Our adventures in the Forgotten Realms don’t stop with the main set. In fact, they amp things up in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Commander, providing us with a dozen new legends and fifty new cards via the four preconstructed decks, Aura of Courage, Draconic Rage, Dungeons of Death, and Planar Portal.
There’s so much to cover that we’ll have to break it up into two parts. Today I’ll talk about each of the new legendary creatures. We’ll delve into possibilities for them as commanders or if they’re better suited to be 1 of the 99. In Part 2 I’ll talk about all the sweet other cards that Forgotten Realms Commander offers us. Remember that my comments are in the context of the format’s target demographic and don’t really consider high-powered play.
With twelve new choices, nine in multicolor, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to brew to your heart’s delight. Every one of them offers up thought-provoking possibilities.
Catti-brie of Mithral Hall
Catti-brie initially leads us into a Voltron deck, as her ability buffs only herself. You can choose to use her second ability to clear the way for combat, but the strength of the card will be in piling up those counters as you continue to attack.
The Voltron style you chose for her is left to your personal bent. If you like Swords, there are all the classic choices like Sword of the Animist or Sword of Fire and Ice. Colossus Hammer works if you just want big and dumb. If you want to go all-in on a number of Equipment attached to Catti-brie, give Bloodforged Battle-Axe a whirl. When other players’ commanders are blocking your path, there’s always Godsend.
Regardless of your Equipment direction, you’ll want to consider things that make it easier and cheaper to get your Equipment onto Catti-brie. Halvar, God of Battle will attach one for free at the beginning of combat, getting around big equip costs like Colossus Hammer and Argentum Armor. Although you can’t partner with it, Ardenn as 1 of the 99 will let you attach all of your Equipment before riding into the red zone. If you don’t want to wait for combat, Hammer of Nazahn will just start attaching Equipment as soon as they hit the battlefield. From Forgotten Realms Commander you have Holy Avenger, which will do the same when your double-striking creature deals combat damage.
Catti-brie has options leading a deck; they all seem to include smashing face.
Galea, Kindler of Hope
Speaking of attaching things for free, the face of the Aura of Courage deck can do just that. Playing off the top of your library is like drawing exta cards, so keep digging as much as you can. You’re in colors that will allow you other cards that do the same, such as Future Sight and Vizier of the Menagerie. All of a sudden, you have a theme. Add some top-of-library control like Sensei’s Divining Top and Scroll Rack and you’ll have exactly what you want to cast at the ready. Because Galea also attaches Equipment, some of the cards I mentioned with Catti-brie can also apply here.
Forgotten Realms Commander’s Mantle of the Ancients provides both backup and beatings for either the Equipment or artifact versions of your Galea build (and it won’t break the bank like Replenish).
Because you’re casting lots of enchantments, Argothian Enchantress and friends are a viable alternative. You’ve also added blue to traditional enchantress decks, so cards like Copy Enchantment and Estrid’s Invocation are now available to you. Also, don’t sleep on Finest Hour.
In the end, what’s good about Galea is the same kind of thing that’s good about Catti-brie: the ability gives you a direction but also opens a myriad of possibilities along that road. You’re definitely not locked into any particular path.
Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant
Goad is a mechanic that merits lots of exploration in Commander, so I’m beyond thrilled to see Karazikar tyrannizing tables. You don’t need Karazikar itself to attack to get the trigger that taps and goads a creature, just any battles will do. There are plenty of smaller Rakdos creatures that fit the bill and you’ll probably get in with at least one of them the turn Karazikar hits the battlefield.
The second ability is even cooler, giving your opponents incentives for attacking each other in the form of cards. This makes Kardur, the Doomscourge a perfect addition to your build. Kardur forces everyone to attack someone other than you and when they carry away the bodies from combat, you profit. Cards that go along with creatures dying, like Blood Artist, are a natural fit.
Karazikar’s triggered ability is so tasty that I’d like to copy it. Lithform Engine and Stroinic Resonator will really let you get your goad on. Lithform Engine is just a one-stop wrecking shop, given its other two abilities — like when you cast Strionic Resonator, you can make a copy with Lithoform Engine. Okay, I really have to build this.
Klauth, Unrivaled Ancient
I remember seeing this card in the file when Forgotten Realms Commander was first in vision design and had some concerns, since it didn’t have the restriction that you could only cast spells with it. It comboed pretty easily with Hellkite Tyrant for infinite combats, for example. That’s why they have multiple eyes on cards during design and development.
Given that Klauth has haste, you’re effectively paying no more than three mana for a 4/4 flyer. That’s making the assumption that you’ll cast something post-combat, but Gruul decks are so full of permanents that it has to be the case most of the time. From there, Klauth and whatever else you attack with just ramp you hard into whatever beef you want for supper. It’s another one that gives you a general direction but doesn’t box you into anything besides attacking, which you were doing to do anyway.
Lorcan, Warlock Collector
Lorcan looks more like a role player in a black deck that likes to kill creatures. I’m a fan of the dual nature of its abilities. When you kill an opponent’s creature, you can have it for a payment of life. Then, when you’re done using it, the creature gets exiled. Its owner then no longer has access to it. Really, the best of both worlds.
You’ll clearly want to play it in a deck that gains life, from something featuring Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose to anything with Basilisk Collar. You’ll probably want to avoid it in your K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth deck. While we’re talking about Yawgmoth, though, shout out to the underplayed Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering.
Minn, Wily Illusionist
A card that lots of folks are excited about, Minn likes to draw cards and make Illusions. The cool part is that even when your Illusions die, you can drop lands onto the battlefield. I doubt that we’re making Illusionist tribal into a thing just yet, although we have a few notables, like Aura Thief and Draining Whelk. Adding Arcane Adaptation to your Minn build will give you an even better chance of replacing your dying creatures. I’m interested in seeing what the brewers come up with in building Minn.
We have a new “borrow your creatures” commander, and its name is Nihiloor. You might want to dust off your unused Homeward Paths and Brooding Saurians. Nihiloor’s triggered ability requires you to have some creatures with decent power to steal something from everyone. You’ll likely be grabbing their utility creatures pretty easily, though, so Llanowar Elves should be on the lookout.
You could get a cascade upward going if you have some creatures whose power is based on the number of creatures you control, like Crusader of Odric and Geist-Honored Monk. Nihiloor’s second ability is relevant even if you’ve taken creatures some other way, like with Bribery. And I know it’s nine mana, but hear me out: when you have an empty battlefield, cast Reins of Power on someone with a decent team. Then play Nihiloor. What’s neat is that Nihiloor drains the person who owns the creature, regardless of whom you attack.
If you want to play Nihiloor in a deck led by someone else, let me suggest Aminatou, the Fate Shifter.
My “someone was inspired by Shakespeare” sense kicked in with Prosper before I realized that it’s a Forgotten Realms character — but then that could still be the case. Prosper is one of the more narrow potential commanders in the set, pointing you towards being able to just play cards from exile with the many various things that do it these days. Prosper’s ability also further funnels you into instants since it doesn’t trigger until your end step. The payoff isn’t all that punchy until you start getting into swinging with Etali, Primal Storm or something. I suppose someone has to be the least good of the legendary creatures.
Sefris of the Hidden Ways
Especially in a game that’s allowed to go a few turns, I imagine Sefris will be quite fun. Being in Esper, you’ll be able to make creatures go to your graveyard on everyone’s turn, speeding through even Dungeon of the Mad Mage. By the time you’re all the way through, you’ll probably have something large in the graveyard to reanimate.
While I’d normally start with Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder to make and sacrifice tokens, the fact that Sefris is in Esper colors makes me move more towards Thopters as our sacrificial lambs. Heading that route doesn’t obviate Endrek Sahr anyway. Esper screams the various Tezerret cards, which plays right into the idea of making some Thopters and profiting from having artifacts. If you can create a creature to sacrifice on each opponent’s turn, you’ll also be able to get loads of value out of Ephara, God of the Polis.
Although you might be able to run the bigger dungeon quicker, there’s something be said for blasting through Tomb of Annihilation in a turn around the table. That’ll let you keep Acererak the Archlich on the battlefield and start creating your Zombie hordes.
Speaking of Zombie hordes, Tombstone Stairwell is just what Sefris want because the creatures die every turn. Note that it’s a destroy effect, so if you want to add Eldrazi Monument you’re going to pile up Zombies pretty quickly.
Storvald, Frost Giant Jarl
Big giants do big things. First off, ward 3 is pretty close to hexproof but gives your opponents a little hope — a hope that Storvald will crush. In Storvald, we’ll use creatures like Wood Elves instead of sorcery-based ramp like Kodama’s Reach so that once Storvald starts attacking, we have giant Wood Elves.
The other part of the enters-the-battlefield and attack trigger is the one that is really going to make a difference in the game. With Storvold’s trigger, janky cards like Gnarled Effigy, Grim Poppet, Serrated Arrows, and Vedalken Anatomist start looking worthwhile. You can take down all biggest creatures in the format (or most of them, anyway). Remember that if something already has counters on it, they’re figured in after the base power and toughness.
Of course, that means that we can play with it back the other way. Creatures that start at 0/0 with counters on them can get pretty spicy with the Storvald touch. I’m looking forward to playing the likes of Phantom Nishoba and Spike Feeder.
Vrondiss, Rage of Ancients
Well, now the chaos is coming. I’m really not sure what to make of Vrondiss. There are fourteen cards in the color identity which roll dice. Delina, Wild Mage is head and shoulders the most interesting of them. Does that mean we give up on the dice rolling altogether? Not really. Critical hit is good enough without the die roll part. Vrondiss is a 5/4, so double strike is going to make it formidable. Goblin Morningstar will cheaply give Vrondiss trample after having created a Dragon Spirit.
The question isn’t how we’re going to roll dice, it’s what we’re going to do with the Dragon Spirits. The trigger is unusual, in that the condition to sacrifice it is dealing damage. This means it won’t survive the combat damage step. It also means that it can’t block and survive post-combat. We’ll need things to do with them at a time we can play instants.
Greater Good is the first idea that comes up, netting cards with each activation. Goblin Bombardment is a fine choice, especially since we can ping Vrondiss with the activation and get another Spirit Dragon. Momentous Fall is a good choice, although it almost seems like not enough value. Stalking Vengeance and Vicious Shadows will make your opponents’ lives very difficult as well.
Talking through it, I find Vrondiss well more compelling than at first blush.
Wulfgar of Icewind Dale
Wulfgar wants you constantly battling. He’ll get bigger when you attack; if you send creatures at everyone each turn after he starts getting into the red zone, he could be a three-turn commander damage killer.
Of course, it’s the second ability that really has players excited. Again, we have commander that’s leaned in a direction but hasn’t built itself for us. How you take advantage of those triggers is up to you; there are loads of options.
There are classics like Inferno Titan. You could go the Blossoming Bogbeast route, gaining life and giving all your creatures a beefed-up Overrun. Stack the triggers correctly with Elder Gargaroth’s lifegain mode on top of Blossoming Bogbeast to get pretty deadly. Flamerush Rider will now create two copies of whatever you want to throw into the combat mix. If you want a little chaos, try Fireflux Squad. Finally, if you want to be savage, get a second annihilator trigger off of your Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre. Any way you go, life totals will be dropping like mad.
The legendary creatures from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Commander continue the trend established by those in the main set, living right in the format’s brew-happy wheelhouse. There’s nothing too broken, just build-around platforms that still give the architect plenty of room to express themselves in fine fashion. These are the kinds of commanders that the format lives for and life if pretty damn good right now.
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