Find Your Partner with Battlebond

Posted in News on May 18, 2018

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

Welcome to the stadium of Valor's Reach!

Battlebond is right around the corner. After years of working on the set and waiting, it's finally time to start telling you a little bit about it!

That arena up there—well, it's the place where the competition happens. People journey from all across the plane of Kylem to watch the combat take place in Valor's Reach. Two-on-two is the pinnacle of the sport, and much like you and a friend will be teaming up to play Two-Headed Giant, the characters in Battlebond team up too!

If you haven't seen them yet, check out Pir, Imaginative Rascal and Toothy, Imaginary Friend:

These creatures have a variation on a returning ability. "Partner with" is a little something old, a little something new.

Let's start with the new bits.

First of all, in something brand new to Magic, if you open up one you will always open the other one in the same pack. They come together. There are eleven pairs in the set, all at uncommon or higher, and when one shows up they take the place of an uncommon—meaning that you will end up with plenty of double-rare packs in Battlebond!

In Two-Headed Giant Draft, you and your teammate pick two cards at a time, so you can always take the partners together.

And you'll want to have both. Why? Well, when you play one, target player gets to search up the other! This means you can put both in your deck and use the first to draw the other . . . or, more often in Two-Headed Giant, have one in your deck and one in your teammate's! There's little more satisfying than you casting yours, your teammate going to find theirs, and then having them in play at the same time—and, like Toothy and Pir, they all synergize well.

And in Constructed formats? Well, creatures that tutor for more creatures have a pretty good track record of being powerful.

Oh, speaking of team synergies: you'll see that Pir says "your team" on it. In a one-on-one game, "your team" just means you—you're a team of one—so it works just fine in one-on-one play.

Each of the legendary ones are a fun pairing or trope, much like this kid and his imaginary pet . . . which is a little more than just imaginary.

But partner means something else. And Battlebond carries some of that forward!

Though not in the reminder text of the mechanic, the legendary "partner with" cards that reference each other can, together, be your commanders in the Commander format! We were looking for ways to make these creatures both able to be your commander, and a variant on partner made a ton of sense. They do need to be paired up with each other (for example, Toothy and Pir can be played together; Toothy and Ravos, Soultender can't), and we were able to make some really exciting pairs this way. (And if you've been waiting for traditional monocolored partners, you absolutely will get them someday; the Commander playability is a nice bonus here on top of everything else partner with does.) You've seen one now—stay tuned for the rest!

I think you'll find partner with adds a really great layer to the Two-Headed Giant drafting. Many high-fives will be had!

And speaking of the draft, go talk to your local concessions goblin in Valor's Reach about the packs you need to play, because Battlebond is a little different than normal.

Normally in Two-Headed Giant, you use five packs per team to draft with and play Sealed with eight packs per team.

That's where we started. But what we quickly found is that the draft was taking a while, people generally had plenty of extra playables in Limited, and it added to the overall complexity of the experience. Plus, we wanted it to be an easy thing to bring a friend to—and requiring fewer packs makes it easier for you folks to play over and over again!

So, as Magic designers, we asked ourselves a question: could we get it down any further? We experimented and the answer was . . . yes!

We did a few things to the set to make sure that would be the case, and I'll get into the nitty-gritty process once preview season officially kicks off. But the short version is that we kicked out a number of the weaker power level cards normally at common that almost never make your Draft deck, and also increased the number of common artifacts above the normal rate.

Additionally, the gameplay of Battlebond is very much traditional, fundamental Magic, transposed onto a Two-Headed Giant environment. This means that you can absolutely fill your deck with straightforward cards—well-statted creatures, efficient fliers, and so on—and have it turn out just fine instead of worrying about getting cut out of an archetype and having a lot of your deck fall flat. There are Draft archetypes, but you don't need to go all-in on them.

Since we tweaked how we designed the set to get the format to work, this isn't a change for all Two-Headed Giant play going forward. Battlebond was uniquely built just for the format. Additionally, if your playgroup wants to play using more packs, you absolutely can—we recommend four per team for Draft and six per team for Sealed, which is how my team designed it.

That's a little taste for today, and I'll have plenty more for you later this month when Battlebond preview season kicks off on May 22.

I have only one thing left to say until then: hang on!

Art by: Zoltan Boros

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