Last updated on July 30, 2021
Tiamat | Illustration by Chris Rahn
I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons since I was a kid. Baldur’s Gate and Diablo were some of the first video games I ever played, and I’ve got a Neverwinter Nights tattoo on my wrist. I’ve DM’ed some pre-made campaigns and built plenty of worlds, settings, and stories from the ground up for my players. I own all of (and have read some of) R.A. Salvatore’s Forgotten Realms novels.
All of that to say that I absolutely love Dungeons & Dragons. You might even say I’m a bit obsessed, and honestly you’d be right.
Magic came to me much more recently in the last few years. You can imagine how over-the-moon excited I was when I heard that the two were collaborating on MTG’s end for the first time. Sure, Magic has crossed into D&D’s lore a few times in the past, but we’ve never had D&D join the Multiverse before.
D&D: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is finally here. So grab your best dice, fill out your character sheets, and let’s roll initiative!
About the Set
Shessra, Death’s Whisper | Illustration by Marie Magny
This set is an interesting one, and not just because of the lore and flavor. If you’re familiar with Magic’s typical releases, you’ll know that the summer set is usually the year’s core set. This year, however, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms has replaced a normal core set.
This means that it’s going to be Standard-legal, of course, but it’s also got some interesting implications. Core sets are usually aimed towards new players, featuring cards and mechanics that can easily be added into various MTG products like welcome decks, planeswalker decks, and deck builder’s toolkits. Cards in core sets also sometimes have reminder text for mechanics and abilities on the card itself.
Core sets also don’t contribute to Magic’s overall storyline and don’t usually have a unified story across their cards. They simply print cards with mechanics and themes to bolster upcoming blocks or give answers for overpowered cards from recent sets. So what does this mean for Forgotten Realms?
Well, we already know that this set isn’t going to be part of Magic’s Multiverse lore-wise. Which is… interesting. And honestly comes off as a little bit lazy in terms of creative storytelling, but it is what it is.
We’ll get to that in a bit more detail later, though.
Some Backstory: D&D’s World
Hired Hexblade | Illustration by Irina Nordsol
Let me just crack my knuckles and lore vomit all over you before we get into the set itself.
Sorry for that visual.
The main location for a lot of Forgotten Realms stories is Faerûn, a major continent on the planet of Toril. A lot of lore focuses on the Sword Coast and heroes of the area including the Spine of the World to the North and Baldur’s Gate further South. Some other notable places in Faerûn are the Anauroch desert, Amn, and Thay.
Just like Magic, the Forgotten Realms has more than one realm as the name implies (usually called “planes”), which is also called the multiverse. Faerûn is in the Prime Material Plane. There’s also the Feywild or the plane of Faerie, which exists as an echo of the Prime Material Plane. It’s where the fey are from and is a plane of really potent magic. My favorite is the Far Realm, a plane of Lovecraftian horrors (called aberrations in D&D) that lies “outside” of the rest of the multiverse.
Forgotten Realms has focused on Faerûn and the Prime as they’re the biggest part of D&D and probably the most well-known and commonly referenced, though there are some splashes from other planes as well.
Merging Magic and D&D
Fly | Illustration by Lie Setiawan
I know I already mentioned that Wizards nixed Forgotten Realms’ inclusion as part of Magic’s canon lore, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still marvel at how R&D has sprinkled the magic of D&D in this set. I’ll get to how they incorporated some of D&D’s mechanics in a bit, but for now it’s all about the flavor. And I, for one, think they did a great job.
There’s plenty of iconic items, characters, and scenarios from D&D sprinkled throughout Forgotten Realms’ cards. I was excited to see references to Neverwinter Nights (I got irrationally giddy when I saw that one of the Swamps mentioned the Mere of Dead Men) and Baldur’s Gate (another Swamp card) along with the classic tabletop stuff. Obviously we have the beautifully-illustrated Potion of Healing, the tricky Mimic, and the somewhat charming, over-the-top, swaggering likes of Volo, Guide to Monsters, among many others.
One thing I particularly enjoy is the various D&D spells peppered throughout the set with some pretty cool and well-executed effects. From the simplistic Fly to the “this is going to cause problems” Wish, I’m definitely going to be making more than one deck themed around my favorite spellcasting characters. Oh, and some creatures (like Baleful Beholder) even have a “choose one” effect where you get to basically cast a famous D&D spell.
The next thing I want to call out is the “choose one” instants. Black is the only color that isn’t graced with this fun Dungeon Master-esque addition, which I am incredibly disappointed by, but I’m excited enough about Forgotten Realms in its entirety to let it slide just this once. This is the kind of thing that makes me want to create a whole D&D-meets-Magic format for me and my friends. You Meet in a Tavern is particular fun to me, flavor-wise at least.
I could probably do an entire piece just going over the “story” of this set and how they’ve incorporated some awesome D&D flavor within Magic’s existing mechanics and rules. All the little flavor text additions, cool spells, references, characters and items, etc. A lot of it mixes with the mechanics of the set, though, so I’ll stop myself for now and move on to that. Onward!
Well, you can’t have a D&D set and not deliver on the dungeons part! Dungeons are a brand new card type being introduced into Magic.
Here’s everything you need to know:
- Dungeons are a new card type that start outside of the game.
- When you “venture into the dungeon” (a new keyword action) for the first time, you choose one of the three dungeons (which are all probably familiar to you if you’ve been around D&D for a bit). The dungeon goes in the command zone with a “venture” marker on the first room, and its first ability triggers.
- Each subsequent time you venture into the dungeon, you get to move one step forward within the dungeon.
- When you complete the last room, the last ability resolves and the card is removed from the game.
- You can only be in one dungeon at a time.
- After completing a dungeon, you’re free to start another dungeon or make your way through the one you just completed.
This is a no-brainer. We got plenty of dragon creatures in this set, and I am loving them. We even got a few different flavors as pets in MTG Arena, which you can snag from the Mastery Pass if you’re so inclined.
Enchantment – Class
Bard Class | Illustration by Andrew Mar
I love this addition to Magic. I doubt we’ll be seeing this in many other sets considering how unique it is to D&D, but it’s still general enough that R&D could adapt it to other stories and sets.
Each of the 12 base classes from D&D has been represented by its own enchantment card, with a new subtype: class. These cards sit on the battlefield and provide you with some very flavorful effects. You start out at level 1, which will be the “weakest” of the card’s three effects. From there you can pay a “level up” cost (as a sorcery) to advance to level 2, and then finally to level 3.
The effects stack, so if you pay to level up to the enchantment’s level 2 state, you receive both that and the previous level 1 effect. Level 3 gives you all three of the card’s effects. Keep in mind that while some of the effects can trigger multiple times based on their criteria, some only trigger once when you actually level up.
These also do a fairly good job of giving you an idea what each color and color combo is aiming to do. White has Cleric Class and Paladin Class, which revolve around rewarding you for lifegain and bolstering your creatures respectively. Blue has Wizard Class which is a very “bulk up your hand” card while black’s got the damage-focused Warlock Class.
Red has Barbarian Class (better dice rolls and combat) while Druid Class (land, land, land) and Ranger Class (creatures) are in green. The remaining five (Bard Class, Fighter Class, Monk Class, Rogue Class, Sorcerer Class) cover five of the ten color combos with a mix of allied and enemy pairs.
Roll a D20
Herald of Hadar | Illustration by Valera Lutfullina
It wouldn’t be a D&D set if there was no dice rolling! Plenty of cards have a new “roll a d20” effect. Some are triggered abilities, while some have an activate cost associated with them. Most also have some kind of flavor thrown in, like Lightfoot Rogue’s d20 ability being called “Sneak Attack” and giving it deathtouch at the very least or deathtouch, first strike, and +3/0 at the most with the infamous nat20.
This mechanic is pretty simple, as you saw. Either when it’s triggered or you pay its cost, you’ll roll a d20 and one of three things will happen. Rolling a 1-9 will give a (usually) moderately favorable effect, 10-19 is pretty good, while a nat20 will send you over the moon.
I’m a bit disappointed that we don’t have a nat1 “you’ve just screwed yourself” effect. The whole idea of rolling is that a nat20 is going to be great, while a nat1 means you’ve failed miserably and have to face the consequences. It adds a bit of risk to everything, and it’s a shame R&D didn’t carry that through into this mechanic.
Shambling Ghast | Illustration by Dave Kendall
I’ve already raved about the flavor in this set. I know this. But I’d be remiss to not mention it here since it does add a lot of fun to the mechanics in the set.
Lots of cards have (I think) successfully merged flavor and mechanics within Forgotten Realms. Take one of my favorite cards in the set as an example: Shessra, Death’s Whisper. (Side note: I’d like to formally thank Marie Magny for her absolutely bewitching art.)
Both of Shessra’s abilities, “Bewitching Whispers” and “Whispers of the Grave,” are named after invocations from D&D. This is a common theme. Most of these flavor-named abilities are also named after spells or invocations from D&D, but there are also some other iconic abilities that feature like the previously mentioned “Sneak Attack” from Lightfoot Rogue.
The basic lands from this set feature flavor text on the card, which is new for lands. They’re also written from the perspective of a DM talking to their player. Definitely very cool.
We got a few new creature types including halflings and citizens. We also got rangers reintroduced to the mix. Another fun fact for citizen creatures: they got black borders, which were previously only used on tokens and test cards.
Trelasarra, Moon Dancer | Illustration by Kieran Yanner
This one bummed me out a little bit. As we saw with our beloved queen Lolth, some famous D&D characters were given planeswalker status. That being said, Wizards made it clear that this doesn’t mean that any of these characters have the planeswalker spark (?):
To get it out of the way: This doesn’t mean that these characters (like our one true queen Lolth) have a Planeswalker Spark. You won’t be seeing Lolth traveling to Strixhaven to hang out with the Witherbloom students any time soon.Wizards of the Coast
Look, I mentioned already that Wizards has made some disappointing choices for this set in not merging D&D’s lore with Magic’s. Making a deity from D&D a planeswalker and then having to explain that they don’t actually follow Magic’s established lore for this type of card is… odd. Legendary creature? God subtype? Never heard of her.
I’m honestly really confused by this decision. ATHL337 put it perfectly:
We’ve got the typical spread for products with Forgotten Realms, so there’s nothing new or ground-breaking here. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Here’s what you can expect to get in these packs of goodness:
- 6 AFR draft boosters
- 1 foil rare/mythic rare with a foil year stamp
- 3 foil dungeon cards
- 1 d20 with the AFR expansion symbol
- 1 reusable deck box with divider
- 1 code card for free packs on MTG Arena
There are three variations of the set boosters: the mind flayer from True Polymorph, Grand Master of Flowers, and a Blue Dragon. These little packs are much more likely to contain multiple rares than the draft boosters, so these are what you want if that’s your aim.
The Forgotten Realms set boosters contain:
- At least 1 rare or mythic rare
- 1 foil card, any rarity
- 1 art card or foil-stamped art card
- 7-10 commons and uncommons
- 1 basic land or foil basic land
- 1 ad/token/dungeon card or 1 card from The List
- 1 Rulebook, module, or borderless common or uncommon (details)
You can get set boosters either individually or in displays of 30 packs. Wizards is also offering an exclusive promo with the Alessandra Pisano art version of Vorpal Sword: you may be eligible for a special foil Buy-a-Box promo if you purchase a display. Make sure to ask your LGS if they’re offering this special first, though, if you’re only aiming for the exclusive Sword art.
Here’s what you get in these:
- 1 rare or mythic rare
- 3 uncommons
- 10 commons (33% of packs will have a traditional foil of any rarity instead)
- 1 basic land
- 1 ad/token/dungeon card
Similarly to the set boosters, you can get draft boosters individually or in display boxes of 36 packs and could be eligible for the Vorpal Sword Buy-a-Box promo.
The collector boosters features art of a Beholder. Very cool. These are great to collect all the best cards of the set as they’ve got multiple rares/mythic rares, some fun variants, foils, and extended-art versions of Forgotten Realms cards in each pack.
Collector boosters can also be purchased individually or in displays of 12 packs. The same Buy-a-Box promo applies with these.
These special collector packs contain:
- 1 foil extended-art, showcase, or borderless rare/mythic rare
- 1 foil showcase or borderless common/uncommon
- 1 showcase or borderless rare/mythic rare
- 2 showcase or borderless commons/uncommons
- 1 extended-art rare/mythic rare commander
- 1 extended-art rare/mythic rare
- 1 foil rare/mythic rare
- 2 foil uncommons
- 4 foil commons
- 1 foil basic land
- 1 foil double-sided token
As we’ve come to expect with the major sets in Magic, we got four preconstructed Commander decks with Forgotten Realms. There’s Aura of Courage, Dungeons of Death, Draconic Rage, and Planar Portal.
We’ll be getting 17 new cards in each deck, which also contain:
- 1 foil-etched display commander
- 100 cards including 2 foil legendary creatures
- 10 double-sided tokens
- 1 life wheel die
- 1 deck box
There are five mono-colored theme boosters plus a sixth focusing on the new dungeon mechanic. These are great if you’re looking to collect new cards for a deck you’ve already built. Grab a booster for your preferred color or the dungeon booster if you want to venture a little further into that new mechanic.
Each booster contains:
- 1-2 rares/mythic rares
- 33-34 commons and uncommons
- The D&D team worked with the Magic team on every aspect of this first-time D&D tcg set, with extensive input on the visuals and lore of the cards
- The Dungeons & Dragons team worked with the Magic team on every aspect of this first-time D&D tcg set, with extensive input on the visuals and lore of the cards. Each box has 12 theme booster packs (6 versions: 2 packs of each). Each pack has 35 cards.
- English (Publication Language)
Forgotten Realms Bundle
This set bundle is a nice package of stuff that makes a pretty good gift. These are great if you want a little something extra, and they’ve got oversized versions of the three Forgotten Realms dungeon cards. Pretty cool collector items if you want something like that.
Here’s what you get in here:
- 10 AFR draft boosters
- 3 oversized dungeon cards
- 10 foil basic lands
- 20 non-foil basic lands
- 1 exclusive alternate-art card
- 1 exclusive oversized d20
- 1 card storage box
If you’ve got someone in your life that’s really into Magic, or maybe someone that loves D&D and you want an excuse to gently guide them into MTG, this is the perfect bundle for you. This is basically the regular bundle meets the collector booster, along with its own exclusive d20.
Potion of Healing | Illustration by Pauline Voss
That’s all I’ve got for you for the time being. As unsure as I was about the set when I first started diving into it, I’m actually pretty pleased with the final result. R&D has done a great job merging the flavor of D&D into Magic and its existing mechanics, and I think the new additions will fit right in.
What about you? If you’re a long-time D&D player or DM, what were you happy to see included in the set? Was there anything you hoped to see that was left out? Are you unhappy with anything that was included? And on the flip side, if you’re completely unfamiliar with D&D, what are your thoughts on this whole thing?
I’m already binging MTGA to collect every single card I can, including drafts and any event I can manage. If you’re going to do the same, may I recommend Arena Tutor? I know, that was such a smooth segue. Save your applause for later, thank you. In all seriousness, though, it’s a great tracker with our signature Draftsim AI built right in, so it’s worth a try if you draft a lot.
Finally, Draftsim now has a comprehensive draft guide on this set right here. If you’re planning to ever draft this set, it’s a must read.
I’m all promo’ed out, though. Thanks for hanging out with me today. Have a good one, and stay safe!
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