Last updated on September 14, 2022
White Plume Adventurer | Illustration by Joseph Weston
A variety of new mechanics were released for players to test and play with in Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate. Some impact color identity of otherwise mono-colored commanders, some are returning mechanics like myriad, but one that stands out to me in particular is the initiative mechanic.
Initiative, to put it simply, is a merger of monarch and venturing into the dungeon. It’s a mechanic that turns on once a card enables it and can be taken by dealing combat damage to the player with initiative, much like monarch. But instead of drawing cards, players can venture deeper into a new dungeon known as the Undercity on their upkeep each turn when they have initiative.
While venturing into the dungeon was drastically worse than drawing a card in Forgotten Realms, this new dungeon might have some more to offer that has players intrigued. That’s why today I’ll be covering all your questions regarding the new mechanic including how it works, the details of its interaction with the game, and what cards use it best.
It’s time to go dungeon diving!
Initiative is a new designation mechanic similar to monarch that allows players to venture into the Undercity dungeon each turn while they have initiative. A lot of cards in the Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate set enable initiative or have benefits while its controller has initiative.
But initiative isn’t an emblem and can be taken by players whose creatures deal combat damage to the player that currently has initiative, or by playing a card that takes initiative.
Initiative is a new mechanic introduced in Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate in June 2022. It works like a mixture of venture and monarch, which means it’s a familiar mechanic that won’t feel new or overly complicated like other new mechanics often do.
No player starts with initiative, but it can be gained by being the first player to resolve a spell that grants it, like Dungeoneer’s Pack.
The Undercity is a dungeon that can’t be ventured through except by having initiative. Unless you’re already in an AFR dungeon when you take initiative, the regular venture mechanic doesn’t progress through the Undercity, only the dungeons introduced in Forgotten Realms.
What if You’re in a Dungeon other than the Undercity?
If you’re already in another dungeon from AFR, venturing into the Undercity will just progress you through the dungeon you’re already in since you can’t be in two places at once.
Like the day/night cycle from Midnight Hunt, initiative lasts throughout the game once started. If a player with initiative leaves the game, the player whose turn is immediately next gains the initiative. Otherwise it stays until the game is complete.
How Does Initiative Work in 1v1 Magic?
Initiative works the same way in 1v1 Magic as it does in multiplayer games. Only one player can have initiative at a time, and it’s taken through combat damage or spells that take the initiative. Just like monarch, initiative isn’t subject to any unique rules in 1v1 compared to multiplayer formats.
Only one player can have initiative at a time. If another player takes the initiative, it transfers from the original player to the new one.
Imoen, Mystic Trickster | Illustration by Alix Branwyn
If a player with initiative leaves the game or dies, it’s transferred to the players whose turn is next or whose turn is currently being taken. The initiative doesn’t leave the game until it’s resolved once it starts.
Initiative and monarch are very similar abilities. Both apply continuous advantages to the players who has them, both apply to one and only one player, and both have very narrow interaction with other cards, only ones that explicitly mention them.
While initiative is a great step forward from the dungeons introduced in Forgotten Realms, having monarch is still a stronger position. Drawing a card is hard to beat in a card game, and while scrying two and tutoring out lands are great, I’d still rather just have a card most of the time.
Venture into the Undercity vs Venture into the Dungeon
Venture into the dungeon and venture into the Undercity are very similar mechanics that basically work in the same way, just with a different destination. But you can only exist in one dungeon at a time since you can’t be in two places at once.
If you find yourself in an AFR dungeon when you gain initiative, you’ll just progress through that dungeon until it’s complete. In the opposite case, if you’re already in the Undercity, then venturing into the dungeon will progress you to the next room as normal.
I think that initiative is a great mechanic overall, but it’s completely dependent on how strong the dungeon is. Monarch draws you a card and is an exceptional mechanic when used correctly. Venturing into the dungeon wasn’t nearly as impactful as it was expected to be and doesn’t promote much interaction between players.
Initiative works to correct those issues by allowing players to take it through combat damage, as well as providing a much stronger dungeon to venture into. While the Undercity is still far off from drawing you an extra card every turn, you still get to do that once and get some other nice spoils along the way.
- Aarakocra Sneak
- Avenging Hunter
- Bloodboil Sorcerer
- Caves of Chaos Adventurer
- Dungeoneer’s Pack
- Explore the Underdark
- Imoen, Mystic Trickster
- Passageway Seer
- Rasaad yn Bashir
- Ravenloft Adventurer
- Rilsa Rael, Kingpin
- Safana, Calimport Cutthroat
- Tomb of Horrors Adventurer
- Trailblazer’s Torch
- Undercellar Sweep
- Undermountain Adventurer
- White Plume Adventurer
White Plume Adventurer
White Plume Adventurer seems like a great way to take the initiative early. It also provides a solid blocker for maintaining it and has a bonus if you’ve already completed a dungeon, which solidifies your board without sacrificing aggressive potential.
Undermountain Adventurer is also interesting to me. Obviously you want to complete a dungeon to effectively use this card, but it can be a decent way to start up the initiative cycle while staying in the mono-green game of ramping out. A 3/4 with vigilance for four that also taps for isn’t anything to just forget about.
Rasaad yn Bashir
There’s also Rasaad yn Bashir, which actually has a bonus of doubling your creature’s toughness’ when it attacks (assuming you currently have initiative). This is a sweet inclusion in any toughness deck, of which there are actually a lot of. And they all play white.
Aarakocra Sneak | Illustration by Andrea Radeck
Priest of Fell Rites
Hama Pashar, Ruin Seeker
Master of Death
Nadaar, Selfless Paladin
Safana, Calimport Cutthroat
White Plume Adventurer
Barrowin of Clan Undurr
Rilsa Rael, Kingpin
Syr Konrad, the Grim
Harvester of Souls
Sheoldred, Whispering One
Toxrill, the Corrosive
Temple of Deceit
Temple of Enlightenment
Temple of Silence
There obviously aren’t enough initiative cards to fill a deck completely, which is why I think a generic venture deck with initiative included makes more sense. The two mechanics interact well with one another, especially if you manage to take the initiative before venturing.
I’ve chosen Sefris of the Hidden Ways as the commander for today’s list. It has built-in venture synergy and offers a sweet reanimator subtheme. It’s also in Esper () colors, which includes basically every decent venture card plus a lot of the best initiative ones.
As for the reanimator sub-theme, your commander essentially reanimates something whenever you complete a dungeon, which will be early and often. There are some pretty sweet creatures to bring back to life in here too, like Ashen Rider, Doom Whisperer, and Toxrill, the Corrosive. Plus there are even some other reanimator engines in the list.
Now to the good stuff: the initiative cards. Safana, Calimport Cutthroat and White Plume Adventurer are your early initiative cards. They’re decent creatures on rate and are a great way to start off with initiative whenever possible. Ravenloft Adventurer and Passageway Seer help round out your curve with Rilsa Rael, Kingpin topping it off.
Overall I’m a little disappointed there aren’t more great initiative cards to play, and I hope we get some more in future D&D sets.
Explore the Underdark | Illustration by Piotr Dura
That wraps up all info you need to know about the new initiative mechanic coming in Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate! I think initiative is a great addition to venture and shows the mechanic is going in the right direction in terms of power level and player interaction.
I hope we get some more initiative cards in future sets. I felt like there just weren’t that many in CLB, and it felt slightly underdone in terms of variety. But what did you think? Are you a fan of the mechanic and want to see more of it, or are you more excited about myriad or other new mechanics? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments or over in the official Draftsim Discord.