The Forgotten Realms: What to look out for in the next set for Magic: The Gathering
In preparation for Adventures of the Forgotten Realms Harry and Alex sat down to look at some of the iconic cards for this set, Harry picked out five cards that feature exciting characters and artifacts from his time in the Forgotten Realms of DnD and Alex took a closer look at how these cards are shaping up in the ever changing game of Magic: The Gathering.
Alex: The Vecna package is a challenge to evaluate within a game since these kinds of effect have usually been unplayable in constructed. However this case may be different since the cards are individually pretty powerful. The Hand of Vecna allows you to create a massive creature to punch through, while the Eye lets you draw an extra cards every turn, if you can pay the price. Bringing everthing together is The Book of Vile Darkness, giving you a steady stream of zombies every turn while threatening to make a massive indestructible monster that continues to provide you with card advantage if left alone. I could go either way with this card, I don't see it being format defining but it may be a good tool for decks that can afford it. There's also a chance that each piece is playable independant of the 'combo' which is also nice to see with this style of card.
Harry: Any Adventurer worth their salt knows (and fears!) the power of Vecna. Once upon a time he was a powerful wizard, who found that death was too daunting a task for him to face; and quickly acheived the most sought after tasks for all practitioners of the magical arts - the skill to acheive undeath.
From here Vecna quickly ascended to lichdom, writing The Book of Vile Darkness, a book that any evil-doer could read and add to, teaching them how to raise the dead, take control of monsters, and - if the common word is to be believed - raise Vecna himself back to life, should he be betrayed.
But betrayed he was! By his administrative assistant, Kas. The betrayal saw Vecna killed, leaving his soul to plague the Forgotten Realms, but some of his power persisted in 2 artifacts of evil - The Hand and Eye of Vecna.
No matter where or when in The Forgotten Realms, Vecna is a mighty force to be reckoned with, scheming in whatever demi-plane he is hiding in, and I for one am happy to see him make his presence known in Magic.
Alex: In gameplay terms Tiamat is a monster of a late game card, single handed he provides you with a brand new hand of monsters ready to fly over and decimate your opponent. The downside of costing seven mana in all five colours will mean that you've got to build your deck in a very specific way to take full advantage of him, but with the mass of treasure synergy cards present in the last few sets that should be a very real possibility.
Harry: Ahhh Tiamat, you monstrous 5-Headed Dragon Diety you. I was not surprised to see this card revealed as one of the first for this set, what with Tiamat herself being the first major villain in the Fifth Edition Forgotten Realms setting in "Hoard of the Dragon Queen" and "Rise of Tiamat". Tiamat is the queen of all dragons (more specifically the evil ones!) and is a force to be reckoned with in any DnD campaign, what with her being a god and all - I really hope to see this card pop up in the packs I pull, trying to make a deck out of her will be a cool task.
Deck of Many Things
Alex: With the simple roll of a die you can change rewrite the future of the game entirely. The deck of many things, although fairly expensive to get out, creates a massive amount of card advantage to those that wield it with a pretty low activation cost. This is almost unique with the dice rolling cards in that often times a lower result may be optimal in some situations, giving access to a card in your graveyard can be more powerful than drawing cards in late game situations. The die rollings cards 'critical roll' are difficult to analyse considering how rare they'll be, even more so in this situation, but this one essentially wins you the game on the spot by getting back one of your opponent's dead creatures to kill them with. The downside will be unfortunate if you hit it, but at the stages where you get to activate this you often won't have many cards to discard in the first place. Obviously this is a commander all star, however I wouldn't be suprised to see this crop up in some control or midrange decks over its stint in standard.
Harry: When me and Alex first started to look at the reveals for this set I was 100% confident that The Deck of Many Things would find it's way into my favourite deckbuilder. For those not in the know The Deck of Many Things is an artifact that is chaos incarnate and I love it dearly.
I have lost track of the fearful looks I have been given when I reveal the deck in one of my games, simply because of what it could do. The 22 card deck contains a multitude of effects -
it can immediately give a player +1 level over the other characters, it could give you a shiny new magical weapon, and even give you the ability to rewrite an event in the worlds history.
Great effects right? But what if I told you that it could also make a greater demon lord your sworn enemy? Or maybe you would prefer to draw from the deck and lose all of your worldly possessions? Or maybe, just maybe, you would prefer to draw a card that sucks the soul from your body, pops it in a tiny box and then tosses it into one of the hundreds of planes in the forgotten realms themselves. The Deck giveth and The Deck taketh away....
Volo, Guide to Monsters
Alex: Just what we all needed another simic commander, but this time with a more interesting twist. Having to fill deck with monsters of all shapes and sizes (and creature types) significantly reduces the cards you can put in your deck, especially as a lot of the most powerful cards in the format are already voided by himself (humand and wizards). In regular construced I wouldn't expect him to see a large amount of play as a result of the relitively weak stat line, but the powerful effect could definitely make up for it in the right deck.
Harry: Volothamp Geddarm (or Volo to his friends) is a famous writer, historian, small-time wizard and 'Go-To Guy' for all things in the Forgotten Realms (even if his information was usually greatly exaggerated). I like Volo as a character, he is that classic overly curious adventurer, usually getting himself into trouble whenever he goes to investigate a new creature of culture. He even has books written, both inside the game and out the books Volo's Guide to Monsters and Waterdeep: Dragon Heist are written by Volo, of course, they have different names in the DnD world, but it is still pretty neat to read a book written by the characters.
Xanathar, Guild Kingpin
Alex: Another card more geared towards commander Xanathar does a pretty decent Sen Triplets impression, although with the potential upside of having access to the opponents library rather than their hand. This gives a certain random element to the card, sure you can hit five or six spells in a row and dominate the game or you can hit two lands, feel sad and have to play with your own cards instead. There is a non-zero chance that this gets picked up as a potential control finisher for a blue-black deck after rotation when the format shrinks back down, however the existance of Iymrith, Desert Doom from this set and planeswalkers being harder to interact with, this will probably be relagated to commander from day one.
Harry: I love Beholders, and Xanathar is, without a doubt, one of the best and silliest Beholders in the Forgotten Realms. Originally known as 'The Eye' The Eye heard tales about the mighty Xanathar and his Thieves Guild in the city of Waterdeep, from here The Eye created his plan to take over Xanathar's Thieves Guild and take over he did! He killed the original Xanathar, and when his Thieves Guild asked why he looked different the next day he simply said 'Xanathar was not a name, but a title, a title I have taken for myself' - what a cool dude!
From here The Eye/Xanathar blended his own agents with his newly aquired Thieves Guild and now works to overthrow the powers that be in Waterdeep, alongside him is his beloved friend and companion, Sylgar. Not just any common fish, Sylgar is, according to Xanathar's underlings, the only creature that Xanathar loves more than himself - and should Sylgar die, it is the responsibility of Xanathars posse to find a replacement Sylgar before Xanathar finds out, less everyone in the immediate area suffer a very slow and painful disintegration.