MTG Wiki

DCI Sanctioned
Paper {Cross}
Magic Online {Cross}
Magic Arena {Cross}
Type Constructed
Multiplayer {Tick}
Add. rules Archenemy only:
40 life points
Additional scheme deck
20+ card, 2-of limit
Dedicated Products
Products Archenemy
Archenemy: Nicol Bolas
For other uses, see Archenemy (disambiguation).

Archenemy is a casual multiplayer format designed for "one vs. many" gameplay. In an Archenemy game, one player takes on the titular role and uses an increased life total and a deck of non-traditional scheme cards to play against a team of variable size.

Scheme cards are exclusively available in products dedicated to the format, including Archenemy, Archenemy: Nicol Bolas and Duskmourn Commander.[1][2]

Original gameplay[ | ]

One player, designated the archenemy, plays against a team of opponents (the heroes). To even the odds, the archenemy starts the game with 40 life, always takes the first turn, and keeps a second deck of oversized and powerful scheme cards in the command zone. The opposing team takes a simultaneous turn, as in Two-Headed Giant, but each player on that team has a separate life total of 20. Any teammates can block an attacker declared by the archenemy, regardless of which player is being attacked.[3]

The archenemy wins if all other players are eliminated from the game. All of the opposing players, even those who have already left the game, win if the archenemy loses.[4]

At the beginning of each of the archenemy's precombat main phases, they draw the top card of their scheme deck, leaving it face up in the command zone, and "set [it] in motion". Schemes, like emblems, are not permanents. Most schemes have a triggered ability which triggers immediately upon being set in motion. However, schemes with the Ongoing supertype have an additional static ability, as well as triggered abilities which cause them to be "abandoned". Whenever a scheme is "done" (resolved or abandoned), it is placed on the bottom of the scheme deck. The scheme deck is not shuffled after the start of the game.

Archenemy also offers a "Supervillain Rumble" variant. In that variant, each player controls a scheme deck, starts at 40 life, and may attack all other players in a Free-for-All. The starting player is randomly chosen.

Development[ | ]

A scan of the scheme card "Behold the Power of Destruction".

An example of a scheme card.

Archenemy was created, in part, as a response to belief within R&D that the game had begun to focus too heavily on mechanical intricacy and balance, at the expense of "cool" and flavorfully consistent cards and experiences.

The asymmetric teams were inspired by a much older and unpublished product concept named Power Lunch. Power Lunch would have contained cards of a universally high power level, on par with Ancestral Recall, to enable epic battles between two players, or one player with a Power Lunch deck to take on multiple players.[5][6][7]

Early playtesting for Archenemy (2010) was described as a cross between a Duel Decks and a "solitaire-style multiplayer idea", which involved a Nicol Bolas-themed deck that cast a randomly targeted spell for free each turn. The random nature of the Bolas deck was found to be less interesting than the emotional response that it engendered, of an enraged team of heroes facing a laughing villain. Following that discovery, the design team began working to create scheme cards, while playtesting with any decks available.[8]

"Hot-seat" schemes, which force a single player to choose between two negative outcomes labelled "self" and "others", were created halfway through development. Creative Director Brady Dommermuth was responsible for the over-the-top names of the first schemes, and inspired then-Rules Manager Matt Tabak to select the word "scheme" for the card type. The flavor text on every scheme card in Archenemy (2010) is a first-person quote from the villain's perspective.

“  We found that the over-the-top villainous feel of these card names was infectious; playtesters in the villain seat were gleefully intoning the placeholder names as they flipped over their scheme cards.  ”

Doug Beyer[9]

At the end of Archenemy's design period, it used slightly different rules than those made public at release. The earlier draft had the archenemy's starting life proportionate to the number of opponents, rather than fixed at 40, which was changed for simplicity. Also in that draft, schemes were set in motion at the beginning of the upkeep. That was changed to the first main phase to allow the archenemy to make smarter decisions based on the card drawn during the draw step.[10]

Archenemy was created with the expectation that it would be very popular with its intended audience, but that some players would dislike it.[5] Two years after its release, the first Archenemy product ranked behind both Commander and Planechase in terms of popularity.[11]

Archenemy: Nicol Bolas[ | ]

Archenemy: Nicol Bolas added one new rule to the format, allowing the archenemy's opponents to declare their own creatures as blockers for their teammates.[3]

Duskmourn Commander[ | ]

Archenemy was reused in Duskmourn Commander. To help reimagine Archenemy for [[[Commander (format)|Commander play]], R&D made some tweaks to how Archenemy works.[2][12]

Traditionally, the way that Archenemy has worked with 60-card decks is that the archenemy has 40 life and each of the players has 20. But in Commander, you already start with 40 life. There was also one thing about Archenemy that's always been a bit more bug than feature. Because each of the three heroes had their own life total, the strategically best thing to do was to take down one player as quickly as possible. But that's not the most fun thing to do. For one, it picks on one player and then leaves that player on the sidelines for the rest of the game.

So, after a lot of iteration from Annie Sardelis and her team, they came up with this rules tweak that really helps it play smoothly: the archenemy has 60 life. And the entire hero team also has 60 life. They all win or lose together. While the archenemy still chooses who they attack for any effects where it matters, because any of the heroes can block, it becomes a lot more straightforward: the archenemy attacks heroes, and the heroes attack the archenemy, each group with one shared life total.

This does mean a few older schemes function weirdly, such as Mortal Flesh Is Weak. It is recommended to not using those schemes and to play playing the new shared life going forward. (With 40 and 40 for one on one and 60 and 60 for Commander life totals).

One other small tweak is that you only need 10 schemes to play.

Rules[ | ]

Archenemy back

The back of a scheme card.

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

1. A casual variant in which a team of players faces off against a single opponent strengthened with powerful scheme cards. See rule 904, “Archenemy.”
2. A player in an Archenemy game who is playing with a scheme deck.

From the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

  • 904. Archenemy
    • 904.1. In the Archenemy variant, a team of players faces off against a single opponent strengthened with powerful scheme cards. The Archenemy variant uses all the normal rules for a Magic game, with the following additions.
    • 904.2. The default setup for an Archenemy game is the Team vs. Team multiplayer variant (see rule 808) involving exactly two teams. The attack multiple players option (see rule 802) and the shared team turns option (see rule 805) are used; no other multiplayer options are used.
      • 904.2a One of the teams consists of exactly one player, who is designated the archenemy.
      • 904.2b The other team consists of any number of players.
    • 904.3. In addition to the normal game materials, the archenemy needs a supplementary scheme deck of at least twenty scheme cards. A scheme deck may contain no more than two of any card with a particular English name. (See rule 314, “Schemes.”)
    • 904.4. All scheme cards remain in the command zone throughout the game, both while they’re part of a scheme deck and while they’re face up.
    • 904.5. The archenemy’s starting life total is 40. Each other player’s starting life total is 20.
    • 904.6. Rather than a randomly determined player, the archenemy takes the first turn of the game.
    • 904.7. The owner of a scheme card is the player who started the game with it in the command zone. The controller of a face-up scheme card is its owner.
    • 904.8. Any abilities of a face-up scheme card in the command zone function from that zone. The card’s static abilities affect the game, its triggered abilities may trigger, and its activated abilities may be activated.
    • 904.9. Immediately after the archenemy’s precombat main phase begins during each of their turns, that player moves the top card of their scheme deck off that scheme deck and turns it face up. This is called “setting that scheme in motion.” (See rule 701.25.) This turn-based action doesn’t use the stack. Abilities of that scheme card that trigger “When you set this scheme in motion” trigger.
    • 904.10. If a non-ongoing scheme card is face up in the command zone, and no triggered abilities of any scheme are on the stack or waiting to be put on the stack, that scheme card is turned face down and put on the bottom of its owner’s scheme deck the next time a player would receive priority. (This is a state-based action. See rule 704.)
    • 904.11. Once an ongoing scheme card is set in motion, it remains face up in the command zone until an ability causes it to be abandoned (see rule 701.26).
    • 904.12. Supervillain Rumble Option
      • 904.12a As an alternative option, players may play a Free-for-All game in which each player has their own scheme deck. The attack multiple players option (see rule 802) is used; no other multiplayer options are used.
      • 904.12b Each player in this game is an archenemy.
      • 904.12c As in a normal Free-for-All game, the starting player is randomly determined. All other rules that apply to the archenemy in an Archenemy game apply to each player in a Supervillain Rumble game.

References[ | ]

  1. Magic Arcana (January 12, 2010). "Announcing Archenemy". Wizards of the Coast.
  2. a b First Look at Duskmourn: House of Horror. Wizards of the Coast (June 28, 2024).
  3. a b Nicholas Wolfram (June 5, 2017). "Archenemy: Nicol Bolas Preview". Wizards of the Coast.
  4. staff (May 17, 2010). "Archenemy Rules Revealed". Wizards of the Coast.
  5. a b Mark Rosewater (une 14, 2010). "From the Heart".
  6. Mark Rosewater (October 15, 2014). "Any chance that Power Lunch will ever be made as a supplemental product?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  7. Oldschool (september 22, 2019). "Power Lunch and the 4-mana Sphere".
  8. Dave Guskin (June 14, 2010). "No, Mr. Beleren, I Expect You to Die". Wizards of the Coast.
  9. Doug Beyer (June 16, 2010). "Fear No Good". Wizards of the Coast.
  10. Tom LaPille (July 23, 2010). "Architecting Archenemy". Wizards of the Coast.
  11. Mark Rosewater (May 25, 2012). "Clearly Planechase and Commander were very well received, but what about Archenemy?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  12. Gavin Verhey (June 28, 2024). "Evolving Archenemy". Wizards of the Coast.