Magic: The Gathering returns to Dungeons & Dragons – Check out a new map!

Battle for Baldur’s Gate Magic: The Gathering once again sees a crossover with Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), only this time in Commander Legends format. What is Commander Legends? Well, it first debuted in 2020 and combines the hugely popular Commander format with Draft. This means players take turns picking from a limited pool of cards to build the best deck they can. However, unlike regular Commander, decks can contain multiple copies of a single card and are made up of 60 cards instead of 100, and unlike Draft, synergy is easier to create since players choose two cards at once.

The last D&D set, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms (AFR), featured a variety of classic D&D settings, characters, and gameplay elements, as did Battle for Baldur’s Gate. For example, backgrounds are a new type of enchantment and help represent your commander’s history and give them a bonus. Initiative, on the other hand, is a new keyword ability linked to Undercity – a new dungeon map – that boosts certain cards in the set when you have initiative. Characters like Tasha the Witch, Elminster and the legendary duo Minsc and Boo are also included. You can Read more about all the new mechanics here.

An example of a background enchantment that takes initiative and the new dungeon map.

An example of a background enchantment that takes initiative and the new dungeon map.

It’s an intriguing looking set and a great match for two famous properties. I spoke to Game Designer Corey Bowen about returning to D&D for a Commander Legends set. “Dungeons & Dragons is a social game about cooperation. Commander is currently Magic’s greatest expression of a parlor game where winning isn’t everything. The union of these two social gathering-based games creates a lot of harmony in this set,” he says. “Commander Legends sets also usually need a wealth of Legendary characters, so borrowing from a largely unused IP that’s overflowing with characters and adventurers also fits.

“There are some connections between Adventures in the Forgotten Realms and Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate,” he says when I ask about connections between the two. “For example, both the dungeon mechanic and the d20 reel mechanic are returning. Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate’s two-tone themes were largely created independently of the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms themes, but you’ll see parallels as they both draw from similar source material. You will see villains in UB and fighters in RW just like you saw in AFR.”

I also question how Wizards of the Coast’s focus on world and character building changes when working with an existing property. “A lot of the characters here are already defined with a story and a power suite,” explains Bowen. “There’s a lot of inspiration to draw from to create some very resonant and charming cards. But that’s a bit of a double-edged sword. Sometimes there are card slots that need to be a specific thing that the character suited to that slot doesn’t offer. Or maybe the character’s power suite translates very poorly into Magic cards. In the first Commander Legends, it was easy to create, change, or customize any character you wanted. When working with an IP, there is always a sacrifice of resonating the character’s story by changing some aspect of the card’s text – a sacrifice that doesn’t exist when we define who that character is in our own IP.”

With that in mind, we have a brand new map to reveal today:

That's a powerful effect.

That’s a powerful effect.

While the cost is high, Legion Loyalty’s use of the Myriad keyword seems extremely powerful. I ask Corey Bowen about it. “I love myriads,” he says. “Giving myriads to creatures is great. Giving myriads to all your creatures is REALLY awesome. One of the things I like about Myriad is how many things it combines – enter-the-battle effects, sacrifice exits, token synergies, aggro strategies, you name it. There are a number of strategies you can use Legion Loyalty to use. If I had designed this card early in this set, I’d probably be playing some sort of WU dungeon deck and trying to play the creatures that take initiative when they come into play. With countless, they drove me through the dungeon twice during the attack!”

Legion Loyalty full artwork, by Aaron J. Riley.

Legion Loyalty full artwork, by Aaron J. Riley.

Legion Loyalty also seems to be a good example of the kind of card design that’s possible in a “fun first” format like Commander Legends. “I would argue that every set we make is about having fun,” says Bowen when I posit this and ask how the team’s card design philosophy is changing. “The difference with Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate is that it doesn’t have to consider your cards in competitive formats. It’s also true that multiplayer games (and especially socially oriented ones) are usually more forgiving of high variance games. In a given set, if a given combo is too reliable and easy to pull off, that becomes a problem in this limited format and possibly the engineered competitive format. In this set, it’s fun to mix and match your commander’s abilities and find those niche combinations among the massive deck of cards. Putting these combos together is much less reliable, so we don’t have to balance them too hard for a limited or competitive engineered environment. There are also three opponents’ worth of removal spells, designed to rein in you if you get too far ahead. So the format has big swings and big plays, which to me is at the heart of Commander.”

Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate will contain 361 cards and will be released as tabletop on June 10th. For more information, be sure to visit the official Battle for Baldur’s Gate homepage.

Cam Shea has previously worked at IGN and played more breath of the wild than pretty much any other game. When he’s not playing games, he is mix plates. Magic: The Gathering returns to Dungeons & Dragons – Check out a new map!

Fry Electronics Team

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