Magic: the Gathering is a game built out of a fundamental contradiction: you get the highest level of technical play in the head to head competitive formats, but it is at its most enticing as a hobby when it’s facilitating a social experience. One on one games are tangentially social at best; while some folk like to chat throughout a game, most prefer to focus on the play, and thus find that chattiness somewhat throwing. In turn, this means that many bad actors do the chatty thing, leaving you to guess whether or not the person across from you is chatting out of genuine nicety or if it is cover for something more diabolical.

And that’s assuming people even make it into the competitive world. I, for one, was chased off competitive play for a while when I went to an event as a ten year old and got my face kicked in. Proverbially. This was before the Internet was the thing it has become today, so it didn’t seem like there was even an on-ramp at the time. It just seemed like there was a wide gulf between the kitchen table Magic I played with my few friends and the type of game I could find at a store. And I didn’t know how to bridge that gap.

Wizards have done a variety of things to try to address this inconsistency, especially important given their market research suggesting the kitchen table crews tend to be more diverse than the heavy competitive crowd. Planechase and Archenemy were both swings that missed; while I love me some Planechase, it made the game less accessible, not more. Archenemy, meanwhile, came out of the competitive mindset, and missed out on a lot of what makes multiplayer games fun to play. It is not playing from a disadvantage, or picking on a single target, and it proved nigh-impossible to balance correctly on the fly.

The explosion of Commander proved another opportunity to tap into this market, and it was mostly successful, so much so that it’s now a yearly tradition. Product. Prodition? Commander is great for the kitchen table set, since getting a single copy of a cool card is easier for a casual to do than getting a playset. But this still presupposes two things: the ability to put together a legal deck, and a balance of power in the playgroup. These things can be hard to develop for even the most committed players, and tend to require a level of premeditation that you don’t need when you’re playing something like Limited.

Conspiracy, and now Conspiracy Two: Book of Secrets, attempt to bridge this gap by providing a Limited environment maximized for multiplayer enjoyment. The drafting cards disrupt the formality that can arise in some drafts, making it easier for the inexperienced to feel comfortable asking the table for help/advice. The conspiracies themselves offer the fun of Planechase without the constant changes that kept some people from adjusting to the new rules. It’s an elegant solution, and almost perfect.


There is one final component that Conspiracy sets are missing, and that’s a design that specifically can be drafted with pods of four to six people. I mean a structural affinity for drafting it in a Group Game Draft. GGD is a great format, but it’s more importantly a format that can be drafted without eight people. And that’s good, because most kitchen tables don’t hold eight people. It can be hard to get together that sort of group even for super committed players; there’s a reason that Team Draft leagues are teams of three, after all. If they can’t put a full pod together regularly, it’s probably going to be equally hard for people without deep Rolodexes of Magic players.

This is not to say that Conspiracy II: Electric Boogaloo won’t be fun to Group Game Draft. I expect it will, and I look forward to doing that. But how many casuals even know about the format? Just as they managed to popularize the rules of Commander through its open adoption, they should too do the same for GGD.

Don’t get me wrong, they’ve done well this time around. I look forward to the next iteration of this set, as well as other attempts Wizards makes to speak to the casual crowd. As I age, I find myself slipping further and further into its welcoming embrace, and I hope they continue to innovate with that community in mind. My hopes are bolstered by the evolution in these ancillary products over the years; I look forward to what the future may bring.

Jess Stirba is also looking forward to four-color commanders, but all in due time.

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