D&D: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms (AFR)
Welcome back! Today is the penultimate day of Limited Reviews, a spellfinding fable of Druids and Wolves. Enjoy and make sure to check out the introduction if you haven’t already!
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.
Lair of the Hydra
Another of the fantastic manland cycle that gives you free spells for just the investment of a draft pick, Lair of the Hydra is a fantastic thing for winning late game scenarios that your opponents will always have to leave chump blockers back for once you reach 8 or 9 mana. Scaling with the game is just so good, if you’ve played with Crawling Barrens in Constructed then this gives me similar vibes – it sits in play until you one-shot them.
This is probably the manland I’m most excited to Equip – putting a Goblin Morningstar on this is a colossal game.
Bulette is pretty understatted and there are a lot of much beefier Green midgame threats you can pick up. It will sometimes take quite a while to get that first counter, but it’s pretty good if it does so immediately. It only checks on your turn, so you need to be beating down for it to be any good. Ideally you’re curving out and attacking with a 3 drop on turn 4 and then playing this afterwards, and then maybe get a second counter with a removal spell or something.. but it’s a lot of hoops at that point.
This is a fine trick, since granting trample is often very good alongside beefy Green creatures and Equipment. It has some defensive applications in untapping the creature, so it’s not dead in games where you’re behind (though still much worse). It’s worse on impact than Run Amok, but I think some beatdown decks will be happy to play a copy or two.
Remember that the more Equipment you have, the less you want other cards that rely on you curving out with creatures (click the link below where I explain why). Green only has the mediocre Ranger's Longbow and colourless options anyway, but your other colour might care or you might just pick up enough good ones not to want this.
Choose Your Weapon
This is a modal card with two reasonable but situational modes. In some sets, this second ability would be amazing, but I don’t think this is really one of them – Blue has lots of fliers and White has a few, but the other colours mostly have other forms of evasion. I don’t think you’ll get a good target in most games. The first mode would usually be a pretty mediocre trick, but in an Equipment set and alongside Green’s big creatures, I’m willing to give it more of a pass since it can push a ton of damage in some situations.
Again there’s the natural anti-synergy with this and Equipment. It’s odd because lots of these tricks are at their best on voltronned up creatures, but for every game you win that way, you’ll lose a game to clunky low creature draws and removal spells. Overall, the effect is still negative and you need to be very careful about your creature count and curve in Equipment-heavy decks (not that Green is the ideal colour for those anyway).
Circle of Dreams Druid
In a 2-colour deck, this card is way too hard to cast, and you won’t need the mana by the time you can get it out in the late game. Even if you have 12 Green sources, an insane amount, you only have a 59% chance to play this on turn 3 averaging play and draw (check out my article on how to calculate this stuff and apply it to magic here), and it gets so much worse with time.
I’ve actually coached a Mono Green deck in the set so far, because the colour is very powerful in AFR and capable of standing on its own merits, Those will be overjoyed to have this, it’s insane there, but they’re still rare enough and Green has to be open enough that I can’t justify giving this a higher grade for now.
I’m a bit worried that people only reading the tier list will take this too highly, since they won’t have the benefit of reading the description, so don’t be surprised if I move it down to D on there immediately!
Circle of the Moon Druid
Being able to play both offense and defense reasonably is pretty nice, and I think this card will overperform in a lot of games. There aren’t a ton of removals that punish this switching ability (but remember that auras like Precipitous Drop do work, since this will just die on your turn) and it attacks into boards for most of the game. If the attack is invalidated by a 2 drop blocker, then you can just leave it back and it’s still having a reasonable effect. It’s also a great enabler for Pack Tactics, an ability on some cards which rewards you each time you attack with 6 or more power worth of creatures.
This is a card that you can consider playing if you have a ton of trample creatures, really got there on the Owlbears, or you need to enable Pack Tactics and should absolutely stay away from otherwise. The problem is that there are lots of tokens this set, and any deck has access to them just by Venturing twice, and it’s not like this would be anything but situational filler even if that weren’t the case.
Dire Wolf Prowler
When I said in my Red tips section that the format seemed like it lacked good 3 drops and more of the focus was on 2s, I was specifically thinking of this card! This is a horrible statline, and it doesn’t even become good when you use the pump ability. There are also more 4/3s for 4 than usual this set, and at that point you’re trading down on mana.
Play it sometimes when you desperately need creatures, but just play more 2 drops instead if you have to.
Druid Class is one of the less exciting Classes, but it’s still not bad when you have the synergies. It gains you 3-4 life, and because it often makes a 7/7 or 8/8 with haste in the late game, some slower decks too, say in Simic, will just want to gain some life and have a decent late game hedge. The problem is that the second ability is pretty bad and it’s often going to gain you more life than the first ability to just have creatures to block with, if you’re not the deck for it.
Selesnya lifegain decks, on the other hand… I might be a little biased because my first 7-0 of the set was the nut lifegain deck, and this card was amazing in it, check it out:
Ellywick isn’t nearly the power level of your classic Mythic planeswalker bomb, but it’s still very good. The second ability is decent value and makes sure you don’t run out of creatures to protect it, but the first ability is really where the power is at and you want to start the venture train asap. The ultimate is gamewinning if you have other Venture stuff, and this card is obviously much better in that scenario anyway.
The main problem is that it doesn’t protect itself the turn it comes into play so you often won’t want to run it out on turn 5, but every Dungeon has some way of doing that, with Lost Mine (the go-to dungeon for when you’re unsure) doing so from the second path. If you can protect it, so you’re ahead or at parity, this card is fantastic and will demand some of the Red and Black removal that can hit planeswalkers in short order or you’ll just run away with the game. If you’re behind, it’s pretty bad, but 5 loyalty means it’s probably still going to be hard for you not to get at least two Ventures or one and the best creature from your top 6.
I think if you’re going to have difficulty protecting it, you want to try to get on Mad Wizards’ Lair, since the 3rd ability stopping a creature from being able to attack it for a turn is very good and then eventually you can get two Skeletons, and that will also maximise the value you’re getting later on.
I’m quite fond of this 5 drop, since this is a lot of value spread over two bodies, and really quite hard for your opponents to deal with. It shuts down fliers, it trades for most things and then you still have the Wolf, and multiple bodies are at a premium alongside Equipment.
I think the main problem is just that you don’t want too many 5s and this can’t compete with the likes of Owlbear, but if you have the ramp sources like Find the Path, Treasure tokens, or Clever Conjurer then that effect is lessened. It’s not like you’re very likely to see Owlbears past the first five picks anyway…
Find the Path
I want some high value 5 drops or a bunch of other Venture stuff to be happy to have this card, and Green is really good at making the former happen and reliant on some specific uncommons for the latter. Once you get there, this is a lot of value – it’s sort of like drawing a card and making an extra land drop if you are eventually going to get to the later Dungeon stages. Green, and the set in general, seems to have a lot more powerful 5 mana than 3 mana plays in terms of efficiency for the mana spent.
A lot of Green decks won’t want it, especially if they’re trying to enable the Pack Tactics mechanic early or to beat down.
The main problem with this card is it doesn’t attack super well into blockers, and it’s much better on the play than draw since you want to play this before your opponent gets their own 5 drop down. Still, if you get it through that first turn then it’s usually going to be a 5/5 or 6/6, and fear of it turning on will force your opponent to play in a very defensive manner on future turns even if you can’t.
There are more 4 mana 4/3s this set than usual which hurts this, but you can often hold this and play other stuff and wait for the right moment when their creatures are tapped, and Equipment is great on it.
This is a decent beatdown 2 drop, since it stays relevant later in the game and a 3/3 attacker is still relevant on lots of boards. The curve of this -> Circle of the Moon Druid can legitimately be pretty scary. Still, it’s not that great if you’re not curving out, pretty medium in the early turns, and a mediocre bearer of Equipment.
Green Dragon is a pretty strong way to enable all your attacks with smaller creatures for a turn, not that Green is traditionally the home of those but it’s pretty nice with stuff like Elturgard Ranger and random 2 drops you still have lying around. You have to be beating down to get good value, but some slower decks will play it just as a 6 mana 4/4 flier since that’s a fine statline and Green needs flying blockers.
Ultimately, I think this is too weak an ability for me to give this particular Dragon that high a grade, since it won’t block as well in a set with so may Equipment and 4/3s, and there are other 6 drops you’d rather have. I’d actually rather play this next card in my slower decks..
Hill Giant Herdgorger
Ravenous Lindwurm really overperformed in Kaldheim Limited, but 4 life is more than 3 and that set really just couldn’t deal with 6/6s at all. I think there’s too much aura-based and unconditional removal this set for Herdgorger to replicate the same success, but it’s actually a pretty reasonable 6 drop. It can brawl with equipped stuff and at the very least trade with it, often at a mana advantage. You don’t want too many of those as always, but looking at the set’s offerings, only Air-Cult Elemental and some of the dragons really beat this out in non-beatdown decks (Red and Green Dragon often don’t even do that).
I can’t give this a C+ because beatdown decks will be common and really won’t want this card – you want to equip stuff and have Evasive creatures late, unless your Equipment grants evasion. It is definitely a C+ if you have lifegain synergies or some ramp.
This card’s a bit inefficient if you don’t target a Blue thing, but 4 mana at instant speed is still perfectly reasonable for removal that works most of the time. When you do play against Blue decks, it’s completely insane. Blue has seemed really good so far (so has Green) so I expect to face it a little more than other colours.
This does suffer a bit from “too many cards that rely on creatures” syndrome, but that’s not enough reason not to play good cards unless your creature count ends up too low or your curve suffers.
This is a reasonable 4 drop, since enabling your attacks for free is always good and it makes 2 drops more relevant on turn 4. Having the versatility of being able to gain life when I’m behind is great, and this card will always do something (though rarely something super-impactful).
That being said, I still think you cut this a decent amount if you don’t have synergies such as in a Selesnya deck with lifegain or a deck wanting to enable Pack Tactics – there are just better 4 drops and more impactful cards to play.
Instrument of the Bards
Tl;dr: this is truly just a tremendously bad card that I don’t think will ever be worth it.
This costs 4 mana to activate so you need it to get four counters, and at that point you can only search for things that cost precisely that amount. Because it only gains counters on your upkeep, that means that you can use your entire turn 4 putting a 3 drop in your hand if you played it on turn 1, and you finally get the card back you spent on this so that future activations might actually do something. That’s best case scenario, and at every time after the first couple of turns it’ll just be a terrible topdeck that takes far too long to do anything. I want my value cards to be good topdecks and do something immediately.
This is a very strong 2 drop, attacking and blocking well early and still blocking fliers late, and then giving you some value later on. It’s a fantastic thing to put Equipment on, and we’ve seen how powerful repeated Ventures can be.
6/2 is a really bad statline for 5 mana, but this is a powerful ability in long games. It gives you a constant target for your Equipment whether you win or lose the roll, and you’re 55% to win the roll for a lot of value. There are no ways to self mill in the set, but looting this away to Bag of Holding or Unexpected Windfall could be very sweet.
All this is still a really late game proposition, and this card gets significantly worse the faster the set is.
Redrawing your 2-3 best cards in the late game is really powerful, even if there can be some issues with things having the same mana value. This format is faster than the last few but this is a powerful enough late game option to be worth taking highly, since it is also one that comes down to flood a lot.
I’m pretty fond of this card – it blocks really well and is a solid counter to beatdown decks, and then many decks will have a couple of ways to gain life and get an attack or two in. In Selesnya lifegain decks, this card is absolutely absurd, but all you really need is a couple of repeated enablers like Druid Class or Prosperous Innkeeper to replicate that effect. The first mode on Dungeon of the Mad Mage gains life too so your first Venture might well untap this!
This is a slightly slow way to ramp, especially since I sometimes want to be playing Evolving Wilds or Temple of the Dragon Queen tapped on turn 1, but it’s perfectly serviceable nonetheless. Getting to Green’s powerful 4s and 5s faster is a great place to be, and it can block and then sacrifice on turn 2 to prevent a little damage too.
This is the sort of card you don’t want too many of, and you can consider cutting a land for the first copy if your curve isn’t too high/you have decent mana.
So if you pay x=4 for this card and then it dies, you make a 2/2 on your next end step, which later dies and makes a 1/1… that’s an extremely good rate and a ton of value! X spells are great in Limited because you end up with a ton of extra mana lying around in lots of games – if you played much of Strixhaven draft, you’d routinely see truly colossal Fractal Summoning tokens, for example.
Even just running this out on 3 mana isn’t too bad if you have nothing else to play, as a 2/2 and a 1/1 on death.
As a 7 drop, this is expensive but it pays you back for the mana, literally! It’s a truly colossal flying body, and if you have stuff to attack with then you can follow it up with more stuff. Next turn if they don’t kill it, you make at least seven Treasure tokens and have absurd amounts of mana to dump into mana sinks, which the set has more of than usual. Green itself doesn’t actually have many, but there are plenty in Red and Blue which can make this card really insane.
Ramp is obviously premium with this, and with other treasure generators, there’s plenty of it in the set.
The best Green common by a country mile, Owlbear is going to savage this format. This is the 5 drop you want, the ramp payoff you want, and you should be happy to play it in any deck. It’s just not often that you get real creatures that refund your card, a trend started with Sarulf's Packmate, which was probably a little better than this but certainly isn’t as high impact!
Plummet is a sideboard-only card, don’t maindeck it. It’s fine out of the sideboard, especially against Blue and White decks, but it’s not really high value – pick it up on the wheel over mediocre cards.
Drifter’s Context Corner: How many targets do I need to sideboard in a card?
When deciding whether to sideboard a card, check what targets they’ve played and compare it to the length of the game. If it’s a short game and they’ve drawn two decent fliers, that’s good enough, but if the game dragged on forever, then that number probably isn’t enough.
For more analysis, check out my full guide to sideboarding here. It was intended for an older set, but the general advice still applies!
This is an absolutely insane card in the lifegain deck, by far the best enabler since it will net you multiple triggers a turn. . You do want to be Selesnya, but it’s a card you easily take at B- if you are/it’s looking open. I posted a deck above where this card extremely overperformed for me.
In other Green pairs, this is less exciting but it’s still pretty good – over the course of the game, it will gain you 4 or 5 life and get those great 4 or 5 drops out a little sooner.
This is a colossal and hard to remove body, and things trade often enough in Limited that you’ll be able to play it for 5 enough of the time. If you have to suicide a 1/1 or whatever, so be it, but it’s better if you’re a beatdown deck. They’ll be in chump block mode quickly once it starts to attack.
This is a card that pretty much does everything. First, it’s a solid 2 drop play, then it gives you an ability that dramatically improves your attacks and gives you a lot of value for only 2 mana (often if the Wolf has a good attack, you’ll just level it on turn 3), and then it takes over the late game in trivial fashion. It reminds me a lot of The Great Henge, but this card is good early (and okay, slightly weaker/harder to cast late).
Despite losing some of its strength as a splash card, since you often won’t have the Green mana to immediately level it, I think this combination of abilities is so powerful that it will still be worth it sometimes.
This is a pretty trash Equipment compared to the rest of the offerings in the set – +2/+1 often just means you trade up rather than get clean attacks and the Equip cost is pretty expensive.
People might point to Elven Bow as being a really good card and so this must be good, but +1/+2 is much better for holding back fliers than +2/+1, and there’s that little matter of coming with a free creature…
This is a 2 drop you play when you’re truly desperate for them and not otherwise – it’s horrible in the late game, doesn’t do that much early, and this ability is incredibly low impact.
Spoils of the Hunt
This is instant speed Rabid Bite for 1 more mana most of the time, and that’s well worth it, the best removal spell Green gets. I think it’s a little worse this set than most, just because every other colour has better removal options now, even Blue and White, and when you’re running more cards that rely on having creatures like Equipment, you might not have room for the third copy of this.
If you do have Treasure tokens, that’s a little extra value and does help in ensuring you kill things, but it’s not a big difference.
I’m not too fond of Sylvan Shepherd outside of the lifegain/dice rolling decks – it’s hard to attack with a 2/3 repeatedly, and you don’t get much when you make it happen. It’s understatted, and Vigilance is nice to put Equipment onto but not enough to save it from being cut a lot.
I kind of want to believe in The Tarrasque in decks that have enough ramp/are generating enough Treasure tokens. It does seem more reachable in this than most sets, if you’re saving up your Treasures for it. The payoff is incredible – an unkillable card that takes out their best creature immediately and then every turn after that.
Still, 9 mana is an insane amount, unreachable unless you really try to make it happen.
I think Green will be beating down enough that it will often cut this card, but it’s reasonable in any sort of slower deck – 2 drops that do something relevant on turn 2 and then still do it late game are premium, it’s just that this is a defensive effect.
I’m not giving it a C just because I think Green has amazing stabilising tools and lifegain in this format anyway, so even slower decks might not want multiple copies.
Varis, Silverymoon Ranger
This is fantastic as a curve play, and then it gives you value off every creature you cast after that. If it lives for long, it’ll complete you dungeons easily and give you a free Wolf friend to boot! You really do want to draw it early and it doesn’t scale quite so well as the game goes on, so it’s not a bomb but you’ll always be happy to have it.
This is one of the best uncommons in the whole format, converting your worst late game topdecks into repeatable advantage. It’s a must-kill card, and you’ll usually get some value off it first. This ability is often better than Landfall, in that you can still just play this card turn 4 so you get an extra activation.
I’d usually stick with Lost Mine of Phandelver here, unless you have a bunch of other Venture in the deck or they’re on a low life total – it’s going to be very hard to complete Dungeon of the Mad Mage with only this card.
Werewolf Pack Leader
Here’s an amazing 2 drop play that pretty quickly and easy gives you your card back if unkilled, and gives you a mana sink ability that means it’s good at any point in the game. Also fantastic card to equip etc.
This trick is just okay – the hexproof mode is the only one that does very much, because the 1/5 Spider won’t kill anything unless it’s equipped, and the Elephant mode is only really good for going for lethal with an Equipment/eating a 2/2. That combination of situational effects is enough that it’s not a truly terrible card, but it will rot in your hand for most of the game and requires Equipment. Equipped things are the best ones to protect at least, but the main issue is the one of space I keep going on about (the final tip here).
You Find a Cursed Idol
There’s enough high value class cards and equipment that I don’t mind maindecking this card a small amount of the time, especially since you can use the third mode if you really need to – it’s not great to do that unless you have a bunch of other Venture stuff and are reaching the last rungs of your dungeons, but not the worst either. Still, it’s situational filler, you need it less if you have regular removal, and it’s a card I play through lack of better options rather than something I actively want.
This is a fantastic sideboard card, probably the single most important one to pick up, and still good in multiples.
You Happen On a Glade
This is card advantage, a solid way to splash (even splash double off-colour cards if you have a couple of these and some Treasure generators), and a card that retains a good deal of value in the late game. It’s a little inefficient, but versatility is the name of the game in Limited.
If the format ends up significantly faster than I believe, I will lower this rating to a C on the tier list, but Green is one of the better colours to deal with fast starts anyway (fast starts with lots of removal will be a problem though).
You Meet in a Tavern
In a heavy creature deck, this first mode will often hit you 2-3 Creatures and that’s a decent (but not amazing) rate for 4 mana, but I’m talking like 20+ creatures. I think with equipment and utility spells, it’s going to be hard to actually make it to that, and the chances of getting at least two creatures are only 74% with 17 and at least three is 37.5% (learn how to calculate this stuff here). That means that a quarter of the time you use this mode, it’ll be pretty bad – 1 creature for 4 mana sucks, and this even has a 5% chance to brick completely. Sometimes you won’t even have 17, especially if you’re in a spell-heavy second colour like Blue or have some cards that generate tokens and don’t count towards this in Red. The value proposition doesn’t sound that great to me.
The second mode is very situational but incredibly powerful – you can make some devastating attacks, and force them to chump block a lot if you don’t outright kill them. Still, the cost of that is that it doesn’t do anything until that point, especially since I don’t like the first mode that much.
This is a card I specifically want when I have lots of creatures, and I would base whether I played it entirely on creature count. I think 17 is about the lower boundary, and I would ideally want more, but I’d be fine to have it at that point. As such, I expect many decks to cut it and the ceiling is still just filler.
Join me for the final review tomorrow, which covers multicolour cards, artifacts, and lands. I’ll have my final Tips section then (check out previous ones on Red, Blue, and Introduction), and the tier list will be released shortly after I’m done!