After a week of playing Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Limited and thoroughly reviewing the set, it's time to go over what I believe to be the most important concepts to grasp in this Magic: The Gathering format. While these tips are being presented in no particular order, each one is important, and will help you to succeed in AFR Draft and Sealed.
I can't emphasize this point enough. Players are not taking Priest of Ancient Lore and Owlbear high enough, as I'm still seeing them going very late in packs. A creature that draws you a card when it enters the battlefield essentially has built-in card advantage, and the stats on these two cards aren't bad. Owlbear is my personal top common in this set.
Beyond these cards, a card like Hired Hexblade can also provide card advantage too. Just at common, there are plenty of places to find creatures that draw cards. When going into blue there are cards like Arcane Investigator and Soulknife Spy. These creatures are strong because of their potential to draw cards, but aren't quite as powerful because they don't guarantee any extra cards, you need to do some work in order to get them.
Is there mana fixing in AFR Limited? There is some, yes. Options include lands, Mimic, You Happen On a Glade, and of course Treasures. Even so, I have done much better with decks that are two colors. Going into a straight three-color deck comes with a lot of challenges. I have even tried four-color decks, and that's even more challenging.
If you do dip into a third color, you should aim for it to be a small splash. Certainly, there are rares that are worth making a splash for. The best splashes are often only going to require Treasures, so you don't need to play any actual basic lands in the splash color.
Trying to draft control decks in Forgotten Realms is very tough. This makes curving out and having a good two-color manabase more important. Even Dimir decks tend to be more tempo-based in my experience. These decks often prioritize hitting the opponent with creatures like Soulknife Spy or Guild Thief. Rogue Class also prioritizes attacking the opponent. When Dimir isn't a control deck then you know control isn't being emphasized in the format.
This isn't to say you can't have longer, grindy games. There are cards like Wizard's Spellbook that can allow you to draft a bit differently and possibly create your own control deck. Sometimes if you get a ton of removal you can draft a slower deck, but getting lots of removal isn't going to be easy. In many ways the way to actually play a slower game in this format is to venture into the dungeon many times and create an advantage that way.
Almost all the cards that venture into the dungeon are playable, and a number of them are exceptionally good. The only ones I don't prioritize are the artifacts like Dungeon Map and Fifty Feet of Rope. Many cards in this format have venture into the dungeon as almost a bonus attached to the card, but that additional value is quite important. Take a card like Eccentric Apprentice for instance. Wind Drake is a playable card, but not only do you get to venture into the dungeon, but also potentially shrink opposing creatures when attacking.
Decks really don't want only one card that has the ability to venture into the dungeon, they want many. There are a couple reasons for this. The abilities that trigger as you reach the bottom rooms of a dungeon tend to be the most powerful effects. Also, there are many cards that have an added bonus if you are able to complete a dungeon. The more cards you have in your deck that venture into the dungeon, the more likely it is that you will be able to complete a dungeon.
Each two-color pair in this format has its own identity. This means there is a specific game plan, in terms of maximizing synergies in the color pair, beyond just drafting the best card out of each pack. I get asked what I think the strongest archetypes in this format are quite a bit. While I think staying open is very important, and every color pair is fine to draft, these I think are the three strongest.
Let's take a look at white-green life gain. There are cards like Celestial Unicorn you can get very late in drafts, because this is the only archetype able to fully utilize this card. There are also a number of life gain effects in the colors green and white, so you don't have to try very hard to gain at least some life. Then there are also cards like Prosperous Innkeeper that are capable of providing a dedicated stream of life gain. At uncommon, Trelasarra, Moon Dancer is a very nice payoff for gaining life.
Black-red is the color pair dedicated to treasures. This is where cards like Hired Hexblade go up in value, because you are more likely to have extra treasures lying around. Skullport Merchant is amazing in this deck, but also any black deck, so you do have to fight for some of the top payoff cards. Alternatively, having a sacrifice theme can work as you can play Price of Loyalty alongside the various sacrifice effects in black.
There are a few creatures like Dwarfhold Champion and Armory Veteran that become significantly better once you have Equipment in your deck. I wouldn't say there is an exact number of Equipment you want in white-red, but I think you can go beyond the amount decks would typically want. There are a number of payoffs for Equipment, so having four to five equipment in a dedicated deck isn't too unreasonable. Boros Equipment is definitely the most aggressive deck in the format.
Initially I had blue-red dice rolls as one of the strongest decks in the format. It has gone slightly down for me, but that's partially because I think the strategy has been a bit over-drafted. This is still a strong archetype though, and can pay off very nicely if things come together. I wouldn't consider cards like Brazen Dwarf payoffs, in fact I tend not to play Brazen Dwarf even in this archetype. Similarly, Barbarian Class has been underwhelming. It's important to have good cards that don't just rely on rolling dice. Pixie Guide is fine, but the real payoff cards here are Feywild Trickster and Farideh, Devil's Chosen. Keep in mind you also want a number of ways to roll dice, but if these colors are open you should get some.
The white-black deck surprised me. On paper this should be one of the worst archetypes. However, each time I draft white-black the deck overperforms, and there are a lot of ways to venture into the dungeon in these colors. The color combination also has some nice removal spells, so I wouldn't shy away from going down this path.
I'm not saying not to draft these decks, but they don't feel as synergistic as other color pairs. Surprisingly blue is not one of the strongest colors in this format. Blue-green has seemed like the weakest color pair to me. Blue-white is dependent on having a card like Hama Pashar, Ruin Seeker or Monk Class, so I'm less likely to draft this color pair compared to others. This deck relies too much on specific cards that aren't common.
Red-green tends to be generic beatdown, which is fine. Bard Class isn't really a Limited card, but Targ Nar, Demon-Fang Gnoll is pretty good. This is an aggro deck that wants a bunch of big creatures in it that incidentally work well together.
Black-green tends to focus on creatures dying. I tend to find myself playing cards like Zombie Ogre in this deck. My biggest reason so far to be in this color pair has been Skeletal Swarming, as that card can single handedly take over a game fairly easily.
I touched on blue-black earlier on, but this color pair tends to be based on evasion and tempo.
Adventures in the Forgotten Realms has common rarity removal enchantments like Charmed Sleep and Minimus Containment. While removal is good, these removal spells aren't quite as good as they normally would be. That's because there is also removal for the enchantments themselves, like Dawnbringer Cleric, You Find a Cursed Idol, and Baleful Beholder. Having some enchantment removal can definitely come in handy.
The Class cards vary dramatically in power level. Ranger Class is completely busted, and Paladin Class is great too. Monk Class and Rogue Class are very good, but then a class like Sorcerer Class has been difficult to make work. At the uncommon level Wizard Class and Warlock Class are by far the best ones.
While I certainly play cards like Minimus Containment or Charmed Sleep, they aren't top priorities. Removal like Grim Bounty and Dragon's Fire are great. Some of the uncommon removal spells like Power Word Kill and Portable Hole are also very strong.
There are also color-based removal spells, which vary. Some are exclusively sideboard cards, like Divine Smite. Then there are cards like Burning Hands and Ray of Frost that are good no matter what, but essentially have an added bonus against certain decks.
As normal, green has fight spells, but they aren't quite as good as some of the removal in other colors. Spoils of the Hunt is a card I like one copy of in most decks, but don't want to play too many of. Once you start getting to more expensive removal like Eyes of the Beholder, it's much less appealing. Creatures in this format aren't that expensive, so playing Eyes of the Beholder is usually going to mean trading down on mana.
Personally, I'm used to Limited formats with sweepers that punish committing lots of creatures to the board. In Forgotten Realms we do have Sphere of Annihilation, but the card is unimpressive enough that many decks simply don't want to play it. It's vulnerable to artifact removal, takes a turn to go into effect, and is still conditional. There is also Orcus, Prince of Undeath. I like Orcus a lot, but it's very far from being a straight-up Wrath of God. Due to the lack of sweepers, I have no problem playing out all the creatures in my hand as soon as possible.