Top 5 Strongest Cards from Forgotten Realms – Riley Ranks

Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is certainly a weird core set – it doesn’t “feel” like a Core set, given its relative complexity and resounding flavor. Unlike a regular Core set too, some of the cards within it seem to be very powerful. Some core sets of years past have given us format-defining superstars such as Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and the magnificent Thragtusk, and I reckon Forgotten Realms might be cut from a similar cloth. There are a few cards in the upcoming D&D-inspired set that threaten to do great and terrible things. From besting former archetype staples to being cast for zero mana, some of the headline acts from this set might really turn things on their heads. Here are my picks for the strongest cards from Forgotten Realms



Header - 5. Old Gnawbone


Any spell that has either a significant cost-reduction mechanic built into it (such a delve) or offers a rebate on its initial cost (such as Teferi, Hero of Dominaria) is always worth keeping an eye on. Old Gnawbone may cost seven, but there’s a good chance this card will immediately pay for itself and then some the turn it comes down, assuming you have any kind of board presence. 

That’s right, read it again – it’s any creature you control. You cast Old Gnawbone, attack with your 5/5 and all of a sudden, you’ve essentially cast a two-mana 7/7 flyer. In green! Green isn’t supposed to get flyers at all, let alone 7/7s! Of course, there’s the initial outlay of seven mana, but of all the colors, green will find this most achievable. 

Old Gnawbone may not end up having a huge impact, it’s true. But with the pedigree of cards like this – cards that “pay for themselves” – mean you shouldn’t ignore it. Combine this card with a functional draw engine to ensure those Treasure tokens don’t go to waste, and Old Gnawbone might end up doing some real work. 


Header - 4. Tasha's Hideous Laughter


Perhaps “busted” is the wrong word here, but with the ever-present dream of actual, factual mill decks so tantalizingly close in formats like Modern, Tasha’s Hideous Laughter might actually end up turning the dream into a reality. For years, dedicated mill mages have sought to harness the power of cards like Glimpse the Unthinkable, and Tasha’s Hideous Laughter is – by some accounts – a far more efficient mill card. 

Various people have crunched the numbers, including Saffron Olive and our very own mathematician Frank Karsten, and while I’m not much of a mathematologist, it looks like this card packs a real punch – especially in older formats like Modern and Legacy, where the average mana value of commonly-played cards is much lower. Glimpse the Unthinkable has, for a long time, been the bar in mana-to-cards-milled efficiency, but Tasha’s Hideous Laughter seems to do even better in that regard. 

In Standard, it joins cards like Maddening Cacophony and Ruin Crab as dedicated mill enablers. Could it be true? Is the dream finally alive? Well, no, probably not, but that’s not going to stop all the dedicated mill mages declaring the arrival of the Millocalypse before dying to your creatures while you have 12 cards left in your library. 


Header - 3. Circle of Dreams Druid


“{T}: Add {G} for each creature you control.”

Hm, where have I seen that before? Oh, that’s right, on Gaea’s Cradle, one of the most disgustingly broken cards in the history of Magic. What’s that? Where else? Well, yes, admittedly you’ll also find it on the back side of Growing Rites of Itlimoc, one of the most disgustingly medium cards in the history of Magic. Fair enough. 

Gaea’s Cradle requires jumping through zero hoops, however, while Growing Rites of Itlimoc requires jumping through an entire tunnel. Where does Circle of Dreams Druid land? I suspect in a much better position than Growing Rites (while obviously being nowhere near Cradle, of course). Particularly with a one-mana accelerant like Llanowar Elves, Circle of Dreams Druid can function like an Elvish Archdruid in non-Elf decks – or, indeed, in Elf decks as well. 

Sure, it dies to a slight gust of wind as a 2/1, but its mana ability is beyond broken when put to effective use. Turn one Llanowar Elves, turn two Circle of Dreams Druid, turn three you have four mana to spend on creatures before you tap the Circle of Dreams Druid for even more mana. There’s real potential here, and mono-green decks will be extremely interested in putting this card to good use. 


Header - 2. Iymrith, Desert Doom


Half a decade ago, in Khans of Tarkir Standard, control decks gravitated towards one particular finisher that was difficult to deal with, provided ongoing card advantage and delivered the beats to close out a game swiftly. Dragonlord Ojutai was a centerpiece of Esper Dragons five years ago, and now Iymrith, Desert Doom is here to – in my view – go even further. 

Ward 4 is, in the appreciable majority of cases, as good as hexproof. In the late game this is less true, obviously, but tapping out for this on turn five will give you a good chance of untapping with it still in play thanks to its ward ability. Outside of that, it’s just better than Ojutai – extra toughness, monocolored and an ability to draw up to three cards when it connects. Even one attack like that can change a game completely. 

However, in the five or six years since Dragonlord Ojutai was printed, Standard has become a lot more powerful. Will Iymrith be able to hang? My suspicion is that yes, it will. This card is a resilient and powerful threat, and slower decks, from midrange to control, may want to employ it as a finisher. Especially after rotation, I could see Iymrith becoming a truly dominant force in Standard. 


Header - 1. Demilich


Why do they do this? Haven’t they learned? I don’t understand why Wizards continues to print cards that can be cast for zero mana, let alone cards that can be cast from the graveyard for zero mana! Sure, it’s “just” a 4/3, but it’s just a 4/3 that will come down for one or even zero mana much of the time, provide a recursive threat in cantrip-based decks, and provide ongoing card advantage when it attacks. 

I see two possibilities for this card: it’s either busted in half and goes on to wreck a format like Modern, or it doesn’t get there and ends up a bulk mythic. This is not a great dichotomy, and really makes me wonder why the card was printed in the first place. I don’t think there’s much of a middle ground. You’re not playing this card for value, you’re not playing this card outside of a deck dedicated to abusing its abilities – either that deck exists and Demilich is nuts, or it doesn’t and Demilich just kinda sucks. 

I just do not understand why cards like this get printed. Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis, Arclight Phoenix, Hollow One – all these cards, cards that can be put into play for free, have resulted in format-warping decks that have required bans (sometimes multiple bans) in order to get things back to normal. The way I see it, Demilich either does that and has to get banned out or it does nothing and languishes in obscurity. Neither is the fate any card would hope for. 



Unusually for a Core set, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms really is offering us some very powerful cards that will most likely impact multiple formats. It’ll be interesting to see just how busted they end up being!


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