Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate - A Reprint Review
Morphic Pool | Illustrated by Chris Ostrowski
A New Coat of Paint for Baldur's Gate
I'm going to go ahead and get this out of the way at the top: Dockside Extortionist was not reprinted in Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate. Despite rampant speculation on its inclusion, it appears the waterfront of Baldur's Gate is free of any criminal enterprise.
That's not to say the set doesn't have its fair share of reprints. Whether players were clamoring for what was included is another story entirely. Let's take a look at the reprints of Baldur's Gate.
Mythics and Rares
Did we need it? Printed only once before, in Battlebond, that original Bramble Sovereign version was pushing $20, so yes, we needed it.
Did we want it? It appears in a shade under 6,000 decks on EDHREC, but that might be more due to its scarcity and price until now. It's an extremely powerful card that can fit into a number of decks (especially Riku and Beamtown Bullies decks), since it probably goes without saying that if you're going through the trouble of putting a creature into your deck and playing it during a game, you probably don't mind a second copy for the cost of a Balduvian Bears. And don't discount the ability to provide opponents with a back-up copy of anything they play -- it's a great political tool.
Who did it best? That full-art treatment illustrated by Raluca Marinescu is something else, but each version of the card is great. You can't go wrong. With Battlebond only four years old, it's unlikely any version carries with it a nostalgia factor, so for style points I'd give the edge to the full-art.
Did we need it? Originally printed in Worldwake 12 years ago, Basilisk Collar has seen reprints in two Masterssets (Modern Masters 2017 and Double Masters), the "Aura of Courage" Forgotten Realms Commander deck, and was also present in Mystery Boosters with that little planeswalker symbol in the corner. Weirdly, the Mystery Booster version carried the Modern Masters 2017 set symbol.
At one point, the Worldwake version was $25, but that might as well have been a million years ago. Today, you can get any previously printed version for around $2, and with two new versions in Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate, the answer is no, we didn't need it.
Did we want it? Basilisk Collar is fine enough for what it does; it's cheap to cast, cheap to equip, and for decks that care about one or both of deathtouch and lifelink, there's no reason not to use it, and its stats on EDHREC reflect that, as it finds itself ringing the necks of creatures in nearly 30,000 decks. I personally play it in my Ashling the Pilgrim deck, and it's never a bad draw there.
Who did it best? Despite the five previous prints of Basilisk Collar, the Baldur's Gate version is the first with new art, and it should be noted that this newest version seems to actually depict a basilisk wearing that collar. It'll be a toss-up for me whether to switch to the new full-art version or stick with the original Worldwake printing.
Blade of Selves
Did we need it? Definitely. The original version, printed in Commander 2015, was around $33 when the reprint was revealed. The only other printing since then, in Commander Anthology Volume II, was also in the $30-35 range.
Did we want it? Following a very similar trajectory as Bramble Sovereign, the fact that there weren't that many copies floating around, and that the ones that were had a significant price tag, means Blade of Selves is limited to around 9,000 decks on EDHREC. With the return of Myriad as a keyword, Blade of Selves was an obvious choice for a new version, and the slate of new cards that synergize with Myriad will make Blade of Selves as desirable as ever.
Who did it best? You've got two illustrations to choose from, and both feature a translucent, crystalline sword. One's being wielded while the other's on display, so pick the one that fits your level of aggression/museum of medieval weaponry theme.
Bountiful Promenade (and friends)
Did we need it? Considering the "bond land" cycle of lands were immediate staples following their original printing in Battlebond (hence the name), it's safe to say that most players could use a copy or two of each, and the price indicates as much, as both previous versions of the lands, in Battlebond and in Zendikar Rising Expeditions, were hovering around $20. We'll always welcome reprints of important land cycles.
Did we want it? The short answer is yes, we wanted it. Luxury Suite, for example, is found in around 52,000 decks on EDHREC, even with only two previous printings at more than $20.
Who did it best? This is a tough one. You always get bonus points in my book for using the original printing, but I'm a fan of the Zendikar Rising Expeditions frame (though I may be in the minority on that one), and since we're technically talking about five different lands with five different arts, I'll make a blanket statement: when in doubt, go with the Expedition.
Did we need it? Kindred Discovery first appeared as part of a "Kindred" cycle in Commander 2017 and was almost immediately one of the pricier cards included in that round of preconstructed decks, at one point crossing the $40 mark. Currently it's around half that but is still the third-most expensive card from that round of Commander decks after Teferi's Protection and Kindred Dominance. Since its debut, Kindred Discovery has also spent some time on The List; that version is also above $20.
Did we want it? It's hard to argue against Kindred Discovery's inclusion in any tribal deck that runs blue, price notwithstanding. Whether it's Merfolk or Drakes or Fairies or Slivers, it's one of the better five-drops you can cast. If you happen to be playing The Locust God, naming "Insect" with Kindred Discovery becomes an express train to decking yourself. Even with a $20+ price tag, Kindred Discovery appears in more than 17,000 decks on EDHREC, so it's safe to say people are going to welcome a new printing.
Who did it best? Do you like fish people or bird people, because those are your options when it comes to the art. I personally am leaning toward the bird brood, especially as the full art version reveals a random chicken in the background that's obscured by the regular frame.
Did we need it? We first saw Reflecting Pool way back in Tempest, in all its old-bordered glory. Sure, it was just a hole in the ground, but times were more innocent then, especially since you were able to get a copy of one of these bad boys for a buck or two. Things are much different now, however, as that Tempest version hovers around $35, and the reprints, appearing in Shadowmoor, Conspiracy, and now Baldur's Gate, are all above $20. Despite seeing multiple printings, we still needed a new one.
Did we want it? Your mileage with Reflecting Pool may vary. I had a game once where due to my inability to build a responsible manabase, I had a Reflecting Pool on the field that could not tap for mana. That was ten years ago, and I've never played it since. The playerbase at large does not seem to share my sentiment, however, as it shows up in more than 52,000 decks on EDHREC.
Who did it best? You've got a lot of options when it comes to choosing your favorite Reflecting Pool. That Tempest printing, which its taupe border and Adam Rex art, is still the one for me, and if you were feeling frisky, that version did appear in gold border as well, in a World Championship Deck. You've also got an option for an oddity: the foil version of the Shadowmoor printing has a watermark of a white mana symbol for no discernable reason. Just be prepared to drop a C-note on that one if it strikes your fancy. You've also got a Judge Gift Promo that hearkens to Zendikar, and the latest version's art is courtesy of one of my favorite new Magic artists, Alayna Danner.
Traverse the Outlands
Did we need it? Like its cousin, Kindred Discovery, Traverse the Outlands is another card that was printed only twice before, in Commander 2017 and on The List. While the original printing did cross over into a $10+ card for a bit, it's currently about $7, while the The List version is $4. In terms of its presence here in Baldur's Gate, it feels more like a throw-in reprint rather than a needed influx of additional copies.
Did we want it? It's in a little more than 8,000 decks on EDHREC, so it doesn't see too much play outside of green decks that love big monsters and lots of basic lands, which, to be fair, is a lot of green decks. It scales well with creatures that care about lands, like Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar, and it's certainly fun in decks that can leverage a big chunk of incoming Landfall triggers. Could this reprint slot have been filled by a different five-mana rare green sorcery? Not really, actually: many of the options, like Overwhelming Stampede, Primal Command, Shamanic Revelation, and even Plow Under, have seen plenty of reprints already.
Who did it best? You've got two choices: a tree-man facing left, or a tree-man facing left. Both are done by prolific artists that I personally enjoy quite a bit, in Daarken and Chuck Lukacs, and both have flavor text, if that matters to you. Personally I'm leaning more toward the Baldur's Gate version.
Uncommons and Commons
Did we need it? No, we didn't. Since its original printing in Portal: Three Kingdoms, Ambition's Cost has appeared in everything from core sets to duel decks to not one, not two, but five Commander decks. As one could probably surmise, it's an easy card to get one's hands on outside of the original P:3K version. At least this new one has fresh art, however, which is not something we could say for the last half-dozen or so printings.
Did we want it? Perhaps because of its ubiquity and affordability, it sees its fair share of play, appearing in around 16,000 decks on EDHREC. It's a pretty standard rate for card drawing in black, and it'll likely always have a home in decks that can leverage both halves of the card, in the card draw and the life loss.
Who did it best? Depends on how flashy you like to be. The original printing is around $45, while every other iteration is less than a buck. If you're into foils, the new version will mark only the second time it is acquirable in shiny: the first and only time to date it appeared in foil was from Eighth Edition, and even so, that version's only a few dollars.
Did we need it? Since it first showed up in Throne of Eldraine, Arcane Signet has become one of the premier mana rocks in Commander, which is no surprise since it was specifically designed to do so. Also, Throne of Eldraine was released in October of 2019, less than three years ago, and since it first debuted, we've seen it more than a dozen times. Thus, most versions are hovering around a buck. Much like Sol Ring, every deck can run an Arcane Signet, so having multiple copies easy to acquire for all players isn't a bad thing.
Did we want it? I would say so, yes, considering about 718,000 decks on EDHREC make use of it, or, if you prefer, 60% of all decks listed on the site, good for the second-most used card in the past two years behind only the aforementioned Sol Ring. For a card that's only been around for 32 months, that's quite the feat.
Who did it best? This one's an easy choice: the Dan Frazier Secret Lair version is the one true Arcane Signet king.
Did we need it? First appearing in Theros, everyone's favorite robo-Elk has seen plenty of printings, including seven different Commander releases and an appearance in Mystery Boosters. You can acquire pretty much any older version of Burnished Hart for less than a dollar, and foils, which appeared in Theros and the first Commander Legends set, are barely double that. All that said, the new version is the first time it's appeared with new art.
Did we want it? It's a deer that fetches basic lands for any color, which is good enough for approximately 92,000 decks on EDHREC. People like cracking open the Elk to see what might be inside (spoiler: it's lands), and I think they'll continue to do so for as long as Commander is a format where people occasionally play nongreen decks.
Who did it best? People love child animals, so I expect there will be thousands of players tossing out their Therosian Harts for the new version. I'll stick with the original, though, because I'm old and set in my ways.
Did we need it? Rock-Bot has only seem one other printing, in Commander 2018. Geode Golem was in every one of the four decks released that year, but it's still around $3. It's worth noting that with its inclusion in Baldur's Gate, the new version will be the first time it'll be available in foil.
Did we want it? It's pretty good in decks that have expensive commanders, or ones that want to cast the commander over and over again, and as such it shows up in a hair under 8,000 decks on EDHREC. In my experience it's almost always tied in some way to an Eldrazi titan.
Who did it best? If you want a foil, you've only got one choice. Otherwise, you have to decide if you want your Rock-Bot to be more rock or more bot.
Did we need it? Politics stapled onto Eternal Witness, Skullwinder first slithered our way in Commander 2015 and has since seen reprises in Commander Anthology and Commander 2020. It also appeared in The List. Like many of the reprints from Baldur's Gate, the new version is the first that features new art, and it's the first time you can get this particular Snake in foil.
Did we want it? In a shade under 9,000 decks, Skullwinder sees a respectible amount of play. It can be divisive: one cohort of players love the chance to curry favor by allowing an opponent to Regrowth a card, while another cohort is loathe to do anything that might aid anyone else. There's also a third group, the Fynn, the Fangbearer players, who didn't read anything on the card after the word "deathtouch."
Who did it best? As mentioned, the new version is the only chance you have to get it in foil, but outside of that, both compositions of the art are remarkably similar. Go with your heart.
Charcoal Diamond (and friends)
Did we need it? Counting Baldur's Gate, we've seen nine versions of the Diamond cycle since it first appeared in Mirage in 1996. None of them are more than a dollar, unless you have your eyes set on foil Seventh Edition versions, which are much, much more than that. If you ask me, we needed more, because I love this cycle. Just don't ask any of the other Commander's Herald writers, please.
Did we want it? As a cycle, the Diamonds are played in around 40,000 decks on EDHREC, depending on the color. People other than me like using them, even if they're objectively worse than several other options.
Who did it best? It's hard to beat the foil Seventh Edition skelly hand for best art and best monetary flex, but Lindsey Look's version is great, too. I will also be heavily considering Phil Stone's rulebook showcase art, which can also be had in foil.
Did we need it? Despite being printed nine times already (most recently in Forgotten Realms Commander only a year ago), with six different arts, copies of Nature's Lore are still $5+ on average. If you were in the market for a premier green ramp spell and didn't want to eat into your Starbucks budget, a new printing at common is just what the druid ordered.
Did we want it? People play Nature's Lore in more than 100,000 decks on EDHREC, so it's safe to say it's pretty popular. It's tough to get much better than Nature's Lore when it comes to efficient land-grabbing, and most green decks will probably play one of either Nature's Lore or Farseek, sometimes both, if you're greedy.
Who did it best? I've always been partial to that Portal printing, with the Terese Neilsen art and the bold text box, but there's a Nature's Lore for every style out there, even the fiends who play white-bordered cards intentionally.
Did we need it? Here's a weird one. Deadly Dispute has seen only one print, but it was in the last Dungeons & Dragons set, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. It's a common in that set, like in Baldur's Gate, but that hasn't stopped it from being more than $4. It never feels good to pay that much for a common, especially one printed less than a year ago, so yes, I'd say we needed it, which is not something I expected to type.
Did we want it? In the 10 months since it had been printed originally, Deadly Dispute has found its way into almost 30,000 decks on EDHREC, most notably in the 99 of decks like Kalain, Reclusive Painter and Juri, Master of the Revue. It's a strictly better version of both Altar's Reap and Costly Plunder, so any deck that was playing those got an upgrade.
Who did it best? Which set symbol do you like more?
The Rest of the ReprintsView on Archidekt
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There you have it. Outside of Dockside Extortionist, were there any reprints you were hoping for? Smothering Tithe, maybe? My limited knowledge of Dungeons & Dragons lore aside, I've been expecting a Grand Abolisher or Archfiend of Despair reprint for awhile now.
It's safe to say with a new Double Masters set coming soon that many of those big-ticket reprints are likely being saved for a set that will command a much, much higher pricetag per pack. Check back soon, as we're set to do this exact exercise all over again, except with the Baldur's Gate Commander decks, instead. It's almost as if we're getting too many cards.