Brazen Borrower - Illustration by Alexandre Chaudret

Brazen Borrower | Illustration by Alexandre Chaudret

Adding new mechanics and styles of spells to Magic at this point is pretty hit or miss. There are some huge successes like sagas, and then there are some that just kind of peter out like the party mechanic. Adventures currently exist somewhere in the middle.

The cards are fun to play with and the mechanic is easy to understand, so I don’t see them going away, but it does still seem like they won’t become the kind of card you might see in any set. As of now, it seems to be reserved for sets where the idea of going on an adventure is thematically appropriate.

One reason I could see Wizards holding back from over printing adventures is because they’re very good. Having cards that can be cast in two different ways, often at different prices, makes them a lot more flexible than cards that can only do one thing. When a card is both removal and a creature, it’s a pretty easy choice to include in a deck.

Let’s look at some of the best adventure cards and see exactly what makes the mechanic so interesting and powerful.

What Are Adventure Cards in MTG?

Fell Horseman - Illustration by Igor Krstic

Fell Horseman | Illustration by Igor Krstic

Adventure cards are mostly permanents that have an instant or sorcery attached. Players have the choice of casting the spell for the mana value printed at the top or the adventure spell for its cost, which is found on the bottom left side. If you cast the spell as its adventure version, the card is placed into exile, and you can cast its non-adventure side from exile.

Adventure cards debuted in Throne of Eldraine and came back on our second visit to the plane, cementing it as a theme of Eldraine sets. It has also appeared in Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate and in the Doctor Who Commander decks. Doctor Who also gave us our first adventure card that wasn’t a permanent. Twice Upon a Time is a sorcery with another sorcery attached, which opens up a new avenue for adventure spells to take.

Kellan has had adventure abilities in The Lost Caverns of Ixalan and Murders at Karlov Manor, though it’s hard to say if that means the mechanic is branching out or if this is a way to tie him to his home plane.

#32. Sea Hag

Sea Hag

Sea Hag isn’t a creature I’d see myself including in a deck if it weren’t for its adventures. However, 3 mana to make two creatures unblockable for a turn is a significant ability. I’d definitely pick this card in a Baldur’s Gate Commander Draft, and I can even see myself slipping it into some builds if I need an extra bit of evasion for the 99.

#31. Giant Killer

Giant Killer

I’m not sure how much Throne of Eldraine Limited is really being played anymore, but Giant Killer is an excellent pick for Draft or Sealed. Its removal side can be very helpful later in the game, or you can use it to stall one of your opponent’s best creatures. I wouldn’t say it’s useless in Constructed play, but I don’t really see it being anyone’s first choice unless you’re specifically building around adventure cards.

#30. Fell Horseman

Fell Horseman

Fell Horseman’s adventure, Deathly Ride, is a cheap bit of recursion. While there are cheaper options in mono-black like Raise Dead, Fell Horseman gets the edge in my opinion by also being a creature you can play later if needed. An extra body is never a bad thing, especially in a lot of black builds that use sacrifice mechanics.

#29. Woodland Acolyte

Woodland Acolyte

Woodland Acolyte is another solid bit of recursion, and in a color combination that isn’t as good at it as black is necessarily. The fact that Mend the Wilds is an instant makes this card a lot better, since you can cast it right before your turn and most likely get to draw whichever permanent you got back from your graveyard.

#28. Twice Upon a Time

Twice Upon a Time

Twice Upon a Time is a decent card in the precon it comes in, but I see it really shining in a shapeshifter deck. When most of your creatures are considered doctors, this card’s Unlikely Meeting adventure gives you a lot of flexibility of what to tutor. It’s also easier to meet the requirements of casting Twice Upon a Time you essentially just need two creatures on the field.

#27. Elusive Otter

Elusive Otter

If you’re lucky enough to open more than one Elusive Otter in a Wilds of Eldraine Draft or Sealed event, you will quickly see how powerful this card can be. While maybe not as competitive in a Constructed setting, I still think it makes a good addition to any Simic or Bant build that uses +1/+1 counters and other ways to buff your creatures.

#26. Merfolk Secretkeeper

Merfolk Secretkeeper

Merfolk Secretkeeper is a good tool for mill decks. This card can mill a decent number of cards for only 1 mana, and it’s pretty tough for a 1 mana creature, making it a good defender early in the game. It can also work well in decks that use their own graveyard as a resource where milling cards is comparable to card draw. I personally have this card in a Grolnok, the Omnivore deck, and it can be a very powerful tool for getting additional cards at a low cost.

#25. Beanstalk Giant

Beanstalk Giant

Beanstalk Giant’s adventure, Fertile Footsteps, is a pretty good ramp spell. Even though it costs more than most spells that find a single land, the fact that it comes in untapped is huge. This can be especially helpful when trying to mana fix if you really just need one land of a specific color. If you ever cast Beanstalk Giant as a creature, it’ll probably be a big threat. Even if you don’t, I still think the ramp is pretty helpful.

#24. Foulmire Knight

Foulmire Knight

Foulmire Knight is a nice early game play. You can either remove more powerful attackers, or your opponents might just choose not to attack until they can deal with this card, buying you some time. Its adventure stops it from feeling like as much of a dead draw later in the game, since you can replace it with another card.

#23. Vantress Transmuter

Vantress Transmuter

Vantress Transmuter is an underwhelming creature, but its adventure is honestly good enough on its own for me to consider playing it in certain builds. The Cursed role can be a good way to weaken another player’s creature, and I think they’d work really well in a Toxrill, the Corrosive deck. Really any Dimir deck that uses cards that reduce power and toughness could work well with this card and others like it.

#22. Realm-Cloaked Giant

Realm-Cloaked Giant

Realm-Cloaked Giant isn’t the most impressive 7-mana card, but I like that it has a board wipe stapled to it. It’s nice to know you’ll have at least one threat to cast in the future when wiping the board. It’s a bit of insurance if your hand doesn’t have too much gas but you still really need to take out the threats that are currently in play.

#21. Pollen-Shield Hare

Pollen-Shield Hare

I could see playing Pollen-Shield Hare in most of my Selesnya tokens decks. You’ll get a potentially big buff off its first ability depending on when you draw it, or it’s just a solid anthem for a small amount of mana as a creature. Both parts of this card are cheap enough that you could easily do both later in the game, making for an eventful combat step that turn.

#20. Lovestruck Beast

Lovestruck Beast

Lovestruck Beast is a solid early game play, especially in decks that use low to the ground creatures or create a lot of 1/1 tokens. While it can create its own token, I think it's more effective when you have multiple 1/1s at your disposal, since players will likely try to take out any creature that can help Lovestruck Beast attack. Even if it ends up being removed, this card is still forcing your opponents to waste resources on a 3-mana card early in the game or take some serious hits.

#19. Karvanista, Loyal Lupari

Karvanista, Loyal Lupari

Karvanista, Loyal Lupari works well in pretty much any human-themed Commander deck. Its adventure can keep your creatures safe for a turn at a fair price, and this card’s attack trigger is also great in a deck type that usually goes wide. Karvanista, Loyal Lupari is also a strong attacker in its own right.

#18. Bramble Familiar

Bramble Familiar

When an adventure side of a card is the more powerful and expensive of the two, it somewhat takes away from the best elements of the mechanic. However, Bramble Familiar has a built-in solution for this, since you can simply return it to your hand once you’re able to afford its Fetch Quest cost. It’s an okay early mana rock, so it’s not like you’ll just be holding onto the card until you can use its more powerful ability.

#17. Beluna Grandsquall

Beluna Grandsquall

If you really enjoy adventure spells then Beluna Grandsquall is the commander for you. You’ll notice that a lot of the best adventure spells on this list fit into Temur colors, making it the perfect color identity, and its cost reduction makes cards like Brazen Borrower and Bonecrusher Giant even faster than they already are. I also really appreciate the references this card makes to original Throne of Eldraine cards like Enchanted Carriage in a way that also provides a sense of scale for Beluna.

#16. Two-Handed Axe

Two-Handed Axe

Two-Handed Axe works really well in Boros equipment builds, especially when you can attach it to creatures without having to pay full cost. Its adventure is also a very powerful combat trick for dealing extra damage with an unblocked creature or removing an attacker/blocker that opponents thought was safe based on the board.

#15. Horn of Valhalla

Horn of Valhalla

Apart from being a very fun D&D magic item, Horn of Valhalla is perfect for token decks. Not only can it generate tokens, it also allows you to give one of your creatures a big buff once you’ve created a lot of creatures. It’s also in the right color for most token decks.

#14. Altar of Bhaal

Altar of Bhaal

Altar of Bhaal gives you a repeatable form of reanimating your creatures. This is an excellent tool for any sacrifice deck that naturally has some good fodder for cards like this. It’s also great for cheating out big creatures in self-mill or dredge decks. Really my main complaint about this card is that it isn’t just called the “Bhaaltar.”

#13. Mosswood Dreadknight

Mosswood Dreadknight

Mosswood Dreadknight sees quite a bit of play in Golgari aggro decks in Standard. You can choose to use its adventure right away if you need more cards, or you can drop it for a good early game attacker. You don’t have to worry about it dying in an attack because you can easily get it back after casting it as an adventure from your graveyard. While you may often have better plays than to bring this card back, it’s still a really nice option to have if you don’t have another good play the following turn.

#12. Kellan, Daring Traveler

Kellan, Daring Traveler

I like Kellan, Daring Traveler’s attack trigger for both weenies decks or decks that use graveyard interaction. I think it’s also interesting to see Kellan in a third color identity, and I’m excited to see where this cycle of cards goes from here.

#11. Virtue of Strength

Virtue of Strength

The virtue cycle from Wilds of Eldraine are some of the better adventure cards in the game. I think Virtue of Strength is a solid card for Commander even just for its adventure. Enchantment themed decks with cost reduction or just decks that ramp pretty fast can drop Virtue of Strength in time for it to be relevant in a more casual Commander game. I think it’s a little slow for other formats, as by the time you’re casting a 7-mana card, you’ll likely want it to do more than give you the chance at more mana in the future.

#10. Decadent Dragon

Decadent Dragon

As a 4/4 flying trampler which makes Treasures, Decadent Dragon would already have my attention as a nice budget alternative to Goldspan Dragon. Add in its adventure, Expensive Taste, and this card gets even better. Not only are you giving yourself a few options of cards to play in the future, but you’re also taking those cards away from your opponent. Depending on what you hit, it might even be worth just leaving it in exile so they have no chance of getting it back.

#9. Kellan, the Fae-Blooded

Kellan, the Fae-Blooded

Kellan, the Fae-Blooded is a good choice for a Boros equipment Commander. Having an aura/equipment tutor in the command zone is a good way to start your game off, and it can hit the ground early as a creature. This version of Kellan lends itself to a bit of a Voltron build thanks to its double strike and ability to buff your other creatures based on how equipped it is.

#8. Virtue of Loyalty

Virtue of Loyalty

Virtue of Loyalty’s ability to continue buffing your creatures and giving you a strong defense can have a big impact on your game. It’s also great when paired with creatures who tap to activate abilities, as this card gives you a second chance to use them each turn. While its adventure isn’t overwhelmingly good, it’s still nice to be able to put this card in exile early and protect it from being forcibly discarded.

#7. Murderous Rider

Murderous Rider

A 3-mana removal spell for creatures or planeswalkers is the kind of card you’d likely consider putting in a deck as is. Murderous Rider is just that plus the option to maybe have a creature later on. Even with the life loss, I’d play this over a card like Murder or Hero's Downfall any day thanks to the added utility.

#6. Virtue of Courage

Virtue of Courage

A lot of burn Commander decks can make good use of Virtue of Courage. It allows you to spend your mana on damaging your opponents while getting free card draw as a bonus. This is also good for later in the game when you likely have more mana than cards to spend it on if you’re running a lot of cheap spells. You can continue drawing into more ways to do damage and subsequently get more impulsive draws.

#5. Virtue of Persistence

Virtue of Persistence

Virtue of Persistence’s adventure is a pretty cheap removal spell and can take out some decent early game threats. It can also get around pesky indestructible creatures like Brash Taunter. When you have Virtue of Persistence on the field, you’ll be in a very good place each turn, though this card will likely be a lightning rod for removal.

#4. Virtue of Knowledge

Virtue of Knowledge

There are plenty of activated abilities that you can copy with Virtue of Knowledge for a major impact. Timestream Navigator and Time Sieve are just two that come to mind. Virtue of Knowledge is also strong in its enchantment form and is the perfect addition to a Yarok, the Desecrated Commander deck.

#3. Bonecrusher Giant

Bonecrusher Giant

Bonecrusher Giant is perfectly on pace for an RDW deck. It can act as removal or just a bit of direct damage on your second turn, then it’s a big creature for only 3 mana on turn 3. If you’re dealing a lot of fast damage, deciding whether to target this creature for removal might trip up some opponents.

#2. Monster Manual

Monster Manual

Monster Manual is an excellent way to cheat out a big creature. Even if you pay the full 6 mana to do it all at once, there are plenty of larger creatures that make this a good deal. This card’s adventure also synergizes well with this effect, as it gives you a chance to hit a big creature to cheat out later.

#1. Brazen Borrower

Brazen Borrower

Brazen Borrower was an absolute beast in Standard when it originally came out, which was true for a lot of Throne of Eldraine cards. It’s perfect for control decks and tempo decks that make good use of the Petty Theft adventure to stall opponents. Brazen Borrower can also be a solid threat or a good surprise blocker. There’s just so much you can do with this card, and it really exemplifies what makes adventure cards so good.

Best Adventure Card Payoffs

Some of the best adventure card payoffs are the cards that specifically want you to cast adventures. These are cards like Gorion, Wise Mentor or Garenbrig Squire. Lozhan, Dragons' Legacy gives you a few options of how to trigger her ability, allowing you to mix adventure with Dragons to make a two-themed deck out of the card types.

Apart from these cards, you’ll also want to look out for cards whose abilities watch for when you cast cards from exile. Passionate Archaeologist is a nice way to do some extra damage when playing with adventure cards, especially because the permanent side often costs more. Nalfeshnee also synergizes well with adventure cards as it copies any you cast from exile. Prosper, Tome-Bound is a commander who synergizes well with adventure cards, though you’ll be limited by its color identity on how many you can actually include.

Wrap Up

Decadent Dragon - Illustration by Wylie Beckert

Decadent Dragon | Illustration by Wylie Beckert

I think adventure cards are an excellent example of a flashy mechanic done right. Not only does it add fun flavor to sets that are themed around characters going on quests, but these are versatile cards that can be very powerful.

What’s your favorite adventure card? Do you think the mechanic could become evergreen, or is it better when printed in moderation? Let me know in the comments or on Draftsim’s X (formerly Twitter).

Thank you for reading and I’ll see you next time!

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