Bardic Inspiration

Spoiler season is a time of joy and creative freedom. D&D: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms or AFR has only been spoiled for a short time now and I’ve already gone spiraling down the rabbit hole of possibilities. Several cards from the new set spark my interest as a Magic player, and as a D&D player, but none of the cards have fully captured my imagination like Bard Class.

This card is interesting, evocative, and powerful. I’d like to discuss the various elements of this card, the restrictions it brings to deckbuilding, and finally offer some insight on a list that is poised to take over in the coming months. 

Bard Class is a new type of card featured in AFR known as a Class card. These are structured and look similar to Sagas but have activated abilities reminiscent of the Level-up mechanic from Rise of the Eldrazi. As your Class levels up you unlock new and improved abilities to take advantage of, making all of the Class cards fantastic ways to sink your mana, albeit as a sorcery. Bard Class has the following 3 abilities;

  • Level One: Legendary creatures you control enter the battlefield with an additional +1/+1 counter on them.

Bard Class starts at Level One when you cast it, so you get this ability right away. It’s the first suggestion that you want to play a lot of legendary creatures but certainly not the last. We’ve seen effects like this before and is a reasonable price to pay, even better when you consider that this effect can stack in multiples. Often this will be the most boring part of Bard Class but is excellent for helping your legendary creatures outsize anything on the board. 

  • Level Two: Legendary spells you cast cost less to cast. This effect reduces only the amount of colored mana you pay.

Woah. I’ve been playing Magic since Return to Ravnica released and I don’t think I’ve seen colored mana cost reduction since Ragemonger, which was a much weaker and vulnerable card. Bard Class reduces the cost of legendary spells, not creatures, meaning you can include planeswalkers or other permanents as well. The possibilities with this are frankly endless, but I believe the best use is to activate this effect on turn 3 and immediately cast 2-3 legendaries and gain a huge advantage on board. Remember any legendary creatures we play also gain an additional +1/+1 counter, leading to a significant board presence.

  • Level Three: Whenever you cast a legendary spell, exile the top two cards of your library. You may play them this turn.

I believe the best of the Class cards will involve having the first two abilities be the keystone abilities, and the third ability be an excellent mana sink. Bard Class fulfills this and more, having easily one of the most explosive and powerful third abilities of them all. You’re incentivized to cast all the legendaries in your hand as quickly as possible with the Level One and Two abilities, and your only real concern is running low on cards in hand. Level Three solves this problem and gives you the ability to quickly access most of your deck in a flurry of legendary spells. This last ability really completes Bard Class, granting you board presence, mana, and card advantage all in one!

The abilities on Bard Class certainly suggest one thing; play lots of legendaries, but how many do we need to justify it? What other things do we need to consider when building our deck with Bard Class? I frankly love it when a card asks you to jump through some hoops to unlock its full potential. Thus I’d like to highlight a few heuristics to keep in mind when you first begin deck building with Bard Class.

  • Play as many legendaries as you possibly can

With four copies of Bard Class we’re already playing some non-legendary spells. I’d avoid playing more than a total of eight non-legendaries, including Bard Class, ensuring you’ll have a plethora of spells to sling once you start activating it. This is especially true if you activate Level Three and begin churning through your library looking for more legendary spells to cast.

  • Four copies of a single legend is often too many

This is just a reminder that legendary permanents can’t stick around with other copies of themselves. I’d suggest only playing four of a legendary permanent if it’s either integral to the deck or has some alternative use. This will save you the headache of having a lot of dead cards in hand, due to an abundance of multiples. 

  • Avoid adding additional colors

It can be enticing to include an additional color or two to add more legendary spells to the deck but you’ll more likely find them stuck in your hand. Bard Class wants specifically in the casting costs which means inherently your deck will be tough on your mana base to produce the proper costs. 

  • Play cheaper legendaries over expensive ones

Bard Class on every level has an effect that triggers whenever you cast a legendary spell. This means you get more out of it if you can cast a flurry of spells instead of simply ramping out a more expensive legendary. I’d suggest focusing on mana value 2 or 3 for a majority of your legendary spells if possible.

  • Plan for games without Bard Class

We’re jumping through all these hoops to enable this powerful card, but what happens when you simply don’t draw it? Originally I would’ve suggested playing a way to tutor it like Idyllic Tutor or Moon-Blessed Cleric, but these cards break too many of the above heuristics and likely lead to more trouble than they’re worth. Instead I’d make sure your deck can perform with or without Bard Class, meaning you’ll need a reasonable backup plan.

Now that I’ve established the intricacies of the abilities on Bard Class, and gone over the limitations, let’s go ahead and finally present a Standard deck list featuring the aforementioned Class card.

Bard’s Song 

Creatures (28)
4
Birgi, God of Storytelling
4
Esika, God of the Tree
4
Kolvori, God of Kinship
4
Jaspera Sentinel
4
Gallia of the Endless Dance
4
Magda, Brazen Outlaw
2
Targ Nar, Demon-Fang Gnoll
1
Grumgully, the Generous
1
Radha, Heart of Keld
Spells (1)
1
Turntimber Symbiosis
Enchantments (7)
4
Bard Class
1
Klothys, God of Destiny
1
Nylea, Keen-Eyed
1
Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded
Lands (23)
4
Cragcrown Pathway
1
Den of the Bugbear
9
Forest
1
Lair of the Hydra
4
Mountain
4
Temple of Abandon
Cards (59)
Sideboard (15)
2
Chainweb Aracnir
3
Redcap Melee
2
Burning Hands
2
Fire Prophecy
2
Arasta of the Endless Web
2
The Akroan War
2
Vivien, Monsters' Advocate

This deck has an engine I haven’t seen in Standard in a very long time, and I’m quite impressed by how quickly it can assemble a winning boardstate. To help you understand what exactly is going on and how the deck wins, let me breakdown the various elements present in the list;

  • The Payoffs: Bard Class + Birgi, God of Storytelling + Esika, God of the Tree

These three form our entire strategy into a complete one and the rest of the deck is here to support these cards to their full potential. Each of them offer some way to either cheat on mana, gain a significant board advantage, or act as a payoff. We’ve discussed what Bard Class does, but the other two offer similar advantages for the strategy. Whether it be generating with every spell or allowing our legendary creatures to tap for mana, they both synergize extremely well with the deck. Harnfel, Horn of Bounty and The Prismatic Bridge are both amazing payoffs and are very easy to play by your third turn.

  • The Accelerants: Jaspera Sentinel + Magda, Brazen Outlaw + The Ringhart Crest

Jaspera Sentinel and Magda, Brazen Outlaw in tandem are a tried and true way for decks to get ahead in the early turns, and they continue to impress here.  The Ringhart Crest is an additional way to get an advantage going into your third turn and is even better, often free, once you have some of your core available. These three cards are your best bet when you don’t have access to the Bard Class, thus I’d suggest keeping hands that involve some combination of these and the above payoffs.

  • The Free: Gallia of the Endless Dance + Targ Nar, Demon-Fang Gnoll

These two are your only spells that cost when Bard Class is in play, and this makes them incredibly important to the deck. They allow you to generate mana with Birgi and  Esika as well as trigger the Level Three of our key card. Gallia of the Endless Dance gets more slots due to having haste, making her better in multiples when we start going off and drawing our whole deck.

  • The Rest: Radha, Heart of Keld + Grumgully, the Generous + Klothys, God of Destiny + Nylea, Keen-Eyed + Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded

This ragtag group offers a list of different legends to play. These typically are at their most powerful when you see the first copy and no more, thus I opted to play just the singleton. I believe that Klothys, God of Destiny is just a generically powerful card that it wouldn’t hurt to add an additional copy, and Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded granting haste is seriously strong in the deck, but I digress. They’re here to trigger your payoffs and give you something to do when you don’t otherwise have them.

I’ll mention quickly that the sideboard will likely change as the metagame shifts with AFR and the impending Standard rotation on September 17th. This strategy is often vulnerable to any deck that can quickly kill you while they interact with your payoffs therefore I prioritized efficient removal above all else in the sideboard. It’s also worth mentioning that the core of this strategy won’t be rotating in the coming months, making it an excellent entry point for the format. 

Bard Class is such an inspiring card, and can only grow in potential as more legendaries enter Magic’s repertoire. I only touched on Standard in this piece but we need to consider the impact this card has on Modern and Pioneer where cards like Wrenn and Six, Mox Amber, and Oath of Nissa are legal. There is likely faster mana, cheaper legendaries, and better payoffs to be had the further back we look into Magic’s history. I hope that you now better understand the intricate abilities of Bard Class, how to effectively build a robust and synergistic deck with it, and that I’ve inspired you to give it a try and sing your own Bard’s Song