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Commander Highlights from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms


You can be forgiven if you didn't realize it in the incredibly hectic pace of release schedules, but Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is upon us, just like that. The set drops on MTG Arena and before too long will be in the hands of players everywhere. And yes, you're right that we've only had the spoiler for a few hours.

I wrote last week about how I believe that Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is the most flavorful set ever released, and today I want to dig into the cards I'm particularly excited to sleeve up in Commander. While this set has an infinite number of cool, flavorful cards, it does appear to be a lower-powered set than some recent ones like Throne of Eldraine or Zendikar Rising. Overall, that's something I'm a fan of, and there doesn't seem to be any kind of super-staple type cards in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms.

Let's dig in.

Old Gnawbone

I have to admit, I'm starting things off with the biggest, baddest Dragon in the set because I'm excited to throw it into my Mayael the Anima deck. It's a high-powered collection of the best monsters in the game, and a payoff for Mayael's ability that also ramps me into Eldrazi is a nice one.

Past that, I'm not sure how much Gnawbone you can expect - it's more huge ramp in a color with no shortage of it. It certainly fuels some artifact synergies, and has the potential to get out of control with just one swing - if you can cheat the Gnawbone into play early it can be a massive midgame ramp spell that attacks and blocks at the same time.

The Book of Exalted Deeds

The Book of Exalted Deeds

I have no idea if this is a known artifact in Dungeons and Dragons or not, but it's a really neat card for Commander. Angels aren't just one of the most popular tribes in all of Magic's history - we all know someone who has a 65-card Angel Tribal deck at home - but it's also a really strong way to win the game in Commander. Luminarch Ascension has gotten me multiple times before, and gaining life and preventing attacks go hand in hand.

The Book is a bit different in that it makes 3/3 Angels, but it's already been easy enough to build around Angelic Accord, and the Book slots right into those decks without question. Heck, it's even easier with a commander like Oloro, Ageless Ascetic, where you'll gain two life every turn naturally and just have to find a way to add one more to start triggering the Book.

I mainly have talked about the Book as a value engine, but it can also serve to help you win the game - or at least not lose it. Sacrificing the Book allows you to turn a creature into a Platinum Angel, which is more annoying than you might initially think. Sure, it's just a Doom Blade away from being irrelevant, but a lot of game-winning combos can actually get tripped up by a Platinum Angel, so it's a nice ability to throw onto a card I'm already happy to play as an engine.

Volo, Guide to Monsters

Okay, sure, it's yet another Simic value card. At some point, there's actually too many of those to even play.

With that out of the way, let's talk about this ability. Making a copy of a creature spell is tech that's relatively new to the Commander design space - cards like this have existed before but it's being pushed in ever more interesting ways lately.

Volo, Guide to Monsters takes that to the next level. For the relatively small cost of making sure your spell doesn't share a creature type - so immediately Humans and Wizards are out - you get to make an extra copy. At a minimum, that's a Panharmonicon worth of value, just for naturally casting your spells. It also makes your deck better against countermagic as it puts two spells on the stack, and if there was ever a color combination where doubling your ETBs was powerful, it's Blue-Green in Commander.

This fits right in with Rashmi, Eternities Crafter and holds up in comparison to its spiritual predecessor.

Xanathar, Guild Kingpin

I'm a sucker for a Sen Triplets. For the same mana cost, we can add Xanathar to the mix. While I don't think this is quite a Sen Triplets, anything that has you choose an opponent usually leads to good things. With Xanathar you get to lock out an opponent while also scamming the top of their deck. There's nothing revolutionary about Xanathar, but it's a fun flavor card and I'm in for anything that lets me play lands from my opponents.

Gretchen Titchwillow

Is this the second coming of Thrasios, Triton Hero? As much as I love Thrasios (it is a Merfolk, after all), it rarely portends good things in Commander. It's either the centerpiece of a Simic Ramp deck that does nutty things with its ability, or it's simply a combo piece to draw through someone's entire deck.

Gretchen works slightly differently, and plays a little into the Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath / Growth Spiral / Eureka Moment style we've seen recently. It's definitely not as immediately dangerous as Thrasios - it would at least take infinite Blue and Green mana to draw your deck with Gretchen - but she slots in very nicely as another Thrasios in ramp decks. Having 4 toughness and zero power is definitely not irrelevant, as it impacts what removal takes it out and how well it works in a Reveillark Bant deck, but overall Gretchen just screams Simic EDH. As a recent covert to Archelos, Lagoon Mystic, I imagine I'll find a home for Gretchen. Plus is a power uncommon, which is always welcome in the age of super-chase mythics!

Vorpal Sword

Vorpal Sword

This is one of the early leaders on EDHREC.com, and it's easy to see why. Effects that cause someone to win or lose the game are incredibly rare, and I think it's a mechanic that can function very well in Commander when done right.

Vorpal Sword looks like it fits the bill. Giving a creature +2/0 isn't super relevant, but giving it deathtouch most certainly is. With an equip cost of two, that means the Sword is a perfectly reasonable early game play that will allow your creatures in an Elf deck or Beledros Witherbloom to trade up, and that's more than enough to tide you over until you get to the big payoff.

Eight mana isn't cheap, but it does tend to end the game for someone in Commander games. And if you're able to connect with your Vorpal Sword on an unblocked creature (or move it to an unblocked creature mid-combat), you can sink mana into it to try and knock someone out. That creates a fun political situation at a four-player table, as your opponents can let you knock someone out or essentially Time Walk you by removing your creature. That's a high-drama moment that leads to memorable games, and I'm never going to complain about cards that help to actually end the game.

Treasure Vault

I'm almost in awe they event printed this card. It comes into play untapped, it represents the kind of ramp Myriad Landscape or Krosan Verge can only dream about, and it's an artifact land to boot. That latter detail isn't necessarily a benefit in Commander. Sure, there are plenty of affinity cards or other things that trigger because it's an artifact (Tezzeret the Seeker can ramp you for zero), it also makes your land drop vulnerable to Vandalblast.

But regardless of whether you view Treasure Vault being a vault itself as drawback or a benefit, the power is evident. Throw this in alongside a generic ramp spell or mana rock, and you are looking at a land that get out of hand very quickly in the first few turns of the game. While I suspect the most powerful things to do with this card involve massive one-use bursts, it also can be targeted with Academy Ruins or Sharuum the Hegemon or anything else. The possibilities with this card just continue to stretch on and on, and I'm excited to see how it plays out in the format with the tension it brings.

There's a ton to like in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the cards in person!

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler


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