Magic: The Gathering — Conspiracy: Take the Crown Review
It’s that time again already -- set review time! This has been an eventful summer for Magic: The Gathering players with the release of Vintage Masters, and as summer comes to an end it's time to look at the second non-block set of the year, Conspiracy: Take The Crown.
If you don’t know, Conspiracy was a new type of set introduced in 2014 by Wizards of the Coast that flew somewhat under the radar as far as Magic products go. Conspiracy was a Draft orientated, multiplayer focused format where ideally eight players draft a box of 36 booster packs and split off into two free-for-all games of four players. The set was unique in that it included cards that directly affected the course of the actual draft, as well as powerful conspiracy cards that had large over-arching effects on the game.
Its sequel Conspiracy: Take The Crown follows the same formula with its biggest twist coming from the inclusion of a high number of re-printed cards. Let’s breakdown the aspects of the set.
Conspiracy: Take the Crown Limited
First and foremost, Conspiracy is a Draft format, and includes a number of "draft matters" that only affect the drafting phase of the game. These "draft matters" cards make a return in Take The Crown. Cards such as Leovold's Operative must be drafted face up but give you a useful effect, such as allowing you to make two picks from the same booster. Cards like Regicide function a little differently as you still reveal them as you draft, but part of their function is decided during the draft. This can make drafts take a long time, but for a casual night with friends and drinks these little interactions during the draft help keep things interesting.
Also making a return is the Council’s Dilemma mechanic in which players can vote on the effect of a card. This added a group and power-play dynamic to the original set, so I’m glad to see it back. Once again there are also cards that can manipulate those decisions, such as Illusion of Choice, so be careful when you appeal to a possibly corrupt democracy.
The set also introduces two new abilities that function more like traditional keywords: Goad and Melee. Both of these guide how combat will play out. Melee rewards you for attacking multiple players, highlighting that this is a multiplayer format and reminding you that you don’t have to attack a single target each combat. Melee also works well with the next ability we will discuss in that it incentivises not focusing on a single player that might naturally occur in these types of multiplayer games.
The biggest shake-up and departure from the original Conspiracy set is the Monarch mechanic, one of the taglines for Conspiracy: Take the Crown is "Heavy is the head that wears the crown” and that’s born out in the gameplay. The game starts with no monarch. Cards can either make you the monarch, like Keeper of Key, that also grants you additional beneficial effects. Or you can become the monarch by successfully dealing combat damage to the existing monarch. There are also cards that will reward you for being the monarch, along with getting the static card-draw effect listed on the monarch token. Being the monarch is very desirable, but it also paints a target on your chest, so choose wisely when you want to reign. Queen Marchesa is unique in that she is granted a powerful effect when another player is the monarch.
Just looking at the set-list as someone who’s drafted most of the recent Magic: The Gathering sets, I can see cards I recognise as Draft and Constructed favourites from previous sets. Part of what made Theros a fun draft environment is surprisingly present here. Omenspeaker and Voyaging Satyr are two cards I was always happy to have, and are unassumingly strong cards to have in your deck. We have cards such as Mnemonic Wall, Flame Slash, and Murder all printed at common. These is always a degree of filler in any Magic: The Gathering set, but the number of cards I would consider "unplayable" in a draft is pretty low here.
To its immense credit, Conspiracy: Take the Crown Limited feels a lot more like a budget cube than a regular block set, but with a flavour of political intrigue and subterfuge that makes the set its own.
Conspiracy: Take the Crown in Eternal Formats
The big headline grabber of this set that many, including myself, didn’t see coming was the reprinting of two cards that are the lynch-pins of their respective Legacy decks: Berserk and Show and Tell. These are the two flashy chase mythics of Conspiracy: Take the Crown, with Show and Tell having its very own Legacy deck, but the trend runs deeper than the obvious impact on financial value, which we will cover later.
Off the top of my head, here are ten Conspiracy: Take the Crown reprints played in Legacy and/or Modern:
- Show and Tell
- Inquisition of Kozilek
- Birds of Paradise
- Serum Visions
- Ghostly Prison
- Flame Slash
- Phyrexian Arena
- Platinum angel
- Burning Wish
We even have a Pauper staple here in Kiln Fiend, as well as people brewing some of the common monarch cards for pauper (this has caused a slight controversy about the rules and card-list for the pauper format, but that’s tangential to this review.)
When was the last time you could list ten cards from an Unlimited print run set that saw moderate to decent play in Modern? Never mind cards below mythic rarity. I could keep going, but I set the cut-off at ten for the sake of brevity. Many of the cards listed above are also Commander staples, and the set has specifically Commander target reprints such as Kami of the Crescent Moon or high cost, big impact multiplayer focused cards such as Expropriate.
It also shouldn’t be overlooked that you can become the Monarch in Commander, instantly adding a new dimension to games. Pauper feels like an odd fit, but the Monarch system feels right at home in multiplayer Commander game. Just be sure to check with your playgroup first.
These isn’t much else to say beyond that Conspiracy: Take the Crown is squarely aimed at Eternal formats without needlessly sacrificing its own play environment. Please Wizards, keep including re-prints like this. Giving newer players cards in their booster packs that are played widely in Eternal formats encourages those players to explore those formats more. This is good for the game, and needs to be seen more often.
How much value is in Conspiracy: Take the Crown?
The last few years have made be think Wizards of the Coast had no idea how their own game or its aftermarket worked, or that they did and they just didn’t care. Conspiracy: Take the Crown gives me hope that my pessimism is misplaced. I’d completely avoided the drip-feed of spoilers because -- as a huge fan of the original Conspiracy -- I was looking forward viewing it in its entirety when it was released. When I did finally look over the complete spoiler to prime myself for a draft I had to double-check I wasn’t seeing fake information.
There are only 80 newly printed card in Conspiracy: Take the Crown, so for the set to succeed they needed to get those reprints right. And boy did they. I’ve already mentioned a good number of them above because their value is interlinked with their playability, but let’s have a look at the price impact:
- Berserk: Down from approx. $100 to approx. $25
- Show and Tell: Down from $50 to, again, around $25
- Serum Visions: a common that had spiked at approx. $15 in the past down to approx. $2. (kudos to Wizards for not rare-shifting this one above uncommon)
- Inquisition of Kozilek: another uncommon that spiked at around $25 that is now selling for approx. $5 despite being shifted to rare.
These are staple cards that are bound to slowly climb back up in value, making the set even more attractive to buyers. This isn’t merely value in the financial sense, as Conspiracy: Take the Crown has a value to the game by putting staple cards in the hands of players who need them. The only people who lose out in this case are a handful of speculators.
The stench of filler, and the practice of only printing playable cards at mythic rarity, is why I criticised both Modern Masters 2015 and Eternal Masters so heavily. They seemed to be more on the side of card speculators than that of the average Magic player. They were sets made of mostly bulk sold at premium prices. Conspiracy: Take the Crown is the exact opposite of this, premium reprints at every rarity being sold at standard prices. It throws into sharp relief just how poor Wizard’s reprint policy had been, both in the normal block sets and their own reprint sets.
This isn’t to say the new cards are without value either. Cards I mentioned like Sanctum Prelate, Recruiter of the Guard, and Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast are all selling for $10-$20. I recommend a bit of caution, as there is always a spike in prices when a new set get released due to hype and speculation. But I don’t foresee all of these cards dropping to bulk prices. As always MTG Goldfish has the expected “value per pack” of Conspiracy: Take the Crown and it shows a higher average when compared to similar sets.
Once again, this is an unlimited print run set so prices are going to fall in the short-term and pack values are never going to be astronomical. The real value to this set is being able to walk away from a draft with cards that are useful in multiple formats.
Conclusions and Recommendations
If this kind of set appeals to you at all then my recommendation would be to buy Conspiracy: Take the Crown and play it as soon as you can. It’s rare you get a set that when after you’ve drafted it, you’re left with a host of relevant cards. This set ticks all the right boxes. I’ve seen it here in the UK for at, or even below, MSRP/RRP. The set will be available for the foreseeable future so there is no rush to go out and hoard product. It’s fun in Limited, has a heap of useful cards for a ton of other formats, it's short on filler and offers a unique gameplay experience. The set works best when drafted with a group of eight friends. As always, just sitting and cracking packs will never produce profit over the long-term and would be a real waste of the well crafted Limited environment on show in Conspiracy: Take the Crown.
With all of that said, my main reaction to Conspiracy: Take the Crown is one mostly of relief. It seems Wizards of the Coast is finally, if belatedly, responding to the demands of their player base as well as the realities of card pricing and stock. Conspiracy: Take the Crown isn’t exceptional despite the praise I’ve heaped on; it’s merely what a Magic the Gathering summer set should be. Yes, there are a few potentially legacy playable new cards in the set, but I don’t think we’ll remember Conspiracy: Take the Crown like we do the original Innistrad or Zendikar blocks. Conspiracy: Take the Crown doesn’t redefine the game around it, its main feature and selling point is its re-pints. The community has become so accustomed to getting table-scraps from Wizards that a decent square meal now looks like a king’s banquet.
Many of the big pluses of the set come from the Conspiracy format, and there is a wider discussion to be had about the positive effects Conspiracy as a product has on the set, and I’ll certainly be delving into that. I’ll be discussing both sets in the September’s edition of Super Nerd Land, so if you’re a fan of the set watch out for that.
I hope to Helios this set shows the shape of things to come, and it's not just a happy outlier.
Latest posts by John Sweeney (see all)
- Bans, Rotation & Distribution — The State of Magic: The Gathering - May 25, 2017
- Movie Review: Doctor Strange - October 31, 2016
- Survival Horror: From Drought to Shovelware Glut - October 30, 2016