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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Aug 09 2021 12:00pm
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ADVENTURES IN THE FORGOTTEN REALMS

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 Adventures in the Forgotten Realms marks the first crossover between Wizards of the Coast's two main intellectual properties: Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons – the original TCG meets the seminal RPG. This premise, which has been years in the making, leads to one of the most peculiar premier sets in the history of the game, replacing the core set for 2021, but not mirroring the usual low complexity of the summer sets. And, more crucially, placing itself firmly outside the multiverse's narrative – not exactly an Universes Beyond product, since the two IPs are both owned by Wizards, but a set where none of the characters and places are actually part of the Magic storyline. The AFR planeswalkers aren't even really planeswalkers, they're just notable people from D&D products, and in particular from the world of Abeir-Toril in the Forgotten Realms setting, represented by planeswalker cards to better convey their powers and importance.

    

Meet the virtuous dragon god Bahamut, the mad archmage Mordenkainen, the dark elf goddess Lolth, the fallen angel Zariel, and the gnome bard Ellywick.

 Operatively, the new self-contained setting causes a multitude of new creature types, to better depict the well-known universe of Dungeons & Dragons, which was largely, but not entirely, Garfield's inspiration for the creative elements of Limited Edition Alpha back in 1993. Three new "class" subtypes are introduced: Bard, Citizen (previously used only for tokens), and Ranger (after its low-key debut in reprints from Modern Horizons 2 earlier this year). As well as four new races representing D&D staples that MTG had never come around adapting before: Beholder, Gnoll, Halfling, Tiefling.

   

Alternate art "Monster Manual" treatment for representatives of the four D&D-specific races.

 The attempt at encapsulating such a huge lore in a single set brings about an extreme fragmentation of the tribes. In order to find another premier set that involved such a large number of different tribes (66), we would have to go back to Return to Ravnica, almost ten years ago. Furthermore, the portrayal of D&D's half-elves into creatures with both the Human and Elf types results in a record amount of triple-subtype creatures, as well as an atypically high quantity of Elves. Other unusual tribes in the set include Basilisk, Gnome, Jellyfish, Kobold, Manticore, and Worm.

 Given that some AFR mechanics are somewhat parasitic (especially venture into the dungeon, not so much dice-rolling and pack tactics), and that the new races are tightly bound to the setting, the impact of these elements becomes quite hard to evaluate in a vacuum. Will they ever come back? Will the new races be expanded by relocating them to other planes? A second D&D set is certainly a possibility, but will it come soon enough for these innovations to matter in the larger scheme of MTG things?

  

The three dungeons the Forgotten Realms creatures will get to explore.

 Anyway, let's have a look at these new D&D-inspired creatures and their tribes. As always, the main focus is on all the Constructed applications (though Limited is occasionally touched upon), the tribes are presented alphabetically, and you'll find a hypertextual list at the end.

 Infodump

  • Cards: 265 (+15 duplicated basic lands)
  • New cards: 256
  • New creatures: 142
  • Reprinted cards: 9
  • Reprinted creatures: 0
  • New Legendary creatures: 30
  • New Snow creatures: 0
  • New artifact creatures: 4
  • New enchantment creatures: 0
  • Triple-subtype creatures: 9
  • Creature types affected: 66
  • Tribes with more than 5 additions: Human (+25), Elf (+19), Dragon (+16), Dwarf (+9), Rogue (+9), Goblin (+7), Warrior (+7), Wizard (+7), Zombie (+7), Cleric (+6), Knight (+6), Ranger (+6), Tiefling (+6), Warlock (+6)

Angel: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 192, online: 191

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: From my past experience with Dungeons & Dragons (I honestly moved to more mature RPGs soon enough in my adolescence), I didn't even remember there were Angels in the main Forgotten Realms setting, but apparently there are. And we start right away with a creature that's as far as tribal-relevant as they get (it'll be a theme with AFR), since it's designed to serve a mechanic that didn't exist before, possibly won't exist ever again. Even there, Planar Ally is more of a Limited card for "dungeons matter" deck.


Artificer: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 133, online: 129

 Related Tribes: Gnome, Human

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Two interesting new Artificers in white. Oswald Fiddlebender jumps out, as a cheaper Prime Speaker Vannifar specialized in artifacts. Birthing Pod in creature form never enjoyed much success, because it becomes too easy to stop, and a 2/2 feels especially frail in this regard. But it has mad potential, and becomes more alluring the further back we get in the formats, where Oswald will be able to fetch some nasty artifact combos. The mana investment is low enough to warrant a try, and I won't be surprised if this little Gnome will prove himself somewhere, if probably not in Standard.

 On her part, Ingenious Smith is a functional two-drop in artifact decks. She digs for more of them, and grows steadily into a threat, turn after turn. It remains to be seen if builds that are based on artifact would care about white, since both these cards want to play the long game and don't fit a fast and furious Tempered Steel list.


Barbarian: +4

   

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 New Tribal Total: 34, online: 30

 Related Tribes: Dwarf, Giant, Goblin, Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Barbarians are a beloved class in D&D, less so as a type in Magic (the term also feels a little racist, to be honest, since it was used in the real world to demean whole cultures). They're a very red tribe, with only two Barbarians not sharing the passionate color. In Forgotten Realms, they get some decent filler, consisting of a strictly better Manic Vandal, and a couple of pack tactics applications, which is good because that's the one mechanic from the set that carries over easily onto MTG as a whole. Unfortunately, their one legendary rare, Zalto, Fire Giant Duke, is a weak dungeon card, slow, prone to a quick death (which is possibly flavorful), and hard to exploit consistently.


Bard: +4

   

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 New Tribal Total: 7

 Related Tribes: Dragon, Elf, Human, Tiefling

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Bards are a minor staple in fantasy literature, but a major class in D&D (they briefly became a Rogue sub-class in 2nd Edition, but were returned to independent status in the following one). So here they make their first appearance in Magic as well. Luckily, they won't be confined to this crossover event, as proven by the concurrent transformation of three older creatures that got the Bard subtype added, if merely in virtue of their names: Elvish Bard from Alliances, Joraga Bard from Zendikar, and Yisan, the Wanderer Bard from Magic 2015. It looks like music is mostly a green thing in Magic.

  

 Art in general casts a wider net, color-wise, since Kalain, Reclusive Painter is also a Bard. And why is a painter a bard, you might ask? Even using the term in a figurative way, it would more commonly apply to a writer (seeing how Shakespeare was known as "the Bard of Avon"). But we can assume any inspirational form of art qualifies as Bard material, which is what D&D also allows. In any case, Kalain is the more notable member of the tribe at the moment, and that's kind of weird since she's the only black one, and one of only two red ones. Her ability is not incredibly powerful, but any deck using Treasures in combination with creatures would certainly want to take her along for the ride. Her lore is also pretty on point: she sells a painting, gaining "money". And those who bought her paintings feel exhilarated. Imagine an art collector Ooze!

 The rest of this fist bardic batch is mostly Limited filler. The dragonborn Wandering Troubadour (we'll discuss this new development of dragonkind later) is a steady source of dungeon venturing, since green is given the best venture cards while not being a main "dungeons matter" color. But that's about it.


Basilisk: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 11

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: For being one of the original creature types from Alpha, Basilisk has seen very little development over the years. We hadn't even gotten a new one since Magic 2011, so more than a decade, and nobody noticed. To be fair, they've been kind of one-note by design: they're all green creatures (the only non-monogreen one was Rock Basilisk from Mirage) with some form of deathtouch. Underdark Basilisk might be just a strictly worse Deadly Recluse, but it's the cheapest member of its tribe, so there's that.


Bear: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 28, online: 22

 Related Tribes: Bird

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The bizarre Owlbear has been a beloved D&D monster since the game's 1st Edition. Now, its MTG adaptation isn't going to see any degree of Constructed play (if not in Pauper, perhaps?), but it's arguably the best green common for Limited, a decently costed trampling body that replaces itself. It's bound to always catch the eye in any draft booster that contains it, and the Owlbear fans can be proud of that.


Beast: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 435, online: 425

 Related Tribes: Cat

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Three differently colored Beasts, none particularly good, even in Limited. Bulette uses the morbid-like mechanic that's a theme in black-green, but it's not too easy to exploit, and failing that, it's just a green Hill Giant. Displacer Beast is a clunky, overcosted way to venture repeatedly. There's just not enough of an artifact theme in the set to make Rust Monster playable.


Beholder: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 2

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: One of the most iconic D&D monsters, the Beholder receives its own creature type in Forgotten Realms – after all, the closest we had was Eye, but having eleven eyes and being one giant floating eye don't strike as the same thing. There are only two of them in the main set, plus a couple references in noncreature cards (Eyes of the Beholder, Hive of the Eye Tyrant). Two more comes with the Commander decks, which we'll evaluate in a separate article. It's conceivable that the creature type will appear in the Magic multiverse proper, despite being so thoroughly linked to Dungeons & Dragons.

 This first couple of Beholders sit at the opposite ends of the rarity spectrum. The common Baleful Beholder is a reasonable curve-topper for Limited. His body makes it barely better than a Craw Wurm, and the two ETB options are both situational, but the package is neat and it's another way for black to deal with enchantments, something the color has been recently allowed to do, but still struggles with.

 Xanathar, Guild Kingpin is the flashier card here. His upkeep trigger basically lets us play cards off the top of an opponent's library, like a Future Sight of sort. This doubles as an opportunity to leave only irrelevant cards for the opponent to draw in their turn, essentially "fatesealing" them into a soft lock. Or at least, that's what Xanathar theoretically proposes. The reality is a bit trickier. First of all, we're talking of a six-drop that doesn't come equipped with any particular resilience aside from a large butt, and has to survive an entire turn cycle before doing anything. Then, we must consider what approach we want to take with his apparently over-the-top ability. Do we want to control the player's access to resources? That sounds like a good plan, but it means that if we see a land on top of the opponent's library, we should leave it there. Which also means we're not using Xanathar to improve our plan at all. He's just a 5/6 without combat proficiencies; he's not going to win us the game via damage. So maybe playing as many of those cards as we can is the correct way to go, regardless of what we end up leaving on top for the opponent? All in all, Xanathar is an intriguing fella for sure, but it's possible his most effective ability is preventng the opponent from casting in our turn, a strong way to achieve universal uncounterability and stop interaction.


Bird: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 292, online: 279

 Related Tribes: Bear

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Nothing special about the Birds from the Forgotten Realms. Well, except for the fact that one of them is a Bear, but that feels extra irrelevant for the Bird tribe, which doesn't care neither for its green members nor for five-drops. Silver Raven is a decent one-drop common. Ranger's Hawk is a very slow venturer. They're both strictly better than something like Suntail Hawk or Aven Skirmisher, but what isn't these days?


Cat: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 227, online: 219

 Related Tribes: Beast

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Displacer beasts are panther-like creatures, hence their having the Cat subtype. Even within the feline tribe, this card remains on the lower echelons of playability, though. Only notable aspect: it's only the third monoblue Cats in existence. They're a relatively recent development, the first of them was Frost Lynx from Magic 2015, the second one was Illusory Ambusher, first printed in Commander 2015. Both were reprinted in Ikoria-themed sets – the main Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths and Commander 2020 aka Ikoria Commander, respectively.


Citizen: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 2

 Related Tribes: Dwarf, Halfling

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Citizen was already a creature type in Magic, but it was never used as the subtype of a black-bordered creature card before. Its origin is actually quite old, as it dates back to Fallen Empires with the tokens created by Icatian Town. Twelve years later, Time Spiral would call back to that very card with Icatian Crier and Sarpadian Empires, Vol. VII. Another thirteen years passed, and now War of the Spark has Mobilized District turning into a Citizen and Planewide Celebration creating more tokens with the elusive subtype. The first card to have it printed on the type line was the test card Five Kids in a Trenchcoat from Mystery Booster.

 The idea is to have a class that combines all kinds of normal jobs or just represents generic people without any special distinction except for belonging to a certain population, nominally of the urban persuasion. You'd think it would be an useful subtype, but it wasn't until now that it was decided to fully implement it (and it's not even really a case where it was important for the D&D setting). In the past, Townsfolk had that role, but, regretfully, it got erased during the the Grand Creature Type Update of 2007. Throne of Eldraine made Peasant, which also has some overlap (or a ton of overlap), but feels more fairy tale-ish. And to be honest, there are 60 creatures bearing only the Human type, some of them remnants of the ol Townsfolk tribe, many of which could now use a Citizen restyling. I'm thinking in particular of Angry Mob, Herald of the Fair, Hunted Witness, Icatian Moneychanger, Rising Populace, Seller of Songbirds, Stoic Builder, Town Gossipmonger, Unruly Mob, Village Cannibals, and Village Survivors.

 As for these first two Citizens from Forgotten Realms, they're on the wealthy side of citizenship, as both have to do with Treasures. Skullport Merchant is a sacrifice outlet that draw cards off creatures and Treasures alike. He has a nicely defensive body, but that two-mana activation is probably too expensive for Constructed, on top of having to trade resources. Prosperous Innkeeper is a green Impassioned Orator that gives back one mana in the form of a Treasure (he's still far from Soul Warden, or rather Essence Warden). They're okay cards.

 A note on innkeepers in Magic. There are now four of them. Funnily, Edgewall Innkeeper (which is by far the most powerful one) is a Peasant, whereas Prosperous Innkeeper is a Citizen. I guess being prosperous buys you a better social status. They share the same pose in the art. In fact, the creative team seems to think innkeepers stand outside of their establishments and invite people in, because that's what Oak Street Innkeeper and Stensia Innkeeper also do. These two lack any class, using only their races as subtypes. And they're pretty girls in provocative attires, for some reason. Man, running an inn has weird connotations in Magic.

  


Cleric: +6

  

  

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 New Tribal Total: 483, online: 457

 Related Tribes: Dwarf, Elf, Human, Tiefling

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: No rare Cleric in Forgotten Realms, but two of them are multicolored legendaries that function as signposts for Limited archetypes. There's one of them for each color pair, but they share nothing else, so it's less of a cycle and more of a way to establish that you're supposed to draft AFR around any two of the five colors. In the case of our two dual-colored Clerics, Barrowin of Clan Undurr is a reasonably juicy payoff for completing a dungeon, which is something the white-black pair cares about, while Trelasarra, Moon Dancer is Ajani's Pridemate with the addition of an instance of scry every time she triggers, capitalizing on the lifegain theme that white-green pursues in the set. Of course, lifegain is a very wide strategy, so Trelasarra can find a good home in many a format; she's straightforward, but very effective, and reason enough to splash green in a dedicated "lifegain matters" deck.

 The other cards of this lot are also very functional. Dawnbringer Cleric offers enough versatility to gain a degree of relevance. Moon-Blessed Cleric is not a bad tutor for enchantment, even if her ability doesn't put the chosen card directly into our hand; but for the same cost of Idyllic Tutor, we also get a 3/2 body, which isn't a terrible deal, if probably not Legacy material. Priest of Ancient Lore gives the tribe an improved, albeit slightly more expensive Elvish Visionary/Dusk Legion Zealot. A boon in Limited, not unplayable in Constructed, should his subtypes prove crucial.

 On the other hand, Death-Priest of Myrkul acts as a lord for three different non-Cleric tribes, so his right place probably lies elsewhere. He's of special interest for Skeleton decks, given that the tokens he creates only bear that subtype. Also, Vampires and Zombies don't really care for a four-mana lord, anyway.


Demon: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 124, online: 120

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Orcus has essentially three modes. With the least expensive one, we get a 5/3 frampler for just four mana, which is above curve. If we have mana to sink into him, we can choose to add Toxic Deluge to the deal, but still leaving the frampling body behind, or else a mass reanimation spell with universal haste as a bonus. The latter mode is definitely the more mana-intensive, because by spending a grand total of 7 mana, we still bring back only three mana value's worth of creatures; but for high amounts of X, it can certainly become a win condition. At the end of the day, Orcus is an utility creature that fits any point of the curve, from midrange onward. This makes him a great commander, too.


Devil: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 33, online: 32

 Related Tribes: God

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The Devils were jealous of the Merfolk, so they went and got their own God, too. And one that incarnates a very flamboyant callback to Vintage staple Necropotence, no less. Three mana, draw seven? That sure sounds snazzy! Looking closely, though, Asmodeus is a bit of a mixed bag. The strength of Necropotence was that, for just three mana, you could start turning life into cards. Asmodeus's routine is much clunkier, because you have to pay mana for those. In fact, you're now obliged to not only spend life to draw your regular card every turn, but to pay what more or less amounts to an upkeep cost. And the extra drawing comes necessarily in three-mana packets, plus one extra mana of exile import tax. Now, four mana and seven life for seven cards is still an advantageous deal, but it's still a lot of black mana, and lacks the flexibility of the original enchantment. It's hard to fathom a turn where we drop a six-mana Asmodeus and still have the spare four mana to draw seven cards. And until we do that, we're just taxing our draws, with both life and mana, while getting a vanilla 6/6 on the board. Griselbrand, this really ain't.

 A better card for Devil decks is the planeswalker Zariel, referencing the fallen angel of the same name from D&D lore. She might not be born a Devil, but she currently has more of a devilish nature than Tibalt, since he's half-Human. But of course Devil is what Devil does. (Also, Zariel is not actually a planeswalker nor part of the MTG multiverse, so I guess the Devil tribe is stuck with Tibalt for the time being).

 


Dinosaur: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 119, online: 118

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Behold! The Tarrasque! The most fearsome creature to inhabit the Prime Material Plane! Even those who never played D&D have probably heard the name of this unstoppable fiend. And, inescapably, Forgotten Realms produced a Tarrasque card version that is... disappointing, to say the least. Granted, ward 10 almost translates into hexproof – but almost is the key word here, since it's still possible to target it. Especially since we had to ramp up to nine mana in order to get that ability to begin with, so who's to say the opponent didn't ramp to ten or eleven themselves in the meantime, thus being able to affect our big dude with any kind of nonconditional spot removal? A little Terror and, boom, the Tarrasque's gone. And sure, we'll most likely still get to swing at least once, due to haste, and kill a creature via the attack trigger. But it's also likely the Tarrasque will get chump-blocked then, because, and this is where its fatal flaw resides, believe it or not, the mighty Tarrasque is not a trampler.

 Look, I'm not saying it's terribad, but for nine mana, this is much worse than Ghalta, Primal Hunger (which the Tarrasque would lose against in a fight), Carnage Tyrant (which couldn't even be fought), or even Gaea's Revenge (which at least is cheaper). Nine mana, that's a steep sum to pay, even for green. And reanimating it or cheating into play in any way is not an option, or it would really just die to anything, and be little more than Gigantosaurus.


Djinn: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 53, online: 52

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: In D&D, Djinn is the plural form of Djinni, hence the name of this card. Which is a strong common for Limited, as a 3/3 flyer with some amount of scry attached. In Constructed, it hasn't much to offer for its cost, unfortunately.


Dog: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 93, online: 89

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: With Loyal Warhound, the canines get their own quasi-Knight of the White Orchid. The Plains is basic only and enters tapped, and vigilance is less impactful than first strike, particularly on such a frail body, but the potential value is still there, it's more easily splashable, and threatens more damage or a better trade.

 Blink Dog is interesting, because by phasing out instead of flickering, it retains any +1/+1 counter, to complement double strike. The activation cost is prohibitive, though.

 Last but not least, the card depicting the mad mage Mordenkainen is the first planeswalker that creates multiple Dog tokens (Jiang Yanggu only creates Mowu). And those can be really big Dogs!

 


Dragon: +16

  

  

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 New Tribal Total: 237, online: 235

 Related Tribes: Bard, God, Knight, Turtle, Warrior, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Forgotten Realms has dungeons, but a Dungeons & Dragons-flavored set worthy of the name also needs to feature the second element of that dichotomy. So here's a number of new Dragons that we hadn't seen since Dragons of Tarkir, including six mythic slots. One of these is devoted to Tiamat, the greedy goddess of the evil chromatic dragons. She's more of a Commander card, the designated lead of a Dragon tribal deck, in competition with The Ur-Dragon and its Scion. In 60-card Constructed, she's probably harder to pull off, although even with just another Dragon to search in the deck, she'd be a seven-drop 7/7 flyer that tutors up another finisher. Or, you know, five.

 The cycle of mythic monocolored Dragons is good, not great. To be honest, none of them feels like it's going to have a perceivable impact on any format but Standard, and even there, barely. Goldspan Dragon and Galazeth Prismari seemd destined to remain the more popular members of the tribe in the current meta.

 Going by color wheel, Icingdeath, Frost Tyrant is the cheapest, plays as a discounted Serra Angel, then leaves behind an okay Equipment upon death. Iymirith, Desert Doom is a good blocker, but at the same time wants to attack to draw one to three cards; it's arguably the best one as far as cost/body ratio is concerned. Ebondeath, Dracolich (these names are kind of ugly, aren't they?) is frail, but also cheap and has a built-in recursion via morbid; it can work as a finisher for black control. Inferno of the Star Mounts might be the most appealing as a curve-topper in Big Red builds, where it offers a fast, hasty clock that can't be countered; the 20-damage clause is as win-more as they get, but it could come up in Commander, perhaps allowing for a double kill. Finally, Old Gnawbone has over-the-top ramp capability, doubling as Treasure synergy, but she's mostly notable for being the largest green flyer ever printed, surpassing the second one, Jugan, the Rising Star, by a fair amount.

 We also get a cycle of uncommon chromatic Dragons, whose colors don't exactly agree with the corresponding colors in Magic's mana wheel (e.g. white dragons in D&D are ice dragons, which should be blue in Magic). They're all overcosted for their bodies, and provide an ETB effect of varying effectiveness, with Black Dragon as the most impactful. They're mostly in the set to ensure a healty presence of the titular D&D monster in Limited.

    

 The metallic dragons are represented solely by Adult Gold Dragon. It's possible they were saved for future D&D sets. The one we get is a worthy new entry in the club of the five-drop hasty Dragons, trading toughness for lifelink. Not as valuable as Glorybringer or Stormbreath Dragon, but a quick-swinging evasive lifelinker makes racing very hard. The required white splash, not too common when Dragons are involved, might or might not be worthwhile.

 Last but not least (or maybe, yeah, kind of least), the concept of non-Viashino humanoid Dragons makes its appearance in Magic for the first time. It's a bit weird that these dragonborn are treated as any other race. I mean, the racial subtype for this Naya-colored trio could be easily changed to Human, since nothing about their draconic nature is reflected in their abilities, except possibly their larger average body size. They also seem to be for the most part decent, outgoing guys.

  

 Additionally, the Dragons got wide non-tribal support in the set. Temple of the Dragon Queen and Orb of Dragonkind ramp and fix for colors in Dragon decks. The burn spell Dragon's Fire get better if we have a Dragon in hand or on the battlefield. Minion of the Mighty is an Elvish Piper of sort for Dragons. And Dragon's Disciple offers them some mild protection.

    


Druid: +5

  

 

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 New Tribal Total: 228, online: 224

 Related Tribes: Elf, Halfling, Human, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: A few of these new Druids are strictly in support of Limited archetypes: Circle of the Moon Druid for red-green pack tactics, Sylvan Shepherd for white-green lifegain. Gretchen Titchwillow is the blue-green signpost, performing the very blue-green act of casting Growth Spiral at will, if for a double amount of mana. She's one of the most sought-after among the multicolored uncommons, becasue she drops on turn two and aptly defends the fort with her resilient butt, waiting for the right time to unleash her inner Simic-ness. She might be too slow for Constructed, though.

 The rare Circle of Dreams Druid essentially gives any kind of deck access to a surrogate Elvish Archdruid. I don't know that it's a relevant fact, since the build that's most likely to want this effect is Elves once again, and I don't think they'd have room for another three-drop with lesser impact. Also, the triple green cost is pretty rough anywhere else.


Dryad: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 44, online: 42

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: This is no Sakura-Tribe Elder, but it's close enough, despite the two-mana activation being two mana too many. It gives some ramp capability to the Dryad tribe, although Green Sun's Zenith for Dryad Arbor would accomplish the same in a much faster fashion, and there were already a couple of playable one-drop Dryads like Dryad Militant and Gnarlwood Dryad.


Dwarf: +9

   

   

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 New Tribal Total: 97, online: 89

 Related Tribes: Barbarian, Citizen, Cleric, Knight, Ranger, Shaman, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Dwarves are much less neglected in D&D than they are in Magic, where they still have to reach the 100th member after 28 years (for comparison, there are 463 Elves and 373 Goblins). They still don't get any rare in Forgotten Realms, albeit they count two legendary signposts among their ranks. Barrowin of the Clan Undurr is white-black "dungeons matter" guy, while Bruenor Battlehammer is a powerful Equipment lord, enabling the Colossus Hammer combo on his own, and creating voltron-style threats by piling a lot of cheap Equipments on the same beater.

 Other Dwarves follow these two's lead. Gloom Stalker is another payoff for dungeon decks, while Dwarfhold Champion is a valid two-drop in Equipment-focused builds. Brazen Dwarf, on the other hand, stems from the blue-red "dice-rolling matters" archetype.

 Some no-nonsense Dwarves for all seasons round up the ranks of the new additions: Priest of Ancient Lore as a reliable cantrip creature in white; Skullport Merchant as a value-accruing sacrifice outlet in black; Plundering Barbarian as a way to ramp in red, doubling as artifact hate.


Elemental: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 489, online: 482

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The names Air Elemental and Earth Elemental were already taken, so we get the "Cult" versions instead (which I believe reference this D&D storyline). They're not really reminiscent of the original duo, which was just a couple of basic beaters in their color. They're low-level commons for sure, but Air-Cult Elemental contributes a nice Man-o'-War effect, while Earth-Cult Elemental is a dice-rolling card that could cause a one-sided sacrifice, although it'll mostly affect lands.

 The rare Xorn (a type of earth elemental) is a three-drop 3/2 that doubles the amount of Treasures we create – well, not exactly, but it's true in all instances in which we creature a single Treasure, which is most instances of Treasure-making. It's a very specialized effect, but the deck that wants it is going to really want it.


Elf: +19

   

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 463, online: 450

 Related Tribes: Bard, Cleric, Druid, Human, Monk, Ranger, Rogue, Shaman, Spider, Warlock, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Elves are a big component of any high-fantasy, sword & sorcery lore, and that's of course true of Magic: The Gathering, but even more so of Dungeons & Dragons, where they are absolutely commonplace, and most likely to be a part of any given adventuring party. What causes this outrageous number of new Elves in Forgotten Realms is also the fact that they comprise the Half-Elves too, smartly rendered as creatures with both the Elf and the Human types – which is also cause for a record 9 creatures with a triple subtype, because Half-Elves must in turn have classes as well.

 Amidst all this Elvish abundance, we have no mythic, and in fact only four rares. One is the famous Drizzt Do'Urden, the reformed dark elf (aka drow) who's arguably the most popular character in all of the Forgotten Realms literature, having been the protagonist of 39 books and counting. His card emphasizes his valor in battle and his dual-wielding combat style, by making him a 3/3 double-striker that grows bigger every time a foe with higher power is defeated (or a friend, actually. And it doesn't even need to be Drizzt killing it, which is where the lore diverges from the card's mechanical nature). For five mana, we also get Drizzt's trusty panther companion Guenhwyvar, in the form of a four-powered trampling token. This way, our heroic drow puts on the battlefield seven points of power, capable of hitting for ten damage if unopposed. He also provides some insurance against spot removal: if Drizzt is removed, we'll still have Guen as a leftover; and if the big cat trades for an enemy creature (as expected, due to her minimal toughness), Drizzt will start growing, instantly becoming a very threatening four-powered double striker. All in all, a solid package for midrange aggro.

 Two of the other rares are linked to the set's more specialized mechanics. Delina, Wild Mage is one of the most powerful applications of dice-rolling, with a 25% chance of permanently copying any creature, legendaries included, every time she attacks, and a 100% chance of doing it for at least the present turn. And since the copies are created already in the act of attacking, even if Delina gets blocked and killed at her first swing, she might have wreaked enough havoc already in a single combat phase. Four mana for a 3/2 is below curve, and the ability is somewhat unpredictable and hinges on having another worthy target on the battlefield, but the allure is there.

 The same goes for Varis, Silverymoon Ranger, arguably the best venturer in the set, triggering a free dungeon advancement every turn, provided we cast at least one creature or planeswalker during that turn, and then giving us a 2/2 Wolf as completion bonus. And unlike Delina, this Half-Elf Ranger has good stats, being a 3/3 for three with reach and ward.

 To round off the rare Elves, Circle of Dreams Druid can work as redundancy for Elvish Archdruid, though it's more likely to do so in Singleton formats than anywhere else, since it's stricly worse in an Elf deck.

 The uncommons Elves feature four of the Limited signposts: the serviceable black-red Treasure payoff Kalain, Reclusive Painter; the efficient white-green lifegain payoff Trelasarra, Moon Dancer; the cost-effective blue-black saboteur Krydle of Baldur's Gate, who offers multiple, if unimpressive rewards for connecting, but can also just make any one creature unblockable for two mana; and the black-green advantage engine Shessra, Death's Whisper, who, I'm afraid, is not as attractive as she looks – her morbid card-drawing requires a lot of external setup, and for the rest her body and ETB aren't worthy of four double-colored mana.

 Another peculiarity of these cards comes from the wide-ranging nature of D&D Elves compared to the characteristic green status of MTG Elves. As a result, we get new members in all the five colors, including the very first monored Elf with Delina, as well as the first ever monoblue Elves. So now the tribe has monocolored members in each color.

  


Faerie: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 97, online: 94

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Count me among those who think Faerie should be more of an evergreen tribe, considering how many mythical creatures from Nordic folklore it encompasses. And that comprises D&D's Pixies, here transposed in the form of this dice-roll-enabling little helper. The dice-rolling deck isn't probably going to be a real thing in Constructed; but should it make the jump from Limited, Pixie Guide will be in it.


Frog: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 31, online: 30

 Related Tribes: Horror

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: It's not every set that we get a rare Frog. In fact, it's been an increasingly unusual occurrence. First there was Constructed star Anurid Brushhopper in 2002's Judgment; then the less impactful Omnibian in 2006's Dissension; finally, a flavor win like The Gitrog Monster in 2010's Scars of Mirrodin, which is the only mythic Frog to date. Eleven years have passed, and now here's Froghemoth, ready to revisit the success of the original rare Frog (which was even in Brian Kibler's top-16 list for 2002 Worlds). This green Horror doesn't drop before turn five, when not accelerated, but it also swings right away, tramples over chump-blockers, hates on the opponent's graveyard, gains life, and ultimately grows into a threat that can't be ignored for long. I'm not saying it'll be a must-play curve-topper for Stompy decks (after all, even excellent five-drops like Elder Gargaroth and Battle Mammoth struggled to find a home), but it packs enough spunk and value that it could earn itself a spot in green aggro, and it'll certainly be a consideration, even just as a sideboard option.


Gargoyle: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 31, online: 30

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Reasonable venturer that blocks well in the early game and rewards us later by turning into a 3/4 flyer for three mana, after we completed a dungeon. But, once again, "dungeons matter" decks are in all probability going to be a flash in the pan, and not even a very bright one at that. Granted, adventure decks have lasted two full years at the top of the Standard meta, but the two mechanics can't really be compared. Any adventure card provides value in isolation by just being two spells in one; whereas dungeon-related cards like this Gargolyle are completely meaningless if not accompanied by similar-minded enablers and payoffs. So, at the end of the day, all these dungeoneers only have one possible home, one that won't get enhanced by other releases going forward – if not years from now, and that's not even a given.


Giant: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 188, online: 182

 Related Tribes: Barbarian, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Here we see represented the three most frequent types of Giants in most lores, and specifically in D&D: the hill giant, the frost giant, and the fire giant. The first two are made into okay curve-toppers for green and blue decks in Limited; the latter is a rare for dungeon decks, but not a very significant one. First of all, because red is the least interesting color for those decks (the only other related red card is the weak sorcery Kick in the Door; and second of all, because Zalto is a slow beater who's going to venture once while trading down against any three-powered creature.


Gnoll: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 2

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Yet another D&D staple that debuts in the world of MTG. The Gnolls are an original creation of Gary Gygax; a race of sturdy hyena-men that has been part of Dungeons & Dragons since 1st Edition. The Forgotten Realms team created two cards for them, which sadly aren't enough to make Gnoll a playable tribe in Tribal Wars (you'd need at least three members). Both exploit the pack tactics mechanic, which is found in red-green. Gnoll Hunter is a Grizzly Bears that grows bigger at every attack that triggers pack tactics; Targ Nar has the same cost and body, but uses pack tactics to boost the attacking team, while also being able to double his own power and toughness with a late-game mana sink. They're fairly good playable in Limited, where Targ Nar acts as the signpost for his color pair. I'm not sure why they weren't given classes (they both look like they should be Warriors, possibly Berserkers). Also not clear why Targ Nar had to reference his race in his epithet – it's not like Varis is called "Silverymoon Ranger Half-Elf".


Gnome: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 11, online: 10

 Related Tribes: Artificer, Warlock, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Oh god, yes! After 27 long years, Gnome returns to be (if maybe just for this set) flesh and blood creatures rather than the automatons they have constantly been depicted as, after the original Quarum Trench Gnomes from Legends, which isn't even on Magic Online – though that's mostly due to the fact that it manages to be simultaneously overcomplicated and meaningless. These new living Gnomes also seem to have relocated into white-blue. Their legendary, the tribe's first, is still concerned with artifact, being a potentially very powerful Birthing Pod on-a-stick for that card type. Feywild Trickster is one of the better payoffs for dice-rolling, creating flyers a la manner of Sai, Master Thopterist – but the tokens are Faerie Dragons, which are cuter!

 The common Clever Conjurer is just a slow untapper, but it could still be useful for the tribe. And they even got their own planeswalker representation in Ellywick Tumblestrum, though she doesn't actually have any tribal synergy. Forgotten Realms is a good set to be a Gnome.


Goblin: +7

   

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 375, online: 360

 Related Tribes: Barbarian, Rogue, Warlock, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: The so-called goblinoids take three different forms in D&D: basic goblins; larger hobgoblins (which had been already referenced in Eventide); and even larger bugbears. They're generally more threatening and less comically inept than their typical MTG representation. As a result, some of these new Goblins feel pretty good. Even the more unassuming ones like Goblin Javelineer and Hulking Bugbear are fast attackers, somewhat hard to trade for. Ditto for Hobgoblin Captain, if we can enable pack tactics. Grim Wanderer (which is supposed to be a particularly hunky hobgoblin, I guess) is a fascinating application of morbid; he can ambush attackers in combination with instant-speed removal, or just pop up at the end of an opponent's turn in which something died, ready to immediately leverage his five points of power during our next combat phase.

 And then we have no less than two different lords, because what are Goblins without ways to linearly improve them? For a simple uncommon bear, Battle Cry Goblin does a quantity of useful things. He can boost the entire Goblin team (himself included), multiple times per turn; in the process, he also gives all Goblins haste, which is crucial with cards like Muxus and the two Krenkos. Add pack tactics, and he'll also create tokens!

 But it's the rare Hobgoblin Bandit Lord that's arguably the most likely to leak into older formats. He's a three-mana lord, a slot that's admittedly already claimed by the likes of Goblin Warchief, Goblin Chieftain, Goblin Rabblemaster, and Legion Warboss, just to name the most prominent ones. But the Bandit Lord has a tap ability that easily turns into a quick win condition, if paired with massive token makers like some of those mentioned above, or at least into effective board control. To be fair, it might not lead to anything, and be dismissed as clunky and situational, but the potential for a more combo-oriented Goblin build is there.


God: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 50

 Related Tribes: Devil, Dragon

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Asmodeus is kind of a trap, and Tiamat is strictly a Dragon card, but the news here is that the God type is being used more and more liberally, ever since last June, when Modern Horizons 2's Svyelun of Sea and Sky made clear Gods don't need to appear exclusively as part of larger pantheons (technically, Ilharg, the Raze-Boar is a lone Ravnican deity, but was created to fill a missing slot in the God-Eternal cycle). In Forgotten Realms, it even appears on a non-God card to mark a state change, and it's featured on two different tokens.

    


Golem: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 129

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Iron is one of the major materials to make golem in D&D, along with clay, flesh and stone. Here, it's just a Juggernaut variant, in which the Golem gets vigilance (in place of the mostly obsolete Wall immunity), but it also has to block each combat.


Halfling: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 3

 Related Tribes: Citizen, Druid, Rogue

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Halfling is the way D&D got around having hobbits in the game, without having to pay the Tolkien estate (the word is actually used by Tolkien to describe hobbits in Lord of the Rings, since they're roughly half the size of a man). Magic did the same with Kithkin in Lorwyn, but the two races couldn't be consolidated, because they have local specificity. Bottom line, we have three uncommon Halfling two-drops in MTG now. The black Lightfoot Rogue (dark hobbits? Say it ain't so!) is not very significant, since he uses dice-rolling to accomplish what several two-drops with deathtouch already do from the start. On the other hand, the cutest Druid Gretchen Titchfellow is a valid two-mana blocker that later lets us repeatedly cast Growth Spiral. And Prosperous Innkeeper is a strictly better, color-shifted Impassioned Orator. If we put these three together, they don't really synergize with each other, and we don't know if we'll ever get other Halflings down the line, but at least two of them stand out a little. Pun intended.


Horror: +4

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 211

 Related Tribes: Frog

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Three notable rare Horrors out of four that are added in Forgotten Realms – and the uncommon Lurking Roper is actually not bad itself, a pretty large body for three-drop, thanks to the downside of only untapping when we gain life, which could be a negligible factor in the right build. Also in green, which is not the favorite color for Horrors but still has a sizeable populationFroghemoth is a welcome beater for midrange Stompy, a hasty trampler that grows bigger while exiling the opponent's graveyard at the same time.

 And then we have two mind flayers, also known as Illithid, a race of psionic monstrosities capable of mind control. This aspect of their lore is in full display on the more generic Mind Flayer, which is an adequate reversible creature-stealer, maybe not as good as Sower of Temptation (it costs one mana more and doesn't fly), but close enough. The legendary Grazilaxx, Illithid Scholar is instead a blue take on Toski, Bearer of Secrets. He drops one turn sooner than the Squirrel, but he's only able to draw us one card per combat. To compensate for this flaw, he also ensures that the quest for the card-drawing won't end up in tragedy for our less evasive attackers, which can safely return to hand if they were profitably blocked in his presence. Granted, it'll still lead to a massive tempo loss, but the effect can be abused if those creatures had ETB effects, resulting in incidental bonus value. All this means that Grazilaxx demands a bit more of attention during deckbuilding than Toski does, for a net gain that's never going to be as explosive; but the rewards for building around him, perhaps even in a commander capacity, might still be worth the effort.


Human: +25

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 2595, online: 2410

 Related Tribes: Artificer, Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Knight, Monk, Ranger, Rogue, Shaman, Soldier, Warlock, Warrior, Werewolf, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Irrelevant

 Highlights: For a set inspired by a board game in which players create and impersonate characters that are often the avatars of themselves, Forgotten Realms don't reach the overwhelming Human count that one could have expected, especially considering nine of these are actually Half-Elves. It looks like the humanoids from other races were allowed to take center stage more often than in the average Magic setting.


Jellyfish: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 11 

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: After 24 years of blue service since Man-o'-War from Visions (and all monoblue except for Hydroid Krasis), the Jellyfish suddenly change color, to accommodate a flumph – which is not really a Jellyfish, but how many of the tribe's members actually are? Most of them fly! Including Flumph, which functions as an early blocker, but with a big caveat: it draws cards to both the controller and an opponent every time it dealt damage. This is possibly part of the ongoing effort to come up with viable card-drawing for white in Commander. Indeed, I feel like this is not a card that's meant for regular formats, where you'd be hardpressed not to block with your Flumph, except in specific situations, and that pretty much defies its purpose as a two-drop defender. Whereas in Commander, the choice of which opponent will get to draw a card alongside us is clearly a political tool.


Knight: +6

  

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 325, online: 312

 Related Tribes: Dragon, Dwarf, Human, Orc, Spirit

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Knight is not a D&D class, but Paladin is, and that's what most of these Knights represent, as their names clearly state. It's less clear why Triumphant Adventurer is a Knight rather than a Warrior, but he's one of the best sources of venturing, nonetheless. If you need to attack with your 1/1 in order to improve your dungeon state, giving it first strike and deathtouch really helps ensuring its continuous survival. The dragonborn Nadaar, Selfless Paladin is also an adventurer, moving through the dungeon's rooms once when he enters the battlefield and then whenever he attacks, but with no particular trick up his sleeve when it comes to surviving the combat phase. Still, he comes with an acceptable cost/body ratio, has vigilance, and boosts the team after the exit of the first dungeon has been reached. Again, these "dungeons matter" cards will live and die on the hill of their mechanical relevance, which I'm guessing will have a very short shelf life.

 The black one-drop Forsworn Paladin is Treasure-flavored, which makes him more universally useful. He's also kind of a follow-up to Knight of the Ebon Legion, in the sense that he becomes more effective strating from turn three, when the threat of activation is enabled. He's not as formidable as his Magic 2020 predecessor, because the activation is smaller in scope, only pumping power, doesn't provide deathtouch unless we sacrifice a Treasure, and the Paladin never permanently grows in any case. On the plus side, he has menace, so he could end up trading for multiple blockers, and he can boost other creatures, too, not just himself. More importantly, he has a secondary activation that he can use on turn two, which was typically a turn when a Knight of the Ebon Legion had nothing to do, especially when we were on the draw. The Paladin can make a Treasure then, to better enable his activation on the following turns, or just as a novel way to ramp in black.

 Alongside a couple of other white Paladins designed for Limited, the phantasmal Guardian of Faith is a flash "rescuer", continuing the color's experimentation with this concept, which we had recently seen on Glorious Protector from Kaldheim. This time the creatures phase out instead of flickering, so they can keep their counters and Auras and attached Equipment. It's also one mana cheaper, which is important for this kind of effect, since keeping four mana open to counteract a sweeper is probably not something we can realistically expect to do often. Honestly, even three mana is already a stretch, considering a two-mana spell like Heroic Intervention isn't seeing too much play, either.


Kobold: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 9

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme?

 Highlights: Kobolds are back! Well, one Kobold is, at least, paying tribute to the race's relative importance in Dungeons & Dragons. Last year Commander Legends gave us Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh, 26 years after the original group of Kobolds from Legends; and here we are, a few months later, and the tribe is already adding its nine member. As a one-drop, Minion of the Mighty is... one of the more expensive Kobolds! In a tribe where half the members cost zero mana, what makes this new guy really stand out is the fact that he's doing something completely different, by leaning onto another tribe. Kobolds in D&D are indeed related to Dragons (whereas it's hard to tell what Kobolds in MTG are even supposed to look like, since every artist has offered a wildly different intepretation of their aspect). Therefore, Minion of the Mighty uses pack tactics to cheat into play one of his larger distant cousins. The Dragon enters the battlefield tapped and attacking, too, which unfortunately bypasses any attack trigger, but it's a way to give haste to the Dragons that don't already feature the keyword in their rule texts. The ability is definitely powerful. Of course, the Minion is going to die to a sneeze of medium intensity, but the addition of menace might cause him to survive for a second round – although, if he managed to trigger once, it's probably already a good return on our initial mana investment. Then again, the whole routine might just be too cute for its own good, and it doesn't synergize with the rest of the tribe, which isn't that good at enabling pack tactics. Unless the Dragon we're trying to drop for free is Prossh, Skyraider of Kher, which the Minion can summon and the other Kobolds feed. Hey, look at that: as it turns out, the relationship between Kobolds and Dragons had already been referenced in Magic, too!


Lizard: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 61, online: 59

 Related Tribes: Druid

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Does Lizard need a two-mana dude that can tap itself to put a land from the hand onto the battlefield? Does any tribe?


Manticore: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 12 

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The black "gotcha!" ability is another case of a work in progress in which relatively new design space is being mined and expanded. The ability actually dates back to Orzhov Euthanist from Guildpact, but that was a haunt card, so trying to figure out when and how it would trigger would cause a massive headache. In the last few years, we have had examples in Ixalan (Fathom Fleet Cutthroat), War of the Spark (Vraska's Finisher), Ikoria (Lurking Deadeye), and Kaldheim (Jarl of the Forsaken). The last two incorporated flash, as a way to use the effect during the opponent's turn, too, so to avoid any suspicious suicide attack. It's what Manticore also does, resulting in a quite playable Limited card.

 It's also the first black Manticore, if we ignore the penta-colored Chromanticore. And it's one of several cases where Forgotten Realms uses the most stripped down version of a spell's name (e.g. Fly, Wight, Wish, Zombie Ogre) – for some reason, Magic never had a Manticore just called "Manticore", possibly because it makes for a very banal and boring name. But since it's the generic name of that particular monster from D&D, it fits the tone of the set.


Monk: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 93, online: 90

 Related Tribes: Elf, Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Monk is a D&D class, and it's declined here in three very different forms. Half-Elf Monk is a tapper for Limited. Monk of the Open Hand is the card Grand Master of Flower searches for, so its value is entirely dependent on the presence of the planeswalker; it's otherwise an okay one-drop that can occasionally grow. And Dragon's Disciple is a "Dragons matter" card, a theme that's not as developed as some of the others in the set, but it's still a noticeable presence. In the Disciple's case, he can be a 2/4 for two mana if we control a Dragon or have a Dragon in hand when he drops. Additionally, it gives a small amount of protection to our Dragons. Nothing too fancy, but it's a reminder of the importance of the second word in Dungeons & Dragons.


Ogre: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 95, online: 90

 Related Tribes: Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: One Ogre rolls dice and creates a variable amount of Treasures (so that's two mechanics in one, the blue-red one and black-red one), one Ogre ventures into the dungeons whem morbid is triggered (and that kind of encompasses another pair of mechanics, the white-black one and the black-green one). They're both strong in Limited, negligible elsewhere. At this point, it seems evident that Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is not much of a Constructed-oriented set. It's almost a self-contained experience.


Ooze: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 34, online: 33

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Getting a new Ooze is always thrilling for me (as is for Maro making them, though he had no hand in Forgotten Realms – which shows, since it's not a very well-designed set, overall). And getting two of them at once is quite unusual, let alone two rare ones! They're both playable, which is great, but it's Ochre Jelly the more exciting of the duo, as a scalable trampler that can fit any point in the curve and has partial built-in resilience against non-exile-based removal. On its part, Gelatinous Cube wants to be the tribe's Ravenous Chupacabra, but requires further mana expenditure to actually ensure its target's removal, and that could prove quite the expensive maneuver. It just seems either too volatile or too clunky to be trusted as a permanent answer in Constructed.

 The names of these two cards reference, respectively, the gelatinous cube and the ochre jelly from D&D, two types of amorphous blobs that are categorized as oozes.


Orc: +4

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 69, online: 68

 Related Tribes: Knight, Ranger, Rogue, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Four colors of Orcs, none exceedingly notable. Guild Thief has the "slith" ability, and can self-enable it, if for a steep mana cost. Intrepid Outlander uses pack tactics to venture into the dungeon. The overlap between the "guilds" is sometimes neat. The Outlander also stands out a little for being strictly better than Grizzly Bears in three different ways: the venture ability; the higher toughness; and the reach. Poor Grizzly Bears, so thoroughly obsoleted by now.


Pegasus: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 18

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Classic Pegasus fluff. Giving flying to another creature is always good in Limited, though there have been Pegasi that grant it at every combat, not only as a one-off, like Pegasus Courser and Trusted Pegasus.


Ranger: +6

   

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 31

 Related Tribes: Dwarf, Elf, Human, Orc

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: The Ranger class (which also gets a very powerful enchantment named after it, the best in a cycle of new Saga-like cards) was really missing in MTG. Based on their names alone, a bunch of previous creatures got retconned into Rangers, starting from the two that were already reprinted with the additional subtype in Modern Horizons 2, namely Quririon Ranger and the timeshifted Ranger-Captain of Eos.

 Forgotten Realms adds six more to this nearly brand-new tribe. There's the master beater Drizzt, the adventurer extraordinaire Varis, and a few others that are mostly worthwhile in Limited, particularly the common Elturgard Ranger, with its six points of power for five mana, and the four-powered reach body that allows it to trade for most Dragons.

 Tribal centerpiece is the mythic Minsc, Beloved Ranger, the porting of an extremely popular character from the Baldur's Gate video game series. He's a kind-hearted yet eccentric guy who travels accompanied by an (allleged) "miniature giant space hamster" named Boo. His card is the only triple-colored spell in the set, and for one mana of each of the Naya colors, we get a 3/3 Minsc plus a 1/1 hasty trampler in the form of Boo. The little Hamster (the first of its type in Magic) provides a viable target for Minsc's Mirror Entity-like activated ability, which can turn any one creature into a (literal) giant threat. The ability works at sorcery speed, though, so it can't be used during the combat phase as a reactive trick. But since it works by changing the base power and toughness of the affected creature, those that carry +1/+1 counters are its ideal targets. Boo is also a suitable, other than flavorful recipient of the boost, because he can leverage trample. A secondary, "hidden" function of Minsc's ability is that of sacrifice outlet, since activating for X equal to zero on a creature without modifiers results in its immediate death.


Rogue: +9

   

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 321, online: 305

 Related Tribes: Elf, Halfling, Human, Orc, Snake, Tiefling

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Rogue is one of the major classes in D&D since 2nd Edition, and that's reflected in their relatively large presence in AFR. Unfortunately, the rare Hobgoblin Bandit Lord is a "Goblins matter" card that has nothing to do with Rogues, so the tribe is stuck with only one rare, the unblockable venturer Yuan-Ti Malison, and a few uncommons of note.

 The legendary signpost Krydle of Baldur's Gate is arguably the most interesting here. For just two mana in blue-black, we get a saboteur creature with a triple trigger upon connection – he drains for one, mills for one, scrys for one. The overall value of that accomplishment isn't too high, but it can accrue over time. What's most fruitful about him is the attack trigger that lets us push a single attacker through by paying two generic mana. It's obviously meant to be used with Krydle, and that's indeed the fail case of the ability. But it's easy to picture something juicer to enable, reaping a higher damage output or better rewards. And Krydle can just sit back and watch that happen, since the ability doesn't require him to accompany his now unblockable comrade into battle.

 But saboteur is indeed the name of the game for the Forgotten Realms Rogues and the blue-black archetype. Connecting with them provides all kinds of benefits. The already mentioned Yuan-Ti Malison ventures, and the same goes for the deathtoucher Yuan-Ti Fang-Blade and the big-butted Shortcut Seeker. Soulknife Spy draws a card. Guild Thief grows bigger. And Hoard Robber makes a Treasure. Krydle really has his work cut out for him in the set, with everyone and their dog asking for free passage through the red zone.


Shaman: +5

  

 

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 New Tribal Total: 432, online: 427

 Related Tribes: Dwarf, Elf, Human, Tiefling

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Shaman marks one of the elements where Magic and D&D doesn't fully line up. The subtype identifies one of the five characteristic spell-casters in Garfield's card game, but has never been heavily supported in Gygax's RPG, where powers achieved through religion are expressed more commonly through clerics and priests, and shamans have been at most the focus of specific settings like Oriental Adventures (oh yeah, that's a pretty racist setting by modern standards). So, not a lot of love for the tribe was to be expected in this set, is what I'm saying. And for some reason, all the five Shamans from Forgotten Realms care about dice-rolling. Brazen Dwarf weaponizes it, in the same way Drannith Stinger did with cycling. Aberrant Mind Sorcerer and Scion of Stygia have ETB triggers that roll a d20 to improve on their taks of recovering a spell or tapping a creature, respectively (it's worth noting here that the set's dice-rolling mechanic as a whole prevents the result of the rolls to change the outcomes in a very drastic way). The rolls from the most powerful application Chaos Channeler and Delina, Wild Mage happen at every attack, rewarding us with an amount of impulsive drawing or a number of token copies of variable lifespan.

 To be fair, this brand of shamanic dice-rolling isn't really interactive with itself. It's mostly a way to add a smidgen of unpredictability to these creatures' endeavors. Their power level remains closer to Limited than Constructed, since even the rare Delina is a four-drop that has to survive till the next combat phase in order to do something, and then she has to survive the attack, all while having a shockable body and no combat abilities to speak of. More so, there have to be a viable target to copy under our control by the time her ability triggers (though legendaries are allowed). And while we could theoretically keep rolling 15 or more and make infinite tokens out of probability math alone, odds are she'll create only one for a single turn.


Skeleton: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 58, online: 56

 Related Tribes: Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: You know when was the last time Skeleton had two mythics in the same set? Never, that's when! Which isn't surprising, considering these two floating skulls (we can easily ignore Clattering Skeleton; it's serviceable in Limited, nothing more) represents one third of all the mythics the tribe has filed under its name. Demilich, which is the first monoblue Skeleton, has caught the attention of older formats, because it could drop for free, or at least very cheap, provided enough instants and sorceries have been cast during the turn. It also endlessly recurs itself through a sort of conditional delve. Of course, not satisfying these requirements means being stuck with that intimidating quadruple blue mana cost, but the reward is also a Dreadhorde Arcanist attack trigger with no limitation to mana value, even if that creates inherent tension with the recursion: the more Demilich flashbacks spells for us, the less fuel we're left with to pay for its eventual resurrection. Flavor note: a demilich in D&D is a lich (i.e. an undead spellcaster) that has evolved beyond the need for a physical body.

 Flameskull has a similar knack for coming back from the dead, mixed with card advantage. It seems to occupy the traditional Phoenix slot, being an aggressively slanted red flyer that can be recast from the great beyond (in its case, it resides in exile) over and over again. In an intriguing twist, we may decide to break this cycle and let Flameskull go, if the card it exiled from the top of our library upon dying is more attractive. That's a neat option that feels truly innovative for this kind of card, combining impulsive drawing with self-recursion in a novel way. Flavor note: a flameskull is a magical construct fashioned from the skull of a deceased spellcaster.

 Forgotten Realms also gave Skeletons a new off-tribe lord/token creator in Death-Priest of Myrkul (Death Baron was the first case of such inter-tribal collaboration). Four mana are definitely on the slower side for a lord, but the morbid-like trigger is probably at its best within a Skeleton build, seeing as many members of the tribe are more than happy to die for the cause and then come back later.


Snake: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 94, online: 86

 Related Tribes: Rogue

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Both Snakes from AFR are saboteurs that venture into the dungeon as a result of their connecting efforts. They reference the yuan-ti, an evil race of humanoid snakes with psionic powers that has existed in D&D since 1st Edition.


Soldier: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 708, online: 650

 Related Tribes: Human, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Soldier is a disciplined job, not an occupation that necessarily evokes adventuring (The Three Musketeers be damned), which explains the relative scarcity in Forgotten Realms of what actually ranks as the fourth largest tribe in Magic. If we dismiss Wight as a Zombie card for Zombie decks (it's not exclusively so, but both color and death trigger seem to work better in that kind of build than in your average Soldier list), we're left with Keen-Eared Sentry, a hatebear that seems destined to oblivion, being a hoser of the dungeon mechanic specifically. I guess, giving the controller hexproof is what keeps it from being completely meaningless, as it actually reads as a strictly better Aegis of the Gods, for what's worth – save for when being an enchantment becomes relevant to the gameplan.


Spider: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 60, online: 59

 Related Tribes: Elf

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Elves are really everywhere in AFR, they're even fused with Spiders! Driders are actually old school monsters in D&D, as drow that have been mutated into centaur-like beings with the lower body of a giant spider. This guy is okay for an uncommon. A bit overcosted for its toughness, but on the other hand the connection trigger creates a truly formidable token with two power and two keywords. Although, it really feels like Drider wanted to be a rare sharing both of its children's abilities, since menace would have greatly improved its chances of connecting.

 Drow and driders worship a spider queen named Lolth, and Forgotten Realms made a planeswalker out of her. She seems worthy of a slot in a Spider deck running black.

 


Spirit: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 503, online: 496

 Related Tribes: Knight

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Maybe Spirits have a better use for this card's rescue effect than Knights? Hmm, double white in Spirit decks? With Rattlechains already as a staple? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say, no, Guardian of Faith is not going to see much play in Spirit tribal. But not because it's bad, in fact it's arguably better than its blueprint Glorious Protector. It just doesn't align well with any specific creature build, and combos where it responds to its own side's casting of a sweeper are just needlessly convoluted and too expensive to function.


Tiefling: +6

  

  

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 New Tribal Total: 6

 Related Tribes: Bard, Cleric, Rogue, Shaman, Warlock, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: The Tieflings are not exactly a Dungeons & Dragons classic, having been available as a primary race for player characters only since 4th Edition. But they have considerably grown in popularity since then, earning themselves a spot in Forgotten Realms' parade of D&D staples. There have been debates over the fact that Magic already had a race of humanoids with demonic heritage in the Azra from Battlebond, so the two tribes could have been collated. This might be true, but I think it's case of flavor needs, as with Kithkin vs. Halfling. If a card like Hoard Robber had Azra as a creature type, the link to Dungeons & Dragons would be entirely lost. In isolation, it would just be perceived as a thief belonging to that race from Kylem.

 The issue is that we don't know if Magic will ever revisit the Tieflings in the future. This first tribal selection is okay, though. They appear in Grixis colors, and they feature no rare member, but at least one strong legendary uncommon signpost in Farideh, Devil's Chosen (that epithet makes it sound like she made a pact with the biblical Devil; it's actually not the case), who's one the best payoffs for dice-rolling. Death-Priest of Myrkul cares about a bundle of Halloween tribes, but especially Skeletons. The common Tieflings do different things (one employs a saboteur ability for Treasures; one dice-rolling to tap opposing creatures at instant speed; and one has a small combat trigger that boosts itself or others).

 Eccentric Apprentice is really true to her name, since she offers a strange dungeon payoff that temporarily turns creatures into 1/1 Birds. I guess the ability is at its best when used on targets that carry lots of +1/+1 counters. But aside from that, she's also just a solid three-drop 2/2 flyer that ventures once upon arrival. Even if we'll never see the Tieflings again, at least they won't leave too bad of a memory.


Troll: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 46, online: 45

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: One of the defining trait of Trolls in D&D and Magic is that they're extremely hard to kill, as represented by mechanics like regeneration and hexproof. This one takes the recursive route, by implementing a die roll to establish how successful its rebirth is gonna be. For four mana, a dead Loathsome Troll can end up back on the top of the library; or, more likely, back into our hand; and if we're really lucky, directly onto the battlefield. It's effective insofar as we're interested in running a slow, semi-immortal threat. Although it's a role that we can fill with better creatures that are in average less mana-intensive and don't get traded down with any two-powered blocker.


Turtle: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 23, online: 21

 Related Tribes: Dragon

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: It's a Turtle and it's a Dragon! I remember reading about the dragon turtle in the 2nd Edition Monster Manual, and thinking it was cool, if silly (we never actually encountered one in my game group's D&D campaigns, because we've always found ourselves in landlocked areas). This card version is a weird, but not entirely ineffectual mix between a "freeze" spell and an aggressively costed beater. It can never ambush an opposing attacker, and it's also akward to drop on the opponent's end phase, since it still won't be able to take part in our next combat step. But three mana for a 3/5 is starkly above the curve, and it can still stop a creature from hitting us for two turns in a row. Plus, untappers do exist.


Unicorn: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 26, online: 23

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: So this is a slightly more expensive Ajani's Pridemate that starts with an extra point of power. It's the secondary "lifegain matters" beater for white-green in the set, after the signpost Trelasarra, Moon Dancer. A simple design, still efficient enough to be attractive.


Vampire: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 270, online: 266

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Vampire Spawn is just irrelevant filler, but Westgate Regent is a respectful finisher that keeps doubling in size every time it connects. That definitely makes for a very fast clock that the opponent can't ignore for long (similar to certain green beaters of the "answer this or die" varierty, like Primordial Hydra and Kalonian Hydra), and the ward cost forces them to two-for-one themselves in the process. One of the the most dangerous Limited bombs in the set.


Wall: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 136, online: 115

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: I love the flavor of this card. While exploring the dungeon, you find a secret door that gives access to the next room. The cost is also reasonable, and as we wait to have the mana to activate the ability, we enjoy a very early, very efficient blocker. The only question is: does a door qualify as a wall? Isn't it, like, the opposite of a wall, being something that allows passage rather than blocking it? I guess you have to know the secret password.


Warlock: +6

  

  

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 New Tribal Total: 44

 Related Tribes: Elf, Gnome, Goblin, Human, Tiefling

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Warlock is a relatively new thing, both in MTG and in D&D. In fact, Magic went with this term over "witch" when creating the subtype in Throne of Eldraine, in part because D&D already had gone that route in 3rd Edition. They're a truly disparate lot here. Farideh, Devil's Chosen and Feywild Trickster are arguably the two best "dice-rolling matters" cards (Herald of Hadar, not so much, although it's playable in Limited). Grim Wanderer and Shessra, Death's Whisper are application of morbid. Hired Hexblade turns into a larger Dusk Legion Zealot, if a Treasure is used to cast it – which is also akin to turning a Treasure into a Clue, with a 2/2 body as a bonus.


Warrior: +7

   

  

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 New Tribal Total: 817, online: 798

 Related Tribes: Dragon, Dwarf, Goblin, Giant, Human, Orc

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Warrior is an abandoned class in D&D, where fighter is the more supported equivalent. But it's the third largest tribe in Magic, so this is where all the fighting is happening. The central theme for the tribe in Forgotten Realms is Equipment, as reflected by the excellent Bruenor Battlehammer, plus a couple minor Warriors that benefit from being equipped, like Dwarfhold Champion and Armory Veteran. The remaining members are commons for Limited. Veteran Dungeoneer is the only one that ventures, but it's a straightforward, efficient application of the mechanic. Rimeshield Frost Giant is a valid curve-topper in blue, with a sturdy body and a ward count high enough to make targeting it pretty annoying.


Werewolf: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 43, online: 42

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: First new Werewolf since Eldritch Moon, and it's a sexy card with sexy art! Of course it couldn't be a double-faced card, so the transformation has to happen via activated ability. But a two-mana 3/3 is already noteworthy, and she could gain trample and two extra points of power, which makes it easier to trigger the card drawing via pack tactics. She's already positioning herself as a new turn-two play in Stompy decks. Is Midnight Hunt here yet?


Wizard: +7

   

  

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 New Tribal Total: 837, online: 819

 Related Tribes: Elf, Gnome, Human, Skeleton, Tiefling, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Obvious slam dunk creature type for synergies between D&D and MTG, Wizard might have the same number of new additions as Warrior, but surpasses the rival tribe in quality by a ridiculously large margin. The two mythic liches, Acererak the Archlich and Demilich, are both at the top of their respective games, which are self-sustained dungeoneering for the former and spellslinging synergy for the latter. After completing the Tomb of Annihilation dungeon, a feat which can be accomplished in three to four venturings, Acererak will turn into an extremely low-priced three-mana 5/5, with the ability to either create 2/2 Zombies or force sacrifices at every attack. And the Archlich doesn't even need external help to get there, as he can essentially pay his casting cost again and again to venture, in a way that's reminiscent of Greenbelt Rampager jumping up and down onto the battlefield in order to accumulate the energy required to be finally dropped for good. We may see Acererak as one of the rare dungeon-based creatures that don't actually need to be surrounded by other instances of the mechanic – albeit, of course, he gets better if he's spared the chore of doing all the exploring by himself.

Hama Pashar, Ruin Seeker is a payoff for dungeon decks, doubling the rewards collected though venturing. And Volo, Guide to Monsters is arguably the coolest new Wizard, as sort of an anti-tribal lord that promises good times copying all our other creatures for free, as long as our deck is assembled in a clever way, to avoid duplicated subtypes as much as possible (it's trickier than it sounds, but it's feasible). A fun build-around card that still demands to be taken seriously, even if he would have benefited from a slightly larger butt.


Wolf: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 59, online: 55

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Wolves can do better than this, but Dire Wolf Prowler is still a competent beater that swings on turn four backed up by the threat of activation, and can double as a five-mana 4/4 with haste. Playable enough in Limited.


Worm: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 9, online: 8

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: This is funny because it clearly is a Wurm in Magic's terms, but D&D calls it a worm, so here's the chance for the much neglected Worm tribe to get a new member since Commander 2014's Reef Worm. Is it actually good? Well, it's not bad if we can trigger morbid and cast it for five mana. And in Limited. In all other cases, well, it's a Worm's impression of a Wurm. And it's purple. It makes sense. Don't overthink it.


Zombie: +7

   

  

 

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 New Tribal Total: 484, online: 477

 Related Tribes: Dragon, Ogre, Soldier, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Two mythic Zombies with the word "lich" in their names, the dungeon lord Acererak the Archlich and the recursive Dragon Ebondeath, Dracolich. The rare one, Wight, has an aggressive body for two mana; but in practice its ability reads as the creation of a 2/2 replacement token when the Wight dies, because it's hard to imagine it surviving many engagment with that toughness – unless we actively tries to combo it with something that allows it to deal damage from afar, but that's already sounding more convoluted than this card is meant to be.

 The two one-drops might be of interest. Shambling Ghast offers two different types of death trigger, one to punish opposing creatures, the other to ramp. Dungeon Crawler is a Gravecrawler that uses dungeon completion as a criterion for its resurrection; this makes it parasitic, because it's not able to stage a dungeon exploration by itself, but it seems like it could be the backbone of a dungeon deck, if such a deck is ever going to exist. And unlike its more generic predecessor, Dungeon Crawler can block.


SUMMARY

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ELLYWICK'S PARTY

   

   

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KUMA'S TRIBAL EVALUATIONS