Hello everybody! Adventures in the Forgotten Realms has recently been released on MTG Arena, and I hope you've been having a blast exploring dungeons and making decisions with all of the modal cards the set has to offer! In today's article I'm going to be sharing my initial thoughts on the format to guide you towards even greater success. Let's get to it!
Venture is an All or Nothing Deal
Exploring a dungeon is a bit like planning a picnic. You can have all the sandwiches and lemonade and blankets and baskets and little tea cakes you can handle, but if your car runs out of gas on the way to the beach you're not going to have a successful picnic! On a similar note, when you're exploring a dungeon, you need to make sure you can reach the end in one piece! Since the best rooms in the dungeons are stacked at the end, you need to be venturing consistently to make it worth it, and that is often difficult if you are not specifically planning for it.
During the Draft you should be aware of whether you are trying to draft a venture deck. If you are, you need to be prioritizing cards that let you explore the dungeon! It is especially important to have cards that let you explore multiple times, as those are really the engines that a successful deck can be built around. A card like
Dungeon Map is perfect for this as it provides you with a little ramp early and then lets you really start booking it through the dungeon once you've got extra mana lying around.
If you are not planning on dungeon crawling, then avoiding those cards is perfectly viable and can still leave you with quality decks, as you certainly don't want to put a couple of underpowered venture cards into your deck just to get stuck in the opening room. I will say that some cards (like
Yuan-Ti Fang-blade) are still efficient and worth playing even if you don't care about Venturing, but often those cards will play out as if they didn't really have the Venture text on the card. Ultimately, you want to make sure you can classify your deck as one that ventures or one that does not, and as long as you know which camp you are in, you can have a successful picnic... err... trip to the dungeon!
Equipment is Strong
In typical Dungeons and Dragons fashion, gearing up your brave little creatures with items is quite powerful in this set! The first time I cast
Plate Armor I was blown away by its impact (my creature was wearing armor so he was less easy to blow away), and there are quite a lot of common equipment that perform well, too! While the equipment that cost 3 to equip are generally a bit slow (aside from the aforementioned Plate Armor), the cheap equipment like
Boots of Speed and even
Spare Dagger (a card that I think I like more than most players) can really boost your creatures and help them overcome blockers.
Equipping a creature really makes it feel special, and it will fight harder for you if you take that extra care. Another side effect of equipment being strong is that aggressive decks have some extra late game power, so if you are trying to stabilize make sure you have the tools to deal with the extra axis of attack. Large creatures can sometimes get the job done, but being able to save your removal spells can be super important, and it is nice to be able to start pressuring them before they can grind you out. Additionally, it can be prudent to pack some Artifact removal in your deck as an answer, and a card like
Plundering Barbarian is worth prioritizing accordingly.
If you are playing a bunch of equipment in your deck, make sure that you still have plenty of creatures to pair them with. You still need some friendly hands to wield your weapons after all! Generally, you will run fewer combat tricks as you add equipment to make sure you still meet your removal and creature needs. Also, if you have some high impact equipment to draw, you should keep it in mind when considering whether to trade. It always feels nice to have a backup creature to carry the torch if your first brave adventurer dies!
Does your deck care about attacking?
One element of this set that I am finding particularly important is knowing whether your deck is primarily concerned with attacking or defending. Attacking decks are more common because of the strong aggressive creatures like
Hobgoblin Captain, but there are certainly tools to be controlling as well, and knowing that can be key during the draft. A great card to demonstrate this point is
Soulknife Spy, as it is a card that has to attack to do well, and as such does not fit a defensive shell as effectively. If your deck is built to attack and has combat tricks, equipment, and pressure to backup the Spy, it can really carry you.
If on the other hand you are more focused on blocking and playing defense until you win the lategame, it becomes more important to stall and play better blockers. I find that when I am constructing a deck it makes my decisions easier and my gameplan more focused if I can go into the game thinking "I want to attack" or "I want to defend," rather than "I guess I'll see what happens." There will certainly be times where your defensive deck takes a beatdown role and vice versa, but you will construct a more synergistic deck if you go in with a game plan, and it will make your draft picks easier and more effective!
I want to spend a little bit of time mentioning a few cards that have really impressed me despite looking medium when I saw them initially. First up is
Shambling Ghast, a card that looks unassuming despite the terrifying artwork but quietly carries many of my decks through the early game. It feels incredible to line one of these hideous creatures up against a Hobgoblin Captain or other 3/1, and the fact that it can trade with a 2/2 is additional gravy! I've sometimes even been able to sacrifice it to other effects to kill a pesky 1 toughness creature that doesn't want to tangle in combat. Overall, a card you'll certainly want to pick up for your defensive Black decks.
Another Black card that I've really liked is
Ray of Enfeeblement. It seems potentially underpowered against non-White decks, but I've found plenty of good use cases for it already. One of my favorites was to counter a mid-combat
Spoils of the Hunt, but it is also just solid picking off random 1 toughness creatures or being a cheap combat trick. I think it is very strong and worth maindecking.
Boots of Speed may look like the chaff common
Crystal Slipper, but the cheaper equip along with a far different format makes the Boots quite strong! I have lost several games to creatures that are running way faster than they should, and I think having a couple Boots makes any Red aggro deck far more fearsome!
I've been having a lot of fun exploring and experimenting in this new format, and these are some of the takeaways I've learned so far. One thing I want to mention is that it is easy to fall into the trap of exaggerating early results and then sticking to them, so when doing your own drafts I would caution you to keep an open mind and try things out.
It would be a shame to let your first experience with a card dictate your perspective for the entire format. Variance plays a big role in Magic, so make sure to be patient when it comes to making judgments (also just a good lesson for life). Anyway, that's going to do it for this article! I hope you have great success completing Dungeons and casting Dragons, and until next time, happy drafting!