Two-headed Giant. I’ve played a lot of it actually. Mostly because of Duels of the Planeswalkers on the Playstation 2. The first couple of iterations of that game had very limited deckbuilding options. You choose a deck, maybe switched in some cards from a limited sideboard, but there wheren’t really great options to tweak the deck you where playing. By playing Two-headed Giant, at least there was the strategical option of mixing and matching decks, and soon it became appearant that it was the only true way to play that game.
I liked having access to a free-to-play way to play Magic. I wasn’t interested in MTGO and have a seperate, online collection of cards. I found a friend online to play Duels with online, and we became a great team, tweaking our decks to become a little overpowered when put together in Duels. We where unstopable and we generally had a good time listening to people shouting in frustration over the headset. Yeah, playing online does make it easier for people to be toxic, but it’s not like they could actually beat us.
After all the good times, things went a little south. Newer versions of Duels of the Planeswalkers came out, and they had really crappy netcode. It couldn’t really hande four-player games and we saw ‘connection lost’ more than we could actually launch games. Then, newer versions of Duels didn’t came out on PS2 anymore, and we where forced to play on PC. That wasn’t really my thing, and I couldn’t get used to the interface, which handled timing differently in multiplayer than in the offline, vs AI game. It became a frustration handling the interface, instead of just playing the game. I also gained some responsibilities over a new human wonder, which meant my entertainment needed things enjoyable in short bursts, and things that I could pauze or drop when I was needed elsewhere.
Still, I know 2HG can be great, but it’s also a logistical nightmare. You need another person, with a compatible deck, somehow get together on- or offline and find people who jumped through the same hoops. It’s far more easy to find some games where you’re on your own. So it won’t happen as much nowadays. Maybe Magic Arena will offer a good way to pick up 2HG. There is just so much more focus on execution, and talking through the options really helps finding and evaluating lines that I couldn’t really find on my own. Different perspectives and all.
So, it’s great to see a summer set to focus on this format, and so far also making sure the cards are useful in other formats – Commander, mosty although some cubes may also find interesting stuff. Oath of the Gatewatch also technically was a 2HG set, but it wasn’t executed that well.
I liked the Conspiracy sets for the things they do for multiplayer, and Battlebond also features some “political” cards: Cards that help forge temporary alliances that encourage players to work together. And even though the logistics generally make 2HG impractical, some options to play a tag team on your own with partner commanders. Just take a look at the first pair that was spoiled:
In Commander, having partner commanders is great. At the very least, you’ll have an extra card at your disposal from the beginning. Initially, these Pir & Toothy didn’t look very impressive, but they did look fun. But after some rereading, they’re actually great. Sure, Pir looks like an expensive Hardened Scales, but it’s one that’s right there in the command zone, so you will have access to the effect more often.
Toothy seemed okay, but initially I missed the ability to draw cards when he leaves the Battlefield and that part opens up a lot of trickery. It makes Toothy more than just a legendary Lorescale Coatl. There is some great synergy with Zameck Guildmage, Sage of Fables and Shapers of Nature, but the big splashy moves involve clone effects:
So, you have Toothy out and you decide to copy him. As a result, you have to choose one copy to stay. Sending the original to the command zone causes him to leave play and you’ll draw a card for each +1/+1 counter, powering up the copy and end up with extra cards. The copy won’t deal commander damage, but you can always repeat the process by replaying the original. With Pir in play you’ll get ever greater returns (and Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix can make a turn like that even bigger!)
Pir also works well with planeswalkers like Kiora, the Crashing Wave. Talking about planeswalkers, there is also a tag team of those showing up in Battlebond.
Now this is a flashy team. I know it’s going to be hard in commander to get this duo of planeswalkers in play; together they are a whopping 12 mana, so it’s going to be difficult to find a window of opportunity to get them going, but when it happens it going to be really cool.
Alternatively, they might be part of a Jeskai () or Temur () or even 5 colour superfriends deck. Even outside the command zone they can find each other due to the partner with… ability, and the extra colour allows for some extra protection in fog-like effects or wraths. Will can even make other Planeswalkers cheaper with his -2 abillity. And on their own they don’t have access to Oath of Teferi, which seems crazy with them on the table.
The assist spells seem really cool; They’re tools to make deals accross the table and team up with people. How often does it come up that one player is so far ahead, and someone asks if anyone has a solution? Play of the Game is right there, you get to work together and create a sense of friendship (while it lasts.) Or you can help someone dig for an answer with Huddle Up. It reminds me a bit of Words of Wisdom, which I am running in Shu Yun. In theory it could be a cantrip for just , with the additional possibility of drawing someone out when I go off with Eye of the Storm. Maybe.
The Friend or Foe mechanic also looks nice. Extending the hand of friendship, and let people know where they stand. Pir’s Whim looks like a sort of Tempt with Discovery that doubles as removal. seems like a lot for a ramp spell, but it can find any land, not just basics and in some situations it can deal with a couple of troublesome enchantments or artifacts. Friends let friends not play pillowfort decks, so there goes a Propaganda, while you let other people ramp. They might get their Wasteland out, but if they use it on you, they are foes forever.
Battleborn also has some allied-colour lands that should often enter the battlefield untapped in 2HG and commander. All teams are enemy coloured, so in 2HG you’re encouraged to share your partner cards with your partner. Still, they are good in the decks that want them.
In additional to all the cool political cards, it seems Battleborn also has some spicy reprints, like Doubling Season, Land Tax, Greater Good, Seedborn Muse… All in all it seems like a great set, both for drafting and commander.