Updated: Oct 18, 2020
Hey everyone, erobert here with a look at the mechanics and strategies of 2v2! The game mode itself is a raucous and chaotic shootout where you and your partner go head to head with another duo, and while this fun format operates with rules that are largely derived the standard rules for 1v1, there are many quirks and subtle nuances that require a little more explanation. Let’s get to it!
The Big Board
Perhaps obviously, the first thing you will notice in a 2v2 game is that the board is almost twice as big. Across the board you have your “opponent” like normal (this terminology will be useful later), but diagonally you will have a board full of “enemy” minions and enchantment. Your partner will be beside you ready to do battle, and while you cannot play minions or enchantments on their side of the board, you may use spells to affect “friendly” lanes, minions, or enchantments!
While there is not any in-game chat function, so you’ll need to rely on the discord to communicate directly with your partner, there is an icon next to their Path icon indicating how many cards they have in hand. By clicking on this icon, you can switch to see their hand, giving a sense of what they’re playing and what kinds of plays they might make. Staying in touch on Discord is by far the safest way to ensure that you are coordinating best with your partner, but being conscientious about the shared Center Lane, not playing minions there if your partner is setting up a specific Enchantment. Helping to set up obvious plays by using your Impel Power on their minions can also be part of the fun of playing a more chaotic game with random partners!
The Center Lane
Most of the unique properties of the 2v2 board are tied to the Lane which you and your partner share. If we number the thirteen Lanes left to right—1-13—the Center Lane is 7, the farthest right for the left partner, and farthest left for the right partner. Either play can set minions and enchantments down on this lane, and for the purposes of any actions, either partner can use Standard and Utility Actions for these minions. Whichever player activates and effect like Gamayun’s divination ability will receive the effect, even if their partner played this minion! Moving off of the Center Lane can only be done into your own side of the board, so communication with your partner will be necessary if you wish to push a minion, even one you own, onto their side of the Center Lane.
What becomes even more mechanically confusing is that the shared ownership for minions can have a variety of effects depending on which opponent or which player is acting. If we think of the board as have four quadrants—1, 2, 3, 4—With the player in the top left being 1, top right being 2, etc. we can look at the board like this:
In this case players 1 and 3, 2 and 4, are “opponents’ properly and their interactions dictate mechanics in the Center Lane. If Player 1 attacks a minion in the Center Lane, even if it was played by Player 4, it will behave as though it belongs to Player 3.
The most common sorts of concrete examples of this come for Demise effects. Similarly, Hopeless Necromantic in the Center Lane will pull from the Boneyard of whichever Player is OPPOSITE the Player which destroys it. So as in our previous examples, if Player 2 has an empty boneyard and Player 1 has played Hopeless Necromantic in the Center Lane, Player 4 may attempt to destroy the Necromantic, thus wasting its demise effect. Even more dramatically, if Player 2 casts Seal of Exile on a minion cast by Player 3 in the Center Lane, it will search Player 4’s deck, hand, and Boneyard for other copies, leaving Player 3’s extra copies completely safe, and likely wasting this effect.
The Center Lane has recently been part of updated rules which simplify previously confusing interactions with undirected effects, like a demise effect being triggered by Blight. Now for the purposes of determining these effects, the Minion in the Center Lane is considered to be "controlled" by it's owner, so a Hopeless Necromantic which dies via Blight in the Center Lane will pull from it's owner's Boneyard, the player with the card actually in their deck. This new ruling makes some elements more exciting, as obviously only one Minion can occupy this Lane, but for some demise effects, both players could benefit. A Stray Panacea in in the Center Lane gives both players a card draw, and an Oak of Dodonna in the Center Lane gives both players Divination 3 and the draw (!) though the owner makes the Divination decision for both players, so be sure to know your partner's deck!
Double Your Fun
The structure of the game itself in many ways follows a logic of simply doubling many values, two life totals, two hands full of goodies, two Paths and Powers to activate. When considering how to play in this mode it is at once motivated by similar strategic and tactical considerations as 1v1, but also has its own style and shape. One thing that stands out immediately is the combined Life total, even though it is only 15 per player, this is enhanced by two different paths, meaning that starting Life totals per team can easily exceed 40. Having access to this much starting life, enough though it gets chipped away potentially twice as fast, pushes many decks into slower, more controlling strategies.
This is not to say that aggro decks have no place in 2v2, but keeping in mind that the game will not only take longer due to larger life totals, but two hands which may be full of removal can often make games that would be a shootout in 1v1 a much more complicated and chaotic affair. Keeping in mind that your spells and effects have 26 lanes to target means that you can take advantage of many more spells, removal for twice as many opposing minions, or buffs for minions your partner is bringing to the party.
By setting up defenses on one side of the board and directing removal to your partner’s opponent, you can generate tons of pressure on that side of the board, which can pull attention from both opponents to try and keep up. Alternately some aggro strategies can find themselves stymied by spells flung from every direction and especially universal effects which can give more controlling strategies a huge edge, blasting the board for one player, while their partner immediately resets their board.
Generally Useful Effects
With the above advice in mind, there are some particular effects and cards which probably deserve special attention in 2v2. As described above, mass effects like Misanthropia, Cataclysm, or Armageddon Angel will affect the entire board, all 26 lanes, and, as a result, these effects become even more critical in shaping the game itself. Cataclysm especially is worded to indicate that it deals 5 damage to all minions and players, meaning that not only is the entire board zapped, but each team take 10 damage, 5 to each partner. The above examples can make for timing and coordination for partners critical, ensuring that you don’t play minions which are going to be blasted by your partner’s Cataclysm or Misanthropia.
Even more dramatically, as indicated above, the Blue sweepers—Magnus Thorsson and Thunderclap—deal damage to “enemy” minions not, your “opponent’s” minions. Not only can you clear the way for your own attackers, you can wipe out the blockers tripping up your partner, generate plenty of tempo while your partner continues to ramp up their own assault on the opposing team. Conversely, some effects, because they are limited only to your opponent and not all opposing players. While Dragon’s Teeth will give both opposing players an extra draw, The Stretcher only punishes draws and discards from your “opponent.” The enemy team will be drawing twice as many cards, but only taking damage for half of those cards which might be much less advantageous than in 1v1.
Things can get even more outlandish when you consider effects which measure minions like Leshy Greene, which can easily spiral into an 8/8 or larger on curve or become an absolute monster later in the game! Boneyard Abomination similarly will gain strength and health from all four Boneyards and will spiral out of control by late or even mid game. Global effects like those from Black and White Cadejo, are amplified by having two extra players bringing minions into play and causing them to leave play and can add up very quickly! Most hazardous of all, combo decks that work in tandem, with one partner summoning large minions and a partner to pump out attacks with Volition, can end games extremely quickly and make short work of random partners.
As much as the metagame for constructed 1v1 is still taking shape and has lots of room for exploration, 2v2 is even less developed. Many times the format is a fun and relaxing break from the ladder grind, but as new events like the Halloween and Valentine's Day 2v2 occur more competitive players are likely to be taking the plunge. Following more unusual and effective strategies in this wild and fun format will only get more exciting!