MTG Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate

MTG Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate

Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald is a new pre-constructed Commander Deck for Magic: The Gathering that is part of the Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate set. The deck’s focus on benefiting from exiling can be absolutely punishing, as it allows powerful cards to be played for cheap, with commanders who either summon tokens or damage the enemy while doing so. The Battle for Baldur’s Gate set features a number of characters from the Baldur’s Gate series, as well as from Dungeons & Dragons as a whole.

Battle for Baldur’s Gate features a number of iconic characters as powerful cards, including Elminster, Tasha the Witch Queen, and Minsc the ranger, with his beloved hamster Boo. The set also uses mechanics that will be familiar to D&D players, including cards that require a d20 to resolve and the new initiative & Undercity dungeon. There are cards in Battle for Baldur’s Gate that designate a player as “taking the initiative”, which reuses the dungeon mechanic from the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms set, putting the player in a dungeon called the Undercity, allowing them to gain benefits from maintaining the initiative. If another player damages a player with the initiative, then they become the one with the initiative and can progress through the Undercity.

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Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald is a green/red Commander Deck with a focus on using cards that have been exiled through various effects. There are three potential commanders for the deck: Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald; Durnan of the Yawning Portal & Passionate Archaeologist; and Grumgully, the Generous. Grumgully is nowhere near as good as the other two options and is only of middling use during the game. The more interesting question is which of the other two options is the better commander: Faldorn or Durnan? Faldorn is a three-drop 3/3 Legendary Human Druid, who creates a 2/2 wolf token whenever a spell is cast from exile and has a one mana/tap effect that involves discarding a card to exile the top card of the library so that it can be played.

Xenagos The Reveler Magic the Gathering

Durnan uses a new mechanic in the Battle for Baldur’s Gate set, which will be familiar to D&D players: Backgrounds. There are some commander cards that specify that the player can have a Background as a second commander. The Backgrounds are Legendary Enchantments that can be played from the Command Zone and can buff the commander. Durnan is a four-drop 3/3 Legendary Human Warrior whose ability lets the player look at the top four cards of their deck when Durnan attacks, allowing them to exile a single creature card, which can be played for one mana less than its original cost. The Background in this deck is called Passionate Archeologist and it’s a two-drop card with an effect that grants the commander an ability that damages an opponent based on the mana value of a spell cast from exile.

There are benefits to both commander options, but Durnan wins out in the end in our opinion. Faldorn is cheaper by half, but the wolf summoning can take a while to pay off, especially as the deck doesn’t have much in the way of token support. Faldorn’s special ability also costs one mana, a discard, and a tap, in exchange for one exile, in a deck that is full of exile effects. By contrast, the Passionate Archeologist Background has is a powerful burn effect that stays active while Durnan is on the field and can really make the opponent suffer, which Durnan’s cheap exile summon can take full advantage of. Durnan has to attack to use his ability, but he can just sit back and let the Background deal damage without risking himself, as the effect works as long as both cards are on the field. The fact that Passionate Archeologist is a two drop means it’s also a cheap setup during the early stages of the game.

Laelia Magic The Gathering

The real meat of the Faldorn deck is its exiling and playing from exile ability. The deck has several cards with a Cascade effect, causing the player to exile cards until they reach a non-land with a lower mana cost than the Cascade card, which can then be played for free. There are also lots of cards that let the player exile cards, which can then be played as if from the hand, which also triggers the commander’s ability. Possibly the strongest card in the deck is Etali, Primal Storm, which is a six-drop 6/6, whose attack triggers an ability that forces both players to exile the top card of their library, allowing Etali’s user to play both cards without paying their costs. Drawing Etali early can be a game-winning move. Etali also works well with the new Jaska’s Will, which is a three-drop Sorcery that can give a red mana for every card in the opponent’s hand. There are some powerful reprints that complement the deck, including the feared Laelia, the Blade Reforged, and Urabrask, the Hidden. Laelia can exile cards and gains counters when cards are exiled are a perfect fit for this deck, while Urabrask’s mass Haste/forcing enemy creatures to enter trapped is just great on its own.

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Outside of exiling, the Faldorn deck also has some amazing land support cards, which either search for lands or allow multiple lands to be played in one turn. These include cards like Cultivate,  Escape to the Wilds, Explore, Kodama’s Reach, Nature’s Lure, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Search for Tomorrow, Terramorph, and Three Visits. There is also a fantastic new card from the set, called Venture Forth, which is a four-drop Sorcery that lets the player exile from their library until they draw a land, which is played straight to the battlefield, and any other cards are placed at the bottom of the deck. Venture Forth then gains three time counters, allowing it to be cast again once they run out, with a cheaper two-drop Suspend cost to get it into the time counter cycle early. Outside of being a cute Baldur’s Gate reference: Venture Forth is an amazing early draw that can pile on lands throughout the game.

The Faldorn deck has two Planeswalkers cards: Vivien, Champion of the Wilds, and Xenagos the Reveler. Vivien lets the player play creatures as if they had Flash, which includes ones that can be played from exile, giving the player a wider pool of monsters to surprise the player with, while her +1 ability grants Reach and Vigilance to one creature until the next turn, providing a much-needed counter to flyers. Xenagos can spawn 2/2 Satyrs with Haste, which compliments Faldorn’s wolf-spawning ability, while his +1 grants red or green mana equal to the number of creatures the player has on the field. Both Planeswalkers are excellent fits for the deck and are great reprint choices.

Etali Magic The Gathering

One of the mechanics in the Battle for Baldur’s Gate set is Adventures, which are secondary effects that have their own cost, and once their effect is resolved, the card is exiled, and it can then be cast from exile for its regular cost. Adventures are extremely useful in the Faldorn deck, as the exile ability has good synergy with the commanders. There are five creatures in the set with the Adventure effect (Beanstalk Giant, Bonecrusher Giant, Lovestruck Beast, Embereth Shieldbreaker, and Tlincalli Hunter), and they are all great additions to the deck, as they provide a decent cheap effect, and they synergize well with other cards when brought back from exile.

In terms of weakness, the Faldorn deck doesn’t handle flyers well, with only a few cards featuring Reach or Flying traits, which is coupled with a small number of removal cards (though there are a few damaging spells). This means that cheap flyers can poke the player into the dust over the course of a game. There is a lack of non-land tutors, equipment cards, and a small number of artifacts overall. If there’s one disappointing aspect of the Faldorn deck, is that it underutilizes some of the mechanics in the Battle for Baldur’s Gate set. As it stands, the only card in the Faldorn deck that uses a d20 for its effect is Journey to the Lost City, and the only card that grants the initiative is Sarevok’s Tome. This feels like a missed opportunity to use one of the more interesting aspects of the Battle for Baldur’s Gate set, as the initiative does add a new layer of strategy to the game, forcing players to commit to an attack where they normally wouldn’t, in order to stop their opponent from gaining a free benefit.

The Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald deck is a lot of fun to play, thanks to a ton of complementary abilities that let the player pull and play cards. The player has to keep track of a lot of effects at once, which can be a lot for a beginner to take in, but once its effects and the synergy of the different cards start to click, then it becomes a potent deck with a lot of damage output. Faldorn herself might not be the best commander in her deck, but the Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald Commander Deck is a blast to play, with the added bonus of some amazing reprints for players who want to expand decks of their own.

The full list of each of the Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate pre-constructed commander decks can be found on the official Magic: The Gathering website.

Next: Exclusive MTG Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate Preview – Campfire

The Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate set for Magic: The Gathering launches on June 10, 2022. The Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald Commander Deck was provided by Wizards of the Coast for the purposes of this review.

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Scott Baird
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Scott has been writing for Screen Rant since 2016 and regularly contributes to The Gamer. He has previously written articles and video scripts for websites like Cracked, Dorkly, Topless Robot, and TopTenz.
A graduate of Edge Hill University in the UK, Scott started out as a film student before moving into journalism. It turned out that wasting a childhood playing video games, reading comic books, and watching movies could be used for finding employment, regardless of what any career advisor might tell you. Scott specializes in gaming and has loved the medium since the early ‘90s when his first console was a ZX Spectrum that used to take 40 minutes to load a game from a tape cassette player to a black and white TV set. Scott now writes game reviews for Screen Rant and The Gamer, as well as news reports, opinion pieces, and game guides. He can be contacted on LinkedIn.

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