D&D: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms (AFR) Limited Set Review: White
D&D: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms (AFR)
Welcome back! Make sure to check out the Introduction if you haven’t already, and otherwise enjoy perusing all the White cards.
Who is rating?
I’ve been enthralled by Limited ever since I began playing Magic a decade ago. With a particular fondness for flashback and cube, I’ve drafted dozens of sets. On Arena I draft infinitely, having profited more than 50k gems with a winrate that is usually mid-70%s, and have made top 100 mythic many times. I’m an experienced Limited coach with testimonials from people who reached mythic with my help, check out details here if you’re interested!
- S: Ridiculous bomb: has a huge immediate impact on the game and threatens to dominate it if unanswered. Often hard to answer. (Professor Onyx, Kaya the Inexorable, Emeria’s Call)
- A: Bomb or one of the best cards in your deck, pulls you strongly into its colour. (A+: Tanazir Quandrix, A: Sparring Regimen, A-: Swords to Plowshares)
- B: Great playable: happy to pick early, pulls you into its colour or archetype. (B+: Igneous Inspiration, B: Returned Pastcaller B-: Frost Trickster)
- C+: Good playable that rarely gets cut, or very good in the right deck. (Pigment Storm, Karok Wrangler, Divide by Zero)
- C: Fine playable, sometimes gets cut. (Snow Day, Leech Fanatic, Fortifying Draught)
- C-: Mediocre playable or decent filler, gets cut around half the time. (Sudden Breakthrough, Arcane Subtraction, Vortex Runner)
- D: Medium to bad filler, gets cut a lot. (D+: Springmane Cervin, D: Hall Monitor, D-: Detention Vortex)
- F: Cards that are unplayable in the vast majority of decks. (Dragon’s Approach, Secret Rendezvous, Fracture since it’s a sideboard card in most sets)
Grades are based on maindeck power level; if a card is good in the sideboard, I will mention it in the review. Every grade can have a sub-grade within it, but the differences are most pronounced in the C-Category, so they have their own description. Beyond that, a B+ means it’s almost an A, but not quite.
Cave of the Frost Dragon
Flying on a decent body is a really big game on manlands. It’s very easy to imagine a board stall or late game scenario where you finish off a weakened opponent by attacking for 3 every turn until they’re dead. You can also just hold it up for their turn, and use it to block. Either way, it’s kind of like having an extra spell, no investment required.
+2/+2 is a massive buff, making anything a big threat. It’s great on fliers, but even random tokens will need answering, and obviously equipment are repeatable so this can add up to a lot of value over the course of a long game.
Boros has a few equipment payoffs, but they mostly add up to stats increases on your 2 drops, with Bruenor Battlehammer being the only really substantial payoff and that’s just one uncommon. As such, I doubt you’re going to ever want multiples of these with such an expensive equip cost and wouldn’t take it too highly. There’s plenty of other equipment it’s competing with anyway.
This is a solid effect on a reasonable if unexciting body, often functioning as a 2/3 flier that deals 3-4 damage. It’s still nothing too exciting but I doubt you cut the first copy or two from your beatdown decks too often, and it’s a good holder of equipment.
Phasing is a pretty weird ability to see back in standard sets, but it’s pretty nice with Equipment since those phase out with the creature so you don’t have to pay the equip cost again if you save the dog from removal or a trick. Equipping and buffing are the best things to do with a 1/1 double strike anyway, and I would only really be looking to play this card in a deck that can do that consistently, since both body and ability are pretty overcosted. It’s nice for Blink Dog that every colour has access to equipment in this set.
The Book of Exalted Deeds
This card’s very hard to cast, and 3 life is a pretty awkward number to have to gain in this set. There are lots of ways to gain 1 or 2 life but it’s pretty hard to gain 3, outside of Potion of Healing, some Green commons that do it and putting an Equipment on the 2 mana 2/2 Lifelink. It’s a lot of work and you have to get this down before doing that work. Even after you do all that work, you kind of need to get a second Angel before you’re really happy – sure, that ability might win you the game if you’re playing against a Simic deck or one with all aura-based removal, but most decks will have ways to deal with the creature.
All in all, I think this is way too many hoops for most decks to jump through, but this card is very powerful if you do get there, and Potion of Healing specifically is very good with it.
Lifegain being a supported theme in Selesnya, I think this is a pretty strong card. Looking at enablers, there are enough commons in just White that this will regularly make decks in other colour combinations, and then if you happen to be Selesnya, it’s pretty insane.
When evaluating cards like this, you want the enablers to be good cards by themselves, and Priest of Ancient Lore is completely insane, Dawnbringer Cleric seems decent, and there are plenty of Green cards that act as repeated lifegain enablers which with time can make this really colossal. It’s a bit awkward that it starts as a 3/2, since it might not be able to attack well even after you get a counter, but worth it in plenty of decks nonetheless.
So to evaluate class cards, we need to break down each ability individually. The first ability for one mana doesn’t do very much at all – you might gain 3-4 life over the course of the game in a dedicated deck. The second ability is really strong, a turn 4 play that has a lot of potential to run away with the game if you can gain life a few times after it, but the sequencing is pretty awkward – you must play your lifegain cards after you level it up, and most of them will cost less. I expect the third mode to be something you mainly use in the late game, but it’s a pretty good rate if you can get to that point since you get immediate value off the second mode and get to return your best creature. The third mode does cost 10 mana total, but being able to split it up makes it a lot more palatable – you can spend your turn 4 and 5 doing this if you want, but you probably want to wait since you won’t have a great creature in your yard yet.
All in all, I think this card is a pretty powerful buildaround and mana sink, but it’s slow and it doesn’t go well into that many decks. It’s at its best in Selesnya with some of the Green enablers, but I don’t think it’s awful in any slower deck either. It’s not a card I expect to take super highly, but when I want it then I’ll take it over pretty much anything.
This card strikes me as a premier Venture payoff, blocking well in the early game and then being a powerful threat later on. It puts you a solid 1/4 of the way along to enabling it anyway, so you only need three more Ventures after it, and it’s good friends with Ranger Hawk and Planar Ally.
This isn’t great in the more dedicated beatdown decks, and I expect White to go down that path a lot, but you can just run out your other 3 drops first and spend some time equipping or whatever in those decks, and then have this finish the game later on. I do expect slower White decks to still be very viable though.
It’s worth noting that purely defensive statlines get way worse in multiples – you probably don’t want other walls with this, and multiple copies can lead to some awkward draws until they’re turned on.
+2/+1 with an equip cost of only 1 is a really good rate, and this is kind of like a split card in that if you’re running out of creatures, you can just have it become a threat by sacrificing the Equipment side of it. I expect common case will be for you to expend all your creatures that can get good attacks in with the +2/+1, and then make the flier late game or when they’re on a life total, and that sounds like an extremely good deal for such a small mana investment.
A major weakness of Equipment is their being bad if you’re out of creatures or if you draw too many Equipment, and this is a solid way to mitigate that.
Modal cards gain a lot by having the option to use the best effect for your current situation, and this has a lot of decent effects. The main draw is if you get to destroy an Enchantment, of which there are more in this set than most, between Classes and common enchantment removals, which White, Black, and Blue all have. Destroying a Class after they’ve levelled it up a bunch is going to feel absolutely filthy.
I would give this a C+, but the failcase of a 1/3 that gains 2 is mediocre. A 1/3 gets invalidated quite quickly as the game goes on, so drawing multiples of this card will be awful for decks without plentiful lifegain payoffs, and they’re very unlikely to have two Enchantments worth killing in the average game (oftentimes they won’t even have one). Ultimately, I wouldn’t take the first copy too highly but I’d be happy to pick it up later on.
Repeated venturing is really powerful since the best effects are at the end of the dungeons, and this can provide a lot of value if you’re able to attack unimpeded. Unfortunately I don’t think that will happen that often, since the buff is mediocre and the equip cost is very expensive. I don’t think this will do enough in decks that don’t have plenty of evasive creatures, and even then those decks won’t usually want to pay 4 mana to do something so minor.
Here’s a really nice effect, reminiscent of Dawnfeather Eagle which was a busted card in Amonkhet Remastered. This is an easy way to win a race, since Vigilance means you can get a big alpha strike in without much fear of being hit back. Still, Dawnfeather Eagle being able to fly and finish your now weakened opponent off was a big draw of the card, and you don’t have room for tons of 5s, so I think this is decent but replaceable. Mostly you might have room for 1 of these, alongside your hopefully better top end.
I straight up wouldn’t play this card outside the sideboard, since it’s amazing against Black decks and terrible otherwise – phasing is even worse than bounce, since they don’t have to pay for the card again.
If you are playing best-of-three, then look to take it reasonably highly in the latter half of the pack, but since it only hits one colour, I’d still be taking many fine playables over it.
There are way more Dragons at common and uncommon than usual, including a couple at 4 mana even, but most cost 6 or 7 so I don’t expect you to have too many. A lot of the rares are also Dragons, and cheaper ones at that, so I expect some decks to have several but I still don’t think this card is amazing. 2 mana 2/4 is a solid rate, but the failcase of a 2 mana 1/3 isn’t great and Ward 1 doesn’t really add much to your Dragons. With four dragons, you’re about 63% to have one in hand on turn 2 (learn how to calculate this here), but I think four is really the maximum a normal deck will have and that’s still a good proportion of games where you’re playing a mediocre card.
This is a good aggressive 2 drop, since having 3 power means it can attack into many 3 drops and it scales well into the mid-game, since this ability makes it into a big threat alongside any Equipment. There are plenty of those available, and the ones that equip for free the first time seem especially potent with this.
Some decks won’t really care, but I think this is strong enough in the right deck to warrant a low C+.
Even a 0/4 defender flier would not be an exciting card, and this is an ability that usually hurts you. If you’re playing this card, you’re a slow deck so they probably have a lower curve than you, so they benefit more from card draw because they’ll run out sooner and be able to cast more spells per turn. They also get the first opportunity to cast whatever is drawn, since it’s their turn.
I really don’t foresee ever playing this card, unless I’m truly desperate for 2 drops or I need to sideboard it in because they have a lot of fliers it stops.
This card has a pretty mediocre body, and dungeons aren’t going to be trivial to complete with the shortest ones having four rungs (I would not recommend taking the Oubliette path on Tomb of Annihilation very often!) – this is very much a late game proposition. Once enabled, this attacks okay, but still not really that well unless you have ways to buff it up or grant it evasion, since 2 power just isn’t that much. This is a card that would be so much better as a 3/2, and great as a 3/3.
Grand Master of Flowers
This first ability should work on the vast majority of things so I think the card is pretty solid. This is a good reason to play Monk of the Open Hand in your deck, since being able to fetch them up for free is pretty powerful, but the card is mediocre so drawing them without this is going to kind of suck – still worth playing a couple though.
It’s not the kind of planeswalker that takes over a game with ease, because it doesn’t really generate you much value so it’s not doing much if they’re attacking it, but if you are able to protect it for long enough then it does just win the game (at least if they don’t have aura or exile-based removal), and I think that will happen enough to be a solid pick. The ideal case is you’re ahead or in a board stall when you play this, or that it’s removing the main thing threatening you, but there’ll certainly be some games where it’s stuck in your hand for a while.
Guardian of Faith
A 3/2 Flash Vigilance for 3 mana is a decent rate, and this one can save your creatures from removal. This is often worse than flickering the creature (exiling it then returning it to the battlefield) because you don’t get to reuse its enter the battlefield effects, but it is good with equipment and auras, since they don’t fall off. It’s a bit hard to cast, and you sometimes won’t be able to play it on 3.
A 1/4 Vigilance is an awful statline for a 4-drop, but this is a powerful ability. It’s cute since you can sometimes sneak some damage through by attacking with it first and then tapping something in combat. It blocks well, but you can’t both block and tap something down, so this does strike me as a pretty awkward card all-round.
Still, tappers are great – it’s repeatable removal in the late game, the ability isn’t too expensive, and I think it’ll be fine in some slower decks, maybe lifegain decks. Beatdown decks will want to stay far away, unless they really have no other ways to get attackers through. It’s a reasonable target for equipment too, since Vigilance is very good on big creatures.
Icingdeath, Frost Tyrant
This card is a bomb, since it has an amazing body and gives you an insane equipment when it dies. You do need to be attacking to get the most value out of it, since the tap ability only works on the offense and the body isn’t great at blocking, but just trading off and being an Equipment up is a fine place to be as well. It’s a bit weak against aura-based removal, and this set does have plenty of it.
There’s really a lot of equipment in the set, and this card is insane if you do manage to spike an equipment or other artifact off its first ability. Even if you don’t, Black and Red have a ton of treasure generators, all of which buff this card and some of which are repeatable so I think it’ll be really good in some decks and awful in others. I’d take it pretty highly and be very willing to cut it if I don’t have at least 5-7 artifacts or treasure generators (artifacts and repeatable sources being better, so you need fewer).
I think this is pretty close to just a vanilla 2/1 for 2. Sure, sometimes you’ll stop them discarding you or burning you out, and maybe in 1 in 10 games you’ll hinder them because they won’t be able to venture twice, but being able to venture once is almost always enough. Play this if you desperately need 2 drops, and otherwise stay far away.
This is an excellent card to play on the draw on turn 3, since it’s fantastic value at that point. I would be happy to play it in any deck just for that opportunity, and the failcase of a 3/1 Vigilance for 2 isn’t too bad. Vigilance isn’t super useful on low toughness creatures, but it is once you equip them!
This is reasonably efficient removal, but will be really awkward to use early – ramping them up to a big thing and fixing their colours can really come back to bite you, especially since Black and Red have some synergies surrounding Treasure tokens. It’s also a little expensive for what you get, preventing you from double spelling. Still, at least it sacrifices if they use it so they can’t leave it around to eventually draw enchantment removal.
It’s still reasonable removal, since the drawback becomes less and less relevant as the game goes on, but I am expecting White to be pretty aggressive and hence want to use it early. Still, I don’t think many White decks will cut it – usually you’ll have to be Black or Red and have plenty of better removal at that point.
Monk of the Open Hand
It takes a lot of work to even make this card a 2/2, and it will never scale well with the game. If you’re really aggressive and low curve then maybe, but the majority of decks won’t want this – it’s not even good to equip.
This card’s understatted and it doesn’t actually provide card advantage, but it provides some nice flexibility since you can get removal with it or your nice Class card, or sometimes even some insane rare enchantment (in which case you’ll take it a lot higher than C). Still, it’s just fine, not something you should take too highly until you have the really good hits.
Nadaar, Selfless Paladin
This card is nuts, gamewinning once you enable it and generating you a ton of value before that point. It’s very easy to finish a dungeon if you’re able to get attacks in with this, but you can just leave it in play and make your removal spells/other venture cards into absurd draws if you can’t, and it always gets at least 1/4 of the way to enabling itself.
In a lot of decks, this is just going to be a 2 mana 2/2. If you have treasure generation and any 1 drop artifact to get, it starts to get much more exciting, or if you can sacrifice stuff like Potion of Healing to tutor your Equipment out, or just sacrifice those Equipment to get better ones. I think it’s hard to actually get value off it, but it’ll be very interesting in some decks.
This Class enchantment strikes me as a lower end bomb. The first mode again doesn’t do very much, but the second mode is where you get a ton of value since Glorious Anthem is fantastic in Limited, even for 4 mana. I expect the common case to be you get a bunch of creatures out then level it up and immediately attack for tons of damage. The third mode is powerful even if you only have one or two good creatures; it’s a gamewinning late game mana sink and will often even be good on turn 5.
This is a very mediocre trick combined with a very mediocre stats buff. In the circumstances where you are able to kill a creature with it and then have the Equipment lying around, it’s pretty good value, but your creature already has to be trading for that to happen and that just doesn’t happen nearly often enough.
Even with cards like Dwarfhold Champion, spending two cards to make a 3/5 doesn’t exactly fill me with joy, so maybe you play it with Bruenor Battlehammer or if you’re really desperate for equipment synergies, but I’m not into it.
I’m quite fond of this card, since it has a reasonable statline and generates a lot of value over the course of the game – this is one of the few Venture cards where getting repeated triggers isn’t at all unlikely. I foresee it fitting well into all sorts of decks, since the Dungeons have a vast and varied range of effects so it can chip away for some extra damage when it needs to, make some Goblin tokens, scry, or even draw some cards. Still, you still don’t want too many 5s and it’s pretty bad when you’re behind on board.
Now, this is an Equipment I won’t be passing very often. +3/+3 is a gigantic buff, which will make any creature one of the best things on the board, and equip 3 is a very reasonable rate for that even if you don’t have other Equipments. Ward 1 is some nice gravy, and can certainly have a big impact if they’re relying on expensive removal or trying to double spell.
It does combine well with other Equipment too, since sometimes you’ll just be able to go full voltron and make every creature into a bomb, but drawing too many Equipment and too few creatures can be gamelosing. Don’t use this as an excuse to put too many in – you basically never want to play more than 3-4 unless they make creatures themselves.
This kind of card tends to be overrated. Mana value 2 or less is normally pretty unexciting against creatures, since your opponent sometimes won’t have a 2 drop play or not ones that are worth killing e.g. ones that already got value from an enter the battlefield effect. Compare to Shock, which often kills some proportion of 3 and 4 drops and still does something against bigger creatures.
The saving grace for this card is that it hits nonland permanents, including every Class, a bunch of equipment, and some stuff like Bag of Holding, so there are more targets in the set for it than usual, but in some matchups, it will be really weak.
Potion of Healing
This is pretty comparable to Revitalize, but it has the upside that you can draw the card early on and then leave it in play until you need it. Revitalize is pretty mediocre in Limited, and this is a card you need a bunch of synergy with, whether that’s plenty of lifegain payoffs, ways to flicker it, ways to sacrifice it for value… it does enough in some decks, but you shouldn’t play it unless you have a good reason.
There isn’t much direct artifact synergy outside of rares and mythics, but this is good with a surprising number of them, like Teleportation Circle, Oswald Fiddlebender, and The Blackstaff of Waterdeep.
Priest of Ancient Lore
If this weren’t White’s best common, it would be a shock, since it’s an incredibly easy 2 for 1 and a free way to enable your lifegain synergies. Being able to trade for their 2 drop, or even double block, and not lose a card is fantastic and this is good at any point, early or late.
It’s not quite as good as busted card Sarulf’s Packmate from Kaldheim, since this statline isn’t great without buffs, but there are lots of Equipment running around to help it along.
This card has a lot of potential upside and it is a very pushed combat trick. In some scenarios, it will be absolutely gamewinning, killing two creatures and gaining you a bunch of life, but that’s really very rare and it’s expensive enough that it’s quite hard to hold up for the right time. It’s not easy to get the exact scenario where two of your creatures are attacking and being blocked, or vice versa, and this kind of card has the tendency to rot in your hand while you wait for the right circumstance which may not come. I’d recommend just collecting a solid 1 for 1 and gaining some life when the opportunity presents itself when you play this card.
Remember that you can’t target the same creature with both modes, which matters a lot – you can’t gain any life if you only have one creature, and usually it means you can only pick your best creature for one of the options.
Drifter’s Context Corner: Why don’t I rate most combat tricks very highly?
- You don’t want too many of them. The more you have, the harder it is for you to curve out, and the more chance at least one of them is stuck dead in your hand, since they require creatures to do anything.
- The more removal you have, the less you need them – their best use is in killing stuff, and you already have that covered better if you have plenty of removal! Heavy removal decks want to have creatures to block with, so that you don’t have to remove random 2/2s, and tricks lower your available creature slots. That being said, if they have a good additional effect (like Run Amok in Kaldheim), that can make them better than removal, and conditional removal can have its own greater downsides.
- Really bad against instant-speed removal – it puts your opponent up a card and you down a lot of tempo, if they remove your creature in response to a trick.
- Much worse on the defense – if your opponent is attacking and has a bunch of mana up, you’re just asking to get destroyed by those pesky removal spells! As such, tricks are better if you’re beating down, especially early on, when they can’t punish you with removal. That being said, lots of Limited decks have the potential to do that on turns 2 and 3 – you just need well-statted units and good numbers of them, rather than to be playing ramp or utility spells or whatever.
- Awkward to hold up. There’s a lot of opportunity cost to having to hold up mana turn after turn for a spell that you might not actually be able to use, especially on the defense.
This card is an okay thing to equip and does something in the late game, but it doesn’t do either thing particularly well – you would much rather be equipping creatures that are decent by themselves, since that gives you a lot more game in situations where you don’t draw your Equipment or when there’s something better to equip, and a 1/1 flier just doesn’t do enough in most games. The late game mana sink does help a lot, but having to tap two creatures to do it at sorcery speed is rough unless you’re ahead or in a board stall.
Still, I think it will happen and be okay often enough that I consider this okay filler, and it does get better if you do have a lot of Equipment or other Venture cards so you’re getting good value immediately.
I expect beatdown decks to be quite strong in this set, especially when you’re playing other White decks, so this is pretty desirable to begin with. Then you factor in all the Equipment running around, and this can just run away with some games. Getting a big life advantage makes your opponents’ evasive creatures much worse, and gives you a lot more time to draw into stuff/threaten more aggressive attacks. This is good in slow and fast White decks alike, just a premium 2 drop.
The whole joke with this card is that you use it with enter the battlefield (ETB) abilities to generate repeatable value, and it’s very good with cards Potion of Healing or Priest of Ancient Lore, and decent with ETB venture effects like Cloister Gargoyle or Veteran Dungeoneer, all of which are in White. When you factor in cards from other colours, I think this can be a very powerful buildaround if you pick it up early. Bouncing stuff every turn with Air-Cult Elemental or repeatedly destroying creatures with Black Dragon can come up, and the failcase if you don’t draw an ETB effect is you can sometimes use it to knock a debilitating aura off one of your creatures, of which this set has more than usual. Remember that it also untaps the creature, effectively granting it Vigilance.
I wouldn’t play this card with fewer than four or five good enter the battlefield abilities to recur (remember that if they’re just gaining a few life, that’s not good enough unless you also have plentiful lifegain payoffs), but I think it’s very powerful once you hit that. The faster the set, the worse this card is, and I do expect some beatdown decks to be good, so we’ll see how that pans out.
This is quite deck-dependent, since it’s pretty bad if you have very few ways to Venture and actively good if you have a bunch of other ways. Venture in general gets much better the more you have, but especially 1-shots that come out in the later game, like this one.
3/4 is a pretty bad statline for beatdown decks, so you probably want to stay away unless you have lots of Venture in those.
Well, dragons remain good in Limited. This one combines an excellent body that will demand an answer in short order with the Frost Trickster ability, allowing you two attacks through a big creature or staving off one of its attacks, and that’s a fantastic rate.
It’s still just a B- since there are other Dragons flying around, some with even more powerful abilities, but if you do happen to be playing some copies of Dragon’s Disciple or Dragon’s Fire then it does get a little better.
You Hear Something on Watch
This is a pretty solid card whether you’re attacking or blocking. You almost always want to use the 5 damage mode but if you’re going for lethal damage or can turn a trade into eating a creature with the +1/+1 then it’s very good, and it’s efficient in either circumstance.
I don’t think you want too many of these, and they do get worse if you’re aggressive but not a go-wide sort of deck – since they won’t be attacking as much and you won’t have many creatures to buff. I expect aggro decks this set to mostly be going tall rather than wide, so that will be pretty common case. I think it still narrowly makes C+ nonetheless, but I wouldn’t take the second copy as highly since this is definitely the sort of card that can get stuck in your hand.
You’re Ambushed on the Road
Both modes on this card are weak and situational – bouncing your creature is card disadvantage unless it’s in response to a removal spell or if the card has an especially good enter the battlefield (ETB) effect, and the trick mode only has an effect in very specific scenarios. Even with the flexibility of both modes, I don’t think this card is good in nearly enough scenarios that I’ll be happy to play it.