What we haven't yet done, because we're cagey like that, is tell you what exactly these oversized cards are, and how they'll help you with the daunting task of taking out a team of opposing Planeswalkers. Now that we're closer to the release, it's time to pull back the curtain!
What Is Archenemy?
Archenemy gives you everything you need to play a new casual variant of the same name. In an Archenemy game, one player—the archenemy—takes on the role of a merciless tyrant bent on total domination. The other players form a team dedicated to stopping the archenemy at any cost, taking a shared turn Two-Headed Giant–style.
But teaming up on the archenemy isn't unfair—it's a desperate survival tactic. The archenemy comes to the fight armed not only with a normal 60-card deck, but also with a deck of 20 oversized scheme cards. These represent the clever plots and monstrous machinations of the archenemy, and they give his or her deck the power boost it needs to—maybe—take out two, three, four, or even more opponents.
We'll take a look at a scheme card in a moment, but first let's talk about how to set up the game.
Arranging the Pieces
To play Archenemy, each player needs a deck made of normal-sized Magic cards. By default these will be normal Constructed decks consisting of at least 60 cards (such as, for example, the 60-card decks featured in the four Archenemy game packs), but in theory you could also try this with 100-card EDH decks, 40-card Sealed Decks, or any other Magic decks. The player playing as the archenemy also needs a scheme deck made of at least 20 oversized scheme cards (also included in each game pack—note that some schemes appear in more than one game pack).
If each player has an Archenemy game pack, players can take turns using their scheme decks as the archenemy. If you want to customize the scheme deck, there are only two rules to follow: the deck must have at least 20 scheme cards and it can't include more than two of any single card.
At the start of the game, each player shuffles his or her traditional deck. The archenemy also shuffles his or her scheme deck. The archenemy keeps the scheme deck face down and can't look at it or rearrange the cards in it, just like his or her library.
Set Your Schemes in Motion
The archenemy's turn plays out just like a turn in any Magic game, with one major difference. As the first main phase of the archenemy's turn begins, that player sets a scheme in motion—yes, that is now an actual game action!—by turning the top card of the scheme deck face up. It might look something like this:
Most scheme cards, including this one, have abilities that trigger "When you set this scheme in motion." As with other triggered abilities, archenemy and his or her opponents have the chance to respond to these abilities by casting spells or activating abilities.
Some schemes say ongoing on their type line, like this one:
An ongoing scheme remains face up until an effect causes it to be abandoned (put on the bottom of the scheme deck). Most ongoing schemes have a condition that causes them to be abandoned, although it will likely take some work on your opponents' part. Note that ongoing schemes aren't on the battlefield; they're not permanents, and they can't be destroyed.
Schemes that aren't ongoing are simply put on the bottom of the scheme deck once all their abilities resolve or are countered (for having no legal targets, for example).
Some schemes may ask you to pay some amount of mana to reap their full benefits:
If a scheme's triggered ability has one or more targets, as this one does, you'll choose them when you put the triggered ability on the stack, as with any other triggered ability. You won't choose how much mana to pay for , however, until the ability resolves. So your opponents will know what's going to take damage, but they won't know how much.
A few "hot seat" schemes let you put one of your opponents in a very awkward position by asking, "Self or others?"
Will your opponent take one for the team, choosing the option that puts less total hurt on the archenemy's opponents? Or will he or she decide to let teammates take the heat, leaving his or her own position unchanged? A team player will look at this choice objectively, consult with his or her teammates, and choose the option that's best for the team as a whole ... but not everybody's a team player!
If the opponent you choose doesn't have any teammates left, he or she can choose "others" and suffer no ill effects at all. On the other hand, that player is facing you and your scheme deck all alone—not an enviable position!
Revealing a scheme as your first main phase begins is mandatory. Gravely intoning its name and flavor text and then cackling madly is optional.
Win, Lose, or Draw
The rest of the rules are pretty straightforward. The archenemy starts at 40 life, and each other player starts at 20 life. Each player draws an opening hand of seven cards, and players may then take mulligans as normal. In multiplayer games, the first time a player takes a mulligan, he or she draws a new hand of seven cards rather than six cards, then subsequent hands decrease by one card as normal.
The archenemy goes first and draws a card during his or her first draw step. (We told you they were malevolent!)
The archenemy's opponents share a turn, in the same way that teammates do in Two-Headed Giant. You each untap your permanents during your team's untap step, you each draw a card as your team's draw step begins, and so on. Each teammate can play a land during the team's main phase. Each teammate chooses which of his or her creatures will attack the archenemy or a planeswalker the archenemy controls, and then those creatures all attack at the same time. You can't attack your teammates.
The team of players opposing the archenemy needs to work together to have any hope of defeating the archenemy's quest for domination. But you can't share cards or other resources. You can't give your teammates mana to cast spells, for example.
If you or a member of your alliance is forced to make the ultimate sacrifice and leave the game, the rest of the team continues the fight. However, the usual rules for what happens when a player leaves a multiplayer game apply: All permanents and other cards that player owned leave the game, any spells or abilities controlled by that player cease to exist, and any effects that caused the player to gain control of permanents he or she doesn't own end.
The archenemy wins the game by defeating each member of the opposing team. The opposing team wins by defeating the archenemy. Every player on that team wins the game, even players that left the game before its conclusion.
Remember, players lose the game when their life total is reduced to 0 or less, when they have to draw a card from an empty library, when they have ten or more poison counters, or when an effect says that player loses the game or an opponent wins the game. If the archenemy would lose the game at the same time as the last remaining member of the opposing team, the game is a draw.
In addition to the default "One vs. Many" Archenemy format, there's a Free-for-All variant. The twist? Everybody gets a scheme deck! Maybe you're all archenemies who have finished off those pesky heroes and are now fighting over the wreckage of a ruined world. Perhaps a few heroes have tapped into some source of terrible power and risen to fight you on equal terms. Regardless, this variant has the potential for some super-powered, crushingly brutal back-and-forths. And in this format, asking "Self or other?" isn't putting someone on the hot seat—it's doing them a favor!
Until We Meet Again
And that's the deal with Archenemy! Well, except for the contents of the four 60-card decks, which come from many different Magic sets. And, of course, the 45 different scheme cards. You probably want to know what diabolical schemes you'll be unleashing on your opponents—or what sort of monstrous acts some villain will be committing against you and your teammates! That, however, will have to wait for another time.
Each Archenemy game pack has an MSRP of $19.99, and all four of them will be released on June 18, 2010. Archenemy is English-only, but it will have rules support in other languages. Archenemy release events will be held June 18-20, 2010 at participating venues. In the meantime, stay tuned to magicthegathering.com for more Archenemy updates!