What in the how? There’s Dragons and Dungeons in my Magic?!
D&D: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is the newest Magic the Gathering set to be released. Basically, this set brings D&D’s Forgotten Realms setting, complete with recognizable characters, spells and creatures into the fold. This set introduces a number of new mechanics, card variants and some gorgeous new art to make you wiggle with joy.
Unfortunately, you’ll only be seeing the elements from the Forgotten Realms setting, and not other popular settings such as Ebberon, Ravenloft or Dragonlance. It’s the first time we’re seeing the extensive world of D&D make its way into Magic’s equally huge world. Magic on the other hand, has been added into the D&D 5th edition already with the source books Guildmasters’ Guide of Ravinca, Mythic Odysseys of Theros, and soon, Strixhaven: Curriculum of Chaos . If you’re wondering how these crossovers came to be, you only have to look so far as both games’ parent company, Wizards of the Coast, who own both titles.
Like other MtG expansions, D&D: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms brings in new game mechanics to shake things up and create new possibilities.
Venture into the Dungeon
The first and most complex of the new mechanics is ‘Venture into the Dungeon’. There is a new card type, dungeons, that hold their own, unique, spot. Dungeons don’t take up the spot of a normal card in your deck. Each dungeon is broken down into levels that you progress through every time another card tells you to ‘Venture into a dungeon’. Some levels will offer you multiple paths, offering different effects for that level. Eventually you’ll complete the dungeon, gaining the most powerful effects and then having the option of starting a new dungeon, or replaying the same one.
Many cards also reward other powerful benefits for having completed a dungeon. As of now, there are only three dungeons available, Tomb of Annihilation, Lost Mine of Phandelver, and the Dungeon of the Mad Mage (all three are well known dungeons in the Forgotten Realms).
One of my favourite mechanics in D&D is the classes. Classes are so definitive in both play style and flavor, it would have been a shame to leave them out of this crossover. Classes, as far as the new MtG mechanic, are modified enchantments. These card are summoned onto the battlefield for their mana cost like any other enchantment. You then are able to increase the classes level by paying their ability cost as a sorcery. You can find a class card for every D&D fifth edition class save for the late addition of the artificer class.
Leaving the artificer class isn’t entirely uncalled for, as the class’s roots are in the Ebberon setting. There are a total of twelve class cards in MtG. Seven are single colour cards while the remaining five are multi coloured.
Roll a D20
No game of D&D would feel complete without rolling a few D20s, and WotC didn’t let us down in it’s MtG crossover! Roll a D20 is the last new mechanic, where you guessed it, you roll a D20! A select number of cards will have you roll a D20, and the results will determine the effect produced. While many effects are largely beneficial, despite what you roll, a select few will burn you for rolling low! Take for instance the Treasure Chest card, as seen above. If you happen to roll a natural one, it’s going to feel like it! Ah, that’s the Dungeons and Dragons I know.
Adventures in the Forgotten Realms features its own variant cards as well. Variant cards are variations of other cards from the set that mechanically work the same, but feature unique aesthetic elements that set them apart.
D&D: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms features art cards, like other sets before it. These cards feature the incredible card art from the set. A select few, one in twenty according to WotC, come gold stamped with the artist’s signature. But what makes them my favourite of the variants in this set, is the D&D fifth edition creature stat block on the back. While these stat blocks won’t give you everything you need to play the monsters in your D&D campaign, they do give you insight into just what awe inspiring creatures you’re summoning.
The new module land cards are particularly awesome for any players who’ve got to experience D&D throughout its history. These nine special lands feature art inspired by dungeon modules of yesteryear. You’ll likely recognize the Evolving Wilds card, but the other eight are new lands with unique mechanics.
Border-less & Extended Art
Adventures in the Forgotten Realms has its own borderless and extended art cards. You’ll find borderless versions of the planeswalkers from this set as well as many of the dragons. I wholeheartedly agree with their decision to include the dragons, it is just that much more epic to summon one of them.
Similar to the borderless cards, extended art card’s art runs all the way to the edges of the card and breaks the card graphic constraints. This treatment is given to rares and mythic rares to emphasize that they’re special, epic cards. Personally, I feel like the Prince of Undeath is epic enough on his own, but a little more never hurt.
Rulebook Art Cards
In another stroke of genius, WotC created these radical ‘Rulebook’ cards that are inspired by old Monster Manual creature art to tug on our sense of nostalgia. Most of these cards are classic D&D creatures with long histories in the setting. I applaud WotC in trying this, it’s creative and pays homage to D&D’s history.
Recognizable Characters and References.
Now, obviously the entire set is filled with recognizable characters and references, that’s kind of the point. I thought I’d point out just how specific and far reaching WotC went with them. Inspiration for these cards was drawn from nearly all the fifth edition books, rulebooks and adventure books alike. They drew from D&D’s past with old modules and articles in Dragon Magazine. They draw from D&D video games like Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition. And of course they drew from their extensive selection of novels with Erin M. Evans’ Brimstone Angels series and R.A. Salvators’ The Legend of Drizzt series.
Speaking of which, I’m sad to say this set is missing our favourite halfling thief, Rumblebelly! Regis has been left out of a few D&D projects lately, and I’m beginning to think there’s a conspiracy afoot. Anyway, here’s a link to a WotC page that goes into more detail. It’s really cool and showed me more D&D content I’m interested in exploring.
Stand-Out Card Art
What initially drew me to Magic The Gathering was the card art. I find it to be the source of some of the very best fantasy art I see. When they announced Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, I knew immediately that I’d be jumping back into Magic if only to see the huge array of new art of the Forgotten Realms. All the art in this set is incredible, and these three are just a few I’d like to put on a pedestal.
Lolth, Spider Queen by Jesper Ejsing
This piece perfectly captures how I imagined and felt about Lolth when I first read about her. Lolth’s drow body presents her as beautiful, elegant and serene. She appears almost angelic, dressed in all white and draping strands of web from her hands. The absolutely horrifying, colossal spider body filling out of the rest of the piece is a more honest representation of the Demon Queen of Spiders. Lolth is a monster hiding behind a facade of a beautiful, loving, elf goddess and this art captured that in the best way. I found a blog post from the artist himself, detailing the creation of the piece. It’s an enlightening read if you’re interested in that sort of thing.
Temple of the Dragon Queen by Cliff Childs
If this art doesn’t say Dungeons and Dragons then I don’t know what does. Lands always feature some of the coolest art, intricate landscapes that do the heavy lifting in fantasy world building. This piece features an enormous statue to the evil dragon god, Tiamat, looming in a derelict temple. I can’t help but to feel this is the moment your dungeon master describes before your climactic confrontation with the big bad evil guy.
Iymrith, Desert Doom by Wisnu Tan
I’m absolutely in love with all the different dragon illustrations in this set. Iymrith, Desert Doom is my favourite. This conniving, magically enhanced dragon is holding herself aloft in a Netherese amphitheater while a lightning storm rages in the background. I love this illustration because it shows the energy and power we so often associate with dragons.