Now that we know the full contents of Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, it's safe to say that Wizards of the Coast nailed the flavor while continuing to power down Standard. After the cavalier FIRE philosophy days of Eldraine and friends, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms has a paucity of obviously broken combo cards, absurd Simic mythics, and free spells. There are no Oko, Thief of Crowns here. There aren't even any Bonecrusher Giant. Instead, there are more than a few iconic D&D spells turned into incredibly sweet Magic cards.
Here's the thing about powered down sets: they're still chock full of value. Cards that might fall between the cracks in overpowered sets become chase cards in underpowered expansions. That means that there can be a lot of value in buying in early.
Take Rivals of Ixalan, for example. Elenda, the Dusk Rose, The Immortal Sun, Twilight Prophet, and Zacama, Primal Calamity might have all been $5-$10 cards in a set like Throne of Eldraine, but they're expensive in part because all that value in Rivals had to go somewhere. Something similar might happen here as Adventures in the Forgotten Realms matures. If you're thinking of taking this set off, I wouldn't recommend it.With that in mind, let's get to the rest of my card-by-card review. If you missed last week's installment, featuring my thoughts on cards like Lolth, Spider Queen and Demilich, check it out.
Cool? Cool. Let's get started!
Grand Master of Flowers
Bahamut is such a cool D&D character, but I'm not sure how much play their planeswalker incarnation is going to see. This is not a good Commander card at all, and I have a hard time seeing it making a splash in Standard. I want to like its second ability, for example, but Monk of the Open Hand requires a very specific deck to work, and it's a tad underpowered regardless.
The other +1 ability might get there without all of those restrictions, and I can imagine formats where it's playable, but the payoff just takes so long for a result that's just merely okay unless you really need to shut down a single opposing creature along the way. It's possible that I'm underrating Grand Master of Flowers, but this looks like a bulk planeswalker to me.
Mordenkainen is probably not playable in Standard. Six mana is so much for a planeswalker, and if you're spending that kind of mana you want to win the game or at least start dominating the battlefield, not just slowly improve your position. In my opinion, Grand Master of Flowers has a better shot at making an impact in Standard. And I don't think that's particularly likely.
That said, Mordenkainen is a solid Commander card. That's a format where you can spend six mana on your fiddly value engine, and Mordenkainen is chock full of value. Building toward Mordenkainen's ultimate is also far more possible in Commander, and it will win you the game pretty often once you get there.
Since Commander is the main driver of Magic finance these days, I'm kind of surprised to see Mordenkainen already hanging out near the bulk range for new mythic planeswalkers. I think people are underrating this card somewhat, and picking up a copy or two at release seems fine to me. It's not going to light anyone's world on fire, but it should hold steady demand for years to come.
What an interesting card. Icingdeath, Frost Tyrant isn't very good in Dragon form, but it does turn into a solid piece of Equipment after death. That makes this a decent two-for-one that could find a home in some sort of midrange white-based Equipment deck.
My main issue is that it has been a while since we've seen Brian Kibler-style Selesnya or Naya midrange decks do anything in Standard. White tends to be an aggro or a control color, and I don't think Icingdeath, Frost Tyrant will do much in those builds. It's also merely okay in Commander, and I haven't seen much discussion about it anywhere, either in the competitive forums or the casual Commander boards. I like to bet on cards that excite people, and Icingdeath doesn't seem to be doing that yet. I'm staying away for now.
Iymrith, Desert Doom
Oh, hey, we've made it to a card that I unequivocally love!
Dragonlord Ojutai was a dominant Standard card in its day, and Iymrith, Desert Doom is going to be 90% of Ojutai in most circumstances. Ward 4 is pretty similar to hexproof, especially since you can drop this and assume that it'll live for a turn until your countermagic comes online. The card draw ability is also fantastic. If you've played with or against Ojutai at all, you can see where all of this is going.
It's possible that Iymrith, Desert Doom won't see play until Dream Trawler rotates, but this is probably going to end up being the control finisher of choice in the new Standard environment. Make sure you have your copies before then. Iymrith is merely okay in Commander, so it will likely lag behind Dragonlord Ojutai in price, but control finishers tend to be among the most expensive cards in any given Standard environment. Even though that format's values are diminished from its heyday, this is going to be an in-demand card for some time to come.
Inferno of the Star Mounts
Inferno of the Star Mounts is being somewhat underrated right now. I don't know why people seem to forget that Dragons with haste nearly always make a splash in Standard while Dragons without haste tend to falter, but here we are again. Six mana is a lot, but the protection from countermagic and the fact that this can come off the top of your library and deal a lot of damage right away is huge. It might not make it if the format is overrun with spot removal, but this is going to end up being one of the better "dies to Doom Blade" creatures in post-rotation Standard.
The real financial key here is that Inferno of the Star Mounts is fantastic in Commander. That 20-damage ability is so enticing, and I can't imagine creating a Dragon deck without including this card. Couple the guaranteed Commander demand with potential Standard demand, and you get the recipe for an expensive mythic. This is a $10-$20 card with potential for more over time.
The Book of Exalted Deeds
The Book of Exalted Deeds jumped from a preorder price of about $10 to a preorder price of about $40, which confused me at first. Then I read about the Standard combo with this and Faceless Haven. If you've got triple-white and triple-snow, you can build your own Platinum Angel that's also a land and is thus very hard to remove unless you've planned for it. Not bad!
This feels like the definition of Magical Christmas Land to me, though, right on down to the fact that it needs snow to work. It's a neat combo, but I have a hard time seeing it as tier 1 in Standard.
Other than that, The Book of Exalted Deeds is a solid Commander card that should see play in pretty much every life gain deck out there. If it was still selling for $10 or so, I'd tell you to consider picking it up ASAP. Long term, this card is going to be worth $10+. I'm not touching it anywhere near $40, though, because I simply don't believe in the combo. Stay away for now, buy in a few months down the line if the combo doesn't materialize.
Acererak the Archlich
I don't think Acererak the Archlich will see much play as a fair card, but as a combo piece it goes infinite with either Aluren or Rooftop Storm. If you can get the loop going, you can win the game on the spot by looping a couple of dungeons over and over. I know, I know. I said there weren't any absurd combo cards in this set, and I still feel that way, but Acererak is admittedly pretty neat. Here's what it did to the price of Aluren:
And here's Rooftop Storm:
It makes sense that Aluren spiked since it's a Reserved List card. Rooftop Storm saw a brief demand surge, but it wasn't enough to dry up supply to the point of a price spike. I do expect that card to creep up at some point, since demand is still higher than it used to be while the price has stayed relatively stable. Those two things will catch up at some point, and this card will creep up as folks try to make the combo work in Modern.
As for Acererak the Archlich itself, it depends on whether or not this is a legitimate combo deck in either Legacy or Modern. If the combo works, you can expect a brief surge to $25+. If not, it should dip toward the $5 mark. Either way, I'd rather snag Rooftop Storm right now just in case. It's the higher upside play.
The Tarrasque is very large, and I suppose that might be enough for it to see play in some sort of Genesis Ultimatum or reanimation deck. Even though it's not nearly as good if you can't cast it, it's still solid if you cheat it into play. That's worth something, I suppose.
That said, The Tarrasque is still a 10/10 for 9 without trample or evasion. There's a reason it's selling for bulk mythic rates. There's a shot it'll find a niche somewhere, but I'm not betting on it. You can if you want, but make sure you're seeing something I'm not.
The big problem with The Book of Vile Darkness is that it can't be your commander. If you could stick this in your command zone, I'd be pretty high on its ability to spawn a fun new archetype in that format. As is, you just kind of have to stick it in your 99 with the other two (mediocre) Vecna pieces and either run a boatload of tutors or hope for the best.
The Kaldra cards have some value, and this will too, but it's such a fiddly interaction and the payoff is merely okay. My guess is that The Book of Vile Darkness will be a $2-$3 mythic with a little bit of long-term upside.
Minsc, Beloved Ranger
Minsc, Beloved Ranger has outstanding flavor, and I think that will drive at least a moderate amount of casual demand going forward. That said, Minsc isn't good enough for competitive play, and it's not quite mechanically interesting enough to inspire a ton of folks to build around it in Commander. Hamsters are delightful, though, and Minsc will have a handful of dedicated fans. Let's call it a just-above-bulk mythic with minor upside.
Here it is, the card I think will end up being worth more than it "should" because the set lacks a suite of powerful competitive staples. Tiamat doesn't have much use outside of five-color Dragon decks in Commander, but cards like The Ur-Dragon tend to be worth quite a bit, and Tiamat doesn't just slot into those decks; it enables similar new ones. This is the most popular new commander on EDHREC right now, and that tends to be a good indicator of value, especially for mythic rares. My hope is to buy in close to $10 and hold long-term. I might get blown out by a Secret Lair at some point, but the upside is there.
Xanathar, Guild Kingpin is also an outstanding Commander card. It's kind of like Sen Triplets, but a little less evil and a little more fun. I think it'll shine in multiplayer games, and will be a popular card for years to come. It's also the #2 most popular new commander on EDHREC, but it's currently selling for less than half the price of Tiamat. I would guess that price disparity evens out a bit over the coming months and years.
Tiamat won't see Standard play, of course, but Xanathar, Guild Kingpin might. Six mana is a lot, but if you can ramp to it (Sultai, maybe?) and get it to stick, you're winning the game most of the time. It remains to be seen where control will land after rotation, but Xanathar has astronomical upside in Commander and a shot at making waves in Standard. I don't hate grabbing a copy now if you want one.
Knight of the White Orchid has been a terrific card for a while, and Loyal Warhound compares well enough to make me pretty certain this will be playable in any white-based aggro deck that shows up in post-rotation Standard. The fact that this card provides pressure on the play and card advantage on the draw (roughly speaking) helps a lot, and aggressive two-drops can look somewhat unimpressive while still being integral to the functioning of a deck. I'd love to snag these in the $1-$2 range, because I expect they'll see a decent amount of play this fall. I just wish it had more utility in Commander.
True Polymorph does have the advantage of being an instant, and it's very versatile. I can't wait to play with it in Limited. It's too expensive for Standard, though, and there are better options in Commander. Future bulk rare.
Hobgoblin Bandit Lord
I haven't seen much buzz about Hobgoblin Bandit Lord, but I assume it'll be a must-play in all Goblin Commander decks. Its activated ability is quite good too, but I think the combination of three mana and 2 power are going to limit its potential in competitive Constructed formats. As with most solid creature lords, this is a decent long-term buy that I'll be looking to snag when it bottoms out.
Long Rest isn't very good. It'll see some play in "X spells matter" Commander decks, but Seasons Past is the better card, and that one's a mythic that's easily available for less than $5. Future bulk rare.
Conjurer's Closet is a Commander staple, and Teleportation Circle is going to slot into any white-based deck that already runs the closet. Since most blink decks in the format are Azorius or Bant, that should create quite a bit of demand for this enchantment. As with most of the other Commander-centric rares in this set, snag a few copies when it bottoms out. Short term, you should be able to pick up copies in the $1 range. Long term, it'll be worth closer to $5.
Asmodeus the Archfiend
I'm not seeing it with Asmodeus the Archfiend. I know, I know, it has the text "draw seven cards," which is just about the best thing that any card can say on it, but you have to pay six for this and then pay BBB and then pay B and then lose 7 life. That's a lot of hoops to jump through! This is far too slow for competitive play, and I think it's a fringe card in Commander. Future bulk rare.
Forsworn Paladin looks pretty mediocre at a glance, but never sleep on one-drops. It doesn't take much for one to start fully dominating a format, especially one with a couple of solid abilities. My guess is that Forsworn Paladin is a future bulk rare, but there's a shot it'll show up as a four-of in a post-rotation deck. Grab a set at peak supply if you're a believer.
Westgate Regent is a Limited card. It is very bad in Constructed play. I'd elaborate more, but I have dozens of cards to get to today and there are only so many ways to say "this is a bad card, and the reason why it's bad is pretty obvious to people who have played Magic before." Future bulk rare.
I don't think that most of the venture cards are very good, and I can't imagine playing a 7/3 for 3RR unless I'm gung-ho on finishing those dungeons. Future bulk rare.
Varis, Silverymoon Ranger is the best of the rare venture cards by a wide margin. It triggers on something you already want to do, it has a reasonable body, and it provides an additional advantage if you finish a dungeon. Looking at it honestly makes me a little bit upset at how underpowered all the other venture cards are in comparison.
Will Varis, Silverymoon Ranger be good enough to see play, though? I still don't think it has much game in competitive formats, but it might do some work in Commander. Best case, this is a $1-$2 card that hits $5 because it has some niche use in Standard. That doesn't really excite me.
Ochre Jelly is pretty cool! It's not a competitive card, but it has a lot of synergy with token generators, doublers, and other cards that are supremely popular in Commander. I haven't seen much financial buzz on this one yet, but it should be popular enough to hold a little bit of long-term value. I'm definitely snagging a few of these at peak supply.
Oswald Fiddlebender is one of the best cards in the set. It's not quite a Birthing Pod for artifacts, especially since you can't tap it the turn it enters the battlefield, but it's similar to Prime Speaker Vannifar and should see quite a bit of play overall. It has a shot in Modern, and it's amazing in Commander.
This is one of the few cards that might be worth snagging ASAP, since its power level is pretty obvious and its current price tag is still fairly low. Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is a pretty low-power set, so its good cards are going to increase in price. Oswald Fiddlebender should be among them.
I adore the flavor here. Seriously—what a perfect card. Super evocative for anyone who has played D&D. We've seen cards like Ravenous Chupacabra and Fiend Hunter see play before, too, so it wouldn't be surprising if Gelatinous Cube finds a home somewhere. I don't like to make bets on random midrange creatures, so it's not high on my "must buy" list, but the price is low and there are worse gambles. Grab a set if you're a believer.
Wow. After looking at so many mediocre-to-bad cards, we've had quite a few good ones in a row!
Werewolf Pack Leader is a two-mana 3/3 with multiple kinds of upside, and we'll be getting a ton of new Werewolves this fall with our return to Innistrad. How can you lose? This is a slam-dunk Standard staple that might see play in Historic too. There isn't a ton of demand in Commander, admittedly, but the price is very low and I'd be gobsmacked if Werewolf Pack Leader doesn't see a lot of competitive play. Get your set now.
Orb of Dragonkind will probably see enough niche play to end up being worth $2-$3 in a couple of years, but that's about it. It's only kind of okay in dedicated Dragon decks, and it's awful everywhere else. I guess it might see some play in Standard if there are a critical mass of Dragons, but I wouldn't bet on it. Bulk rare.
Minion of the Mighty is the better of the two Dragon cards, at least in casual play. It's still not a competitive card, but I'd definitely run this in Commander where it might be able to help me cheat one of my expensive Dragons into play and accelerate my plan by a turn or two. I'm gonna snag a couple of these while they're below a buck and slot them into my long-term collection. It'll probably be a $4-$5 card in a few years.
Monk Class is pretty solid and might see some competitive play. Its level 1 ability is useful in lots of different decks, and the fact that you get a tempo gain on level 2 makes me think it might actually have some game. Its level 3 ability is reachable quite early, and it can gain you some real advantages as the game stretches on. There's $3-$4 upside here, though it's still a longshot to be more than just a fringe player.
Rogue Class is a touch too slow for competitive play, but it's really solid in Commander. I think it'll show up here and there in the sorts of sneaky Dimir-based Commander brews that this card was designed to boost. It'll probably remain a $1 rare for quite some time, but it's a good card that should at least command a little bit of long-term value.
Again, Sorcerer Class is probably a bit too mana-hungry for competitive decks, but boy oh boy are these some powerful abilities. There are quite a few Commander decks that want this, including any that just want to fire off a bunch of Izzet-colored instants and sorceries in order to combo off or generate Young Pyromancer tokens or something. As with Rogue Class, this looks like a $1 rare with some long-term potential.
I don't think Fighter Class makes it in Standard, but I could be wrong. Steelshaper's Gift is a very powerful card, and this costs just one mana more and does a lot of other stuff if you want. I feel stronger about it in Commander, where it's a must-play in all Boros Equipment decks. Definitely snag this one while the price is nice and low, because it should remain in steady demand for years to come.
Bard Class is easily the most niche member of this cycle. It's very good if you're playing a Gruul deck focused on legendary creatures, and it's pretty close to unplayable anywhere else. Niche cards are rarely worth much, and I don't expect that to change here. Future bulk rare.
Paladin Class is one of the best anthem effects we've gotten in a while. The tax ability isn't nothing, nor is its level 3 mode. I'd play this in any aggressive white deck in both Standard and Commander, which probably means that it's underrated and underpriced right now. If you like this kind of card, snag it before more folks get wise to it. It might never be worth more than $5, but it's definitely better than a $1 rare.
Oh, hey, Ranger Class is selling for even less and is also incredibly playable. I'm not sure I'd mess around with it too much in Commander, at least not outside of Wolf decks, but its level 3 ability is outstanding in that format. In Standard, it's a 2/2 with plenty of upside for 1G. That's a playable card in most formats. Considering it's available for less than a buck right now, I see no reason not to take a flier on it. It could easily be the best of the bunch for Constructed play.
I don't think I'd play this card without having access to a bunch of other Skeletons, but it'd be pretty sweet if I did. There aren't that many in Magic right now, but that can change at any point. Bulk rare, but it'll spike into the $5-$10 range if WotC ever comes out with a super good Skeleton commander. Grab a set or two when it bottoms out at like $0.20.
Volo, Guide to Monsters is too slow for competitive play, and you can't really run it in Commander unless you're building around it.
It's a super fun card to build around, admittedly, but I can't imagine it'll ever be super popular outside of niche circles. The exciting foil variants should stay fairly high, as is true with all good commanders, but the non-foil should fall into the bulk range before long.
Both of Orcus, Prince of Undeath abilities are incredibly powerful, and the modality makes this card even better. My only worry—and it's a big one—is that this card doesn't really do anything until you've got at least six or seven mana to spend. I can see it becoming a solid Commander playable and a Standard finisher, but I can also see it ending up being just a touch too expensive to make an impact at all. I'm probably going to wait and see on Orcus, but there's a lot of upside here if the cost ends up being worth the benefit. It's a decent rare to gamble on if you like cards like this.
Deathtouch and first strike is a pretty potent combination, so I wouldn't be shocked if this shows up in some sort of Orzhov Aggro deck at some point. If you're using anthems or equipment or something and calling the dungeon venturing a bonus, I can imagine Triumphant Adventurer seeing a decent amount of play in Standard.
Will that happen? It's unlikely, and probably not until rotation. There's a little bit of upside here, though, so I wanted to mention it. It's a likely bulk rare, but keep an eye on it.
Adult Gold Dragon is one of my favorite D&D critters, but this is a Limited card. This is a powerful suite of abilities, but we're pretty far beyond the era of Magic when a card like this would make a splash in competitive Constructed. Future bulk rare.
You can pretty much copy my Volo, Guide to Monsters review and paste in here. Drizzt Do'Urden is probably too expensive for Standard, but it's fine as a third-tier build-around Commander. Regular copies will probably end up in the bulk range, while nice premium Collector Booster copies will hold their value well and gain ground over time.
Hand of Vecna
Hand of Vecna might hold a little value for folks who want to assemble the full three-card Voltron combo, but this card is very weak on its own. Empyrial Plate is arguably better, and that's a bulk rare from Mirrodin. This will be a bulk rare too.
Eye of Vecna
Mazemind Tome sees quite a bit of Standard play, and I see no reason why Eye of Vecna can't fill a similar role once the Tome rotates. The Eye is a little harder to use, and the loss of life really adds up over time, especially against aggro, but I do like that it draws you a card right away. My guess is that this card has the stuff to stick around the $2 range for a while, but there's not much upside beyond that.
Hall of Storm Giants
Hall of Storm Giants has the most expensive activated ability in this cycle, and is thus probably the least likely to see play. It really just slows you down unless you've got at least seven mana in play and you're willing to tap out for an attack. I guess it might see a little play as a control finisher here and there, but I'd bet on some of the cheaper creature lands first.
Lair of the Hydra
Lair of the Hydra is fine, but I think green is the color that needs these lands the least. It's also incredibly mana intensive, even if it is a little more versatile than Hall of Storm Giants. It should see a little bit of play, but I don't think it'll be format-defining or anything. Feel free to snag copies in the $1-$2 range.
Certain versions of Modern Affinity are going to run Treasure Vault simply because it's an artifact land that comes into play untapped. This is a format where Darksteel Citadel is a four-of for the same reason, and even if Treasure Vault were otherwise blank it could serve as Darksteel Citadel #5-#8. That has value.
Will Treasure Vault find play elsewhere? Perhaps, but the mana-to-treasure rate is very poor so I wouldn't bet on it being a major player anywhere. I do think Modern play alone will keep this card in the $5 range, especially considering the overall makeup of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, but it's almost valuable in spite of itself. Buy in if you need a playset, feel free to ignore otherwise.
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Last week's newsletter was another dive into the Hullbreacher ban that rocked Commander. I took a look at the card's current price, talked about its future, and even discussed the potential of speculating on foil copies for Vintage and Legacy play. We talked about possible Hullbreacher replacements, and other cards that might drop in the wake of the banning. Go subscribe so you don't miss out next week!