Adventures In The Forgotten Realms First Impressions: Standard

Adventures In The Forgotten Realms brims with potential for Standard, but which cards will make the cut? Seven SCG creators cast their votes, with surprising results.

Iymrith, Desert Doom, illustrated by Antonio José Manzanedo

Welcome to D&D: Adventures In The Forgotten Realms First Impressions week!

All week long, various members of the SCG Staff will share their thoughts on the Top 5 Adventures In The Forgotten Realms cards in each format. Today we’ll begin with Standard, Tuesday will be Historic, Wednesday will be Pioneer, and Thursday will be Modern. To add a little fun to the mix, a scoring system has been put in place so that we can get an idea of what card ranked in what place in the aggregate to close out each article. The scoring system is as follows:

  • 1st — 5 points
  • 2nd — 4 points
  • 3rd — 3 points
  • 4th — 2 points
  • 5th — 1 point

Let’s start our venture into Magic’s newest set with The Best Standard Player of All Time™, shall we?

Brad Nelson

  1. Ranger Class
  2. Iymrith, Desert Doom
  3. Kalain, Reclusive Painter
  4. Werewolf Pack Leader
  5. Loyal Warhound

Ranger Class Iymrith, Desert Doom Kalain, Reclusive Painter Werewolf Pack Leader Loyal Warhound

Well here we are with another chance for me to redeem myself after my embarrassing Top 5 Strixhaven predictions. The long-awaited D&D: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms set is knocking at our doorsteps and it’s time for me to get back into fighting shape by bestowing upon you the greatest Top 5 list of all time.

Let’s start things off with Loyal Warhound. We’re all going to be comparing this card a lot to Knight of the White Orchid (my favorite card of all time), but I don’t think it does it much justice. It’s quite obvious that the ability to search for a land is stifled by the fact that you can’t search up dual lands given that Loyal Warhound is limited to fetching basics, but what really stinks if they enter the battlefield tapped. This stops us from ever playing two two-mana spells on Turn 3 when we’re on the draw. That really sucks.

The thing is, however, where Loyal Warhound lacks in “enters the battlefield” triggers, it overperforms as an aggressive element. Not only does it have three power, but costing 1W makes it much easier to play in multi-colored decks. This is for sure a good boy!

Let’s jump to Kalain, Reclusive Painter for a minute and talk about how great getting two resources for such a low investment can be. We all know how good Gilded Goose can be for this very reason, making cards similar to Kalain a real threat. Now I haven’t spent much time building around this card but I can assure you that Rakdos Sacrifice is going to make room for such an aggressively-costed enabler.

Coming in at #2 is a big shiny dragon. Iymrith, Desert Doom might not be Dragonlord Ojutai as ward is *not* hexproof, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to find a home. What we have to do is think about what situations this card is going to shine in. Binding the Old Gods, for example, is one of the most punishing cards in Standard when it comes to tap-out threats making Iymrith the go-to finisher for any control deck.

In my opinion green got the most goodies from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. Not great I know, but it’s the world we live in. Werewolf Pack Leader is one of the most aggressively pushed green two-drops ever in that it can draw cards and is a mana sink. WHAT?! Not only that, but it fills the two-mana slot quite nicely for an aggressive deck that didn’t have many ways to get around Bonecrusher Giant’s stomp ability.

Now let’s finally talk about my favorite card from the set; Ranger Class. The reason why I love this card so much is not for its first two… do we call them chapters (CEDitor’s Note: It says Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 right on the card Brad…)? Anyway, I love this card for its final form, being able to play creatures from the top of your library. To me, this card is more like Trail of Crumbs than an aggressive element as it gives a green deck inevitability. You can’t just control this card on a one-for-one level. You have to overpower it. The problem there is that you can’t have too many over-the-top elements in your deck when you’re trying to beat the early aggression from the rest of the deck.

Shaheen Soorani

  1. Den of the Bugbear
  2. Cave of the Frost Dragon
  3. Hall of Storm Giants
  4. Imyrith, Desert Doom
  5. Loyal Warhound

Den of the Bugbear Cave of the Frost Dragon Hall of Storm Giants Iymrith, Desert Doom Loyal Warhound

A new Standard set is upon us and the power level continues to trend downwards.  This is the better strategy from WotC, leading us to an eventual repair of Magic’s most played format.  It will take rotation to fix the damage done; however, that would not be possible if the power creep kept its prior, upward trajectory.

Making a Top 5 list for Adventures in the Forgotten Realms was a tough task, even with the drop in card potency.  There are five very strong lands that will all see play in Standard, which would typically take all my slots if done impartially.  I have never been described as neutral when it comes to card favoritism, and I did not plan on starting now.  Therefore, the first three are taken by the incoming creature-lands, but the bottom two are spells that will have a significant impact on the current Standard.  The creature-lands I listed are the best ones for the current archetypes in Standard, with Den of the Bugbear being the baddest of the bunch.  It has decent power, makes attackers, and fits perfectly in a deck full of Mountains.  The rest will have an impact, but this is the strongest one by a mile.

Loyal Warhound may be a surprise to some, but not me.  I remember the days of Knight of the White Orchid and today’s Standard has a similar, white-based aggro presence.  Mono-White Aggro continues to do work in the hostile metagame, dominated by gimmicky Sultai and Jeskai decks that have very few weaknesses.  True aggro decks, like Mono-Red and Mono-White Aggro can topple them in the early-game, which is why they still take down online events here and there.  Loyal Warhound is a game changer, providing a three-power threat on Turn 3 and catching up on lands.  I hate to see it, but white-based aggro is about to get a much better!

The final card in my Top 5 is Imyrith, Desert Doom and there’s some wishful thinking attached to it.  I think it’s a very powerful win condition that control desperately needs, especially for those who want to avoid the three-color options.  Dimir Control is about to climb back to relevancy on the back of this powerful win condition, shedding its prior inability to close the game out.  Even though I may lack some objectivity on this Top 5 list to include my reborn Dragonlord Ojutai, its stats may bail me out in the end.

Dom Harvey

  1. Werewolf Pack Leader
  2. Burning Hands
  3. Ranger Class
  4. Minsc, Beloved Ranger
  5. Iymrith, Desert Doom

Werewolf Pack Leader Burning Hands Ranger Class Minsc, Beloved Ranger Iymrith, Desert Doom

Mono-Green Aggro❄ was expected to make a mark in Kaldheim Standard thanks to Old-Growth Troll but that never materialized in part because of a lack of good two-drops. Werewolf Pack Leader fills that gap perfectly and offers flood protection alongside creature-lands like Faceless Haven or Lair of the Hydra for a deck without card selection. Mono-Green Aggro❄ is everywhere in Standard 2022 (a preview of post-rotation Standard starting with Zendikar Rising) on MTG Arena and Werewolf Pack Leader is a big reason for that. For now, Werewolf Pack Leader is the rare two-drop that survives Stomp and can brawl with everything else.

Not just a good answer for the resurgent green machine, Burning Hands makes the list as a fix for existing problems. No longer a laughably overdue answer to Oko, Thief of Crowns (still Standard-legal in some alternate universe!) and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, this is the foil red decks needed for Lovestruck Beast and Elder Gargaroth instead. In particular, being a two-mana instant lets a newly played Goldspan Dragon attack into Gargaroth or pick off Polukranos, Unchained. Another clean answer to Koma, Cosmos Serpent is useful too.

Ranger Class joins Werewolf Pack Leader as a new highlight of green aggro, offering a way to use your mana effectively at every stage of the game. A Level 2 Ranger Class quickly makes blocking impossible and the Level 3 ability means your two-drop is still an excellent draw in a longer game.

Minsc, Beloved Ranger is a natural fit for the token-centric builds of Naya Adventures, allowing a deck that specializes in going wide to go tall too and even creating a 1/1 for Lovestruck Beast. Naya Adventures can struggle to apply pressure and Minsc adds a decent amount of power to the battlefield while converting mana into damage on future turns. It’s easy to miss that it can be a sacrifice outlet of sorts if you activate it for X = 0, powering up The Akroan War even further. Minsc may also give Winota, Joiner of Forces one last chance to shine at the end of its Standard career — a Human hit for Winota’s trigger that makes a non-Human attacker is exactly what Winota needs and what it has lacked in Standard.

The Dragonlord Ojutai comparisons with Iymrith, Desert Doom are obvious and encouraging. It competes for space with Goldspan Dragon in the current builds of Izzet Dragons❄ but lines up well against opposing Goldspan Dragons and some of the common responses to them. Iymrith also offers a new premium threat to decks like Dimir Control and I expect that to be its usual home. As with any expensive blue card, Iymrith can only be so high on these lists as long as Mystical Dispute is in Standard. 

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

  1. Ranger Class 
  2. Iymrith, Desert Doom
  3. Werewolf Pack Leader
  4. Shambling Ghast
  5. Burning Hands

Ranger Class Iymrith, Desert Doom Werewolf Pack Leader Shambling Ghast Burning Hands

It seems that no new set is going to be able to match Throne of Eldraine anytime soon, and Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is no exception. A lot of the mechanics and cards in the set are interesting and flavorful, but at this point there’s little reason to be playing ventures instead of adventures, and I expect most new cards to be role players in Standard until the rotation. That said, I think there are more exciting and potentially good cards here than there were in Strixhaven, so I’m looking forward to playing more with the set. I believe that, by the time I look back to this set and do the Exit Interview, I will be able to find five good Standard cards, something I was basically unable to do with the previous set. We also currently have “2022 Standard” queues on Magic Arena that can give us an idea of what’s good and what’s bad.

Ranger Class has been a card that has impressed in the 2022 queue, and it’s fundamentally different from the other Classes because it’s basically a creature. Sure, it is a 2/2 for two, which is not ideal, but it immediately adds material to the battlefield, so you don’t feel like you took a turn off. Once you level it to Level 2, you get your own personal unkillable Luminarch Aspirant, and we all know how strong that card can be in both short and long games. Then, finally, once you level it to three, you basically guarantee you’ll never be outcarded for the rest of the game. We’ve seen this type of effect before, most recently with Vivien, Monster’s Advocate, but it’s been a while since it’s showed up at a competitive rate in a hard-to-remove permanent, and I believe the existence of Ranger Class will force every slow deck to adapt and try to find a quick win condition otherwise they will get buried by this.

In second place we have Iymrith, Desert Doom, the newest Dragonlord Ojutai on the block. This card is not nearly as good as Dragonlord Ojutai, but there’s a lot of room for a card to be worse than him and still be strong. If you’re on the play it can use ward to dodge any removal spell (even Heartless Act), and even if you’re on the draw they have to spend their whole turn doing it, so it’s not too bad to tap out for this most of the time. As a 5/5, it’s the perfect card to answer the other strong Dragon in Standard (Goldspan Dragon) and I expect this to see play in midrange decks (such as Izzet Dragons❄, which will now probably have enough of a Dragons theme to actually be called Izzet Dragons❄ with a straight face) as well as potentially in control decks as a mid-sized finisher (we do need to kill them before Ranger Class takes over, after all).

In third place we have yet another green aggressive card in Werewolf Pack Leader. This might not see as much play as I expect because of the casting cost (it might be hard for decks like Gruul to reliably cast it), but it’s a two-drop that has two relevant abilities and that survives Stomp and unkicked Frost Bite, so it has a very good chance of seeing play. Obviously if there is a Mono-Green Aggro❄ deck moving forward it will be an automatic four-of — that deck has historically struggled with its two-drops and this way clears the bar.

In fourth place, we have the most speculative card on my list — Shambling Ghast. This is a niche card, and might not end up seeing much play, but the potential is certainly there. I’ve literally played Festering Goblin in Standard before, and we had some Rakdos decks that were playing Fireblade Charger even though they were heavy black just because they wanted another synergistic one-drop, and Shambling Ghast is significantly better, as the ability to get a Treasure instead of a -1/-1 trigger is an incredible power boost. The key thing with this type of card is that, when the -1/-1 ability works, the card is quite good — it’s often a two-for-one when it blocks or when you sacrifice it for an ability. The problem has historically been when the -1/-1 ability doesn’t work and now you get a Treasure for your troubles. This might not be enough to revitalize Rakdos Sacrifice decks, for example, but I think it’s definitely worth trying.

Finally, we have Burning Hands, a card that I believe will mostly be in the sideboard but that might have a significant impact. Lovestruck Beast and Elder Gargaroth have been the bane of red aggressive decks for as long as they have existed, and this card is a two-mana instant-speed way of killing them flat, whereas before you needed to pay at least three for Lovestruck Beast and four for Elder Gargaroth (often while playing somewhat suboptimal cards just to accomplish it). I expect Burning Hands to be a sideboard staple for as long as green creature decks exist and it even has the potential to swing some matchups completely. 

Ari Lax

  1. Ranger Class
  2. Den of the Bugbear
  3. Mind Flayer
  4. Demilich
  5. Hall of Storm Giants

Ranger Class Den of the Bugbear Mind Flayer Demilich Hall of Storm Giants

Ranger Class is a wild Magic card. I don’t know why a body, a Luminarch Aspirant, and a Future Sight are all on the same card but whatever, I’m just going to play it.

The rest of this list might have some Bonecrusher Giant or Embercleave bias. Something like Flameskull or Zariel, Archduke of Avernus probably deserves more credit for impact on 2022 Standard, but instead I’m ranking a red land.

As for the blue cards, Mind Flayer is just important in Standard. A 3/3 Control Magic closes games fast. Demilich and Hall of the Storm Giants are basically free spaces on this ranking exercise, and if anything I’m underrating them for uniqueness.

If I banned myself from rating lands, I believe Monk of the Open Hand and Grand Master of Flowers would be my next two cards in line. It’s hard to predict what white aggressive decks will look like in the future, but those are at least the right rates to make an impact.

Bryan Gottlieb

  1. Orcus, Prince of Undeath
  2. Ranger Class
  3. Iymrith, Desert Doom
  4. Shambling Ghast
  5. Loyal Warhound

Orcus, Prince of Undeath Ranger Class Iymrith, Desert Doom Shambling Ghast Loyal Warhound

Adventures in the Forgotten Realms pulled through in the end and delivered what I think will be remembered as a solid, but unspectacular Standard set. This isn’t Strixhaven, where I’m just taking shots in the dark for my Top 5, praying that one of these cards can actually matter in the slightest. All of these cards can be difference makers and some will actually spawn new archetypes.

Loyal Warhound does just enough of a Knight of the White Orchid impersonation that it’s sure to be widely beloved. Sure, it’s more fragile, and can’t do the two-drop into two-drop shenanigans, but all but the lowest to the ground white decks should be interested in advancing their battlefield while shoring up their mana situation. Mono-White Aggro❄ has plenty of uses for its mana with Faceless Haven as one of its key cards. I don’t think decks like The Book of Exalted Deeds combo could exist without this tool. It’s just too critical to the identity of white midrange right now.

Shambling Ghast is kind of my foundational stand in for the entire Treasure suite present in the set. This could be Kalain, Reclusive Painter; Forsworn Paladin; or even Unexpected Windfall. Some of my best brewing thus far in the set has been based around Treasures, and the defensive foundation that Shambling Ghast adds to those setups is critical.

Iymrith, Desert Doom is the raw power standout on this list. I don’t actually think the card has found a perfect home yet, though it’s completely fine alongside Goldspan Dragon in Izzet Dragons❄. Long term, I expect Iymrith to fuel plenty of control decks in a post Emergent Ultimatum world. It’s just so hard to interact with at any kind of mana advantage, and once it starts hitting it will quickly take over games.

Ranger Class is the foundation of the present best deck in Standard, Mono-Green Aggro❄. It’s just good beats attached to a card advantage engine that can absolutely carry you through a late game. Again, Werewolf Pack Leader could share this spot, but I think Ranger Class is ultimately going to fuel a bunch of archetypes throughout its time in Standard.

Orcus, Prince of Undeath strikes me as the biggest difference maker in this set, because it’s just good at absolutely everything. Containing Mono-Red and Mono-White Aggro’s aggression? Check. Stopping Naya Adventures from going super wide? Check. Adequate beatdown when you need a fast clock against Emergent Ultimatum? Check. Staying power to go long against any control deck that dares show its face? Check again. Orcus does it all, and its sweeper ability lines up perfectly in a format defined by Edgewall Innkeeper. It can even block Goldspan Dragon!

Put more Orcus in your lists and thank me later.

Corey Baumeister

  1. Iymrith, Desert Doom
  2. Werewolf Pack Leader
  3. Grand Master of Flowers 
  4. Icingdeath, Frost Tyrant
  5. Orb of Dragonkind

Iymrith, Desert Doom Werewolf Pack Leader Grand Master of Flowers Icingdeath, Frost Tyrant Orb of Dragonkind

Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is another powered down set so there aren’t any standout cards that are going to make an explosive impact immediately. That may seem disappointing right away but it’s the correct direction for Magic and it will be good in the long run (and by long run, I mean when Throne of Eldraine rotates!)

Topping out my list is Iymrith, Desert Doom. This Dragonlord Ojutai imposter is sure to make an impact in a variety of decks. Immediately it seems to slot into the Izzet Dragons❄ deck quite nicely. Being able to choose to jam Goldspan Dragon or Iymrith is really strong against certain decks. You get to punish people that leave mana open to interact, thinking you are going to play Goldspan Dragon and instead you get to ask “do you have four extra mana laying around to kill this!?”

Outside of Izzet Dragons❄, Iymrith unlocks the potential for control mages to try and win the game with this Dragon alone. I’m looking at you Shaheen!

Next up we have Werewolf Pack Leader. We’ve seen similar cards like this make an impact on Standard and specifically the Mono-Green Machine. Barkhide Troll is the first one that comes to my mind and was a stock four-of in the deck, but Werewolf Pack Leader is so much better than that card ever was. Outside of Mono-Green Aggro❄, I think this card could have a home in a Gruul deck with Brushfire Elemental. Turn 1 Temple of Abandon into Turn 2 Werewolf Pack Leader followed by Brushfire Elemental into a land drop, attack for six and draw a card seems pretty gross to me!

Grand Master of Flowers is a card I’m really not sure of but the ceiling is very high if you get the right metagame. Being able to Pacifism a creature is very strong when you can back it up with other removal, but unfortunately it isn’t just straight Pacifism when you have creatures like Elder Gargaroth stomping around. Another card that really scares me is Goldspan Dragon being able to attack the Grand Master down the turn you play it if you’re on the draw.

Icingdeath, Frost Tyrant should just replace Legion Angel in Mono-White Aggro❄. It blocks Goldspan Dragon profitably and vigilance is a nice keyword here. A ton of cards in Magic’s past have had “When this dies, get X” and that is all fine and good but when you have to choose to attack or not with those cards, your opponent can just play around them pretty effectively. The combination of vigilance and flying is a nightmare for a ton of aggro decks to deal with.

Last, but not least, is Orb of Dragonkind. This is my wildcard pick, as I think curving this into Galazeth Prismari is quite strong and the set has a ton of Dragons that have yet to be explored. When it comes to Standard after rotation, I think this card is going to be fantastic. But, for now, I just hope it’s going to be playable.

And now, without further ado, the SCG Staff’s Top 5 Adventures In The Forgotten Realms cards for Standard are…

T-5. Burning Hands and Orcus, Prince of Undeath

Burning Hands Orcus, Prince of Undeath

4. Den of the Bugbear

Den of the Bugbear

3. Werewolf Pack Leader

Werewolf Pack Leader

2. Iymrith, Desert Doom

Iymrith, Desert Doom

1. Ranger Class

Ranger Class

Cya back here tomorrow for our thoughts on Adventures In The Forgotten Realms‘ impact on Historic!