Just to get this out of the way: I’m super-stoked about Conspiracy! I was already mildly intrigued by the set after its announcement and a few preview
cards, but between the spoiling of some sweet new Legends ripe for Commander, the very cool teaser video released this past weekend, and then the onslaught
of Conspiracy spoilers this week on the mothership, my excitement level has gone up to eleven! I love multiplayer Magic (such as Commander), I love
Constructed tournament Magic, and I love Draft. Conspiracy hits all the sweet spots for one big Venn diagram smiley face that is me.
The set is obviously geared for Draft with a bunch of cards that impact the draft while you’re in the middle of drafting. Did you see the video that
demonstrated both how the drafts go and how the multiplayer games go with Conspiracy? If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend it:
They got a nice variety of players with different approaches to the game to give it a try and offer their perspectives on how it plays. All of them really
seemed to enjoy it: Marshall Sutcliffe, Limited Resources Podcast & Pro Tour Commentator; Nathan Holt from Walking the Planes; Chris Kluwe, retired NFL
player (!?!); Kenji “NumotTheNummy” Egashira, MTGO Streamer; Toby Elliott, Level 5 Magic Judge and Commander Rules Committee member; Brian David-Marshall,
Pro Tour Historian & Commentator; David Williams, Pro Poker and Pro Magic Player; and the adorable Kathleen De Vere, “Magic Comedy Person” from
Watching the video really kicked the excitement level up quite a few notches for me. I really like how there are a handful of artifact creatures that do
funky stuff during the draft, but then because they’re colorless creatures and are actually pretty decent on their own, you’re not embarrassed to play them
in your deck, either. Take, for instance, Deal Broker:
This guy is a three mana 2/3 looter that can go into any deck – already pretty darn good! But how nice is that “after the draft” ability? Wow, talk about
sweet! I mean, sure, you can offer up some garbage, but all you’re going to get is garbage. What’s better is to offering up a card that you may have
drafted high in the hopes of a plan coming together, but maybe it just didn’t work out; perhaps someone cut into your plans…maybe that someone might give
you something juicy for it? Or how about hate-drafting some bomb card that really doesn’t fit into your deck and then offering it to the highest bidder? I
can just imagine the little sub-game that breaks out around this card just being a lot of fun.
Lore Seeker is fascinating. It’s a 2/2 for two mana. When you draft it, reveal it and you may add a booster pack to the draft. In the video they chose a
pack of Future Sight to add to the draft. I’m very curious to see if Wizards of the Coast gives any direction regarding this card when the product goes
out; will Wizards send out some random packs for stores to use for this card, or just bank on the stores tossing in an extra pack whenever this pops up?
Paliano, the High City is intriguing. When you draft it, reveal it and the person to your right chooses a color, you choose another color, and then the
person to your left chooses a third color. What’s cool is that the players to the right and left can push you into colors with their choices, making it
more likely that you’ll pass them good cards in the colors they’re drafting while hopefully passing good stuff you can use. Extra information on how the
draft is flowing plus a triple-colored land that comes into play untapped and pain-free makes this a pretty sweet pick!
As cool as these cards are, there is a slight “feel bad” about them, since they’re pretty much only good for the draft they’re played in. If they were all
common it wouldn’t bother me in the least, but some of them are rare. I suppose you could try to redraft the card pool again, but eventually people are
going to want to take the other goodies and put them in their Commander, Legacy or Vintage decks and these will just gather dust. I’m not a Cube player,
but I suppose some of them might find a second life in Cube? If you are a Cube aficionado, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the draft Constructs and
Paliano, the High City.
The funky shenanigans don’t stop once the draft is done. You break the draft pod into two multiplayer games, and then you’ve got a new card type rearing
its head that utilizes the good ol’ command zone, previously an elite clubhouse where only Commanders and Emblems were allowed to hang. A Conspiracy card starts the game in the Command Zone, either face down or face up depending on what the specific effect says. What’s cool
about these cards in draft is that they provide an effect that’s truly free, costing no mana and no space in your deck.
Some are pretty small; take, for instance, Sentinel Dispatch, a face up Conspiracy that gives you a 1/1 colorless Construct artifact creature token with
defender during your first upkeep. Some are pretty big, like Worldknit, a face up Conspiracy where lands you control have “Tap: add one mana of any color
to your mana pool.” There’s a catch, though: you only get that ability “as long as every card in your card pool started the game in your library or in the
command zone.” At first I found this wording a bit of a head-scratcher, but then a few people pointed out that this basically forces you to play every card
you draft in your deck if you want the effect. I suppose you have to consider how much chaff would weigh down your deck, compared to never being color
The face down Conspiracy cards appear to all have the key word “hidden agenda” and are pretty narrow; you name a card, and then when you turn the card face
up, there’s some benefit tied into that card (cheaper to cast, or it gets a +1/+1 counter on it, or you get to copy the spell). Still, if you manage to
draft multiple copies of a good card, the hidden agenda cards can juice them up even more.
When pondering the replay-ability of the Conspiracy cards, the fact that they utilize the command zone naturally turns the mind toward Commander. I can’t
imagine that the Rules Committee will make the Conspiracy cards “legal” for a standard game of Commander; many of them are quite powerful if you build your
deck around them, considering that you start the game accessing the cards from the Command Zone. I could, however, see putting together a “pack” of
Conspiracy cards, and then when you get together a group of players to play Commander, after decks are chosen you can draft some number of Conspiracy cards
to start the game with, just to add some spice.
For instance, maybe have fifteen Conspiracy cards, including some duplicates, shuffled up and placed face down. Roll the dice, the winner gets first pick,
then goes around the table until it reaches the player on the right, who wheels two picks and the picks go back around. The player who gets the first pick
gets the last pick and then the leftover Conspiracy cards are set aside face down. Some of the narrow hidden agenda cards could be a nice way to boost your
Commander, since that’s the card you’ll most likely to be casting multiple times in a game.
There are a gaggle of regular cards that have new key words that are particularly fun for multiplayer. First is dethrone, an ability that
encourages you to attack the player with the highest life total with that creature by giving it a +1/+1 counter and sometimes other benefits. Scourge of
the Throne is quite fierce and sure to be a Commander favorite, getting an extra attack each turn if the first one is aimed at the player with the highest
life total. If both attacks go towards that same player, that’s a hit from a 6/6 and then a 7/7; they won’t have the highest life total for long! There’s
even a “dethrone lord,” Marchesa, the Black Rose, which gives all your creatures dethrone and makes any of your creatures with +1/+1 counters on it
practically immortal by bringing them back into play at the beginning of the next end step. I was a little bummed to not see green in her casting cost for
Spike Feeder and Spike Weaver shenanigans, but we can certainly dip into plenty of undying creatures, modular dudes, Triskelion and Mindless Automaton. I’m
definitely stoked to explore her in Commander!
looks to be a super-cool riff on green’s color pie slice that says “everybody shares in the benefits!” Everyone drawing a card is a little annoying in
multiplayer because you’re basically giving your opposing forces three or more cards to the one card you draw, so the extra effect better be worth it. In
the case of Selvala, Explorer Returned, I think it is: for each time the parley hits, you get a life and a green mana. Assuming you’ll be doing this during
your main phase, she helps you go ahead and cast the (hopefully nonland) card that you just drew. As if we needed something to make Course of Kruphix even
better, huh? With that and Sylvan Library, you can ensure Selvala will at least parley once each turn. I can already envision a Selvala, Explorer Returned
deck Commander being pretty darn good!
Will of the Council
seems like a very fun mechanic that is just perfect for multiplayer politics. I know that not everyone is into that sort of thing, but I think these cards
provide some nice choices that certainly encourage wheeling and dealing, offering carrots and sticks. I love how you can tip the scales with Brago’s
Representative (a durable 1/4 common) to give you an extra vote on these sorts of cards, and I expect him to be a pretty hot commodity in the draft. Plea
for Power is a nifty card that lets the council choose whether you get a Time Walk or Ancestral Recall effect for your four mana, and Split Decision lets
the council choose whether you get a Counterspell or a Twincast effect. I really like that these cards break out a mini-game that can certainly get as
lively as the players want it to be.
There are 210 cards in total, 65 new and 145 reprints. Quite a few of the reprints look to be goodies not only for Commander players but for fans of Legacy
and Vintage as well.
is a Commander all-star, and I’m thrilled to have more copies of this floating around to make them more affordable. I’ve even been considering this in
Modern (along with the Vivid lands) as an alternative to the incredibly painful fetchland/shock land setup that’s our go-to mana base.
I’m not sure if Altar of Dementia sees play in any Eternal formats, but I used to see it do some work in multiplayer games long ago. I
once had a zombie deck with Tombstone Stairwell and Coat of Arms. During each player’s upkeep, all players would make zombie tokens equal to the number of
creatures in their graveyards, and Coat of Arms would make each of them huge. I’d have a fair number myself, and I’d sacrifice them to Altar of Dementia to
deck the guy during his upkeep so he’d die on his draw step (and any extra sacrifices I’d direct to the player on my immediate right). Each player’s turn
they’d get a bunch of zombies from Tombstone Stairwell and then lose his library and then lose during his draw step. It was a heckuva finish. It’s a little
tougher to pull off nowadays with Eldrazi titans occasionally popping up in people’s decks, but I imagine more than a few Commander players will run across
Altar of Dementia and hatch some evil plans in the coming months.
Fact or Fiction
and Swords to Plowshares aren’t exactly hard to find, but both are great Commander cards that I’m happy to see become more accessible to
players. Brainstorm is another one of these, though from what I hear the big deal is that people will be able to snag foil Brainstorms.
Why don’t I see more people playing Reya Dawnbringer? Why don’t I see more Reya Dawnbringer in my own decks? She’s back to make you and me
ask those questions yet again as she reminds us how awesome she is.
While it’s no Force of Will, Misdirection is often pretty close, and it’s nice to have more copies of these floating around to make them
more accessible so you can surprise people when you’re tapped out.
Who doesn’t love making an army of elephants, even when they don’t all belong to you? More copies of Terastodon are always welcome! One of
the most memorable Commander games I’ve ever played ended shortly after a friend cast Rite of Replication kicked, copying a Terastodon, and someone else
Forked it. There was basically nothing but elephants left on the table. Epic!
People have got to be stoked about Exploration being reprinted! I’ve had a playset since they were Type 2 legal (Standard before it was called Standard) and it’s a great card in
many Commander decks, but I’ve always felt bad for including them in my Commander write-ups because the price of these have jumped up over the years into
the $30-50 range. It’s my hope that popping up in Conspiracy will help make this card more affordable for Commander players who might want a copy.
Let’s not overlook some of the new cards. Dack Fayden is an obvious powerhouse for Eternal formats as well as fun at the Commander table.
Brago, King Eternal
just screams “build around me” as a Commander. Dealing combat damage might be tricky for a 2/4 (flying helps a little bit), but letting you blink any
non-land card on the board is just amazing. I will definitely be building a deck with him as Commander as well as putting him right in my Mean Roon deck.
As I was finishing up this article, Treasonous Ogre was spoiled. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person to go “wow!” Trading life for resources
in mana is a time-honored tradition of broken Magic cards dating back to Channel, so can this fellow make a dent in Eternal formats? I’m sure he’s going to
make a bunch of noise in Commander, given that you start with twice the life and there are tons of ways to gain massive amounts of life. Most Commander
players are going to be dreaming about the sweet haymaker plays this fellow will open the doors to, but keep an eye on the Spikes among you. They’re
dreaming of breaking this guy in two.
I could go on and on with the new cards, but for the sake of my editor’s sanity I should probably wrap things up. First and foremost, this set is going to
be a ton of fun to draft and a ton of fun to play. Normally the actual drafting of cards during draft play is a relatively quiet, intense, somber affair,
but Conspiracy drafts are bound to get loud, raucous and downright crazy. Then breaking into two multiplayer pods afterwards, and all the interaction that
brings along with cards specifically designed to make it fun… I really can’t wait! And then, so many of these cards are going to find welcome homes in a
bunch of current and future Commander decks. Are you as excited about Conspiracy as I am? What aspect or cards have you the most interested?
Ultimately, what I’m really looking forward to seeing is if Conspiracy acts as a “gateway drug” for competitive players to get interested in casual play.
Do you have any “Spike” friends who normally pass on Commander that you think will bite the Conspiracy bait and maybe get hooked?
New to Commander?
If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:
Commander Primer Part 1
(Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
Commander Primer Part 2
(Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
Commander Primer Part 3
(Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
Commander Starter Kits 1
(kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
Commander Starter Kits 2
(kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
Commander Starter Kits 3
(kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
My current Commander decks
(and links to decklists):
- Child of Alara (Land Ho!)
- Doran, the Siege Tower (All My Faves in One Deck!)
- Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)
- Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Shadowborn Apostles & Demons)
- King Macar, the Gold-Cursed (GREED!)
- Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind ( Chuck’s somewhat vicious deck)
- Roon of the Hidden Realm (Mean Roon)
- Skeleton Ship (Fun with -1/-1 counters)
- Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)
Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus
- Anax and Cymede (Heroic Co-Commanders)
- Aurelia, the Warleader ( plus Hellkite Tyrant shenanigans)
- Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)
- Bruna, Light of Alabaster ( Aura-centric Voltron)
- Damia, Sage of Stone ( Ice Cauldron shenanigans)
- Derevi, Empyrial Tactician (Tribal Birds)
- Emmara Tandris (No Damage Tokens)
- Gahiji, Honored One (Enchantment Ga-hijinks)
- Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)
- Ghave, Guru of Spores ( Melira Combo)
- Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)
- Glissa, the Traitor ( undying artifacts!)
- Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)
- Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge ( Suspension of Disbelief)
- Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)
- Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo’ Myrs)
- Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)
- Lord of Tresserhorn (ZOMBIES!)
- Marath, Will of the Wild ( Wild About +1/+1 Counters)
- Melira, Sylvok Outcast ( combo killa)
Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker (
Outside My Comfort Zone with Milling
- Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)
- Nicol Bolas (Kicking it Old School)
- Nylea, God of the Hunt ( Devoted to Green)
- Oloro, Ageless Ascetic (Life Gain)
- Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)
- Phage the Untouchable ( actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)
- Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)
- Polukranos, World Eater (Monstrous!)
- Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)
Riku of Two Reflections (
steal all permanents with Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts
- Roon of the Hidden Realm ( Strolling Through Value Town)
- Ruhan of the Fomori ( lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)
- Savra, Queen of the Golgari ( Demons)
- Shattergang Brothers (Breaking Boards)
- Sigarda, Host of Herons ( Equipment-centric Voltron)
- Skullbriar, the Walking Grave ( how big can it get?)
- Sliver Overlord ( Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)
- Thelon of Havenwood ( Campfire Spores)
- Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice ( new player-friendly)
- Uril, the Miststalker (my “more competitive” deck)