Magic: The Gathering meets Dungeons & Dragons! The two main properties owned by Wizards of the Coast massively join forces for the first time in their long history. The result is Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, a Magic product like no other. Depicting places and characters from the Forgotten Realms D&D campaign setting, this draftable 281-card Standard-legal premier set, which replaces the Core Set as the Summer release for 2021, lands squarely outside of the regular Magic Multiverse. Exploring a world that looks as familiar to D&D players as it is removed from the ongoing narrative last touched upon in Strixhaven: School of Mages, we visit dark dungeons and face fearsome dragons, in an experience that tries and recaptures the feeling of playing a classic role-playing game through a game of Magic.
The most daring new mechanic from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is appropriately called venture into the dungeon. Inspired by the Contraptions from the silver-bordered set Unstable, this ability makes use of a new card type, representing the dungeons themselves, for example, Dungeon of the Mad Mage // Lost Mine of Phandelver. These come in three variations, don’t need to be drafted, and start outside the game - just like the Contraptions. Only cards with the venture keyword action can bring dungeons into the game. They take the form of a map of the dungeon’s various rooms, which the player moves through by starting at the entrance at the top, and then going deeper and deeper downward each time a new instance of venturing is played. The process mimics the most iconic situation of a D&D party making its way through a dungeon. Each room has a flavorful name and triggers a different effect, with the final one offering a bigger reward and enabling several payoffs on “dungeons matter” cards, which mostly come in white, blue, and black.
As interested to the setting’s lore as it is to the very act of playing an RPG, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms introduces another mechanic that was previously a sole prerogative of the un-sets: dice-rolling. This meta-textual action can be the effect of a spell or be incorporated in the triggered or activated abilities of a large subset of cards, predominantly appearing in blue and red. The rolls uniformly make use of a 20-sided die, flavorfully referenced to as a “d20” – an arrangement of die that has come to define D&D. Of course the result can be influenced by specialized abilities, like Pixie Guide’s, and the reward gets better the higher the roll is, as exemplified by powerful applications like Delina, Wild Mage or Wizard’s Spellbook. The crazier ones, like The Deck of Many Things, even bring about the dreaded possibility of a fumble!
Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is set on the D&D planet of Toril, which is where the titular adventures take place in the popular “Forgotten Realms” series of module sourcebooks and novels. Toril remains completely separated from the regular Magic Multiverse, giving the designers a chance to include as many references from the original setting as possible. The set introduces characteristic races like Beholder, Gnoll, Halfling, and Tiefling; classes like Bard and Ranger, which are also the central element of a namesake new subtype of enchantment, as seen in cards like Barbarian Class, Paladin Class, and indeed Ranger Class. There are 12 different Class enchantments, covering the main player classes of the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons; they act as a sort of Sagas that remain in play indefinitely and don’t autonomously advance through their steps, instead requiring an activation cost.
Naturally, it wouldn’t be a true D&D homage without a strong presence of the second “D”. Therefore Dragons, as well as the humanoid Dragonborn, appear in a large number in the set, lead by their two deities, the noble Bahamut (hidden under the unassuming guise of the Grand Master of Flowers) and the evil Tiamat (in a five-colored “mother of dragons” incarnation). There’s also a series of other famous dragons, like Iymrith and Old Gnawbone, and a full cycle of uncommon “chromatic” Dragons to guarantee an adequate draconic experience in Limited.
Other notable D&D favorites include the heroic dark elf Drizzt Do’Urden, the eccentric archmage Mordenkainen, and the spider queen Lolth. Some of these characters are represented by planeswalker cards, despite not being canonically able to travel through planes, just as a way to better convey their power – a different approach to the card type that was never attempted before.
Further enhancing the D&D experience, many cards come with mechanically inert flavor words, describing the card effects, especially in spells with multiple modes, the way a dungeon master would to their players. Similar flavor text appears for the first time on the five basic lands too, while the adopted showcase art takes the form of classic Monster Manual illustrations or, in the case of lands, the cover of old-school D&D modules.