How to Draft Conspiracy

Conspiracy is weird. It’s multiplayer, it’s got oddball cards, it’s got janky strategies, and did I say it’s multiplayer? A solid Conspiracy deck looks nothing like a normal draft. Here’s how I approach it.

I’ve become a little obsessed with Conspiracy. The stuff I love doing in Magic – going deep on bizarre strategies, running long and strategic plays, seeing a deck shape up – define the format. Conspiracy is like drafting in a parallel universe where the normal draft heuristics only loosely apply. Here’s what I’ve learned.

1. Tick the boxes. Standard drafts use the BREAD mnemonic for pick order, and you can get away with skipping one category if you’re stronger in others. In Conspiracy, games go long, you don’t get to sideboard, and you need to simultaneously persuade multiple players from hitting you. I try to put at least two copies of each of these in every deck I build:

  • Big Fat Fatties – I’m talking Pelakka Wurm-level here, Boldwyr Intimidator at worst. You need creatures so large that they force a chump block, so large that an opponent can’t even race them.
  • Spot Removal – Each color has one common spot removal spell, and you’ll have a difficult time winning without it. That’s Silverchase Fox in white, Stasis Cell in blue, Tragic Slip/Assassinate in black, Torch Fiend in red, and Nature’s Claim in green. Why take these highly? Because no one else will be prepared to deal with those targets.
  • Exotic Evasion – Conspiracy games will often end up stalled, with one opponent who can easily block and crush anyone who swings. Cards like Boldwyr Intimidator, Unquestioned Authority, Traveler’s Cloak, and even Quag Vampires force them to take action and open their defenses.
  • Pump and Combat Tricks – Most Conspiracy creatures are smallish, maxing out at 5 power or toughness. Elephant Guide, Kor Chant, Turn the Tide, Echoing Courage, etc are blowouts more often than you’d think.
  • Cheap Wins – Players will die, and your deck must have a way to finish the last opponent out of nowhere. Stronghold Discipline, Brimstone Volley, Trumpet Blast, Unquestioned Authority, Traveler’s Cloak, and Marchesa’s Smuggler can finish an opponent the moment you play them.
  • Flood Insurance – Nothing sucks worse than bricking on 11 lands in a multiplayer game. Nothing feels better than piling that into a 6/6 hasty Skitter of Lizards.

2. Keep a low profile. Because this is multiplayer, dogpiles happen. If you go Sakura-Tribe Elder into turn-three Deathreap Ritual, expect to get crushed. If you drop that 15/15 Lurking Automaton without a Wind Dancer, expect to become a lightning rod for flyers and removal. It’s fine to draft high-power-level cards, but remember that you’ll probably end up running them out late, after opponents have expended some resources. While drafting, consider when politics will allow you to actually run out the card. It might not be on curve.

3. Think explosive. While you want to avoid putting a target on your head, you still need to end up at a high power level. Craft your deck so it can rapidly deploy its game plan over one or two turns. I’m talking revealing Secret Summoning and searching up three Peace Striders. I’m saying attacking with three evasive 1/1’s and dropping two Trumpet Blasts. I’m talking about sandbagging Victimizes as you whine about mana screw and landcycle Twisted Abominations.

4. Keep an eye out for special effects. Warmonger’s Chariot is easy to pass, since you think “oh, I have no defenders.” Guess what? It’s one of only two Equipment, and the only one below rare. Torch Fiend, Nature’s Claim, and Relic Crush are the only ways to deal with artifacts. Brimstone Volley is the only burn spell. Many common Magic effects are extremely rare in Conspiracy, so know that when you pass that Aether Tradewinds, you’re passing the only bounce spell you’ll see all night.

5. Get silly. Normally, committing to a build-around-me early is dangerous – you risk being cut off from key resources. Conspiracy has extremely deep and highly nested synergies, and it’s a smaller set. You’ll find that you pull together the other pieces way more often than you’re used to. Take those first- and second-pick Victimizes, because you’re guaranteed to see landcycling creatures and a Lead the Stampede. Slurp up those Favorable Winds, because you’ll see some Crookclaw Transmuters. Hell, grab 10 Copperhorn Scouts – you’ll see at least one Muzzio’s Preparations, Secret Summoning, Trumpet Blast, or Echoing Courage.

6. Brainstorm is overrated. It’s powerful in Constructed because you follow a Brainstorm with a fetch land and shuffle the unwanted cards off the top of your library. If you can’t shuffle, it’s Index for 3, draw a card. It’s very powerful with landcycling dudes or combos like Lead the Stampede, but without assistance, it doesn’t justify its card slot.

7. Play the 45-50 card special. Especially if you’re using a lot of Parley or stuff like Lead the Stampede. These games will go long, you’ll draw a lot of cards, you’ll get hit with incidental mill, and you’ll deck yourself if you run the standard 40. Don’t fall for Advantageous Proclamation for the same reason. It’s designed for Cube. I’ve been running 26 nonlands, 19 lands and it’s worked great.

8. Landcycling creatures are great. They’re very high picks. Not only do they protect you against mana screw, but they’re all totally respectable six-drops and synergize with many cards. I love these guys and try to run four or five in each deck.

9. Creatures, creatures, creatures. Can’t stress this enough. You need boots on the ground to defend against one player, attack another, and threaten the third. The fewer creatures you have, the longer it will take you to get a stable board presence. Remember that one creature defends you against each player without a vigilance dude, since a chump block ties up the attacking creature for three turns of backswing.

10. The power of instant-speed is absurd. Every single instant or Flash card has blowout potential. Dropping Uncontrolled Anger on a Courier Hawk means Tom wasted his Pitchburn Devils, Dick now can’t attack with his Glimmerpoint Stag, and Harry needs to hold his Gnarlid Pack for an extra turn. That is, if Tom didn’t have Orcish Cannonade to completely blow you out. Draft instants and especially Flash very, very high.

 

That’s how I like to draft Conspiracy. How about you?

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