Conspiracy take the Crown: Punch your Foes, Stop the Draws, Steal the Vote

Conspiracy 2: Take the Crown has certainly brought us Commander Players some amazing new cards and with them a lot of interesting and possibly confusing interactions. Here I’ll outline some of the most common things that may come up!  While Conspiracy is actually a fairly mild set in terms of new mechanics it is still never a bad idea to go over what’s been introduced and how they work with older cards in our format.  So without any delay let’s get right into the most common thing you’ll be seeing!

1) The Monarchy

With Conspiracy: Take the Crown Wizards has given us a new Emblem-like “Status” that a player can acquire: The Monarch.  It is important to note that while players will often use the “The Monarch” token to represent who the Monarch is, the “The Monarch” is not a card, token or emblem, but a Status a player can have.  Being the Monarch grants the player two unique abilities: “At the beginning of your end step, draw a card”, and “Whenever a creature deals combat damage to you, that creature’s controller becomes the Monarch.”

In true-to-Queen-Marchesa (long may she reign) fashion, Wizards wants players to fight over the crown as only a single player at a time can be the Monarch.  The Monarchy is not exclusive to Conspiracy drafts!  Any format where the cards are legal can cause it to exist, and once it’s introduced into the game, it stay until the end.

So let’s talk about how it works and shifts around.  When a player is the Monarch and they move to their end step, they put a trigger on the stack that allows them to draw a card.  That part is straightforward.  Whenever a player that is the monarch is dealt combat damage by a creature, the player that controls the creature becomes the Monarch.  This will cause any abilities on permanents that player controls that trigger “When you become the Monarch” to trigger.  In a Two-headed Giant game where both players have attacking creatures that deal combat damage, the now-being-dethroned Player controls the triggers, so they end up choosing which player actually becomes the Monarch (Player A and Player B both damage Player C, Player C stacks triggers so Player A becomes the Monarch first, then Player B ends up with the Monarchy)

But Panda, what if the player that is the Monarch dies without being dealt combat damage?

If the Monarch leaves the game on another player’s turn, the Active Player (the play whose turn it is) becomes the Monarch.  If Player A is the Monarch and Player C takes them down on Player C’s turn, Player C becomes the Monarch. (fig A.)  If the Monarch leaves the game on their OWN turn, the next player in turn order becomes the Monarch.  Player A dies to someone’s Lightning Bolt on their own turn, Player B becomes the Monarch. (fig B.)

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2) Melee!

Melee is a cool new ability that Wizards has given us to promote players being more aggressive in multiplayer formats (Iroas knows we need it!).  Melee is a Keyword ability that represents a triggered ability.  This ability reads, “Whenever this creature attacks, it gets +1/+1 until end of turn for each opponent you attacked with a creature this combat.”  Let’s break this down as there are several things going on here:

“Whenever this creature attacks…” – Very straightforward.  The creature has to be declared as an attacker during your Declare Attackers step.  Pretty standard on these triggers, it doesn’t trigger if cheated onto the battlefield via something like Kaalia of the Vast or Alesha, Who Smiles at Death or Yore-Tiller Nephilim.

“It gets +1/+1 until end of turn for each player you attacked with a creature this combat.” – Here’s where it may be a little tricky.  When Melee is put on the stack you check how many players you attacked with creatures during your Declare Attackers step. Player A attacks Player B with a Melee creature and Player C with a vanilla creature.  The Melee creature will get +2/+2 until end of turn, as two or your opponents are being attacked.  However, if that Vanilla creature was actually a Brimaz, King of Oreskos, whose token is attacking Player D, what does Melee see?  It’s still only +2/+2, as the token was never declared as an Attacker in the Declare Attackers step.

Declared As Attacking – Good!

Put onto the battlefield Attacking  – Not so good

Each instance of Melee triggers separately, so attacking Player B with a Wings of the Guard and Player C with an Adriana, Captain of the Guard will end up giving the Bird a whopping +4/+4, since each Melee trigger sees two opponents.

Lastly, because Melee’s buff lasts until end of turn, Extra Combat effects are especially potent.  Adriana and Aurelia, the Warleader play amazingly together as those buffs add up pretty quickly.  Attacking into just two players each combat (someone with low defenses and another with no fliers) gets very big, very fast.

3) The Elven Bastard

Let’s talk about Leovold, Emissary of Trest.

There’s a lot to talk about here, as this elvish ambassador has a lot going for him in some very crisp and powerful lines of text.  We’ll start with the slightly-less-degenerate ability, the second one:

“Whenever you or a permanent you control becomes the target of a spell or ability an opponent controls, you may draw a card”

Holy shit, this could be the only line of text he had and he’d still be immensely playable. Essentially, anything your opponent tries to do to you or your board nets you a card.  Bolt a thing?  Draw a card.  Path your dude?  Draw a card AND find your land!  Need the thing they’re trying to remove to stay where it is?  Maybe you’ll draw some protection!  This three-drop is so powerful, he makes the entire burn archetype sad at his existence.  At three mana, you can just run Leo out there as insurance against spot removal, and you’ll very likely be able to just recast him should be be removed.

“You opponents can only draw one card each turn.”

Where to begin?  This line of text is incredibly powerful.  Sure, we’ve seen it before on things like Spirit of the Labyrinth, but three things push him over the threshold of “beyond not okay”: The Colors, the Command Zone and the One-Sided Effect.

Colors – Leovold’s colors put him in a great position to abuse this ability, with both Black and Blue getting “Windfall” and “Timetwister” effects – effects that make all players either shuffle or discard their hands and redraw cards.  With Leovold (or the Spirit), these become potent discard spells, causing players to ditch their hands.  While Green isn’t as powerful as the other two (or red, for that matter) in this situation, the Sultai colors allow for some of the most versatile removal options in the game to help you protect Leo and your board, second only to the Mardu colors.  Green also gives you access to Ramp with both creatures (turn 2 Leovold) and spells, which ensure that you can always keep him active.

Command Zone – The power of having this effect always on-hand shouldn’t need any explanation.  Consistent access to such a powerful ability is almost never healthy. Just look at Oloro, whose Life Gain “Emblem” provides a consistent and unremoveable cushion against any deck that wants to win through damage. While Leovold may have to be on the field his low cost, combined with the access to Ramp green has, means you’ll almost always be able to keep him on the field and pressuring your opponents to either kill you or just have answers, which in turn will draw you cards.

“Leovold is just not OK”

One-Sided – Remember the “Windfall” and “Timetwister” effects from the Color block?  Under an Spirit of the Labyrinth, at least everyone is only drawing one card.  Under Leovold, you get to draw all of your cards, but your opponent only gets one.  Cast Windfall, we all discard, each of you draws 1, I draw back to whatever number I draw to.  Cast Time Spiral, we all shuffle hands and graveyards in, you each draw one, I draw seven and untap my six lands, essentially casting Time Warp and a Monomania on each of my opponents.

Lock pieces come in the form of effects like Geier Reach Sanitarium or Anvil of the Bogardan, which usually allow players to Loot.  With these effects if your opponent has already drawn a card that turn you just ignore any instructions that cause you to draw a card, then follow the rest (unless it says “if they do” or “for each card drawn,” etc.).  Geier Reach Sanitarium essentially says, on an opponent’s turn, “2, T: You loot, they discard.”  Anvil just says they discard a card after they draw for turn.  Both are functional and powerful in multiplayer, and absolutely back-breaking in a 1v1 setting.

The Ultimate Lock with Leovold is an annoying four-mana artifact that is an all-star in decks like Nekusar, the mindrazer: Teferi’s Puzzle Box.  After you draw for turn you put all of the cards in your hand on the bottom of your library then draw that many.  Oh look, your opponent has already drawn their card for the turn.  Let’s put their hand on the bottom and dr– wait, they can’t draw.  Whoops no hand.

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4) Voting Effects

Lastly, we’ll talk about a mechanic that has returned from the original Conspiracy set: Voting.  The way voting works hasn’t changed, but we have some cool new toys for it.  As a quick recap, here’s how it works: When a spell or ability with Council’s Dilemma or Will of the Council resolves each player votes, in turn order.  This vote may be for a permanent, or between two different choices.  After each player votes (you can’t choose not to vote), whatever received the most votes happens (in the case of Council’s Judgment) or the appropriate effects happen based on the number of votes.

Conspiracy 2 gives us two new toys that interact with all of these: Ballot Broker and Illusion of Choice.  Ballot Broker is almost a functional reprint of Brago’s Representative from the original Conspiracy, but with different stats, and a great change that your extra vote is optional.  If you don’t want to take it, you don’t have to. If your opponent casts Expropriate, you DON’T have to give them an additional permanent or extra turn.  If it were Brago’s Representative, you WOULD have to.

Illusion of Choice is a much spicier piece of tech, and one that can lead to amazing blow-outs when used timely. Because voting is just a general mechanic (that has happened to only be used in the Conspiracy sets), Illusion doesn’t care whether the cards you’re voting with are new or old.  Think about it: You pay U to cast Illusion of Choice.  You draw a card and choose how your three opponents vote this turn.  You then proceed to pay 1WW and cast Council’s Judgment.  You choose how your opponents are voting.  You essentially just paid 1UWW to choose four nonland permanents and exile them all and draw a card.  Hexproof, Shroud, Protection be damned, as the council wills it, it shall be so, even if you’re the one making all of the choices.  Custodi Squire becomes a very powerful Eternal Witness getting back an Artifact, Creature or Enchantment card for each player (assuming there are enough of them).  Even the newer cards become hilariously strong.  Expropriate, for 7UUU becomes “Take four extra turns, draw a card,” or “Take three extra turns, steal the biggest threat, draw a card.”  There may only be nineteen cards running around with the voting mechanics, but if you’re running them in any serious capacity (or you have someone in your group that play with them for flavor) Illusion of Choice can lead to some hilariously powerful plays. It also acts as a cantrip if you never find the effects you need.

So, that’s an overview of some of the stuff you may run into playing with Conspiracy 2.  Here’s a quick recap: 1) Monarch isn’t Conspiracy exclusive and stays in the game forever once introduced, 2) Melee is sweet is only cares about your Declare Attacker step, 3) Leovold is a rat bastard, and 4) Voting still works, though it’s slightly different than the first time around.

What were your experiences with Conspiracy? How do you think it will impact EDH?