Conspiracy 2, Imperial Boogaloo is just around the corner, and spoilers are coming fast and furious.  These are generating a lot of discussion in the tubes, and we’ve not been spared in our GDC Slack chat.  Given the nature of our site and our penchant for 100-card decks, we’ve been looking at these cards largely from the lofty heights of our Command Towers.

There are a lot of nice things in this set, but there are some problems as well.  I want to take a look at things as they stand right now, and give my perspective on how this set will affect EDH tables around the world.  But first, let’s just take a moment to appreciate the amazingness that is Leovold, Emissary of Trest

Leovold-Emissary-of-Trest-Conspiracy-Take-the-Crown-Spoiler-216x302

*sigh*

Just look at that.  Take your time.

That is a COMMANDER, people.  I hate pre-brewing decks, but I’m halfway through a list for him already.  The general consensus among the team is that most people will build this deck with ALL THE WHEELS, much like Nekusar, the Mindrazer, but those people will be first against the wall when the revolution comes.  That’s lazy deckbuilding, and you should feel bad for considering it.

Instead, I plan to leverage these abilities through ‘symmetrical’ card draw like Howling Mine and Seizan, Perverter of Truth, coupled with redirect effects like Willbender and Spellskite.  You get all the advantage, none of the drawback, and nobody feels TOO salty, because you could be playing Jace’s Archivist, right?

He’s BUG, he’s pure value, and he’s three mana.  I can’t wait to get my hands on this card.

Alright…let’s move on to the elephant in the room.  No, not Selvala’s Charge.  I’m talking about the Monarch mechanic.  For those of you who missed it, the story of the new Conspiracy set revolves around my girl Marchesa, the Black Rose killing Brago, King Eternal (Man, what a mistake that nickname was, eh?) and claiming the throne for herself.  Because WotC is all-in on flavour in this product, the Monarch mechanic allows you to take the throne as well.  Several cards allow you to become the monarch when they enter the battlefield, or complete some other easy task.  When you’re the monarch, you get to draw a card at the end of your turn, which is not nothing.  Somebody else can take the monarch title from you by playing a card that does it, or by dealing combat damage to you.

The most important thing about this mechanic is that nobody starts off as the monarch, but once somebody is the monarch there is a monarch FOR THE REST OF THE GAME.

queenmarchesa

This is a problem, and I don’t like it.  The most obvious card for this is Queen Marchesa, so I’ll use that as my example.  When she enters the battlefield, you become the monarch.  So you cast her from your command zone, draw a card at the end of your turn, then somebody hits you.  You pass the crown over, they get a card, and it eventually comes back to your turn.  Your upkeep, you get three assassin tokens, use a sac effect to kill the Queen, and recast her, becoming the monarch again.  Or flicker her, because you’re in white.  Your opponents, seeing the shenanigans that are about to unfold, team up on you and wipe you out.

In most games, the oppressive problem thing would now be gone.  But no, not monarch.  That stays for the rest of the game.  It forces everyone to play a different game in the middle than the one they started playing when they sat down, and there is no way out of it.  Imagine if somebody’s Forced Fruition stayed in effect even after they died.  Or their Iona, Shield of Emeria.  Or their emblem from Jace, Unraveler of Secrets.

That would suck, and I think we would all agree that we would hate it.  When you kill a player, all effects they still have on the game go with them.  That’s as fundamental to Magic as tapping cards.  I get that Wizards needs to push into new design spaces and find new ways to make the game interesting, but this is a dangerous precedent.  I propose you have a long, serious talk with your playgroups about this mechanic, and how dangerous it can be.  I suggest house-ruling it that the crown can only change hands a certain number of times before it has to be achieved again, or that if the player who first brought it into play dies, it’s gone no matter who has it at the time.  That would add a little pressure to the table, but not overwhelm it.  The current holder of the crown would have to decide between protecting herself or keeping the originator alive a little while longer.  This is what a mechanic like this should do.  Instead, this is going to warp EDH tables into an unfun place.

Now, back to a positive.  New Grenzo and new Daretti are hot.  Like, volcanic hot.  And not just because they’re setting fires to things around the city.  Mono-red has become the best design space for legendary creatures lately, and Grenzo, Havoc Raiser is continuing that tradition nicely.  He needs to be aggressive to get his effect, but once it happens he turns into a serious control deck.  It’s a nice play by mono-red, and I have to decide if he gets his own deck or if he slides into my Jori En, Ruin Diver judo build.  The new Daretti gets a black mana symbol, and is lighting fires under Legacy players’ butts already.  At three mana, he’s curved nicely for Legacy, and all of his abilities will serve that format well.  I can’t see him getting a lot of play in EDH, but I certainly hope I’m wrong.  I plan to try to make him work, at the very least.

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Finally, I want to talk about something we’ve all sort of noticed in our Slack conversations recently.  Namely, that Commander is kind of bad.  Not the format, but the official decks that Wizards of the Coast releases.  The cards they design specifically for the format are woeful for the most part.  There are some that shine through, of course, but by and large they are not good…most especially the legendary creatures.  They are narrow, and focused on one build style, and are generally considered the most oppressive decks out there.  Derevi, Empyrial Tactician, Animar, Soul of Elements, Roon of the Hidden Realm, and Prossh, Skyraider of Kher are all top-tier legendary creatures and they all have very narrow deck designs built right in.

Other side products, on the other hand, seem to have amazing pieces for EDH.  This Conspiracy set has a TON of great stuff in it – all of which I want to put into decks.  I’m going to be spending a lot of money on this set, and I may not even draft it ever.  Just buying singles to get the pieces I want for EDH will cost me a fortune.  And the reprints!  Desertion, Phyrexian Arena. And if rumours at the time of this writing are to be believed, Show and Tell.  SHOW AND TELL, people!

We discussed this disparity, and it really comes down to who they are designing these sets for.  The Commander pre-cons are designed to get new players into the format, so they need really big, flashy things in them that make people go “I want to do that!” and buy the decks.  They design for “battlecruiser Magic”, because that’s what they sell EDH as.

But Conspiracy is designed for fun, engaging multiplayer games.  So the cards they design for it are balanced, and well thought out, and will bring a lot of ‘politics’ to the table.  The vote mechanic from the last set was a good example, and the streamlined voting in this one is even better.  This set is designed to make multiplayer magic fun, and that is what we want in our EDH.  So the cards for this are perfect for that.

James