Sizing Up The Baldur’s Gate Commander Decks: Are They Worth Buying?

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I'm a big fan of precons for a variety of reasons. I've written about some of them here and here. Now the disclaimer because I feel it's important: Ever since Wizards released the Baldur's Gate decklists I've been dying to get my hands on the Mind Flayarrrs and Party Time decks. More boat-based cards are always intriguing to me,Nalia de'Arnise fits my deathtouch deck perfectly, and, Black Market Connections just looks like a great card. Given that I was already going to purchase these two decks I was sort of pot-committed to get all four. The question is, should you the reader? Yes. No. Maybe? But first, an extremely brief overview of each deck.

Horror Pirates Tribal - Mind Flayarrrs

An interesting Dimir deck, Mind Flayarrs seeks to put out Horrors and then lead the team with Captain N'ghathrod to mill opponents and steal their creatures. The deck showcases Horrors from throughout Magic's history along with some multiplayer-friendly spells. I'm struck by the lack of countermagic but there's at least one on the Horror body of Overcharged Amalgam.

Changeling Party Beatdown - Party Time

The various changeling effects help Party Time to achieve full party status and go off generally in every attack. With a full party, there's a massive amount of value to every turn and your creatures will quickly balloon out of control. At the same time, you're drawing a pile of cards from every manner of card draw effect including even Skullclamp.

I Hear You Like Goad - Draconic Dissent

Super Dragons and mass amounts of goad effects lead to a crazy experience. Draconic Dissent is not lacking in huge spells, huge creatures, or big board state shakeups. This is really tuned for multiplayer where it shines and has some fun and engaging cards like Chaos Dragon. It can play either aggressive or controlling strategies. This can be accomplished pregame by swapping commanders or in-game by casting a variety of auras on creatures you control or do *not* control; it's quite versatile.

Faldorn Has Left The Building - Exit From Exile

Where to begin? Exit From Exile picked a theme and stuck with it. Hard. You are going to cast things from exile, and, you're going to like it! When I first played this deck I wondered why Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald was used over Durnan of the Yawning Portal and Passionate Archaeologist but after playing if many times it's a lot more obvious. I believe this is the "sleeper" deck of the four and is a lot more powerful than at first glance.

In Favor Of Purchasing

Right out of the box you're getting a fairly good deal. Each deck is loaded with a mixture of both highly playable rares and some powerful cards. How powerful? These are some of the most powerful precons that Wizards has ever rolled out and that is not just my opinion. According to EDREC the deck with the least cards from the top 100 list is Party Time with only five. The most? Exit From Exile with ten. This is worth highlighting.

The "XYZ Precon" With a Few Upgrades Phenomenon

Purchasing a precon and upgrading it somewhat is extremely common. Whether it's for budget, power, or other reasons, a slightly upgraded precon just makes the most sense for many players. Now you have the option of purchasing an off-the-shelf precon that, in my opinion, already has an "upgrade" from the factory.

Replay Factor

While most precons include a second potential commander the Baldur's Gate decks are unique because of the Background mechanic. There really is a large difference between playing Exit From Exile utilizing Faldorn instead of Durnan and Passionate Archaeologist. Draconic Dissent is even more unique for the fact that it includes partnered Planeswalkers as one of your *three* different potential commander packages. Frankly, Party Time begs the question of why a changeling is not the commander in the first place but it effectively gives you that option. I can't imagine Mind Flayarrrs without the Captain as it simply gives the deck a lot more character but you can pivot into a mill first and attack second sort of strategy. All in all, each deck does the thing it aims to do and with a simple commander swap, you can change the details of your game plan but not the game plan itself. All of this adds up to good replay value for all the decks.

Why Wouldn't You Get These Decks?

There's value and then there's value. Each deck technically breaks down into positive net value, at the moment, but what about the future? There are a lot of reprints in each of these precons and the value of all of those cards is trending down, not up. It remains to be seen if some of the singularly more popular cards can bolster the financial value of any of the decks.

These two valuable cards from the Baldur's Gate decks are following the same downward trend. While I think both cards are good and deserve to see play in many decks they don't appear to be stand-out cards like Deflecting Swat or Fierce Guardianship which sold entire precons on their value alone. Financially these decks are not a good investment in the short or medium term. Long term? Well, my favorite Yogi Berra quote is "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." In short, it's just cheaper to buy the handful of cards you may want and not invest extra money on reprints that are losing value.

Keep It Simple

More so than any other precons, these four decks are complicated. Now, that might sound like a good reason for hardcore, veteran players to get them but there are simply more casual and new players. I play with new and/or newer players often and I can share some of their feedback here. The most complicated deck of the four is Exit From Exile without a doubt. Venture Forth says "Suspend 3 -1G" without any rules text. So too does Greater Gargadon. To a player who has never seen the Suspend mechanic before it can be intimidating and confusing.

Consider also, that there are multiple kinds of exile effects in this deck. That includes "Exile this thing," "Exile this thing until the end of turn," and "Exile this thing until the end of next turn," effects all in the same deck. Now you are essentially creating THREE different Exile zones. This doesn't even take into account the Adventure, Rebound, Foretell, and Hideaway cards in the deck. How many effectively different Exile zones are there? How do you explain the differences to a newer player? Did I mention that Exit From Exile also has a flashback card so the graveyard is not entirely out of play either? While Exit is the absolute most egregious of the four precons in terms of complexity, each deck has a significant number of moving pieces beyond many of the previous precons.

The Complexity Trap

Exit From Exile is a truly interesting preconstructed deck. Its design feels fairly organic, as though a human being saw how many cards said "Exile a thing" and decided to put them together in a pile. It blends many mechanics through many sets. In my opinion, the only things missing to round out the theme were Madness cards or Riftsweeper.

I think it's an excellent deck for players like me who know all the mechanics and how they work. The problem, is I am not your typical Magic player. My biggest criticism of Exit From Exile is the lack of rules inserts to explain all the keywords and mechanics in this deck to newer players. Hell, even longtime players might need a refresher on some of these keywords and mechanics. Speaking of keywords and mechanics...

Take The Initiative

To drive the point home, there's a new ability featured across the precons. The Initiative is a brand spanking new mechanic in Commander Legends: Battle For Baldur's Gate. Even veteran players have something to learn. Thing is, new players do not get a choice to use this or not, it's baked into the cake. In the case of this new mechanic, at least, they do give you a card that shows you how The Initiative works, and that acts as a marker for who has it. Even still, it's noteworthy that a format supposedly intended for casual players is forcing an increasingly complex baseline of rules knowledge through its product offerings.

Verdict? Well, They Got MY Money

But should they get yours? If you're a Commander fanatic, you've already bought one or all of the decks. If you're a casual player sitting on the fence and still trying to figure out if it's worth your money? All I can say is that these precons are way beyond the usual offerings. If you stick with Mind Flayarrrs you probably cannot go wrong no matter the player or scenario. Really love multiplayer and chaos? Get Draconic Dissent. In the mood for something highly synergistic, value-driven, and with tremendous consistency? Exit From Exile is your deck. Just want something spicy that ranges from good to better? It's Party Time. Really all of the decks are good here and it just comes down to taste. Get out there and start having fun!

What's your favorite precon from Baldur's Gate? Let me know in the comments.

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