Preparing for Conspiracy Draft

Posted in Latest Developments on May 23, 2014

By Sam Stoddard

Sam Stoddard came to Wizards of the Coast as an intern in May 2012. He is currently a game designer working on final design and development for Magic: The Gathering.

Ah, Conspiracy. It's a secret to everybody. Well, not anymore—I'm incredibly excited for you all to see the set. After months of teasing, hidden messages, and sly references, you will soon be able to see the the entire set at the Card Image Gallery.

When creating the Conspiracy set, the goal was to take some big swings on making a unique draft environment. We wanted to create an opportunity for large and exciting things to happen in a Conspiracy draft that wouldn't necessarily happen in a regular draft—and letting us put draft actions of various types in the packs let us do just that.

Additionally, the games are designed to be played with somewhere between three and five people—something else that we have never tried with a draft product. I think it is safe to say that Conspiracy is a draft experience unlike anything you have ever done before, and I hope that you enjoy it.

Planning your Picks

While making flashy and interesting cards like Cogwork Librarian or Deal Broker, that can change how the physical actions of the draft works, was interesting, we also wanted to be able to introduce cards that could impact how the less interesting cards in the draft order were picked. We were much more free to do things in this set than we would be in a normal Magic set, but we didn't want that to mean that all the games would only come down to the new and multiplayer-themed cards, since that would naturally limit the replayability. We wanted you all to have a totally different experience each time you draft Conspiracy, and that meant making even cards that seemed uninteresting at first glance shine through in big ways.

For example, let's look at a conspiracy that can impact how you draft:

It's easy to look at this and get excited about getting a second Magister of Worth, or Spirit Monger, but one of the best creatures to name is actually this one:

This might seem pretty crazy to you, but I have a unique opinion on this card. Lizard Warrior isn't very good. I know, I know, he looks so powerful. But it turns out he's not the kind of powerhouse that you would normally think of in draft. He does have one big advantage, though: you can get a lot of him if you really want precisely because he IS a bad card. There is a good chance that nobody is going to fight you over them. But why would you want to get all of the Lizard Warriors in the draft instead of other, more powerful cards? Well, you can make the Lizard Warriors stronger.

A four-mana 4/2 isn't much to look at, but a four mana 5/3 starts looking pretty attractive. After picking up Secret Summoning, you can also get another conspiracy to help out your creatures:

Of course, this isn't the only card to help out that strategy—you can also make your Lizard Warriors have haste, cost less, or have other powerful abilities.

The "draft 'em all" strategy doesn't just end with creatures, though. There are also rewards for drafting a lot of the same spell.

There is a lot you can do with this. On the most basic level, you can pick up a cheap cantrip like Brainstorm and turn it into a much more powerful card-drawing spell. Or you can double all of your removal. Even some of the weakest removal in the set gets pretty impressive when you can double up on it.

Because you are doubling the spell, it's also possible to name a spell you only have one of in your deck, but that will be much more impactful when it is doubled. You may not get the card advantage when choosing Lava Axe, but you do have the pretty important trick of being able to take someone from 10 to 0 in no time.

Know Your Numbers

It's fun to get all copies of a card, but knowing just how the set is set up will help give you a leg up on that goal—and might even inform how you draft sets in the future.

The size of the Magic set you are playing with determines how often you will open up specific cards. You might have noticed that when you draft with a small set, you see a lot more of each individual common than you do in a large set. That's because, while both sets have the same number of cards per pack, the small set has fewer individual commons. As a result, you open up the ones that are in those sets more frequently.

Howling Wolf | Art by Nils Hamm

Conspiracy is a slightly odd set in terms of the numbers of cards. It's kind of a medium set, but it has many of the characteristics of a small set thanks to the presence of one card per pack of either conspiracies or Constructs added in the land sheet. Part of the reasoning behind making it a set of this size (rather than the usual 101 commons for a large set) is that there are quite a few cards that deal with card names, and we wanted to increase the chances you have of getting multiple cards with the same name.

As a result, Conspiracy is one of the first formats that I have played with four or five people and felt like the drafting really worked. In fact, having an odd number of drafters—say, five—can be very awkward, but Conspiracy handles it perfectly due to the multiplayer nature. Just do a five-person draft and play—easy peasy. In fact, because the development team had five members, a lot of the playtesting for Conspiracy was done in this exact manner.

Going back to the set itself, "as-fan" is the metric we use to look at what opening a booster pack will look like. It is looking at a set from the position of fanning a pack out. That metric is useful because we want to make sure the experience of opening a pack tells you a lot about what the set is about—in other words, you shouldn't have to see the entire set to "get it."

For example, when we made Rise of the Eldrazi, we knew that the Eldrazi were going to be these huge giant monsters, but we needed some designs that could fit on commons, so that someone who opened just a few packs would get an idea of what the awesomeness of Eldrazi were. This is part of the reason that Mark Rosewater often says (and I'm paraphrasing here), "If your theme doesn't show through at common, then it isn't your theme."

If we put 10 common cards with a mechanic in a set with 101 commons (think infect in Scars) then we expect that each pack will have around one of those ten given commons. Due to the random nature of packs, it could have zero, or it could have three or more, but on average you will see one. Theros had five common heroes, seven uncommon heroes, and six rare heroes, which added up brings the as-fan to just a little under one. The number of uncommons and rares here is important, since even though you open fewer of them per pack, we often put mechanics at higher densities at higher rarities.

Let's look closer at the math. If you are playing triple-large set and looking for one specific common in a draft, you need to realize that around thirty commons are opened per player, and you generally have eight players. Conspiracy has the following numbers of cards:

80 commons
60 uncommons
35 rares
10 mythic rares

So, in an eight-player Conspiracy draft, about 240 commons are opened (with some margin of error, due to foils).

3 packs × 10 commons per pack × 8 players = 240

Divide that by 80 (the number of commons in the set), and you see that around 3 of each common are opened in the entire draft. Those still have to get to you, though, so don't surprised if you don't see the maximum number of Kor Chants, Compulsive Researches, or Twisted Abominations possible. You are probably better off trying to get those Lizard Warriors, Enclave Elites, or Infectious Horrors. If we had used normal large-set numbers, it would've been 2.38 of each card per draft. That may not seem like a huge increase, but it really is noticeable.

Looking at the other rarities, each eight-player draft will open up about the following amounts of the other rarities:

Uncommon = 1.2
Rare = 0.6
Mythic Rare = 0.3

So, each draft will have around 1.2 of each uncommon, 0.6 of each rare, and 0.3 of each mythic rare. So, you can try and set up a draft around Squirrel's Nest even if you don't start with one—but don't be surprised if it doesn't show up.

I should note that the conspiracies and other draft-related cards appear at a slightly different frequency than the regular commons, uncommons, and rares. Each pack has a single slot devoted to a draft-related card (replacing the land), and the commons, uncommons, and rares are set up to be appropriate for that sheet—but appear at a different frequency than the "regular" commons in the set. In other words, don't expect to see three Lurking Automatons per draft.

That's all I have for this week. I hope you all enjoy playing Conspiracy as much as we enjoyed making it. This is definitely a very new product for us, and I hope that you can send in feedback (positive or negative) and let us know what you think. This kind of feedback will help us tell if you want more products like this in the future, or how we can improve on things similar to this.

Until next time,
Sam (@samstod)

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