The Commander Legends: Battle For Baldur’s Gate Magic Mailbag

Bennie Smith opens up the mailbag for a host of questions about Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate. Why is it more powerful than people think? Which cards have intrigued him? And how do you use initiative cards in webcam play?

Baldur's Gate
Baldur’s Gate, illustrated by Titus Lunter

I’ve been having so much fun digging into all the sweet new cards and strategies from Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate, I thought it would be a lot of fun to ask my friends on Twitter if they had any questions regarding cards in the set that I could help answer. I got so many responses that I had plenty to write about to fill up a column with, so let’s get cracking!

Power Level

Baldur’s Gate suffers from comparisons to the original Commander Legends set, which was chock-full of over-the-top pushed new cards like Jeweled Lotus and Hullbreacher alongside chase reprints like Mana Drain and Vampiric TutorBaldur’s Gate is much more of a successor set to Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. I think it stands quite well in comparison to that set both in terms of flavor and power level.

Compounding the perception problem is the mistake of releasing Double Masters 2022 so close to Baldur’s Gate, with Double Masters having so many chase cards that some people want to play in Commander. If there were six months between these releases, I doubt there’d be much of a peep about the lack of big reprints in Baldur’s Gate, with the glaring exception of Dockside Extortionist. I mean, seriously—the card’s flavor could easily fit into the D&D setting of Baldur’s Gate and would have generated a ton of excitement, while in Double Masters 2022 it just gets lost in the avalanche of chase reprints.

At the individual card level, I actually think there are a lot of powerful cards cleverly designed to shine in niche strategies rather than just being generically powerful.  This is clearly a reflection of a change in design philosophy away from generically powerful Commander cards that I and most in the community appreciate. The original Commander Legends mostly predates that shift, so in a way it’s like comparing apples to oranges.

Personally, I don’t think it takes much digging to find a whole host of powerful and, more importantly, fun cards to play in this set.

D&D Flavor

For me, Magic has always evoked a D&D feel.  Richard Garfield designed Magic 30 years ago to be a quick game you could play in a convention hall like Gen Con between D&D sessions. I mean, just look at these cards from Unlimited, my first set:

Shivan Dragon Thicket Basilisk Animate Dead Goblin King Basalt Monolith Prodigal Sorcerer Giant Spider

From a flavor standpoint, these cards felt like they were ripped from the pages of a D&D module or the Player’s Handbook. I’d been playing D&D for more than ten years prior to Magic coming around. When Adventures in the Forgotten Realms came out, I wrote about my journey from D&D to Magic and beyond.

I think the designers have done a fabulous job capturing D&D flavor in Forgotten Realms and in Baldur’s Gate. The dice-rolling cards, and in particular the iconic D&D d20 die, really evoke that aspect quite well, putting the outcome in the hands of chance.

Ancient Silver Dragon Contraband Livestock Wand of Wonder

All of the support for Dragon tribal is another aspect that nails the bullseye, considering Dragons are exciting and terrifying foes in the Dungeons & Dragons game. 

Backgrounds and Commanders

Speaking of dice-rolling, I really love that they made Wyll, Blade of Frontiers so that we can really lean heavy into building a dice-rolling deck.  Paired with a blue background, it covers a lot of ground you want for that sort of deck. I’m currently working on a Wyll deck using Shameless Charlatan as the background.

Wyll, Blade of Frontiers Shameless Charlatan

My Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis deck is my go-to when I just want to sit and chill with friends, and I’m constantly tweaking it and refreshing its play experience with new cards.  Ever since I built the deck in 2016, it’s had a particular end-game in mind: use K&T’s ability to ensure my opponents make their land drops each turn, and then eventually kill them with their lands. Treacherous Terrain is one of the cards that’s remained in the deck from the beginning, but I’m super-excited about the new card Elturel Survivors! With myriad, it’s basically got a Treacherous Terrain stapled to a creature you can potentially attack with each turn.  Here are all my recent additions to K&T:

Elturel Survivors The Council of Four Contraband Livestock Elminster's Simulacrum Windshaper Planetar Mocking Doppelganger

I haven’t made any final decisions for what changes I’m going to make to my Grothama, All-Devouring deck, but these are the cards I’m strongly considering:

Nautiloid Ship Emerald Dragon Green Slime Campfire

All of these are what I’d call “support cards” for the deck rather than tweaks to the main theme but I really like all four of them for the flexible utility.

There are way too many cards that fit into how I like to play for me to choose just five; the cards I just called out above would all certainly be in the running!


I’m with you: Jaheira, Friend of the Forest does seem incredibly powerful, but I’ve not been able to really figure out yet what I want to do with her. I’m pretty sure I’m going to add her to the 99 of several of my existing decks, including Adrix and Nev, Twincasters and Gyome, Master Chef.  As far as leading her own Commander deck with a background?  I like your choices… and maybe I’ll do a deep dive on Jaheira in an upcoming column!

Dungeon Colors

I think it’s very clearly Esper, with Sefris of the Hidden Ways the ideal commander leading the deck. All the best delve into the dungeon and initiative cards, along with supporting cards fall into white, blue and black. In fact, I went ahead and built the deck as soon as I got my hands on Baldur’s Gate, and you can see the decklist here if you’re interested.  

That said, green has a couple of interesting options that you hate to keep on the sidelines, along with some sweet artifacts!

Undermountain Adventurer Explore the Underdark Sarevok's Tome Dungeoneer's Pack Trailblazer's Torch

I could definitely see making a Selesnya dungeon deck with Emiel the Blessed able to blink all the creatures with enter the battlefield triggers for initiative or delve into the dungeon.  I also decided to build a new deck around Rafiq of the Many with a lot of the new dungeon and initiative cards.

Navigation Orb

While Navigation Orb pales in comparison to all the green land ramp options, it definitely seems like a strong consideration for any nongreen deck alongside cards like Wayfarer’s Bauble and Burnished Hart. It’s actually more mana-efficient than Burnished Hart, and if you add a couple of Gates to your deck, you can even fix more than two colors.

Speaking of Gates, I’ve been strongly considering building a Sultai “Gate tribal” deck, but not with Nine-Fingers Keene, though she’d definitely go in the 99.  I actually think Archelos, Lagoon Mystic makes a much better commander for such a deck, since grinding out Gates with Maze’s End is otherwise such a slow process.

Archelos, Lagoon Mystic Maze's End

You can play eleven actual Gate lands in the Sultai color combination, not to mention Thespian’s Stage and Vesuva to give you a little Gate backup. And there are some Gate lands in Baldur’s Gate that do more than produce two colors and enter the battlefield tapped.

Baldur's Gate Basilisk Gate Gond Gate Heap Gate

Green has a ton of ways to search for non-=basic lands, so it should be relatively easy to find Maze’s End and start the race!

Mono-Color Commanders and Backgrounds

I like it because it limits the power of the Choose a Background commanders and I think that’s a smart design move when exploring new territory. I personally think these are a clever design that opens up a ton of deckbuilding options both obvious and outside the box, but quite nicely doesn’t break anything along the way.

Top Singles and Sleepers

I’ll refer you to my article from a few weeks back, 12 Baldur’s Gate Cards You Should Play in Commander!

Initiative, Etc.

I think the initiative mechanic is a really cool spin on the original delve into the dungeon mechanic nicely mixed with monarch, but I don’t know that it’s really caught on yet with other players.  Monarch is pretty simple and desirable: if you’re the monarch, you get to draw a card on your end step. Magic players love to draw cards! 

Going into Undercity to get your value seems a bit more complicated, but Undercity is designed to be the strongest of all the dungeons for Commander and is well worth seizing the initiative over whenever you can!  The first room “draws” you a basic land immediately, which is always helpful in a game of Commander, and after that each room provides at least a half-card’s worth of value until you get to the Throne of the Dead Three “ultimate.”

Hopefully as more people play with and against initiative, they’ll begin to appreciate the mechanic more.

As I’ve mentioned above, I really love backgrounds!  If you haven’t already, check out my column Backgrounds Seize the Spotlight in Baldur’s Gate Commander. 

And regarding hidden gems, see my article link above regarding the cards you should play!

Webcam Commander

I recommend all Commander players do what I do: keep a stack of commonly needed tokens next to my computer for webcam games. These include Monarch, Treasure, On an Adventure, Poison, Food, City’s Blessing, Day/Night, Experience, Foretell, Energy, and the original three Dungeon cards. You should add Initiative to your stack, as well as another copy of it which has Undercity on the backside. This way, if any of your opponents play dungeon or initiative spells, you’ll be able to keep track of your own progress through the dungeons.

If you’re playing dungeon or initiative cards in your own decks, I’d recommend getting the oversized versions of them (including Undercity) which come in the Bundles for Adventures in the Forgotten Realms and Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate. That way, if any of your opponents don’t happen to have the dungeon cards, you can more easily track their progress through the dungeon and help them along.

If you’re feeling theatric, be sure to read each room as if you’re a Dungeon Master describing the dungeon to a group of intrepid Player Characters!

Prosper and Faldorn

I’d recommend Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald hands down. Prosper, Tome-Bound is ranked the eighth most popular deck on EDHREC, so you can expect most of your opponents to be well-versed in the shenanigans that a Prosper deck can do.  Also, most Prosper decks are relentless value engines that often require your opponents to team up to keep you in check, so even if your deck isn’t optimized, you can expect people to keep a watchful eye.

Faldorn is newer, and so chances are good most opponents won’t be on edge playing against it. Generating Wolf rather than Treasure tokens means that you’re less likely to pop off on the engine, and that should give the deck more room to breathe and do other things, like add Wolf synergies to the deck. Cards like Hollowhenge Overlord, Master of the Wild Hunt, and Tovolar, Dire Overlord will be fun!

Thanks to everyone on Twitter who sent in such great questions. This was a lot of fun!  Tell me, what cards from Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate are you grooving on?

Talk to Me

Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter!  I run polls and start conversations about Commander all the time, so get in on the fun!  You can also find my LinkTree on my profile page there with links to all my content.

I’d also love it if you followed my Twitch channel TheCompleteCommander, where I do Commander, Brawl and sometimes other Magic-related streams when I can.  If you can’t join me live, the videos are available on demand for a few weeks on Twitch, but I also upload them to my YouTube channel.  You can also find the lists for my paper decks over on Archidekt if you want to dig into how I put together my own decks and brews.  And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy.

Visit my Decklist Database to see my decklists and the articles where they appeared!