Game of Crowns

In what can only be described as a jam-packed release schedule, the Wizards at the Coast have come up with yet another beautiful set. Friday Conspiracy 2: Take the Crown has hit the shelves, and as has become traditional, I like to give you a quick review of what the new set has to offer the Battle Box format.

Multiplayer Mayhem

Like the first one, the new Conspiracy set is a bit of an odd duck. It focuses both on drafting and multiplayer, making it a set for a very specific audience. This time, Wizards of the Coast have specifically tried to shore up some of the inherent weaknesses of multiplayer Magic. Multiplayer games have a tendency to drag out for a long time because it is generally more beneficial to not attack and let someone else do the dirty work. To encourage attacking, the Magic designers have designed two new mechanics: the Monarch and Melee. The first incentivizes attacking a specific player while the second incentivizes attacking as many players as possible. Unfortunately, the high focus on draft and multiplayer means there are not too many good new cards for reguler two-player Battle Boxes. For that reason I have reduced my usual Top 20 new cards to a more modest Top 10.

The Monarch
The Monarch is a new entity that can be earned by attacking a player. It is represented by a token that can be brought into play by a number of cards. Once in play, players can become the Monarch by succesfully dealing damage to the current Monarch (or playing a card that says “You become the Monarch” themselves). Becoming the Monarch gives you a direct reward of drawing an extra card at the end of your turn, but at the same time it paints a target on your back because players now have a reason to go after you. I think the concept of the Monarch is great and I really hope the incentive will be enough for players to play more aggressively. Taking a more meta view, the Commander Battle Box might actually be one of the few places where the Monarch mechanic will really shine. In Commander, the other obvious place for the Monarch to reside, I doubt whether the small incremental benefit will be worth the hassle, but in Battle Box this is not a problem; I’m pretty sure the benefit is big enough to play the card if you draw it, it is just not big enough to build a deck around. The mechanic might even have a little merit in regular two-player Battle Boxes, if only as an enticing but vulnerable way to gain card advantage. For now I will be limiting the mechanic to the Commander Box because that is its obvious home but I could see adding it to a regular Battle Box just to create a fun combat dynamic.

Melee is trying to go one step further by rewarding you not only for attacking, but for attacking multiple opponents at the same time. When I heard about this mechanic, my impression was that this was taking it a bridge too far. Sure, if you were planning to attack more than one opponent then melee is a nice added benefit, but I can’t really see that it would change your plans if you were planning to attack only one opponent. That said, looking at the power level of these cards, I don’t see any cards that push this mechanic too far, so maybe the Wizards developers thought that its current incarnation is strong enough. I’m going to test Adriana in the Commander Box to be sure I’m not misevaluating melee completely, but I fear the mechanic will be too underwhelming to make the cut.

Wizards has changed the voting system slightly compared to the original Conspiracy set. Instead of the votes deciding how the spell will work, the votes now each decide on one of the modes of the spell. This makes it slightly more usable in a two-player game because no tie-breakers are needed. On the other hand, the new modal voting spells are costed for the effect they have with multiple players, so for the average two-player box you will generally pay too much for the effect you’re getting. That said, if you enjoy the dynamics of voting, there are certainly some cards that you could include in most Battle Boxes.

The Conspiracy 2 Top 10

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the list.

10. Messenger Jays
In a two-player game you will end up with a 4/3 flyer, a 3/2 flyer and a card or a 2/1 flyer and two cards for your five mana investment. I think none of those are embarrassing, and it illustrates nicely how innocuous voting cards can have a nice effect on the game. Of course, in a multiplayer setting, the effect will scale nicely with the requirements for a multiplayer game (stronger creatures and/or more cards).

9. Marchesa’s Decree
When Marchesa takes the Crown, she would like to keep it, thank you very much. The 1 life per attacking creature might be a bit too steep and stifle the game. I would have preferred it if the text read “As long as you are the monarch, whenever a creature…” but I guess Wizards knows best.

8. Domesticated Hydra
Not exactly cheap, but the fact that you can spread your investment over two turns makes it a bit more interesting. I like that it requires an answer quickly and can thus draw some enemy fire to keep your other creatures safe(r).

7. Adriana, Captain of the Guard
In a two-player game this just reads “All your attacking creatures get +1/+1”, which is OK but not great. I will be putting her into my Commander Box, because with 2 or 3 opponents she will really start to shine.

6. Protector of the Crown
I like that Wizards has made a few creatures that have an innate ability to protect the Crown the first turn you decide to take it. Nothing is worse than taking a crown and then losing it before your next turn even begins. The Veteran Bodyguard effect should normally cost around 5, so getting the Monarch effect for 1 extra mana seems like a good deal.

5. Selvala’s Stampede
Digging in your deck for extra creatures and putting them onto the Battlefield is certainly a strong effect. However, because you are the first one voting, the other player(s) can certainly vote strategically. I think it will be a nice card in any Battle Box.

4. Custodi Lich
One-sided sacrifice effects are seldom too strong in Battle Box, although repeatedly getting one might be a bit oppressive. That said, the card does give you a way to get rid of opposing indestructible or hexproof creatures. I think it should go into more high-powered Battle Boxes but it will be a nice card there.

3. Skyline Despot
The Despot gives you a compelling reason to hold on to the Crown and the other player(s) a compelling reason to take it away from you. Or take out the Despot. Either that or face an ever growing army of dragons. This provides a fast clock effect, and if you don’t like to include those in your Battle Box then I would leave the Despot out. However, I’m hoping this will prove vulnerable enough to not be a problem for the Commander Box.

2. Palace Jailer
The Last of the Monarchcards. It’s an exile effect with the Monarch effect attached, two abilities that usually play nicely in the Battle Box. The only slight reservation I have is that it could be too easy to lose the Monarch card, so I would only include the Jailer in two-player Boxes. I realize I have made this list very Monarch heavy, but that’s also to make a point. If you want to make the Monarch a thing in your Battle Box, you should put in a couple of these cards or it won’t see play most of the time. I think 3-4 cards in a 250 cards Battle Box is the minimum. That way a decent number of games will feature the Game of Thrones.

1. Stunt Double
Clone with flash. Regular readers will know that I like shapeshifters in general, and to be able to do some combat shenanigans or even copy a Mystic Snake or a similar flash creature seems extra great to me. Can’t wait to play with these!

That concludes the Conspiracy 2 Top 10. When I introduced my Mini Battle Boxes I may have said that I would try to make a Conspiracy 2 Mini Battle Box. Having seen the set, I think it is just too heavy on draft matters cards to make for a good Mini Battle Box. It’s a pity, because I do think there is room for a good multiplayer Box outside of the Commander Box, but it’ll just have to wait. How about you? Has Conspiracy 2 inspired you to build a new Battle Box?