As a whole, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is much closer to Strixhaven in power level than it is to Throne of Eldraine, which is exactly what I was hoping for, because it means a lot of sweet cards might have a chance to shine after rotation, but for now, we should still expect the current best cards in Standard to stay on top.
Fortunately, I think this set will likely shake things up a little more than Strixhaven, even if it’s mostly just a matter of introducing sideboard cards. As we’ve seen, the new school of color hosers, where cards are more effective against a certain color has tended to lead to some impactful cards, so while cards like Divine Smite and Ray of Enfeeblement might not create new decks, they can certainly shake up a metagame a bit.
As far as building new decks is concerned, it’s not very flashy, but one of the most interesting cards to me is Deadly Dispute. If you control a Treasure already, Deadly Dispute is just a two-mana instant that draws two cards, which is fantastic. The problem is that you need to control a Treasure. However, it has the advantage that it can also allow you to convert something else, like a creature that was going to die anyway, into a Treasure.
You can also think of this like a Village Rites that costs an extra mana up front, but gives you a rebate of one mana, but it’s worth noting that an extra mana up front is a big cost for Village Rites since it makes it a lot harder to leave up reactively.
On the other hand, if you don’t have a Treasure and your goal is to get one, this can be a great way to do that. I think my favorite card to combine this with is Shambling Ghast. The simple curve of Shambling Ghast into Deadly Dispute is a card neutral way to have two Treasures ready for use on Turn 3 so that you can play a five-mana spell.
What sort of deck might be into that? Well, a few different paths occur to me. While I’d love it if the answer involved setting up a big turn with Storm-Kiln Artist and Plumb the Forbidden, or playing an attrition game based on Skullport Merchant, I suspect the best decks are going to be using this Treasure to cast Dragons. Specifically, Goldspan Dragon and/or Korvold, Fae-Cursed King.
Goldspan Dragon creates Treasures and doubles the effectiveness of your Treasures. This could lead to an end-game that revolves around casting Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, or possibly just a more aggressive deck, maybe even featuring Embercleave.
Korvold implies Jund Treasures, which has some tools I like. Jaspera Sentinel plays well with Magda, Brazen Outlaw and helps ramp to Dragons (offering another two card pairing to cast a Turn 3 Dragon) and Prosperous Innkeeper is another reasonable option.
I’m also really interested in playing Skullport Merchant alongside Magda and Jespara Sentinel. Sailor of Means always felt close, and Skullport Merchant is a Dwarf with a great ability. This deck will do a good job of generating creatures and artifacts, but might rely on Korvold to keep the gas coming and Skullport Merchant can serve as a backup in a pinch.
So where would all this leave us?
Jaspera Sentinel seems like the best one-drop, followed by Shambling Ghast and Gilded Goose, followed probably by Eyetwitch, but I think we’re not interested in going that far.
At two-mana, Magda is best, followed by Prosperous Innkeeper and Kalain, Reclusive Painter. I think those are better than Hunt for Specimens and Forbidden Friendship. I don’t think I like Hired Hexblade.
At three-mana I think I like Skullport Merchant, and Lovestruck Beast should always be kept in mind. I’m more interested in Bastion of Remembrance or Woe Strider than Sedgemoor Witch. I’m skeptical of Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge, but can’t rule it out. Same with Xorn and Plundering Barbarian.
I don’t know if I want anything for four-mana. I think Unexpected Windfall is a strong card that might fit in some kind of Izzet deck with Prismari Command that’s Ramping to Ugin or Magma Opus, or some other Ugin deck, but likely not a Korvold deck. Esika’s Chariot is a great threat and source of bodies, especially if we’re looking to be more aggressive, but I feel like it might be better to skip fours and use our Treasures to go straight to Dragons, but it could be better to try to set up the curve of Prosperous Innkeeper into Esika’s Chariot, which is a great start that doesn’t require a combo or certain creature staying alive to set up.
At five-mana, Korvold and Goldspan Dragon. From there you could maybe try Old Gnawbone, but I think I’d rather play eight five-mana Dragons before I played a seven-mana Dragon, and that seems like a lot.
With this many Treasures, it could be easy to splash. The card that most appeals to me to slash is Extus, Oriq Overlord, which seems pretty good. What kind of supporting cast might these creatures want?
Village Rites and Plumb the Forbidden are obvious options, but without magecraft I think Plumb is worse and more directly competes with Deadly Dispute, which is a higher priority here. Witch’s Oven makes Food rather than Treasure, but that can still fuel Deadly Dispute and Korvold, and it plays well with Gilded Goose. This is particularly good if we’re trying to play Claim the Firstborn.
Bonecrusher Giant and Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger are additional creatures that I don’t exactly think of as being part of my creature curve that could be good in this kind of deck. We probably want some removal — that could be Claim the Firstborn or Heartless Act, Binding the Old Gods, or even Valki, God of Lies. Devour Intellect and You Find a Cursed Idol are interesting options, but I think it’s unlikely that I’d want to play either main.
A possible decklist?
- 4 Gilded Goose
- 4 Lovestruck Beast
- 4 Korvold, Fae-Cursed King
- 4 Magda, Brazen Outlaw
- 1 Goldspan Dragon
- 4 Jaspera Sentinel
- 1 Extus, Oriq Overlord
- 4 Prosperous Innkeeper
- 4 Shambling Ghast
- 2 Skullport Merchant
This deck is definitely playing some new cards just to explore them, and likely a little weaker because it’s playing other cards instead of Bonecrusher Giant, but it’s hard to figure out which new cards are good if you don’t make room to give them a chance.
I think Temple of the Dragon Queen is a really strong land, but I’d want a few more Dragons to support it and just couldn’t find room. More Goldspan Dragons or even Masked Vandals could work.
There wasn’t room for all the cards I considered in this deck, which is of course the goal with brainstorming, and of course, any of them could be right, but this seems like a solid start to exploring how explosive Korvold can be with the new Treasure cards.
But if green creatures are too fragile, we can also consider ramping just with Treasures, possibly in Grixis:
This deck is something of a mix between Prismari Dragons and Big Red with some black cards for extra Treasure. Is it worth splashing Shambling Ghast, Deadly Dispute, and Kalain? Well, that probably depends on things like whether Shambling Ghast is a useful blocker and how strong ramping to Ugin is, but this could certainly add some speed to the deck.
For example, Turn 1 Shambling Ghast, Turn 2 Deadly Dispute, Turn 3 Irencrag Feat allows you to cast Ugin or Magma Opus.
This plan is very all-in, but there are a lot of options to pivot when that’s too risky. You could side in Duress to protect your investment, or you could cut Irencrag Feats and try to grind more either by adding slightly less expensive threats like Valki or Ashiok, or you could add Mazemind Tome or Expressive Iteration for card advantage. If your opponents really aren’t attacking you, you could even consider Search for Blex.
While a lot of cards in Advantures in the Forgotten Realms look pretty tame, we have a lot of new ways to make Treasure available, and exploiting these cheap extra game objects or mana boosts feels likely to be among the most promising paths to try to shake up Standard in the months before rotation.