Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Commander Review — Dungeons of Death

Charlotte Sable • July 22, 2021

Midnight Pathlighter by PINDURSKI

Dungeons and Death Dragons

So it’s finally come to this, it’s time. Time to put together a party, dust off those dice, and delve into a deep dark dungeon to seek out our awaiting doom, just as we all did every other Friday night at Mike’s house in years past. (There was always a Mike in the group, am I right?)

Dungeons of Death is a very interesting new preconstructed deck, and I’ll be honest, based on the name, I thought I was signing up for the red/black deck when I picked it out to review for the site. Can’t say I’m all that disappointed when it comes to goodies that this dungeon-faring deck holds in 100-card depths. But enough dilly-dallying, let’s get on to the good stuff and talk about all the sweet, new cards.


New Commanders


Sefris of the Hidden Ways

I have to say that I’m not super impressed with Sefris. She’s clearly the “build a dungeon deck” commander of the set, but I don’t think that Wizards really did enough to make her flexible in how that’s accomplished. Looking at the card, I see a deck that wants to be maximize the first trigger by being heavy on creatures and self-milling every turn in small increments with cards like Millikin, Throne of Death, or possible all-star for this deck and this deck only Saprazzan Breaker.

Ok, but what do we do now that we’re speeding our way through dungeons? I guess we can accrue value in the Dungeon of the Mad Mage or the Lost Mine of Phandelver, but I think this deck really shines if it brute forces its way through the Tomb of Annihilation, using the Atropal tokens as sacrifice fodder for the Sandfall Cell or Oubliette.

In summary, I think Sefris is a one-note commander, but one that can lead to a fun reanimator deck if you combine her with enough other Venture cards and payoffs to make all the hoops you’re jumping through worthwhile.


Nihiloor

Now here’s an interesting character. Stealing your opponent’s stuff is a tried and true staple of Magic, there has never been a commander that lets you steal multiple creatures with quite as much ease as Nihiloor. Of course, there are still a few hoops to jump through, such as having your own creatures to help fuel this mind flayer’s machinations, but a steady supply of helpers thanks to cards like Sower of Temptation, Beguiler of Wills, and Ghoulcaller Gisa, you won’t find yourself wanting.

Let’s be fair, though, Esper isn’t really the color combination for giving all your creatures a lot of power, so if you want to steal your opponents’ fattest creatures, you’re going to need ways to pump your team. I recommend cards like Dragon Throne of Tarkir and Sword of the Paruns. I know it may not look at first glance that Sword of the Paruns is going to help the creatures you’re tapping with Nihiloor’s trigger, but it does. You don’t choose targets for which creatures to steal until you’ve tapped your own creatures, so if the bearer of the sword is tapped, then your newly tapped creatures will be getting +2/+0 when you’re choosing creatures of lesser power. Neat!

Nihiloor also is a good home for any other stealing or control-exchanging card you might want to run, but for the sake of its second trigger, I really wish its color identity included red so that Threaten-style effects could contribute to this illithid’s endeavors. Oh well.


Minn, Wily Illusionist

Illusion tribal? Yes please!

This is a tribe that has been in dire need of a dedicated commander for a long time, and Minn is just about perfect. Obviously you want to play Minn with draw effects, but I don’t think I need to explain to you all how to draw cards in a mono-blue deck. Just find a way to get an extra card each turn and start pumping out illusions to your heart’s content.

I have to start by talking about Meloku, the Clouded Mirror in this deck. Meloku was good, but in this deck he’s just insane. Minn’s second ability negates all the downside of Meloku’s token making ability by letting you just put the land back down when the token dies at the very least, as well as letting you upgrade those lands into something even better if your imaginary friends are beefy enough. With just a basic Island, Minn, Meloku, and a free sacrifice outlet, you can get infinite ETB triggers, death triggers, and landfall triggers.

That’s not all, though. How would you like to draw all the cards too? Well, just have Fool’s Demise on Toothy, Imaginary Friend with a few counters on it, then sacrifice Toothy. Stack all your triggers so that Toothy comes back to the battlefield first, then Fool’s Demise to your hand, then the draw trigger, and finally Minn’s permanent to the battlefield trigger. Toothy will be back on the battlefield in time to get counters for all the cards its trigger will draw you, and Fool’s Demise will be in your hand in time for Minn’s trigger to put it back onto the battlefield onto Toothy so that you can repeat the loop. Whee!

I like Minn the most out of the three new commanders in this deck, as she has the most possibilities around her. Also, any deck that gives me a home for Krovikan Mist is good in my book.


White Cards


Immovable Rod

I like this card. It locks down any permanent relatively effectively, if not necessarily efficiently. Still, this is the kind of flexible card I want in any deck where the slowness is less important than its versatility. It’s also just a good, cheap artifact for decks that want that sort of thing and the venture on untap trigger could be played with in artifact-heavy decks using Clock of Omens.

I have a flavor question though, what happens if I try to use this on an Unstoppable Ash? 🤔


Radiant Solar

First of all, I really wish this card had 2 power so I could play it in my Alesha, Who Smiles at Death deck. However, this is definitely the kind of venture card I can get behind. Lots of fun shenanigans to be had with this card and Cloudstone Curio or even just Whitemane Lion. I suppose you could also just play the card fairly as a payoff in any creature deck, but where’s the fun in that?

Also, I wouldn’t discount the discard ability, which could provide some slow consistent value in a deck helmed by Ravos, Soultender or any deck with a lot of graveyard-to-hand recursion theme.


Revivify

This is a card I’m not very high on. It’s pretty much just worse than Faith’s Reward, and I’m not sure that -1 to the mana cost justifies returning only creatures and having a real chance at the creatures ending up in your hand rather than on battlefield. Still, it’s a fine card if you need more of this effect, but I doubt I would ever choose it over a much better alternative that already exists


Thorough Investigation

It’s time to get a clue, and this card is a decent way to do it. It one feels like only one trigger per turn (without extra combats) isn’t a lot, but Tireless Tracker is a good card even outside of landfall decks and you’re more likely to be attacking most turns than playing a land, especially as you get into the late game. This card is also more resilient than Tireless Tracker as an enchantment, and the additional payoff of venturing into the dungeon whenever you sacrifice a clue is better generally than just a +1/+1 counter.

This card is obviously better in decks with more investigate cards or venture cards, but it’s a nice little value piece that lets white draw some cards at a reasonable rate. In general, I like it and think that I’ll slot it into my God-Eternal Oketra deck.


Blue Cards


Arcane Endeavor

First things first, let’s talk about expected value and how it applies to these Endeavor spells with their “roll 2dN and choose one result” effects:

When you roll a die, there’s an equal chance of it landing on any of its faces and your expected value falls in the middle of the possible values. (e.g. 4.5 for the d8s used here) However, when you roll multiple dice and get to choose the higher result, your expected value rises quite a bit. For example, rolling two d4 gives you one result where 1 is the highest number, three where it’s 2, five where it’s 3 and seven where it’s 4. This brings the expected value of your high roll for two d4s up to 3.125 from 2.5. (The expected value of your low roll is the dice size minus the high roll EV plus 1, so 1.875 in the case of two d4s.)

For the d8’s used on Arcane Endeavor, the expected value of your high roll is 5.8125, which means that if you prioritize drawing cards, you’ll be drawing about six cards on average, and getting to cast a spell of about mana value 3. This is a better rate than Mind Spring, and compares favorably to Rishkar’s Expertise without needing to have a creature.

So what does this all mean? It means that this card is better than it looks and you should consider it if you have space in your deck for an expensive blue card draw spell.


Phantom Steed

This is a fun little card to play in decks that care about ETB triggers. However, the token enters the battlefield attacking and so any “when [this creature] attacks” triggers of the token won’t help. This is a fun card to slot into Obeka, Brute Chronologist decks, and as a creature that exiles another creature while it’s on the battlefield, you can make an infinite loop of entering and leaving the battlefield with Phantom Steed and two clones of your choice.


Rod of Absorption

While this is the sort of card you want to run in your own spellslinger decks, it’s also just really good at hosing your opponents’ own spellslinger decks. Kess, Dissident Mage in particular really hates to see this card.

Sadly, the Rod is not reusable without artifact recursion, but it makes a good sink for infinite mana in the late game if it has eaten up enough quality spells.


Black Cards


Grave Endeavor

This card is just great. It’s a perfect late-game finisher and even if you roll two 1’s, you still get to reanimate the creature of your choice with a +1/+1 counter on it and drain all your opponents for 1 life. That’s the worst-case scenario, and that’s not going to happen because your expected high value on the d10 rolls is 7.15, meaning you get an extra-tough creature or a sizable life drain from all your opponents.

Oh, also note that this spell doesn’t target, so it will resolve even if someone exiles your graveyard or even just the best creature in it. Additionally, if you have enough mana, you can get a nasty life drain loop going with this spell and Archaeomancer.


Wand of Orcus

Obviously, this card is it at its best in zombie decks, such as those helmed by Varina, Lich Queen, Grimgrin, Corpse-Born, or The Scarab God. It’s also good times for any black voltron decks as it lets you go wide while you’re going tall.

I have to say, though, this card feels out of place in this deck. Tokens don’t work with Sefris’s ability and Orcus is a black and red card, so why isn’t this in the black-red deck?


Multicolor Cards


Extract Brain

This is a fun card, although can lose some power in the late game. I would recommend playing it in decks where you’re feeding your opponents extra cards, such as Nekusar, the Mindrazer. If you want to get really spicy with this card, pair it with Spurnmage Advocate for the a play that the whole table will remember. “Yes, please take back your game winning card, friend…”


Midnight Pathlighter

This evasion ability is really, really weird but I like it. I’d love to know how this specific criterion was settled on. Unfortunately, there’s currently no way to make legendary creatures nonlegendary, so you can’t make the evasion even better, but it feels like it’s probably good enough already.

Do note that the venture ability triggers separately for each opponent your attacking creatures hit, so spread those attacks around and bring out the first strikers if you want to maximize your triggers.


Artifacts


Bucknard’s Everfull Purse

I really like this card, but I hate that it passes right rather than left, so it takes three turn cycles to come back to its owner under normal circumstances in a 4-player game. Is this finally a reason to play Aeon Engine in a deck? Unlikely, but it’s still a decent card that has a 50% chance to pay back the mana spent on it even if your opponents never pass it again.


Clay Golem

An interesting variation on Meteor Golem that can hit lands and will get bigger in the process. A 4/4 for 4 is a great rate for a colorless creature, and being able to hold back the boom is nice. I think this will be a solid role-player of a card that will show up in more decks than you think.

Also, do note that the rules for paying costs have been changed so that you roll the d8 after you pay the mana for its monstrosity cost. So no, you can’t just cheese the rules and wait until you roll an 8 to pay the mana.


Component Pouch

I like this better than Coalition Relic. You get an average of 1.55 counters per roll, meaning that you get to use it for mana rather than charging about 65% of the time. Also, you can keep charging this up on your off turns to give you more flexibility on later turns when you can’t take time off to charge it up.


Back at the Tavern

In conclusion, I think that this deck presents some interesting and flexible new cards, though the power of this set in general is weaker than previous Commander-specific offerings. In addition to the new cards, there are some quality reprints such as Karmic Guide, Phantasmal Image, Baleful Strix, Propaganda, and Exotic Orchard in the deck. These make the deck a solid pick-up, in my opinion.

I look forward to trying this deck out soon and doing my best to avoid death in the dungeon. Until next time, always remember to check for traps.

 



Charlotte has been playing Magic since 1994 and a Magic judge since 2009. She has previously written for Cranial Insertion and her own Q&A blog at magicjudge.tumblr.com. She is also a member of the Commander Advisory Group.