Last updated on June 23, 2022
Worldknit | Illustration by Adam Paquette
To this day I still think both Conspiracy sets were great. The world design was beautiful, the characters were interesting, and they introduced a ton of mechanics that were really fun, even if some were pretty hit-or-miss. One of the things I found most interesting about these sets was that they were designed to be specifically for multiplayer Limited.
I didn’t really play Draft back then, but I still regret not playing a Conspiracy Draft when I had the chance. One of the things that fuels that regret so much are conspiracy cards.
What are Conspiracies in MTG?
Adriana’s Valor | Illustration by Lius Lasahido
These cards have a direct effect over the game and if you want to get rid of them or interact with them in any way, you’re going nowhere fast. There’s almost no way to interact with the command zone in any format, much less in a very specific Draft set.
The Best Conspiracy Cards
There’s a total of 25 conspiracy cards in all of Magic. That leaves us with a relatively small pool of cards to choose “best of” from, which makes sense for cards that can only be played in such a skewed format.
Most conspiracies have one-time effects, but they’re still more than worth it. Backup Plan is one of them.
Being able to draw two hands and choose one of them at the beginning of the game can put you in an insane advantage position. It’s unlikely that you’ll want to mulligan both of them, but it can happen. This card is truly an immediate and clear advantage in a Draft setting.
Hymn of the Wilds
Much like companions in Ikoria, sometimes you choose your conspiracies once your deck is built, and sometimes you build your deck around a very good conspiracy. In Hymn of the Wild‘s case it’s the latter.
Being unable to play instants and sorceries is a big drawback, but remember that conspiracies are meant to be played in a very specific environment. A lot of cards from these sets are there to support this “Oops! All Permanents” archetype. This card may technically be colorless but we all know it’s a green card, and both Conspiracy sets have tons of green creatures that synergize well with each other. Not to mention artifacts and enchantments.
So we have a card that pushes an “Oops! All Permanents” archetype, but Sovereign’s Realm goes for an “Oops! No Lands” archetype. It’s a pretty punishing card at first since it takes away your lands and removes two cards from your hand. But all this punishment balances out with a higher spell density in your deck.
You can also add a bit of jank that you can safely discard to play lands from outside the game, making this a pretty great card.
Having no sideboard in a Limited setting can be restricting because adapting to your opponents’ decks is important. Worldknit forces all your cards into your deck and rewards you by giving your lands the ability to generate mana of any color. This can be absurdly beneficial if you want to make a multicolored Limited deck.
Having a smaller deck means having faster and easier access to combo pieces, powerful cards, and other win conditions. This card lets you cut down on your deck to make sure you have what you need and nothing more.
Double Stroke & Iterative Analysis & Unexpected Potential
I chose to put Double Stroke, Iterative Analysis, and Unexpected Potential at the same level because of how similar they are. In all three cases you secretly choose a card name. You can then reveal both the conspiracy and the card name at any time.
If you’re playing two or more of these and also chose the same card for all of them you can have a great wave of effects when you play the chosen card. Plus there’s always the advantage of picking a card that you have three or four copies of to ensure some extra benefits.
Best Conspiracy Payoffs
There are a total of 25 conspiracy cards. While they’re varied none of them have particularly game-breaking effects. And what’s worse, it’s essentially impossible to actually interact with them.
Conspiracies aren’t cards that you use as win conditions. Let’s take Sovereign’s Realm as an example. You’re playing a deck with technically no lands in it. You’re obviously gonna use its discarding effect to get some lands into play but it’d be ideal to avoid too much of that. All it does is add consistency to your games.
The same can be said about almost every other conspiracy card. You won’t have perfect synergies or game-breaking combos, but you can definitely have some fun deckbuilding experiences with this.
What’s even better is that you could technically ask your playgroup if they’re okay with you using conspiracies in other formats, mainly Commander. Adding extra restrictions and benefits like the ones brought by conspiracies can make for some super interesting decks. That’s what Rule 0 is there for, anyway.
How Do Conspiracies Work Anyway?
Unexpected Potential | Illustration by Izzy
Conspiracies are more akin to planeswalker emblems than they are to any other type of card. They can’t be interacted with nor can their effects be countered. You start the game with every selected conspiracy in the command zone and they stay there for the rest of the game, having their effects work whenever they’re supposed to.
Some conspiracies have you secretly choose the name of a card at the start of the game. They start face down in the command zone and can be turned face up any time, which also requires you to say the name of the chosen card. These conspiracies have effects that work exclusively with the named card, ranging from mild effects like the one on Incendiary Dissent to some pretty strong ones like Double Stroke or Unexpected Potential.
While some conspiracies can be great and can give some massive advantages, the truth is that none of these cards are particularly strong on their own. This is probably a very intentional design choice since these are cards that can’t be interacted with. Having one of them be too broken, especially in a Limited setting, could completely ruin the game before it even starts.
What Zone Does a Conspiracy “Live” In?
Conspiracies spend the entire game in the command zone. They start the game there and their effects automatically activate as long as they’re face up and in the command zone. They can’t be interacted with at all, so they can’t go anywhere else.
Can You Have More than One Conspiracy?
Natural Unity | Illustration by Ryan Pancoast
You may have as many conspiracies as you want in your command zone.
Do You Have to Play with a Conspiracy if You Draft It?
Not at all. Your cards go into a card pool When you draft. Then you can choose from your pool to build a deck using the cards you want. If a conspiracy doesn’t work with the rest of your deck, you can just have it remain in your drafted card pool.
Are Conspiracies Hidden from Your Opponents?
Conspiracies are only hidden from your opponents if they have the “hidden agenda” ability. Regular conspiracies start the game face up and with their effects already active, while conspiracies with hidden agenda start the game face down since you have to secretly name a card in your deck.
Are Conspiracies Spells?
Conspiracy cards aren’t spells since they can’t be played, they exist only in your command zone. They don’t even have mana costs.
Which Sets Have Conspiracies?
Conspiracies have shown up in only two sets: the aptly-named Conspiracy and Conspiracy: Take the Crown. These were Draft- and Limited-only sets with a strong focus on multiplayer gameplay. Conspiracies themselves were there to promote unconventional deckbuilding strategies in a multiplayer setting.
When Did Conspiracy and Take the Crown Release?
Conspiracy and Conspiracy: Take the Crown were released in 2014 and 2016 respectively.
What’s the Lore Behind the Conspiracy Sets?
Paliano, the High City | Illustration by Adam Paquette
Both Conspiracy sets take place in Paliano, the High City, the heart of the plane of Fiora. Paliano consists of an undercity, where the masses and the lower classes reside, and a higher city, home to aristocrats and politicians. They’re both nests of crime, corruption, and nasty deeds.
The first set consists of four short stories:
These four stories don’t follow a narrative arc between them, rather they’re a collection of short stories for individual characters. Let’s go ahead and cover a short summary of each one.
Our first introduction to Paliano and its characters is a dinner between Selvala, an elven ranger who has recently returned to the city, and the city’s ruler, Brago, King Eternal.
Brago is the city’s ruler. He should have died decades ago but a series of magic experiments by the city’s clerics kept him alive, eventually turning him immortal. But these experiments also made him weak and feeble, as both his mind and body seem to be giving up.
Selvala disapproves of these procedures and at the end of their discussion Brago agrees that his life should end. As his last wish he asks her to take his life. She carries out her oldest friend’s last wish, forgiving him for his past mistakes. After she stabs him, the guards escort her out without a word.
Moments later the king’s clerics and medics walk in to find their ruler’s corpse. As they deliberate, a cold mist appears and slowly takes the form of Brago, who informs them that he shall rule eternal over the city of Paliano.
The Black Rose
Marchesa, the Black Rose is one of Paliano’s richest and most powerful figures. Her mansion towers taller than those of all the other aristocrats. She wears a ring on each finger, each of them filled with poison.
Once again this story starts with a dinner, this time between Marchesa and Ervos Trax, a business partner of hers from the lowlands. The conversation starts in a very weird way as Ervos tells Marchesa that he intends to have her assassinated. He states that he wants his business to grow and his only real opponent is her.
Marchesa responds with curiosity and interest as he explains to her how he would go about this. As the conversation goes on it becomes increasingly clear that Marchesa is a master of manipulation, corruption, and violence. Ervos goes through every way in which he could’ve tried to get to her, discovering the flaws in each of his schemes.
As his description of his plans reaches a peak, he admits that it’d be impossible to kill her himself. This means that she would eventually have to kill him regardless, so he chooses to stay one step ahead of her and has poisoned himself. This way she’ll be accused of murdering him in her own house. She concedes, giving her friend one last moment of victory as he dies over his dinner plate. She then asks her guards to bury the body in the grave she had already prepared, knowing full well in advance what Ervos was going to do.
Not everyone in Paliano is a murderous tyrant, but everyone who’s anyone in the city is a schemer and a strategist. This even extends to artificers like Muzzio, Visionary Architect, who attempts to become vice chancellor of the High City’s Board of Advisors. His first attempt is thwarted by the turn of events triggered by Brago’s unexpected undeath.
After this first failure Muzzio explains to his apprentice, Irie, that he envisions a city that works as close to as cogwork as possible, much like his constructs and contraptions. He has quite an advantage towards this end since almost every single automaton, construct, and trinket in the city was made by him. And every one of these machines spies and listens to what people say when they think they’re alone.
Through the use of this information Muzzio removes a few of the members of the Board of Advisors, tampering with their money, creating false accusations, or exposing dirty secrets, clearing the way for himself to move up in the chain. Slowly but surely, he schemes his way into power.
Blood Will Have Blood
Selvala has been in a cell in the city’s dungeons for the past three days. The murder of Brago, her friend and the city’s ruler, has drawn the people’s attention, though his return as an undying ghost and eternal ruler is the hottest gossip. She’s taunted by the prison warden who eventually asks how it felt to murder a friend. When she answers, he opens the door and leads her out.
Grenzo, Dungeon Warden leads Selvala out of the dungeons through a series of sewers. He points out several key places of the city, all of which he has secret access to. They go up the stairs and find themselves in Muzzio’s home. Grenzo explains to her that Muzzio desires a city that’s cold and mechanical and devoid of any real blood and warmth. As someone who spends her time in the wilderness and amongst beasts, Selvala should oppose this. He subtly lets her know she can end that transformation before it even starts.
Selvala proves herself different from the schemers, murderers, and manipulators of the High City by refusing to murder a man in his sleep. She attempts to fight Grenzo himself when a huge automaton comes to life. Grenzo scurries away from his own invention, leaving her to fend off the huge machine. She swiftly manages to steal Muzzio’s books and scrolls and carries them with her into the sewers, leading the machines into the goblins’ territory in an attempt to cause a conflict between them. She then plans her escape into the wilderness where she belongs, away from the city and its scheming aristocrats.
Conspiracy: Take the Crown
This is the set where the story starts taking a bit more shape and we see more than mere character introductions. The stories of this set are:
- Laid to Rest
- Proclamation by Queen Marchesa
- Proclamation by Adriana, Captain of the Guard
- Bloody Instructions
- Leovold’s Dossiers
Laid to Rest
This is the first time we meet the planeswalker Kaya, Ghost Assassin as she takes a contract from a local noble named Emilio Revari. He asks her to “exorcise” the ghost of his dead mother from the home where she used to live, the same home he wants to inhabit. With half the payment already given and some time to prepare, she accepts the job.
Kaya enters the haunted house and promptly encounters the ghost of the mother. She uses her own ghostly powers to fight her, but as the fight develops she discovers a room filled with incriminating evidence, including the old woman’s very corpse hidden under the floorboards.
A few moments later Kaya lets Revari enter the house, assuring him it’s safe. As soon as they make their way into the room he notices the uncovered corpse. She locks the door before he can escape and the mother’s ghost appears, furious and grieving. Kaya lets the mother deal with her kin-slaying son as she sees fit.
Adriana, Captain of the Guard guards King Brago’s meeting, thinking about how undeath has turned the king even more tyrannical. She recalls the atrocities that she carried out in the name of the king, in particular when she destroyed the Academy and rid the city of almost every construct, tinker, or piece of technology.
Shortly after the meeting Adriana hears a strange noise and walks in on Kaya with her dagger deep in Brago’s neck. Adriana tries pointlessly to kill her, but Kaya escapes unharmed and unbothered. As the castle learns of the king’s death banners with a thorny black rose are unfurled and displayed throughout the building. Only then does Adriana understand how deep Paliano’s schemes go.
As Marchesa is named, Adriana understands that Brago’s own court betrayed him as part of the conspiracy. After the ceremony Adriana follows Marchesa to her room, keeping her position as captain of the guard. Marchesa offers Adriana an armor piece with the symbol of the black rose, which she promptly rejects. The captain of the guard spits in Marchesa’s face, grabs the chest plate, and storms out.
She musters up her soldiers and storms out of the castle, dragging the black rose’s armor through the dirt. Adriana then delivers a speech urging the people of Paliano to reject the new queen’s rule. The people on the street quietly agree with her.
Unrest builds in Marchesa’s city as the citizens grow uneasy at their queen’s reign. Adriana goes to the only person she knows can help her build a better Paliano: Selvala. She asks her to rid Paliano of the schemes, murder, and treason that plague it. She also asks Selvala to nominate herself as senator, and to help her build the Republic of Paliano.
Proclamation by Queen Marchesa
This book mostly serves as a tie-in with the previous story. This is Marchesa’s official statement informing of Brago’s death and of her own inheritance to the throne. I suggest reading this one for yourself since it’s not very long and its whole gimmick is that it’s like an in-world official document.
Proclamation by Adriana, Captain of the Guard
This short excerpt goes in line with the previous one. A counterpart to Marchesa’s declarations inciting rebellion in the city. I again suggest you read this one as it is, since it’s short and gimmicky.
A celebration of Marchesa fills the night air with music, praise for the queen, and partying. Two goblins break into the mansion of a former intellectual from the now disbanded Academy.
Grenzo, Havoc Raiser and Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast stride through the collapsed gates. They plunder the house, rummaging through books and papers as they talk. Daretti finds a manuscript that he was looking for and both goblins make their way to the house’s upper floors.
The two goblins corner the mansion’s owner, a man named Zadrous Fimarell. He’s known as the inventor of the cog that allowed for the creation of automatons. Daretti utters a speech that he prepared beforehand, accusing the man of being a liar and a thief. The man stole Daretti’s work and inventions and the Academy rejected the goblin because of his race.
Grenzo interrupts Daretti’s speech, urging him to just murder the man the way things are done in Paliano. Daretti tries to continue speaking but he forgets the words, so he hurls the man through the window and onto the streets below.
The two goblins walk down the stairs to find Grenzo’s minions razing the house, looting and destroying everything. He orders them to set it ablaze as he discusses his new alliance with Daretti. They then name their next target, Alendis, who also exploited and rejected Daretti from the Academy and is now one of Marchesa’s men, which gives Grenzo all the more reason to go after him.
They leave the house while fantasizing about crashing the parties of the city’s aristocrats.
This is a series of documents on the city’s characters and events all told from the perspective of Leovold, Emissary of Trest. And one file on himself, written by one of Marchesa’s informants. Even though this particular piece is longer I recommend reading it for yourself since it’s pretty funny and most of that would get lost in a summary.
Are Conspiracies Legal in Commander?
Brago’s Favor | Illustration by Karla Ortiz
Conspiracies aren’t legal in Commander unless your playgroup agrees to them. I think Commander games with conspiracies can be lots of fun, but they’re only officially legal in Conspiracy Limited formats.
How Many Packs are in a Conspiracy Box?
Each Conspiracy and Conspiracy: Take the Crown booster box has the standard 36 packs.
- The throne no longer sits empty, but deception, danger, and even death await around every corner.
What is Conspiracy Cube?
This is a special kind of Cube built around the mechanics in the Conspiracy sets. This Cube aims at taking advantage of conspiracies themselves in a Singleton multiplayer setting. It also puts a lot of focus on the sets’ other mechanics.
Sovereign’s Realm | Illustration by Daniel Ljunggren
All in all I like the idea behind conspiracies a lot. I think it makes Limited a lot more interesting as a format, and I like that they exist in self-contained sets. They were also joined by some other interesting mechanics like dethrone, monarch, and will of the council.
I’d love to see another Conspiracy set released, both to have a chance at finally playing a Conspiracy Draft and to see how the story of Paliano has evolved. Maybe someday we’ll get at least one of the two.
But enough about me! What do you think? Do you like conspiracies? Did you find them fun and useful in their Limited context, or are they contrived and convoluted, changing the game way more than they should? Feel free to leave a comment down below, and don’t forget to join our Discord.
That’s all from me for now. Have a good one, and I’ll see you next time!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: