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Despite play­ing and col­lect­ing Magic: The Gathering for a good num­ber of years, I’m still a filthy ca­su­al at heart. I en­joy the de­tails of a well-tuned Modern deck, but the cards that re­al­ly ex­cite me are those I can see get­ting a lot of fun out of rather than just straight val­ue and ef­fi­cien­cy. That’s the kind of Magic: The Gathering that gets me ex­cit­ed, the kind a group of peo­ple can just sit down and play with­out hav­ing to jump through too many hoops.

I say this so you know where I’m com­ing from when I say I’ve not en­joyed a Magic: The Gathering set in the last few years as much as I en­joyed the orig­i­nal Conspiracy. The cy­cle of nor­mal set re­leas­es for Standard, and the prod­ucts that go along with them, can get a lit­tle mo­not­o­nous af­ter a while for Magic play­ers, so when Wizards does some­thing new and in­ter­est­ing I tend to sit up and take no­tice. And boy was a glad I did that with the orig­i­nal Conspiracy.

Conspiracy is what a sum­mer Magic: The Gathering set should be; no ex­treme­ly lim­it­ed print runs and no $10 boost­er packs. Conspiracy was first and fore­most a good set be­cause it ac­tu­al­ly got into the hands of play­ers, quite of­ten be­low MSRP. I’d seen Conspiracy box­es go­ing for so lit­tle in fact I was wor­ried it wasn’t sell­ing very well, and Wizards might not give it a se­quel. But those fears were, thank­ful­ly, un­found­ed.

With box­es still go­ing for as low as $60 – 70, this is a set where you can pick up a box, draft it with a group of friends, and have some well-crafted Magic: The Gathering game­play for min­i­mal in­vest­ment. Unlike Eternal Masters, which had an ex­cel­lent draft en­vi­ron­ment but was bor­der­line un­avail­able, peo­ple ac­tu­al­ly got to crack open and play Conspiracy.

The oth­er main part of why I loved Conspiracy was its laser fo­cus on draft, specif­i­cal­ly a draft meant for mul­ti­play­er free-for-all games. It’s the fur­thest away you can get from the 1 vs. 1 net-deck cluster-fuck of Standard in a booster-pack based set. The de­sign of the set re­flect­ed this beau­ti­ful­ly, and what end­ed hav­ing the most last­ing im­pact on my play ex­pe­ri­ence was the new con­spir­a­cy card type it­self.

Conspiracy al­most feels like a set de­signed to make a bud­get Cube out of. My Cube ex­ists in two modes: with con­spir­a­cies and with­out con­spir­a­cies. They are an op­tion ex­tra that can shake up the game­play well if you get bored. They can fit in any ex­ist­ing Cube, and add an el­e­ment of game­play to the draft it­self. Conspiracy cards aug­ment the nor­mal rules of the game in a way rarely seen out­side of prod­ucts like Planechase. They give a dif­fer­ent flavour to a fa­mil­iar game.

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Perhaps I’m such a fan of Conspiracy be­cause of my nat­ur­al play-style. I’m not some­one to show up to a Pro Tour Qualifier, or tune a Modern deck to grind match­es in Magic: The Gathering Online, part­ly be­cause I don’t like be­ing too de­pen­dent on Wizards of the Coast as a com­pa­ny, but also be­cause I val­ue the game as a so­cial event and not just a chance for vic­to­ry. I guess you could call me a ‘vet­er­an ca­su­al’ in that I play a lot of Commander, Highlander (yes, those are dif­fer­ent for­mats), Pauper, and Cube.

Last month I heaped glow­ing praise on Conspiracy’s se­quel, Conspiracy: Take the Crown be­cause I thought it did a good job of main­tain­ing this fo­cus on game­play whilst pro­vid­ing much-needed reprints. I’m glad to say the price and print lev­el of the set have re­mained the same too, with Wizards of the Coast stay­ing true to their com­mit­ment to print as much of this set as peo­ple will buy.

Hell, I even en­joyed the way Conspiracy: Take the Crown was mar­ket­ed. I gen­er­al­ly don’t like mar­ket­ing fluff but the way the sec­ond Conspiracy set was an­nounced was ac­tu­al­ly very well done: hav­ing the name of the set change as the in­trigue gath­ered and the sit­u­a­tion shift­ed was a great way of con­vey­ing the theme of the set. Very well-played on that one Wizards.

Magic: The Gathering is meant to be played, the longer I’m in the game the more I re­sent sta­ple cards end­ing up in glass cas­es or sealed in PSA grad­ed cas­es nev­er to be shuf­fled into a deck. To some peo­ple, ac­tu­al­ly play­ing dual-lands — or god for­bid Power Nine — is sac­ri­lege. Someone please think of the val­ue! Oh the hu­man­i­ty!

I must ad­mit it gave me a bit of smile to see peo­ple com­plain­ing they couldn’t make mon­ey from open­ing box­es of Conspiracy: Take the Crown and sell­ing sin­gles be­cause prices were drop­ping. It’s nat­ur­al to want to make mon­ey, but be­ing able to do so isn’t in­dica­tive of a healthy mar­ket­place for peo­ple who just want rea­son­ably priced cards to play with. You’re not sup­posed to be able to hoard prod­uct and cre­ate false scarci­ty, and there re­al­ly should be enough cards print­ed that the mar­ket can ab­sorb this.

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If Conspiracy: Take the Crown is dri­ving down prices even fur­ther and make prof­i­teer­ing on the mar­ket­place dif­fi­cult then its func­tion­ing as in­tend­ed. It square­ly fo­cused on the ca­su­al mar­ket; a place where prod­ucts re­al­ly need to fil­ter down for the game to keep grow­ing and stay­ing healthy. You can make prod­ucts that are friend­ly to the kitchen ta­ble play­er with­out mak­ing them use­less to vet­er­an Magic: The Gathering en­thu­si­asts.

I wrote what I called “The Enthusiast Bubble,” and how it can warp per­cep­tion of who ex­act­ly is buy­ing cards, and what those peo­ple want. As we’ve learned from Warhammer and the abysmal prac­tices of Games Workshop, when you only try to milk your ex­ist­ing au­di­ence your game runs into trou­ble. The ide­al for any prod­ucts is that it can make the largest num­ber of con­sumers hap­py whilst in­creas­ing your pool of po­ten­tial cus­tomers, and from that per­spec­tive Conspiracy is a great suc­cess.

I sup­pose my praise of Conspiracy is as much about the ethos of the prod­uct as its ac­tu­al con­tent. Products like the now de­funct Intro Packs and their re­place­ment, the Planeswalker Decks, seem to show a mind­set that mar­ket­ing to ca­su­al play­ers means a com­plete void of val­ue and a slapped to­geth­er prod­uct with few use­ful cards. There is a dis­tinc­tion be­tween “ca­su­al play” and “new play­ers” that Wizards re­al­ly start­ed to pick up on with their of­fi­cial sup­port for the Commander for­mat. To me, both Conspiracy sets are a nod in my di­rec­tion that there is at least go­ing to be some lev­el of sup­port for how I want to play the game.

Now if only we could get a new Planechase set…

Magic: The Gathering — Kaladesh Preview
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John Sweeney
John Sweeney is a ter­ri­bly British man with a back­ground in en­gi­neer­ing. He writes long-form ed­i­to­r­i­al con­tent with analy­sis of gam­ing, games me­dia and in­ter­net cul­ture. He also does the oc­ca­sion­al video game ret­ro­spec­tive with a week­ly col­umn about Magic the Gathering thrown in for good mea­sure. He also does most of our in­ter­views for some rea­son, we have no idea why. A staunch sup­port­er of free speech and con­sumer rights; skep­ti­cal of agen­da dri­ven me­dia and sus­pi­cious of un­ac­cou­table au­thor­i­ty but al­ways hope­ful for change.