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I when feared Magic: The Gathering would kill Dungeons & Dragons. Wizards of the Coast ended up saving it, and now, the granddaddy of trading card games is heading to the Forgotten Realms of Faerûn — and its Dungeons.
Today, Wizards of the Coast is displaying off more cards from the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms set, which launches July 8 on Magic: The Gathering — Arena and July 23 in paper. In addition to bringing the likes of Drizzt Do’Urden, Tiamat, and Lolth the Spider Queen to Magic, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms introduces Dungeons to the card game.
Senior game designer James Wyatt (who also worked on two of my favourite D&D books, the 3rd Edition City of the Spider Queen and Draconomicon) and worldbuilding designer Meris Mullaley showed off a handful of the set’s cards to the press last week. And the 3 Dungeons and their Venture mechanic showed how the Magic group is approaching fitting Realmslore into the set.
The Dungeons are adaptations of current D&D modules and campaigns that have appeared in 5th Edition (amongst other folks):
“Whenever you have a card that tells you to Venture into the Dungeon, what you do is you pick one of these Dungeons, and you put a marker at the very top room. And every time you Venture, then you can move down a level — farther into the Dungeon — by one room,” Wyatt mentioned in a video briefing.
Each player has their personal Dungeons, so they could be exploring the Lost Mine of Phandelver at the exact same time (so, two men and women could be performing so in a 1-on-1 game, or 3 of 4 players could be in a Commander match). You can have one, two, or all 3 active at when. When you Venture, you could either go deeper into one or commence exploring one more.
These Dungeons provide alternatives. You decide on which one you want to delve into and which path you take. The Tomb of Annihilation has you sacrificing cards, artifacts, and life to get a horrific advantage (which fits the theme of the lich Acererak’s deathtrap). I also uncover adding this dungeon exciting since Acererak was a card in Spellfire, which was D&D‘s failed answer to Magic back in the 1990s.
Halaster’s dungeon offers you more alternatives, but it requires longer to get by means of it (as befits the several levels of Undermountain).
“If you choose Dungeon of the Mad Mage, you’re really in this dungeon for a long time exploring the holes of Undermountain,” Wyatt mentioned. “You need seven Ventures to get all the way through, but you have lots of choices to make as you go along the way.”
Dungeons are a neat way to capture the flavor of D&D inside Magic. Undermountain has been a mainstay of the Realms due to the fact The Ruins of Undermountain boxed set in 1991 due to the fact then, TSR or Wizards of the Coast has published quite a few campaign sets, adventures, game books, and even a board game about these halls.
The Magic group is making use of its current mixture of creatures, artifacts, and spells to take benefit of these Dungeons.
“There are a variety of cards that interact with Venture in interesting ways, including all the way down to Common [rarity] with things like Shortcut Seeker, hitting that classic trope of ‘look, there’s a trapdoor under the rug,’” Wyatt mentioned. “Venture is a strong theme across all rarities, so there’s lots of opportunity for players to experience the thrill of exploring Dungeons.”
I asked if the Dungeons had particular loot attached to them, such as a Sphere of Annihilation for the Tomb of Annihilation. A Wizards spokesperson on the get in touch with mentioned we’d have to wait and see on that.
Give me land, lots of land
Another way to capture the flavor of the Forgotten Realms is with lands. The Basic lands all have some art or text reference to Faerûn, even if it is not apparent at initial glance.
What’s actually exciting are some of the alternate land cards. One instance is Evolving Wilds, a Magic staple. This remedy captures the style of classic D&D modules such as The Keep on the Borderlands (it even has the lavender-ish coloring).
The set will have nine of these lands, eight of them with new names.
“We’re calling this the Classic Module land frame. These are borderless module lands featuring art that is reminiscent of the cover art from classic Dungeons & Dragons adventure modules,” Mullaley mentioned. “They’re all lands. There’s nine of them. This one is Evolving Wilds, but the other lands are new, with names that were created to sound like adventures.”
Seeing some of the Basic lands did raise a concern. The Forest does not scream Forgotten Realms to me, and the text does not add any flavor it appears like it could match into any other Magic set.
“We did a full concept push for this set, like we do for any Magic set. Obviously there’s already a ton of art exploring what the Forgotten Realms looks like. There’s not necessarily a ton of of art or color art establishing the look of specific geographical regions like the Evermoors, or the Spine of the World, or the High Forest,” Wyatt mentioned. “So all of these lands — practically all of these lands — do truly point to certain locations that we created in the world guide, although I assume that forest proper there is an instance of elven architecture, rather than a certain location, so that was also one of the locations we explored in the world guide.
“If I’m remembering right, the cycles of lands include one of each land type in the Underdark, one that shows a settlement of various peoples of the Realms, one that is just a wilderness area, and one that includes some ruins of ancient civilizations. So there’s definitely a lot of Realms flavor, sometimes not obvious in there, but in there.”
Who’s the set for?
As Mullaley and Wyatt showed off this batch of cards, I wondered (as did other folks on the briefing) who this set was for. Is it for Magic players, enticing them into a thing new? Is it for Realms fans who Wizards desires to push into Magic? Or people like me, who get pleasure from each of Wizards’ huge properties?
“I think that for someone who is familiar with Magic and not familiar with Dungeons & Dragons, it will be like encountering a completely new plane that we’ve created for the first time for a Magic set,” Mullaley mentioned. “It’s for Standard play, so it is constructed to work with all of the other sets in Standard. And though we produced a handful of new mechanics that had been type of inspired by Dungeons & Dragons play for this set, for the most aspect, it plays like a Magic set, and it is got the creature forms you have come to anticipate and be the Standard fascinating Magic gameplay, and the flavor of the world occurs to be Dungeons & Dragons.
“So we’re hoping that, as you’re playing this, what might be a deep cut reference for a friend of yours might be something that sparks a bit of curiosity for you.”
One card that worries me is a Legendary character, the Dragonborn knight Nadaar, Selfless Paladin. They’re a character produced for this set. But why would you want to make characters when you have official material going back to the “Grey Box” set of 1987 and Realms fans want characters they’ve come to really like more than the years, such as The Simbul, the dastardly wizard Manshoon, or even gods such as Bhaal?
“Hopefully, we can do both,” Wyatt mentioned on mixing recognized and new characters collectively. “We have a lot of goals, putting Legends into a set, including hitting nostalgia, but also hitting various diversity milestones, trying to make sure that that we’re reflecting our audience and the game as it is now, not as it was 25 years ago. So, yeah, we definitely trying to do both.”
Yesterday, Magic head designer Mark Rosewater posted a weblog with a quantity of hints and teases that addresses my issues. These incorporate:
- a Legendary creature that tends to make a Legendary Hamster creature token (this should be Minsc & Boo, the beloved duo from the Baldur’s Gate games)
- a card that creates a Legendary creature token named Vecna (though Vecna is more related with Greyhawk than the Realms, the lich is a preferred figure in the D&D neighborhood and was aspect of Critical Role’s story)
- a creature with a death trigger that tends to make an gear token (this could be a Gelatinous Cube, with the remains of an adventurer inside it)
- Spend this mana only to cast Dragon spells or activate skills of Dragons (this could be from an Orb of Dragonkind)
- Creature — Bird Bear (this should be an Owlbear)
- Creature — Elf Spider (this should be a Drider, the drow that Lolth curses to be aspect elf, aspect spider, and all horror)
- Legendary Creature — Devil God (this should be Asmodeus, who’s been playing with the Realms for some time now)
- Legendary Creature — Beholder
Also yesterday, Wizards of the Coast place out a list of people who will have card previews and the date they’re displaying them off.