Battle for Baldur’s Gate is upon us, so it’s time for another set review. Today, I’ll break down what’s hot from the set. I won’t be going over what’s not, and it’s likely I’ll skip over any super niche cards that don’t impact your collection enough. I’ll also briefly cover the better cards from the Preconstructed Commander decks worth picking up.
You can find other recent set reviews here:
- Streets of New Capenna
- Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty
- Crimson Vow and Midnight Hunt
- Adventures in the Forgotten Realms
- Modern Horizons 2
- Strixhaven & Strixhaven Commander
Battle for Baldur’s Gate Cycles
The Mythic Dragons are what everyone is talking about, and despite their outrageous mana cost, they are well worth a look. Ancient Copper Dragon and Ancient Silver Dragon are the runaway winners, but the black dragon slots nicely into self mill or haste-based decks, and the white one is still more than playable in tokens based build – though I’d want to be in GW to help power it out.
The original Battlebond lands see a reprint here too, and you know the drill by now – pick these up, because they’ll never be cheaper than when they drop in a new set. Perfect for Commander!
Battle for Baldur’s Gate: White
Let’s kick off with one of the two white bears on everyone’s minds. Archivist of Oghma is fantastic at every power level, and he’ll draw you cards off of tutors as diverse as Vampiric Tutor and Evolving Wilds. Having Flash takes this from good to great. He also makes Path to Exile way more playable in a metagame where ramping opponents is kinda rough to consider.
In Baldur’s Gate, we finally get a better Marshal’s Anthem. Ascend from Avernus is the white mass-reanimation I’ve hungered for, and it’s a slam dunk of a win for non-black white decks. Anthem was always dependent on a lot of white mana; Ascend lets us just pump Mana Geyser or other effects into this, and for the same cost, get back as many creatures as we like.
Myriad makes a return as a mechanic in the set, and I’m pretty high on some of the white options. Battle Angels of Tyr makes Herald of the Host not just playable, but a monstrous value engine. Hammers of Moradin is better than it looks, especially if you can take extra combat steps. Legion Loyalty is a finisher alright, especially when you consider it can double up your Myriad creatures, triggering them twice. At eight mana I’m a little hesitant to recommend it in every build, but it’s a very powerful effect that will be well worth it.
I mentioned a moment ago that I’m less high on Path to Exile lately, especially in games with more tuned decks that aren’t the high end of the format. Contraband Livestock is a fine replacement, and probably displaces Fateful Absence and the like, and a great budget option too. Two mana isn’t leagues more than one.
Far Traveler is one of the better backgrounds. At its floor it’s a way to reset your creatures, Reconnaissance style, but at the ceiling? Your deck is jammed with enters-the-battlefield effects, and you’re getting lots of value. In the 99 of a flicker deck? Now you’re talking.
As far as white legendaries go, the two most likely to perform long-term in your collection are Lae’zel and Lulu. Lae’zel opens up plenty of W/x Superfriends decks, and I’m excited to see what builds emerge in that space. She’s also pretty great in non-green – and even green – based +1/+1 counters decks. Lulu, on the other hand, rewards attacking and using resources like treasure, clues, food, fetchlands, and flicker effects. She’s not hard to turn on, and growing the team alongside an untap is a kingly gift.
Not content to offer us one all-star white card, Lae’zels Acrobatics is also one of my top picks from the set. For a mana more, you have 50% chance your Eerie Interlude malfunctions and gives you an instant flicker before resolving the end step flicker effect. This is incredible in enters-the-battlefield decks. There’s another sweet trick too in Your Temple is Under Attack. There will always be one player you’re happy to give cards to, and a parlay at times is the only way to deal with an archenemy situation. Stapling that to a modal card that is also just solid board wipe protection is a way to make that effect playable. Love it.
Battle for Baldur’s Gate: Blue
Blue has a bunch of cards in this set that care about your own board investments, which sees a marked shift from what blue is usually doing – messing with other people’s stuff. Bane’s Contingency is a fresh take on Cancel, but this time it rewards you with a scry 2 and card draw for protecting a Commander. Neat.
Pretty much all of the blue backgrounds are keyed into a more distinguished board presence for your blue Commander, and I’m more than happy to run these in the 99 of many a deck that wants to win with creatures, whether voltron or go-wide. I particularly like Shameless Charlatan; turning a smaller Commander into an opposing Angel or green fattie to pump up your commander damage is hella cool.
Perhaps the most powerful card in the set, at least for cEDH, is Displacer Kitten. The sheer quantity of decks that can take advantage of this trigger is astounding, and we all know that you’re going to be flickering exactly one card with this most of the time: Dockside Extortionist.
Elsewhere, spellslinger gets some neat pickups. Font of Magic is excellent for basically any Izzet spells deck, from Mizzix to Veyran, and Gale is solid value whether in the zone or in the 99. These will be timeless value pieces for spellslinger going forward and are a good pickup.
Renari, Merchant of Marvels might seem like a hot piece of Dragon support, but I actually feel it’ll see more play in artifact decks. Decks somewhere in between, of course, will see the most benefit, but as it stands, Renari is a flexible and powerful role player I’d be happy to shortlist for my deck.
Blue Voltron also gets some sweet additions in this set, with Robe of the Archmagi a slam dunk in any UW/x Ardenn deck. Equip 4 isn’t unreasonable for this amount of cards, but there are plenty of ways to cheat equip costs these days – or you can just play the right creature types. Goggles of Night is great, too, as a power-creeping Rogue’s Gloves if you’re in blue.
I wasn’t sure what to make of Tomb of Horrors Adventurer when I saw it, and I’m still not sure now. It feels appropriately costed for the effect, and very easy to pop off with. I’m not sure how many decks it goes in, or why, but what an ambitious card.
Battle for Baldur’s Gate: Black
Blue isn’t the only one with great backgrounds: Black has some too. Agent of the Iron Throne is a redundant effect for any number of aristocrats commanders, and one that’s sure to see some play. Cultist of the Absolute, meanwhile, can turn control commanders like Massacre Girl into a three turn clock. I’m most excited to see it do work in Lathril, Blade of the Elves, though. Seems nutty.
I really like Altar of Bhaal in any Orzhov tokens build. Your creature cards end up being huge role players in those decks, and getting to reanimate them by exiling one of the tokens you make incidentally is frankly absurd, especially as this can make a token on an adventure as it is. I’m really high on this card.
We have to talk about Blood Money, because this card is going to overperform in certain situations, but otherwise be dead weight. I’ve said before that board wipes need to be asymmetrical or cheap to be playable, but the fact of the matter is that this is only asymmetrical if you can untap and follow it up. It’s powerful, but don’t be fooled into thinking you don’t need to put the work in to reap the rewards.
I love seeing colored equipment, because it means exploring interesting design space. Pact Weapon is a strong effect in the right deck, and particularly interesting in combination with Celestial Kirin.
Of the black legendaries in the set, I really love Shadowheart, Dark Justiciar, who is an excellent Commander and card in the 99 of decks with big creatures. I’m also weirdly raptured by Viconia, Drow Apostate. Getting cards back from the bin for free is always a good prospect, and you just need to add Tortured Existence to really get your money’s worth.
Battle for Baldur’s Gate: Red
Do you like attacking? Yes? Good. You’ll like the red cards in this set. I’ve enjoyed Coastline Marauders in Isshin quite a bit, and I’ve also enjoyed hasty beats in Chainer too. Balor gives not one, but three valuable attack triggers on a 5/5 Flying body. Elturel Survivors, meanwhile, is a myriad version of Coastline Marauders. Karlarch, meanwhile, is an extra-combat-steps Commander in the command zone. Some people would rather play other colors than Boros, but still might enjoy Aurelia. This is the Commander for them 🙂
Descent into Avernus is pretty chaotic, and in some games, your opponents will no doubt benefit more from it. On the other hand, you can make this work for you pretty well in the right deck, and it’s a reasonable ramp engine for red decks.
The fact that Firbolg Flutist specifies a creature you don’t control is a minor nitpick on an otherwise solid card, and a nitpick that is purely me wanting more than I should have; this would be nutty if it could target your own thing. As it stands, though? An amazing card, and one that can turn the tide when you’re struggling to get damage through an opponent’s meaty blocker.
Of the red backgrounds, I like Guild Artisan and Street Urchin the most. Cheap red ramp is always welcome, and so is a backup sacrifice outlet that can by all means live in the command zone. They’re also uncommons, so will be really easy to pick up.
I love a cheap Dragon, and although I’m mostly excited to add Swashbuckler Extraordinaire to Sylvia & Khorvath, it’s not only a roleplayer there; in any deck that has reliable treasure production, this is a straight up win condition. Sure, True Conviction and Fiery Emancipation offer a lot more, but this guy is only three mana. I expect this to make waves once people figure out how good it is.
Red also brings two fantastic interaction cards to this set, and they’re two I expect to see a lot of play going forward. Wild Magic Surge is a cheaper Chaos Warp that sacrifices the ability to interact with indestructible permanents in order to ensure that the permanent you “warp” doesn’t come back to haunt you. A slam dunk in mono red, and playable outside of it still too.
Wyll’s Reversal is a cheaper Wild Ricochet 25% of the time, and still solid the rest of the time at three mana. Red loves these kinds of tricks, and I am always happy to play them. If you can’t afford Deflecting Swat, this happily stands in alongside Bolt Bend.
Battle for Baldur’s Gate: Green
Barroom Brawl feels right at two mana. Occasionally, it’ll peak, and wipe most of the board. But honestly? The archenemy player is unlikely to copy this if it means losing out, and if they’re sitting to your left, you’re kinda screwed. Super fun, but way too variable.
Green gets flying Dragons, as a treat. It at least feels appropriate for a D&D set. Earthquake Dragon joins Ghalta as a card that never really costs very much at all, with a splash of Multani’s recursive power. If you’re playing big Dragons, you’ll want it. Emerald Dragon is a great example of how to give card advantage without drawing cards, though I’d argue that white deserves it more and has the more playable version in Crystal Dragon. It’s still good though, if you aren’t in blue.
Green has some fun graveyard interaction in this set. Erinis, Gloom Stalker is just the kind of card I love. It slots into deathtouch focused builds, but also GY focused ones, especially in the BG/x sphere. Split the Spoils is actually really sweet considering the pile that isn’t chosen doesn’t remain in exile – it’s fairly risk free.
Jaheira is better than she looks, and she looks incredible. Don’t sleep on the fact that she lets you tap your tokens for mana, not just your creature tokens. That’s clues, treasures, food… she turns the lot into mana. I feel like ten years ago this would have said Creature Tokens, and we’d have had an expensive Izzet one for non-creature tokens, so that goes some way to framing how powerful this effect is.
Scott said it best in his affordable staples article: a green version of Inkshield is more than playable. Jaheira’s Respite is the kind of late game blowout that helps to accelerate things toward a conclusion, and it’s honestly pretty strong. Just pack plenty of basics.
Majestic Genesis won’t fit in every deck, but the ones it does? Man, this is gonna be a huge tempo swing. Apex Devastator is underplayed as it is, and this has the potential to outshine it. I like it most in decks with expensive commanders that can be made cheaper or ramped out; think Ghalta, or the Ur-Dragon.
Monster Manual asks us if we want an Elvish Piper that can be used straight away, and then staples a cheeky bit of recursion on top. This card is very impressive, and is sure to show up across from you at Commander tables. Quicksilver Amulet wishes it were this good.
I can’t round out the section on green without mentioning one of the Background Commanders likely to see a lot of play. Wilson, Refined Grizzly is the epitome of a fun, casual build. Whether it’s bear tribal, voltron, or just a deck full of in-jokes, Wilson is sure to be a sweet buildaround. As for the card itself? Ward 2, vigilance, reach and trample on an uncounterable two-drop is bonkers value.
Battle for Baldur’s Gate: Multicolor
There are some solid multicolor options for color combinations crying out for something fresh. Dynaheir is a Jeskai value Commander that’s perfectly capable of initiating combos, and she looks like a lot of fun. Jan Jansen, Chaos Crafter also has haste, which is fantastic. You’ll no doubt enjoy plenty of fun loops with this Mardu Commander. Nine-Fingers Keene may as well have Hexproof, given 9 life is a lot. She’s sure to make a splash, given we have more common and uncommon gates available in Sultai colors to make Maze’s End a viable wincon. If you enjoyed Damia, you’ll probably enjoy jumping through hoops here too.
Miirym, Sentinel Wyrm is likely to be one of the most popular Commanders from the set, and I’ll have an article up soon on some of the more fun things you can do with it – mostly involving Sneak Attack. The Orbs of Dragonkind all fit into this build, with the Carnelian Orb being the one most useful to other Commanders.
There are plenty of sweet uncommon legendaries in Battle for Baldur’s Gate, but I think Minthara is secretly one of the strongest. It’s not hard to sacrifice permanents in Orzhov, and it’s probably a good job that this is only limited to your own turn, as an anthem version of Meren would be bonkers good if it triggered each time a creature died. Ward X makes Minthara way more playable, too.
I never expected to be so excited about a mana dork Commander, but here we are. Raggadragga lets you attack with buffed dorks, before untapping them?! Sheeeesh. If that’s not enough for you, it also buffs the payoff creatures too. I love this design, and I expect it to be reasonably powerful, if not downright scary.
You love to see it: niche tribe support! Raphael, Fiendish Savior is a fine tribal payoff that unifies all manner of spooky boys. +1/+1 and lifelink is solid, and if Lyra Dawnbringer was in colors that drew more cards, more people would play her. Rakdos can draw more cards – this is a solid Commander.
I guess Wizards got the memo when Resident Evil: Village released. People like what they like. As it stands, Tasha protects herself, and is a fine home for all of the cards from the Gonti & Umbris school of stealing. She’s gonna be easy to build, fun (for you) to play, and I expect to see her a lot.
Let’s not miss the spicier uncommons, though. Kagha is the kind of Golgari Commander that those who have played the format a while will latch onto; it’s more casual and less broken than Meren, and it does something a little different.
Korlessa is a role player in the 99 but also an absurdly good blocker in the Command Zone that enables your deck. Mahadi is a rakdos Gadrak, and probably knocks most Gadrak decks out of popularity, as adding a second color is oftentimes just better.
Battle for Baldur’s Gate: Artifacts & Lands
Take a rest, foul Tarnished, for we are nearly through. Campfire is a great tool, and one that gets me excited. It somehow manages to blend Elixir of Immortality with Command Beacon, and I love it. No longer do you have to fear your graveyard being exiled; that lost grace is instead shuffled back in. Budget superstar for sure.
There are some solid mana rocks in the set, and I think many of them are highly playable. Decanter of Endless Water goes in most decks that care about Thought Vessel, for example. Patriar’s Seal is a little more powerful, and serves to push the power of Commanders with tap abilities, and Samut decks featuring Selvala. Stonespeaker Crystal is a reason to play a four mana rock that isn’t Thran Dynamo or Nyx Lotus; incidental grave hate is strong, especially when it replaces itself. Navigation Orb, on the other hand, is a little too expensive to serve much use outside of Limited.
Fraying Line is neat. It creates a minigame of “chicken”, to see when the rope fails. Ironically, the more creatures are saved with rope counters, the more incentive there is to also pay – at least until you hit diminishing returns when you’re down to tokens or other inconsequential stuff. Flashing this in on someone’s end step is actually a really satisfying reflection of how this mechanic would work in a pinch, and you know I love when flavor meets function. Very cool card.
The vehicles in this set are amongst some of the most pushed ones I’ve seen for some time. Ward-Discard is always good, especially when it’s strapped to a Colossal Dreadmaw that draws two when it connects. Nautiloid Ship feels black, but is somehow colorless. When it’s good, it’s great, but some games it’ll fail to do much. Part of me thinks this card is a little too good for the cost, but I want to be proven wrong.
I am offended that Rug of Smothering isn’t a sheepskin rug so that we could name it Smothering Hide, but that’s neither here nor there. This is a healthy hatepiece, and I’m glad it exists. It’ll see more play in cEDH than regular EDH for sure.
Most of the gates are fairly pedestrian, but Baldur’s Gate looks big enough for a trebuchet to fit through. More importantly, it’s a kind of Nykthos/Cabal Coffers effect for Gates. This is really good in Gates decks, and is likely to age like a fine wine.
Baldur’s Gate Commander Precon Cards You’ll Want To Grab
Some of the more exciting spells in the precons are the additional backgrounds. Folk Hero is likely to be a premier source of card draw in white tribal decks going forward, and the artwork is fantastic. Passionate Archaeologist is likewise almost an auto-include in any heavy impulse draw based deck; at the very least, this will slot right in Prosper. Clan Crafter is a little less obvious, but there artifact decks are dime-a-dozen, so it’ll find many homes.
Ah, yes. The other white bear that’s on everyone’s minds. Deep Gnome Terramancer is honestly probably Legacy D&T playable? This thing triggers off of fetch lands, Path to Exile, Cultivate… I really like this card, and I think it’s a slam dunk for any White deck. The cherry on top of the cake is that it doesn’t care if you have more lands already – you still get to search.
Next up are two cards I could see doing a lot of work in more high powered and cEDH level games. Aboleth Spawn lets you copy an opponent’s Dockside Extortionist trigger, and because of Active-Player/Non-active-Player ordering, your trigger will then resolve first, so you’re free to try and win in someone else’s turn. Flash and Ward 2 takes this from playable to downright strong.
Green Slime, on the other hand, is a way to not only get rid of powerful pieces like Rhystic Study or Smothering Tithe, but also stop them triggering at all. That’s how it’ll be used in Casual metas, at any rate. Holding this over an Isochron Scepter player seems pretty funny too.
As I wrote last week, Goad is really hot right now. What’s better than cloning an opponent’s creature? Goading it, of course. Having a copy of something scary and forcing it out of blocking range and into the red zone is a great way to win a game.
The Party Time deck seems absolutely stacked with great cards, and Black Market Connections is another new one that takes Phyrexian Arena and turns it up a notch. You get the benefit of your draw step to decide your plan of action, and then you can pick any or all of the modes. Five life for a token, a card, and a treasure? That’s a pretty good deal.
There are some pretty chonky flyers in the decks too, with Brainstealer Dragon being at once a great card for the exile-and-play-opponent’s-cards archetypes, but also a great fit for reanimator decks that want to steal other player’s stuff. In that regard, it acts as a second copy of Terror of the Peaks. Solemn Doomguide is mostly going to excite Cleric or Rogue tribal players.
Delayed Blast Fireball is a really neat take on an asymmetrical wipe, but this time in Red. What makes this so cool is that you can get the cast from exile effect by impulse drawing this spell rather than foretelling it.
Wrapping things up is Spectacular Showdown. You know how Black Market Connections is pretty much a better Phyrexian Arena? Well, this feels like a better Insurrection. It’s cheaper, and it leaves your opponents very dead – though I would say it require you to have a board to be truly worth casting.
And there you have have it – another set review complete. There are a bunch of other niche cards in the set, but I hope this review today has put a spotlight on the cards that’ll have the biggest impact on your collection. Did you go to a Battle for Baldurs Gate draft? What did you open? Let me know on Twitter.
Kristen is a lover of both Limited and Commander, and can most often be found championing the Boros Legion when called upon to sit down and shuffle up. As a member of the Commander Advisory Group, Kristen lives and breathes Commander. When she’s not playing Magic, she works as a freelance writer and editor in the UK.