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Forgotten Realms Commander Set Review

Well, I wrapped up the regular set, but there’s still a whole Forgotten Realms Commander set to go through! These cards are wholly for Commander, so I’ll be look at each and every card from it. 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 Heroic Intervention 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 - Face Cards/Commanders

Galea, Kindler of Hope

Rating: Commander
Galea asks you to pack your deck full of Auras and Equipment so that you can burn through your deck quickly by casting them off the top. I like that Galea provides the snap-on trigger for Equipment you cast this way, but note that it’s only for the ones that come off the top – if it’s in your hand, you’ll have to pay normally. I’d be interested in an otherwise creature-less Galea list that leans on augmentations, as I think Galea’s solo adventure could be interesting.

Prosper, Tome-Bound

Rating: Commander
A personal Howling Mine that rewards you for casting cards from exile via some Treasure? Well, if that isn’t a reason to play Outpost Siege, Vance’s Blasting Cannons and more, I don’t know what is. Gonti lets you play from exile too, as do many effects that encourage you to play other players’ cards, so maybe this is the new hot commander for that niche archetype.

Sefris of the Hidden Ways

Rating: Commander
I guess Sefris comes from different Hidden Ways than Narset does, because this is a different world and a different color combo. I think this is going to be the number one venture commander, which bums me out because I’ll miss the sweet green cards. Building a sacrifice engine around something like Reassembling Skeleton shouldn’t be too hard, which means you can venture on every turn – yours and your opponents’. You’ll be completing Dungeons very quickly with Sefris, so finding ways to dump some creatures into your graveyard to reanimate could be fun. You could also sacrifice creatures with ETB abilities and bring those back. I’m always happy when commanders that look linear have options for how they’re built, and so far, the Forgotten Realms Commander exclusives seem to fit that bill.

Vrondiss, Rage of Ancients

Rating: Commander
I’ll confess that I did not expect to see enrage here! So this is our die rolling commander, but it’s much more than that – we can use those Lava Darts, Riles and more that we talked about earlier with Zalto to good effect here as well. The Dragon Spirits may not stick around long, but giving them haste with something like Fervor is a great way to keep things moving, and if you can sacrifice them for value in response to their self-sac trigger, so much the better. Rolling dice may actually be the worst way to get Vrondiss going!

 

Header - Fey Steed

Fey Steed

Rating: Role Player
4/4 for four is a decent enough rate, and Fey Steed comes with a lot of upside. Making another creature indestructible obviously exposes Fey Steed to removal as a priority target, but the fact that you get to recoup your card if that happens really smooths all that over. If you have fragile attackers that need support, ride into battle with Fey Steed.

Holy Avenger

Rating: Build-Around
I love the possibilities with this card. Even though it doesn’t pump stats, it lets you deal first strike damage and then throw on an Aura that will keep the creature alive. Throw on a Flickering Ward, choose the appropriate color, then return it later and switch things up! You also get the benefit of more enchantments entering the battlefield if you’re into that – and you’ll want to be, because Holy Avenger will empty your hand of Auras very quickly.

Immovable Rod

Rating: Niche Inclusion
The first time you lock something down, it costs five mana to do so. When you decide to switch, you get an extra venture trigger for your 3W investment. This doesn’t really spark much joy for me in Commander – I’d rather just have an Arrest variant most of the time – but in venture decks, you may just need every instance of the keyword you can get. Also, I love this item in D&D so I’m probably being harsh on it.

Mantle of the Ancients

Rating: Build-Around
Another amazing card for decks playing both Auras and Equipment, Mantle of the Ancients may even be asking you to fill your graveyard with them preemptively. Obviously, they’ll go to the graveyard quite naturally a lot of the time, so you aren’t obligated to do that. Honestly, anything this close to Replenish is going to be very powerful.

Radiant Scholar

Rating: Build-Around
You’ll be completing Dungeons left and right using cards like Eerie Interlude and Ghostway. This is an incredible engine that will get you through the Dungeon of the Mad Mage at high speed or simply let you complete Dungeons over and over. If you’re into mass reanimation, it’s even got a built-in discard ability. 

Revivify

Rating: Build-Around
This is a decent post-wrath recovery card, even featuring upside against cards like Teferi’s Protection since it can retrigger all of your ETBs. The real value though is in an Orzhov or Mardu sacrifice deck where you use this like another copy of Second Sunrise. Remember that your dead tokens don’t count for this, though! 

Robe of Stars

Rating: Role Player
Saving a creature that’s decked out in Auras and Equipment can be a dicey proposition. Robe of Stars changes all that – fans of Vanishing already understand how powerful this can be. When a permanent phases out, so do all permanents attached to it – then, they all phase back in together. Your Bruna with five Auras will be happy to hang onto this for some extra safety value.

Thorough Investigation

Rating: Role Player
You usually only get to attack once per turn cycle, so this is mostly useful in a Bant deck focused on Clues that wants the extra value out of venture and can use the Clues well, but you could certainly also shoehorn it into a venture deck for extra value. On its own, it’s somewhat clunky for me.

Valiant Endeavor

Rating: Niche Inclusion
So you want to choose (most likely) the lower result for the destroy half and the higher result for the Knight half. This card is pretty weird, and I don’t see it being reliable enough to merit spending six mana. That said, if you’re here for fun and die rolling, go for it. I should mention this is the first card so far to show us a roll of a non-d20, and I like that there are other dice used in the Commander-exclusive cards so that we can still see some of that flavor and get use out of our d4s. 

 

Header - Blue

Arcane Endeavor

Rating: Niche Inclusion
This card looks more fun than powerful to me, since you can’t guarantee a good return on investment and you’re spending seven mana at sorcery speed. I like to know how I’m going to affect the board before spending all of my mana on my own turn, and this card does not give you any hints.

Diviner’s Portent

Rating: Role Player
You lose the shuffle-back and targeting aspects of Blue Sun’s Zenith, and in exchange, you get the possibility of a huge scry before drawing. I’m actually kind of into this in decks that aren’t trying to kill people with draw effects. If your hand has five cards remaining in it when this resolves, you have a 50/50 shot at the scry X/draw X, and the fail case isn’t bad at all.

Minn, Wily Illusionist

Rating: Commander
If you want to break the symmetry of Howling Mine effects, well, this is a fun way to do so. Obviously you’ll want to try to trigger Minn at least once off-turn each cycle with a draw spell if you can – otherwise, the Illusion army will just grow too slowly to be relevant. Pair this up with Alhammarret’s Archive to make off-turn triggers easier! And of course, if you’re drawing all these cards, you should have no trouble finding relevant permanents to put into play if your curve is robust enough.

Netherese Puzzle-Wand

Rating: Build-Around
You definitely need to be rolling a lot of dice with this in play, and ideally, they’re small dice. There aren’t a lot of options to take advantage of this, so it may not be a great build-around, but it still qualifies. By itself, it’s not going to get you what you need for that cost.

Phantom Steed

Rating: Powerhouse
So this saves your creature from removal, lets you have it back when the Steed leaves the battlefield – even better than “dies” – and then gives you a token copy of it when it attacks? Yeah, that’s going in a lot of decks. You don’t even need to be using this reactively – just slam it before you start your fifth turn and exile your Priest of Ancient Lore or whatever and you’ll be really happy.

Rod of Absorption

Rating: Role Player
Maybe I’m too bullish on this card, but I think it’s quite strong in social/casual environments. You get to soak up a bunch of early game ramp and draw spells if you play this on time, plus some wraths. If you play it late, you should be able to store some opposing haymakers in it as long as you survive their effects. That said, you need to be able to pay the mana value of the cards you’re using, so it’s probably worth a look in Simic or Temur decks that can reliably go big enough to get value here.

Winged Boots

Rating: Role Player
Ward 4 isn’t the same as hexproof, but it’s fairly close, and the fact that you get flying in the bargain means this will show up in decks that really want to get their saboteur creatures through. Of course, Whispersilk Cloak is higher on the list.

 

Header - Black

Bag of Devouring

Rating: Role Player
This is a fun take on Bag of Holding. It’s risky to shove your cool creatures into the bag, but the potential upside is huge. The big problem that prevents this from being a build-around is the randomness. If you just got them all back every time, that would be crazy, but honestly, just getting back your best one or two creatures can be enough as long as there are some hits in the pile.

Danse Macabre

Rating: Role Player
Aside from giving me Castle Nathria flashbacks (prance forward!) this card might not look like much on the surface, but it’s better than you think. Your opponents sacrifice their worst creatures, but there’s a nontoken clause, and you get to sacrifice something you want to effectively blink. If you hit 15 or more, you get a little bonus! This isn’t the best card, but it’s fun and interesting, and if you’re looking to roll dice and try out new things, don’t sleep on this one.

Death Tyrant

Rating: Role Player
Returning this from your graveyard to the battlefield during a combat between two opponents is going to yield some spectacular results. That said, it only triggers off your attackers and opponents’ blockers, so make sure to turn your creatures sideways and then only sac the ones that won’t win their combats. This does kind of make blocking impossible, which is great.

Grave Endeavor

Rating: Niche Inclusion
I’m really not feeling these “roll two dWhatever” cards so far. The life drain is kind of tacked on – for seven mana, I’d like to affect the board more than this does.

Grim Hireling

Rating: Niche Inclusion
It’s not two Treasures per creature, so calm down. I know, I just went through this myself, but the card is still fine, I guess? You can only activate the second ability as a sorcery, so I’m actually not sure this card is going to be great.

Hellish Rebuke

Rating: Tech Card
If you’re up against a go-wide token deck that’s attacking you but not literally killing you right now, fire off Hellish Rebuke and watch them feel deep, deep sadness. That’s the best use case in my mind for this one-shot No Mercy+, but if you can think of something better, I’m interested.

Lorcan, Warlock Collector

Rating: Commander
Does it count as collecting if you turn everything you take into what you collect? Like, if I collect Pogs, and I just go around with power tools cutting discs out of stuff, am I collecting Pogs? Anyway, Lorcan lets you pick and choose which creatures you’ll Warlockify when they die, which is pretty crucial since you have to spend life. This is a cool enough effect that I personally want Lorcan at the helm, but you can certainly have a great time with Lorcan in the 99 of any black deck that has enough removal or (sigh) Grave Pact effects.

Wand of Orcus

Rating: Role Player
If you’re looking to swarm the table with Zombies, Wand of Orcus is a solid companion to your plan. You really need to be threatening opponents with a horde for this to be good, because it provides exactly zero stat buffs to go along with that deathtouch. Throwing this on a trampler like Lotleth Troll or Storrev, Devkarin Lich is, of course, a recipe for impossible combats.

 

Header - Red

Berserker’s Frenzy

Rating: Niche Inclusion
If I’m going to spend a card on this effect, it’ll be on Master Warcraft well before it’s this. That said, if you’re looking to build a red-based politics deck where you interfere in big combats between other players while also forcing creatures to attack somehow, that’s fine – just know that it’s a lot of work for surprisingly little fun in my experience.

Chaos Dragon

Rating: Role Player
A very undercosted aggressive creature to be sure, to the point that the restriction is unlikely to be too terrible in the early game. That said, when you get to the late game, the coin flip of “can this attack my only remaining opponent” can be pretty frustrating.

Fiendlash

Rating: Role Player
Cards like Vrondiss that find ways to damage themselves can make great use of this Equipment, but don’t underestimate the power of simply equipping this to something and then turning that something sideways. Block my creature? Cool, you still take a huge amount of damage. Attack in with your flyer? Sure, I’ll trade off. Take seven. 

Maddening Hex

Rating: Niche Inclusion
This is only for the die-rolliest or Curse-givingest decks, but in those decks, it’ll at least be fun.

Reckless Endeavor

Rating: Niche Inclusion
As with previous similar cards, I think you only really want to do this if you’re all in on dice. For seven mana, my wrath had better clear the board how I want it to – a few Treasures will not solve problems left behind by a bad die roll result.

Share the Spoils

Rating: Role Player
This is a really interesting one. Everyone pays into the shared hand, and everyone gets to use it – but whenever you use it, you pay in again. The goal, then, is to be the player whose deck is the least positive contributor to the pile, and whether you achieve that by manipulating the top of your library or by packing your deck full of cards that play your opponents’ cards, breaking the symmetry is certainly possible. You can also just play this for fun!

Vengeful Ancestor

Rating: Role Player
I love a repeatable goad effect, especially one that lets me blow up a tokens opponent with Disrupt Decorum late in the game. This is just a good amount of value for mana, and a 3/4 flyer is easy to get through in the midgame and still relevant late. It also appears to be made of Jell-o, which my ancestors probably aren’t, but who am I to say?

Wild-Magic Sorcerer

Rating: Build-Around
It’s most likely that you’ll put this in a cascade-focused deck so that you can cascade while you cascade once per turn. Adventure, suspend, foretell and some other wacky stuff works too – you won’t have too much sweet foretell in red, though.

 

Header - Green

Belt of Giant Strength

Rating: Role Player
Temporary pump effects could help you here, but I think +1/+1 counters, Auras and other pieces of Equipment are the best ways to handle this. Counters seems like the easiest way to get there in a green deck, since you’ll probably end up with counters on your whole team. I’m interested in how something like Kalonian Hydra plays with this, though honestly, any Hydra will probably do. I’m not sure how a belt helps a Hydra, but I’m not flavor-judging this event, so I don’t have to make that call.

Bag of Tricks

Rating: Niche Inclusion
This could be fun in Pod-style decks with specific cards at each mana value, but spending seven mana before I get anything (and maybe getting a Birds of Paradise out of the deal) is not attractive. 

Druid of Purification

Rating: Powerhouse
Even if you have threatening artifacts and enchantments aplenty, they can’t be chosen with this Druid’s effect, so you should be getting a solid four-for-one out of this. Any recursion you can do with this is just icing on the cake – it’s got the magical two power value for cards like Reveillark, but of course its mana value is out of Sun Titan range. Note that this dodges shroud/hexproof – the word “target” never appears!

Indomitable Might

Rating: Niche Inclusion
The addition of flash may make this card seem good when it kills opponents outright, but I expect that situation to come up so rarely as to be basically irrelevant. It’s a cool story generator though, and that’s an important card type for Commander.

Neverwinter Hydra

Rating: Role Player
At X=2, this averages out to a 7/7 with trample and ward 4 for six mana – I expect that to be a frequent mode for this creature, with the other option (“here’s all my mana on turn 93!”) looking a lot like the resolution process for Ol’ Buzzbark. If this card were more consistent or had a death trigger, it would likely attain Powerhouse status, but if you’re building with die rolls, Hydras, counters or X spells, this is worth a look.

Song of Inspiration

Rating: Niche Inclusion
The upside isn’t that much bigger than the normal effect, and this only gets permanent cards, so I’d usually rather play other Elven Cache-type cards or pay a little more for something like Seasons Past. It is an instant, at least.

Wild Endeavor

Rating: Niche Inclusion
Rolling two d4 has 16 potential outcomes, and only three of them are truly tragic here (1/1, 1/2, 2/1). Sorcery speed is a little bit of a downer, and unless you hit a four or a pair of threes, you won’t ever feel like you’re getting away with anything, but if you’re determined to roll dice in green, this is one of the cards you’ll be least unhappy to draw.

 

Header - Gold

Catti-brie of Mithral Hall

Rating: Commander
I always love commanders that want to come down early and swing for the fences, and Catti-brie fits the bill. Suit her up with cards like Armory of Iroas, Blade of the Bloodchief and Fractal Harness for maximum counter synergy, and use The Ozolith to its fullest. Later in this review, you’ll also see Sword of Hours, which fits perfectly with Catti-brie’s sine wave of counter acquisition and removal. 

Dragonborn Champion

Rating: Role Player
If you play some of the Shards “power five or more” engine cards, this is a low-cost way to trigger them, and it also plays with Ferocious and other power-related mechanics. You’re unlikely to get more than a couple triggers out of this, but that’s not a huge deal – if you get even one, you’re kind of in business with this card.

Extract Brain

Rating: Role Player
The smaller your opponents’ hands, the easier this is to cast, and in the late game, you could get an incredible deal for just a little bit of mana. It’s also not uncommon to have some information about opponents’ hands in the later stages because of effects that recur or tutor up cards you get to see, so you might even be able to mise something another player desperately wanted. The downside is fairly obvious, though – they respond with their powerful instant and reveal some garbage – so be ready for some disappointing situations.

Fevered Suspicion

Rating: Role Player
If you’re in the “play other peoples’ stuff” deck, this is a sweet high end card. Two straight turns of three free spells is great, and since you get a lot of bites at the apple, you’re more likely to come out with some decent results.

Hurl Through Hell

Rating: Powerhouse
Exile your creature, untap, cast your creature. What an incredibly obnoxious play pattern – I love it! It’s not weak to Disenchants because it’s not that kind of control effect, and you don’t have to have the appropriate colors of mana to cast the creature. This card is going to be in demand.

Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant

Rating: Commander
I love the idea of spitting out some worthless tokens, attacking each opponent and goading their best creatures. Sure, everyone else will end up drawing a card, but you’ll get three during that turn cycle. If you can get extra combats, you’ll really get to turn up the heat!

Klauth, Unrivaled Ancient

Rating: Commander
I like the idea of pairing Klauth with the red pseudo-draw effects that exile cards from the top of your library and let you play them. You get to have a really powerful second main phase in the style of Neheb, and you aren’t locked to mono-red, which opens you up to some solid creatures with X in their costs. If you can only spend that mana on spells, you might as well spend it all, and Hydras will let you do just that (as will plenty of other cards.)

Klauth’s Will

Rating: Role Player
I’m a sucker for a “destroy X artifacts and/or enchantments” effect, and adding an Earthquake to the mix really turns up the temperature on this card. Playing this means your commander should fly – and perhaps it should be Klauth, hmm? – so build wisely. Honestly, this could crack the 99 of many Dragon decks I see.

Midnight Pathlighter

Rating: Build-Around
Sure, you get good value from the venture trigger, but this allows you to do so much work with saboteur-style creatures – most people aren’t into blocking with their commanders in the early game – as well as with double-strikers! Cards like Reconnaissance Mission get better, of course, but creatures like Fallen Shinobi, Mist-Syndicate Naga and so on will really thrive.

Nihiloor

Rating: Commander
I’m excited to cast some Control Magic effects, slam Nihiloor and then steal more and more stuff. I think it’s interesting that you’re incentivized to play creatures of your own and make sure they have relevant sizes, so take this card’s implied advice to heart. 

Ride the Avalanche

Rating: Niche Inclusion
With cards like this, everything falls apart if your second spell gets countered, and everyone who can will want to do so. That said, the upside is kind of interesting – you get to slam a lot of counters on something – and that might be worth the risk. I’m not that excited, but I’m interested to try it anyway and see what happens.

Storvald, Frost Giant Jarl

Rating: Commander
Ward 3 for the team makes me a lot more excited to play Auras, and those Auras make me even more excited to turn one of Storvald’s friends into a 7/7 each turn. There are plenty of other ways to build Storvald, but I think that’s the most obvious while still being very interesting.

Wulfgar of Icewind Dale

Rating: Commander
I don’t think we’ve ever had an “attack trigger tribal” commander before, but I love the idea, and I think melee is the perfect signature keyword to put on Wulfgar in support of this theme. Cards like Etali, Primal Storm, Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin and Kalonian Hydra shine here, but of course, Hellrider reigns supreme. Don’t forget your Bear Umbra

 

Header - Artifacts and Lands

Bucknard’s Everfull Purse

Rating: Niche Inclusion
You really only want this if you’re playing Zedruu or Blim or have some other reason to want to give things away. You also end up giving away a lot of Treasure, which can be pretty terrifying.

Clay Golem

Rating: Niche Inclusion
I’d mostly rather just cast Meteor Golem, especially since it’s better at being returned from the graveyard/bounced/etc. 

Ebony Fly

Rating: Niche Inclusion
I’m not one to scoff at a two-mana rock, but this one is a little weird. That said, you can multi-activate this if your first die roll is a stinker, but that’s a really high cost to pay for this effect. Overall, I’m not that impressed.

Sword of Hours

Rating: Role Player
In any deck that wants to stack the counters high, this seems like a no-brainer. Once you’ve set the clock to high noon, just move the Sword to another creature – that is, unless you want to keep putting more counters on Fathom Mage. I don’t blame you.

Underdark Rift

Rating: Role Player
I like this take on Unexpectedly Absent as a land. It gives any deck a removal outlet, albeit at sorcery speed for effectively six mana, and it might really bury the targeted card. It might also just put it second from the top, but two turns is a long time, and I think this might be good enough to play despite the randomness.

 

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