I didn't play much D&D as a kid. I always wanted to, but making friends didn't come easy for me back then, and the friends I did make were more into video games and collecting sports cards. I even made a brief foray into Warhammer before I ever picked up a source book or a character sheet. By the time I finally joined the tabletop RPG world toward the end of high school, I felt like I was constantly playing catchup on all the lore and mechanics. They already knew all about Baleful Beholder and Mind Flayer, while I just smiled and nodded along.
It's never too late to discover something cool, though. I joined a couple of pickup D&D games when 5th Edition released, got way too deep into The Adventure Zone actual play podcast, and then joined a campaign that has run for three years and is still going strong. We've gone from level 1 all the way up to level 18, with our eyes on hitting all 20 levels in turn. I play an Aasimar Protection Paladin from the Outer Planes named Zelva, who is quick to protect her friends with her glowing pink shield. I love her very much.
All of this is to say: I have been pretty excited about Adventures in the Forgotten Realms since it was announced last fall. I may not have the true childhood nostalgia for D&D that many do, but tabletop roleplaying has quickly become my favorite form of gaming and I've developed a love for the universe depicted in these cards. And unlike the Walking Dead Secret Lair, D&D feels like a natural fit for Magic's first major foray into another IP. Lolth, Spider Queen and Grand Master of Flowers could easily be characters from a normal Magic plane, and this set's flavor works whether or not you know D&D at all. Honestly, I'm in awe at how fun and evocative some of these cards are.
That said, there are reasons to believe that Adventures in the Forgotten Realms will be something of an unpopular and undersold set, at least as much as these things can be in 2021. For one thing, I worry that the D&D setting could act as a barrier for Magic players who aren't familiar with or interested in Dungeons & Dragons. I know that I would have been much less interested in this set if I hadn't found my way to D&D, and I imagine I'm not alone in feeling that way.
I suspect that WotC is aware of this possibility, which is why they've released it as their summer set instead of giving it a prime spot on the calendar. Summer sets tend to be the poorest sellers on the yearly calendar (strike two!) for a couple of reasons that are pretty obvious when you think about them. First, people simply play less Magic in the summer because the weather is nice and they want to be outside. This is especially true in 2021, when many of us are traveling and seeing family and friends for the first time in a year and a half. Many high school and college-aged Magic players also make it a habit of attending their local shops and Commander playgroups when everybody is on a regular school schedule, but it's harder to do this during the summer.
Second, summer is right before Standard's yearly set rotation. If you aren't keeping up with every single Standard set, it only makes sense to wait for the new format before buying in. The best decks right now are only going to be playable for about two months before everything changes, so why not have a little patience? I definitely play way more Magic in the fall, and open way more booster packs of the other three major yearly releases.
Strike three is that Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is an underpowered set, at least compared to recent releases. This power disparity looks especially glaring next to Modern Horizons 2, one of the most powerful sets ever released, but Adventures in the Forgotten Realms also doesn't stack up well next to the FIRE philosophy Standard sets that are going to rotate out of Standard this fall. There is also a conspicuous lack of a true chase card in this expansion. No id="Arid Mesa" variantId="239180", no Oko, Thief of Crowns, no Tibalt's Trickery. Nothing that makes me want to buy several boxes and hope I get lucky cracking packs. All the cards that excite me in this set are fairly balanced and reasonably priced, which is actually kind of refreshing.
Does that mean you can stop reading this article and blow off Adventures in the Forgotten Realms? I wouldn't recommend it. In fact, I think this article is more necessary than ever. For one thing, sets with a couple of clear chase cards are pretty easy to evaluate. If a set has fetch lands or a couple of absurd planeswalkers, we know that these cards will end up commanding a lot of the set's overall expected value. That means there isn't much room for sleeper cards to spike. In sets without clear chase cards, however, cards that might be under $5 in another set have a shot at hitting $20 or $30. If you can figure out which cards are likely to spike, you can save—or make—a lot of money.
For another, undersold sets often contain "choke point" cards in future Standard environments. Think about it this way: if the best post-rotation deck contains four copies of a mythic from this set and four copies of a mythic from the fall set, which card do you think will end up being more expensive? Since fall sets tend to be the best-selling sets of the year, and we're returning to one of Magic's most popular planes this autumn, I have to imagine it'll be the Adventures in Forgotten Realms card that'll prove most difficult to acquire. To that end, I'd suggest focusing more, not less, on this set—especially if you're a Standard player hoping to build competitive tabletop decks this autumn.
The best times to buy Adventures in the Forgotten Realms cards will likely come either this Friday or Saturday (today and tomorrow, for those reading this article the day it went live) or in late August, right before the next preview season begins in earnest. The first window is when all the stores will dump their initial inventory onto the TCGplayer marketplace, and the second is when the hype will have died down and the cheapest rares will have truly bottomed out. If you stick to these two windows, you should do pretty well, no matter what you end up buying. Waiting for the Black Friday sale is also an option, especially with your longest-term pickups, though you run the risk of missing the bottom on some of the best cards if you wait that long.
Anyway, let's dive into some set specifics. We're going to talk about the Collector Boosters, the cards making waves in Standard, the future Commander staples, and even take a quick look at Standard 2022 and the best post-rotation bets. Want to know which cards to buy and when? You've come to the right place.
For the first time in a while, the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Collector Boosters are refreshingly normal. There aren't any old-border treatments or subsets of special cards from earlier sets. product-hover id="212041" doesn't show up once!
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The main allure of the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Collector Boosters are the Rulebook Art Treatment showcase cards, which feature 51 pen-and-ink style "classic rulebook" versions of the set's key cards. These are very much in the "love them or hate them" camp, where folks who have nostalgia for old TTRPG rulebooks will be over the moon while others may find them somewhat bland. The lands get a different showcase treatment that is even cooler, evoking the covers of old D&D modules. I don't know about you, but I definitely want a foil set of these cards.
Other than that, it's normal Collector Booster stuff. We've got 12 Dragons and five planeswalkers that get the borderless treatment, and a whole slew of extended-art cards. We've seen these enough by now that I don't need to talk about them much here.
At any rate, every Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Collector Booster contains the following "good" slots:
While these Collector Boosters looked a little unexciting at first, I think it's worth pointing out that there are five "good" slots here. Most recent Collector Boosters only have four good slots, including Strixhaven and Modern Horizons 2. That helps make up for the fact that these boosters won't have any fetch lands or Japanese Mythical Archive spells or other obviously expensive chase pulls. In terms of pure slot value, these boosters are 20% better!
That said, I still can't give these boosters a hearty recommendation. With Modern Horizons 2 and Strixhaven Collector Boosters, a lot of the value was tied up in exciting reprints like Demonic Tutor and Misty Rainforest. With Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, the only cards you can pull are cards from this set. That means that these boosters will live or die on the quality of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. With very few Eternal or Commander staples to choose from, I have to imagine there will be more "dud" boosters than you'd want.
Because of that, though, I have to believe that there is some room for the cards that do emerge as chase rares to explode in value. For example, Tiamat is the most expensive card in the set right now because it's a popular new commander. Lots of those players are going to want the id="Tiamat" variantId="239196". If there aren't many other places for the value to go in this set, that card could end up having a pretty high multiplier going forward. I'd look to snag cards like this sooner rather than later, because they're likely being undervalued thanks to an overall lack of high-end cards in these packs.
Commander is the most popular Magic format by far, so no buyer's guide would be complete without diving into the new cards that are most likely to have the largest impact in that format. To that end, I really like using EDHREC as a resource for tracking Commander popularity. It's the best way to get a sense of which cards are the most exciting to the largest swath of the community.
(A note before we continue: I won't be talking about the cards from the latest series of Commander decks in this article. I've got a separate buyer's guide on deck to cover all of those cards next week.)
As always, it's best to separate the cards that folks are excited to use in their 99 from the cards that they're excited to build decks around as new commanders. Let's begin with the top 10 most popular new rare and mythic Commander cards for putting in your 99, according to EDHREC:
What an interesting list! If you'd asked me to guess this list beforehand, I would have put Circle of Dreams Druid at the very top. Instead, Treasure Vault and Old Gnawbone are our biggest winners.
Treasure Vault is clearly a better Commander card than I'd initially predicted, but the fact is that it's still mostly seeing play because it's an artifact land that doesn't come into play tapped. I talked about this mattering in Modern when I wrote my set review, but I didn't give it enough credit as a potential Commander staple. At this point, I expect it to remain one of the most valuable cards in the set, especially due to how many people are building around Treasure tokens in the format these days. Don't sleep on product-hover id="243495" either, especially since this card also sees play in Modern.
I also wildly underrated Old Gnawbone in my set review. Hey, mistakes happen! Seven mana is just not that much for a ramp deck, and creating dozens of treasure tokens at once is an exciting possibility for many Commander players. With this much demand, I also expect Old Gnawbone to remain one of the most valuable cards in the set, especially since it's one of the few popular mythics.
I don't think I need to say much about Circle of Dreams Druid. It's outstanding in the decks that want it, and plenty of decks want it. This card will be expensive for many years to come, even if it never sees any competitive play. It's a tad overpriced right now, and has been dropping in price for days now, but it's absolutely worth grabbing once it bottoms out.
Xorn is a bit of a shocker to me. It's number four on this list, showing up in nearly as many decks as Circle of Dreams Druid and Old Gnawbone. Looking at all of these cards together, it's pretty clear that Commander players adore making Treasure tokens and that "Treasure matters" cards are going to be pretty hot for quite some time to come. Make sure to factor this into your buying decisions going forward. I know it'll be a bigger part of my future set reviews.
Speaking of surprises, look how high Tiamat is on this list! Don't get me wrong, I expected Tiamat to be #1 on the list of favorite new commanders in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, but this legendary Dragon God is also showing up as part of the 99 in many existing decks. As expected, every five-color Dragon deck out there will want this, and its price tag will remain high.
There's a pretty big popularity gap between those five cards and the next five. Even still, I'd make sure these next few cards are on your radar. In particular, Fighter Class is pretty close to bulk right now and it seems like a solid long-term buy. In fact, I'd put all five of these cards on the list of late August pickups. Slow and steady Commander demand is the key to long-term value, and I don't expect any of them to see short-term spikes since they're not quite as popular as the top five.
As for cards that are popular as new commanders, here's the top five:
Again, there's a pretty big gap here, this time between the top three and every other potential card in the set. Tiamat, Volo, Guide to Monsters, and Xanathar, Guild Kingpin are inspiring a lot of deck builders right now, while the rest are significantly less popular. I expect the foil borderless Tiamat to remain incredibly expensive for a long time, while the foil multipliers on Volo, Guide to Monsters and Xanathar, Guild Kingpin should remain comfortably higher than average. If you want these cards in their special treatments, I'd buy them as soon as Collector Booster cards start to hit the digital shelves in earnest.
Is Tiamat causing other Five-Color Dragons staples to spike? Let's take a look. Here's the price chart for The Ur-Dragon over the past month:
Here's Scion of the Ur-Dragon:
And here's Ramos, Dragon Engine:
As you can see, demand has started to tick up but prices haven't spiked yet. If a large spike were on the docket, I think it would have happened by now, but I do expect these cards to slowly increase in value over the coming weeks as more people get their copies of Tiamat and want to build around the powerful Dragon. I also expect some movement from other "Dragons matter" staples like Dragonlord Dromoka, Terror of the Peaks, Herald's Horn, Urza's Incubator, and Balefire Dragon. If you're planning on building this deck, buy in now before the prices go up.
As for Volo, Guide to Monsters, a consistent suite of staples is a little harder to come by due to the quirks of the card. According to EDHREC, key cards include Spark Double, Tendershoot Dryad, Vizier of the Menagerie, and Twinning Staff. I don't think we'll see as much movement here since there are so many ways to build around Volo, but it's possible that a few cards will spike here and there.
As for Xanathar, Guild Kingpin, we're looking at cards like Paradox Haze, Sakashima of a Thousand Faces, Gonti, Lord of Luxury, Notion Thief, and Scheming Symmetry. Again, I'm not seeing much financial movement here, but that just means we're a little bit ahead of the curve. If you want to build these decks, don't wait.
While Standard is going to experience a major set rotation in less than two months, we can still learn something about the best cards in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms by taking a look at what is impacting the format right now. After all, if a card is making waves in this overstuffed Standard format, it's likely going to have the power level needed to keep making an impact well into the future.
I rated Werewolf Pack Leader quite highly during my initial set review, and it has been doing some work on Mono-Green Aggro so far. The double-green casing cost isn't as big a deal there, and its power level should only increase as we get more Werewolves this autumn.
Ranger Class has also made an impact in this deck. This is another card that I felt was underrated early on, and it looks great in testing and early play. The price is pretty stable in the $2.50 range, and it doesn't seem to be primed for a large increase, but I'd rather buy in sooner than later regardless.
Beyond that, things are a bit more scattered. There's a Selesnya midrange deck trying to use Guardian of Faith and Nadaar, Selfless Paladin alongside Ranger Class, I've also seen a few scattered copies of Den of the Bugbear, and the The Book of Exalted Deeds combo shows up here and there.
This overall lack of impact is a little unusual, even this late in a Standard season, and it speaks to the absurdly high power level of the cards that are about to rotate as well as the relative lack of power here. Even still, it's worth remembering that Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is still very, very new. More strategies will be discovered and more cards will make an impact prior to rotation. If you're a Standard player, keep your eyes on the metagame and see what develops.
On July 8th, WotC opened Arena up to a brand-new format: Standard 2022. This format includes cards from Zendikar Rising, Kaldheim, Strixhaven, and Adventures in the Forgotten Realms as well as the Arena Base Set. It is currently the best information we have on which cards from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms will make a big post-rotation splash.
This intel isn't perfect, of course. For one thing, post-rotation Standard will also include cards from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt. For another, Standard 2022 is only best-of-one. This means that aggro and combo decks will be overrepresented, while reactive control decks will underperform. Keep that in mind as we take a look at the results so far.
The Book of Exalted Deeds
First, let's talk about the proverbial elephant in the room: The Book of Exalted Deeds. WotC actually moved quickly to ban this card in the format; not because it was overpowered, but because it was incredibly annoying in a best-of-one format. With no ability to sideboard against it, it quickly became an "oops, I win!" combo (or, in the case of a mirror match, an endless draw). I don't expect this card to get the axe in the actual post-rotation Standard format, though, because it's an easy enough combo to disrupt if you've got three games to do it.
Paradoxically, this might cause The Book of Exalted Deeds to end up flying under the radar a bit. If folks end up using Standard 2022 as the barometer for which cards to pick up for post-rotation Standard, they might miss this one until it already begins to make an impact again. I'll be keeping it on my radar for a potential late August buy. Right now, it's still a touch too expensive and overhyped for me.
Moving on to the cards that haven't been banned yet, let's look at Izzet Dragons. This is already a strong deck in normal Standard, and it doesn't lose much at rotation. Unfortunately, for our purposes, however, it doesn't actually run many Adventures in the Forgotten Realms cards. Iymrith, Desert Doom is about it in terms of spells that might have a financial impact.
Dimir Control is another deck causing a buzz in Standard 2022. This deck runs two copies of the new planeswalker Mordenkainen as well as three copies of Hall of Storm Giants. Again, there's not much Adventures of the Forgotten Realms here. You can see why I've been calling it something of an underpowered set for the past few weeks.
Mono-Green Aggro might be the best deck in Standard 2022, and there are four full playsets of Adventures of the Forgotten Realms cards here. In addition to Ranger Class and Werewolf Pack Leader, which we've talked about already, we've got four copies each of Froghemoth and Lair of the Hydra. None of these cards are worth all that much right now, and you can almost assuredly get great deals on them this weekend if you're building for fall.
Mardu Sacrifice is also an outstanding Standard 2022 deck. There aren't too many Adventures in the Forgotten Realms cards here either, but it does run a few copies of Orcus, Prince of Undeath. While this card seems to have fallen by the wayside in Commander, it looks like it might eventually see a little Standard play.
Lastly, Mono-White Aggro is doing okay in Standard 2022. The Adventures in the Forgotten Realms cards that show up here are Loyal Warhound and Cave of the Frost Dragon. At this point, it seems pretty clear that the creature-lands in this set are indeed being underrated for post-rotation Standard. While they seem to be seeing most of their play in mono-colored decks, this should be enough to generate a solid amount of demand. I haven't seen too many people talking about these cards, but they're all quite good, and they're all being underrated right now.
Before we finish, it's worth remembering that the next Standard environment will include a return to Innistrad. In fact, we're getting two new Innistrad sets before the end of the year.
I would be shocked if our return to Innistrad doesn't include Zombies, Werewolves, Spirits, and Vampires. Humans, Angels, Clerics, Horrors, Spiders, and Wizards will be there too, but those first four tribes tend to generate the most excitement among casual deck builders. This matters to us, because the best Standard-legal Zombies (for example) will spike just as soon as Innistrad: Midnight Hunt previews give us some sweet new overpowered Zombie. It's far better to be proactive about this stuff than waiting for the hype to reach a fever pitch this fall.
Take note, then, that the following Adventures in the Forgotten Realms cards contain Innistrad's favorite creature types:
Of these, I can easily imagine Guardian of Faith slotting right into a Spirit deck, Wight slotting into a Zombie deck, and Werewolf Pack Leader slotting right into a Werewolf deck. Ebondeath, Dracolich has a little promise as well. I'll be looking to buy all of these cards before early September, and hopefully one or two of them will be easy to sell into the Innistrad hype.
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