I love Two-Headed Giant as a format. It presents a great opportunity for friends and family members to play a game of magic where both of them are sharing the same stakes in a sanctioned event. 2HG offers you an opportunity to create a unique experience at a prerelease, FNM, or side event at a larger tournament.
I used to own a store and would regularly run a 2HG FNM, always had a 2HG event at Prereleases, and regularly handle 2HG side events at larger events. In case you hadn’t picked up on it: I love Two-Headed Giant. It’s not quite like most other team variants. Both players are in the same game, enjoying a shared experience. It encourages discussion, creates some interesting interactions that change the valuation of cards, and as it’s usually run at Regular REL in a casual environment.
I would like to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned, which can hopefully help you make your next 2HG event more enjoyable for everyone.
Start of the Tournament
Remember to announce the key changes for 2HG:
- 30 life for the team.
- One game in the match.
- Free mulligan per player.
Most people don’t play 2HG enough to remember all of the differences from a standard game of Magic. So calling out the differences before Round 1 helps to serve as both a refresher for those who haven’t played in a while and a primer for those who haven’t played it.
I like to introduce 2HG events in an interesting way. “Welcome to Two Headed Giant, where the interactions are made up and the rules don’t matter.” This helps to set the tone for the event and usually gets a chuckle or groan.
Players will have plenty of questions about how something works in 2HG. With careful reading, generally speaking, most rules questions are easily answerable.
If the rules text or mechanic says:
- Each opponent: Then the card just gained a lot of value. Archers’ Parapet hits twice as hard, as it means that the opposing team loses 2 life rather than just one. Sorin, Solemn Visitor Ultimate also gets that much better (though if you’ve got an ultimate you’re in a good spot).
- Each Player: This is going to affect everyone on the table equally. If it is better in 2HG depends a lot more on the circumstances. The ultimate on Jace, the Living Guildpact isn’t so good for your teammate, for example.
- You Control: Generally speaking, this is probably not going to interact as well as the player hopes. Abzan Battle Priest is pretty obvious that it’s only going to aid your creatures. Arrow Storm on the other hand requires that you attacked, not whether your partner attacked.
- You don’t control: This card will probably impact your partner poorly, In Garruk’s Wake will destroy your teammate’s creatures and planeswalkers. Though, some interesting combos could happen with Channel Harm and a helpful teammate.
- Other: Read the card. I trust you.
I will call out one last area that is particularly tricky, but hopefully won’t come up too often:
- A Player doesn’t have a life total. But they do gain and lose life.
- A Team does have a life total, but the team doesn’t gain or lose life.
Here is an an example to help illustrate this. You control an Ageless Entity and your partner gains 5 life. Your Ageless Entity doesn’t get any +1/+1 counters. You as the player didn’t gain any life. Your teammate gained the life. Slightly sad, but you’re happy for your partner, right?
It’s about the Teams
If you have the space, break matches up more than you would for a normal tournament. Most stores and venues use tables that can accommodate three matches per table. I’ve found renumbering the tables to have just one 2HG game per table helps create a much more enjoyable event. It gives the players a bit more elbow room and plenty of table space for the eventual gridlock of permanents that will accumulate in play. People are there to have fun and not worry about bumping elbows with their neighbors or thinking about getting out of the play area as soon as possible.
As an added plus, spreading out teams mean you have plenty of places to sit and observe when the round winds down. You’ve got to take care of yourself as well.
This, no matter what format, is always something we have control over and can make better. It’s not 2HG-specific, but something I care deeply about. If there is something that makes the player’s experience better, and it doesn’t really inconvenience someone, do it.
I authorize you. Right now. Right here. Make any player’s experience better.
As 2HG is a more relaxed format, there are plenty of opportunities, both planned and spontaneous, to create unique experiences for players. In the last round of a recent 2HG tournament, there was a team playing for at best 2-2. They were not really playing for much in prizes. One of the players had just cast a Wingmate Roc. At this point he said “There should be an achievement for that.” So, I made an achievement card for the player out of a used sheet of a life pad.
After they won the match, I made sure to stop by and check the box for “Win Game”
The player, a younger kid, was delighted. That made his entire tournament. I didn’t really think anything more about it at the time. It was a random act of kindness and fun just to help make the tournament a bit better. Do that!
The true impact of it was realized a week afterwards. I was judging a local FNM and one of the players mentioned his friend had saved that achievement card and kept it in his trade binder.
I hope you have gained some nugget of information from my experiences and will help to create a better 2HG tournament in your shop or wherever you judge. Keep the focus on fun, read the cards carefully, and you’ll be on your way to making it an event everyone will enjoy and want to repeat. If you find yourself regularly running these events, take some time to get yourself acquainted with Section 810 of the Comprehensive Rules. It will give you the answers for some of the corner cases that can emerge.
Cheers and Happy Judging!