I’m fairly excited about Conspiracy. First of all, it amps up the drafting portion of the game and pushes Magic towards a full-fledged Deck Building Game. It might even inspire me to build a Cube. It has the potential to change the way the game is played completely. Even the makers of Magic don’t fully know the implications:
While I believe we have created something new, that doesn’t mean I know exactly what all of you are going to do with it. The draft cards, for example, are us playing around in virgin space. Yes, people will use the draft cards in Conspiracy Limited, but what about other formats? Will they become popular in Cube? Will they inspire a new format that doesn’t exist yet? I honestly don’t know, and that is exciting.
– Mark Rosewater
Outside the draft portion there are a couple of new mechanics on some of the cards to help multiplayer games flow better. Parley shows players parts of the strategy of their opponents, and more importantly it helps smooth over the draws so everyone gets a better chance at developing their strategy and reduce mana screw. Dethrone helps spreading out attacks evenly and gives some incentive not to beat someone while they are down.
My favorite part may be Will of the Council though. I wonder how that will work out. Some players will evaluate the situation wrong, and make irrational decisions. But at least it’s a chance for some banter and politics, and it’s banter an politics that make multiplayer games better than straight-up duels. Not that it’s a mechanic that is intristically good. You spend a card but opponents have a say in how it works. Worse still, you’re the first to vote, and the person on your right will have a final say. At least it’s clear who you’ll need to have as an ally. The only upside is that you get to choose when the voting starts.
Let’s start with the big destructive cards. Magister of Worth gives the players a choice between either half of Living Death. It’s nice to have when you have no board, and a graveyard that is better than all the other graveyards. Or if one player is getting really out of hand. Then at least you’ll have an angel, and solved the problem for the table.
Coersive Portal is stranger. Both carnage and homage help you out while you’re behind, a little, but it takes a full round of the table for it to do something (which is plenty of time to get seriously hurt) and once you have build up using the extra card draw, you’ll see your gains vanish before your eyes. It’s fun to have a continious political process though. On a full board with players that don’t want to lose their things, you can bide your time with this and Solitary Confinement, let them duke it out and watch things blow up when they grow tired beating each other up with their armies.
More destruction comes from the Council’s Judgment. The interesting part is that it doesn’t offer a binary choice, but opens up voting for permanents on the table. And it doesn’t target, so shroud doesn’t help stop it. The most important part of the ability, which adds to the chaos, is the part where it reads: “the most votes or tied for the most votes.” Yes, there are situations where judgment will be passed to multiple permanents and more than one thing gets exiled.
Try to see the scenarios here. Someone plays a Council’s Judgment, and chooses to vote for one of your permanents. The next player chooses to vote for another one of your permanents, making it a tie, and potentially make you to lose two things to exile. Now what?
– You vote for a permanent another player controls. That one is now also tied. You lose some things, but hey, they do too. Or,
– You vote for one of your own doomed permanents. At least this breaks the tie, and you’ll have to exile only one thing unless someone else restores the tie on your permanent.
The more players, the more votes, and the more complex things become. Some clever political maneuvring is in order. The player who called for judgment just has to sit it out and watch the others fall over each other in the chaos that follows. And this is where Brago’s Representative really shines, as it adds another vote, for even more exiling fun. For people who love true chaos, just cast a Mirrorweave on the representative and see how things will escalate really, really fast.
There are more cards in Conspiracy that use this mechanic. I can’t imagine Tyrant’s Choice is the most interesting one in Commander, because who cares about one-tenth of their life total? The good news is that it doesn’t hit yourself aside from the card and mana you spend. Grudge Keeper is black’s Brago’s Representative, getting you lots of votes or, when you vote last, let everyone lose life for your contrary vote.
Council Guardian will gain protection from the color(s) voted for or tied for, but this has the least potential for opponents to try and screw each other over. They’ll just gang up on you and vote for the protection that is the least relevant and deal with the problem together.
With Plea for Power you get to spend to have a vote on wether you get an extra turn, or 3 extra cards. Neither half is bad, have a more splashable Concentrate or a cheaper and more splashable Time Warp. Either half is good, the fact that you have the illusion of choice is even better.
Another blue council card is Split Decision, a instant spell which leads to a vote where you either counter an instant or sorcery, or you get to copy it with new targets. It’s a very reactive card, but it’s nice against spot removal, or for cards like the Plea above. You wouldn’t want to use it on your own spells in most situations, as it’s not very reliable.
All in all there is a lot to look forward to with this new mechanic. Some applications are better than others, and who knows there might be some hidden gems yet to be revealed. Generally, it could be all great if choices are made based on the current board state, or frustrating when votes are lead by grudges coming from previous games.
The oddest thing about it is that both Parley and Dethrone got their own legend associated with it, but Will of the Council doesn’t. It’s possible that King Brago filled that spot in playtesting, but ran into problems and they made him the blink guy. We’ll see what happens in a couple of weeks when the council finally goes into session.