With Magic: The Gathering’s newest Commander Legends set out in people’s decks already, the overall response to Battle For Baldur’s Gate has been muted, to say the least. Though the flavour is on-point, and there are dozens of references to Dungeons & Dragons and the beloved cast of Baldur’s Gate, criticism has been levied at the set’s overall lower power level and its overreliance on combat-forcing mechanics like goad, initiative, and myriad. It’s a great set, but not quite the all-time great of its predecessor.
However, a single aspect of Battle for Baldur’s Gate may go down in history as one of the best: its preconstructed Commander decks. Containing a fully functional Commander deck full of great reprints and new exclusives, if you’re planning on picking up any of Baldur’s Gate, you’ll be much better served just grabbing a couple of those instead.
Ever since 2020’s Zendikar Rising, Wizards’ annual Commander series has been augmented with at least two Commander precons coming with every major set. Some of them have been fantastic, like Kaldheim’s Elven Empire and Spirit Squadron, while others – like Innistrad: Midnight Hunt’s Coven Counters – were less appealing. Though none of them have been bad, it’s safe to say Battle for Baldur’s Gate puts so many of them to shame with how much fire they’re packing.
Alongside the set came four decks, and it could have been so easy for Wizards to just play up the draft archetypes of the main set. Nobody would have batted an eyelid if it retrod the same mechanical spaces – a black/white Aristocrats, or a green/black graveyard deck, for example. Instead, it did something radically different, and combined the familiar creature types of the set with mechanics there wasn’t much room for in the booster packs.
For instance, the red/green deck takes the popular Wolf creature type (something we needed more support for after Midnight Hunt bizarrely skipped over doing a Werewolf-themed deck) and paired it with numerous exile-matters mechanics. Adventure, a small part of Baldur’s Gate, is a huge part of the deck, and foretell makes a comeback after it proved a hit following its Kaldheim debut.
Meanwhile, the black/white Party Time deck answers the question players have been asking ever since the first D&D crossover was announced in 2020: where’s party? After missing Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, this deck finally gives love to one of Zendikar Rising’s most underused mechanics and gives us a deck full of Rogues, Wizards, Warriors, and Clerics. More importantly, we’ve finally got a new party-centric Commander, giving people more than just Tazri, Beacon of Unity to pick from when building their decks.
To help make these less-loved mechanics shine, each deck features ten exclusive cards, and many of them could easily become a wider part of the Commander format in the months and years to come. Party Time gave us Deep Gnome Terramancer, a stunning white ramp card that stands alongside Archaeomancer’s Map and Knight of the White Orchid as being one of white’s best ways to get lands out quickly. Exit From Exile introduced Green Slime, an ability counter and hard removal spell in green, and Nalfeshnee, which will easily slot into all kinds of spell-slinging decks (even if its nipples won’t).
The reprints are also stellar. While you’re not going to see any Dockside Extortionists or Rhystic Studies in it, we have got powerhouses like Blasphemous Act, Pursued Whale, Etali, Primal Storm; Jeska’s Will, Black Market, and Skullclamp spread across each deck. These are highly played staples of the format, being reprinted in easily available products anyone can buy safe in the knowledge the cards they need will be in there. It’s a huge step forward from some of the Commander decks of yesteryear, where you were lucky to get a decent land or two.
The shocking thing about these decks is they’re only launching a few weeks after we saw Commander 2022, this year’s major Commander package with its five New Capenna-themed decks. While a few of those decks were interesting on a thematic level, their fixation on matching the five families of New Capenna made them feel overly beholden to the Streets of New Capenna set they were meant to be separate from.
Contrast that with Battle for Baldur’s Gate. This is a set where Wizards could have taken a rest and just given us a couple of middling decks to upgrade with stuff we found in the main set, but it didn’t. It gave us four decks that not only help promote Battle for Baldur’s Gate, but push forward the Commander format in general by promoting and supporting less-played archetypes.
If you were torn between buying a booster box of Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate, or a set of the four decks, the answer is a bit of a no-brainer. Leave the perfectly serviceable but kind of bland set and get the four best precons we’ve had in years instead.
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