Today’s article is an introduction to, and invitation to take part in, the Conspiracy 2 (CN2) One-Day All-You-Can-Play League, sponsored by Face to Face Games Montreal. The goal of this league is to pack as much multiplayer action as possible into one business day: Sunday, August 28th, 2016. The rules, like those of the EMN league happening the week before it (see Yorke on Games #23 for details), encourage playing as many matches as humanly possible between when the shop opens at 10am and closes at 5pm. Be sure to pace yourself accordingly!
There were additional design constraints for this league that are unique to the set. Because it’s based on a Conspiracy expansion, this league had to (1) have draft as its basis, and (2) make all matches multiplayer. If we didn’t use a draft format, a significant subset of cards wouldn’t work as printed. Aether Searcher, for example, goes from being a draft windmill slam to a complete junk rare if its draft ability is omitted. Plus we wanted to keep those tough decisions—like whether to first-pick a ‘real’ Magic card or a conspiracy card—alive for players. So this tournament begins with an exciting MegaDraft of six packs of CN2… but that’s just the start of the fun!
Given that we were committed to a multiplayer tournament (once again, because many cards in the set are chosen or are designed to care about the number of players), we had to settle on which type of multiplayer format was going to be the most fun to play. Some people don’t like Commander because it’s a free-for-all where grudges and misunderstandings can easily happen. Two-Headed Giant was an option, but a lot of players don’t like having to find (or get stuck with) a partner for a whole day. In the end, we settled on the Star variant because it minimized the role of politics and resolved games more quickly than other formats that required the elimination of every other player. I’ll talk more about Star in greater detail later in the article, but you should definitely check out Kelly Digges’ very helpful primers on it for some background if you’re unfamiliar with it. It’s a blast!
Without further ado, here’s a brief version of the basic rules:
CN2 One-Day League
Registration: 10 a.m., August 28th, 2016.
Start Time: 10:30 a.m. (additional players cannot join after this time)
Format: Mega-Draft (6 Conspiracy booster packs). Min. 60 card deck.
Entry Fee: $30
Prize structure: The equivalent of three (3) regularly priced booster packs per participant added to the prize pool for “Reward Packs” and final prizes.
Tournament structure: 5-player Star. The winner of each match is awarded three (3) LPs [League Point] and one (1) Reward Pack to add to their pool. In the case of a draw, each player receives one (1) LP and drafts the Reward Pack in snake fashion (winning dice roll gets to choose first). Top competitors and prizes awarded based on total LPs accumulated before 4:30 p.m.
And here’s the complete ruleset:
1) Player registration. The start time for the Conspiracy 2 one-day league is 10:30am sharp, Sunday, August 28th, 2016 at FaceToFace Games Montreal. No new players will be admitted to the tournament after that time, and no games played before that time will count towards the final results. The registration fee is $30, payable at the store counter, which includes the price of the six packs for the starting card pool and prize support. The event closes at 4:30pm sharp, which means that no new games started after that time will count towards the final results (games already underway at that time will be permitted to conclude).
2) Deck construction. Upon joining the league, players will MegaDraft 6 boosters of Conspiracy 2 to make their league card pool. Only cards in this pool, and basic lands, are legal for league play. There is no trading of league cards allowed for the duration of the league. Players will construct a 60-card deck from their league pool. The maximum number of copies of any card in a league deck is 4 (not including basic lands). If at any time a player is discovered to be using cards from outside their league pools in their league matches, they will be considered eliminated from the league and forfeit any prizes they would have earned. Rares and mythic rares will be recorded.
3) Playing matches. There will be chairs numbered 1 through 5 in a queue, each corresponding to seats at the table. After deck construction is complete, players enter the queue to play multiplayer games of Star format [5 players] on a first-come, first-served basis. Once all five chairs are filled, a game of Star launches. In this variant of Star, you win only when the two players sitting across the table from you are eliminated (it doesn’t matter if you do the deed yourself or not), while you yourself are not yet eliminated. You cannot attack the players to your immediate left or right, although you can target them, their permanents, and their spells, with effects under your control. Players who are eliminated are free to return to the queue immediately for the next game, which will launch as soon as all the chairs are full again (there’s no need for eliminated players to wait around until the game finishes, as in this variant of Star only non-eliminated players can win). The winner of each game of Star gets a free ‘Reward Pack’: they may add the cards contained therein to their league card pool and improve their deck for subsequent games. Rares and mythic rares will be recorded. In the case of a draw (e.g.: two active players’ win conditions are simultaneously triggered by the elimination of their sole remaining opponent), players take turns drafting cards from the pack until all cards are gone.
4) Prizes. The Conspiracy 2 league sponsor, Face to Face Games Montreal, has offered a prize pool of three boosters for each participating player. Most of these packs will go to players during the tournament in the form of Reward Packs from various expansions in Magic’s history. The remainder will be given to the Top 4 players in a 4:2:1:1 ratio payout scheme (or as close to that as possible: specific numbers will depend on the final number of players in the league). Final rankings will be determined on the basis of League Points (LP): each game win during the day is worth 3 LP; each draw is worth 1 LP. In the case of a tie for a final ranking, players will play a single best-of-three duel with their decks to determine the winner. First place will have their name written on the league trophy, which will be displayed in the store’s trophy case.
Why Star Variant?
I’ll start the FAQ section by letting Richard Garfield answer this query (from my 1997 interview with him, which is reprinted in its entirety in Yorke on Games #8):
There is a good reason why five and that’s the first number which has a lot of interesting relationships. If there’s N individuals, it’s sort of the smallest number where I started getting the relationships I’m interested in. So what I mean is I wanted to have some colors which have affinity with each other and some had enmity to each other. So when you have three, say, you got a rock-scissors-paper. If A is a friend of B is a friend of C is a friend of A, it’s very difficult because you have to make your friends your enemies. It’s too simple.
With four, you sort of have a team situation, right, where you might have A and B be enemies with C and D and then friends with each other but then they’re kind of like a team and so that’s really like two colors.
With five, you start to get this relationship where you can have each one being a friend of two colors and an enemy of two colors which can legitimately be allies but still have different interests in the game.
Quite simply, for the original creator of Magic, five is the smallest number with a minimum threshold for representing complex interrelationships. A less abstract-mathematical way of looking at it is this: 5-player Star constrains the importance of politics to the outcome of the game by giving each player clear and publicly-known win conditions (the elimination of the two people sitting furthest from you). In a free-for-all, by comparison, the main skill being tested is your ability to manipulate others, to turn a war of all-against-all into a war of some-against-others (to create an unbalanced structure out of a balanced lack of structure, in other words). Inevitably, in a free-for-all there would be tacit or overt partnerships (generated by bargaining or threatening) that disadvantage less socially adept, unpopular, or strategically compromised players, which can create hard feelings. With Star, you still get the joy of cooperating with your allies (the two people sitting on either side of you), and yet no one can grief you for doing what you’re supposed to, according to the rules—knocking off your opponents in an efficient manner.
Why a Queue for Players?
The winner of this tournament will be the player with the most LPs by the end of the day. The more games you play, the better your chance of gaining LPs, and thus of winning the tournament. The queue system is in place to ensure fairness and make sure that the players who are available to play first get first dibs on multiplayer games (just like being in a queue for an online event). Usually, the first in the queue will be the players who are eliminated first from their Star games, but at the beginning of the day those players who build their decks the fastest will be slightly advantaged, in that they will be free to join the queue first.
What’s a Reward Pack?
At the end of each game of Star, the winner gets a free booster pack to add to their league pool and make their deck better. That’s a ‘Reward Pack’, and the more you play, the better your chances are of winning and thus getting ahold of one. The Reward Pack for each game will be different, as packs from Judgment, Dissension, Conspiracy (the original), Khans of Tarkir, Dragons of Tarkir, Origins, Battle for Zendikar, Oath of the Gatewatch, Shadows Over Innistrad, Eldritch Moon, and of course Conspiracy: Take the Crown, will all be randomly distributed as prizes.
What’s the Overall Structure of the Event?
The whole day follows quite a simple algorithm, which can be parsed as a series of steps:
1. MegaDraft six packs at 10:30am.
2. Build a deck.
3. Get in the queue.
4. Play a game of Star when the queue fills with five players.
a. You lost! Go back to step 3 if it is before 4:30pm.
b. You won! Crack a Reward Pack and rebuild your deck. Go back to step 3 if it is before 4:30pm.
5. It’s after 4:30pm. Collect your prizes if you made Top 4!
It’s as easy as that. So come on out and enjoy the Eldritch Moon one-day, all-you-can-play tournament with us on Sunday, August 28th! Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions before then.