While commons are the backbone of all Limited play, what takes a deck from good to great is a bomb rare. And Forgotten Realms has quite a number of them! Today I am going over which I believe to be absolutely busted, which I think are just okay, and which you likely never want to put into your deck.
I am ordering all cards alphabetically in their respective tiers, as nitpicking over an exact ranking of these cards is somewhat redundant. After all, you will hardly ever face the choice of taking one rare over another. Some synergy-focused cards will vary in strength depending on the composition of your deck by up to a full grade. My grades here are mostly based on their respective potential as pick one in pack one.
Adult Gold Dragon (A−): While it does die to Dragon's Fire, this is very likely to connect at least once, and an 8 point life swing is huge. It's splashable, and if you're just playing red-white anyway, it's one of the best carriers of Equipment in the whole set.
Dancing Sword (A): The best equipment in one of the best archetypes. The single-mana equip is really what sells it. +2/+1 is an extremely good rate for an Equipment buff.
Den of the Bugbear (A−): The only one of the creature lands in this category partially makes it in because it is in the best color, but it also has some neat synergy. A lot of the best red cards are incidentally Goblins, and god forbid you have this in combination with Hobgoblin Bandit Lord.
Drizzt Do'Urden (A): Drizzt Do'Urden is an army in a can, and wil absolutely end a gamel if unanswered. Remember that the +1/+1 counter ability does not always put just a single counter on Drizzt. If your Hill Giant Herdgorger dies while you have this card on the battlefield, it will get four (!) counters!
Ebondeath, Dracolich (A+): Possibly the best of the legendary Dragons in the set, Ebondeath is essentially unkillable and very easy to recur, especially in a color that loves to sacrifice it's own creatures. This, alongside being a 5 power flier, means that games will end quickly after Ebondeath shows up on the battlefield.
Gelatinous Cube (A−): I always get a little jelly of my opponents when they drop this one onto the battlefield, it's just that good! If you can get rid of the exiled creature before it dies it's a two for one, and it's those kinds of cards that just wins games.
Grand Master of Flowers (A−): Despite his loyalty abilities looking pretty innocuous, the Grand Master is a game-warping card. Pacifism on a +1, even if limited for a turn, is pretty strong, and there aren't too many creatures with first strike, double strike, or vigilance in the format, making that restriction less relevant than you'd think. When he reaches 7 loyalty, the game will end in quick fashion. Monk of the Open Hand is not a requirement but a definite bonus, as tutoring a creature onto the battlefield as a +1 ability is incredibly strong. If I got this planeswalker pack one pick one, I'd be on the lookout for Monks.
Icingdeath, Frost Tyrant (A): Icingdeath might not be the most impressive of the legendary Dragons stat-wise, but it's cheap and the death trigger creates one of the most powerful Equipment in the set. Vigilance is also very nice on this, and it carries other Equipment very nicely. Note that the death trigger is not tied to whoever owns Icingdeath, so if you steal this Dragon from your opponent and sacrifice it, you will get the Equipment!
Inferno of the Star Mounts (A+): Much like the aforementioned Adult Gold Dragon, Inferno here will almost always be guaranteed to get one attack in, or force the opponent into a chump block, guaranteeing you good value. Uncounterable is a niche but neat upside, and the fire-breathing pump ability is just icing on the cake. This dragon is certainly one of the best cards in the set and you should try your darndest to play it if you open it.
Iymrith, Desert Doom (A−): Were it not blue, Iymrith would have easily got the A+. But being in the by far worst color knocks the grade down slightly. That being said, Iymrith is one of the reasons to actually draft blue and there are few situations I'd see myself passing this pack one pick one.
Lolth, Spider Queen (A): Planeswalkers are good in Limited, who would have thought? Lolth just does it all, draws cards, protects herself even against fliers, and even if your opponent clears away some blockers, she gains loyalty in the process!
Mind Flayer (A−): According to 17lands.com, which gathers data from thousands of drafters on Magic Arena, Mind Flayer is the card that wins the most games when drawn. It has a 68.4% win rate there, and only misses on the A+ in my mind because of its color identity. However, like Iymrith and the next card on the list, Mind Flayer is a very, very good reason to play blue.
Mordenkainen (A−): Mordenkainen, like his friends Iymrith and Mind Flayer, would have got an A+ if he wasn't in blue. Once again though, he is one of the best reasons to be in the color. He ticks up to a massive 7 loyalty when he comes down, or makes potentially massive creatures to protect himself. It goes without saying that Mordenkainen is absolutely busted and well worth the hit in power of playing blue.
Nadaar, Selfless Paladin (A): This card was a little off my radar at first, but it is one of the most successful cards as per 17lands.com data, and coming down on turn three, it can absolutely just end games from the pure value it generates.
Orcus, Prince of Undeath (A): In most other sets, I would have had Orcus at around B+—very good, but not busted. However, it is not only a strong card in the best archetype, it is also the only (good) board wipe available in the set. Being a 5/3 flying, trampling threat too means it can easily swing games from losing to winning in a heartbeat. The second mode of reanimating creatures is often less relevant than just clearing the board of most things but is just the cherry on top of an already great card.
Ranger Class (A+): At the time of writing, Ranger Class has a whopping 71.3% win rate according to 17lands.com. That is absolutely insane! Remember that, in best-of-one play on Magic Arena, the higher you get in the rankings, the closer to 50% your win rate will be pushed as you approach the ceiling of your abilities. Ranger Class bumping this average with as much as 21% is ludicrous, and for that reason it is in my mind the absolutely, uncontested number one card in the set.
Volo, Guide to Monsters (A−): Volo is another member of the "would've been A+ if it wasn't in blue" club, but regardless of its color identity, untapping with Volo is a scary prospect for the player on the other side of the battlefield. Copying Owlbear, Herdgorgeous or more or less any creature you can is backbreaking for your opponents. Don't forget, though, that Volo counts its own creature types as well, so Humans and Wizards are all off limits to copy, even if Volo is the only creature on the battlefield.
Werewolf Pack Leader (A): Another strong two-drop, but a little restrictive on the mana cost. If that's not an issue, this can easily take over games starting on turn two, being able to attack through most other two-drops in the set. The pump ability is also often relevant to make blocks awkward for your opponents.
Westgate Regent (A+): Westgate Regent was one I underrated at first, as I initially misread the card as putting only a single +1/+1 counter on it. This is not the case, though, and so this card often ends the game in just two swings. If your opponent has some way to remove it, you still get a two-for-one trade via ward. Unless you're woefully behind when playing this, I have a tough time imagining losing many games where this comes down on curve.
Xanathar, Guild Kingpin (A+): Finally, despite being blue, Xanathar will get the A+. It's huge, it's oppressive, and it will be able to more or less lock your opponent out of the game. A note on the play patterns of Xanathar. You don't want to play lands off of him! Just play whatever spells are on top of your opponent's deck, and stop whenever there's a land (or irrelevant spell) on top. This essentially means your opponent will only be drawing lands or otherwise dud cards for the rest of the game, ensuring your road to victory.
I'm not discussing all of the cards in the scond tier one by one. But I am adding some notes to cards I think need clarification or tips on optimizing them.
For reference, the best uncommons for each color are, in my opinion, the following:
Do keep in mind that these rankings aren't set in stone. I might take for example Skullport Merchant over some of the following rares. This usually goes for the blue cards, but it may also depend on your own drafting preferences.
Acererak the Archlich (B+)
Cave of the Frost Dragon (B+)
The Deck of Many Things (C− to B−): This card is very good in a controlling deck, and pretty medium in an aggressive deck. The slower you want to go, the higher I would value this card.
Delina, Wild Mage (B+): Watch out for the possible "infinite" combo of this and Pixie Guide!
Demilich (Build-Around C+): Demilich on its own is pretty bad, but if you can build around it, it can be very good. Deadly Dispute is essentially a Manamorphose for it, reducing the cost by one and making a Treasure, so it is not impossible for you to slot this into your deck.
Ellywick Tumblestrum (B): Ellywick is kind of funny in that her +1 is simultaneously one of the weakest and one of the strongest of all planeswalkers ever. If you're entering a new dungeon, it's "gain 1 life," "scry 1," or "each player loses 1 life." If you're finishing one, it's "draw three cards and cast one for free," "draw a card," or "create a 4/4 with deathtouch." So her power partly depends on how deep into the dungeon theme you venture.
Grazilaxx, Illithid Scholar (B−)
Hall of Storm Giants (B−)
Hand of Vecna (B): I've seen this go very late in a lot of drafts, and it really shouldn't. It is the strongest Equipment in the set in the sense that it goes into any deck, and coming down on turn three and giving your two-drop +4/+4 is going to end the game very quickly. If you have this in your deck, make sure to hold lands in hand to make it a good topdeck late.
Meteor Swarm (B)
Minsc, Beloved Ranger (B−): The activated ability of Minsc is sorcery speed only, so don't try to get your opponents with it on their turn! And don't activate it for X=0, as that will make your creature a 0/0 and subsequently kill it. Or do—in combination with Price of Loyalty!
Ochre Jelly (B−)
Old Gnawbone (B)
Paladin Class (B−)
Skeletal Swarming (B+)
The Tarrasque (Build-Around B−): The Tarrasque is, paradoxically, not that enticing in green but rather in a special kind of black-red deck! With enough Treasure generation, getting to nine mana is trivial, and if you use your Treasure sparingly, having three of them lying around is not that difficult.
Teleportation Circle (Build-Around B+): On its own, Teleportation Circle looks a bit like a Constructed plant, but make no mistake! It is an incredibly strong build-around, especially in green-white. Blinking things like Priest of Ancient Lore, Owlbear, or even Elturgard Ranger are easy ways to take over the game.
Triumphant Adventurer (B)
Varis, Silverymoon Ranger (B+)
Vorpal Sword (B−)
Yuan-Ti Malison (B−)
Zariel, Archduke of Avernus (B+)
Yes, were making a big jump here—from rares that are better than any uncommons straight to rares that are worse than the strongest commons. The best uncommons and commons simply are that close in Forgotten Realms, sometimes barely distinguishable in power level.
For reference, the best commons for each color are, in my opinion, the following:
The Book of Exalted Deeds (Build-Around C): The mana cost is restrictive, but if you have enough copies of Hill Giant Herdgorger or Inspiring Bard this can be a strong inclusion in your deck.
Circle of Dreams Druid (D−)
Dragon Turtle (C)
Fighter Class (C+)
Forsworn Paladin (B−): This is the only card that gets a B− grade in this category, and it is because of its cheap cost and activated abilities. It's a very good one-drop, but I would not pick it over the best uncommons.
Guardian of Faith (C−)
Hive of the Eye Tyrant (C+)
Hobgoblin Bandit Lord (Build-Around C+): A lot of the best creatures in red are incidentally Goblins, so all you really have to do to make this pretty good is play red. Of course, you might want to prioritize the Goblins just a little bit higher than normal when you have the Lord.
Lair of the Hydra (C+)
Long Rest (C−)
Loyal Warhound (C)
Monk Class (D+): I must admit, I overrated this in my initial set review, and I apologize to all readers who drafted this expecting it to be a bomb rare.
Rogue Class (C−)
Wizard's Spellbook (D+)
Zalto, Fire Giant Duke (C)
Asmodeus the Archfiend (D−)
Bard Class (F)
The Book of Vile Darkness (F)
The Blackstaff of Waterdeep (F)
Dungeon Descent (F)
Eye of Vecna (Draft D−/Sealed B−): Eye of Vecna is generally too slow and durdly for the relatively fast-paced draft format, but in Sealed it goes way up in value and I would classify it as a pretty bomby card there.
Instrument of the Bards (Draft D−/Sealed C): Similarly to Eye of Vecna, this is a tad too slow for draft, but good in Sealed. It doesn't have an immediate impact if drawn late, however, which makes it less strong, though still a good mana sink if the game slows down.
Minion of the Mighty (F)
Orb of Dragonkind (F)
Oswald Fiddlebender (Build-Around D): Oswald can be neat in the sense that it can turn a Treasure into Fifty Feet of Rope and your Potion of Healing into Dungeon Map. Outside of that, it's not much more than a two-mana 2/2.
Sorcerer Class (F)
Sphere of Annihilation (Draft F/Sealed D+): The Sphere is unique in that it's one of only two board wipes in the set. (Well, that technically makes it semi-unique, I guess.) However, there are too many things wrong with it. You usually have to tap out to play this, your maximum X will often be lower than the mana value of your opponent's latest drop and their next one, and waiting a turn lets your opponent plan around it. Worst case, you rely on it, and they Find a Cursed Idol or Some Prisoners or a Plundering Barbarian.
Tasha's Hideous Laughter (F/Build-Around C−): On its own, this card is pretty bad, but If you have an Aberrant Mind Sorcerer or two, it can become a real win condition.
Treasure Chest (D−)
Treasure Vault (E)
That's all the rares and mythics of the set! I hope this can set you on the path to victory in your next drafts when you open those bomb rares. Happy drafting!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.