A big reason for the popularity of the Conspiracy sets among those of us who love multiplayer games lies with the idea that you can draft a deck for a multiplayer game! This is the only time we have seen Wizards of the Coast combine Draft and multiplayer, and for many of us, it has been very popular! My group bought box after box and enjoyed several Conspiracy drafts.
But why limit multiplayer drafts to just what is in the packs of Conspiracy? Building your own Conspiracy cube is a great way to enjoy the draft experience, while getting all the benefits of multiplayer games. The real trick is determining what cards to include, and how many of each card to include. Unlike other cubes that most players build, a Conspiracy cube needs to have multiple copies of several cards to really take advantage of many of the conspiracy cards that will make their way into your cubes.
Luckily for you, we (and by "we," I mean Sean Patchen) have already crunched the numbers! We are going to lay out the differences between Conspiracy and regular cubes, offer advice gleaned from our own practical experience, provide a template to make things easier for you, then wrap it all up in a tidy bow.
For those of you who don't already know Sean, he has been playing and writing about Commander for many years, most recently at GeneralDamageControl.com. His decklists and strategy articles are not to be missed. You can find Sean online as @swordstoplow on Twitter.
Let's get started!
Difference Between Conspiracy and Regular Cube
Most readers understand at least the general makeup of a regular cube: a group of cards, broken into packs and drafted among friends. A cube lets you create your own set. A cube lets you use the same cards again and again. What are the differences between a Conspiracy cube and a regular cube?
The primary difference between a regular cube and a Conspiracy cube is the intent to play multiplayer. Knowing it is for multiplayer not only affects the way a cube is drafted, but the way it is built. Limited is naturally slower than Constructed. Multiplayer is slower than heads-up Magic. By combining Limited with multiplayer, you get a format that is the epitome of casual. The pacing ends up being very similar to my favorite Constructed format, Commander. From a cube-construction standpoint, you can include more of the big splashy bombs that wouldn't make the cut in a regular cube. The smaller creatures that get included end up in these cubes based on synergies or utility. You are much more likely to see a Priest of Titania than a Tarmogoyf. Multiplayer games also rarely have sideboarding. You generally play one game with a group and then mix up the groups. This means cards that provide answers to specific strategies are less at home. Cards like Tormod's Crypt and Naturalize wouldn't work as well as multi-utility cards such as Nezumi Graverobber and Brutalizer Exarch.
Aside from being multiplayer, a Conspiracy cube contains cards from the Conspiracy sets. Building a cube gives you a way to utilize the cards with draft mechanics and conspiracy cards that otherwise would clutter up your binders. The Conspiracy sets gave us a way to interact with our friends during the draft itself. The hilarity that ensues during a cube draft with these cards inspires a casual and fun-loving environment from beginning to end.
The conspiracies don't take up a spot in a 40-card deck and most of the cards that interact with the draft aren't really great for decks. To compensate for this, a Conspiracy cube should be larger and draft more packs than a regular cube. While a regular cube drafts three packs of fifteen, my Conspiracy cube drafts five packs of twelve. Instead of a minimum of 360 cards, you end up needing at least 504 (thanks, Lore Seekers!). My personal recommendation is to have a cube of 720 and a couple random booster packs at home. A cube of 720 cards is large enough that you can have twelve people draft. The random packs you keep at home can add some unexpected fun when you've already drafted the cube several times.
Over 700 cards may seem like a daunting task at first; however, when you read through the conspiracies, you will see that the hidden agendas reward you for playing multiples of spells. If you are building a cube with hidden agendas in it, you will want to include multiples of cards to play along with the mechanics. This is a major break from the traditional cubes that usually only include one of each card. Aside from working with the hidden agendas, this gives you the option to create stronger themes within a cube. Cards like Brighthearth Banneret don't usually make the cut in a regular cube. When you can draft multiples of them and know that you will be seeing more Elementals in the future, it makes for a much more interesting option.
Needing 700 cards does seem to leave a lot of room for error. What sort of advice do you have for someone looking to put together a Conspiracy cube? I would likely start with a bunch of expensive, bomb-tastic cards, but I suspect that is not the best first step.
Building a Conspiracy cube is like creating a custom set by using cards throughout Magic's history. Magic R&D does a fantastic job making every block feel unique to itself and reflect the plane through the mechanics included. When building your cube, including running mechanics and cycles of cards will both allow for more viable draft strategies to be played and make the cube more personally unique.
Whenever you build any cube, you want to make sure that it will be fun the first time you play it and every time after that. The best way to achieve this is to make it possible to draft a wide variety of strategies and niche decks. The best way to do that is to try and make as many cards as possible fit into multiple strategies.
For my personal Conspiracy cube, I chose to go with an overall theme built around different kinds of counters. I included mechanics like proliferate, wither, infect, undying, and persist, plus cards that utilize +1/+1, -1/-1, and charge counters. In this cube, a card like Murderous Redcap is one of the highest-drafted cards, as it can be used in any deck with red or black, combos with cards like Melira, Sylvok Outcast or Muzzio's Preparations, and has great synergies with many more cards such as Hex Parasite, Drana, Liberator of Malakir, and Fate Transfer. Murderous Redcap would be an underwhelming card for a normal cube, but with its synergy it fits exceptionally well into my cube.
Outside of sticking with themes, cards for a Conspiracy cube should be judged on their multiplayer merit over the one-on-one power level. A card like Tendrils of Agony that would be perfectly at home in a regular cube doesn't do as much work as a card that hits all players like Exsanguinate. The smaller creatures that get included end up in these cubes based on synergies or utility. Again, you are much more likely to see a Priest of Titania than a Tarmogoyf.
Since games do last longer, don't be afraid to put in some big splashy creatures. My cube even goes as far as including Blightsteel Colossus. The important part of including large creatures is including cards that either have some sort of evasion (trample, flying, landwalk, etc.) or provide a form of utility. If the bigger creatures don't have a way to push through, they just won't have the impact you want to make on a game.
What about the actual drafting and gameplay? When I've drafted Conspiracy, we've run eight-player drafts splitting into two pods and getting one game out of it. Our group also found that four or five players can draft using four packs each. What do you prefer?
As mentioned previously, I recommend going with five packs of twelve. Going with packs of twelve instead of packs of fifteen makes it so that Conspiracy cards that depend on unopened packs are less likely to be dead cards. I recommend the extra fifteen cards over a regular draft so that the card pools can stay strong despite having the conspiracies in them.
Lastly, I recommend setting aside plenty of time to actually draft and play. Usually it takes between 60 and 90 minutes to draft, with another 30 minutes for everyone to build. Then about an hour for each game you play. Usually this is two to three games. To be safe, set aside four or five hours in a comfortable location for your draft. If you are the one running the draft, make sure to get there at least 30 minutes ahead of time to shuffle and create packs.
So what about the nuts and bolts? Does your Conspiracy cube follow a particular path? Is that something you would recommend for every Conspiracy cube, or is there room for variation all over the place?
To build your own cube I recommend using the following template. This is a very rough template and should just be used as a basic outline. It's more like a pirate's code than a strict rule. With a Conspiracy cube, you want multiples of cards, so I run multiples like this:
- Mythic rares: no multiples
- Rares: two copies of each
- Uncommons: four copies of each
- Commons: three copies of each
- Lands: no multiples (You want multiples of cards that work with conspiracy cards, and lands don't work with conspiracies.)
As far as total cards in the cube:
The template includes plenty of commons and uncommons to encourage drafting toward strategies rather than drafting good-stuff cards. You also want to make sure that it is a bit of a challenge to draft Worldknit. It may sound funny, but through experience I've found that Worldknit was the overall most sought-after pick when added to a cube. If the cards in the cube are too strong individually, there is no downside to playing with all the cards you draft. On the earlier example of Brighthearth Banneret, it is a great card if you draft a lot of Elementals. If you aren't playing Elementals, you wouldn't want it in your deck at all. As a result, if you had the Banneret and Worldknit you'd have to decide if the advantage of having lands tap for any color of mana would be worth having a few weaker cards floating in your deck.
The lands are the one singleton part of a cube without any advantages. It's not necessary, but there aren't particular advantages to having multiples of a particular land that relates to Conspiracy. I just like to make sure that there is an equal amount of mana coverage in colors for the different color identities.
I want to thank Sean for his insight into Conspiracy cubes. Magic: The Gathering—Conspiracy has been my favorite set for a while, as it combines multiplayer games and drafting like a peanut butter cup. Two great tastes whose whole is greater than the sum of their parts. Getting a chance to see how to keep this fun going, even after all the packs have been ripped open, is valuable information.
Now that the full set is known, take a look for yourself to see what cards will be available to you when Conspiracy: Take the Crown is released on August 26. Maybe some will make it into your own Conspiracy cube!