Two-Headed Tips and Tricks for Battlebond

Posted in Ways to Play on June 5, 2018

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

Battlebond is coming, and fighting in the arena is an honor.

The glory of combat—and the adoration of the crowd—only goes to those who commit themselves to the cause. And the best part: they never go it alone.

Heads up, contenders. It's time to enter the ring.

Battles and Bonds with Battlebond

If you're a Commander aficionado or a Two-Headed Giant expert, there's plenty of play to be had in Battlebond. Every color has a plan with the others, and many more cards care that there are more players—ally and opponent alike—to work with.

But if taking the leap into the world of Two-Headed Giant with a draft and all-new cards to consider is overwhelming, there are a few tips to track ahead of time. Let's get the most important out of the way.

Relax, and talk to your teammate.

Many of you have the perfect player lined up to join you in drafting Battlebond. Some of you might find one headed into the event—or even be paired up with another player right before you start! That's okay. Part of what makes Two-Headed Giant so great is you have that teammate to talk to any time, whether you're best friends or newly acquainted. (And being new to teaming with someone doesn't mean you won't succeed.)

What kind of cards do they like? How familiar are they with the set? What's their favorite color, and why? Getting to know—and confirming what you think you know—about your partner is the start, but following that through to cooperating comes next. Trusting your team's other head and being on the same page will go a long way toward finding success and having a good time.

And that's where the first bit comes in handy: be chill. Two-Headed Giant is best-of-one games, meaning you won't have second chances and opportunities to try again against the same opponents. A miscommunication here or a missed opportunity there, and suddenly the game is over and you feel frustrated. Take a breath, and talk to your teammate.

That communication thing you started with? Instead of burning that down, talk through your frustration and get coordinated with your teammate again. It's easy to be angry and make more mistakes—it's harder, but more effective, to acknowledge what went wrong and regroup before the next round.

Remember: your partner wants to win too! They could be just as frustrated as you, but giving them space to breath and refocus can mean the difference between victory and defeat in the next round.

Of course, getting to the gameplay is getting ahead of the second most difficult part of the Battlebond experience: drafting. If you want to start off on a good foot, there are a few keywords to look out for: partner, each, and any—powerful tools for teams.

Some packs feature a dynamic duo of cards. "Partner with" is a phrase to look out for, as all the pairs of partners coordinate with each other.

Unlike a typical draft where you pick cards one at a time, you and your teammate will pick two cards at a time while drafting Battlebond—one per "head." Coordinating picks with your teammate makes pairs like partners perfect! Cards that find each other, cooperate on the battlefield, and can be split between you and your partner—you still need to play a deck that works with all the colors in it—can help you organize the options available in any pack.

Similarly, some cards shine brighter when there are more opponents than usual. Other powerful words to watch far are any (as featured in the reminder text for assist), each, all, every, and opponents.

  • Zndrsplt's Judgment
  • Virtus's Maneuver
  • Seedborn Muse
  • Azra Bladeseeker
  • Regna's Sanction

There are plenty of cards that care about other players, and the efficiency of affecting multiple players with one card is powerful. And the mechanics that key into that are there for that reason:

  • Assist means extra mana won't go to waste—and if a teammate is drawing too many lands, you can work together to make the most of it.
  • "Each player" choices come in two flavors: on your team and everyone. Both are worth consideration as, yes, Jungle Wayfinder can help your opponents, but ensuring your other head can cast something like Archfiend of Despair can make that tradeoff worthwhile. And it also helps your own mana—you are a player too!
  • Cards like Slum Reaper bring a negative effect for all players, but that's where communication matters. If you're going to play Slum Reaper, check with the other head first—that way they play something before or after to take advantage of what's about to happen. (Remember that communication discussion above?)

And all that leads to another important aspect of Two-Headed Giant gameplay: two-for-ones are two-for-the-team.

  • Slum Reaper
  • Mystic Confluence
  • Evil Twin
  • Last One Standing
  • Blaring Recruiter

In multiplayer, even with a partner for Two-Headed Giant, you're facing down more than one opponent. Cards that affect multiple creatures, or do multiple things to multiple creatures or opponents, add up quick. Breaking parity and gaining—or killing—multiple things at once can give your team the decisive advantage.

There are plenty of cards that give you more in multiplayer, so you can be sure your opponents will be packing them too. Knowing what opponents are doing is nice, but there's a more important idea you and your partner need to work out: have a plan, but always find a new one.

Maybe you opened that Najeela, the Blade-Blossom and want to make "all the Warriors" a thing. What will you do if you don't ever draw Najeela? What is your partner doing to support the plan—or what will they do without Najeela to lead the way?

Drafting is daunting for many folks, but not because it's hard to find something to do, because it's hard to know what to do when that something doesn't appear. It's good to note some of the cards and strategies ahead of time—and coordinate picks to ensure both eventual decks will have things they need. But opponents can be keen to do the same things and may open the cards that point them the same way you want to go.

  • Soaring Show-Off
  • Charging Binox
  • Magma Hellion
  • Skystreamer
  • Swarm of Bloodflies

Switch it up. If it's clear you're not seeing key cards, then look for another path. Warriors are plentiful in white, but switching to grabbing flying creatures and splashing blue instead can let you soar right over your opponents on the ground. Charging Binox and Magma Hellion are expensive, but thanks to assist, those commons with trample can be a solid threat, even if you missed your chance at Plated Crusher.

Having creatures that aren't flashy but can still pack a punch with evasion or trample are sometimes all you need—don't be shy about grabbing the best you can find if your primary plan falls apart.

Of course, a primary plan only works when you keep a core tenet of any Limited format in mind: don't forget your mana curve.

Big, splashy spells across every color looks great until you try and cast them all from one deck. Even sets with more (and better) mana fixing are hard to sort out. For Battlebond, like most Magic sets, you'll stick to two—maybe three—colors for your decks. Most of the plans in the set push you into a two-color pair, but it only works if you can cast things most turns.

  • Doomed Traveler
  • Decorated Champion
  • Centaur Healer
  • Pierce Strider
  • Feral Hydra

"Curving out" is doubly important in Two-Headed Giant: Twice as many opponents means twice as many threats for your team! Ensuring you have more spells—and likely more that are or make creatures—at two and three mana than four and five mana will help you start playing them earlier. Every turn that you miss an opportunity to cast a spell, or otherwise use your mana, is a turn you "give" opponents.

Generally, they won't be so kind as to give one back.

Even if your cards aren't perfect together, having something earlier matters. Timing is important—you shouldn't use every removal spell you draw out immediately—but being smart about balancing the early, middle, and late-game spells you want to use is too.

Bigger and Bolder Battles Beyond

Battlebond is a unique format and experience. While some of you may find immediate success, don't worry if it takes a draft or three to get your sea legs for the set. If you keep these tips in mind and keep your mind open to what's possible, you'll find your team standing with all the glory soon.

There's something special in every team—now go show the crowd what you're made of.

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