Battle for Baldur's Gate - Flavor Review
Promotional artwork for Baldur's Gate II - Enhanced Edition by Beamdog Inc.
Action, Adventure, Steel on Steel. The Stuff of Legends! Right, Boo?
Do you know the feeling of having two of your close friends meet, hang out, and become friends themselves? It's kind of how I feel about Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate having multiple characters from the beloved video game series Baldur's Gate. For those of you not familiar, Baldur's Gate was an isometric role-playing game released in 1998, with its sequel, Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn being released in 2000. The games use 2nd edition Dungeons & Dragons rules, and are chock full of some of the most compelling characters and the richest story ever written for a western RPG. A third installment is in early access right now, which is crazy!
I can, and will, keep gushing about these games, which both have fantastic enhanced editions available! Seeing them getting love years later is absolutely mind-boggling, so imagine me seeing previews of a significant number of game characters getting cards. So, I'll answer the questions that are burning inside everyone: do the cards measure up to the flavor of the games, and what Backgrounds fit best with them?
Everyone was wondering, right?
(And, as a heads up, this will include some vague spoilers, so if anyone doesn't want that, well, the games have been out for 20 years. Any omissions are because I am not an authority to discuss the characters. Not even I have played/read everything).
The Beginning of the Adventure: Baldur's Gate Characters
Imoen, Mystic Trickster
Imoen is both your foster sister and first party member in Baldur's Gate, and she sticks with you through both games. She's spunky and adventurous, becoming more battle-hardened in the second game. As a character who comes with you all the way and into many, many dungeons, Dungeon Delver fits both flavorfully and mechanically.
Flavor ruling: Pass. If there's anything Imoen is, it's a dungeoneer and friend.
Gorion, Wise Mentor
Gorion is the player character's foster father; he raises them in the library fortress Candlekeep, training them in their adventurer ways. That sentence alone should tell you that the card is a flavor win, and it lends itself to a fun deck that's getting a lot of new firepower as more adventures are printed in the set.
Flavor ruling: Pass. Gorion's card encompasses everything that his character is about.
Sarevok is the big, mean, intimidating antagonist of the first game. Orchestrating a remarkably complex economic takeover of the Sword Coast backed by a strong sword arm, Sarevok's bloodthirst and strength are encapsulated well here. He uses the Iron Throne as a front, so Agent of the Iron Throne is another flavor win and a mechanically sound combination, although Philomène's suggestion of Cultist of the Absolute is also a score.
Flavor ruling: Pass, although I wish his card was as brutal as his boss fight is.
Jaheira, Friend of the Forest
Jaheira is a friend of Gorion; she tells your character to find her and her husband, Khalid, if you need help adventuring. As a druid, she cares about nature a lot, and she has the ability to fight for it. Her mana-granting ability displays her connection to nature, and Far Traveler accentuates her wandering as she comes with the player character across the realms.
Flavor ruling: Pass. I think a lot of these will pass.
Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes
Ah, classic. Minsc and Boo are beloved for a reason, and this new card accentuates Minsc's battle cry: "Go for the eyes, Boo!" by allowing us to toss Boo at something. However, as Minsc, Beloved Ranger exists, I find that Minsc & Boo doesn't deliver quite as much of a flavor win as the previous card, simply because it's hard to follow.
Flavor ruling: I'm neutral on the flavor, since the first card does a better job of capturing the character, but Minsc & Boo are a necessary inclusion in the set.
Dynaheir, Invoker Adept
Dynaheir is Minsc's witch, as the two travel far from home to adventure and gain experience before returning home to a life of comfort. As an invoker, her magic focus is on damaging energy spells, and making a deck around pingers, like Prodigal Sorcerer, work better is a win. Pulling her second ability off is another bonus.
Flavor ruling: Pass. Well done, with mechanical and flavor lining up yet again.
Safana, Calimport Cutthroat
Safana is a sultry rogue who the party meets on the coastline as she asks for help hunting for pirate treasure. A former pirate herself, Sword Coast Sailor fits great flavorfully, although the work needed to line the deck up might be a little more difficult. As a card, Safana displays her desire to strike it rich adventuring quite well.
Flavor ruling: Pass. Not too exciting, but you can decipher the flavor here pretty well.
Viconia, Drow Apostate
Viconia is a sweet character, and she follows you through both games. An apostate priest of Shar, goddess of night, she is ostracized from drow society and becomes an adventurer. Mechanically, she does what evil priests do best, raising the dead, and Criminal Past is vague enough of a Background that it fits her.
Flavor ruling: Neutral. Her card doesn't scream unique to me, but I can work with it.
Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald
Faldorn is a Shadow Druid, a group of radical druids who live in the wilderness and actively fight against civilization. She's an overlooked companion in a game with maybe 25 options, but her card does make Wolf tokens. I think that's pretty solid.
Flavor ruling: Pass. Impulsive draw making tokens represents her violent tendencies and connection with nature, and she literally can summon them in-game.
Alora, Merry Thief
One of the last companions in the game, Alora is the definition of happy-go-lucky, looking to spread cheer and good will, bringing a little mischief on the ride. Her card represents her skill as a thief, and Street Urchin matches her backstory best, even if the deck might be less synergous. Izzet combat damage token creation? Maybe.
Flavor ruling: Neutral. Her card alone is great, but there aren't really any Backgrounds that fit her super well story wise.
The Council of Four
The Council of Four are the rulers of the city of Baldur's Gate, and in the game you encounter them as Sarevok's plot is wrapping up and they need your help. As rich nobles, their profit off of other players' success is on the nose and perfect.
Flavor ruling: Pass. For relatively minor characters, the card represents them.
The Plot Thickens: Baldur's Gate II Characters
Jon Irenicus, Shattered One
Where to start. The top notch evil wizard villain, Irenicus messes with your party for the duration of the sequel, using remarkably weird and disturbing magic as well. His card is perfect; he oozes evil magic experimentation.
Flavor ruling: Pass. Fantastic and unique.
Rebellious daughter of a lord, Nalia adventures with your party as part of her desire to be with common folk, seeking out a party both in game and on her card. Fantastic!
Flavor ruling: Pass. Nalia wants friends!
Jan Jansen, Chaos Crafter
Jan is the best character in the series, full stop. A goofy turnip-loving inventor, he attaches himself to the party after meeting on the street. As a tinkerer, the artifact focus here is a great way of showing his crafty nature.
Flavor ruling: Pass, although I wish the card was as witty and funny as he is.
Mazzy, Truesword Paladin
A halfling knight who you meet after her party has been killed, Mazzy is noble and righteous. A master of the shortbow and short sword, Mazzy's card represents her ability to beef herself up to be a huge threat quite nicely.
Flavor ruling: Pass, if just for letting her be a real paladin (which 2nd edition didn't allow halflings to be).
Firkraag, Cunning Instigator
When you first meet Firkraag in disguise, he manipulates the party into a complex plot to enrich himself and destabilize his enemies. A goad enabler who profits off of causing discord fits him quite well, even though it seems odd for a Dragon in our favorite card game.
Flavor ruling: Pass.
The New Faces: Enhanced Edition Characters
Neera, Wild Mage
Where to start. Neera uses wild magic, embracing chaos to produce more potent spells with great risk. Her effect translates this into Magic exceptionally well, and her 2/7 body can withstand an accidentally damaging spell, just as if she accidentally casts Fireball on herself.
Flavor ruling: Win. I honestly think this is the best one in the set.
Rasaad yn Bashir
Rasaad is a wandering monk, kindhearted and resilient. A toughness-based build suits him well, and Far Traveler once again tells his adventuring story.
Flavor ruling: Pass.
Baeloth Barrityl, Entertainer
Baeloth Barrityl, the alliterative antagonist in an alternate area of the enhanced edition, is the purveyor of the protagonist's problems in the Black Pits, a gladiator game that gets our guy gold. Baeloth makes money from making monsters melee, and his card captures his cutthroat cunning. As for a Background, Noble Heritage fits for me, since he's rich and powerful.
Flavor ruling: Pass, and I can't wait to play him.
Wilson, Refined Grizzly
I hardly expected the meme character to end up in the set, but boy am I happy. Wilson is a grizzly bear. That's the whole story. Hardy Outlander fits with an animal's outdoor skills, right?
Flavor ruling: Pass. A hilarious card that encapsulates how goofy of a character Wilson is perfectly.
Well, friends, I hope you gained some knowledge from this. Battle for Baldur's Gate is a stellar set, and the references go even deeper than what I covered here. But what are your opinions on the set? Do you like the flavor? Are there characters you were happy to see, and how do you feel about the ones who did show up? Have any good memories of the games? Let me know! Thanks for reading! Be sure to check out the phenomenal set reviews here on Commander's Herald!