Grab your +2 Mace, Bag of Holding and party of morally complex adventures, because it’s time to enter the wonderful world of Dungeons and Dragons with Magic the Gathering next Standard set, Adventures into the Forgotten Realms. Yes, the forbidden door has not just been opened, but kicked off its hinges as we see a melding of two of Wizards of the Coasts most successful IP’s. Sure, we have had Multiverse books for D&D before, but this is the first time we have seen another world outside of the established Magic lore brought to us as part of a Standard legal set.
Now there are a ton of interesting and exciting new decks that I am itching to try out for all of you, but today we are instead going to look at some of the flavour wins we have seen from the set. Don’t worry, I’ll be bringing you all kinds of janky brews over the coming weeks and months, but you have got to give me a chance to test them first. But rest assured, I have a lot of ideas brewing. A LOT.
Firstly, for those of you who have no idea why I’m so excited let me clarify. Dungeons and Dragons (or D&D) is a fantasy roleplaying game where players take control of noble heroes, dastardly villains, and tricksy rogues in order to explore a rich fantasy world. They are guided through this by a Dungeon Masters (DM) who is one part narrator, one part adversary, who weaves a story that the players can influence with their actions. It is hugely popular, spanning five edition and hundreds of modules, becoming a cultural icon of the gaming sphere.
Even if you have never played it, it is likely you will have been exposed to it in some way. Whether it is through internet memes, pop cultural references or shows like Stranger Things, you will probably have heard something about D&D. Me personally, I first learned about it via the excellent Saturday morning cartoon Dungeons & Dragons, that was a huge influence on me and one of the reasons I fell in love with the fantasy genre.
While I have to admit I am more of a casual/laxed player (never really finding the time to get a group together for anything beyond a one-shot game day) I have always loved the lore of D&D, and will often watch play sessions online while painting minis or building decks. I’ve even ran a few small scale adventures for my children and their cousins (yes, my kids are geeks like me), which they have seemed to enjoy. So, when I first got to see the new cards from Adventures into the Forgotten Realms, I was blown away with how much flavour and lore the design team had managed to capture with this set. I could see characters I had heard about or encountered myself in card form, all with rules and art that captured the feeling of playing through a game of D&D beautifully.
For example, this is captured with the new modular cards of the set, that much like a game of D&D offers players a choice in how they want to proceed. Take the card like You See a Pair of Goblins. Not only is it a decent card that offers you the option of bodies on the board or a combat buff to your team, but the choices are beautifully themed with their own (very on theme) wording. And there are tons of them, all with fantastic artwork featuring a hapless group of adventures trying to survive the many encounters they happen across on their journey.
A personally favourite of mine is You Find a Cursed Idol. A decent sideboard card, it also reminds me of times when me and my friends would happen upon such objects while on a quest, and the arguments that would ensue as to what we should do. Some of us would want to steal it and sell it to the local merchant, while the rest of us knew that our DM would have put a curse on the object because he loved messing with us. Of course we would steal it, and of course it was also cursed. But the banter and laugher we would have would always be worth the trouble.
Other cards in the set also capture such feeling of nostalgia, whether they be objects such as the +2 Mace or Vorpal Sword, or because they remind us of classic adventures and the mistakes we have made. Split the Party is one such card is a prime example, and is the most meme card in the set. Any veteran D&D player will tell you that splitting up your adventuring group is always a bad idea, and yet it always seems to happen (either through choice or via the machinations of a cunning DM) and it always ends badly for everyone involved.
Encounters in D&D can be brutal affairs, whether they be against fan favourite creatures such as an Owlbear, or against the ever-present Dragons that seem to be in every dungeon you come across. Tackle them together and you may have a chance. Take them on piecemeal and you will be rolling up a new character before the night is out. Heed the warning of the flavour text my friends. It speaks the truest wisdom.
Speaking of Dungeons, the new mechanic venture into a dungeon allows you to go on your own side quest while you are playing your games. Not only that, but as you advance through the dungeon you will gain benefits (or hindrances) until you reach the end and the prize that awaits you. These are great little side game that asks what benefits are most important to you at this moment. Do you create a Treasure to help get out your bigger threats and fix your mana, or do you stop a creature from attacking you this turn? Do you go to the Storeroom and put a +1+1 counter on a creature, drain your opponent and get some life at the Dark Pool? The choice is yours, but will you choose wisely?
And lastly (but by no means lest) is the Legendary characters that make up the heroes and villains of the Forgotten Realms. Powerful wizards, enchanting warlock and brutal warriors are all at your disposal, and gives Commander players the world over so many new and exciting leaders for their decks. But it’s the attention to detail I love the most about these creatures, and that is perfectly demonstrated with my personal favourite Legendary from the set, Xanathar, Guild Kingpin.
Spoilers for the Waterdeep: Dragon Heist module.
Xanathar is a Beholder, a creature of immense power. They are large, orb-shaped beings had ten eyestalks and one central eye, each containing powerful magic. They are very self-involved creatures that think of themselves as the most important being around. They as violent and greedy, and will often hunger for both wealth and power over others. Xanathar himself is the crime lord of the Xanathar Thieves’ Guild, and like all other Beholders he is a selfish creature, seeing humanoids as slaves for the taking. However, there is one creature he does have affection for, and you can see them in the art for him.
Yes, that’s right. It’s the goldfish, and his name is Sylgar.
Xanathar prized pet, Sylgar was looked after by Ott Steeltoes, a dwarf and member of the guild and was the only creature he liked as much as himself. Now as you probably all know, goldfish have a particularly short life span. So, what do you think would happen if a powerful magical being with a disregarding view of other living creatures where to find its most beloved pet upside down in its bowl one morning? I think we can all agree it would not end well for those nearby. Well Ott is of much the same mind and will routinely replace Sylgar whenever he passes away, before Xanathar has the chance to find out and fly into a murderous rage. Is it silly? Yes. But it is just another example of the many kinds of stories that D&D can invoke.
And that to be honest is why I love this set. It is more than a D&D themed Magic set. It feels like a love letter to the long and amazing history of D&D, brought to life in Magic card form. I can look at any of the cards and get a sense of nostalgia for one of the biggest (and best) RPG’s out there. It’s the perfect mix of card design and storytelling, and the R&D department at Wizards of the Coast should be very proud of themselves. I can wait to get my hands on it and start my own tale into the forgotten realms.
Hope you enjoyed today’s article, and I hope you are enjoying Magics dive into D&D. What do you think of Adventures into the Forgotten Realms? Does it scratch that nostalgic itch for you? Let us know down below.
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