Magic: The Gathering is once more delving into its sister tabletop game with the upcoming set Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate. All of the cards will be themed around Dungeons & Dragons lore, characters and locations, along with boasting mechanics designed explicitly for the multiplayer Commander format.
Previews won’t begin in earnest until May 16th, but the trading card game’s publisher, Wizards of the Coast, provided a sampling of lands, creatures and other goodies in a March 25th YouTube livestream. Battle for Baldur’s Gate will ship in draftable booster packs - along with set and collector boosters - and feature four dual-Mana coloured Commander decks.
Of note, the barbarian Minsc and his hamster companion Boo will show their faces yet again with a unique commander planeswalker - Minsc & Boo, Timeless Hero - all about throwing big creatures directly at opponents’ faces. Minsc showed up in last year’s Adventures in the Forgotten Realms set but only as a creature - Wizards has previously said the “planeswalker” classification would show up in crossover sets but does not mean those characters are canonical worldhoppers like Jace, Chandra and their buddies.
Those who play Commander will know that the 100-card deck’s lands are often just as important as anything else. Battle for Baldur’s Gate reprints the five rare lands first released in 2018’s Battlebond - Bountiful Promenade, Luxury Suite, Morphic Pool, Sea of Clouds and Spire Garden - which enters the battlefield tapped unless you’re playing against more than a single opponent. Once there, all of these lands can be tapped for either of the Mana in their dual colour identity. Rounding out the above cycle is Reflecting Pool, which provides a Mana of any colour you could otherwise produce with the lands currently in play on your side of the board.
Battle for Baldur’s Gate’s D&D influences looks to be just as faithful as Adventures in the Forgotten Realm, as the set will bring back the rulebook alternate art treatments featuring illustrations in the same style as those 1970s and 1980s tabletop RPG books. Spells such as Fireball and Lightning Bolt gives the cardboard treatment to staple arcane arts, while the Rod of Wonder carries forward the dice rolling mechanic introduced last year.
The two creatures previewed so far are both big, mean and in the Black colour identity. Elder Brass Dragon lets a player bring things back from the dead if it deals damage to an opponent, including cards in your opponents’ graveyards. Elder Brain, on the other hand, exiles other players’ hands and lets you cast those cards, instead. Why spend a penny for their thoughts when you could instead steal them?
Wizards of the Coast didn’t reveal much about the four Commander decks launching alongside the battle for Baldur’s Gate set beyond their names. Party Time (White and Black) might expand the Dungeon mechanic from Adventures in the Forgotten realm, where players advanced through iconic locations and earned rewards along the way. The Black and Blue Mind Flayarrrs deck sure sounds like a mixture of psionic horrors and pirates, and nothing can convince me otherwise.
Draconic Dissent (Blue and Red) fits squarely into spellslinging territory with its colour identity and MTG’s history of magic-controlling dragons, though the pun in the name may mean the deck leans towards control and counterspells. Exit from Exile (Green and Red) is the biggest mystery. That combination normally means aggressive creatures, but look for it to play with exiling things from the board for an extra bit of evasion.
All of the Commander decks will come with a draft booster containing an increased 20 cards to better facilitate a big group cracking packs and building Commander ready decks in a Limited format. This was officially introduced in 2020 but ultimately hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Battle for Baldur’s Gate will be Wizards’ rededication to this style of play when the set drops on June 10th.