Exit from Exile Review - Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate
(Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald | Art by Jason Engle)
Party Time | Mind Flayarrs | Draconic Dissent | Exit from Exile
Hello, everyone. Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate has been out in the wild for less than a week, and there's a lot to be excited about. Today I'm going to be talking about the new cards found in the Exit from Exile preconstructed deck, helmed by Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald, so prepare to hear that Cascade is good, casting free spells is good, and copying those free spells is good.
Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald
Faldorn rewards you for playing cards from exile, and is fortunately worded in such a way as to include both the ability to play lands from exile and generate extra benefit from it. This means her ability works with Averna, the Chaos Bloom as well as synergizing with a few new cards from this deck.
At the helm of her own deck, though, Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald works alongside several mechanics. Cascade, Suspend, Foretell, Hideaway, Rebound, and Adventures are all cast from exile, and each comes with an extra 2/2 token with Faldorn in play. And, of course, red's suite of impulse draw will also have you spawning tokens every turn. Cascade in particular has the potential to create a very powerful engine in this deck. Wild-Magic Sorcerer, Aurora Phoenix, and Throes of Chaos (which isn't included in the precon) can all generate a steady stream of extra cards, which Faldorn compounds with tokens. Add in Impact Tremors, Purphoros, God of the Forge, or even simple Overrun effects, and you have an effective aggro strategy.
This precon also comes with Etali, Primal Storm. Getting up to four free spells from exile every turn is a huge advantage with Faldorn. You could build upon that with Arcane Bombardment and Mizzix's Mastery in a version more focused on spells than creatures. Bloodthirsty Adversary also gives you free spells from exile, while Grenzo, Havoc Raiser can double your Wolves every turn. If you really want to kick things into overdrive, consider Surge to Victory. Not only does it make your Wolves huge, you'll get to cast a copy of your best spell for each token that gets through, creating a new one in the process. Alongside Beastmaster Ascension and Shared Animosity, Surge to Victory is a potent win condition for Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald.
If you're aiming for a more powerful deck, you can make infinite Wolf tokens with Food Chain. Cast Eternal Scourge or Squee, the Immortal as many times as you'd like from exile to generate a wolf each time, winning with a haste-enabler or the aforementioned Impact Tremors.
Durnan of the Yawning Portal
Durnan of the Yawning Portal may look unassuming at first, but putting card selection and cost reduction on the same card is usually the sign of something powerful. Giving spells Undaunted will almost always reduce their cost by three. That means Durnan can cast Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite for four mana, or Consecrated Sphinx for just three. Even haymakers like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Blightsteel Colossus only cost seven and eight mana, respectively, and while Durnan of the Yawning Portal may seem fragile with only three toughness, he doesn't have to stick around for you to cast the cards he exiles. It also means you can make him unblockable with Access Tunnel to ensure you always get to dig for your next threat.
If you don't want to go for the big creatures, you can also use Durnan of the Yawning Portal to dig for combo pieces. Scrap Trawler, Arcbound Ravager, and Junk Diver are all free to cast with Undaunted. Pairing Durnan with a blue Background (Sword Coast Sailor, perhaps) also gives you access to Sakashima of a Thousand Faces and Spark Double to copy his effect and find even more free creatures.
If you like Cascade, you'll really like Passionate Archaeologist. This card turns your long strings of Cascade spells into true game-enders, and it also helps grindy strategies actually push towards a win. Kess, Dissident Mage decks built around Adventure cards can sometimes struggle to finish a game, but dealing three or four damage every turn with your Adventure creatures helps deal with that, but they also helps you gain control of the game by removing key creatures.
If you want to play a Passionate Archaeologist, then Durnan of the Yawning Portal is perhaps the most obvious choice. He lets you cast big spells from exile to deal as much damage as possible.
Prosper, Tome-Bound also loves to cast spells from exile, and Maelstrom Wanderer has the potential to deal twelve damage when cast, and don't even get me started on Apex Devastator and Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder. To get the absolute most out of this Background, however, you'll want to throw it into a Partner deck. It gives the damage ability to each commander you own, so having two commanders in play doubles your damage. Pako, Arcane Retriever and Haldan, Avid Arcanist put spells into exile and then let you cast them, so they're the perfect home for Passionate Archaeologist.
There was a lot of excitement around Green Slime when it was first revealed, and it's easy to see why. Stifle effects are a niche form of interaction that generally don't do much. Outside of Thassa's Oracle or Aetherflux Reservoir, most triggered or activated abilities can simply be triggered or activated again. Not so with Green Slime. Smothering Tithe, Aura Shards, The Great Henge, and Embercleave all tremble before this small Slime. If you're tired of people asking, "Do you pay the one?", Green Slime not only denies this particular draw, it destroys Rhystic Study. But if you see more troublesome creature abilities, Green Slime can actually still help. You can respond to Laboratory Maniac's win-the-game trigger with Liquimetal Torque to turn it into an artifact, allowing Green Slime to follow up and counter and destroy Lab Man.
Copying spells is always good, especially if they were already free. Cascade is coming up a lot in this review, but it's a powerful mechanic that a ton of these cards only make much, much better. Nalfeshnee makes your big Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder turns even bigger, gives you octuple Cascade with Apex Devastator. Nalfeshnee is also great in combination with [/el]Birgi, God of Storytelling[/el], or more specifically Harnfel, Horn of Bounty. Harnfel is potentially the best Storm-enabler you can have in the command zone, limited only by the number of cards in your hand. Nalfeshnee not only copies Cathartic Reunion to refill your hand, it also doubles your win. Crackle with Power now deals ten times X damage, and Manaform Hellkite makes two tokens. Long story short, anything that copies spells is worth considering. Nalfeshnee costs the same as Swarm Intelligence, and the condition of casting from exile isn't very hard to achieve.
Tlincalli Hunter is a little harder to assess. In most cases, cards I see cast from exile are free with Cascade, or Sunbird's Invocation, but casting creatures for free could be powerful enough to tempt people back to Outpost Siege and Light Up the Stage, especially if you can stack the top few cards of your deck. Tlincalli Hunter also makes Stolen Strategy and Haldan, Avid Arcanist much stronger, since any creatures you exile are free. It does cost seven mana, though. By the time you can cast Tlincalli Hunter, you'll probably need to cast something more impactful to keep up with the rest of the table.
Even if you don't plan on using the creature half of this card, the Adventure side is still worth considering. Retrieve Prey lets you exile any creature from your graveyard and cast it from exile until your next turn. If you don't have access to Reanimate, then Regrowth is your next best way to take advantage of the graveyard. Exiling that creature also dodges Windfall and discard effects, plus the synergy with Nalfeshnee and Wild-Magic Sorcerer. I'd consider Tlincalli Hunter especially for Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma or Ghalta, Primal Hunger to return your best creatures to play.
Journey to the Lost City
I have a hard time with cards like Journey to the Lost City. Getting an extra land or a big token every turn is good, but it never feels good to exile a card you needed to draw. This feels appealing to Primal Surge decks, with lots of impactful permanents to get full value from that critical twenty, but there's no guarantee you'll ever role a twenty, and the more cards exiled by Journey to the Lost City, the more attractive it will look to Disenchant. Once you have three or four lands, or a couple big creatures exiled under Journey, your opponents will start thinking about removing it to stop you from leaping ahead in the game. If you do try this enchantment out, you'll want to play it alongside Barbarian Class and Wyll, Blade of Frontiers to ensure you have the best odds possible to hit that natural twenty. Otherwise, I just can't see Journey to the Lost City being worth it.
Sarevok's Tome might be my new favorite four-mana rock. I really like chaining two-mana ramp into four-mana ramp. Seven mana on turn four lets you play some powerful spells. On top of that, Sarevok's Tome gives you the initiative, a new variant of monarch. When you take the initiative, and again during your upkeep, you venture into the Undercity, a new dungeon from Battle for Baldur's Gate. Because Sarevok's Tome gives you the initiative, it'll always tap for two mana on the turn you play it. That isn't a huge deal, though, since you'll play this card with the goal of casting spells from your deck for free as often as possible. Sefris of the Hidden Ways doesn't need the value, but Nadaar, Selfless Paladin and Varis, Silverymoon Ranger could both make use of the mana and card advantage provided by this tome.
Delayed Blast Fireball
Delayed Blast Fireball is a great top down design. You can cast it right away for a little bit of damage, or set it away to charge for a bigger explosion later on, except you don't actually have to wait to get that bigger blast. Because Delayed Blast Fireball deals five damage to each opponent and their creatures when it's cast from exile, you don't actually have to Foretell it. Exiling it with Outpost Siege lets you pay three mana to wipe the board in most cases, and of course, Cascade gets full value out of this spell too, and because it only deals damage to your opponents' creatures, you don't mind Cascading into this spell at any point of the game. This also makes it great for Prosper, Tome-Bound and Commander Liara Portyr to ensure your attacking creatures aren't blocked.
I'm a fan of four-mana ramp spells, but something about Venture Forth isn't quite clicking for me. Similar to Rousing Refrain, Venture Forth will give you a boost of mana every three turns. Except, Rousing Refrain has a much higher ceiling and is much more consistent. You always know what it's going to give you. Venture Forth is semi-random. You don't know what land you're going to get, although you can build your deck to game the odds. My main concern is whether casting this every third turn is enough to make it better than Explosive Vegetation or Pir's Whim. If your games go long enough to let you cast this three times, it's definitely worth considering, but otherwise I'd expect Venture Forth to not be worth it.
Everyone Must Come Out of Exile in Their Own Way
And that's it for the new cards in Exit from Exile. I've been excited about Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald since she was spoiled, but a bunch of other cards have caught my eye as well. Delayed Blast Fireball will definitely slot into a few decks, along with Green Slime. I wasn't impressed by Journey to the Lost City, but that fabled critical hit may be tempting enough for me to try and make it work.