- Adventures in the Forgotten Realms
With Innistrad: Midnight Hunt on the horizon and the current Pauper meta still arguably warped by a few choice selections released in Modern Horizons II last June, MTG's most recent "Dungeons & Dragons" themed set Adventures in the Forgotten Realms has seemed to have been just that, largely forgotten.
Initially, I thought to skip this set due to its lackluster mechanics, the limited number of playable pieces, and the overwhelmed state of the community by the crater MH2 left behind.
Having said that, I decided to take another objective pass at this release. Maybe I'm just drained from the current vibe of the format, maybe I'm twiddling my thumbs until some sweet Innistrad spoilers start seeping in?
I don't know, but in the spirit of celebrating the brewing process (not just competitively), I realized that this set does offer value in the way of versatility and I think that's deserving of a second look.
If I'm being fair (and I do aim to be), there's at least a handful of pieces that would make my growing community list of Pauper staples.
For a recap of 'The Cauldron', our evergreen Pauper staples list, check out this free resource and article here.
First and foremost, I don't believe there's a competitive home to many of these picks, but if Pauper Cube, jank brewing, or pure unadulterated fun is your thing, then there are some treasures to be found here. If you're after competitive recommendations be forewarned this one might not be for you.
Secondly, aside from the absolutely rad card art offered in this set by one of my favorite metal album cover contributors
Dan Mumford, I didn't consider "Roll a D20" based cards as much. While interesting, the mana costs were just too high to pay, though I do respect the design of these cards, at least the effects seem balanced and tend to get better the higher you roll. Additionally, the dungeon mechanic was not featured here either because you have to spend too many resources to even complete a dungeon with so little to offer in the way of a payoff.
Where I think this set does offer something is in terms of value generation by introducing its situational cards. If Pauper is a format with a high "answers-to-problems" ratio, cards that offer options and versatility for those answers should be discussed. In this way, you can choose all-purpose answers to situations and that's worth mentioning.
Ok, I've rambled a bunch and then I sorted by color and once again alphabetically to bring this list so let's jump into what you came here for.
This pretty little horse stands out as an inclusion in some type of Soul Sisters or lifegain deck due to its passive trigger.
Slightly weaker against Guardian of the Guildpact when compared to Blood Researcher, this mythical beast allows for some respectable horsepower in a mono-white build.
Dawnbringer Cleric is essentially a Light of Hope with a thicc little butt for some early game blocks that can be cheaply exploited with Ephemerate.
Priest of Ancient Lore is an interesting piece that gives us access to a somewhat reversed Phyrexian Rager, but in white. This type of color-shifting is always cool to see.
Stop, listen, what's that sound?
It's the choking sound of a Gurmag Angler getting 2-for-1'd at instant speed. Alternatively, this is a cheap way to grow those flying weenies if you're trying to go in for some aerial damage.
For one white mana, Make a Retreat allows you to quickly bounce a threat back to your hand getting around a pesky Cast Down or even an early game Chainer's Edict. Stand and Fight gives you the option for a cheeky combat trick on an unsuspecting opponent. For a dollar, this spell does a lot.
Is it amazing? No. Is it fun? Sure, why not?
A bit expensive, but for mid-to-late game needed gas, making a call to old Sauron makes Contact Other Plane a cool inclusion in your Pauper draft cube. Also the more I look at this card art the more hilarious it becomes.
"You listen here eyeball!"
If you're going to break out a few extra D20s to roll around during your match, then you might as well run Pixie Guide for maximum fun. If someone is telling you to absolutely not shove this into your Ninja/Faeries list, just remember, they're probably not your real dad...
Cheap artifacts are always worth looking at. Though not as good as a Faerie Seer, a flying 1/1 robot bird that shows you a card isn't anything to scoff at and could be fun to build a bit with.
Quoth the artificial raven, "batteries low."
You Come to a River is another one of those "Choose your adventure" type of deals. A bit of a splashable Boomerang effect that can also allow you to walk through your opponent's defenses for some damage. Seems appropriately priced.
Another instant one-drop that can be used in great effect to tap a threat's activated ability before use or just straight up on upkeep. I don't know of many strictly creature-based brews in blue, but I would defintely consider throwing this in a Simic Infect list for technology.
If there was a card from this list to see regular play in the meta, it would be this. Deadly Dispute is a straight upgrade to Costly Plunder with the added benefit of generating a treasure token for mana advantage. Not a bad play with Ichor Wellspring for your spicy Black Metal artifacts deck.
Clearly, Devour Intellect is an attempt at printing Thoughtseize at common and I respect that. I don't know that I would play this over Duress in an answer-heavy format like Pauper, but I appreciate the attempt, especially if you've got Treasure tokens to spend.
If you're building a list that needs more copies of Undying Evil, then Feign Death is for you. Reanimating a Thorn of the Black Rose seems good and always welcomed on a Gurmag Angler or Ulamog's Crusher as a hedge against removal.
I'm seeing a trend with black here on cheap ways to make treasure tokens. Being a Zombie this could replace Festering Goblin and be an out for Gempalm Polluter until it needs to be sacrificed for your many dark purposes.
I think this piece could be interesting when equipped to a black Infect creature like Flensermite, Plague Stinger, or Vector Asp and the treasure can help pay the cost to equip.
Disagree? Take it up with my lawyer.
I don't think Affinity has the available card slots to accommodate this, but for off-meta artifact builds not on the Fling plan, you could perhaps accelerate your Myr Enforcer, Sojourner's Companion, or even Atog for some reflexes.
Similar to You're Ambushed on the Road, this piece does quite a lot for one red mana so I'm including it on the list here. Even if you're not venturing into any dungeons (because why would you?) it's still a nice dollar menu item.
I'm including You Find a Cursed Idol in the list because, well... frankly, I didn't see much offered in green from this set, and rather than trigger an obsessive-compulsive episode writing this article, I do like the idea of a Naturalize tacked onto another treasure vehicle. So here we are.
Leather Armor offers one of the few equipment options that can be activated at instant speed in the format. I think this could make for some interesting creature protection tech if anything than to counter a Lightning Bolt either by hook or by crook.
To round out our inclusion of treasure generators in the set, Mimic is just a cool card design that matches the flavor well. It's not a bad piece if you always wanted to pretend you're playing Mishra's Factory in Pauper and the art is classic.
Ok, can I just say come on with this sick Evolving Wilds art? This was a piece that I was most excited about picking up from this set to include as an awesome alter to one of the best non-basics in the format. Wild indeed!
That's the conclusion of my picks. I had much more fun reviewing this set than I initially expected so I'm glad I decided to share some takes that no one at all asked for. I do love the altered card art with this set, the Evolving Wilds campaign books were a nice touch and completely on theme for the flavor of this release.
When autumn rolls around and we prepare for the most spooky season of the year, I'm hoping to review some good stuff from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt releasing next month on September 24th! Until next time...
Thanks for reading!