Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is set to be a hugely impactful Commander product. Not only is there already a huge overlap between D&D and Magic players that are loving the flavor and themes of these preconstructed decks — they serve as an attractive stepping stone for D&D players to get into Magic.
Today, I’ll be taking a look at the Planar Portal deck, which looks to extract incremental advantage and immense power through use of the exile zone!
New Commander Cards
The preconstructed decks on offer this time are packed with new cards, averaging at a whopping 18 new inclusions per deck! Some of them are going to become real players in a number of decks, and Planar Portal has quite a few like this. Here’s a breakdown of the most important new cards in this deck:
Prosper, Tome-Bound is a true value engine. He can grind with the best of them, and give you a reliable mana rebate on any spells cast from exile. Deathtouch makes him an effective defender, and Treasures can be easily abused if you focus on them. Prosper is an excellent and unique commander that would have fared very well in the face of Hullbreacher due to exiling cards instead of drawing them, though he will still hold up admirably against a Notion Thief or Narset, Parter of Veils.
Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant is the villainous alternate commander for the deck. It’s a potent goad commander, letting you get aggressive while maintaining control over your opponents’ combats. They would make for an excellent politics commander for players that still want to turn sideways every turn.
Lorcan, Warlock Collector is a sort of “reverse Reanimator” commander. They could be at the helm of their own deck or slot perfectly into a number of other powerful builds. Syr Konrad, the Grim could make great use of them, adding extra value to milling opponents, and K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth’s excess life gain can be converted to additional bodies to press the advantage.
Hellish Rebuke is 50% Deflecting Palm, 50% Settle the Wreckage, and 100% spite. The iconic D&D spell has been perfectly depicted here, giving you the ultimate payback spell for anyone that tries to cut you down to size. This should dissuade players from attacking you randomly, and serve as punishment for reaching too far. In my opinion, this is also the most flavorful reference that’s been made in all of D&D AFR.
Share the Spoils seems innocuous, but it may end up being one of the most sought-after cards from the entire set. It’s incredible for casual Commander games, giving players access to lands and spells from each other’s decks for as long as it remains on the board. This will certainly help to accelerate the early turns, prevent flood or screw, and inject a little bit of excitement into every game. It may be nightmarish to play with over webcam, so this is one card I’d recommend saving for in-person play.
Fevered Suspicion is a hefty spell, and rightly so. This eight-mana sorcery is an enormous investment, but it guarantees you three random spells on the turn you cast it — and three more the following turn, thanks to rebound. It won’t fit into every deck, but for those that enjoy big splashy spells, this is the top pick of the set.
Finally, Hurl Through Hell is pricey for a creature removal spell, though it’s worth keeping in mind while deck building. Not only is it decent exile removal, but the ability to cast the removed creature gives it excellent utility. It’s not ideal against commanders, as they can be put back to the command zone instead, but any other creature on the board should be concerned for both its safety and allegiance.
Planar Portal Deck Review
Red/black decks tend to find quirky ways to accrue value, especially when compared to their green or blue counterparts. Anje Falkenrath, Chainer, Nightmare Adept, and Grenzo, Dungeon Warden are all perfect examples. Prosper, Tome-Bound is no exception, and will fit right in amongst these other Rakdos commanders. “Exile Matters” isn’t a strategy that’s been properly supported before, and the Tiefling Warlock is the key piece that was needed to make this a powerful and viable deck type.
The entire Planar Portal deck follows Prosper’s main focus: value. Usually, preconstructed decks can be a little lacking when it comes to card advantage, but Planar Portal is chock-full of grind power. It can be a little slow to close out the game, but it’s not much of a downside when the deck is so well equipped to play the long game.
When it comes to value, this deck is pretty impressive. Most preconstructed decks come with a swathe of format staples, and Planar Portal is no exception. You’ll find Sol Ring, Arcane Signet, and Talisman of Indulgence as great ramp additions, and a number of Rakdos staples like Bedevil, Rakdos Charm, and Terminate also make their way into the 99. Vandalblast and Disrupt Decorum are particularly exceptional reprints: they were both starting to trend quite high, so more copies being made readily available is a boon for players.
The total cost of the individual cards in the deck is roughly $100, which is more than twice the price of the deck itself. This shows that Planar Portal continues the recent trend of preconstructed offerings being both great fun and exceptional value.
In terms of power level, Planar Portal is quite strong. I’d put it roughly on par with the Commander 2021 preconstructed decks; a few simple upgrades would make me feel more comfortable about playing it against most mid-level decks.
Upgrading Planar Portal
Playing the deck out of the box feels good, but there are some cards that feel out of place. Piper of the Swarm and Ogre Slumlord feel like strange inclusions, for example, as there are no other rat or sacrifice synergies in the deck. This makes some opening hands and top decks feel awkward, though still perfectly functional.
When upgrading a deck, I tend to focus on one main theme and provide some support for a secondary plan. Prosper, Tome-Bound signposts two very obvious themes: exiling cards and utilizing Treasures. Casting cards from exile gives you Treasures, which helps you exile more cards; this symbiotic relationship can be improved and even weaponized with just a few simple changes to the deck.
The main focal points for this upgrade will be:
- Improving the exile theme and synergies
- Increasing the Treasure generation
- Speeding up the deck’s ability to close the game
Anything that doesn’t compliment either the main game plan or bolster any of the pillars of the upgrade will be replaced by something better suited.
The primary theme of the deck is exiling cards and pulling them into play. Planar Portal is already full of powerful exile effects like Etali, Primal Storm and Dire Fleet Daredevil, so there’s a solid base on which you can build.
For example, Dream Devourer lets you exile your entire hand if you wish, thanks to the foretell mechanic. Not only does this help you play more cards from exile, but it lets you pay some of the spells’ costs before you need them, making it much easier for you to cast multiple spells in a turn.
Valakut Exploration is another great value piece that rewards you for playing lands. It can also act as a form of reach, if you don’t find any decent spells with it.
Laelia, the Blade Reforged is an extremely efficient threat and value engine, and one of the best possible additions to the deck. Not only do they give you extra value, but they can grow to gargantuan proportions in no time, thanks to the synergies with your exile theme.
When your commander can act like a Treasure factory, it’s often worth leaning into the effect. When set up correctly, you can have some incredibly explosive turns, thanks to the extra mana (and artifacts).
Brass’s Bounty is one of the seminal Treasure cards, and one that fits perfectly here. The deck is quite mana intensive, so spending a turn to temporarily double your mana for some powerful plays can easily turn the tables in your favor.
Treasure Vault can provide a similar effect; it’s a fantastic new land that can give you a sudden burst of mana, in exchange for reserving some mana from the previous turn. This is one of the more pricey upgrades, but its effect is worth the inclusion.
Xorn is another new addition from D&D: AFR. They effectively double the mana rebate from Prosper, greatly improve the Treasure synergies in the deck, and also work beautifully with some of your new win conditions…
I’m certain Prosper didn’t sign a deal with a demon without knowing that they could stand to — well, prosper from it. Revel in Riches is quite emblematic of this, and is an extremely reliable win condition for the deck. Controlling ten Treasure tokens is child’s play after upgrades, giving you a much faster way to close the game.
If this proves to be too difficult to maintain, Disciple of the Vault and Reckless Fireweaver both give you a shocking amount of reach. Disciple of the Vault hurts an opponent when you use a Treasure, and Reckless Fireweaver hits all opponents whenever you make one. Both of these creatures can be used to whittle away at your opponents’ life totals while you work; as they’re both extremely low mana investments, they’re ideal for weaponizing your hoard of wealth while you maintain full speed with your value engine.
To round out the upgrades, I’ve added a few utility cards. Malakir Rebirth is an efficient way for you to keep Prosper on board and your engines running, and it can be used as a land in a pinch. Profane Tutor can grab any card from your deck, and since you’ll be casting it from exile, it synergizes well with your commander. Finally, Wheel of Fate is the perfect synergistic wheel effect. It may seem a little slow, but it gives you enough time to either empty your hand or put it into exile with Dream Devourer, allowing you to take advantage of it more than your opponents can.
Example $50 Upgrade
The total cost of this upgrade is roughly $40-50. This is the sweet spot in Commander to me: the power-to-dollar ratio is at its highest around this price point, and can be easily tweaked to increase or decrease in power as you see fit. If you like this deck, you can buy all the upgrade singles at the same time as the preconstructed deck, saving you time as well as money.
Scott is an Irish content creator and the Head of Budget Magic for the Izzet League. He focuses on affordable decks in Pioneer, Modern, and Pauper, particularly ones that stray from the mainstream. When he’s not writing about his favorite decks, he can be found talking incessantly about them on Twitter and on The Budget Magic Cast.