Last updated on July 13, 2021

Two-Headed Zombie - Illustration by Josh Hass

Two-Headed Zombie | Illustration by Josh Hass

Hi again my fellow Magic players! I’ve got a question for you: are you tired of playing the typical 1v1 MTG games? Is Commander getting a little old as a multiplayer format? Do you want to experience a real co-op Magic game where you and your friend battle another team for bragging rights and glory? Want to do this on MTG Arena?

Look no further, I’ve got just the format for you:  Two-Headed Giant. Teamwork and synergy are super important in this format, so you better play well with your partner.

What are we waiting for? Let’s discuss 2HG! First, we’ll define what exactly it is. Then we’ll talk about its viability on MTGA.

What is Two-Headed Giant?

Search the Premises - Illustration by Matt Stewart

Search the Premises | Illustration by Matt Stewart

Two-Headed Giant is a multiplayer format where two teams of two players each battle it out for supreme victory. Each team acts together as one unit instead of as individual players. Synergy is super important in this format, not just in your deck but with your partner and their library too.

Check out this format’s unique rules:

  • Each team has a starting life total of 30.
  • Each team takes their turn together, which means that they go through all the turn phases as a team.
  • The team that plays first skips their first draw step.
  • Teams don’t share resources other than the life total. You can’t use your teammate’s mana or their cards.
  • Teams can strategize and share information.
  • You get one free mulligan.
  • Your team loses if you collectively have 15 poison counters.
  • If you or your teammate can’t draw because you have an empty library, your team (not just the player that can’t draw) loses.
  • If a card has a “each player” or “each opponent” trigger, it affects both players. For example, Rabid Bloodsucker’s ability would cause each player to lose two life, so the team would lose four life.
  • Constructed deck rules still apply. Only four copies of each card are allowed per team unless the card states otherwise or for basic lands e.g., if your teammate has four copies of Opt then you can’t have any Opts in your deck.

Will Two-Headed Giant Ever Come to MTG Arena?

There hasn’t ever been official confirmation, but Wizards has mentioned that a multiplayer format isn’t off the table for Arena. Unfortunately, I don’t see Two-Headed Giant coming anytime soon considering the digital platform’s current capabilities. There are a lot of missing pieces that need to be added before 2HG could work on MTGA. But who knows! Maybe WotC will surprise us in the future.

Challenges of Two-Headed Giant on MTG Arena

Territorial Kavu | Illustration by E. M. Gist

Arena is currently designed for 1v1 matches, not multiplayer games. There’s no sign that the application can handle more than 1v1 at this point, or that anything is going to change on that front anytime soon. For more on this, see our article on Commander in MTGA.

Arena has one life counter for each player, and you can only view one hand of cards at a time. WotC would need to add synchronization between teammates and code abilities to affect either the whole team or individual players based on the format’s particular rules.

Communication between players is another issue. Some amount of coordination (and perhaps even bonding?) is required between you and your teammate. Right now there is no in-game chat functionality (either text or voice based), so some mechanism would need to be invented to facilitate team strategy and communication.

MTGA might have the best aesthetics, but it’s limited (even when compared to MTGO) when it comes to multiplayer functionality. If WotC wants to introduce any formats that go beyond 1v1, they’ve got quite a massive amount of development work ahead of them.

Alternative Options to Play Two-Headed Giant

Cockatrice

I think Cockatrice is one of the most widely used applications to simulate MTG. I don’t see any downside to using this app since the cards are free and it can easily accommodate four players!

The app’s user interface is also really easy to navigate. It’s definitely an awesome app to relax with your friends and play the greatest game in the world.

Untap.in

Untap.in is a free web-based app for TCGs. All you have to do to play is register.

This app has a good interface for deckbuilding and gameplay. There’s a friends list feature so you can easily pair up with your buddies, And they even have a Discord server to help players find each other and battle it out!

Paper Magic

This is the best way to play Magic if you ask me. It might still be a bit difficult to get an in-person game going depending on where you are and how the pandemic is going for you. Make sure that you’re following your local safety guidelines before you start organizing any paper tournaments.

Two-Headed Giant is even more fun when you can strategize with your friend, working together side-by-side to take down the opposing team. Me and my buddies always use some janky combo decks that are more fun for us than they are for our opponent, like Possibility Storm combos.

Bonus: The Competitive Scene

Clattering Augur - Illustration by Josh Hass

Clattering Augur | Illustration by Josh Hass

Believe it or not, Two-Headed Giant was used in one of the most competitive tournaments in Magic eSports? It was back in 2007 in the Pro Tour San Diego. The “Sliver Kids,” Jacob Van Lunen and Chris Lachmann, took the tournament by storm. It was the first and only pro-level event for the format.

Here are their decklists so you can see what limited decks looked like back then:

Jacob Van Lunen’s List

Chris Lachmann’s List

Wrap Up

Storm God's Oracle - Illustration by Pauline Voss

Storm God’s Oracle | Illustration by Pauline Voss

That’s it for Two-Headed Giant today! I hope I got you excited to play this awesome format.

Have you ever played 2HG before? What are some memorable games or experiences you’ve had playing this before? Let me know in the comments below or check out our Discord if that’s more your thing.

And if you’re an MTGA player, you definitely need to download Draftsim’s free app, Arena Tutor. It will help you track all your matches and give you stats and insights to help you enjoy your MTGA experience a lot more.

Keep safe everyone, and I’ll see you next time!

2 Comments

  • Tiera3 July 27, 2021 7:29 pm

    My first MTG experience was 2HG Sealed pre-release at a LGS. I like 2HG in the limited environment, and have often wondered if 2HG draft would be viable. In 2HG sealed, the team get to share their cardpool to construct their separate decks. I am wondering if that would still be the case in 2HG draft or each player would be limited to only the cards they drafted. (It would make hate-drafting much more relevant – if the card you hate-drafted might be able to be handed off to your team-mate to improve their deck.)

    Another format that I think would be interesting to add to arena would be a twist on team-3-trios (but as a single-player version). Take 12 packs, separate into three decks (including sideboard cards need to be separated). Designate which deck is for game1, which is for game2, and which is for game3.

    • Dan Troha July 28, 2021 7:58 am

      Thanks for the comment – I believe Battlebond draft addresses that.

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