Forgotten Realms Commander is live! After running through the legendary creatures/potential commanders last time, we’re going to talk today about the rest of the new cards — every single one of them! Let’s dive right in.
There’s everything to like about this lovely that just wants to help out everyone else on the team. It keeps creatures alive in battle and it helps replace them should they fall to targeted removal. Or, when fellow Commander Rules Committee (RC) member Scott Larabee gets his Maze of Ith going on your creatures, cards will be drawn.
Giving double strike is in itself pretty strong, especially when it’s granted to a commander. Having the Aura at the ready is a little trickier, especially since lots of those you might want to attach to the creature are combat-related, like Unflinching Courage. Of course, saving yourself the seven mana for Colossification isn’t half bad.
Some nice play available here on the decision of keeping a threatening creature locked down or getting deeper into a dungeon. With the activation cost relatively high, I see myself tapping Immovable Road and keeping it tapped.
The full force of savagery will show up when you cast Mantle of the Ancients. You’ve somehow piled good Auras and/or Equipment into the graveyard, and now you’re going for that one-shot commander damage kill (from Rograkh, son of Rohgahh?) with such biggies as Argentum Armor or Eldrazi Conscription. Alternately, Mantle of the Ancients is your backup plan in case all your good stuff gets blown up.
The cost of Radiant Solar is a little high for getting started into the dungeon, but fortunately there’s the second ability. You can dump Radiant Solar into the graveyard on Turn 1 for only W, just to get your dungeoneering kicked off right away. White has enough recursion that you might be coming back into the dungeon for a second trip by the time Radiant Solar hits the battlefield.
While it’s clearly a less sure thing than Faith’s Reward, Revivify gives you a reasonable chance of doing it for one cheaper. If you had a big nontoken board, there’s a strong chance you’ll get a full recovery. A fine addition to your dice-rolling deck.
For very little mana, you can protect your best creature from the inevitable battlefield sweeper or suddenly unfavorable combat situation. Pumping up its backside is nice and will really show value in your Doran, the Siege Tower deck.
Free Clue for attacking, free movement through the dungeon for sacrificing a Clue. Seems like the solution to a pretty good mystery. Try playing it in a deck with Ich-Tekik, Salvage Splicer with any of the white partners.
A definite win for the dice-rolling crowd, how you work out the rolls will be entirely dependent on your battlefield state and deck. Wiping out most of what’s on the battlefield with the lower roll and getting a small Knight swarm with a high one seems just dandy. You could also be in the situation where you have creatures but they’re outclassed by bigger ones; you can use a high roll to sweep away lots of stuff other than your own.
I’m on board with the “roll two dice” mechanic. Sometimes you’ll get lucky with Arcane Endeavor and get two high rolls. The difficult choice will be with a low one and a high one. Do you go for it and draw the low number of cards to potentially cast the bigger spell or do you just stuff your hand full of goodies and get a small freebie? Because you can cast anything from your hand (not only the cards you just drew), you have a little better plan going in.
For the same cost as Blue Sun’s Zenith, get a 30% possibility of scrying instead of shuffling the card back into your library. I like those odds since we’re probably going to have ways of either recurring Diviner’s Portent or shuffling it back in any way.
What will be a fixture in your blue dice-rolling decks, Netherese Puzzle-Ward will give you a decent scry each upkeep and then the occasional card. You know you’ll be rolling lots of dice, so the numbers will be on your side. And if playing TTRPGs for so long as taught me anything, it’s that the dice know.
One of my favorite Forgotten Realms Commander cards, Phantom Steed does excellent double duty of neutralizing the threat of a powerful creature and letting us battle with it as well. That it has flash means it can also be a combat trick and one-creature Fog. There’s a good deal of trickery to be done with the card and I’m on board.
My primary use for Rod of Absorption will simply be to keep other players from constantly recurring cards. If it eternally holds Life from the Loam under it I will not be sad. It’s an on-battlefield trick, so it’s not like someone is going to play time magic into it. I suspect it will serve as a pretty big rattlesnake and draw artifact removal when someone really needs those things in their graveyard.
Ward 4 is pretty close to hexproof even at the battlecruiser end of the format. The cheap mana and equip costs mean it’s going to be a solid addition to your deck which will probably turn out even better than you thought it would.
I get twitchy when my things get exiled, so I’ll be super-careful when playing Bag of Devouring. The exile only comes from sacrificing the artifact or creature, so there will be some measure of control. The best scenario I see with Bag of Devouring is that it gets around graveyard hate for a little while (until you have to sacrifice the Bag itself, at which time it probably gets exiled in short order).
Timing will be everything with Danse Macabre. You’ll want to wait until there’s something on the battlefield you really want to reanimate and the other player can’t protect it with something smaller. Alternately, you just always make it about sacrificing your own thing and bringing it back, like Pelakka Worm. You’ll occasionally get a second card, but you’ve already gotten plenty of value in card draw and lifegain.
Many Zombies could be created here as your Zombie army slams into someone’s team. Give yourself even better odds by having a sacrifice outlet like Altar of Dementia. If any of your creatures survive the combat, you still have time to sacrifice them during the end of combat step (since they’re still attacking creatures). What I really like about Death Tyrant is that it applies to any attacking creature of yours, even tokens, meaning they’ll basically replace themselves. Tombstone Stairwell is a fine card to add here.
It’s expensive, but it’s an instant—meaning you’ll have ample opportunity to cast Grave Endeavor at an opportune time. The smaller number can be the counters since you’re reanimating something large anyway, reserving the larger die roll for the life drain.
I’m pretty sure that the Treasures created by Grim Hireling are going to go off and fuel other things, leaving the card’s second ability to get frequently ignored.
Love this card, with a measure of You Did This to Yourself in it. The problem is that you have to take some damage. Still, you’ll wipe out everything that damaged you—which means that it’s a way for black to get rid of Goblin Bombardment.
The legendary artifact that I actually wrote my first adventure as a newly-minted DM about will sure be making some Zombies. Full of flavor and full of value, Wand of Orcus is an extremely well-designed card that lots of us will get nostalgic over.
There’s a little setup required with Berserker’s Frenzy; you’ll probably want all your creatures to have deathtouch. I’m a fan of the back half, but just forcing everyone to block is the opposite of what red wants. Situationally fine, the card just seems like more work than it’s worth.
I’m still not a fan of the Dragons that are only four power, but this one only costs three mana. At the beginning of combat, everyone gets to play “not it,” to avoid the smack.
The increased power is fine, but it’s turning any creature into Boros Reckoner that gets me going. I might just put this into You Did This to Yourself, equip up Ruhan when Powerstone Minefield is on the battlefield and play a little I Did This to You as well.
Chaos players will rejoice at randomly dealing damage to people. It’s probably a little more valuable when the game gets down to just you and one other player, since they’re going to keep taking the damage. With everyone still in the game, it’ll be interesting to see if anyone spends enchantment removal on Maddening Hex. I suspect not, so it’ll be an annoyingly good time.
A combined battlefield sweeper and engine restarter, though the risk is that you don’t get enough damage to take out the scariest creatures or enough Treasures to help. It should be decent in many situations, but like sometimes with chaos cards, you’re going to get shafted.
This is a fixed Knowledge Pool that I don’t want to run until we’re back playing in person instead of over webcam. It can’t lock anyone out of the game and it ups the variance factor quite a few notches.
I’m slamming Vengeful Ancestor into the next deck I build, which will be Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant (featuring Kardur, Doomscourge). Goad is the kind of mechanic that makes for compelling games in Commander; I’m always happy to see more of it.
It’s a little narrow, but with all the bottling effects that red has, there’s a pretty good chance that you could set this up to cascade quite often. Or just play Possibility Storm and get it every time.
Chaos reigns with Bag of Tricks, since you never know what you’re going to get—the Llanowar Elves or the Woodfall Primus. For five mana, one of them is great; the other, not so much. The idea is kind of fun, but without extra die rolls probably not worth it.
Fellow Commander Rule Committee (RC) member Toby Elliott is over the moon about this card and he’s not the only one. Slide Belt of Giant Strength into a deck led by Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist and a green friend (like Slurrk, All-Ingesting), and you’ll be smashing face in no time. However you’ll get it equipped, the play is to run the Belt in a deck with creatures that get their power from +1/+1 counters. The way power and toughness is figured out (Rule 613.4), you start at 10/10 then add the counters. Even a little Spike Feeder could get out of hand pretty quickly.
There’s a fair amount of political play in Druid of Purification. Make sure you secure deals well before you start choosing. More than once I’ve seen people make assumptions about what’s in the best interest of the table only to have their expectations confounded by a player who sees things differently. Although the other players can’t blow up your artifacts or enchantments, be careful of putting them into a bind over each other’s stuff—the political blowback might be a little harsh.
While the combat trick of getting +3/+3 is strong, the surprise of the creature assigning damage as thought it weren’t blocked can be downright lethal. There are plenty of situations in which someone has to chump block in order to stay alive. From Thorn Elemental to Proud Wildbonder (a card I need to slip into a deck now that Ikoria Boxing League is long done), Indomitable Might continues the tradition of getting past those silly blockers in dramatic fashion.
Who doesn’t love pulling out their dice bag? For all the seemingly Timmy-end shenanigans, Neverwinter Hydra can get pretty serious. For eight mana (X=3), you’re going to average 10.5 power. If the Hydra didn’t have any other abilities, that would be okay. It’s a whole different ballgame with trample and ward 4 (again, effectively hexproof). The deck to play Neverwinter Hydra in is Animar, Soul of Elements, letting Animar pay a big chunk of your X cost.
You’re getting the two cards back no matter what. The more expensive they are, the more likely you are to get the bonus. A pair of five or six mana creatures will mean you’re highly likely to gain a good amount of life. While it can only get permanents, Song of Inspiration is another card that shouldn’t be dismissed because of the dice rolling.
This is one of the cards in the set I’m not convinced on. Rolling d6s would be too much, but d4s doesn’t seem like enough. I’ll probably leave this one alone for other options.
I like dealing five or more damage and I like drawing cards. This seems like a card made for me! Seriously, one of the downsides of aggro decks can be running out of steam. Dragonborn Champion will keep those engines humming along.
I imagine some blowout plays with Extract Brain, like when a player has only a few cards in your hand and one of them is a bomb. Then there will be some sad trombone moments when they show you a bunch of lands. Forgotten Realms Commander is in some ways the set of unknown outcomes, with Extract Brain one of the cards setting the tone.
Another “who knows what will happen???” card, big Beholder energy will cast many spells for free. It’s an eight-mana sorcery, so it’s not out of bounds for it to do something super-splashy. While it’s thematic for your Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant deck, eight mana can be tough. I might run it in a Jund deck to actually be able to get there.
The big question on everyone’s mind is if you’re able to cast someone’s commander. The answer is no. When the card hits exile, the owner can choose to move it to the command zone and Hurl Through Hell loses track of it due to the zone change. Still, I like this card as both a defensive and offensive weapon. You don’t get bashed in the face with it, and then you turn it back on them. Probably best on a creature with haste so that you can get in right away.
I’m jamming this right into Karrthus, Who Rains Fire from the Sky. Seems right on theme.
It’s no Sun Quan, Lord of Wu, but Midnight Pathlighter will get you into and through the dungeon in a reasonable amount of time. What its first ability really means is that opponents can’t just leave Plant tokens or whatever random little creatures they want to block. If there’s a legendary creature in your way it will still be formidable, but you’re going to have a much easier time in combat.
For a nice surprise, Ride the Avalanche. What’s likely for me is to flash in a big creature, which will then make another creature that much bigger. There are other uses, like surprise blockers and other combat tricks out of things your opponents didn’t expect in combat. Flash in a Nevinyrral’s Disk or anything else that would spend a vulnerable turn on the battlefield entering tapped. I know I’ve been on a bit of a crusade lately about generic good-stuff cards, but I think you’ll find Ride the Avalanche useful no matter where you plug it in. At least it doesn’t also draw a card.
Artifacts and Lands
Bucknard’s Everfull Purse, I’d like you to meet my friend Brooding Saurian. Have a Treasure-filled day.
I thought Clay Golem was pretty shrug-worthy until I got to the second ability. You’re still going to feel pretty disappointed if you roll a one, but at least you can take out your frustrations by blowing up something.
Our friends in Studio X have said they want to make more interesting mana rocks at mana value three. I guess the question is if this is an actual mana rock or not.
This one is indeed a mana rock (although at two) and it’s also so much more. What’s cool about the second ability is that it’s optional. If you roll a low number and Ebony Fly won’t be combat-relevant, you can just skip it. Cool design.
There’s a point of diminishing returns with Sword of Hours, which is reflected in its low casting and equip costs. You’ll get more value out of it by equipping it to new creatures which have fewer counters on them. Even if you’re not getting anything out of the die roll, you always get one when it attacks, making it great to put on your Puppeteer Clique or Woodfall Primus to wipe out the -1/-1 counter.
They really hamstrung the card by exiling it. Sacrifice would have been good enough. With the high activation cost, I really doubt it could have gotten out of hand.
Forgotten Realms Commander offers theme-heavy new cards that will inspire you to build new decks and find room in existing ones. There aren’t too many that will threaten to be format staples, which is a positive in my book. Diversity, variance, and flavor are what this format was built on and what will carry it into a healthy future.
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