Blue is hands-down the color I’m most excited for in D&D: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. As a kid, I vividly remember bouncing things with a Man-o’-War so my Ophidian could get through and draw me a card. Adventures in the Forgotten Realms feels cut from that cloth in the most flattering way, unlike the JNCO jeans I was wearing back then.
Before diving into blue, if you missed the white portion of my Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Limited review, you can find it here.
Adventures in the Forgotten Realms feels most like a core set in blue, as the bulk of the cards dealing with a certain mechanic are dedicated to rolling dice or venturing. Broadly, I think the best deck is what I’ll call “being sneaky” or doing tempo-based things like freeing up your creatures to draw you cards/venture. There’s a ton of value whether you want to be aggressive or play the long game of dungeon-seeking.
Rolling, on the other hand, doesn’t get the support I would have liked to see. The ability to roll twice and take the higher number? That’s fine. But note there’s no way to augment your rolls, so a “natural” twenty is the only way you’re gonna hit it. As such, the highs of these decks will certainly feel higher, but most of the time you’ll be wishing for a Christmas gift you know in your heart you won’t be opening up.
Again: the grading rubric, where your absolute bombs are rated 5.0 and the unplayable, Constructed-only cards are a sad 0.0. A 2.5 is a card you’re almost always playing, a card with two grades reflects that it’s great when it’s in the correct deck, and Sideboard indicates that a card is worthy of consideration in Best-of-Three matches.
Aberrant Mind Sorcerer
Don’t forget to blow on these dice, as this is truly night and day when it comes to value from Aberrant Mind Sorcerer. There will be times when sending a spell to the top of your library means your game is effectively over. There will be times it will be correct to target something with a lower power level simply because you need to cast it immediately. Pair Aberrant Mind Sorcerer with True Polymorph for the real hijinks and loop until your opponent is blue.
Perhaps Air-Cult Elemental is a testament to how slow this format is, but to me, the Fan-o’-War, well… blows. Six mana seems like far too high a cost for something that isn’t going to take over the skies with a measly two power. By the time you can cast it, your opponent should be able to easily replay whatever goes back, so you’re only gaining a marginal tempo advantage. Honestly, I can see this being used to bounce your own battlefield far more often, which, again, is a lot to pay for the effect. If this could more reliably block Dragons, I’d be in.
Adventures in the Forgotten Realms doesn’t seem like it lacks ways for you to spend your mana, making Arcane Investigator a serviceable option if you’re low on two-drops. Still, your best-case scenario is an Anticipate every other turn (remember, you’re ideally casting things), making this a fine play.
Bar the Gate
Bar The Gate gives you your staple three-mana counter with the bonus attached. Something tells me that venturing pays this off a little more than usual, but I’m never starting more than a single copy and am more likely to start it in a Sealed deck where I know they’re more likely to be bomb-dependent.
The Blackstaff of Waterdeep
There aren’t that many quality artifacts for cheap that I’m looking to include to take advantage of this ability (don’t try to animate any Treasures because this only works on non-token artifacts.). There simply doesn’t seem to be enough support for artifacts broadly to make this worth building around, but it’ll be a solid inclusion if you wind up in Dimir with a couple of pieces of Equipment and Treasures.
A cool effect (a Cone of Shame?) at too high of a cost. At seven mana, I need something that will break open the game, not buy me time, and I have to envision shuddering at seeing this in my opening hand. There’s a possible home for this in Simic ramp, but that’s not a color pairing that’s particularly hurting for top-end threats.
The run-of-the-mill blue tap Aura at common is back with this Throne of Eldraine reprint! Enchantment hate seems to be well-positioned (with even black getting in on the action), making this a little lower than I’d usually grade it, but there are enough threats out there that tapping remains an effective answer to.
Meh. Activating Clever Conjurer only at sorcery speed makes it a little less fun, as you’re in a situation where you’ll get either a blocker or mana, but not both. Still, this set is resource-intensive, so I imagine they’ll find a home in quite a few decks. The only thing that gives me pause is asking myself when was the last time a common 2/3 for three felt relevant in limited? Like Staind, it’s been a while.
Contact Other Plane
Divination with the potential to scry doesn’t make Contact Other Plane worth an extra mana with so much scry likely coming from dungeons, but I suspect most blue decks will wind up playing one. How rolling a twenty is only worth an extra scry is beyond me. If you need better options to set up your draws, luckily you’re covered with Djinni Windseer.
I’d be much higher on Demilichvato if there were more cheap spells and cantrips here to play with, but it’s reasonable to cast it for UU most games. In a long enough game, you’ll likely get it back once, but even one attack starts pitting the first ability against the second. It seems like the real impact will be felt in Constructed, but don’t count it out doing some value in Limited.
No one is going to like getting Beast-locked, but it will happen. Chumping your opponent’s biggest threat, bouncing the black Cat, and venturing on a loop makes this a three-drop with staying power. When in doubt, save the mana to bounce rather than preemptively bouncing and casting again, as you don’t want to give your opponent a shot at disrupting your chain.
I would be happy at a 3/3 flyer for 3U, but apropos of nothing, you get some free scry tacked on. Unless evasive threats are suddenly no longer en vogue, I would happily snatch up a pair or more of Djinni Windseers and set up my later turns for success. They’re also a real pain when it comes to bounce spells and can team up to take down Dragons when need be.
By casting this at instant speed, you’re at least getting your untap first, but Dragon Turtle is a genuinely quirky card design. Still, stats are stats, and a 3/5 at three mana is hard to pass up. Specifically, five toughness is only outmatched by eight creatures, four of which are mythic, and five others trade with it. Not bad for a Turtle.
Grade: 3.5 (which is delicious)
A Wind Drake with a substantial upside and an enters-the-battlefield venture is what you’re looking to do in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. I would rate this higher if we had the completed dungeon trigger each turn, but feel confident beating down while Birding a large blocker or your terrestrial creature. Note that these creatures retain their abilities (and doesn’t get Frogified) so you can still pump or possibly generate a venture trigger from one of your squad.
Rolling dice seems generally good, but the challenge here is to avoid maindecking flotsam just to generate a few Faerie Dragons. Secondary challenge: find repeatable ways to roll dice, which typically costs a lot of mana or success in combat. My gut tells me Feywild Trickster is a trap, as there are only four ways to roll at common in blue. I would be acutely aware that I need a plan for these tokens, as 1/1 flyers aren’t dominating the skies in this set.
This will be the real test of how valuable venturing is, as this feels like Curious Obsession-lite. Paired up with a Soulknife Spy (or a Shortcut Seeker in a pinch), you’ll recoup the card quickly. I’ll definitely be monitoring the data on Fly obsessively over the first few weeks. Where I think you’ll lose value is trying to pair this with You See a Guard Approach as a mini-Dive Down. You don’t have to go full Mono-Blue Tempo as if this is Constructed to get your value.
Grazilaxx, Illithid Scholar
Paired with the right enters-the-battlefield creatures, this makes combat a nightmare for your opponents (as evidenced by the whole “tentacles and skull” dynamic on display). You control when you trade, when you bounce, and occasionally get to draw a free card. In tempo decks that want to be pushing the envelope already, this is your mythic rare and I expect that black combat tricks such as Feign Death will shine. I expect people to sleep on this one, which, again, is a bad idea. Nightmares and such.
Again, I think there are other, more imaginative places to spend your mana, but this two-drop can get out of hand pretty quickly without needing to activate Cunning Action. Blue looks very tempo-oriented, and this could be a big winner as a result. While truly awful while behind, this is the perfect breaker of battlefield stalls that will not be scryed away often in venture decks.
Iymrith, Desert Doom
It’s hard to imagine many scenarios where you don’t get a chance to untap with Iymrith, Desert Doom and attempt to draw some cards. What I can imagine is a lot of opponents doing nothing and passing with open mana, daring you to attack, as that seems like a safer alternative than taking five and losing card advantage for the pleasure of it. It hasn’t been this smooth to bring rain to the desert since Sade.
Mind Flayer isn’t the most prominent body, but it does help you snatch your opponents. Ideally, you can hold on until they’ve blown through some of their removal and landed their best threat before turning the scales in your favor. If you’re in Dimir, keep an eye out for a Deadly Dispute or Sepulcher Ghoul to sacrifice what you’ve stolen in the event they have an answer for your Flaying.
Apparently, not all Dogs go to heaven. Mordenkainen is tricky, as you probably aren’t making your pooch Illusions right off the bat, hoping to weather the first attack by ticking up to seven loyalty and searching for answers from there. But, unchecked, Mordy takes over a game as any six-mana planeswalker should. There are very few scenarios where switching your library for your hand are valuable. Make sure you don’t deck yourself and let the Dogs out.
Stop trying to make Startling Development a thing. It’s not going to happen.
Sure, your die rolls have the potential to get better (probability is cool but not my bag), but Pixie Guide doesn’t guarantee you better hits. I don’t see that being worth a card, as there are no payoffs for rolling multiple dice. Even the most dedicated die-deck could justify running these if rolling a one is a horrendous outcome, and that’s almost never the case. My other gripe with dice? Since the floor isn’t awful, the area between there and the ceiling isn’t busted, either. At the end of the day, it’s an incredibly narrow card that no other deck wants, so if they aren’t wheeling, you’re in trouble.
Power of Persuasion
Bury in Books showed us the power of a three-mana instant that can ship something back to the library, but Power of Persuasion is not that. I value a bounce spell that can hit my creatures in a pinch, but this is sorcery-speed interaction with your opponent’s battlefield. If blue tempo becomes a top archetype, some credit will be due here, but I’m not easily persuaded.
Ray of Frost
Tapping after the deed is done feels bad, but I suspect people will overrate this based on the few times they luck out and face an opponent with Mountains. Leave it in your sideboard, please.
Rimeshield Frost Giant
A likely target of Fly, though I’m not sure who was sitting around saying, “Cold-Water Snapper? Too powerful.” Was Rimeshield Frost Giant a leftover from Kaldheim that was accidentally printed? I don’t get this card or where it fits outside of a flavor consideration I don’t care about. If it weren’t for five toughness, I’d consider this unplayable.
Scion of Stygia
I dub thee Frost Stynx. Not guaranteeing their creature stays tapped for the next turn seems like an unfortunate trade for flash. It’s also very hard to catch an opponent by surprise here, as you’ll often be looking to tap down a larger attacker before they declare. However, this will play well with your tempo packages regardless, so take all of my “harrumphing” lightly.
In Venture Control, you have to cast something early. Five is a truly hefty price to pay and the insult to injury is you’re doing it on your own turn. As sure as I am that I’ll say something like “Even I don’t like venture this much” and then this will turn out to be a blue control staple, even I don’t like venture this much.
I’m interested to see if making Befuddle cheaper makes it playable. Blue has a bevy of creatures that must be blocked early, so I bet that having ways to turn trades into card advantage plays in this format. If nothing else, you can cycle Shocking Grasp for a reasonable rate later in the game when it doesn’t help anything win combat, but possibly survive it.
Another 2/5 body that I can’t see making huge waves, but Shortcut Seeker is a Crab with upside that will make your opponents think twice about attacking into it and leaving you a venture on the crackback. Blue tempo decks will seek better options, but this will find a niche in controlling decks.
Quoth the Jacob: “Never play Silver Raven.” Artifacts don’t matter, there is no lord for flyers, so you’re just left with a 1/1 in the color least equipped to make it bigger.
They’ve finally pushed the three-mana “draw a card” Rogue to a 3/2, and I’m here for it. Too often, they’d get brick-walled by every four-drop, and you would be left to concoct ridiculous scenarios to get it through for damage. On the play, you absolutely punish your opponents for slow starts and Soulknife Spy plays well with the two pieces of black Equipment. I can’t wait for my first Spy VS Spy game.
Split the Party
The perfect curve-topper for your base-blue tempo deck, Split the Party only gets better as time goes on or battlefields stall. Split the Party will lead to a few abrupt farewells, as your opponent will be left without blockers and simply loses on the spot when they thought they had an angle to attack from.
For six mana, I feel like I need the guarantee of at least three cards, but Sudden Insight could very well be a bloated Divination if your graveyard doesn’t line up the way you need it to. Milling yourself is not a supported theme in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, so I would save this for Sealed.
Tasha’s Hideous Laughter
Mill isn’t supported enough to make this work, as you’ll usually hit them for around ten cards and then feel bad you wasted one of yours to do it.
Trickster’s Talisman is my kind of spicy! Creating copies of your evasive threats for U plus the equip is terrific design, but sometimes this will be a repeatable Edict effect when they can’t afford a copy joining the beatdown. You’ll catch me drafting this highly. Again, leaving blue creatures unblocked will do nothing but haunt you.
At first, I thought you were getting a copy, which felt beyond busted. As it stands, I find True Polymorph thoroughly mediocre. Why not just play something for six mana that slaps instead of hoping there’s something on the battlefield worth turning a card into? Ostensibly for the flexibility of shrinking one of their creatures down. Here, I’d rather have removal or a threat, not the chance you get the option.
Why not Divination? I kid, but seriously, I’m not high on a Class with an irrelevant base passive ability. Level 3 feels particularly out of place, as it’s a little expensive for tempo decks but it gives controlling strategies a touch of inevitability. I’m tempted to give Wizard Class a split grade here.
I want to love Wizard’s Spellbook, but it feels painfully slow, even for a seven-mana artifact. Copying a single spell a turn, even at a reduced cost, can’t dig you out of a hole fast enough. Hitting a twenty early is a feels-awful. If Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is glacially slow, so it could be playable, but this has “trap” written all over it.
You Come to a River
There are better ways to win the tempo war, but Find a Crossing has the potential to steal games, and Fight the Current can help you slow down many threats (or recast your own). I’m higher on You Come to a River than my grade indicates, but let’s start here since it’s not an effect every deck is looking for.
You Find the Villains’ Lair
What a find! Feel free to sideboard You Find the Villains’ Lair in when your opponent has a bomb you have a hard time answering, but that’s all I’m interested in this for, as filling your own graveyard at a loss of a card isn’t rewarded in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms.
You See a Guard Approach
I would rather Come to a River, but keep the Hide mode in your mind if there’s a particular bomb you need to protect against a particularly removal-heavy opponent. There doesn’t appear to be a spells-matter deck that I’m slotting this into as a borderline, non-cantrip playable.
I wish Yuan-Ti Malison weren’t quite so fragile, but they’re an immediate must-answer from an opponent, or you’re going to be completing dungeons at a rate that would impress even the most expert of escape room enthusiasts. Depending on your hand, you can choose to go aggressive or value from there, something I value when picking a lane early, as Yuan-Ti fits in anywhere. Do not sleep on this silent slitherer.
- Djinni Windseer
- Charmed Sleep
- Soulknife Spy
- Scion of Stygia
- Contact Other Plane
I’m going out on a limb and saying that blue will be my early pick for the color I’m looking to get into, as these top commons offer a lot of flexibility with a relatively flat power level. Being able to pick a lane from there is incredibly valuable, with Izzet being the only combination I’m nonplussed at the thought of pursuing. Even then, I’ll probably roll the dice.
Tomorrow, I’ll be back with another supremely flexible color in black, where I’ll be talking about the return of one of my favorite Limited archetypes. And, of course, all the other cards.