Welcome to the white part of our Gladiator Adventures in the Forgotten Realms set review! Let’s get to it!
While level one is relatively weak because it does not enable additional life gain triggers, the second level does a great impression of the powerful Heliod, Sun-Crowned. The third level is above rate for its effect, and helps you catch up after having spent mana on the second level. However, this card seems too slow outside of the most dedicated lifegain decks, so I don’t expect it to see much play.
The best Equipment in the set, Dancing Sword boasts a low equip cost and a powerful increase in stats. Additionally, it avoids the downside of most Equipment; it can become an evasive threat on its own should its wielder die. This is especially relevant against opposing wraths, as it allows the controller to immediately resume pressure the following combat step. Expect this to see play as a staple in Mono-White Aggro and Boros Equipment, as well as in other aggressive white strategies.
A 3/1 with upside is exactly what Aggro decks want. However, this upside is not powerful enough to warrant inclusion outside of highly synergistic decks that can consistently equip it. Even with the new Equipment like Dancing Sword, the density isn’t high enough and I expect this will only see play as a budget option.
Grand Master of Flowers
While Monk of the Open Hand is a potentially strong one drop for Mono-White Aggro, this planeswalker is too slow for aggressive decks. Thus, its only home is in Control or Midrange, but both decks have more powerful threats and planeswalkers available. This card is severely weakened by the singleton nature of the format limiting you to only one Monk, and therefore is unlikely to see play. Additionally, the keywords mentioned in its first ability are quite common on many aggressive threats, making this planeswalker less effective.
Guardian of Faith
While the body of this card is medium, its enter the battlefield effect has Mono-White players lining up in droves to slot it into their decks. You can either phase out one creature in response to spot removal or phase out the rest of your board to dodge a wrath, only losing the Guardian. Even when your opponent casts no removal, the flash body is at rate and has a relevant keyword for combat.
Icingdeath, Frost Tyrant
With a body far above rate and a powerful death trigger, this card’s only downside is that it dies to Lightning Boltand similar effects. Despite this, its keywords allow the Dragon to play both offense and defense simultaneously while flying over stalled board states. The Equipment also pushes damage through by pumping a creature and removing a blocker similar to Territorial Hammerskull. This card has competition at the top of the curve in white Aggro and Midrange decks, and the prevalence of red decks will determine how much play the Dragon sees.
This two mana threat replaces itself on entering the battlefield and can continue to grow each turn it is in play. While no Luminarch Aspirant, in an artifact based deck it can give quite an impression of one. In order to consistently replace itself, you’ll need to be running 20 artifacts (60% chance) or 32 artifacts (80%). Boros artifact decks currently run about 25 artifacts, but with the new Equipment should be running significantly more. Another thing to keep in mind is that it is easier to grow this card than to cantrip with it, since the second ability triggers off of any artifact, including tokens such as Servos and Treasure.
This card does a nice impression of Knight of the White Orchid, with the upside of a third power but downside of a less relevant keyword for Aggro decks. It also only gets basic Plains which must enter tapped, but despite this the card is incredibly powerful for our format. This allows Aggro players to keep land light hands as well as apply above rate pressure on the opponent. One small thing to note is that its creature type synergizes with Pack Leader, increasing the likelihood the Dog tribal package is included in Mono-White Aggro.
While Enchantress does not currently see competitive play, this card is a step in the right direction for the deck. It could also help enable the Solemnity and Nine Lives combo, or see play in Lifegain decks seeking to draw Heliod, Sun-Crowned.
Nadaar, Selfless Paladin
A rate body with a decent keyword and enter the battlefield effect, Nadaar could see play in a variety of aggressive white decks. His real power comes from his versatility, since by entering the Tomb of Annihilation he can apply direct pressure to the opponent’s life total and by entering the Lost Mine of Phandelver he can create a creature for defense. Since he has only one white pip, he may see play in a variety of two color Aggro decks.
Oswald has combo potential for Eggs decks to find key pieces or potential chains of untapping with tools like Corridor Monitor. However, I expect him to see more play in Boros Equipment decks where he can transform tokens into Bonesplitter and various artifact creatures into more powerful ones. At his worst he is still a rate body, but when his activated ability becomes relevant it will grant you a major advantage.
At level one this card is a serious hindrance to the game plan of Control decks. They will either play at sorcery speed or give you a growing mana advantage. At level two Paladin Class becomes Glorious Anthem for a less white mana intensive cost. And although level three won’t be reached often, your creatures will easily punch through any board state when you activate it. This card will see play in a variety of white creature decks, whether they aim to tax the opponent or go wide.
This card gives a massive buff to its wielder, but has a steep casting and equip cost. However, in decks that can consistently equip it for two or less mana, it will become quite powerful. You’ll need to run at least 10 other Equipment to do this about two-thirds of the time by turn five however, so there is a steep deck building cost.
One mana removal is rare in our format, and this will be welcomed with open arms by white Control decks as an answer to Aggro decks. Even though it is restricted to targets with mana value two or less, this card still hits at least 25% of the threats in most Aggro decks, and many utility cards such as Equipment and enchantments such as Bonesplitter and Search for Azcanta. But it being an artifact is a weakness: It can be removed by many staples such as Prismari Command, Kolaghan’s Command, Abrade, and Rip Apart. Expect this to see play in Azorius Control and some artifact based Combo decks.
Blink decks are excited to add a second copy of Thassa, Deep-Dwelling to their arsenal. It differs in that it can blink artifacts, which may be relevant with cards like Esika’s Chariot. While definitely the weaker of the two, this is another piece of the puzzle that may lead to a competitive blink Midrange deck. It also works well with the new Priest of Ancient Lore.
The Book of Exalted Deeds
A middle ground between Griffin Aerie and Angelic Accord, this card could see play in life gain decks. However, a purely white lifegain deck doesn’t have the card density to be competitive yet, so this card’s only hope is a strange combo with Faceless Haven. With Changeling, the man land is an Angel, and retains the counter from The Book of Exalted Deeds after losing its status as a creature. Therefore, unless your opponent runs Stone Rain or Field of Ruin, it will be extremely difficult for you to lose.
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I am an avid Gladiator player who wants to support the community! I’ve been playing Magic since 2007 and my favorite format is pauper. My favorite Gladiator deck is Gruul Aggro.