THE MANA DORK — A BATTLEBOND-ING EXPERIENCE
Fun fact—the term “pull out all the stops” comes from organ music. Stops are small wooden blocks that can shut off any of the 100+ pipes in any given organ; to “pull out all the stops”, then, is to make sure your instrument can play absolutely every possible note it was built to do.
Kinda feels like what Wizards is doing with Battlebond, isn’t it?
We had the Spring 2018 Announcement Day last Friday, and while a bunch of things were announced and clarified—three sets on Ravnica! Spoilers for the exclusive Chinese-market Planeswalkers! And more!—by far the biggest stuff to come out has been about Battlebond.
Regular readers of the Mana Dork (I’m going to hold off on coming up with a demonym for you folks) (hashtag when-there’s-an-insult-in-your-column-name-problems) know I’m a huge fan of Commander, and politics, and interesting legendary creatures, and supplementary draft sets that are priced like normal booster releases while still containing the very sweetest of reprints. So, it should surprise 37% none of you that I’m excited for Battlebond.
WHAT IS BATTLEBOND?
Battlebond is all the glorious teamwork of Two-Headed Giant mashed together with the skill-testing card selection and deckbuilding of Draft and Sealed.
In Two-Headed Giant play, you and one teammate start the game with 30 life. You take your turn together—with all the planning and discussion that can entail!—and can treat each other as players, but not opponents (so pay special attention to all the new cards that will say “Target player”—there are some goodies!). When you win, you’ll win together.
What you don’t share is resources. Lands, permanents, hands, libraries, and graveyards are all separate. And, as of Dominaria, you no longer share a battlefield—attacks are declared as going against a particular player or planeswalker, and you can no longer block for a teammate, only yourself and planeswalkers you control.
First, we’ll cover Drafting. Wizards recommends teams bring four Battlebond packs to draft with. Each team will open a booster, then—in a special twist exclusive to Battlebond—pick not one, but two cards from it at a time, then pass their pack to the left. Repeat for the rest of the pack. Then open the second pack, pick two, and pass to the right. Rinse and repeat. Third pack goes to the left again, and fourth to the right.
A lot of the usual guidelines for drafting still apply—grab bombs first, then removal, then evasive or aggressive creatures—but it’s worth noting that a lot of the usual draft-chaff sideboard cards aren’t present in Battlebond. Because of the special Two-Headed Giant design, they were able to push out the filler and have more generically good cards. So don’t be afraid to just draft good things—you’ll probably be rewarded!
Sealed is different—each team should have six packs, and then you’ll open those six packs with your teammate and build a deck out of the cards you get. Notably in Sealed, you’re going to get more big, bomby rares and less hyper-efficient uncommons, so make sure you pack removal and get ready to hold on tight!
THE MECHANICS—PARTNER WITH, ASSIST, AND SUPPORT
First up, let’s talk about partner with. This is the reason you’ll be making two picks at once in Battlebond drafts.
The set features eleven pairs of creatures with the “partner with” mechanic. These pairs are designed to work together, and they’ll always show up together in booster packs (even when they’re foil!). When a player plays one of them, target player—namely, your teammate, or you if you really want to hog ‘em—can go find the other from their deck and bring it to their hand. After all, what’s a kid without his imaginary friend?
One quick note: for those of you who remember the Partner mechanic in C16 (including your humble author, who absolutely called it), Partner With has a special extra function in Commander games that’s similar. The five pairs of legendary creature partners in Battlebond, as well as the pair of planeswalker partners (!!!), can partner up in the command zone for Commander decks, but only with each other. No partnering Pir with Ishai, you wily devils!
Assist is the other shiny new mechanic in Battlebond. When you cast a spell with Assist, you can ask one other player to help play part of the generic mana—and only the generic mana—in the cost. This can help you power out some great cards early by working together—like, oh I don’t know, a big dragon?
Finally, Support returns from Oath of the Gatewatch, and has some fancy new designs for us as well. Remember that you can put the +1/+1 counters from support on any target creature, so don’t be shy about buffing up your teammate’s Gorm the Great so he can survive while you sneak through with your own Virtus the Veiled!
REMEMBER—TALK TO YOUR TEAMMATE
Two-Headed Giant has a lot of similarities with regular Magic play, so there aren’t too many suggestions I can make for how to play it.
But the one thing I will highlight is this—you have an ally. You don’t just have your teammate’s cards on your side—you have their mind.
So talk to your teammate. Show them your hand. Make sure you plan things out and sequence them correctly. Nothing feels worse than shooting yourself in the foot because you didn’t play something when you could have gotten extra value out of it—and nothing feels better than planning correctly, sequencing everything out, and leaving your opponents in the dust.
Now that’s teamwork.
(And finally, one secret tip from me to you—don’t forget that you can pick YOURSELF as a friend when playing the new “friend or foe” cards! Look, it’s like we’re a team! Working together like all the pipes in a finely-tuned organ… )
I AM EXCITED AND READY TO BATTLEBOND, WHERE CAN I — OH, I SEE YOU’VE PLACED A HANDY PROMOTIONAL IMAGE JUST ABOVE THIS HEADER DESCRIBING THE STORE’S UPCOMING BATTLEBOND EVENTS, THAT’S VERY HELPFUL, THANKS
What can I say? I’m here to… assist you in any way I can. 🙂
See you at the store!
Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. He thinks the real Battlebond is the friends we made along the way. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column about all things Magic!