D&D: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms (AFR) Limited Set Review: Multicolored, Artifacts, and Lands
D&D: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms (AFR)
Welcome back! Today is the big wrap-up, the final day of Limited Reviews, with possibly the widest range of complicated and interesting cards to rate, including an array of powerful cards and plenty of duds sprinkled in too!
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.
Gold cards vs staying open
A reminder that you’re supposed to take gold cards lower in the early picks of the draft. Your chances to play the card are just much lower than a single-colour card unless you force the colour combination, which is a bad strategy unless they’re much better than everything else in the pack (and even then, you should be willing to abandon a few picks if the colours just aren’t open).
Gold cards that are worth splashing (i.e. they’re high impact at any point in the game, especially later on) are often worth still taking highly, but this one doesn’t have very good fixing so I won’t take cards too much higher on that basis. Later when I say the words “this is a good splash”, that means you still have to have the fixing! If you’re truly desperate to splash something, play extra lands, but you cannot just have fewer main sources – you want about 8 of each, more if you have lots of double colour and less if you don’t have early game cards in that colour. For more on the subject of mana bases, here’s an old article (go easy on me, because this was only the second magic article I ever wrote!).
What this all means for the grades is that you want to evaluate gold cards lower in the first few picks of the draft – at the extremes, it’s around 2 distinctions so an S tier card becomes an A tier card, and more like 1.5 in the middle so a B- becomes more like a low C+. Being a good splash lowers the handicap from 2 distinctions to 1.5 as well. My grades do not reflect this, because I’m trying to rate for the whole draft and for power rather than for early picks.
I’m a big proponent of staying open, reading signals, and letting those decide your colours, rather than biasing towards certain combinations or archetypes. I think it’s especially bad to do that at the start of a format.
Adult Gold Dragon
Okay, well we’re starting strong. An immediate 8-point lifeswing on a must-kill card makes this an insane bomb. It’s not the most exciting card, but it’ll sure win you plenty of games.
When I first read this card, I thought to myself “okay so ability no.1 doesn’t do anything… ability no.2 doesn’t do anything, maybe ability no.3 will finally do something?”. No, no it doesn’t.
More seriously, the problem is you’re not going to have enough Legendary creatures for this to be worth it – you need to play several over the course of the game to get good value from these effects, and you’re not going to have nearly enough since each one of the ten colour combinations only has one at uncommon (and having multiple copies of them presents its own issues!). You can imagine the once in a blue moon deck that might open enough on-colour rares and mythics, but even then, reducing their costs by RG probably isn’t that useful, and they’re going to cost plenty of mana so being able to play the top two cards of your library this turn won’t be that useful either..
Barrowin of Clan Undurr
ETB ventures are always pretty good, and this one gets much better later on. It’s not the most exciting gold card, since it’s understatted and takes some time to pay off but just getting 1/4 of the way towards activating itself is nice.
If you don’t have much other Venture, this becomes a lot worse so you might want to take it lower in pack 3 – earlier in the draft, venture is easy enough to come by that you should mostly assume you’ll get there.
This is a set full of expensive equip costs, and Bruenor makes them a lot more palatable while providing a substantial buff. Ideally you have an Equipment already out and get a big attack in immediately!
This is an absurd amount of stats for just 5 mana, two amazing attackers and equipment bearers in one. I don’t see that final ability being too big an add-on, but it’s nice that the Cat itself will buff Drizzt.
Despite being better on curve, this is a card that’s still really high impact later on, so I would be happy to splash it – it’s just going to be very hard for so much stats to not be good.
Farideh, Devil’s Chosen
There are enough dice rolling effects in Blue and Red that I’m very excited for this card – 55% to draw a card every time you roll a dice is incredible, and it beats down pretty well too.
I’d be happy to splash it if I had a lot of dice rolling effects, especially repeatable ones.
The first ability is the lynchpin here – how good an Equipment are you getting? I’d take this card high early on (well at around C+, factoring in that anti-gold card and build around it, since the payoff is very good. Making your Equip cards cost 2 less makes every creature annoying since you can move them around so much, and that third ability is potentially repeatable removal late (though you have to be pretty far ahead or have disposable creatures lying around, since they can just multiblock if you use the biggest thing), and that’s all great value as long as you’re getting something good in the first place.
A fantastic blocker and great in the late game, this is all you want from your 2 drops. I’d be happy to splash this but it’s not so powerful that I’d really go out of my way for it – the late game is where Simic tends to shine anyway. Sometimes the extra land ability can be nice – you can use this to just bridge the gap between turns 4 and 6, or go this ability+ 3 drop on 6 mana.
Hama Pashar, Ruin Seeker
In general, doubling the room abilities of your Dungeons isn’t huge, and you need plenty of Venture cards for this to be really amazing, but the failcase here is a 2/3 for 3 that still gets you some value which is still very good. In the right deck, this is broken, since copying the last three abilities of Dungeon of the Mad Mage sounds pretty obscene.
I wouldn’t splash this card in most decks – I don’t expect to have that many venture sources late in the game, so maybe if I had lots of the mana sink or repeatable venture cards but not otherwise.
Kalain, Reclusive Painter
This is one of the Gold cards I’m a little less excited about, since it’s pretty low impact in most decks – you really have to be hard on Treasure tokens, which some Rakdos decks will be but not all. If all you’re doing with this is getting one counter and a little ramp or fixing on a pretty mediocre body, I’m not that happy. This is one Gold card I’d try to pick up on the wheel a lot.
Krydle of Baldur’s Gate
Draining them for one and scrying every time you hit them with Krydle combines nicely with his second ability, which is a strong ability regardless. Nonetheless, I think the requirements he imposes on your deck don’t jive that well with the colour combination – you need to be a Dimir tempo deck with plenty of creatures, which is certainly a draftable thing but Dimir decks will often want to be slower or controlling instead. Lots of Blue creatures just have evasion anyway, so the ability isn’t good on them.
Krydle is amazing with Soulknife Spy and other cards with attack/damage triggers and there are more in this set than usual.
Minsc, Beloved Ranger
Well, this is one Gold card that I will be rating down dramatically because of its mana cost, because it’s just not castable in most decks. Still, the payoff is really strong since if you untap with it then you get to deal a ton of damage and every creature becomes amazing, but it doesn’t really interact that well with removal – sure, you have a 1/1 afterwards. I think you mostly want to be Red and rely on Treasure tokens to try to go for this, and if you don’t have many generators then you just leave them in play and wait for it.
It’s nice that it has immediate impact when you do cast it, since you immediately have a big attacker. If this card activated at instant speed, it would just be a bomb since it would make combat a nightmare for your opponents, but I think it’s just decent as it stands.
Monk Class has a mixture of really strong abilities, with even its first ability being great – going t2 Class into t3 two 2 drops and then you have an extra mana for as long as you can cast two spells per turn. After that, the bounce ability is decent upside and great specifically against Tomb of Annihilation’s 4/4 Deathtouch token (they probably should just pick a different dungeon if you have this and haven’t levelled it yet), but the real meat comes from that final ability. Getting to draw an extra card per turn is absolutely amazing, and even if you miss on casting a spell for a turn, the exiled cards stick around for later. You can’t play lands, which hurts a little bit, but that’s fine.
The best thing about this card is that the levelups aren’t very expensive at all – it’s pretty trivial to get to that third mode, and you even get to slow them down along the way.
Orcus, Prince of Undeath
One of the best splashes in the set that I would really go out of my way to enable, this is an obscene card. Even paying 5 mana and 1 life will be enough to blow your opponents out on some boards, and he can really save you from a lot of situations where you’re behind as long as you have life to pay. If you don’t have life to pay, you’re still getting fantastic value from that second ability, and that becomes the better one to go for in the really late game. All of this is on top of this amazing body, and you can just run him out on turn 4 and be happy if you have other plays lined up for later.
Rogue class is kind of a slow way to go about things, and it’s really bad against a fast deck. Until you level it up, it doesn’t do anything and Menace is a pretty situational ability. That being said, the third ability is a ton of card advantage and can really take over any long game, and the second ability is very good alongside creatures with attack or damage triggers.
My other main issue with it is the same as with Krydle of Baldur’s Gate, in that I expect lots of Dimir decks not to have tons of creatures and to adopt a more controlling gameplan, and that and being really bad when you’re behind is enough for me not to give it that good a grade. It’s a card you’ll still be happy to pick up on the wheel or if your deck doesn’t have many late game hedges, but I feel like Dimir is going to be good late and care more about shoring up its early game anyway.
Shessra, Death’s Whisper
4 mana 1/3 is an astonishingly bad statline, and this is a pretty situational first ability – you have to be holding off a smaller creature with your bigger creature basically, and if they have a second creature then it’s not that good for you. If you don’t get to kill something, this card doesn’t seem like that great a rate, and it doesn’t go very well into beatdown decks (the decks where this first ability is best) just through this awful statline.
Another possible home is decks with lots of removal spells or sacrifice effects like Deadly Dispute, but we’re describing slower decks here that probably won’t want to keep paying 2 life for this ability or necessarily be able to take advantage of that first ability. I could see a midrangey deck that can both defend itself and attack well enough to want this card, but I think it’s an awkward fit in too many and it won’t consistently have a good effect even in those.
This is the sort of card that just runs away with the game if left unchecked for a few turns. You always get at least one net skeleton ahead, because if your opponent blocks it then you’re getting two from the end of turn ability, so you’re always progressing towards your Skeletons becoming massive lethal threats.
The main issue is that it’s pretty bad when you’re behind, but being amazing if you’re ahead or at parity is good enough for me.
This is really a lot of mediocre effects… the first ability is Faithless Looting which is card disadvantageous, but that would be a good add-on if the rest of the card was worth a card. The second ability is the one I imagine you play this card for if it’s ever correct to, since it can generate you a lot of mana to cast instants end of turn or whatever if you do have a good creature/instants mix. The third ability does a few damage at best- you’re not going to be casting that many instants and sorceries in the late game, because you won’t have tons of cards left especially if you spent one on this because this isn’t giving you your card back either.
If this card was draw two then discard one, it would be very decent in some decks, but I guess this is just a Constructed plant and that might be too good there. In Limited, I think you’re making a mistake pretty much every time you play it.
Targ Nar, Demon-Fang Gnoll
This is a mix of powerful abilities for a beatdown deck, especially if you’re going wide. +1/+0 to everything is a big game as long as you’re attacking with around three creatures (and not just Equipping this to get the Pack Tactics trigger), and this is a very powerful second ability in the late game that will force them to block.
This seems like a pretty cool card to build around with that second ability, since if you give it trample with Goblin Morningstar plus another solid buff, then it threatens to just one shot them through blockers. It’s a lot of work obviously, but it’ll come up if you’re playing all those cards anyway, and this is a fine one to play. Still, it’s not amazingly powerful like some of the other Gold cards as it takes a while to do anything and isn’t that great at attacking early on.
Trying to cast Tiamat will be a huge mistake for most decks, but if your deck is absolutely loaded with Treasure tokens then you can make it happen, three being the magic number. The issue is you might not even have Dragons to get at that point, so that’s another hoop to jump through, but she’s pretty amazing if you do and they’re dead anyway if they don’t have a removal spell.
I would want 7+ Treasure generators, including a couple of repeatable ones, before I was willing to play this card, and even then we’re talking an incredibly late game play that’s still not incredibly exciting.
Trelasarra, Moon Dancer
You need to get quite a lot of lifegain triggers before this card is really great, but it doesn’t start off bad at all and there are some repeatable ones like Cleric Class and Prosperous Innkeeper that will singlehandedly make this amazing. Even if all you do is get a couple of counters and scry 2 over the course of the game, that’s still a very respectable rate on an okay statline, and there are tons of lifegain cards in Selesnya so I’m inclined to start this high.
Here’s a 2 drop that forces them to have a removal spell or ping effect or you get a ton of incremental value. It’s fantastic when you’re ahead or at parity, and if you’re being beaten down then you can just trade it off and hopefully get a Venture or two first.
The 1 damage every turn will definitely add up too, since the card is essentially unblockable.
Volo, Guide to Monsters
Do you have creatures, preferably of different types? Okay, Volo is insane. It’s really that easy and this isn’t a tribal set where there’s lots of homogenisation of creature types. You won’t have quite so many creatures late and copying 2 drops might be merely good rather than gamewinning, but we’re netpicking on an obviously insane card.
This card is so powerful that even though it does get a lot worse late, I would be happy to splash it.
Xanathar, Guild Kingpin
If you ever untap with Xanathar, Guild Kingpin then your opponent is essentially locked out of the game because you can play stuff until you leave a land on top of their deck every turn. Sure, sometimes you’ll hit a glut of nonlands and run out of mana (this is still an amazingly good scenario for you) and oftentimes they’ll just kill it, but you can just save it until they’re low on cards (this is a good thing to do with any high value creature where you need it to survive) and they only have a one-turn window to deal with it. Aura effects do absolutely nothing, unless they’re Minimus Containment, and a 5/6 is naturally immune to many removal spells in the set anyway…
Bag of Holding
Note: Colourless cards have the opposite effect as Gold cards – they’re better picks early and you should take them about a grade distinction higher, since they go into any deck and leave you open.
I overrated Bag of Holding a bit when it first emerged in Core Set 2020 as a rare, but that was a very aggressive format, much more so than I am expecting AFR to be. I think that ensuring you never flood by pitching your lands and expensive cards, and then being huge card advantage late game, all at a pretty reasonable price, is good enough to warrant a high grade.
That being said, there is more maindeckable artifact removal running around than usual, and that is incredibly good against this card – if you don’t have 4 mana up, you lose all the cards you looted away. I think this is a low C+ overall, and could see going down a bit.
The Deck of Many Things
If the format is fast then this sort of card gets a lot worse, but I’m inclined to believe that games come down to attrition often so far – people run out of resources and have few cards in hand, and then this just wins the game by itself. You don’t want to use this until you have few cards in hand, because it might make you discard your hand, but you wouldn’t really want to until then anyway!
Even in fast decks, having one late game hedge like this to counteract flood really isn’t too bad, but you definitely don’t want to go overboard and mess with your curve. Some decks may not want this, if they have too many other slow things going on or there isn’t space (this goes back to decks being more packed with creatures, Equipment, and your other utility spells), but I think that will be pretty rare and there will be more decks where you’re happy.
This is a pretty medium way to use 3 mana early, but it bridges the gap to 5 mana faster and there are tons of really powerful 5 drops in the set. Still, you definitely risk falling behind versus a fast deck by having this as your turn 3 play.
In the late game, this is solid since it’s a cheap mana sink that mitigates flood. It’s still pretty slow to get a big advantage from it without other Venture stuff, but it’s cheap enough that you can just play stuff alongside it.
Eye of Vecna
I’m not very fond of this card – this is just too much life and mana to pay and not fall behind in a lot of games. You only really want to play it late, and often you won’t be able to if you’ve just stabilised against a beatdown deck. There are better ways to hedge against flood and win late game scenarios.
Fifty Feet of Rope
You mainly play this card for Tie Up which can lock down one of their creatures for a turn, but 3 mana is a lot to pay for a very situational effect – if you have the mana up, your opponent just won’t attack, or will attack with multiple creatures so every turn you’re leaving 3 mana up and not necessarily getting a good effect. Rappel Down is some nice upside alongside this, but 4 mana is quite a lot to have to pay at sorcery speed.
I don’t think this combination of abilities is good enough. Both modes only having an effect in the late game is a detriment to this card too – it just doesn’t do anything for the first five or six turns of the game usually, and then it has a mediocre effect after that.
Equip 5 is a huge amount and will make any removal spells you face absolutely devastating. +4/+0 isn’t even a good buff to be worth all that investment – sure, a small creature can now attack and force a trade, but you spent your entire turn doing this and they can still trade off with their worst creature if your creature doesn’t have a lot of toughness.
Hand of Vecna
This is a lot of life to pay to Equip until you empty your hand, and then later on you can just pay the mana, but you’re probably not getting as substantial a buff at that point. Still, early on this is powerful enough to be worth it – you just play a 2 drop then equip this on turn 3 and your opponent probably is going to have a really hard time removing it and it’ll deal way more damage than you did yourself. A beatdown deck should be able to capitalise and overwhelm them so long as you’re not flooding out. In the late game, you can just move around and have it give small buffs, and it’s not exciting but it’s still doing something minor – since you’re no longer paying life, you can start to hold lands in hand and such.
This is a much better card in a beatdown deck, but removal for huge creatures isn’t plentiful in the format, and I think it’ll make the cut most of the time even elsewhere.
This card is okay filler in any deck – it will attack and trade always, and sometimes that’ll be annoying when they have a deathtouch creature or you’ll have to block something you didn’t want to, but you’re still getting some value pretty much always. My main problem with it is that a lot of decks really want their creatures to stick around so they can equip them later or use them for Green spells like Spoils of the Hunt, or for tricks… this set especially seems kind of bad for this sort of effect, at least if you can’t immediately equip it the turn after you play it. Sometimes you’ll get into the nightmare scenario where they play a 6/6 and you don’t have an answer too…
I don’t think there are enough Equipment synergies in the set that any deck will be happy to have this. Even if you have 4 or 5 Dwarfhold Champions, using your two cards to make a 3/4 Ward 1 really doesn’t sound exciting to me, it has actual anti-synergy with Bruenor Battlehammer since you can just pay something like Duelling Rapier that would ordinarily cost mana to equip and does more, and there really isn’t much else in the set that has direct synergy with Equipments. Making Plate Armor cheaper is not worth spending a card either.
If you’re desperate for Equipment, just play Spare Dagger or some other card that has a noticeable effect.
You never want to spend real cards to make Treasure Tokens, and this ability costs too much mana for too mediocre a body. Perhaps there’s some deck with such insane treasure synergies or such good splashes that it would consider this card, or maybe it just has nothing else going for it and needs to improve its mana desperately, but if you’re not sure then just don’t do it.
This is a really low impact Equipment that you can play if you have the synergies, and should avoid otherwise. There are some high value x/1s and it could certainly be really good out the sideboard, but not enough that you want to maindeck this.
Spiked Pit Trap
This is a fine removal spell, since you can just plop it down turn one and come back to it when it’s relevant and 5 damage kills most things. You can’t rely on this producing a Treasure token, but it doesn’t hurt for your splashes and for ramping to 7 drops either, 55% is a very reasonable chance.
This has some sweet flavour, but it’s too inconsistent to be anything but a meme. The five Treasure tokens mode just isn’t relevant enough of the time by the time you get this out, and if you have synergies then it’s a 40% chance so you can’t rely on it at all. Sometimes rolling a 20 is actually worse than rolling 10-19, which is the actual payoff here, but paying 7 mana to draw three isn’t even good. This is a card that maybe you play if you’re desperate for card advantage and have Treasure synergies, but I would be very unhappy if I had to.
Did this card really have to both produce colourless mana and come into play tapped?? Your deck isn’t going to have many Legendaries in it at all, and having to pay 4 mana and tap one down just to venture isn’t even that good. Play this if you do happen to have 3-4 legendaries and you have enough mana sources that you can afford a colourless land, but otherwise stay away.
Evolving WIlds is your saviour in low fixing sets – it will make your hands better and more consistent, and cause you to lose to screw a lot less. Play it in any deck, take it pretty highly, and consider splashing stuff once you have a couple of this or Temple of the Dragon Queen. It’s not a full extra source because you have to choose 1, but it’s kind of the best you can do this set and that’s why I would look for a couple rather than just have one.
Temple of the Dragon Queen
This is sort of the same card as Evolving Wilds, except okay the deck-thinning on the former is some tiny % beneficial to you and this can come into play untapped every so often. Other than that, just read what I wrote for Evolving Wilds and play this in any deck.
I don’t think enough Treasure synergies exist for me to be really excited by this card, outside of some pretty rare decks. It’s good with Kalain, Reclusive Painter and Ingenious Smith, and it’s fixing for the late game so ordinarily I would be happy enough but…
This is all kind of undone by it being a colourless land. I think the fixing is bad enough this set that you shouldn’t play colourless lands unless you have a good reason to do so or happen to have enough fixing through Treasures or whatever – but the Treasure generators require coloured mana themselves and often cost quite a few mana. Mitigating the number of games you lose to mana screw is really important in Draft, and colourless lands make you that much more likely to have single-colour or otherwise unplayable hands.
Phew, that’s a wrap! Check out the tier list page, where I’ll be updating my ratings regularly whenever I rethink a card or two over the coming months, alongside the occasional written tier list update (check out the last STX one for a glimpse of what’s to come). Over the next few days, I’m going to gather the tips I’ve made throughout this series, go back over my ratings and compile a few more, and release that as its own article. You can check out the individual tips sections on Introduction, Blue, and Red to get an overview of and guideline for the format, until that comes out.
Thanks for reading, enjoy, and I’ll catch you next time!