Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Set Review - Gold
(Drizzt Do'Urden | Art by Tyler Jacobson)
Hey You, You're Finally Awake
...Wait, what do you mean that's not from D&D? Goodness, I can't keep all these crossovers straight!
Anyway, hello, everyone! It’s your friendly neighborhood Jesguy here, and welcome to the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Gold Set Review! While I have merely dabbled in Dungeons & Dragons in the past, I am a huge fan of The Legend of Drizzt and Dragonlance series, and as such, this set has sent my heart soaring with all of the wonderful references and depictions of familiar creatures and characters.
Today, I'll be taking you through all of the gold cards from this set, most of which also happen to be all legendary creatures! With a whopping 24 cards to get through today, let's not waste any time! Time to venture deep into the dungeons of Faerûn and see who we can convince to join our humble party!
Minsc, Beloved Ranger
There is nothing more I could have asked for than starting this review off with the most beloved creature ever printed. And also Minsc, too, I suppose.
Despite the cuteness and flavor, Minsc is fairly straightforward (get ready to hear that a lot in this review). Aside from creating Boo when he enters the battlefield, Minsc, Beloved Ranger ends up being a glorified sac outlet/pump spell in the command zone.
Thanks to Minsc's ability to modify your creature's power and toughness, there are a number of interesting cards that can be included in his deck. Calamity Bearer doubles the damage of any creature that Minsc modifies, since it becomes a Giant in addition to its other types. You can even pay zero mana to turn a creature you control into a 0/0, causing it to immediately die! This works as a pseudo-sacrifice outlet by turning a creature into 0/0. Not only that, but you can add creatures with death triggers, like Protean Hulk or Atla Palani, Nest Tender and her Eggs, to turn your creatures into value!
Minsc, Beloved Ranger is a fun, linear Naya commander whose appeal is in part due to Boo's incredible token. I don't believe he provides anything new to this color combination aside from his power/toughness modification, but that itself can be a draw for some people. Overall, I'm pretty favorable about Minsc, Beloved Ranger, and if you do decide to build him, don't forget: go for the eyes!
Tiamat, First of Her Name, Stormborn, The Queen Across the Sea, The Silver Queen, The Dragon Queen, The -
Wait, wrong crossover again? Dang it.
Tiamat is a powerful commander, a popular character, and one that could have the ability to rival The Ur-Dragon's yet-uncontested spot as the most popular Dragon Tribal commander. Do I think she will surpass it? No. However, I do think she is the next best option for a strict Dragon tribal build. The Dragon Queen is straightforward, letting you tutor through your deck for five Dragons with different names if you cast her. Hand-picking five Dragons is incredibly strong and scary.
Aside from being able to tutor Worldgorger Dragon for one half of the Worldgorger Combo, it seems like the best way to utilize Tiamat is with just some good old-fashioned value.
Beledros Witherbloom is a high priority tutor target, as you can play her, untap your lands, and play another Dragon or two. Lathliss Dragon Queen helps spawn more Dragons the more we play. Goldspan Dragon ramps up our... well, ramping. Dragonlord Kolaghan gives all of our Dragons haste. Scourge of the Throne can provide additional combat steps. And of course, Morophon, the Boundless can make a bunch of them cheaper! Your suite of Dragons is a toolbox with Tiamat at the helm, so use it to your full advantage!
While she's admittedly simple, I think Tiamat a worthy alternative to The Ur-Dragon should you be looking to delve into Dragon tribal, so make sure to check her out if you're interested! Just be wary of including blink effects or Hellkite Courser into Tiamat decks, because her tutor ability only triggers when she enters the battlefield if you cast her, so keep that in mind!
Xanathar, Guild Kingpin
As someone who enjoys utilizing my opponents'
hubris cards against them, Xanathar, Guild Kingpin is right up my alley.
The worst thing I can say about Xanathar is the fact that the turn he comes down, he's equivalent to a vanilla 5/6. This means you won't be able to cast him without some kind of Counterspell backup very often.
Aside from that, I think Xanathar is an absolute blast, and is a much healthier version of Sen Triplets. The Triplets give you access to a third color, but they often cause incredibly unfun game states, since they exhaust the table's resources, making it harder and harder for them interact with you as you snowball. While that's obviously more powerful, Xanathar's restriction to casting spells from the top of an opponent's library not only prevents you from soft-locking players out of the game, but it also gives you a potentially larger pool of cards to access.
By using Paradox Haze and other cards that can give you multiple upkeeps, as well as clones that let you copy legends (like Sakashima of a Thousand Faces), you can target multiple players a turn, giving you multiple decks to steal from all at once. Along with those, cards that can fiddle with the top of other players' libraries will be imperative, such as Ghoulcaller's Bell and Codex Shredder. You can even add in a Scheming Symmetry to tutor things up to the top of the deck, causing you and the opponent you target to get into a veritable blinking contest (ba dum tss)! Along with these, thanks to Xanathar's even mana value, Gyruda, Doom of Depths is a potential companion to the Guild Kingpin, giving you an extra way to churn through the top of enemy libraries while stealing their prized cards.
While I think Xanathar, Guild Kingpin can be a bit clunky to start, once his deck gets moving, I think it'll be a powerful one. There is a lot of politicking and manipulation involved in a deck like this, and will often lead to interesting and varied gameplay experiences when compared to its Esper contemporary.
Tune your lyre and make sure those voice lessons your parents got for you 20 years ago didn't go to waste, because you need to get ready for your Bard Class!
Nowadays, there are a few things I look for in cards: if they can support an archetype, if they are fun, and if they are niche, and Bard Class (along with all the other classes I am about to talk about) check off all three boxes. Legends-Matter is a popular theme on the site, consisting of over 2,200 decks on the site at the time of writing, and that strategy is exactly where this Class fits.
Since over 1,400 of these Legends decks are five-color, that gives Bard Class quite a few homes, even if the two mana it produces every turn can't always be fully used. This means that Level 1 and Level 3 of this Class will do most of the heavy lifting, making all of your legendary creatures bigger while also accruing card advantage over time.
Bard Class is really neat, and a welcome addition to decks revolving around legendary spells. Most often, you will want to level it up as quickly as possible in order to get its full effect! Don't let the increasing mana cost of each Level fool you - if Flashback has taught me anything, it's that paying in increments is not only easily doable, but is powerful, so get singing!
I've been wanting WotC to cool it with all the W/R Equipment support over the past few sets since they've been printing so much of it, but I'll make an exception for Fighter Class. This card is a banger.
Not only is this card's baseline a budget Stoneforge Mystic and Steelshaper's Gift, but its also has built-in Equip reduction and built-in removal, all on a single card. That is incredible. The best part about Fighter Class is that each mode of it actually feels like a bonus. For two mana, I am happy to simply tutor an Equipment out of my deck, period. If that's all the card does that game, that's fine. It served its purpose. But it only gets better! While Level 2 costs three mana, it immediately refunds two of it on your first Equip cost, meaning you have realistically only spent one mana! Level 3 is just gravy if you ever get to it, giving Equipment decks some desperately wanted removal, reminiscent of Odric, Master Tactician.
Fighter Class is cheap, strong, and it pulls a lot of work in the decks that want it, and a lot of decks want it. Of the 12,027 decks that Stoneforge Mystic shows up in, only 1,304 of them cannot play Fighter Class, meaning that there are over 10,000 Equipment decks that will happily include this card. Decks that include Steelshaper's Gift tell a similar story: there are over 8,500 decks using the Gift, and only 1,088 of them would be unable to use Fighter Class, which is still a total of 7,412 decks! Those are some impressive numbers!
Along with this, there are even homes in certain niche Enchantress decks, like Ghen, Arcanum Weaver, too. Ghen can use this to tutor a pair of Lightning Greaves or Battlemage's Bracers out of the deck, then use Fighter Class as sacrifice fodder to reanimate a bigger enchantment! I'm super stoked about Fighter Class and its incredible utility. Great addition to the format. A+
Now just stop with the Boros Equipment theme, WotC. We've already seen it in four of the six sets this year. This card is nice, but give it a rest.
Monk Class is cute. It's a combination of a conditional mana rock, an Unsummon, and a...Phyrexian Arena...Wait, what was that last one?
None of these effects on their own are worth the total seven mana, but all of them being on a single card, and being able to pay in installments, goes a long way. Early game, it makes double-spelling easier while also having a one-shot bounce effect to interact with nonland permanents. Then, with Level 3, having a consistent source of card advantage on each of your turns is great. Getting access to card advantage similar to Outpost Siege or the aforementioned Phyrexian Arena, can be wonderful, which is why they're in 11,768, and 46,136 decks, respectively. Those do cost a whole lot less mana, though.
Two decks that I think will take full advantage of Monk Class are Vega, the Watcher, and Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage. Vega is always looking for new cards that cast spells from places other than the hand, while Raff is always looking for easier ways to play spells on other player's turns, and Monk Class's cost reduction and card advantage will allow him to do just that. While not overtly powerful, Monk Class has a handful of different smaller pieces that make it better than the sum of its parts.
If there is one thing in Commander that I love, it's stealing spells and playing other people's decks, and Rogue Class facilitates that splendidly.
From the moment you cast Rogue Class, it begins doing work, as long as you have creatures on board. Creatures with flying, deathtouch, or other evasive keywords work best here, since they can immediately get in for damage and start pilfering our opponents' spells. If you lack ways to get in for damage, worry not! Level 2 will give your entire team menace, increasing their evasiveness considerably and then netting even more cards. Then finally, Level 3 is our big payoff, letting us play any cards that we've exiled through combat for as long as Rogue Class is in play. Gosh, this card is great.
Rogue decks, Flying decks, and Theft decks, like the ones shown above, all have Rogue Class on their radar as a potential inclusion to the 99, since each of them can take advantage of it to the fullest.
Despite all the praise and application, there are two downsides to this class. First, unlike any of the Classes that we've talked about before, Rogue Class provides no inherent advantage the turn we play it, since the cards we exile can't be played until Level 3. Second, Rogue Class is not worded like Gonti, Lord of Luxury or Monk Class. If Rogue Class is Disenchanted, we lose all the cards we had exiled beneath it. Due to the raw amount of card advantage this Class can provide, it is imperative that your Negates and Counterspells protect Rogue Class to keep the cards flowing. It won't be out of the realm of possibility that the stack of cards exiled with Rogue Class will dwarf the amount of cards in your hand, so defend it accordingly.
I'm not sure if it is just because I am a bit of a kleptomaniac, but I think Rogue Class is incredibly fun, and incredibly strong, even if you have to put a bit more work into it than the other Classes. It lets us use opponent's goodies against them, and also provides oodles of card advantage. What more could you want?
Sorcerer Class is solid, and while it doesn't do anything new for U/R, it is both a great Spellslinger enabler and payoff!
This class Faithless Lootings upon entrance, turns all of our creatures into mana dorks for your spells, and then does a great Aria of Flame impression to burn out the table. Seems great!
Both Veyran, Voice of Duality and Kykar, Wind's Fury can take full advantage of Sorcerer Class. Both of these decks include a mass of cards that create tokens when you cast spells, things like Young Pyromancer, Saheeli, Sublime Artificer, and Talrand, Sky Summoner, which allow this Class's Level 2 ability to produce a ton of mana to help us cast spells. Level 3 gets out of control with Veyran in particular, since she'll make Class trigger twice per spell cast, cutting in half the total number of spells you need to cast to obliterate the table!
Sorcerer Class is solid, straightforward, and powerful. Not only is it an enabler, but it provides redundancy to game-enders like Aria of Flame and Aetherflux Reservoir and is an incredible inclusion to Spellslinger decks everywhere.
Adult Gold Dragon
Adult Gold Dragon s a big ol' beater with a handful of keywords akin to something like Mantis Rider.
As fun of a design as "keyword soup" is, I don't think it does much for the Adult Gold Dragon here. It's best at home in The Ur-Dragon decks, where it only costs four mana, or for Akroma, Vision of Ixidor decks that include red where it gets an extra three power and toughness, but I don't think it has many other places in the format. Even those spots are a bit dubious. Beaters are easy to come by in Commander, and while this has a handful of attractive keywords, it doesn't really do a whole lot. I think Adult Gold Dragon will end up relegated to bulk bins.
WHEEEEEEW, LAD, HERE COMES MY BOY. WE FINALLY HAVE A DRIZZT CARD!!! 🥳🥳🥳
I don't think Drizzt Do'Urden is a groundbreaking design, but I think he can be quite the backbreaking commander. Double strike paired up with the ability to get bigger is a potent combination that can easily end up knocking players out with commander damage. Unlike most Voltron decks, Drizzt only needs to get to 11 power to threaten a K.O., making him very deadly very fast.
There are a few different ways that you can build Drizzt. The first is with +1/+1 Counters, utilizing cards like Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider and Branching Evolution to quickly turn our Drow into a one-shot machine. Another kind of tool for this deck are sacrifice effects like Natural Order and Greater Good. With them, we can sacrifice creatures that are bigger than Drizzt, such as Guenhwyvar or Ghalta, Primal Hunger, to pump our Ranger and also accrue additional value. Another cheeky piece of tech is Berserk. We can cast this on an opponent's creature mid-combat, pumping their power, dealing a boatload of damage, and then granting Drizzt a ton of counters when they lose the Berserked creature, priming us for an alpha strike on our turn!
There are other interesting inclusions to a Drizzt deck, like Phyrexian Dreadnought, Force of Savagery, and Spirit en-Dal, just to name a few, so make sure you check out his page on the site! While Drizzt Do'Urden plays around with themes that are often associated with G/W, he twists them on their ear, providing a very different play experience when compared to other +1/+1 counter commanders.
Orcus, Prince of Undeath
Orcus, Prince of Undeath is a big ol' Demon who wants to helm a big late-game B/R control deck, but I'm not sure if he's worth the effort.
The biggest issue plaguing Orcus is the fact that his mana cost is a lie. There is almost no situation where you will end up casting him for four mana, since he will end up as just a 5/3 flampler. Orcus wants to be cast for 8+ mana, utilizing rituals like Mana Geyser or Cabal Coffers + Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth to either wipe the board or get a handful of creatures back from your graveyard. If his second mode got back each creature from the graveyard with mana value X or less, we'd be having a different conversation, but since it can only get back creatures that all total to X or less, it's a lot trickier.
While I am usually a fan of modal cards, I think all of Orcus's collective costs are too prohibitive. The ability to pivot between a Toxic Deluge or a flexible Reanimate is neat, but I don't think it's worth all of the set-up, especially since it costs you so much time and life to do it. If you're looking to play a slow, grindy Rakdos deck, Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor fill that role, instead, letting you pack your deck full of interaction so you can utilize your opponent's own threats against them. If you like Rakdos reanimator, Chainer, Nightmare Adept is already doing that job really well.
While I like Orcus, Prince of Undeath's design, I think he asks too much of you for not enough payoff. Black and red have a bevy of interesting and fun commanders, and I would suggest slotting Orcus into the 99 of one of them as opposed to building a deck around him. In particular, throw this into Rakdos, the Showstopper, who loves the extra wipe and enjoys one of his underling fetching back a fallen Demon from time to time.
While it's really cool and flavorful, I think the embodiment of The Skeleton War ends up being more of a Skeleton Skirmish.
There are two things that hold Skeletal Swarming back. The first is that it triggers only on our end step. Without outside help from other Skeletons (of which there are only 59, and most are bad), in one round after we cast this, we're getting the equivalent of two Spark Elementals. Not great. The second issue is that we don't have a dedicated Skeleton Tribal commander yet. The two upcoming Innistrad sets may remedy this problem, but until then, our skelly-bois are going to be unimpressive 3/1s most of the time, without much synergy in the rest of the deck. With all this said, if your playgroup is not known for playing a lot of creatures, Skeletal Swarming may be a consideration to potentially overwhelm some tables.
I don't dislike Skeletal Swarming, and it can be an interesting inclusion in decks like Grismold, the Dreadsower, but overall I think Golgari has more powerful things it could be doing than swinging with easily-chumped attackers. I think this is a card that could put in some work in the future if the power commander is printed, but for now, I say pass.
1/1s for two mana aren't usually impressive, but Triumphant Adventurer kicks it up a notch by having the tried and true combination of Glissa, the Traitor's signature first strike and deathtouch.
I'm going to level with you. Despite this adventurer having some of my favorite combination of keywords, there aren't a whole lot of decks for this happy little fellow. The most obvious spot is a Dungeons deck helmed by Sefris of the Hidden Ways, where you can try and speed-run dungeons and accrue a satchel full of value very quickly. The Adventurer also carries Equipment like Loxodon Warhammer and Embercleave quite well, too, so don't count out Knight Tribal decks as a potential home for him either.
Overall, I like Triumphant Adventurer's design, but I think it's pretty niche and falls pretty short in terms of application for our format. I always love peppy little Knights like this, though, so at least it has that going for it.
Volo, Guide to Monsters
Yep. I woke up today and chose violence. Volo, Guide to Monsters is a really neat build-around in theory, but I have a huge issue with him.
While he's being touted as an "anti-tribal" deck, he still doesn't do anything that breaks rank from traditional U/G commanders. Sure, Volo's input may be different; instead of playing a land to draw cards, like in Tatyova, Benthic Druid, or instead of self-milling to ramp and draw with Uro Titan of Nature's Wrath, he has to play differently-typed creatures. Either way, his output is the same: generic value.
Yeah, it's really cool that Tendershoot Dryad is the only Dryad in your deck, but the really cool reward you get for that is... two of them. Spark Double was already the only Illusion in the deck, and Amphin Mutineer wasn't competing with other Salamander Pirates in the 99. There aren't exactly a lot of other Boars we're losing out on in order to make multiple End-Raze Forerunners, you know?
The biggest restriction is that Volo's a Human and a Wizard himself, so an Eternal Witness would be just a regular Eternal Witness. That's the level of value we're talking about; we'd only get one Eternal Witness, and that's not good enough for the Simic shenanigans. We should also avoid Guardian Project, since the sequencing means we'll have the token in play already by the time the regular creature enters the battlefield, but when we're making two Consecrated Sphinxes and we weren't going to play any other Sphinxes anyway, even that doesn't seem like much of a cost.
There are some neat tools in Volo's arsenal to get around his restriction, like exiling cards from your own graveyard with Scavenging Ooze, or shuffling them back into your deck with Loaming Shaman. You can even change some creature types you already have in play with Unnatural Selection. In other words, if you wanted to play both Mulldrifter and Avenger of Zendikar, you can probably get away with it.
Importantly, Volo copies the creature spell. He's not creating any tokens. Just like Double Major and Aeve, Progenitor Ooze, token-doublers like Parallel Lives do not create more tokens from Volo's ability, because the copies of the creature spells become tokens, but that's not the same as creating a token. This means it does work with Twinning Staff, though.
I think Volo, Guide to Monsters asks you to build a deck with a restriction that turns out to be pretty minimal, and ultimately provides us with the same thing Simic was already going to do, which is to say, he's very very good. Having a singleton of every creature type sounds like an interesting challenge, but at the end of the day, the result will look no different than other decks of this color combination.
Uncommons and Commons
- Barrowin of Clan Undurr is a neat little Dwarf, but I'm not sure she's worth the effort. While she slots right at home in the Esper Dungeon deck, I think there are better commanders in these colors that do similar things. Lurrus of the Dream Den, Athreos, Shroud-Veiled, and Ravos, Soultender are just a few examples of commanders that can recur our creatures. I'd add her into a dungeon deck, but I wouldn't use her as a commander.
- Bruenor Battlehammer is one of my favorite characters from The Legend of Drizzt, and I'm super happy he got a card, but while he isn't bad, we've had such an influx of Boros Equipment commanders over the past few years that I'm unsure Bruenor can keep up. He doesn't seem better than Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist, Akiri, Fearless Voyager, or Wyleth, Soul of Steel. Much like Barrowin, Bruenor seems best in the 99.
- Farideh, Devil's Chosen has the inverse problem of the two legends above. While there are no other legendary creatures in Izzet that deal with dice rolling at the moment, there isn't yet a whole lot of dice rolling to support Farideh. She seems interesting, and having a commander with two forms of evasion and card draw is neat, but I'm just not sure this deck can reliably come together so far. With so few dice cards in black border, this deck will build itself a little bit. She may need a future set with dice rolling cards to fully come into her own.
- Gretchen Titchwillow is boring and uninspired, and does nothing new. Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, Thrasios, Triton Hero, Zimone, Quandrix Prodigy, Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait, it's the same stuff with a different name, and I don't want to spend anymore words on it. Pass.
- Hama Pashar, Ruin Seeker, like Barrowin, is better in a dungeon deck, but having a dungeon-harmonicon in the command zone is an interesting thought... a thought that can be entertained until you realize there are only about 21 venture cards that can go into her deck. If there were more venture cards, Hama Pashar could be a really neat commander, but for the moment, I think she will be relegated to the 99 of Esper dungeon decks.
- Kalain, Reclusive Painter is such good flavor, but just like most of the other commanders here, I'm not sure she can pull her own weight when she's the one in the command zone. Treasure and +1/+1 counter synergies is really interesting, but both of these things are mechanics that Rakdos only dabbles in. That said, both of these mechanics get support quite often, so Kalain should get an influx of usable cards every few sets, which will up her power over time. For now she's very committed to powering up just a few creatures like Marionette Master and Juri, Master of the Revue. She's a great inclusion in Treasure Decks, and if we get enough Rakdos Treasure-makers in the future, cards like Disciple of the Vault and Nadier's Nightblade can turn her deck into something really special.
- Krydle of Baldur's Gate isn't very good as a commander. He's inefficient, only triggers on combat damage to a player, and doesn't reward you enough for doing so. Making creatures unable to block is an interesting line of text, but I don't think that's worth it for two mana per creature, either. Not unless we're doing secret commander Phage, the Untouchable, anyway. Put Krydle in your Rogue decks, but don't worry too much about seeing him elsewhere.
- Shessra, Death's Whisper is...a card... and not one that Golgari particularly wants or needs? Lure-ing a creature is cool, and drawing a card is never unwelcome, but these colors have so many other ways to kill creatures and accrue card advantage that she seems super underwhelming, even in the 99.
- Targ-Nar, Demon Fang Gnoll is the latest version of Syr Faren, the Hengehammer and Tuya Bearclaw, i.e., a legend that cares about attacking, and does it worse than Xenagos, God of Revels or Neyith of the Dire Hunt. There could be an argument for a go-wide deck with Targ-Nar at the helm, but Grand Warlord Radha does that better, too. Targ-Nar is simple, and not in a good way.
- Trelasarra, Moon Dancer is a legendary Ajani's Pridemate, and I like that. Lifegain is a very popular archetype, and it's always nice to see the new ways that gaining life can be weaponized. I think this one may be overshadowed by other Selesnya lifegainers, like Lathiel, the Bounteous Dawn or Trostani, Selesnya's Voice, but Lathiel can't power itself up, so Trelasarra will have to go for a lifegain Voltron route to help set herself apart from the crowd.
I Used to Write Articles Until I Took an Arrow to the Knee
Whew. With that, all of the gold cards from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms are in the books! This was a lengthy review, so I appreciate y'all sticking it out with me.
Despite the number of cards I expressed a lukewarm reception to, or even downright disliked, I think there are plenty of cards from this set that are great additions to the format, particularly the Classes. It is also incredible to see beloved characters I've read about years ago get Magic cards, Drizzt Do'Urden in particular.
What about you? What are your thoughts on this set and this review? Anything you like more or less than I did? Anything you think I was completely off-base about? Any character you'd like to teach me the lore of? Make sure you let me know down below!
Until next time, never stop venturing!
You can reach me on Twitter (@thejesguy), where you can always hit me up for Magic- or Jeskai-related shenanigans 24/7. Do you have any comments, questions, or concerns? Please don’t hesitate to leave them below or get in touch! Stay safe, wear your mask, and keep fighting the good fight. I support you. No justice, no peace.