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Forgotten Realms Commander Review – Green, Gold and Other

Welcome to the Forgotten Realms Commander Review! Am I just going to write a set review every month from now on? Well, at least if the sets keep delivering the goods, like Adventures in the Forgotten Realms has, I won’t have much to complain about. As far as ratings go, I don’t use numbers or grades – instead, I use this more subjective set of categories (though what really matters is what I write about the card, as I suspect most reviewers will tell you.)

 

White & Blue / Black & Red / Green, Gold, etc / Commander Set

 

 

Header - Ratings Scale

  • Commander: You want this card in the command zone at the start the game. Its best use is to lead the charge as the cornerstone of your deck, but it can probably fit into your 99 as well.
  • Build-Around: This card can be a huge player in the theme of your deck. It either enables the theme by itself or is something you’re looking to take advantage of over the course of your ideal game. It’s probably worth dedicating other slots in your deck to cards that work with a build-around.
  • Powerhouse: This card’s not really about synergy, but it’s good all by itself.
  • Role Player: This card might not be the cornerstone of a deck list, but it’s an important part of the engine or strong enough on its own to merit potential inclusion. This category also covers cards that look good enough to try out but don’t seem like obvious winners.
  • Tech Card: Counterplay is important, and if a card doesn’t fit into one of the above categories but is good enough at countering other strategies, it’ll be included here.
  • Niche Inclusion: This card might make your deck if you have a deckbuilding restriction, whether it’s self-imposed based on theme or flavor, a power level consideration, or a card availability concern. 

As a reminder, my focus is on social Commander rather than competitive EDH. That means you’ll be hearing about cards largely from that more relaxed perspective. My goal when playing Commander is for everyone to have fun but also for me to have a good shot at winning the game, so if that’s your mindset as well, these ratings will probably resonate with you. I won’t be reviewing reprints, so you can just assume I feel the same way about Bag of Holding as I did before we found out it was in this set. I also don’t review every card – if I feel they’re not worth mentioning, I don’t give them a write-up, but we all know there’s a deck out there for every card. When you inevitably disagree with a rating or omitted card, please feel free to tweet at @RagingLevine with your thoughts!

Oh, and one more thing – if I don’t mention a card that has one of the set’s core mechanics, in this case venture/Dungeons or rolling a d20, then consider my rating of that card “Niche Inclusion” for a deck that is focused on that particular mechanic.

 

Header - Green

Choose Your Weapon

Rating: Role Player
Anything that doubles power and toughness at instant speed is worth examining, as that’s likely to lead to some serious shenanigans with cards like Berserk and other doublers. That’s what Flings are for, after all!

Circle of Dreams Druid

Rating: Powerhouse
Priest of Not-Just-Titania here is liable to generate a boatload of mana in Elf decks and other go-wide strategies, and those decks usually have ways to abuse large amounts of mana. Maybe it’s a big Genesis Wave, or a Pemmin’s Aura combo, or something else, but lots of mana is good. That’s just how Commander works! The GGG cost is a bit restrictive, but green-based decks can handle that easily.

Druid Class

Rating: Role Player
It’s not quite Lifegift, but paying a little more to get Exploration along with that seems like an easy sell. Any green deck interested in ramping and gaining life, like Lathiel or Valentin/Lisette, should have no trouble at all finding a spot for this. I don’t see the third level as much beyond a slight bonus should you want a creature in the very late game, especially since the creature won’t have any kind of evasion.

Ellywick Tumblestrum

Rating: Role Player
Ellywick makes venturing into the Dungeon easier to do multiple times per turn, and her ultimate ability incentivizes you to complete all three dungeons if you can. That said, just one should be plenty as long as you have a decent board – and if you don’t, her -2 can help you find a relevant creature in your top six. Overall, this is a decent package at four mana, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ellywick and a few venture cards show up in green decks here and there even if they aren’t totally focused on dungeon delving.

Find the Path

Rating: Role Player
Something as broadly useful as ramp, even if it’s fairly slow, looks even better with venture attached to it. I think the decision to make it add GG instead of two mana of any color suppresses it a little bit, although I’m not surprised by that – after all, cards like New Horizons have led to some five-color green strategies in Limited that aren’t always fun. That aside, if you’re looking to put a venture package together in a green deck, Find the Path may be what you need.

Froghemoth

Rating: Powerhouse
Haste puts this one over the top for me. Drop this in the midgame, ruin someone’s graveyard progression and grow the Froghemoth even larger. If you’re the kind of person who runs cards that incidentally mill opponents, like Sword of Body and Mind, Froghemoth can help you shore things up turn after turn, much like Scavenging Ooze would. This is a bit of a stompier, less reactive take on Scavenging Ooze, but I think both will be useful going forward. 

Instrument of the Bards

Rating: Niche Inclusion
Four mana to tutor up increasingly larger creatures and put them in your hand doesn’t quite measure up to something like Yisan, the Wanderer Bard or even Citanul Flute, even when you consider the low up-front cost of G. At least in a legend-focused deck you get some Treasure, but that’s hardly a commensurate bonus. If this said “less than or equal to” it would be much more playable.

Long Rest

Rating: Niche Inclusion
Seasons Past plays a similar role and will often return more cards, which makes the flexibility of this card seem pretty disappointing. Spending 11 mana to get back eight cards and move your life total back up to 40 just doesn’t seem like the upside we’re looking for when better mass Regrowths already exist – Praetor’s Counsel is only 5GGG, after all. 

Ochre Jelly

Rating: Role Player
In a deck featuring Hardened Scales and similar, the Ochre Jelly is going to be pretty tough to get rid of. It waits to come back until the beginning of the next end step, so it doesn’t let you go infinite at any reasonable speed, but if you’re looking for a large trampling threat to sink your mana into and enjoy for the long term, especially as wrath insurance, Ochre Jelly is going to be your jam.

Old Gnawbone

Rating: Commander/Build-Around
Whether this is your commander or part of your 99, you’ll want to make the most of this card by playing large tramplers, flyers and otherwise evasive creatures. Then, you’ll need lots of mana sinks to use the Treasure on, plus potentially some of the token synergies from Modern Horizons 2. I think Old Gnawbone is likely to play best in a Simic Tokens deck, but I won’t be surprised to see it at the helm of a deck, perhaps my own!

Owlbear

Rating: Niche Inclusion
I’m just happy to see an owlbear. That’s all.

Prosperous Innkeeper

Rating: Role Player
Another Soul Warden-style card is always welcome in Selesnya life gain decks, and the added bonus of the Treasure isn’t irrelevant.

Ranger Class

Rating: Role Player
This card really starts to get good once you hit the third level, but getting there costs you 6GG. That said, the marginal benefits offered earlier, mostly by level two, should help you get your mana’s worth for the first half of that cost. If you play two creatures off the top with this, it’s probably a success, and if you have enough mana when you level up, that could happen right off the bat.

Tarrasque

Rating: Niche Inclusion
Cheating this into play just gets you a 10/10 that fights every turn, but if you cast it, you get the upgraded version. That said, this is a lot of work for what amounts to a two-for-one a lot of the time, and I’m not convinced this is worth playing in many decks. It’s a shame, too, because the Tarrasque is such a cool part of D&D lore. 

Varis, Silverymoon Ranger

Rating: Commander
Now here’s our mono-green venture commander! Slot in as much venturing as you can alongside cards like Yeva, Nature’s Herald that let you cast your creatures at instant speed, make sure your creatures cantrip and go to town. Of course, I’m sure Varis will also be great in a multicolor venture deck, but I think there’s a good shot at a monocolor option here.

Wandering Troubadour

Rating: Role Player
This is a fantastic way to reliably venture turn after turn. It shouldn’t be too hard to make most of your land drops in green, and if you need help from cards like Ghost Town or Oboro, so be it.

Werewolf Pack Leader

Rating: Role Player
A great stat line for GG plus the ability to draw cards when attacking? Well, this might just be a reason to get aggressive in the early game when playing green! I haven’t built a Stompy-style deck in a while, but this and Froghemoth have got me thinking about it. Am I really going to build multiple mono-green decks this year? That would really be something.

You Find a Cursed Idol

Rating: Niche Inclusion
I can’t imagine wanting this more than Return to Nature most of the time, but if you’re leaning toward venturing or have enough graveyard hate otherwise, this is worth a try.

You Happen On a Glade

Rating: Niche Inclusion
I find Bala Ged Recovery taking the Regrowth spot in most of my decks these days, but this is an interesting instant speed option with a decent backup mode. Certainly worth trying out.

 

Header - Gold

Adult Gold Dragon

Rating: Niche Inclusion
This is more of a draft uncommon, but I think it could show up in some Dragon decks.

Bard Class

Rating: Build-Around
I’m interested to see how this would perform in Grand Warlord Radha or another deck trying to play lots of costly legends. Level two pays you off after you play just two Gruul legends, and then the third level synergizes with the cost reduction by giving you more cards to play. I can easily see some big turns happening in the midgame thanks to a level three Bard Class!

Barrowin of Clan Undurr

Rating: Role Player
I suppose as a commander, this could do some Alesha-style work, but only once you’ve completed a Dungeon, and that seems like a lot of work before you’re getting good value. That said, I’m open to being wrong about that. I see this more as part of an Orzhov or Abzan venture deck, though even now, I’m not totally sure which color combination has the best venture commander. It may be that you just need a five-color creature at the helm to pack in the best venture payoffs, but that would be a bit disappointing.

Bruenor Battlehammer

Rating: Commander
While Bruenor could very well be part of any Boros Equipment deck, I see him as a fantastic commander because of how reliably you’ll benefit from the free equips. I wrote a whole newsletter about this – sign up for CFB Xtra today so you don’t miss the next one!

Drizzt Do’Urden

Rating: Commander
I wrote an article about Drizzt – check it out here!

Farideh, Devil’s Chosen

Rating: Commander
Now here’s the die roll payoff I’m looking for! Well, kind of, maybe. A card draw payoff over half the time is pretty good, though effects that give you advantage on rolls just increase the odds of drawing a card rather than giving you more draws. Menace and flying feels like more of a Limited-relevant payoff on a 3/3, so it’s possible Farideh will need to be suited up for combat.

Fighter Class

Rating: Build-Around
Provoking opposing creatures at level three is fantastic, and the tutor and discount that lead up to it are obviously very strong in Boros Equipment decks. Forcing an opposing creature to walk in front of your Kaldra Compleat or otherwise murderous attacker is fantastic, though most of the time players will end up attacking more recklessly with their creatures to avoid watching them die for no reason. This gets better with multiple strong attackers, so Bruenor might like this better than Ardenn and Rograkh

Gretchen Titchwillow

Rating: Commander
Gretchen can certainly go into any Simic landfall deck, but I think having her headline things is a reasonable choice. That said, you’ll have to pack your deck full of payoffs, as her job is to enable Growth Spiral shenanigans. Personally, I like utility commanders like this, as they let me bias my deck toward powerful, exciting cards.

Hama Pashar, Ruin Seeker

Rating: Commander
Here’s the Azorius venture commander we might have been looking for! Hama Pashar encourages you to stay away from the Tomb of Annihilation unless you can really break the symmetry, and even then, the final room makes a legendary token. Personally, I’m heading straight for the Dungeon of the Mad Mage here. Obviously the Mad Wizard’s Lair pays off really well here, but even the scry triggers and other mid-level abilities get a lot better in duplicate. 

Kalain, Reclusive Painter

Rating: Commander
A Treasure-focused Rakdos commander? Sign me up! Let’s sacrifice a lot of permanents and get a lot of Mayhem Devil/Havoc Jester/Furnace Celebration triggers along the way. This might be the first deck I build… but I feel like I keep saying that about the legends in this set, so don’t take that at face value.

Krydle of Baldur’s Gate

Rating: Role Player
I don’t think this is going to unseat something like Anowon as a Rogues commander, but it fits perfectly into a Rogue tribal deck – it mills and makes things unblockable, which is exactly what those decks are looking for. 

Minsc, Beloved Ranger

Rating: Commander
Go for the eyes, Boo! I like Minsc as the commander of a deck with a lot of +1/+1 counters and other permanent buffs that allow us to leverage Minsc’s activation. Those 0/0s with counters on them look a lot stronger when Minsc giant-sizes them, but unless they already come with it (like Boo does) we’ll need to find ways to give them trample. Luckily, cards like Rancor and Gruul War Plow are readily available.

Monk Class

Rating: Build-Around
The Monk Class wants to double-spell, and while the first two levels aren’t that exciting, the third level lets you blast off multiple spells per turn with ease by giving you an arsenal to work with, even if this card leaves the battlefield. Pack your deck with cheap flashback and buyback spells so you’re guaranteed to keep this engine running, then use spellslinger synergies like Murmuring Mystic to benefit from all of this repeated casting.

Orcus, Prince of Undeath

Rating: Commander
Well, Orcus is really something, isn’t he? Commanders with X in their cost are always interesting, as they get harder to use profitably later in the game, so sitting on your first cast for a while is probably correct. Set things up so that your first Orcus clears the board – that way, when Orcus dies and then comes back for a second go-round, you can instead raise the dead in a major way. 

Rogue Class

Rating: Role Player
This definitely goes in Rogue tribal, even though it doesn’t fuel the mill fire, because you’ll be hitting with lots of small creatures. In fact, Faerie tribal, Zombie tribal and other Dimir-based creature decks will want this just to gain menace and lots of extra value. Ninjutsu works well with the global menace ability, so keep that in mind too!

Shessra, Death’s Whisper

Rating: Role Player
She’s no Savra, but then again, who is? She goes decently well with Savra – her Bewitching Whispers ability is fine, but it’s the Whispers of the Grave trigger that really matters. That said, cards like Moldervine Reclamation and Deathreap Ritual already exist, but a higher density of that type of effect really can’t hurt.

Skeletal Swarming

Rating: Build-Around
Finally, an enchantment we can build a Skeleton tribal deck around! Of course, this is fantastic in any Golgari sacrifice deck, where you can make two tokens on each of your turns, and using Conspiracy or Maskwood Nexus to make your whole team Skeletons will end any game in a hurry, given a sufficiently large team. 

Sorcerer Class

Rating: Tech Card
This is quite the spellslinger payoff at level three. The first level gives you a little filtering, and the second level probably gets you to the third off some Kykar spirits or Young Pyromancer tokens (or whatever else). The third level is really explosive and will almost certainly make you the target of everyone at the table – after all, what do spellslinger decks do if not cantrip over and over again? Those cantrips become deadly with Sorcerer Class, and if you’re also running Sentinel Tower and Sphinx-Bone Wand, you’re going to really tear things up.

Targ Nar, Demon-Fang Gnoll

Rating: Commander
If you suit Targ Nar up with some totem armor Auras, soulbond him with a Wolfir Silverheart and otherwise make him huge, then the doubling effect gets way better, and of course, you’ll need him to have trample. His pack tactics ability is probably his least interesting attribute.

Tiamat

Rating: Commander
This may be the five-color Dragon to unseat The Ur-Dragon, though of course, it might just slot into the 99 of that deck too. Either way, a seven-mana 7/7 flyer that tutors up five more Dragons is really good value, so you should not hesitate to sleeve it up one way or the other. I wrote a newsletter piece about which Dragons to search up, but it’s hard to go wrong, honestly.

Trelassra, Moon Dancer

Rating: Role Player
This will end up in Selesnya life gain lists as Ajani’s Pridemate with upside. The scry is going to make a huge difference, as you’ll likely be using Soul Warden and its friends to get lots of small life gain triggers and leverage effects like this one.

Triumphant Adventurer

Rating: Role Player
A two-mana 1/1 deathtoucher doesn’t seem like much, but giving it first strike means opponents will have to double block in order to get rid of this. In the early game, this will go unblocked turn after turn, and you may be done with a Dungeon as early as turn six off this alone!

Volo, Guide to Monsters

Rating: Commander
I wrote a whole article about Volo – check it out!

Xanathar, Guild Kingpin

Rating: Commander
Xanathar feels like Sen Triplets lite, but it gets to work much faster thanks to the clause about spending mana as though it were mana of any color. Sure, you only get to use their top card, but if you have ways to manipulate that, like Codex Shredder or Ghoulcaller’s Bell, you can dig down to something useful. I’ll be interested to play this next time I sit down in person with friends for Commander, as it’s just not going to go well over SpellTable.

The Deck of Many Things

Rating: Powerhouse
If you’re playing something like mono-red where you’re not overflowing with card draw, this Deck can help you accrue lots of value in the mid-to-late game. Of course, activating it empty-handed gives you that one in 20 shot at a strange reanimation effect that pre-kills an opponent, but honestly, randomly returning a card from your graveyard to your hand or Divinationing is plenty of value for me. Syr Carah, the Bold might make a comeback for me if she can find room to shuffle this up.

Dungeon Map

Rating: Role Player
A mediocre mana rock with a solid mana sink? Any deck that wants to complete Dungeons will be interested in this, since it’s a pretty good rate overall.

Eye of Vecna

Rating: Role Player
This goes great in a reliable life gain deck like Oloro, but it shines best alongside the Hand of Vecna and The Book of Vile Darkness, which I already wrote about.

Hand of Vecna

Rating: Role Player
I wrote a little preview article about this – check it out here!

Treasure Chest

Rating: Role Player
If you have ways to recur artifacts reliably, this is pretty solid, even outside of a dice rolling deck. 95 percent of outcomes are hits, and if you’re looping this for value, that five percent chance of a critical failure will at least entertain the table. Getting Treasure half the time and cards the other half means you’ll be able to use the two resources together to push your plan forward. Plus, that artifact tutoring ability on a natural 20 is nasty.

 

Header - Lands

Creatureland Cycle

Rating: Niche Inclusion
The fact that these enter tapped most of the time sinks my evaluation of them in a serious way, though Hive of the Eye Tyrant may be an exception since it gets to exile cards from graveyards. I won’t be playing these often, if at all.

Dungeon Descent

Rating: Role Player

Another solid mana sink in the late game for venturing, and one that takes up a mere land slot. If it wasn’t a land, this would be really bad value, but I can stomach it in this form.


Treasure Vault

Rating: Powerhouse
Late in the game, when it’s time for you to take One Big Turn, this is incredible. At the end of the turn before yours, tap out and pop this for a ton of Treasure, then untap and go off. If you have cards that care about sacrificing permanents or using Treasures, you’ll get even more value, but that’s not even necessary.

 


 

Okay, that’s it! I can’t wait to get started with this set, and I hope you’re excited too. Next time, I’ll keep building with the new Commanders!

 

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