It's back! I was lucky enough to be a part of bringing the original Magic: The Gathering—Conspiracy set to the masses when I did a recorded video draft with a bunch of awesome people. At the time, Wizards hadn't shown many of the cards and I had no clue what to expect from the set. I just knew that it was a set that centered around drafting, and that was all I needed to hear.
After seeing what the fine folks in R&D did with the design space they were playing in, my mind was blown. Drafting cards face up, the conspiracies, and even switching out booster packs mid-draft were all novel ideas.
But that was a few years ago, and it's finally time to revisit Conspiracy with Conspiracy: Take the Crown. The team working on this new iteration of the franchise has taken virtually everything from before another step further. They've also added a few mechanics that fundamentally change how you approach multiplayer Magic.
If you haven't yet, make sure you read Matt Tabak's rundown of the mechanics in Conspiracy: Take the Crown.
Today we'll take a brief first pass at drafting Conspiracy: Take the Crown. Keep in mind that sets like this are meant to be played multiplayer, most often with eight players drafting and then splitting into two games of four. There's a lot of flexibility in the set, so you don't necessarily have to play that way, but I'll assume this is how you're playing for the purposes of this article.
Let's Talk Draft
As you know, Conspiracy-style sets explore space that normally is left untouched: the act of booster drafting itself. There are some super interesting cards in the set that actually change in power level the longer the draft goes. It sounds weird, right?
Check out Garbage Fire:
Besides being an apt descriptor of some draft decks I've cobbled together before, Garbage Fire shows off a super interesting way to affect a card's power based on when it's drafted. When you draft Garbage Fire, you'll reveal it to the table, and then note how many cards you drafted from this pack already. (It's handy to have some notepaper and something to write with during a Conspiracy draft.)
If it's the third card from that pack, you have an instant-speed, three-mana spell that does 3 damage to a creature (you count Garbage Fire in the tally as well).
But if, for some weird reason, you get a Garbage Fire tenth pick, it now does 10 damage to that creature instead.
The really sick part? Any Garbage Fires you draft will all reflect the highest number you recorded. So in the situation where we got a pack one, pick ten Garbage Fire, we could take one super early in one of the next packs because that one will do ten damage as well!
Garbage Fire (which has to be the best-named card in the set, right?) is a common, and a very clean example of this mechanic, but there are plenty of other cards that push that boundary of "when am I supposed to actually start taking these?"
You take Spire Phantasm, reveal it to the table, then pass the pack along. The player next to you drafts their card, and then you get to guess what she drafted. Yes, the exact card. Then she'll reveal the card, and if you were right, you get a nice little bonus when you end up casting Spire Phantasm in-game.
That's pretty cool, but the really neat part is that you'll get some serious information about what your neighbor is up to! Depending on when you take the Spire Phantasm (a pretty decent card in its own right), you could learn a lot. It may inform you on a color to avoid, or what you can expect in the game from that player. It also rewards you for knowing how drafts actually go and cultivating that skill outside of Conspiracy.
Oh, and I'll just leave this one here...
Conspiracy cards are also back, and boy do I love them. My favorite thing about conspiracy cards is that they do not count toward the 40 cards in your deck. Once in your pile, they are like pure, free value. Now, you do have to prioritize whether you want to take them or essential playables for your deck, but I value the conspiracy cards very highly indeed.
As before, they'll start the game in the command zone. Sometimes they are face up, and sometimes you'll have a hidden agenda card that gets revealed when you choose to reveal it. They even one-upped the hidden agenda thing with double agenda this time around.
Now there are two pieces of hidden information. Pretty cool, and a very natural-feeling extension of the mechanic.
I love drafting conspiracies and I'll draft them highly. Just make sure you get enough playables for your deck—once you do, all of those conspiracies are pure upside for you! Don't be afraid to take 'em!
Another type of card that I enjoyed a lot from original Conspiracy was the voting cards. Now they are a bit different, and you'll need to adjust where you draft them based on how many players you'll be playing against.
Against the standard-issue three other players, these cards seem quite strong. If you find yourself in some kind of insane eight-player free-for-all, the cards with council's dilemma go from strong to insane.
With the old mechanic, people were just voting on which beneficial outcome you would get. A dilemma is defined as a difficult choice between two equally undesirable options. As each player votes, you get the benefit of the option they chose. This is only limited by the number of players at the table at the time of casting.
So again, if you are in a very large playgroup of crazy people, you should be adjusting these cards up a lot in your pick order.
"Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown" is the actual Shakespeare quote, but most people these days just say "Heavy lies the crown..."
Either way, the point stands: I'm not 100% sure I want this whole monarch thing.
The cold allure of drawing extra cards is one that I find hard to resist, but that crown may as well have a big bullseye right on the front of it. The fewer players in the game, the better it is to be the monarch, as the more difficult it is for the non-monarch peasant folk to tear down your castle, as it were.
As wary as I may be to don that big value hat, there are a lot of cards that A) make you the monarch, and B) get better when you are the monarch.
As you can see, some of these cards benefit in a more permanent way and others are only better while you sit on that (possibly cursed) throne.
While drafting this set, you have an interesting choice on whether prioritizing monarch-specific cards is worth it or not. It very may well be. The turn when you get to play a card that makes you the monarch, have that card benefit from it, and then draw you an extra card is a big swing.
I've played enough multiplayer Magic now to see all of those jealous eyes staring back at me as I gleefully draw cards and generate value. Soon, jealousy turns to rage as the whispers begin to flow around the table and you find that you aren't the monarch for long, and sometimes are no longer alive by your next turn.
We'll touch on each color briefly here just to give you some sea legs before your first draft with the set, but I think it's best (and most fun) to let you discover the intricacies on your own with this kind of thing.
White has a decent number of flying creatures, and seems capable of piling on a lot of damage. It also gets access to solid removal spells, which may make it a reasonable second color in a control deck. At its core, though, it seems to want to rumble in this set.
Blue looks amazing. It's my favorite color, sure, but still, it looks fantastic. It's all card draw, counterspells, and bounce effects. I think I'm in love.
They kept black pretty close to the vest here. You'll see a lot of general destruction, whether that be hand destruction or stuff on the board. Always be on the lookout for cards that say "each opponent" or "each player," as those get much better when that's three other people rather than just one, and black seems to have the most of that kind of effect.
Red is doing classic red things here. Burn spells, small aggressive creatures, and some ambitious strategies (Kiln Fiend, anyone?) are all possible. Red typically looks like it wants to be aggressive, and that seems to hold true here as well.
I really like green in sets like this. The big, beefy creatures do well with clogged-up boards, and the extra mana ramp you'll get from green is easily spent. Green also has multiple ways to deal with problematic permanents such as enchantments and artifacts; it's often okay to run one of these effects in multiplayer.
Oh, and Overrun.
Things I want to do:
- Put the dilemma to the rest of the council as often as possible
- Play as many blue cards as I can get away with
- Sit quietly and unassumingly until I attack with everything at everyone and win the game in one fell swoop
- Probably not be the monarch as often as I think I want to
- Let the other players bother with melee and aggressive decks
- Draft exactly enough playables for a deck, with every other card I draft being a conspiracy
- Win, at some point
Have fun with this one, it looks crazy cool.
Until next time!