standard deck. Ok, maybe not that last one. Regardless, Unstable will undoubtedly be the most unmundane gaming you'll have, and we need things to be Unsane again in the future!


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