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Forgotten Realms Commander Review – White and Blue

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.

 

The Book of Exalted Deeds

Rating: Role Player
This slots in well alongside cards like Griffin Aerie that help you build an army off of life gain. The activated ability is a small bonus, because there will be plenty of ways for opponents to interact with your Angels and few ways to get your Book back from exile, so I’d consider that largely trinket text in Commander outside of some very specific scenarios.

Celestial Unicorn

Rating: Niche Inclusion
I don’t see this making a huge impact, but if you’re looking for a friend for Ajani’s Pridemate in a life gain list, this should be fine.

Cleric Class

Rating: Build-Around
Level two of this class provides one of the really powerful parts of Heliod, Sun-Crowned, which, of course, enables you to go off with a lifelinking Walking Ballista or similar. The life gain amplification can also work well with other “whenever you gain life” effects that care about how much life you gain, so Lathiel decks and similar will be quite excited about it. The fact that it provides a reanimation trigger at the third level is a nice bonus, but life gain decks already want the rest of this card.

Dancing Sword

Rating: Niche Inclusion
Dancing Scimitar was already taken, so we get the Great Value version of the name. This looks like a flavor-based inclusion rather than something that gets in on function.

Dawnbringer Cleric

Rating: Niche Inclusion
It’s the flexibility that makes me think someone might play this in a Cleric deck or blink deck – probably a deck that does both with some life gain synergies thrown in.

Delver’s Torch

Rating: Role Player
What’s venture worth? Well, this isn’t as powerful as something like Sword of the Animist, but that card was pushed. Based on how spells like Bar the Gate and Fates’ Reversal are costed, Venture seems to be worth about one-half to one mana of value. If we cut a Leonin Scimitar off this card’s costs, we’re looking at three to six attacks before this card pays for itself. However, that doesn’t account for any venture or Dungeon completion-related synergies, so the more you build around Dungeon delving, the better this card is. If you’re trying to use dungeons, and you’re playing white, you should at least include this card in your first draft.

Flumph

Rating: Role Player
In an Arcades, the Strategist deck, you’d probably play this, and you can maneuver the card draw such that it’s never going to someone you’re actively working against. This will also show up in Group Hug lists, where players will gladly swing mana Elves into it for some “free” card draw.

Grand Master of Flowers

Rating: Niche Inclusion
Bahamut doesn’t protect himself terribly well in multiplayer. You only get one copy of Monk of the Open Hand, and returning it from the graveyard doesn’t even help that much. The Monk has an outside shot at being a competent double-spell payoff in other formats (probably not, though), but it’s a little less than impressive here. The +1 you’ll usually be using doesn’t help much either, so it’s going to be pretty tough to see Bahamut’s draconic form. 

Guardian of Faith

Rating: Tech Card
The use of phasing here means you don’t get to benefit from ETB trigger shenanigans, which is good, because otherwise this creature would be unreasonably powerful. That said, if you’re looking for more ways to dodge wraths and find yourself up against a lot of Negates, this could be interesting.

Icingdeath, Frost Tyrant

Rating: Powerhouse
The fact that the Equipment is also legendary means I have a harder time seeing this as a commander – after all, if Icingdeath the Equipment is already in play, casting Icingdeath the Dragon means you won’t really benefit at all if the Dragon dies. Equipment-focused decks that have trouble balancing their threats and their weaponry will find this card a reasonable middle ground, and midrange white-based decks looking for value will find that value here as well.

Ingenious Smith

Rating: Role Player
A two-mana creature that draws you a card some percentage of the time and also grows in the late game will probably show up in artifact-focused decks. If you can get artifacts into play on opponents’ turns by creating Thopter/Servo/Food/Clue/Treasure/Myr/etc tokens or by using something like Shimmer Myr, that’s when this Smith really shines.

Loyal Warhound

Rating: Role Player

A solid companion to Knight of the White Orchid – nothing too complicated here, but this is a card worth playing in most white-based decks that don’t include green.


Minimus Containment

Rating: Tech Card
Cards like Song of the Dryads and Imprisoned in the Moon that shut off permanents by turning them into something else are some of the best answers this format has to offer. Minimus Containment is not quite as good, as it leaves the controller of the permanent the option to put it in the graveyard and then bring it back – and people do a lot of that in commander, don’t they?

Moon-Blessed Cleric

Rating: Niche Inclusion
If you want to tutor up enchantments but don’t live in the world of Sterling Grove, Enlightened Tutor and so on, this is a solid budget option. If you need more enchantment tutors because you’re comboing off somehow, this makes the list, though it’s near the bottom.

Nadaar, Selfless Paladin

Rating: Role Player
I hesitate to say commander here, because restricting yourself to mono-white locks you out of a lot of good venture-related cards. Plus, the anthem effect, while nice, isn’t as good as it would be in other formats where this card is likely to shine (Limited for sure, and possibly Standard, though I’m hardly an expert there.) If you’re venturing and playing white though, be selfish and hire Nadaar for your next adventure.

Oswald Fiddlebender

Rating: Commander
This Birthing Pod for artifacts seems like a really fun commander – he’s kind of a toned-down Arcum Dagsson. Cards that untap him will be very much welcome, as seen in Vannifar decks, and turning him into an artifact will be important as well, as some cards you can tutor up may only untap other artifacts. There are so many possibilities with a card like this that I hesitate to go too deep here – after all, why not just write an article later?

Paladin Class

Rating: Niche Inclusion
You have to get all the way to level three before this has any kind of acceptable effect, and at that point, you have access to cards like True Conviction. I’m not overly interested.

Plate Armor

Rating: Role Player
In a deck where you can consistently reduce the equip cost to zero, you’ll be quite happy to pass this Vulshok Battlegear around. Ward 1 will be relevant very occasionally, but don’t count on it as much as you might in Limited.

Portable Hole

Rating: Tech Card
I’m sure there’s a use for this in groups where plays on the early turns are more important, but beyond that, I’m not seeing much here.

Potion of Healing

Rating: Niche Inclusion
If you’re all-in on cantripping artifacts and enchantments – perhaps in an Alela, Artful Provocateur list – it’s nice to have more, but that’s about it.

Teleportation Circle

Rating: Build-Around
Well, that’s a Conjurer’s Closet, isn’t it? It even hits artifacts if you want. That said, it doesn’t make control effects permanent like Closet does, so that’s a downside. All that said, you’ll be playing this in your Azorius-based blink builds for years to come, and I’m planning to hoard copies of this for just such an occasion.

 

Header - Blue

The Blackstaff of Waterdeep

Rating: Niche Inclusion
The “nontoken” clause here is a real downer, and I don’t see a lot of Ensoul Artifact-type shenanigans going on in Commander most of the time, but if that’s the direction you’re going, you could use this to turn your Darksteel Citadel or other hopefully indestructible artifact into a creature for a while.

Demilich

Rating: Build-Around
This looks like a tough card to cast at UUUU, but every instant or sorcery spell you cast before it that turn reduces that cost by U, so this is quite playable in most blue-based spellslinger decks. I imagine it will usually be cast for UU or even less, and for that cost, the effect here is absolutely bonkers. The fact that you can then cast it from your graveyard after it dies (possibly by your own hand) makes it even more ridiculous. I’m honestly excited to see what kind of horrible nonsense I can pull off in Mizzix or Kess with this card.

Feywild Trickster

Rating: Build-Around?
It’s not the best payoff, but getting a 1/1 flyer every time you roll a die makes the bad roles a lot more palatable, so you’ll want this in a die rolling deck every time.

Grazilaxx, Illithid Scholar

Rating: Commander
If you’re looking to overwhelm opponents with cards like Siren Stormtamer and Faerie Seer, this is a great commander, especially if you choose creatures with ETB abilities as your key attackers. It’s also interesting with any ninjutsu creatures you might throw in – once the Ninja itself is on the battlefield attacking, it’ll often want a way home, and Grazilaxx lets you bounce it if it gets blocked before using the ninjutsu ability to swap it out with an unblocked attacker. Perfection! This could also go in any Azorius Flyers style deck – Inniaz could make good use of it, for example.

Iymrith, Desert Doom

Rating: Commander
Iymrith wants you to spend all of your cards and then draw back up to three, so pack your deck with cards like Artful Dodge to get Iymrith through as well as discard outlets to use those cards for something when you can’t cast them. Then use cards like Drake Haven and Bag of Holding to benefit from all that discarding – it’s pure profit! Sure, Iymrith is also a solid threat in most blue-based decks, but it’s a weird commander, and I can’t ignore how much fun that would be.

Mind Flayer

Rating: Role Player
A non-flying, mana value five Sower of Temptation isn’t a terrible imitation, but I’d rather have the lower cost and aerial ability instead of +1/+1. That said, you can – and will – play both.

Mordenkainen

Rating: Role Player
Mordenkainen’s +2 is a great bit of filtering, and there’s mild combo potential with Cellar Door and Grenzo, Dungeon Warden, although obviously Grenzo won’t be your commander in this situation. If you can get the ultimate off, you’ll probably just win on the spot, especially if you have some of Mordenkainen’s faithful hounds from the -2 to swing with. Most blue planeswalkers don’t create this kind of on-board threat, so I’m sure Mordenkainen will find more than a few homes.

Pixie Guide

Rating: Role Player
If you’re on the die rolling plan, you definitely want Pixie Guide around. We have confirmation that this doesn’t work with the planar die, so don’t try to do any shenanigans there. 

Split the Party

Rating: Tech Card
This one’s interesting specifically because you get to choose the creatures without targeting them – the only target you have to have eligible is the player. Unfortunately, this card is a sorcery, so you’ll likely have to find a way to cast it at instant speed in order to get the most out of it, but bouncing some key hexproof/shroud creatures could prove interesting from time to time.

Sudden Insight

Rating: Niche Inclusion
If you’re bored of the usual draw spells, this has a pretty high potential upside. Realistically, I see this doing fine in a Mizzix deck, where you’re trying to build a curve of spells to trigger experience counters. Reliability is often more important, though, and getting your graveyard removed by a Rakdos Charm in response to this is a real disappointment.

Tasha’s Hideous Laughter

Rating: Role Player
If you’re playing a mill deck, you may want Bruvac and similar cards that key off mill specifically. This card doesn’t mill – it exiles. The upside though is that your opponents won’t get to fill their graveyards when you cast this. In Commander, I expect this to hit 10 or fewer cards from each opponent, since most decks have an average mana value around or above two, counting lands.

Trickster’s Talisman

Rating: Role Player
Anything that costs this little and has the potential to turn into a copy of a powerful creature has my attention. For very little mana investment, you can copy a flyer in the midgame, or if you make something unblockable with Trailblazer’s Boots, Slip Through Space or something similar, you’re copying your best creature for not much of an investment.

True Polymorph

Rating: Role Player
The fact that you can target an artifact is a huge upside here. You can just turn your Signet or artifact land into something much more powerful at instant speed! The only things keeping this from hitting Powerhouse status are the cost and the lack of reliability here. I like how this can help equalize things against decks that ramp hard into a huge creature or two, but six mana is still a lot.

Wizard Class

Rating: Build-Around
This is the kind of card that sends me searching for combos, and of course, they’re not too hard to find. Get this to level three with a Fathom Mage in play and you can draw your deck! There’s plenty of other fun to be had with this one – Sage of Fables comes to mind as well, and that’s just off the top of my head – so you should be able to leverage this with a lot of counter-related cards.

Wizard’s Spellbook

Rating: Powerhouse
Now this is the kind of die rolling card I can get behind. 50 percent of the time, you get to cast something for one. 45 percent of the time, you have to pay full price, and if you’re mindful about your targeting, that’s fine. Of course, it’s that sweet 5 percent that we’re excited about, isn’t it? It’s more powerful the more you’ve gotten to activate the Spellbook, so fill its pages with goodies by untapping and reusing it as much as you possibly can. I can’t wait to build Twiddle Storm-style nonsense around this card.

 

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