We're only a month away from the July 23 release of Magic: The Gathering's first-ever Dungeons & Dragons crossover set, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms.
According to Wizards of the Coast, the set, which will be Standard legal, "brings the storytelling and roleplaying elements of D&D to Magic through fan-favorite D&D spells and monsters and incredible booster fun treatments highlighting classic D&D flavor, including the rulebook treatment reminiscent of early Monster Manuals."
Here's what we know so far:
It's taking the place of Core Set 2022
There will be no Magic: The Gathering core set in 2021. Whether that means that core sets are (yet again) done with is unclear. What is clear, however, is that the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms (AFR) will be replacing it for this year at the very least. When that happens, it will be available in regular 16-card Draft Boosters (with one card being a marketing card), 35-card Theme Boosters (five monocolored and one Adventures in the Forgotten Realms-specific theme), Collector Boosters (15 cards plus one foil token), Set Boosters (12 cards plus one token and one card from Magic: The Gathering history), the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Bundle (10 Draft Boosters, 20 foil basic lands, 20 non-foil basic lands, one foil promo card, one d20, and three oversized Dungeon cards), and four themed Commander decks (one display Commander card, two foil legendary cards, 98 additional cards, 10 tokens, and one "Life Wheel").
The set also features revamped Welcome Boosters that are designed to introduce new players to Magic: The Gathering and are to be given away by local game stores to the first 20 customers who purchase Dungeons & Dragons products. Stores will also received 20 introductory D&D adventures to introduce Magic players to the pen-and-paper RPG.
Standard won't change (technically)
Well, on the tournament scene, nobody really knows how AFR will affect the format. What we do know, however, is that nothing will be rotating out of Standard once AFR comes out. That means that all Standard legal sets from Throne of Eldraine on through Adventures in the Forgotten Realms will be format legal. That will remain true until September 2021 when Innistrad: Midnight Hunt releases. At that time, four sets (Throne of Eldraine, Theros Beyond Death, Ikoria: Laor of Benemoths, and Core Set 2021) will rotate out.
As for AFR itself, it isn't scheduled to rotate out of Standard until September 2022, so players will have plenty of time to enjoy their D&D setting within the Standard format.
AFR's cards look normal until they don't
Well, in theory they'll look like contemporary Magic cards (albeit with Dungeons & Dragons appropriate artwork). That stated, Wizards of the Coast has confirmed that there will be extended artwork cards. They have also shown examples of the set's alternate showcase card frame and overall style, which is reminiscent of the artwork found in the RPG's Monster Manual.
Also, we know that the set's basic lands will be a tad different than in sets past as, this time around, the cards will feature flavor text -- something that has never really been seen before on the card type. The flavor text acts as a prompt for one's D&D adventure as if the Dungeon Master themself was narrating the game.
There's also another special card treatment that makes cards look like old-school, TSR-era Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks.
Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is not canon
For the vorthos in all of us, it should be noted that AFR does not take place within the greater Magic: The Gathering multiverse. As Mark Rosewater stated on his Blogatog Tumblr account, "It is not part of the story continuity."
That stated, the company does not seem to be fully committed to that fact, stating "...we may change our minds in the future if it makes sense and is a fun net positive for Magic and D&D."
Time will tell.
The set's planeswalkers aren't actually planeswalkers
Well, not in the purest sense of the word.
Yes, they are planeswalker cards and are interacted with as such in terms of gameplay. As far as story and flavor go, however, they cannot travel the various planes of Magic's multiverse. Rather, as Dungeons & Dragons has various realms of existence within its own mythos, characters who are known to have traveled from realm to realm are being shown within the context of the Magic: The Gathering card game as planeswalker cards. So don't expect Lolth, Spider Queen to be attending any parties on Ravnica any time soon.
AFR will introduce some new things to the game
Aside from bringing to Magic a new setting, AFR will also be introducing two new creature types to black-bordered Magic: Halfling and Citizen, with the latter only ever appearing on tokens and the Mystery Booster play test card, Five Kids in a Trenchcoat. The set will also feature Beholders, floating eyeballs that are one of the RPG's most iconic breed of monsters, but whether they'll have their own creature type or have the "Eye" creature type (as in Evil Eye of Orms-By-Gore and Evil Eye of Urborg) has yet to be seen.
Also, as seen on the card Cloister Gargoyle, the set will introduce a mechanic with which players "venture into the dungeon." Venture allows players to enter a dungeon (assuming they have Dungeon cards complementing their deck, which they should if they're running cards with the venture ability). Dungeon cards are pretty much exactly what someone familiar with D&D might expect -- they're dungeon layouts with each room having a specific trigger. Venture not only allows players to enter a dungeon, but also move from room to room from top to bottom on their active Dungeon card until they've make it all the way through to the end.
We also know, thanks to a recent Tumblr post from Mark Rosewater, that AFR will bring a new enchantment subtype, something making the transition from an Un-set to black-bordered Magic, cards that let players dictate the story, and Hampster creature tokens ("Go for the eyes, Boo. GO FOR THE EYES!").
There will be promos. Lots of promos.
It's not uncommon for WotC to release special promotional cards whenever a new set comes out. Heck, it's actually rather expected.
What's not so expected this time around is the sheer number of special Adventures in the Forgotten Realms promo cards Magic players can expect to see.
First off, there's the buy-a-box promo Vorpal Sword. Available only in foil and featuring its own unique artwork, this promo card is to be given out to those who preorder an AFR Set, Draft, or Collector Booster box. WotC is also asking store owners to provide the promo to those who purchase six Prerelease packs.
Beyond that, local game stores which have achieved Wizards Play Network (WPN) Premium level will also be receiving two promo copies of every rare and mythic rare in the set. These cards will feature an all-new treatment that has never before been seen on a Magic card: Dungeons & Dragon's iconic ampersand logo in a glossy, transparent overlay across the face of each card.
As part of the company's "love your local game store" promotion, Wizards of the Coast has instructed store owners to distribute these special cards individually as participation prizes to drive their in-store play. For stores which have not yet begun in-store play by the time the set comes out can instead use them to drive in-store sales.
Keep an eye out for these as they seem like they'll be really nifty to behold.
AFR's prerelease will be just a tad different
While the base concept of the set's prerelease won't really change (you'll still be cracking open packs and creating a deck out of whatever cards you pull), there are a few tweaks to the Prelease Pack's contents as well as the overall prerelease experience.
First off, the Prerelease Pack itself will contain six AFR Draft Boosters, three foil double-sided Dungeon cards, one foil-stamped rare or mythic card from the set, a deck box, and a 20-sided die. As for the actual playing of the pre-release, WotC is allowing for both in-store and online play (via webcam) as, due to regional COVID restrictions, in-store play isn't always going to be an option.
Also, the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Prerelease also includes Commander Dueling, which are casual Commander games, accessible to anyone and everyone, whether they're taking part in a the actual Prerelease event or not.