ConceptUsurper is a one vs. many casual format. One player plays as the King (or Queen) and receives special perks from an ever-growing Throne, which is represented by a die. The other players are Pretenders to the Throne. The object of a game of Usurper is to usurp the Throne by being the player whose turn it is when the King loses the game, thus allowing you to become King for the duration of the next game. (Unlike with some one vs. many formats, the players on the many side (the Pretenders) do not share a turn.) Meanwhile, the object of a match of Usurper is to win the game as the King. Thus, Usurper must be played in matches, as playing a game of Usurper has no meaning (unless the King manages to win during the first game, which is extremely unlikely).
It is recommended that you have at least four players to play Usurper. For longer matches, add more players.
Set-UpThe only special item needed to play a Usurper match is a die to represent the Throne. I recommend a d12, but a d6 should be sufficient as long as you don't have too many players. Alternatively, you may eschew the die entirely and keep track of the Throne setting using paper and pencil.
To start, roll to see who will be the first player to serve as King. That player goes first.
Each player starts the game with a starting and maximum hand size of 5 and a life total of 10. You may use whatever mulligan rules you wish, but due to the reduced hand sizes, I recommend having a limited number of free mulligans, with mulligans being disallowed after those are used up. You may want to consider using a different mulligan rule for the King than for the Pretenders, as he/she will have a larger hand size.
Special RulesIn Usurper, the King always goes first, but as with most multi-player formats, that player may draw a card on his/her first turn.
During the first game, the Throne is set at 1. The King gets +1X to his/her starting and maximum hand size and +3X to his/her starting life total, where X is the Throne's setting.
A game ends when either the King or all Pretenders have lost the game. If all Pretenders lose the game, then the King wins game and match. If the King loses the game, then the player whose turn it was when the King lost is given the Throne die and becomes the King for the duration of the next game. That player is said to have "usurped the Throne." When this happens, the Throne's setting is increased by 1. (Thus, the Throne's setting will always be equal to the number of games that have been played, including the current game. So the King will have a hand size of 6 and a life total of 13 for the first game, a hand size of 7 and a life total of 16 for the second, and so forth.) As a result, the King will be more powerful each game, and therefore more difficult for the other players to defeat. Ideally, it should take several games before the Throne has grown enough to allow a player to win as the King.
As this is a one vs. many format, the Pretenders are all technically on the same team, so they cannot attack one another. However, unlike with most one vs. many formats, those players are also actively competing against one another, as each one wants to be to first one to usurp the Throne so that he/she can have a chance at winning the match. Thus, a little backstabbing is fair game. If you want to lightning bolt a fellow Pretender, for example, that's a perfectly legal move; only attacking teammates with creatures is prohibited.
RecommendationsDue to the limited hand-sizes involved, I recommend the addition of an optional special rule for drawing: during their draw phase, rather than draw a single card, players may opt to draw until they have reached their maximum hand size (or what their maximum hand size would be, if they for some reason don't have one). Obviously, if you have a full hand already, you will want to opt to just draw as usual.
As far as strategy goes, you will need a deck with enough defense to fend off multiple opponents when you find yourself playing as the King, but with enough offense to take down the King during your turn when you're playing as a Pretender. Thus, versatility is necessary. You should also be careful not to leave the King too weak at the end of your turn, as it may make it easier for another Pretender to take him down and steal your win.
Note that Usurper can be very easily combined with other formats like EDH.
Problems and Creator CommentsOriginally, I wanted the condition for usurping to be "be the player who controls the effect that causes the King to lose the game." That would have allowed the Pretenders to share a turn, as with most one vs. many formats. However, that made burn spells far too powerful, as anyone could just splash red for a set of lightning bolts and steal the game as soon as the King reached 3 life. So I changed it.
When I first created this format, I did so because I didn't know of any other one vs. many formats. (This was before Archenemy was announced.) I like the way it plays because it makes losing less painful (since all but one player will wind up losing with you) and winning much, much more sweet. (Mwahaha! With my hand size of 12 and my life total of 31, I have secured the Throne and crushed all adversaries!) The only real disappointments come when you go through a ten game match without ever getting to be the King. (Feels bad man.) But that doesn't come up too often. And then there's the guilty pleasure of turning on your teammates in an attempt to steal the game, and the thrill of watching the opposing team fight amongst itself while playing as the King.
I also feel that it's a fairly flavorful format. I was originally thinking of calling it "King of the Hill" with the Throne being referred to as a "Hill," but I figured someone had to have created a format by that name at some point.
I have only played a few matches of Usurper so far, so it hasn't been very thoroughly tested. I'm sure there are probably a few bugs left. Let me know if you notice any, or if you any rules questions or recommendations for improvements.
Back to magic community labs