Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate, Six Months Later

 Baldur's Gate has become my favorite set of 2022 and is probably a set I'm going to fondly remember for years to come. It's unfortunate that the general opinion of the set has been low as I strongly believe this was one of the more fun sets to draft this year. Being released so closely to Double Masters 2022,  players had to make a decision of where to place their money. Many opted for the latter choice as the value was more certain. Contrary to expectation, Baldur's Gate was mostly comprised of original and new cards when players were wanting more reprints, which was more inline with the first commander legends. In addition, the background mechanic had players hesitant to try it out since it did not play well with the previous partner mechanic. It resulted in many of these cards were overlooked and forgotten about. It wasn't until my friends and I started looking into building them as full on commander decks that we saw how good background as a mechanic is and how fun the background commander can be outside of the mechanic.

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As Commander Legends

The subset of the community calling the set "misappropriation" of the Commander Legends branding always felt disingenuous because we only had one other Commander Legends product prior to it for comparison. Viewing the set in a vacuum, I'm satisfied with the product we ended up getting. It plays well as a draft set, it introduces new interesting mechanics, further developed mechanics that were already present, and added commanders that support weird archetypes. The reprint value was definitely not there, but there weren't a lot of reprints in the set to begin with. With a lot of the general discourse tied around the initial expected value, (EV for short) of the set, it buried any other conversation for the set. For context, I did end up opening a couple of collector booster boxes and a set booster and it did feel pretty bad at the time.

The set had an interesting commander mechanic in backgrounds and introduced the first noncreature, nonplaneswalker commander. Much like the partner mechanic, it created new options for commanders that still haven't been explored (this is still the case a year later) and will probably be forgotten as WotC continues to push out new products. The commanders that have the background mechanic are fairly powerful and interesting options at their rarities on their own. Many of the uncommon cards make for powerful cube inclusion for peasant cube with some even considered some for my traditional cube (@Myagic1, yes this is about Guts). Backgrounds have proven to be more interesting than I initially thought. At first glance, the designs of the background felt too safe, however the creature component being more experimental made these a solid and interesting experience. The backgrounds get more interesting when you play with partner commanders since the effect is doubled. My playgroup was experimenting with different builds for background. Livaan, Cultist of Tiamat had become popular among my playgroup because he is capable of oneshotting the table. 

As a whole set, it captures the spirit of the commander legends format, which is a multiplayer commander draft format. The set delivers in game play as it has been a blast to play and I've never had a bad experience while playing the format. There's a ton of variety and build routes when it comes to drafting the set. The initiative mechanic is, as we know now, a powerful effect that is available in all colors and smooths out the play experience, helping decks hit their land drops and advancing the game. Each color has powerful plays and threatening bombs. Tacking on adventure to some of these cards gives them utility that is needed as the game progresses. The games can vary in pace from slow pace to highly explosive depending on decks people are building and there are a ton of wild plays that can occur. I've played Gruul Dragons shoving down 20 damage with hasted creatures in a single turn, Boros politics turn their commander into a 13/15, and Dimir dungeons double trigger each of the Undercity's room. The set makes for a good foundation for a commander cube with the backgrounds as the basis.

Aside from the background commanders, the multicolored legendaries have been a treat as well. They've taken current archetypes and put a slight spin on them which opens more options for familiar archetypes. Though it may not seem like much, the extra options do breathe fresh air into decks that may have felt stagnant or repetitive with what WotC was printing before. For example, Raphael, Fiendish Savior looks like an aristrocrats commander at first, but when you examine him further he specifically mentions "creature cards from anywhere". This ability also supports self mill and discard, opening Rakdos to those strategies. Going further, artifacts strategies have a strong recursion element as well that synergizes with Raphael. This is one of many commanders that are present in the set that are like that. 

Lastly, the set had playable cards outside of the legendaries and mythic dragon cycle that completely flew under the radar. What's better is that these cards were actually at uncommon and common vs being rare/ mythic rare. The cards I am referring to took already existing designed cards and added a small tweak to serve as an alternative to that card. These cards are playable as they are sidegrades rather than strict upgrades giving players more choices. This makes the cards playable in less competitive environments. Mana rocks like Decanter of Endless Water and Patriar's Seal are an example of this. They are both variations of Manalith with the decanter granting players limitless handsize, which is a rare effect already, and the seal letting you untap your legendaries, which is also an uncommon ability. Having these effects more available and available in different forms in something that the player base can appreciate. It's unfortunate that these cards got glossed over, but this set is definitely ripe with playable commander cards, just not the most competitive ones (,but who plays competitive EDH anyways?) (I know people do.)

Final Thoughts

 I really wish WotC would slow down or spread out the product releases (as of June 2023, they have kinda been) to give players time to explore and dive into a set. As mentioned already Baldur's Gate was heavily overshadowed by the reprint megalith of Double Masters, however through the whispers of social media, I am seeing some post for the cards with the comments always mentioning they didn't know the card existed. This provides some hope that the set will be looked at more fondly in the future, though as I'm writing this players are currently upset about initiative in Legacy (White Plume Adventure got banned in Legacy in March 2023).

To WotC's credit, Double Masters 2022 could have easily been skipped since the set offered no new cards and there was a lull in "new cards" until the release of Dominaria United. Aside from the new art, there's no other reason to buy the set if you already had the cards and WotC has told the player base, "To Engage with the product you want to engage with." I firmly believe that this is the correct approach as not every product is designed for your preferences. Thus, WotC doesn't need your money to be spent on every product.

Lastly, this set got me to finally get around to playing the Baldur's Gate games and I've been enjoying it immensely than the first several times I tried it. I felt the cards don't properly represent all of the characters found in the game, but it is interesting seeing how they tried to recreate the characters as cards.

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