Archenemy: Nicol Bolas

Hey everybody!
It’s time for another game day blog here at, and I thought I’d feature the recently-released Archenemy expansion set for Magic the Gathering, having picked it up a couple of weeks ago now. While multi-player games aren’t something that I always get the chance to play, I just couldn’t resist getting this box after watching the seventh episode of Game Knights over on the Command Zone!

In case you didn’t watch the video, I’ll talk a bit about the Archenemy format first. Though, you really should go watch the video – Game Knights is a fantastic series, and having Gavin Verhey (the lead designer for this set, no less!) come on and play was a real delight!

Archenemy: Nicol Bolas

So, Archenemy is a multiplayer format for Magic the Gathering, where one player takes on the role of the Archenemy, with the other players trying to take the Archenemy down. There’s no actual set number of the opposing team, though three decks are included in the product, which perhaps gives a clue to the optimal number of players. The format was developed out of the idea of a set that would include just over-the-top powerful cards, and was purposefully designed to be cool and flavourful at the expense of anything else. There’s actually a really nice write up of the development of the original Archenemy product from 2010 over on the MTG wiki page.

Archenemy: Nicol Bolas

The Archenemy player always goes first, and starts with 40 life. He also has a deck of 20 oversized scheme cards that sit in the Command Zone and provide some devastating effect in addition to his own 60-card deck. These schemes can do all sorts of stuff, from destroying creatures to adding additional mana to the Archenemy’s pool.

In contrast, the team of opponents each has 20 life, and takes a simultaneous turn, during which they can confer among themselves as to the best play to make. While mana and hands aren’t shared, you can block an attack for a teammate with your own creatures. The Archenemy player wins if he eliminates all of his opponents, and the team wins if they take down the Archenemy.

Archenemy: Nicol Bolas

Other than the scheme deck, and the simultaneous turn, Archenemy plays very much like any other game of Magic, and the four 60-card preconstructed decks in Archenemy: Nicol Bolas are made up entirely of reprints of older cards, to reflect that. Each of the four decks is headed up by a Planeswalker card, with three members of the Gatewatch (but no Jace! Gasp!) opposing the classic Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker. Coming in the middle of the Amonkhet block, the product is very flavourful to that setting, and I get the impression with some of the decks that you could actually swap out the reprint cards for Amonkhet-block cards (the Nissa deck, for instance, is actually blue/green).

There are a couple of interesting cards included in the decks that are fairly expensive already, so it’s nice to get the reprints there. Grand Abolisher is always nice to have, and Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker was getting somewhat difficult to find here in the UK. I think the balance in the decks in this respect is good, in that you’re likely going to be able to get a hold of this product for a while, and not have to snap it up now “just in case”.

Archenemy: Nicol Bolas

I love the fact that Wizards is producing stuff like this in addition to the main line of expansions for the game. While it’s true that some people will no doubt buy this and take apart the decks (indeed, I’m considering making a few exchanges already) it’s nice to get that board game experience for Magic. Rather than relying on people to have their own decks, and having to work out the format etc beforehand, you really can just take this box off the shelf and play. As I said earlier, I don’t get to play a lot of multiplayer games anymore, but I couldn’t resist picking this one up. Now that I have it, I’m definitely going to try and get a group assembled to see if I can try it out for myself!

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