Magic: the Gathering has been on an incredible roll– a nat 20, you might say. Over the last year, game publisher Wizards of the Coast has introduced an unprecedented number of well-beloved card game expansions to the world. From the beginner-friendly Jumpstart to the epic Commander Legends and nostalgic release of Time Spiral Remastered, there has never been a better time to play Magic. But where to begin? There’s always the Core Sets, annual expansions targeted at new players, but what if you’re someone who has had experience with other strategy games and wants to jump in headfirst rather than just getting your feet wet? What if you love Wizards of the Coast’s other major hit game: Dungeons and Dragons? Well then…I guess it’s time for you to take a trip to the Forgotten Realms!
This summer, Magic and D&D cross over in a new expansion titled Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. Set to release on July 23rd, 2021, this set takes players to “The Realms,” a classic D&D campaign setting populated by humans, dwarves, elves, the Beholder…and of course, dragons:
Classic fantasy roleplay, remixed for Magic
According to Wizards of the Coast senior game designer James Wyatt, the “The task of [Adventures in the] Forgotten Realms was to highlight the things that are most iconic and familiar about D&D”. In a Magic context, that means the first thing Forgotten Realms needs to do is set the stage for a grand adventure.
According to Worldbuilding Design Manager Meris Mullaley, for the first time in Magic, basic lands will feature flavor text to help create the “immersive feeling” of the Forgotten Realms. With twenty basic lands in total, these lands showcase “from the Spine of the World to the depths of the Underdark.”
Beyond the terrain itself, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms seeks to capture all the things players love most about this vibrant campaign setting, from monsters to heroes to weapons and more. Take a look at this adorable yet creepy Flumph, which first appeared in Dungeons and Dragons‘ first Fiend Folio:
And what do you do with these weapons of legend? Why, you take on iconic behemoths like Ingeloakastimizilian, more pronouncably known as Icingdeath, Frost Tyrant (whose card has unfortunately not been spoiled yet)!
For folks new to Dungeons and Dragons such as yours truly, creatures like frost dragons are easily recognizable and simple to wrap your head around. However, those more familiar with the lore of the Forgotten Realms will find even more to love in these cards, as they’re chock full of Easter eggs and references to D&D lore. Icingdeath’s art, for example, features one of the scimitars that the hero Drizzt Do’Urden collects from Icingdeath’s hoard after slaying him.
Speaking of Drizzt, he gets a card as well:
Legendary creature cards will prove to be plentiful in the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms expansion. According to Wyatt, these cards feature characters both well known and obscure from places such as the Monster Manual, D&D novels, comic books, Idle Realms, and “very old computer games.”
Drizzt’s companion Bruenor Battlehammer gets a card as well, with flavor text taken from a novel that features him, The Crystal Shard.
Adventures in the Forgotten Realms does not only feature classic characters, however. A band of new heroes including Nadaar, Selfless Paladin show up as well, receiving their own cards and also appearing on other artwork throughout the set!
Planeswalkers, from my D&D?
While the Forgotten Realms world does not feature Planeswalkers as defined by the traditional rules of Magic lore, the Forgotten Realms expansion will feature several cards with the typeline. When selecting who would be featured on these powerful headliner cards, Wyatt says the team looked for characters who had an “influence on the worlds of D&D, not just the Forgotten Realms.” Planeswalkers in all but name, essentially!
With that in mind, say hello to Lolth, the spider queen whose “schemes take [her] across worlds.”
And, making her debut in both Magic AND Dungeons and Dragons comes Ellywick Tumblestrum, a gnome bard whose “travels have taken her into the Feywild and the Multiverse!”
Her artwork features a card from the Deck of Many Things, a D&D item from which Ellywick draws her power (A planeswalker using magic cards? Hm. Seems a little meta…).
What’s a Dungeon, anyways?
By this point, having read Nadaar and Ellywick, some of you Magic players are likely wondering what the heck it means to “venture into the dungeon.”
Dungeons are a new type of metagame card being introduced to Magic in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. These cards are meant to capture the feel of D&D dungeons by offering players the opportunity to loot rooms, spring traps, and find awe-inspiring treasures!
When a card tells you to “venture” for the first time, you enter one of the three dungeons by putting it into your command zone and activate the first room’s effect. Then, there are branching paths of effects that you follow and activate each additional time you “venture.” Dungeons come in different lengths and have effects of different flavors, offering a ton of modularity in the effects they have on your Magic games.
Plenty of cards beyond the rares and mythic rares allow you to venture into the dungeon, and some even gain new powers when you complete one!
Each player in the game can have their own active dungeons, and players can venture into up to all three of the Dungeons at the same time. For example, both you and your opponent can enter the Dungeon of the Mad Mage, but when you’re halfway through that dungeon, you can still choose to “venture” into the Tomb of Annihilation while continuing to explore the Dungeon of the Mad Mage. The Dungeon cards appear in the token slot of Forgotten Realms draft packs, and while playing, you can venture into any of the three dungeons regardless of whether or not you have the Dungeon card on you.
In recent years, Magic players have been exposed to a bevy of new card treatments. Similar to skins in video games, these treatments are purely cosmetic, but many of them have proven to be beloved gems in players’ collections, and the new card treatments introduced in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms may well end up being as treasured.
First off, a number of cards will get the borderless alternate art treatment that iconic cards in every Magic set receive:
Next, unique to Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, certain land cards will receive a unique artistic treatment that, according to Mullaley, echoes “the cover art from a classic Dungeons and Dragons adventure module.” The first of these cards to be spoiled is the well-known Evolving Wilds, but the other lands that feature this treatment are brand new, and also feature names that are designed to sound like D&D adventures.
In addition to these two treatments, a variety of legendary heroes and monsters will receive the “rulebook” treatment, which renders these characters in a style “inspired by early Monster Manual art.” A splash of color drawn from the mana types these creatures are aligned with highlights the ink-heavy artwork of these cards. A number of early Dungeons and Dragons artists have returned to illustrate these 51 cards!
Finally, a certain number of art cards– which you can find in Set Boosters– feature special stat blocks printed on the back of them. These stat blocks can be used as a way to quickly reference a monster’s mechanics in a game of D&D! Cross-game synergy!
There’s plenty more to explore in the Forgotten Realms. Card previews for the expansion begin today and continue over the next two weeks across the web! Let’s go get that loot!