With the imminent release of the new D&D: Forgotten Realms set, we’re meeting in a grimy tavern for some ale and to review the set’s new cards. In this article we’ll examine one of the companion Commander decks released with the set, talk about the unique new cards in it, and recommend some ways it can be upgraded and improved. Let’s take a look at the grim Necromancer pulling the strings of Dungeons of Death, the White, Blue, and Black Commander Preconstructed deck from the set.
We close our look at the precon decks with the one most strongly tied to the new mechanics, specifically venturing into the dungeon. This time around we’re not trying to subvert expectations or go for a weird build – there’s a limited pool of venture cards to build with and this is the only deck built to take advantage of them. The dungeons are fun but not massively powerful, so we’re going to try and act like a typical adventuring party and sprint through them as fast as we can.
Sefris is very unique, if not overwhelmingly powerful. She triggers whenever we put a creature into our graveyard from anywhere, not just from the battlefield, which opens up some nice possibilities outside of sacrificing our creatures like cycling, self mill, and looting effects to allow us to trigger her on our opponents’ turns. This is especially important because depending on which dungeon we are venturing through we need to progress between 4 and 7 times in order to complete it, and Sefris only triggers once per turn. This means that unfortunately Teysa Karlov can’t help us, but as we will see later if we can copy her ability or get additional copies of her we can venture deeper faster. Between filling our own yard and our opponents dealing with our creatures, her Create Undead allows us to recur powerful threats directly into play and hopefully bury the rest of the table in value.
The New Cards
A fun idea and maybe ok in precon vs precon games, but in normal play this is just way too much mana for not enough effect. At 7 mana you’re getting into ending the game territory and this ain’t that.
So close and yet so far. If this let you choose a player to gain control of it so you could play politics, I think this would have been great. Instead, there’s a 50% chance you lose mana on the transaction, 25% you break even, and 25% you go up one mana, which is already not great. The kicker is that it goes to the right, aka the opposite direction of turn order, meaning it could easily be 4 wheels of the table before you get this back, ramping your opponents and being down a card the entire time. Hard pass.
This is Commander, you can destroy permanents for way less than 10 mana. Goes in your Golem tribal deck if that’s a thing you want to build for some reason, and nowhere else.
I talked about this in the Draconic Rage deck, if you don’t care about dice rolling this is just bad. 3 mana rocks are already being supplanted at casual tables, and this is 3 mana to definitely not have a further mana available in the same turn.
I kind of like this in theory, though not in this deck and it can well be expensive to get their best card in hand. I suspect in actuality it will see play in narrow things like Pirate theme decks rather than wide applications.
Another card that is cool but just way too expensive and random. The meta has progressed to the point where Insurrection barely sees play anymore, and that’s one more mana to straight win the game.
Removing all abilities is pretty handy, but stop me if you’ve heard this one before….. it’s 5 mana….. The venture isn’t worth paying 4 per turn for, especially since you’d be losing control of the thing you wanted to stop. Just play actual removal.
I’m down on a lot of the new cards in this deck, and while this isn’t phenomenal, it’s a solid playable in this deck, and maybe even sees play in general Azorius decks for the evasion combined with a little drip of value.
Minn has potential, though not in this deck. There are some pretty sweet Illusions in Magic, blue has lots of ways to draw a second card, and getting to rebuild instantly when your board gets wiped is very powerful.
Ostensibly the backup commander in this deck, this is another one that will be much better as its own deck. Mind flaying all of your opponents’ creatures away while you drain them on top of attacking them seems like a good time.
This is a pretty good one. Blink decks, clone decks…. there’s a lot of places that will get value out of riding this pony.
Very good. Giving all of your creatures venture as an ETB is incredibly useful, you can pay to discard it on someone else’s turn to trigger Sefris, and with the reanimation subtheme there’s a solid chance you can cheat this back onto the battlefield after discarding it.
No. This is a random chance to save yourself from a board wipe, just play one of the multiple cards that actually save you 100% of the time and cost the same like Teferi’s Protection or Rootborn Defenses.
I think this could be decent in spellslinger decks if you get it down early, but 3 mana doesn’t help you there, and once this gets a few spells under it it’s going to make for an awful tempting Krosan Grip target.
The card draw means this isn’t the worst thing but it’s not exactly quick. I’m not including it in my list but if you want to wring every drop of venture out of your deck I can see playing it.
Now we’re talking. Giving deathtouch is extremely useful, especially if you also have first strike or trample, and if they leave the creature you equipped with this unchecked you can easily swarm them with zombies. Pretty solid in a lot of decks and outstanding in zombie decks.
Improving the deck
Time to get down to business and improve this deck, so where is the precon lacking the most? For my money there are quite a few cards that either aren’t focused on venturing into the dungeon, don’t support that game plan well, or are just inefficient, so we want to dial our venturing up to 11.
To begin with, while Sefris can only trigger once per turn, we can double up on the ability with Strionic Resonator, or we can effectively get additional copies of her in to play who will also trigger by cheating around the Legend rule with Sakashima of a Thousand Faces, Sakashima the Imposter, and Spark Double. We also retain Phantasmal Image from the precon and add Rite of Replication for either value or making extra copies of our clones. I would like to give this deck a try with an iteration that really doubles down on the clone effects, but for today we’re going a little more balanced.
Next we add in the few decent venture cards that weren’t in the precon like Barrowin of Clan Undurr, Nadaar, Selfless Paladin, and Triumphant Adventurer. After that we put in some additional ways to trigger Sefris, preferably not on our turn, with Doom Whisperer, Nimble Obstructionist, Oriq Loremage, and Tortured Existence. Finally we want to upgrade our top end threats with Sheoldred, Whispering One and Syr Konrad, the Grim.
We also want to generally upgrade our board wipes with Damnation and Supreme Verdict, our reanimation package with Reanimate and Entomb, our targeted removal with Anguished Unmaking and Damn, and our protection with Counterspell, Force of Will, and Teferi’s Protection.
In Esper we have access to a ton of great counters and removal so feel free to substitute as preference and budget allows. You can always tweak the ratio of tutors, mana rocks, removal, etc after playtesting for at least a few games – I wouldn’t be surprised if you wanted a little more ramp and a little less targeted removal but there’s no way to be sure until sitting down in a pod. As a parting thought, if you want to include enough Zombies to reliably turn on Rooftop Storm, you can combine it with Acererak the Archlich for infinitely venturing through the 2 dungeons that aren’t Tomb of Annihilation.
That wraps up our look at the new Dungeons of Death deck. If you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.