Conspiracy: Take the Crown is the second of three Magic: The Gathering supplemental sets planned for the 2016 production year, and the second in the Conspiracy Draft line. Unlike other sets, such as the recent Eldritch Moon, Conspiracy: Take the Crown is not a Standard block set; instead, Wizards of the Coast sells Conspiracy: Take the Crown as a standalone, multiplayer "draft matters" set. Except for reprintings of cards already in legal formats, none of these cards are legal to use in Modern or Standard, only in Legacy, Vintage, Cube, Pauper, and Commander/EDH.
Now that the set has been spoiled in full and been out for a week, it's time for players to take a critical look at it and see if it's something they should buy product of, or if they simply should buy the singles they want for their collection/decks. Prudence is key; the blunders and mistakes found in Modern Masters, Modern Masters 2015, and Eternal Masters should be lessons in wariness and containing our hype for Magic: The Gathering supplemental sets.
The original Conspiracy set made use of mechanics, keywords, and abilities that encouraged sabotage and deceit, such as Will of the Counsel, a voting ability that would enact the effect that received the most votes, thus pitting players against each other to make sure they would be least impacted by the vote's outcome. Conspiracies introduced additional obstacles for opponents to overcome, with the Hidden Agenda Conspiracy-subset helping to keep other players on their toes.
These concepts are carried over into Conspiracy: Take the Crown expressed in similar, but subtly different, keywords and mechanics than the original supplemental set. Unlike Conspiracy—where the player "on the throne" was defaulted to the player with the highest life total or tied for the highest life total—the position of "Monarch" is up for grabs for anyone. Many cards feature "Monarch-matters" abilities and keywords like Melee (creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn for each opponent your creatures are attacking) and Goad (target creature attacks each turn if able and attacks player other than you if able) ensure that players don't remain the Monarch for very long. "Voting-matters" cards return with the ability word Counsel's Dilemma, but unlike Will of the Counsel, every vote adds to the overall effect, not just the effect with the majority vote. Hidden Agendas return alongside Double Agendas, expanding how and when Conspiracies can be used. Multiple cards have "Draft-matters" word abilities, requiring you to reveal them during Drafting in exchange for an affect in-game.
For those who are used to multiplayer formats, like Commander/EDH and Two-Headed Giant, Conspiracy: Take the Crown Drafts are completely different; the only similarity is that politics can and do play a major role in how games progress. The drafts I played were competitive but also had a looser, more casual feel to them than other Standard block Drafts. While people were motivated to take first, there were also more oddball decks and strategies in play than you would normally see or expect. For example, someone in my store pulled the mythic-rarity Sovereign's Realm, allowing them to build a five-color "good stuff" deck, which was completely unpredictable to play against. I myself pulled a Burning Wish, which gave me the ability to effective tutor for answers to threats without having to make drastic changes to my deck. Draft also ignores the usual restriction of a maximum of four copies of non-basic land cards in your deck, meaning Draft-matters cards like Garbage Fire and Custodi Peacekeeper were very threatening in multiples.
Conspiracy: Take the Crown's keywords, mechanics, and abilities are all just as fun to play with and against as they were in the original set. Players will really feel like they're embroiled in secret plots and plans to claim the throne of the High City, and the variety of Conspiracies found in this set will guarantee that no two Draft experiences will be the same. The only (fairly minor) complaint that I have is that cards that add booster packs to the game, such as Lore Seeker, don't make a return to this set. The ability to inject additional booster packs was one that I found completely hilarious in the original Conspiracy, and it's a shame it didn't come back.
It's important to note that cards featuring Draft-matters word abilities aren't very useful in the Legacy, Vintage, or Commander/EDH formats; similarly, Voting-matters word ability cards don't have much use in single-player games. However, where these cards really shine are in the casual Cube Draft and Commander/EDH formats, respectively; as Cube Draft is a set designed for Drafting, it makes sense to include cards that have Draft-related effects, or impact multiplayer games. The same goes for Voting-matters cards in Commander/EDH, where games can typically have upwards of four people playing. As Monarch-matters cards simply involve an Emblem-like marker, they're still useful in Vintage and Legacy as long as you have a means of generating that marker (such as Custodi Lich).
But what about the new cards that don't make use of these mechanics or don't feature them heavily? Even these are an absolute joy to use. Sanctum Prelate and Recruiter of The Guard have a lot of flexibility, offering different lines of play that fit into a multitude of different strategies. Daretti and Grenzo's new cards are both strong in the Limited Draft environment and look to be interesting additions to already existing Constructed format decks (as well as the ever-popular casual Goblins). On the Commander/EDH front, there is plenty to look forward to: Queen Marchesa is poised to become a strong Commander, as are Adriana, Captain of the Guard and Leovold, Emissary of Trest. These cards, and many more, show great promise in the formats where they are legal, which really just shows how much thought went into making this set. It isn't just a fun Draft set, but one with the same quality as any Standard legal set.
But it isn't all about the new cards and mechanics. What's particularly interesting about Conspiracy: Take the Crown is that while its predecessor Conspiracy contained a few interesting reprints (such as Reflecting Pool and Brainstorm), the set overall was focused on creating a strong Draft environment with original material. Conspiracy: Take the Crown, on the other hand, not only has a fun Draft environment and original material, but also manages to contain reprints of highly sought-after, pricey format staples. This includes but is not limited to Inquisition of Kozilek, Burning Wish, Berserk, Serum Visions, and Show and Tell. In addition, as Conspiracy: Take the Crown is not a limited production run like Modern Masters, Modern Masters 2015, or Eternal Masters, these reprints are already having a noticeable effect on the secondary market. While the Alpha, Beta, Unlimited and even From the Vault: Exiled printings of Berserk command well over eighty dollars on TCGPlayer at the time of writing this article, the Conspiracy: Take the Crown printing can be bought for twenty dollars. The same goes for Inquisition of Kozilek (thirty dollars to just over six dollars), Show and Tell (fifty dollars down to under twenty dollars and other), and Serum Visions (from fifteen dollars to two dollars and under).
It's also important to note that as more Conspiracy: Take the Crown product is opened, the more these prices will drop. In this regard, Conspiracy: Take the Crown has had, and will continue to have, a heavy impact on the barrier to entry to Modern and the Eternal formats, as the limited production Masters line has had little to no impact on secondary market prices. The issues I talked about in my Magic: The Gathering editorial, "Eternal Masters: Lessons in Product Design," are essentially non-existent in this set.
Even the non-chase reprints in Conspiracy: Take the Crown are high quality and fun to build and play around—unlike those found in the Masters line—and actually see play in other formats such as Pauper, meaning that players won't walk away from Drafts with useless chaft, as was the case with the Masters product line. Wizards of the Coast managed to tackle the issues of balancing reprints against set purpose, and I hope the positive reception from the community will encourage them to continue to produce products in this fashion and not return to printing sets that have little value, balance, or usefulness.
Notes on player count: For Drafting, Conspiracy: Take the Crown requires an eight-person pod in order to be successful. It can be done with more or less people but is most successful with eight.
Notes on time: Playing a Draft of Conspiracy: Take the Crown includes Drafting three Booster Packs, building a minimum forty-card deck, and then breaking into two three-to-five player pods for game play. All together it shouldn't take more than three-to-four hours, depending on the skill level of the people you play with.
Notes on price and print run: Booster Packs have an MSRP of $3.99, with additional "Booster Draft Packs" available at MSRP $11.99. Conspiracy: Take the Crown will have the same print run that Standard block sets use. The low prices and high print run ensure that Drafts from this set will still be popular, even after new Magic: The Gathering sets have been released.
Bottom line: Conspiracy: Take the Crown is a fun set that combines an exciting multiplayer Draft experience with some much-needed reprints of format staples. New mechanics like Goad, Melee, and Council's Dilemma continue the themes of scheming and plotting found in the original Conspiracy, and new cards like Queen Marchesa, Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast, and Leovold, Emissary of Trest continue to build the flavor of Fiora and the High City. I absolutely recommend Conspiracy: Take the Draft.
If you don't play it, you're really missing out.
The author of this review participated in Conspiracy: Take the Crown Drafts at his local game store and has also purchased Booster Pack products from this set.
Conspiracy: Take the Crown continues the intense, exhilarating gameplay found in the original Conspiracy set, while also delivering many needed reprints of format staples.