Care and Feeding of a Conspiracy

How do you abuse cards that don’t even go in your deck? Let’s get bah-roken.

Think of conspiracies as build-around-me rares in a standard set. You get one conspiracy or draft-matters Construct per pack, making them as sparse as rares and unlikely to go late. Since the power level of the Hidden Agenda conspiracies depends on your later picks, and because you’re guaranteed to ‘draw’ every conspiracy every game, you must commit right away to get value from the pick.

So, let’s go deep on each Conspiracy!

Image-6Muzzio’s Preparations – Every limited format has a critical number that determines which power breaks stalemates. This format’s critical number seems to be six on the ground and five in the air. I recommend using Muzzio’s Prep exclusively to push creatures over this edge. This conspiracy is useful even if you don’t have multiples of a creature – beating that critical number is just that useful.

Try this:

  • Name a 5/X ground creature like Boldwyr Intimidator to break through Guardian Zendikon and Noble Templar.
  • Name an X/6 like Sporecap Spider to hold off a Twisted Abomination or Brimstone Volley forever.
  • Name a 4/X like Jetting Glasskite to smash Sporecap Spiders.
  • Name a haste or evasive creature to score cheap kills. I had two of these naming a single Custodi Squire and it was a house.

Watch out for:

  • Tokens. You must name a card, and Squirrel isn’t a card.
  • Guardian Zendikon. The Plains is the creature, not the Zendikon, and it’s already in play when you drop the Zendikon.
  • Weenies. Although global +1/+1 effects are usually great in Limited, the weenie-rush strategy doesn’t work as well in multiplayer.
  • Count-cards guys like Academy Elite. They don’t need the extra +1/+1.

Image-4Immediate Action – Abruptly slaying one opponent is cute, but the other two could slaughter you while you’re tapped out. You need to get immediate and permanent value from the creature, or this card is a wasted pick.

Try this:

  • Name a creature with a tap ability, like Reckless Scholar or Vent Sentinel, to effectively turn it into a sorcery.
  • Name a brutal attacker like Chartooth Cougar or Pelakka Wurm to punish an opponent who taps out.
  • Name a vigilance creature like Glimmerpoint Stag to get your damage and still hold up your defenses.
  • Name a Dethrone creature like Treasonous Ogre to get its counter right away
  • Name Woodvine Elemental to create a very unreliable Craterhoof Behemoth, or Copperhorn Scout for half-assed vigilance

Watch out for:

  • Drafting this with many copies of a low-powered creature. One good blocker and your deck is full of bricks.
  • Magus of the Mirror. RTFC. The ability only works during your upkeep.
  • Tokens. Again, you must name a card.

Image-2Brago’s Favor – Cost-reduction abilities help you deploy a power play a turn early, play more stuff in a turn, increase the power of variable spells, and keep less mana up for instants. When considering this conspiracy, think hard about whether you need these effects. Dropping a Screaming Seahawk on turn 4 isn’t that much better than turn 5, but having a surprise two-mana Brimstone Volley could be a blowout.

Try this:

  • Name big-ticket creatures like Pelakka Wurm to protect against mana screw
  • Name critical instants like Dream Fracture or Echoing Courage to have your answer cake and eat your tempo too
  • Name a fat-ass blocker like Noble Templar to deploy your defenses a turn early
  • Name an enabler creature like Wakestone Gargoyle so you can activate him the turn you cast him
  • Name a spell you want to cast in multiples, like Tyrant’s Choice

Watch out for:

  • Multikicker dudes. It’s like half a Brago’s Favor, which is bad. The only exception I’d make is Apex Hawks.
  • Threatening dudes like Marchesa. You don’t want to play them early and put a target on your head – save them for later, when opponents are out of resources.
  • Just throwing this one in. It really does need synergy to merit a high pick.
  • Artifact creatures. You won’t get enough copies of a decent Construct.

Image-8Secret Summoning – This is probably the best conspiracy in the set. It doesn’t really matter what you name with it – as long as you have three or four copies, you’re going to get massive card advantage and a guaranteed army at some point in the game. Make sure your creature can instantly stabilize you, because you’ll become Public Enemy #1 when you flip this.

Think of this card like so: Suppose you somehow cut this and 23 Copperhorn Scouts. You’re going to slaughter every opponent one by one, and even if they wipe the board with Rout or Volcanic Fallout, you can just cast another Scout and reload.

Try this:

  • NAME A CARD THAT GOES LATE. This party has a very short attendance list.
  • Name Peace Strider to gain all the life
  • Add a Reito Lantern to continue the fun forever and ever, especially if you named a landcycler
  • Name Vent Sentinel and sit on it until the Favorable Winds dude gets killed
  • Name Sporecap Spider or Typhoid Rats to set up a ridiculously powerful defense
  • Name anything with more than 3 power to grind the game to a halt as players fear for their life totals
  • Name anything with evasion to roll over opponents using a bare minimum of removal

Watch out for:

  • Passing this card. Trust me, it’s that good. You’ll get another Swords.
  • Drafting this without at least 3 copies of something

Image-3Double Stroke – This is actually a bit less powerful than I originally thought, since the cards it likes get snatched up really quickly. If you do get two or more Mortify, Swords, or that demon-making sorcery, go buck-wild. Otherwise, you’ll need to get creative. This one is actually pretty good as a one-off, since it transforms some meh cards into ultra-bombs. Also, what the hell is going on in that art?

Try this:

  • Name Brimstone Volley and annihilate an opponent out of f’ing nowhere
  • Name Syphon Soul to gain life and lose friends
  • Name Trumpet Blast to annihilate another opponent out of f’ing nowhere
  • Name Turn the Tide to make the Trumpet Blast guy feel like an asshole
  • Name Echoing Courage to make the Turn the Tide guy feel like an asshole
  • Name Tyrant’s Choice because Barter in Blood rules
  • Name Predator’s Howl to let the dogs out
  • Name Stronghold Discipline and play like seven of them because no one takes Stronghold Discipline
  • Name any bomb sorcery because two bomb sorceries!

Watch out for:

  • Brainstorm. Unless you have a landcycler and a very good understanding of the stack, you’re only seeing four cards.
  • Fact or Fiction. You’re running a 40-card deck, dude!

Image-11Unexpected Potential – This is just plain good as a one-off. Don’t get locked into thinking this is only good for suprise instants or splashing bombs – tossing a Squirrel Nest in your black-white control, or Copperhorn Scout into VentSentinel.dec, could get bonkers. This card is great for Cube.

Try this:

  • Splash a bomb (This is like suggesting that you use a laser pointer to confuse a cat)
  • Name a multikicker creature, even one on color. A 5/5 Apex Hawks doesn’t cost 9 – it costs 5WWWW.
  • Name an instant and surprise the hell out of someone
  • Name Howling Wolf or Screaming Seahawk so you’re not forced into green or blue

Watch out for:

  • Ability costs. Naming Boldwyr Intimidator is worthless if you can’t use its abilities.

Image-5Iterative Analysis – This one’s kind of an oddball. It’s kind of like cycling for narrow cards like Valor Made Real and Turn the Tide, but I’m not sure they’re even worth playing with the free draw. If the instant or sorcery is relevant, cheap, and a late pick, this could get out of hand as you tear through your deck. This thing sucks as a one-off; the random draw will never justify the pick you sacrificed.

Also, why would Muzzio have his intern get the book if he could have his Lore Seeker or Cogwork Librarian do it? Because Muzzio is a schmuck.

Try this:

  • Turn Provoke and Dream Fracture into adorable little Divinations… with upside!
  • Turn Brainstorm into 2/3 of an Ancestral Recall
  • Cut a hilarious number of Stave Offs and go nuts with a Marchesa’s Emissary
  • Run an increased number of cards like Trumpet Blast and Turn the Tide without running out of gas
  • Name a sorcery that makes creatures, like Predator’s Howl, to get all the upside

Watch out for:

  • Targeting spells. The “ghetto cycling” thing won’t work on your Plummet if there aren’t any flyers.

Image-12Worldweave – There’s no strategy here. Just draft every draw spell and big-butt blocker you see to make up for all the 14th-picked crap you’ll brick against. It’s the Chromanticore of Conspiracy. It’s a throwback to summer camp in 1999 when you built decks with whatever your big brother had lying around. It’s like Sealed with half the cards. This is four-star Cube gold.

Try this:

  • Cogwork Grinder. No, you’re not the first person to think of it.
  • Go heavy on the activated abilities and multikicker. Your lands actually tap for any color – none of this “as if it were mana of any color” Mycosynth Lattice bullhock.
  • Landcyclers. All of them. They all have Commandtowercycling and they’re great attackers.
  • Draft the last 7 cards of each pack face-down. #yolo #swag #blazeit #420.

Watch out for:

  • Canal Dredger. Pass it!! Let them absorb the crap!

Image-9Secrets of Paradise – Of all the Hidden Agenda conspiracies, this is probably the best as a one-off. The worst-case scenario is turning a 45th-pick Grixis Illusionist into a Llanowar Elves, which is a high pick in any set. More likely, you’ll use it to add two Birds of Paradise to your deck and splash like David Hasselhoff in Baywatch.

Try this:

  • Name a Cinder Wall or Pride Guardian, since they can’t be Volcanic Fallouted or Provoked.
  • Cut instants higher so your Birds can block
  • Name a creature that curves into your big play, even if it’s not a one-drop.
  • Name Skitter of Lizards to get an adorable little mini Burning-Tree Emissary
  • Name Copperhorn Scout to get mana in both main phases, at the expense of one Scout. Man, I seem to love Copperhorn Scout today.
  • Cut a second copy. I’ve got, two Secrets of Paradise! / Cut the deck, we ramp tonight!

Watch out for:

  • Ramping too far, too fast. This puts a massive target on your head, even if you just needed the “birds” as blockers. You’re allowed to not reveal a Hidden Agenda, so keep this one in the pocket until you need the mana.
  • Tapping good blockers to play a crappy blocker. You could get blown out.
  • Relying on this as your only source of fixing. Someone will catch on and blow you out with a Tragic Slip.

ImageAdvantageous Proclamation – As a guy who advocates drafting 45-card Conspiracy decks to prevent milling, I can’t endorse playing this card. It’s a big neon sign saying “mill this asshole”. Cut it as trade fodder for Cube but leave it on the sideboard. The art is Tweedle-Dee reading the Megillah.

Try this:

  • Pass this card

Watch out for:

  • Playing this card

Image-1Backup Plan – Call it like it is – it’s another free mulligan. Play fewer lands, get more bombs, deploy tempo-critical strategies more consistently. Remember that the longer you keep other players waiting, the bigger target you’ll be. Another Cube all-star. This one doesn’t have much synergy. Just slam it and build a glass cannon. Note that the picture is a picture of a picture of a picture. We have to go deeper.

Image-7Power Play – When I first saw this card, I assumed it would draw hate. In fact, it can actually make other players more friendly because it gets the game started quickly. More trade fodder for Cubers. Going first doesn’t really give you a big advantage in multiplayer unless you’re insanely rampy or you have a murder-boner for one of the opponents.

Try this:

  • Make sure the person to your left is a cute girl and the person to your right is crackstyle, so you make the right friends and enemies

Image-10Sentinel Dispatch – This is way, way better than it looks. When turn two rolls around, someone will have a creature and they’ll pick someone else. The same might hold for their two, or even three-drop. This card effectively reads “you start the game with an additional 5 life.” Remember that you get the Construct at the first upkeep, even if it’s not yours. This is the hardest-working 1/1 Defender in the game.

Try this:

  • Vent Sentinel Flamewright blah blah blah blah
  • Cut one- and two-drops entirely and let this little bastard hold the fort

That’s my take on the conspiracies. What clutters up your command zone? Which D-list common do you name on Hidden Agendas? Leave a comment or get your face double-Brimstone Volleyed!

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3 thoughts on “Care and Feeding of a Conspiracy

  1. HI Zack amazing articles. I have bought a box of conspiracy and want to build on it to make it into a multiplayer cube. Since you know the set so well, I thought I would ask you about it. What cards would you add / take out. Thanks

    • Nice question. It shouldn’t be a singleton cube, because the Conspiracies are most awesome when you draft multiples.

      I’d start the cube Modern Masters style, with an archetype for each color pair. Because your group will draft the same cube many times, I’d do something like a 60-30-10 mix of “good stuff”, archetype stuff, and draft-matters cards to give the group lots of strategies. Adding 3-7 copies of key archetype cards makes them consistent and maxes out your conspiracies.

      As for which archetypes, I’d look at EDH decks for inspiration. The Conspiracy card pool is light on ramp and control, and has no infinite combo shenanigans, so there’s room to explore different deck styles. I want to see more nonbasic lands, especially if you throw some Sunburst artifacts and rainbow costs in there to reward going deep on five colors. Also manlands.

      This sounds like fun. I’m curious how it turns out!

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