Conspiracy: Take The Crown Commander Review!

Is there a cooler set for Commander than Conspiracy? Okay, maybe the Commander stuff, but we can all agree Conspiracy: Take the Crown is pretty cool! Sheldon grades each color’s contribution to the format!

The stakes are high. As Cersei Lannister tells Ned Stark, when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. Conspiracy: Take the Crown puts you in the position to win and leave the dying to other people.

The forums are particularly abuzz with the Monarch mechanic (which Rules Manager Matt Tabak explains completely). Thematically, I love the idea. Strategically, I have some thoughts.

It seems to me that unless you’re playing a deck in which you’re rarely, if ever, going to take combat damage or you’re using bunches of extra cards which get better if you’re the monarch, your resources are better spent elsewhere. The advantage—drawing a card for nothing—is nice, but not game-shifting. I’ll happily become the monarch once someone gets the ball rolling. I just don’t think I’m going to play monarch cards without good reason. As such, you won’t see too many cards which make you the monarch in the review, but enough to make you think about. The set also features a number of reprints; I won’t spend too much time on those cards, focusing instead on the newer ones (but I’ll definitely point out those I’m happy about getting reprinted).

Remember that this review is for Commander only. There are cards in the set, which is intended to draft, that simply aren’t that great for the 100-card decks. There are some, like the conspiracies themselves, which aren’t legal to play in any Constructed format. There are a number of others which are perfectly legal to play, but since they reference what you’ve drafted, they don’t actually do anything. We’re going to talk about the other cards—the ones which are actually going to help put you on the throne of your local Commander games.

Since you gave the style such good marks during my Eldritch Moon review, I’m going to repeat it for Conspiracy: Take the Crown. I’ll look at each color individually, give it a grade, and point out some of the highlights, picking a winner in each color. Along the way, I’ll offer a few opinions on decks that these cards might like to go into or other cards which pair with them nicely.


Ballot Broker: If you’re going to engage in a conspiracy, you need to make sure it goes your way. Ballot Broker, like Brago’s Representative, pairs well with the voting cards in this set as well as those from the original Conspiracy. In the new set in particular, in which individual votes do things, you can swing the tide into overkill mode for your desired choice.

Custodi Soulcaller: The return condition is converted mana cost, not power, so this is more like Sun Titan for creatures than it is Reveillark, but you are still going to have loads of choices, up to and including Burnished Hart, Eternal Witness, and, if you’re in a bigger game, perhaps even Solemn Simulacrum.

Lieutenants of the Guard: Can go into your Soldier tribal deck with ease, especially if you’re doing something with those +1/+1 counters.

Recruiter of the Guard: Imperial Recruiter for toughness instead of power; remember that Recruiter of the Guard can get most of your Clones as well as Phantom Nishoba and Phantom Centaur.

Spectral Grasp: What do you care if that creature is battling other people? I don’t know if this will actually get played much, but I like the feel of the card.

Hallowhenge Spirit: A little sleeper from Dark Ascension, seems like a nice addition to your blink deck.

Pariah: Neat, very Timmy-esque combo: Pariah and Indestructibility on Mogg Maniac.

The Winner:

Sanctum Prelate: It’s important to note that you also can’t cast noncreature spells with the chosen number, but I suspect you’ll select that number carefully. Especially in a league like our Commander Rotisserie Draft, in which you know exactly what cards are in everyone’s pool (although their pools are large enough that you’re not completely sure what they’re playing), Sanctum Prelate can be very effective protection for whatever you’re doing.

Grade: B. Some nice things, but nothing earth-shattering.


Illusion of Choice: Even if you never expect a vote, Illusion of Choice is playable as a way to dig further into your library.

Keeper of Keys: In addition to putting me in mind of the outstanding Helloween album and song Keeper of the Seven Keys, it’s one of the few monarch cards which can bring a huge upside. You either have to flash it onto the battlefield in the end step of the player to your right or become the monarch and protect yourself an entire turn cycle.

Stunt Double: Original Clone is becoming more and more irrelevant. The ability to flash this in is kind of crazy. It pairs wonderfully with creatures-as-counterspells like Mystic Snake and Draining Whelk. A top pick out of the set.

Covenant of Minds: Chris Kruse, one of our local players, has played this to good effect in a reanimation deck. It’s worth a look.

Desertion: If you missed getting a foil copy in Commander’s Arsenal, here’s your chance. One of my favorite cards, it’s always a blowout.

Kami of the Crescent Moon: Next week, I build a deck with a new card from Conspiracy: Take the Crown. I put Kami of the Crescent Moon into the deck before I knew it was one of the cards in this set.

The Winner:

Expropriate: Council’s dilemma is wonderful design and a great variant on will of the council. Note in particular that the permanent that you steal from each money voter is something that they own, not control, so be careful that you don’t put this in your deck that steals a bunch of other things, since you’ll likely already have something of theirs. Note also that the ability doesn’t target, so you can gain control of permanents which have shroud or hexproof. You’re likely to be voting time most often so that you can get the extra turn, but sometimes someone else will have borrowed one of your permanents and it’ll be time to take it back.

Grade: A-. Mostly for the great reprints and a couple of top-shelf new cards.


Archdemon of Paliano: You don’t have to draft it for it to still be a 5/4 flyer for 2BB.

Capital Punishment: Slightly problematic if an opponent doesn’t have a creature to sacrifice. For six mana, I might want more punch—but I’d want to try to make this work with a card that gives me extra votes.

Custodi Lich: For the most part, I don’t want to get the ball rolling with monarchy, but in this case, you get an immediate effect and then can take back being the monarch later on and get the trigger again. Alternately, people don’t attack you because they don’t want that to happen and you get to stay the monarch.

Deadly Designs: What a brilliantly designed card for multiplayer. You can be in control of which creatures get destroyed and get other players to help you do it. The layers of strategy and politics that go along with the card are quite deep. Love it.

Harvester of Souls: The only downside here might be that more people are aware of the card now.

Phyrexian Arena: A nice reprint because it’s been hard to find them in foil.

Sangromancer: A card I believe to be underplayed in the format. You won’t be sad you tried it.

The Winner:

Marchesa’s Decree: You don’t have to be the monarch for the second ability to trigger. Marchesa’s Decree is very strong, especially since it motivates people to attack elsewhere, whether or not you’re the monarch. I’m beginning to suspect Marchesa is subverting this election. This one is definitely getting played.

Grade: A. Excellent new cards, strong reprints.


Besmirch: Threaten that also goads the creature when you give it back means that you get the benefit of battling with something very strong and that strong thing can’t attack you (assuming it survives). This set is so much more than just cards; it’s a piece of work with a great overarching feel to it.

Grenzo, Havoc Raiser: Easily in the running for the best card in the set, Grenzo gives you great reason to attack with your chumps instead of keeping them back to block. Once you exile a few cards from players (even if you don’t cast them), you’ll put everyone else on the defensive—which is exactly what you want when you’re playing an aggressive red deck. Not much of a Goblin fan, but Grenzo changes my mind. He’s certainly a build-around commander.

Grenzo’s Ruffians: The Ruffians might need a little buff from Goblin King and friends to be truly effective, but it’s nice to know you can always attack into the creature-light player in order to deal some damage to the player whose army you can’t get through.

Skyline Despot: Being the Dragon monarch has its upsides. I’d be happy with either drawing a card or getting a 5/5 Dragon. Fortunately, I can have both.

Gratuitous Violence: Paying one more mana than Furnace of Rath seems worth it to have only your creatures deal double damage. Sure, you don’t get the extra damage from other things (although note that it’s creature damage, not just combat damage), but the damage you save yourself is probably worth it.

The Winner:

Subterranean Tremors: Greatest. Flavor. Ever. Even the flavor text is a winner, which is why it’s here instead of Grenzo. Do you want a little rumble, do you want curio cabinets tipping over, or do you want the earth to burst open? You pick. Don’t hate me for picking flavor over function.

Grade: B+. The great cards are great, but the density is otherwise low and the reprints less than exciting.


Borderland Explorer: Hug decks will appreciate the help, but I’m more interested in this in a reanimator deck to both smooth out your land drops and put something saucy into the graveyard.

Fang of the Pack: Additional creatures getting melee seems like it could get very deadly very quickly.

Regal Behemoth: Personal Mana Flare is a winner, and a good enough reason to initiate monarchy. I’d prefer it be a Beast instead of a Lizard, but that’s just because I want it in Ruric Thar, the Unbowed.

Selvala, Heart of the Wilds: I’m not a fan of helping other players draw cards. That said, it doesn’t seem like that many cards, and the mana acceleration makes it well worthwhile. I wonder if one of those giant Magic brains could figure out how much mana you need to generate on average to mitigate the advantage of the card draw.

Berserk: Holy banana daiquiris! What a great reprint. Sure, it’s nice to double up your commander’s power after also hitting it with Xenagos, God of Revels for an out-of-nowhere one-shot, but my favorite use of Berserk is always using it to have someone else’s creature kill a different opponent and then making that creature dead as well.

Burgeoning: Another wonderful reprint. I suspect more people will start picking up Horn of Greed as well.

Fade into Antiquity: I always thought this would get more play than it has. I suppose that because it’s a sorcery, it really didn’t catch on.

Lace with Moonglove: Creature kill which also draws a card for you, another somewhat hidden gem that deserves a second look.

Wild Pair: And the hits keep on coming for green! My only question: what has the same total power and toughness as Lord of Extinction?

The Winner:

Selvala’s Stampede: Wait, what? Six mana for ostensibly four creatures (sure, it says permanents, but who are we kidding)? That’s better than Genesis Wave for three, right? Set up with Congregation at Dawn or Worldly Tutor, it could be devastating. Compare, at the same cost, to Summoning Trap. Extremely strong card, and one that’s right up my alley.

Grade: A+. Outstanding new cards, inspired reprints.


Adriana, Captain of the Guard: The Boros decks have a new commander, and her name is Adriana. I’ll remind you that she’s a Knight, and Knight Exemplar is a thing.

Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast: I might get apopleptic thinking of all the things I can do with this version of Daretti. I’m a fan of the third ability on the planeswalkers in this set being very strong without being an “ultimate” kind of ability (like, say, Elspeth, Knight-Errant). Seems like it might keep the planeswalker from getting attacked so often if the last ability isn’t so overwhelming. Clearly the target for the -6 ability (which can come from any graveyard) is Solemn Simulacrum.

Kaya, Ghost Assassin: A little more quietly strong than Daretti, Kaya can reset her own loyalty counters after you’ve used her twice.

Knights of the Black Rose: The upside possibility of multiple drains makes Knights of the Black Rose at least worth thinking about. I’d probably want to use it in concert with other monarch cards.

Queen Marchesa: I’m getting a little less cool on the monarch mechanic as I go through the set. I suppose the question is if you want to draw the card for being the monarch or get the creature (deathtouch being the important part).

Coiling Oracle: Best two-drop ever! Get multiple foily copies for all your U/G decks!

Juniper Order Ranger: I struggled to find a few foil versions of this—now that fight is over! So many shenanigans with this card, to include getting rid of those pesky -1/-1 counters from persist. (Just be careful with those Woodfall Primus. Primsuses. Primi.)

Grade: A. Not quite as good as green, but that’s no sin.

The Winner:

Leovold, Emissary of Trest: Not only does Leovold shut down other players being the monarch, it prevents them from drawing all those extra cards they’ve planned to draw. I’ll explore Leovold more next week, but it’s easily my pick from the set as the card I most want to play.

Artifacts and Lands

Spy Kit: What’s in a name? Does Spy Kit suddenly make cards with grandeur playable? Probably not. Maybe makes it easier to win with Biovisionary? I’m sure there’s some tomfoolery afoot with Spy Kit. Or Spike It.

Horn of Greed: Oh, fancy that.

Psychosis Crawler: You might as well kill people while you’re drawing cards, right?

The Winner:

None, really.

Grade: D+. Some sets don’t get great artifacts and lands. We can live with that every now and again. It doesn’t drag down my appreciation of this set as a whole.

Overall, considering the relatively small size of the set, it’s jam-packed with cards that you’ll be stabbing your friends in the back to get your hands on. Let the games begin!

This Week’s Hidden Gem

From way back in the days of Judgment comes Keep Watch.

I’ve played it to great effect in my Phelddagrif deck (which draws cards like mad). More than once, I’ve used it when I’m being attacked to draw into a card which has saved me, like Holy Day (which is no longer in the deck) or Equal Treatment (an equally hidden gem, making this week a two-for-one).

Last Week’s Comments

Michael Morales says, “Makes me pretty sad that you’re not using Zombies with Tresserhorn, especially since you used some of my ideas to make the original deck.” (here’s the original article).

Then you can stop being said, Michael, because I still have a version of the Zombies of Tresserhorn deck. And it’s still one of my favorite decks.

Chip Sullivan came up with a great idea when I wanted to give Royal Assassin a Goblin Sharpshooter-like ability. Brevity being the soul of wit and all, he simply said, “I give you: Thornbite Staff.”

This is such a sweet idea that it’s going to make it into the final build of the deck. Now if I could only hack Shaman into Assassin…

This Week’s Deck Without Comment

Prime Speaker Zegana
Sheldon Menery
0th Place at Test deck on 02-17-2013

Check out our comprehensive Deck List Database for lists of all my decks:


Purple Hippos and Maro Sorcerers; Kresh Into the Red Zone; Halloween with Karador; Dreaming of Intet; You Did This to Yourself;



Heliod, God of Enchantments; Thassa, God of Merfolk; Erebos and the Halls Of The Dead; Forge of Purphoros; Nylea of the Woodland Realm; Karn, Beatdown Golem


Lavinia Blinks; Obzedat, Ghost Killer; Aurelia Goes to War; Trostani and Her Angels; Lazav, Shapeshifting Mastermind; Zegana and a Dice Bag; Rakdos Reimagined; Glissa, Glissa; Ruric Thar and His Beastly Fight Club

Shards and Wedges

Adun’s Toolbox; Animar’s Swarm; Karrthus, Who Rains Fire From The Sky; Demons of Kaalia; Merieke’s Esper Dragons; Nath of the Value Leaf; Rith’s Tokens; The Mill-Meoplasm; The Altar of Thraximundar; The Threat of Yasova; Zombies of Tresserhorn


Children of a Greater God


Animar Do-Over; Karador Do-Over; Karador Version 3; Karrthus Do-Over; Mimeoplasm Do-Over; Phelddagrif Do-Over; Rith Do-Over; Ruhan Do-Over

If you’d like to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPG group, in a campaign that’s been alive since 1987 and has just wrapped a summer mini-series called Who Mourns for Adonis? which will set up the saga The Lost Cities of Nevinor, ask for an invitation to the Facebook group “Sheldon Menery’s Monday Night Gamers.”