Returning to Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate

Can we save scum a Magic release?

If you’ve been online at all in the last several weeks, I’m sure you’ve been seeing a whole lot about the video game Baldur’s Gate 3. Taking players into the world of the Forgotten Realms, it’s a shockingly crunchy game that brings Dungeon & Dragons’ fifth edition rules and mechanics to bloom while also pairing it with a great story and plenty of entertaining characters. Of course, many of these characters will be familiar to Commander players as they are all present within the set of yesteryear: Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate. 

Honestly, when I first booted up Baldur’s Gate 3 myself, I had entirely forgotten that it technically was the inspiration for the Magic expansion, which it was originally supposed to launch aside (or it at least closely to). However, as things happened to go, the video game was delayed while the physical product with a ton riding on it was pushed live. 

Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate - Draft Booster Box

Market Price: $92.56

Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate - Set Booster Box

Market Price: $102.74

Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate - Collector Booster Display

Market Price: $197.95

Magic players were introduced to a world that was both familiar and different, set in the most prolific Dungeons & Dragons setting in history but also featuring many characters we had never heard of before. It’s no secret that the set was not considered to be a great success. Many fingers have been pointed, whether it be a lack of valuable reprints, general apathy around the Dungeons & Dragons brand as a setting for Magic: The Gathering following the quite weak first foray into the brand (Adventures in the Forgotten Realms), or the release of the much more hyped Double Masters 2022 just weeks later. Heck, it could have been the fact that the video game wasn’t standing beside it (at least, not out of a relatively little played-by-comparison Early Access) to help give context to what the set was trying to accomplish.

Seasoned Dungeoneer
The Initiative // Undercity Double-sided Token
Avenging Hunter

There was also that “Initiative” mechanic which, while awesome in the Limited games I’ve played with this set, managed to ruin (at least) one constructed Magic format. Also as video games happen to be, there were some changes, cut content, and more along the way that have made some elements of the set not match up with the game. However, even though the set and game don’t match one-to-one, nothing has made me want to dig back into a set I already loved more than putting tens of hours (look, I’m a busy guy) into Baldur’s Gate 3 over the last few weeks. So that’s what I’m doing this week. 

Fair warning: there will be at least some spoilers for Act 1 of the now very popular game.

Baldur’s Gate 3 in Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate 

Kagha, Shadow Archdruid
Gut, True Soul Zealot
Minthara, Merciless Soul

Looking at the set as a whole, it’s very obvious that Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate is heavily inspired, at least at the level of Legendary Creature design, by the video game. In fact, it draws on more than just Baldur’s Gate 3 itself, with many cool build-around creatures, such as Mazzy, Truesword Paladin being potential companions from past games in the franchise. There are also plenty of new characters in the set, such as Oji, the Exquisite Blade, or Skanos Dragonheart. There’s a great mix of new content, referential content, and past Magic cards that combine to make what feels to me a great love letter to the game that now exists, the games of the past, and the overarching popular Dungeon & Dragons setting it’s based in.

It brings me a lot of joy to see cards like Kagha, Shadow Archdruid, Gut, True Soul Zealot, and Minthara, Merciless Soul, three of the game’s early antagonists present here. Of course, there’s also a Nautiloid Ship, which is where you’ll start your adventure in Baldur’s Gate 3, before it well, crashes, sending you out on the adventure that is to come. Raphael, Fiendish Savior is a great representation of an early intriguing carrot that is dangled in front of your characters, all while being a damn good Commander for your Evil Stuff deck to boot. There are even Mindflayers of several varieties, setting the tone for what is always at the back of your mind in the plot, quite literally.

If anything, in the light of the game now being here, I wish a bit more of the game was connected mechanically, with Dragon-matters, Initiative, and other major themes being focused on making the Draft environment work rather than hitting on flavor notes. I don’t blame the team for making the decision though, as this is a Magic set first. The most obvious remaining connection to the game contained within the set is the Companions. Let’s check them out.

The Companions of Baldur’s Gate 3 (At Least, of Act 1)

Astarion's Thirst
Inspiring Leader (Foil Etched)
Lae'zel's Acrobatics

As you progress throughout the world of Baldur’s Gate 3, you’re presented with plenty of exciting characters who would love to kill you, kiss you, or both. Some of those unique personalities eventually join up in your campaign to find a cure for a very unique sickness you each have a tadpole of the Mind Flayer variety that, in theory, turn you into a Mind Flayer yourself if you don’t find somebody to remove it from your cranium quickly enough. Each of your would-be companions has different thoughts about this concept, some wanting the power, some craving the freedom they’ve received through recent happenstance, or some wanting it gone under any circumstances. As one would hope, plenty of those excellent characters are contained here (alongside what I think were secretly supposed to be party members who ended up on the video game cutting room floor). For now, let’s take a look at some of the most obvious characters from the set that you’ll encounter in Act One of the already beloved game.

Astarion, the Decadent 

Astarion, the Decadent

Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate, Rare

Astarion, the Decadent - Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate - magic

Alongside being represented on Astarion’s Thirst, here is the representative card for everybody’s favorite Elf Vampire. An important source of damage per second in the early game of Baldur’s Gate 3, he also is one of the very first potential companions you’ll encounter. Whether or not you choose to keep him around though is definitely up to you. His unique personality and backstory are not for everyone, which has left more than one person I know either removing him from their party or, well, killing him. But what about his card in Battle for Baldur’s Gate? It’s pretty mediocre, unfortunately. Paying six mana demands a lot and while deathtouch and lifelink are a nice combination of keywords, they’re a dime a dozen in his Orzhov colors.

Sanguine Bond
Exquisite Blood

Market Price: $18.89

Even his triggered ability, which gives you either double the life gain or the opportunity to make your opponents lose life equal to the life you’ve lost this turn, is just a worse version of effects we’ve seen on much more efficient cards. Heck, even a stat line of 4/4 is nothing to write home about on a six-drop. I would have personally loved to see something that leaned more into his Rogue-ish nature, rather than getting a card that could have been any Vampire in any Innistrad release. He can’t even use a Background, because he’s already two colors! While I rarely leave my camp without Astarion in tow, I’m not sure he’ll ever be exiting the bulk Rare box.

Gale, Waterdeep Prodigy 

Gale, Waterdeep Prodigy

Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate, Rare

Gale, Waterdeep Prodigy - Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate - magic

Oh Gale, Waterdeep Prodigy, Gale my beloved. I wish I actually liked how fiddly Wizards are to manage and use effectively in Dungeons & Dragons because if so, I would surely be farther into your incredibly interesting backstory by now. The incredibly handsome Gale is beset with a curse, one that requires him to gobble up Magical items in-game, all from a moment of hubris that has to do with loving the goddess of the concept of Magic? You’ll understand when you’re older. Gale, the Magic card, on the other hand, is a solid role-player or perhaps a lower power option for spell matters strategies. He’s a sort of mass-Snapcaster Mage, albeit one that gives you some hoops to jump through, letting you cast either an Instant or Sorcery from your graveyard whenever you cast a spell of the opposite type.

Scion of Halaster (Foil Etched)
Thassa's Oracle

Market Price: $19.41

Demonic Consultation

Market Price: $16.35

Together with his ability to pick up a Background, he makes for an interesting option in the command zone, so much so that closer to the Set’s release, several people were experimenting with a Gale and Scion of Halaster competitive list. The main idea was that you could leverage your Background to put Instants and Sorceries into the graveyard, eventually casting either Demonic Consultation or Tainted Pact from your hand to empty your library, but first casting the other of the two from your graveyard to find Thassa’s Oracle. This would leave you with Thassa’s Oracle tutored into your hand and an empty library, making it easy to win the game. While people didn’t explore it very far, it was determined to not be cut by Rebell Son, amongst others, putting Gale entirely into the for-fun Commander sphere. Have you had a Gale deck you’ve enjoyed? I’d love to hear about it because I’ve drawn all the blanks and love the character! 

Karlach, Fury of Avernus

Karlach, Fury of Avernus

Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate, Mythic

Karlach, Fury of Avernus - Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate - magic

Karlach, Fury of Avernus the fearsome Barbarian fighter that is sure to level up both the damage output and tankiness of your party when you encounter her, is also an incredible Magic card. Together with getting to give her one of many Backgrounds, she also gives you a second combat phase every turn, alongside first strike for the entire time for that specific combat. This lends itself incredibly well to an aggressive strategy of any flavor, whether in the command zone or the ninety-nine of another deck.

Dragon Cultist (Foil Etched)
Commander's Plate

Market Price: $33.68

Gratuitous Violence

I would love to pair her with something like Inspiring Leader to create a powerful Token strategy deck or Dragon Cultist for a Mono-Red “Make A Lot of Dragons And Kill People With Extra Combat” plan. It seems like plenty of other people are excited for her as well, given that her non-foil price here on TCGPlayer has, in just the last two weeks, increased by almost 50%! Are people finally just now discovering her potential power or are they just wanting to own the card for their favorite companion? I’d guess it’s a mix of both.

Lae’zel, Vlaakith’s Champion

Lae’zel, Vlaakith’s Champion

Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate, Rare

Lae'zel, Vlaakith's Champion - Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate - magic

I’m just gonna say it up top, I don’t get this card at all. Her White card identity makes sense at least, because Lae’zel, Vlaakith’s Champion is, at least in Act 1, hopelessly dedicated to her mission, ideals, and thoughts. She might change, and I’ve seen hints that she does, but I’m too busy with my problems in real life to be her in-game therapist. Figure it out yourself girl. Back to the card. If you would put one or more counters on a creature or Planeswalker you control or on yourself, put that many plus one of each of those kinds of counters on that permanent or player instead.

Onakke Oathkeeper
Ajani Steadfast
Deification (Showcase)

Choose a Background. This is for a character that, in-game, is a Fighter. Sure, a pretty vanilla class that may be hard to translate effectively to a card but so far, with my knowledge of the character, I just don’t get it. Pair her with your other +1/+1 counter or Planeswalker staples and go crazy. Lae’zel, both in the game and in card form, just hasn’t piqued my interest yet. She has, however, recently doubled in price for her base, non-foil form so many other people are seeing things that I’m not.

Shadowheart, Dark Justiciar

Shadowheart, Dark Justiciar

Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate, Rare

Shadowheart, Dark Justiciar - Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate - magic

Shadowheart, Dark Justicar is one of the very first characters you’ll encounter in Baldur’s Gate 3, and much like Lae’zel, seems to be a bit more controversial than others. She’ll always tell you exactly what she thinks, sticks closely to her Cleric-driven ideals, and also worships Shar, the goddess of darkness, forgetfulness, loss, and night. According to Shadowheart, she’s also right in the domain of Pain, something she takes very seriously.

Cloakwood Hermit
Unmarked Grave
Ashnod's Altar

While Shadowheart’s moment-to-moment gameplay in Baldur’s Gate 3 is more akin to a traditional Cleric (I’ve had the most use from her casting Guiding Bolt for huge damage or various healing spells), in card form she’s quite a powerful sacrifice payoff, turning your big creatures into cards. While that isn’t the greatest payoff for the command zone, it would be interesting to pair her with something like Cloakwood Hermit, letting you go both wide and tall in your card choices. Criminal Past, while not the most flavorful option, could also let you get busy with her in the Combat step if you aren’t sacrificing a creature on your turn. Regardless of her card, I love Shadowheart, the character, and would encourage you to take her out on an adventure with you sometime!

Wyll, Blade of Frontiers

Wyll, Blade of Frontiers

Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate, Rare

Wyll, Blade of Frontiers - Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate - magic

The wonderful Warlocks that join your crew quickly in the game, Wyll, Blade of Frontiers loves to cast a couple of spells before piercing the hearts of his enemy with his trusty Rapier. He’s supposed to be a Pact of the Blade Warlock, but that accidentally isn’t what I did with him. Oops. Luckily, I can always respect him if need be later. Interestingly enough, Wyll is yet another character that seems to be more of a bottom-up design, with his mechanics benefiting the set’s environment, rather than a top-down design of Wyll, the Baldur’s Gate 3 character. He isn’t exactly based on randomness, at least not as far as I’ve been able to tell.

Wyll's Reversal
The Deck of Many Things

While he does have. A secretive background, I’m not quite seeing the dice flavor here. However, Wyll, especially when paired with a background, will make a great home for all the dice rolling found both in Battle for Baldur’s Gate and the first Dungeons & Dragons flavored release, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. It isn’t for me, but if you’re into tossing your fate to the wind, give Wyll a try in your command zone.

Now, Back to Baldur’s Gate 3

Delayed Blast Fireball (Extended Art)

Market Price: $15.88

Mind Flayer
Ancient Brass Dragon

Market Price: $24.28

It’s obvious that Baldur’s Gate 3 is quickly becoming a beloved game, both for fans of Dungeons & Dragons and those who are new to the properties. If you’re enjoying the game, I encourage you to give the set Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate a second (or maybe even your first!) look. You’ll find plenty of awesome cards, especially those for the Companions you’re coming to know and love. There are even more Companions and characters from Baldur’s Gate 3 hidden within the set, but I’ll let you figure those out for yourself. I’m trying to keep spoilers to a minimum here! Anyway, as a self-proclaimed evangelist of Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate, it’s been awesome to get a chance to see the set anew, igniting an even greater love for it. I hope that you get to experience the same.