I wasn’t sure what to expect going into my read through the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms spoiler for my Danger Room/Battle Box. On the one hand, previously released Magic crossover products (such as The Walking Dead, Transformers and Godzilla) missed the mark with me. I don’t feel strongly enough about any of those products to say I specifically dislike them, but as a fan of all three franchises I wasn’t impressed by the crossover products released thus far.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never played Dungeons and Dragons before. My lone engagement with the D&D franchise is that in sixth grade I checked out The Monster Manual from the public library and read about all the monsters. So, based on previous experience with Magic crossovers, and lack of nostalgic experience with D&D, my expectations for Adventures in the Forgotten Realms were quite low.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really like the set!
Despite lacking familiarity with the D&D franchise, I feel like the set captures flavor that paints a pretty clear picture of the D&D world and game mechanics in a way that feels authentically Magic. I also think the cards are pretty sweet (especially the alternate versions with the old school D&D manual artwork).
With that said, I found a ton of cards from Forgotten Realms that I’m excited to add to my personal Battle Box stack, “The Danger Room.” With the return to paper Magic now imminent on the horizon, I’m going to wait to do a large scale overhaul on my stack. So today, I’ll just be adding a handful of cards to the stack: four cards from each color (as well as one gold card and one artifact).
Before we get to the review/updates, a few notes:
I’m not going to add any “venture into the Dungeon” cards. I certainly see a ton of potential to build a new Battle Box that replicates the Limited experience of Forgotten Realms with Dungeons, but there’s just not enough of that effect that I’m inclined to add it to Danger Room. I do think the dice rolling cards will be pretty fun, but again there’s not enough of them to really build that mechanic into my deck.
For me, no dungeons and only dice rolling cards that carry their own weight without additional synergy cards.
Let’s get to the review!
Let me start by saying that I’m a huge fan of the 1980s/1990s flavor Dragons in the set. There’s something elegant about the simplicity.
Adult Gold Dragon feels like a nice Battle Box fit. I love haste and lifelink on an evasive body. I’m also a fan of the creature having three toughness (as opposed to four or more) which makes it vulnerable to red removal. It very much feels like a Boros Dragon.
Leather Armor is a cheap utility Equipment that I also think is well worth including in a stack. I’ve been playing with some ways to utilize mana efficiency in new ways in my stack, while at the same time not leveraging mana too hard.
Dawnbringer Cleric and Priest of Ancient Lore are fantastic creatures for Battle Box. I think these are easily included to add value in a lot of stacks.
You Hear Something on Watch is a great modal spell. I love the offensive and defensive applications. You never know who will be the beatdown until the game is underway, so cards that are useful in either posture are great additions.
Last, but certainly not least, is the White Dragon. I’m a big fan of all of these Dragons in the uncommon cycle. I’m adding four of five. It’s cool that White Dragon has some throwback flavor to Yosei, the Morning Star but at a power level that feels better suited for my stack.
Air-Cult Elemental will likely replace Riddlemaster Sphinx in my stack. It’s power and toughness seem a little more reasonable. One of the things I enjoy about updating my stack is finding cards like Air-Cult that hit the sweet spot.
Mind Flayer is a Sower of Temptation variant. I like Sower a lot – it’s a little bit easier to deal with than Auras like Control Magic or Persuasion.
Blue also gains two great modal spells:
Show me a cheap modal spell where all of the modes work in Battle Box and I’m typically happy to add the card to my stack.
Black was the deepest color for Battle Box playables that I considered. I had a list of six cards that also included:
Both are worth considering if you have a copy to spare.
Black Dragon feels pretty baller for a seven-drop. It’s one I’d want to draw and cast for sure, but it’s less game-shattering than Thunder Dragon at seven (a card I liked for flavor but found fairly unbeatable in a lot of games).
Check for Traps has solid flavor and is a great Thoughtseize-type effect.
In addition, we also get the Cube which is a solid Hostage Taker variant, as well as Power Word Kill which is broadly applicable instant speed removal. A solid haul for Swamps!
One thing I noticed about Forgotten Realms is that it didn’t have a ton of cheap creatures I wanted to add. Anybody familiar with The Danger Room knows how big of a fan I am of making sure the aggressive creatures are relevant and balanced relative to the more controlling/midrange cards. In order for the stack to work properly, players need to be able to pressure the opponent.
Battle Cry Goblin is a nice cheap creature and Boots of Speed are also a flavorful card that helps making attacking easier.
Plundering Barbarian is a nice Uktabi Orangutan variant with upside for when there isn’t a target to shatter. It’s not the most exciting upgrade of all time, but it’s a solid card.
Red Dragon feels excellent. I’m excited to add it to my stack.
Another card worth considering:
I didn’t add Flameskull because it’s a mythic, but it’s got some very cool flavor and is likely quite powerful in a Battle Box. Without having a chance to play with it first, I wanted to err on the side of caution before advising Battle Boxers to buy a powerful mythic for their stacks. Let me know what you think of it!
Aside from Green Dragon (which I’m crazy about), I found the rest of the green pool to be a little bit underwhelming; at least, relative to what I typically expect from green spells.
Froghemoth has cool flavor and quite a few powerful abilities with impressive stats for five mana. I’ve been looking for a bulk rare green five-drop since I had to retire Whisperwood Elemental for being too busted and I’m intersected to see Froggy in action.
Lurking Roper seems like an interesting defensive creature with a very big body for only three mana. The drawback is real, but I’d consider a three-mana 4/5 defender and Roper is better than that in most situations.
I generally try to avoid ramp spells (because mana should be equal) but I’m going to try out Prosperous Innkeeper and see how it plays. There’s a big difference between ramping a land into play and gaining a Lotus Petal/Treasure token one time. I’m curious to tinker around with some of the more fair Treasure cards to see how they impact game play. Also, I’m not going to lie, “Creature Type – Halfling” may have significantly influenced my decision to try it out! I love the flavor on the card.
First of all, the set seems incredible for Battle Box staples. I’m certain that even after the next rebuild I’ll be shuffling up at least 10 or more cards from the set and will be happy to do so.
5. Gold Dragon
4. Red Dragon
3. White Dragon
2. Green Dragon
1. Black Dragon
It should be fairly obvious which element of the set captured my imagination the hardest!
First, I love the elegance and simplicity. Second, I really appreciate having some excellent uncommon power level Dragons to top off the high-end of the mana curve in Danger Room/Battle Box. They’re strong enough that I’d actively want to draw them in most scenarios, but not so powerful that an opponent would feel annoyed to lose to them.
In addition, I think white hit the jackpot with cheap creatures: Dawnbringer Cleric and Priest of Ancient Lore are both cards I’d highly recommend in any Battle Box. Rounding out the Top 8 is Leather Armor, which is straightforward Equipment (Boots of Speed is also a solid Equipment if you are looking to add gear to your stack).
Overall, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms looks like a big hit for Danger Room playables. I’m a big fan of the flavor and design of the set. In particular, I find the artwork to be very pleasing (especially the alternate, old-school style artwork cards). It very much transports me back to memories of reading about the creatures of D&D in the Monster Manual back in sixth grade.