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A female gith warrior leaps from a peak. Image: Wizards of the Coast

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Magic: The Gathering’s next D&D set plays more like Dungeons & Dragons

Fan-favorite characters from Baldur’s Gate are front and center

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Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Wizards of the Coast knocked it out of the park last summer with Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, a crossover with Dungeons & Dragons that became the company’s best-selling summer set of all time. Its next D&D crossover, Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate, comes out on June 10, and on Tuesday lead designer Corey Bowen gave the first full explanation of how it’s going to work. Fans should expect a complex, draftable set of Commander-focused cards and a gameplay experience that evokes the feeling of actually playing D&D.

Volo, Itinerant Scholar is a legendary creature. Image: Wizards of the Coast
Noble heritage background allows for white mana to be used in your Commander deck, and adds +1/+1 counters to your bag of tricks. Image: Wizards of the Coast

Like 2020’s Commander Legends set, Battle for Baldur’s Gate is primarily designed for drafting, meaning that players will need to create novel new decks on the fly just as a game begins. Job one will be selecting a Commander from the two Legendary Creatures that appear in each pack of Draft Boosters. Next, players will want to select a background for that creature, if applicable.

According to Bowen, background cards perform a similar function to the partner mechanic (which was introduced with Commander 2016) by adding versatility to a given creature. It also dovetails nicely into the D&D theme, using the conceit of character creation to add to the potential mana colors Commanders can use while also sprinkling in powerful new abilities.

Scion of Halaster is a legendary enchantment, a background, that yields black mana and scry 2, more or less, when drawing cards at the beginning of the turn. Image: Wizards of the Coast
Raised by Giants is a background that turns your Commander into a 10/10 giant. Image: Wizards of the Coast
Cultist of the Absolute background gives Commander creatures +3/+3, flying, deathtouch, and more. Image: Wizards of the Coast
The Criminal Past background adds black mana, menace, and a +X/+0 based on the number of creatures in your graveyard. Image: Wizards of the Coast

From there, players will draft two cards at a time from each pack as it makes its way around the table, building 60-card decks in all (down from Commander’s traditional 100 cards). Unlike the traditional Commander format, the singleton rule won’t apply. That means players can have multiple versions of the same card in their deck.

Preconstructed decks that align with the standard 100-card format will be sold separately.

A key feature of the new set will be the introduction of even more classic characters from D&D lore. That includes Elminster, the powerful wizard created by Ed Greenwood for the beloved Forgotten Realms setting; elf vampire Astarion and Githyanki warrior Lae’zel, companions from Baldur’s Gate 3; and Baba Lysaga, a hag from Barovia and the mother of Tasha, in-fiction author of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. There are also lots of deeper cuts from the original Baldur’s Gate video game and its various sequels and expansions. Even fan favorites Minsc and Boo will make an appearance as planeswalkers (naturally) that can also serve as your Commander.

Elminster is a planeswalker that can be used as a Commander. Image: Wizards of the Coast
Potential Commander Astarion is a vampire elf rogue with deathtouch and lifelink. Image: Wizards of the Coast
Minsc and Boo, Timeless heroes are a singular planeswalker that can be a Commander as well. Image: Wizards of the Coast
Baba Lysaga is a legendary creature that allows you to sacrifice up to three permanents to extract life from your opponents and gain life yourself. Image: Wizards of the Coast

A new dungeon card will also be available. Adventures in the Forgotten Realms introduced dungeons to Magic — cards that allow players to press their luck by pouring energy into exploring a physical space in the hope of earning lucrative rewards. This time around, players will be able to explore the legendary Undercity below Baldur’s Gate. But the way they do it will be just a little different.

Players will make use of the new initiative mechanic, gaining initiative on their turn to move their characters through the dungeon. The frequency of initiative cards should be a bit higher — especially when played alongside adventure cards — allowing players to travel a bit more quickly.

Elder brain is a creature, a horror, with menace. Image: Wizards of the Coast
Full card art for Elder Brain. Image: Wizards of the Coast
Illithid harvestor is a blue creature with an attached sorcery. Image: Wizards of the Coast
Wand of Wonders is an artifact that asks players to roll a d20 each time they use it, at the cost of 4 mana. Image: Wizards of the Coast

Dice rolling also makes its return with Battle for Baldur’s Gate. Certain cards will allow players to roll a d20 — just like in D&D — with rewards dependent on how high you roll. Only a single card called Wand of Wonder was shown, however.

Previews of the set’s preconstructed Commander decks will be available online starting May 30. So far we only know their names: Party Time, Mind Flayarrs, Draconic Descent, and Exit from Exile.

Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate arrives at retail on June 10. We’ve included a complete gallery of all the new cards revealed today below.


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