When Conspiracy hit shelves in 2014 – hard to believe it's been nearly three years since it came out – it was a surprise hit with players. Looking to capitalize on some of the hype surround Cube at the time, Wizards created a format that was as close to Cube-in-a-Box as you could hope for. Fun cards that read like they belonged in Unhinged or Unglued, "draft-matters" cards that shook up the draft itself, and a few Eternal-playable bombs – sprinkled with copious enticing reprints along the way – Conspiracy was the talk of the Magic world.
So when Conspiracy: Take the Crown released earlier this year, it certainly had a lot to live up to. Wizards released that, which is why everything about the set, from the trick reveal (RIP Brago) to the mechanics (most notably the Monarch) was hyped to the max.
For the most part, I would say it lived up to that hype. While it may have been overshadowed in some ways by a glut of product being released over the summer and fall, Conspiracy 2 was still a blast. As someone who isn't really into "casual" formats, I do have to say that I had some pretty awesome experiences in the four-player world of Conspiracy.
But what about everyone else? What did the Magic community enjoy most about the set? We can look to the top 8 Conspiracy: Take the Crown sellers for answers.
I can't say I expected to see this on the list, much less as high as No. 16. I'm not sure how much we can draw from this, especially considering the first run of boosters from the set actually had a typo on The Monarch Token, but either way it seems that players enjoyed the mechanic enough to buy some copies of The Monarch Token. If nothing else, you need them for Commander games now that the Monarch can be introduced.
That Portal: Three Kingdoms had a really small print run.
Really, I think the most telling reason Recruiter of the Guard is on this list – coming in at No. 7, just ahead of Stunt Double at No. 8 – is because Imperial Recruiter costs well over $200. The incredible tutoring power of Recruiter of the Guard isn't an exact reprint of Imperial Recruiter, but it's obviously more than just an homage to the card – it's an attempt to get copies out there to players who want it.
While both Recruiters have Legacy or Vintage implications, they are both also incredible Commander cards, and all of that plus the opportunity to get an Imperial Recruiters-esque card for hundreds of dollars less unsurprisingly led to strong sales.
Stunt Double is a bit more of a surprise. We've seen a million variants on Clone over the years, and while some like Phantasmal Image have made it into competitive play and Phyrexian Metamorph or Progenitor Mimic have made waves in Commander, we've also seen plenty of four-mana Clones fall short of heavy play. Evil Twin is cute and all, but it's not exactly a Commander staple.
It seems that flash changes all that. Not only is Stunt Double an opportunity for players to stuff their decks full of another Clone effect, it also has the benefit of being completely unexpected. Copying creatures at instant speed can disrupt combos or create them in the blink of an eye, and I suspect it's that flexibility that landed Stunt Double at No. 8 on our list.
You'll notice a theme of these columns for supplementary sets has been "Commander staples sell well." You may have wondered, like I did, why Phyrexian Arena needed its – no exaggeration – seventh reprint and second in less than a year after an appearance in Commander 2015, but the numbers back it up. The old phyrexian standby came in at No. 6 on our list. Unmatched in efficiency and the underrated "just forget about me and let the Oloro, Ageless Ascetic player draw infinite cards" factor, Phyrexian Arena is clearly not going anywhere anytime soon. Heck, it even sneaks its way into Modern from time to time.
Ghostly Prison did even better, coming in at No. 3 in our list of best-sellers. While Phyrexian Arena drowned in reprints over the past few years, Prison languished. Sure, the card originally from Champions of Kamigawa – not exactly a widely opened set – had a few reprints in the original Commander set as well as Planechase 2012, but neither of those, nor the FNM promo, really did much to increase supply. That's why Ghostly Prison was a $7 card for the past few years and jumped up to nearly $15 earlier this year. It's a card that sees occasional Modern play and constant Commander play alongside Propaganda, and finally it saw the reprints needed this year with its inclusion in Conspiracy: Take the Crown and Commander 2016. There was clearly pent-up demand for these Commander staples, and that's one of my major takeaways from writing this series. Commander sells. It sells often, and it sells strongly.
This is an odd one. Kiln Fiend was originally printed in Rise of the Eldrazi, and it has always been a sort of tier three, fun "combo" card. It was never quite a bulk common, and from quirky Standard decks to wacky kitchen-table decks to explosive Modern decks, it was always on the fringe, not norgotten about but not all that loved, either. And certainly not difficult to acquire.
But here we are, talking about Kiln Fiend at No. 5. The reason, in my best estimation? Blue-Red Prowess. While the version I linked to there didn't play the Fiend, most updated lists of the breakout Modern deck have begun to run the elemental beast. We've finally hit a critical threshold of must-answer prowess creatures in Modern, from Monastery Swiftspear to Stormchaser Mage to honorary inductee Thing in the Ice, that Kiln Fiend decks are no longer a one-trick pony. The problem they always faced before was that no single threat could ever match Kiln Fiend, so holding removal for the Fiend nearly always resulted in the Kiln Fiend player losing. It was fun when it went off, but it almost never actually went off.
The other reason is Temur Battle Rage. All these powerful prowess creatures set the stage for a Battle Rage blowout, and Kiln Fiend is just one more explosive creature in the deck. Throw all that in with the fact that the blue-red deck is actually pretty budget-friendly outside of the not-strictly-necessary Scalding Tarn, and you can see why Kiln Fiend worked its way so far up our list.
If Commander reprints sell well, then Modern reprints sell like hotcakes. Wizards has referred to Modern as their fastest-growing format, and it's easy to understand that claim when realizing that Birds of Paradise was No. 4 on our list, Inquisition of Kozilek was No. 2 and Serum Visions, of all things, took the top spot.
While Birds is really more of a Magic staple than a Modern one, the other two are clearly nods to Modern demand. Both are Modern staples, and both were notoriously difficult to acquire for an uncommon and common, respectively. People balked at spending $20 for a playset of a common, even if it was from Fifth Dawn, and spending that much on just one Inquisition of Kozilek at its height wasn't much fun, either.
New art on Inquisition didn't hurt, but I think these numbers show that players were anxiously awaiting their opportunity to pick up these staples at bargain prices, and the reprint in Conspiracy: Take the Crown finally afforded them that opportunity, even with Serum Visions being bumped up to Uncommon and Inquisition of Kozilek to Rare. Even in a set aimed at the "casual" crowd, Modern demand still showed strong.
That's it for Conspiracy 2. Until next time, may all your scries come up perfect.
Thanks for reading,