Last week I looked at some of the big Commander cards offered in Conspiracy: Take the Crown. While a single article might be enough for a regular set, when you have a set that is aimed at multiplayer Magic, you know there are going to be way more cards than one article can handle!
This time around, I thought I would look at some of the lesser-lights. These are the cards that will make it into your decks, but aren't the flashy all-stars. They're your middle relievers. Your special teams guys. Your checking line. Your… yeah, I don't know basketball at all, but you get my meaning. Let's get started.
When I started looking at cards that make you the monarch, I decided that I would treat them as cards that let me draw a card. If I became the monarch, it was unlikely that I'd lose it before my end step, so I'd get to draw a card. Whether I'd be able to keep the monarchy is difficult to determine. Are my opponents in a position to successfully attack me? Do I have defenses up to prevent getting hit? With all the options, I thought treating a card that makes you the monarch the same as a card that draws you a card seemed fair.
The problem is that the monarchy is Pandora's Box: once it is out there, someone draws an extra card. That first turn it is you, but the next turn, it could be someone else. This really limits the value you normally give to drawing a card if, in reality, everyone is going to get to draw that extra card eventually.
Given all that, I now see cards that make you the monarch much the same way as I see Planeswalkers. They give you an early benefit, but if you can't protect them, they probably won't be worth it in the long run. Most multiplayer metas go after Planeswalkers, understanding that they offer free benefits each turn they stay on the battlefield. With this in mind, I tend to avoid playing a Planeswalker if I think my opponents are simply going to destroy it right away. Becoming the monarch is much the same thing.
So how good is Thorn of the Black Rose? You do get an early card, and a creature that can kill at least one creature that will attack. It is also a decent creature for getting the monarchy back if you lose it, since a 1/3 deathtouch can be a pain to deal with over repeated turns. I suspect people will be surprised by what this card can do.
Oh, and consider sharing the monarchy with allies. Taking a point of damage from a 1/1 each turn could mean that you and an ally each get to draw an extra card. Sometimes sharing the crown, and shifting the target off your back, isn't a bad idea.
Council's dilemma shifts the voting mechanism from Conspiracy's will of the council, where you'd try to get everyone to vote the way you want, to a system where every vote counts. What this means is that each person will vote according to their best interests. Do they want you to have a big flying creature or do they fear you looting cards?
Much like will of the council, the key to making this work is creating a situation that encourages everyone to vote a particular way. For example, if you have Brago, King Eternal in play, your opponents would be foolish to vote for looting, since you will be able to flicker the Messenger Jays and force them to vote again. Better to just give you the +1/+1 counters since those would be lost if Brago, King Eternal flickers Messenger Jays again.
The real difficulty in valuing council's dilemma cards lies in the number of players in your game. If you find yourself in a three-player game, you will get a 5/4 bird at best or three opportunities to loot (or some mix, totaling three). While that seems to be okay value, a five-player game could result in a 7/6 Messenger Jays, which would be better value. Can you imagine the size of a 7/6 Messenger Jays' doodie? That damn thing would drop bird poop on my car the size of a garbage bag!
Propaganda costs one less and gets less useful as the game progresses. Marchesa's Decree costs one more and gets more useful as the game progresses.
Much of what I said about Thorn of the Black Rose applies here. Marchesa's Decree doesn't give you a blocker, but if you already have a couple creatures out, someone is going to have to attack with multiple creatures (or evasion) to become the monarch, and that can get expensive.
The trick with decks that use Propaganda lies in the idea that they are trying to buy time in the early game to set up for something later. Marchesa's Decree is easy for players to pay in the early game, particularly those with gaudy forty-life totals to start the game, so it isn't much of a deterrent. Since you'll want to draw the cards as early as possible in the game, Marchesa's Decree offers some push and pull in gameplay.
Don't treat Marchesa's Decree as a black Propaganda, but as a way to handle those token decks that seem to get out of control as games progress. I'll try this out for a while to determine if I think four mana is just too much. In the meantime I look forward to explaining the virtue of attacking elsewhere to the goblin player!
I know everything else on this list is either a common or uncommon, but this card is as clutch a utility card as it gets, and it just slides under the radar for so many players.
When I started playing, I didn't have a lot of cards, so I made do with the cards I had. One of the cards I used a lot was Fellwar Stone. For two mana I could get a mana of any color! I know it doesn't actually say that, but in four-player multiplayer games, where my opponents were all running dual lands of all kinds and other lands that can tap for any color of mana, by turn three, I was tapping Fellwar Stone for any color I wanted.
Fast forward to today. My collection is bigger and I have all the nonbasic lands I want, but Exotic Orchard is still an all-star. Vivid lands. City of Brass. Command Tower. Mana Confluence. If any opponent is running any one of these, Exotic Orchard taps for anything with no downside. If you need three or more colors in your deck, Exotic Orchard can really help you out.
I'm a big fan of stealing other people's creatures. While blue cards tend to let you keep the creature, red insists on giving them back. Some nonsense about being really mad, so you can take them, but once they calm down, they go back. Sounds like red getting the short end of the color pie again.
Getting a creature for the short term has always meant setting it up so you could sacrifice the creature before having to return it; just because red gives the card back doesn't mean that I have to. The downside to taking a creature for the turn has always meant that you didn't want to do it unless you were ready with your sacrifice outlet. Adding goad changes that a little bit.
Goad means that creature is out of commission for another turn. They can't use it to attack you or save it to defend themselves. Seeing another player have to deal with the creature also means that much more damage, and another opportunity for the goaded creature to get killed. This looks like a win-win for you and makes returning the creature less problematic.
You can also use Besmirch as a way to get an extra attack out of a creature, just like you could with Act of Treason. Steal an ally's creature and swing at your mutual enemy with it. On your ally's turn, they attack with it at your mutual opponent as well. The benefit of Besmirch is that your ally can't turn on you and swing your way, since you are goading the creature. Sometimes allies need to be "encouraged" to stay that way.
I hate to stop here. There are so many other great cards that deserve mention and I don't want you thinking the hidden gems stop here. Juniper Order Ranger and Guttersnipe are reprints that have been doing great work in decks for a long time. Wings of the Guard and Spectral Grasp will fit into plenty of great builds in the coming months. When you look at the great cards in this set, look beyond just the rares and mythics. The good stuff lands at every rarity!