Two For One

Posted in Feature on March 16, 2006

By John Klauk

I’m not talking about the two for one you’re thinking about. We’re definitely not going to discuss any card advantage theories here. That’s for the veteran strategy writers like Flores or Zvi. Nope folks…the only two for one content you get from your friendly neighborhood card slinger, John H. Klauk, is the two people it takes to make one team. One Two-Headed Giant team that is.

Two-Headed Giant! It’s all the craze now from what I hear. And rightfully so. The format truly is crazy fun, and board positions can quickly become incredibly complicated. Talk about entertainment! Two-Headed Giant = mental exercise for all competitors. At least most of the time. There is the occasional lopsided game where one team is just behind the entire time or the game where one team gets an active Sisters of Stone Death without the other team having say…Devouring Light, but those games are the exceptions.

The typical Two-Headed Giant scenarios are boards congested with creatures and neither team willing to commit to all-out war for fear of coming out on the short end of the stick. Instead, each team will carefully maneuver one or two attackers through pecking away at their opponents’ life total. Occasionally there will be the game where both teams continue to trade creatures in combat until there is a sole remaining critter on the board lazily swinging each turn until another summoned opponent shows up to do battle. These games are oddities, but they can be entertaining ones as the game state seems to turn into two opponents searching for a sole answer, which often times comes swiftly. However, their solution is often met with some form of fiery justice, dark end, or other form of unnatural magical end from the teammate of their opposition. These types of struggles are my personal favorite, especially when I am the guy keeping my teammate’s avenue of attack open. It makes me feel like Tonto riding alongside the Lone Ranger. Butch Cassidy’s gang keeps coming out, but Kemosabe, along with help from his trusty riding companion, takes them down one at a time, eventually saving the day and riding off into the sunset.

Hi Ho Silver, away!

Who was that masked team?

Ok, silver bullets aside and all, perhaps I should actually say why it is exactly I’m so excited about Two-Headed Giant all of a sudden. If you didn’t already know, on March 18, Wizards of the Coast will be having Two-Headed Giant Champs events at various locations on the planet. The format is Two-Headed Giant Sealed, and you should participate if for no other reason than to get a little mental exercise.

If you don’t know the rules for Two-Headed Giant, don’t worry, I have a link to the Comprehensive Rules for you. Go to Section 606 to read the specialized rules for Two-Headed Giant. It’s a quick, light read—only about two and a half pages. There’s also a 2HG FAQ available from Wizards of the Coast. It basically covers the same information in the Comprehensive Rules, as well as touching on the tournament floor rules specific to Two-Headed Giant. The DCI recently posted the Penalty Guidelines for Champs 2HG; a link to that document is on the Champs page. Let me hit some of the highlights for those who don’t already know.

Two-Headed Giant is a format where teams of two players compete in one single game (instead of a best 2 out of 3 match like most tournament players are used to). As such, there is no sideboarding, so you better have your solutions in your main deck. Teams sit on one side of the table together so they can examine each other’s hands, discuss their strategy, and reach each other’s throats for throttling each other easier.

Which reminds me, you really should put some effort into getting a partner who you think you will get along with well. Unless you enjoy arguing; then by all means, find a disputably tempered teammate.

You are going to share a 40-point life total with your teammate, but that is all you will share (other than information and advice). Your hand, library, and graveyard are yours; your mana is yours; your permanents are yours; and your ability to make fatal mistakes still belongs to you as well. You can communicate however you wish with your teammate other than using written communication. Watching the opposition point and grunt, to me, is one of the highlights of this format.

You will take your turn in conjunction with your teammate, phases and all. You even attack with your teammate against your opponents, who get to block together. All the technical stuff about combat is in the links above. As well as all the odd life rules (such as how Heartless Hidetsugu, Lurking Jackals, and Biorhythm all work).

The rules for mulligans are slightly different in this format, and I think it is important enough to fully detail. Each player is able to mulligan for free one time back to a hand of seven cards. After that, they may proceed to mulligan using the normal mulligan rules. Players take mulligans beginning with the team that is playing first (starting with that team’s Primary player—the one sitting to the right), moving to each other player, in clockwise order around the table, until each player has resolved all mulligans.

I love the free mulligan rule, especially since a match is only one game. It really takes away the chance for each player to just get an unplayable hand that can just happen every once in a while during a game. Note that the team playing first still does not draw a card during the first turn of the game.

Now that we have the basics out of the way, I guess we should discuss some strategies. This is where I’m going to cheat a little.

Okay, I’m going to cheat a lot.

There has already been a great deal written about Two-Headed Giant, and I’m only going to point you in the direction of some of the magicthegathering.com articles that are out there. Here are some of my favorites:

Bennie Smith lends some of his digital and screen-capturing insight into the realm of playing Two-Headed Giant with one of Magic’s most notorious multi-player maniacs, Anthony Alongi, during his Into the Aether’s 2 Headed Mtg.com Writers.

The ever-popular Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar* gives us all an extremely entertaining look with a different perspective on playing Two-Headed Giant in his Into the Aether’s Into the Aether Goes Giant Hunting.

Resident multi-player guru Anthony Alongi and his temporary cohort in crime, Laura Mills, supplied the Magic world with a fantastic double article in a Feature Article, The Two-Headed Article.

Brian David-Marshall delves into the rationale and decisions behind why Wizards of the Coast decided to begin its drive for supporting Two-Headed Giant as a DCI®-sanctioned format as well as revamping the rules in his The Week That Was article, Two Is Better Than One.

By far though, if you want an article that really delivers the goods when it comes to the essentials as well as hitting many advanced strategies of Two-Headed Giant, make sure you check out Matthew Vienneau’s Feature Article, Don’t Get Left Behind – Two Heads Are More Fun Than One.

And there are many, many more articles and information out there concerning the Two-Headed Giant format. Just doing a search for Two-Headed Giant from the main magicthegathering.com website returns over 150 results. And that’s not including looking through the message boards available.

I highly encourage everyone to play this format, especially by taking part in the State Championship Two-Headed Giant Limited event March 18. I personally guarantee both you and your teammate will be glad you did. I mean, at the very least, you get cards from the event, including a nifty full art version of Electrolyze. Best-case scenario, you walk away with a foil full art version of Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind; a Champs baseball cap; and bragging rights as your location’s Champion.

It’s a nice change of pace that will breathe a ton of fresh air into your Magic: The Gathering experience.

Catch Y’all Later,
John H. Klauk

*JMS leaving magicthegathering.com as a weekly author is a sad, sad day. My coffee breaks are going to take a serious blow from the absence of his articles. From House of Cards to Into the Aether and Building on a Budget, JMS created some of my favorite articles that, as a reader, I felt a participant in. My hat is off to you, sir.

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