Realms is a highly portable, casual multiplayer Magic format, creating multiplayer games even when nobody else brought cards. Up to four players can play using a single Realms deck. In Realms, each player shares the same library and graveyard, making each Realms deck a unique experience by itself. A shared library creates an easily curated play environment that can be built around your favorite themes. Later in the game, players are able to cast the powerful denizens of the realm to help finish off their opponents. When traveling, packing even a single realms deck will allow you and your friends to still play Magic without consuming much space. If you or your friend already has a Realms deck built, you don't need anything else and can start playing. It's easy to get started: the commons and uncommons printed in every set are sufficient to get you started.
A shared library between all players
Separate denizen deck containing high end curve toppers
Specific support cards can be used to make starting hands playable
Suggested that the deck be built as singleton to maximize replayability
Everything needed to play fits in a single deck box
Flexible build sizes to accommodate 1v1, 2v2 2HG, and 4 player free-for-all
Each Realms deck is built as its own play environment
Free-for-all multiplayer format or Two-Headed Giant
20 starting life, 30 for Two-Headed Giant
Three random denizens start face up in the command zone
Since the library is shared among all players, no player is advantaged by deviating from deck-building rules. Sticking to them can help aid learning how to play Realms for your play group, but deviations can allow specific configurations to perform better in some circumstances.
Denizens are exciting and typically expensive creatures that players can cast from the command zone towards the later parts of the game. The denizen cards of a Realms deck are shuffled and placed face down in the command zone at the start of the game. After the game begins, the top three cards of this deck are revealed at all times. Players can cast denizens from the command zone on two conditions: that player (or team) does not currently control a denizen and the casting player has played a land this turn. This helps to keep players that randomly drew too many unnecessary lands involved in the game and push the game towards a conclusion.
The number of denizens a deck have will vary based on the deck size. When building a 2-player deck, it is suggested that the total deck size be no less than 60 cards and that the number of denizens in that 60-card list be no less than 6. For decks intended to support 4 players, the deck should be no less than 100 cards and the number of denizens should be at least 10, with 12 being a more ideal number of varying the number of denizens seen and the order they appear.
A creature is a denizen regardless of which zone it is in, but only being on the battlefield counts when determining whether a player is allowed to cast a denizen from the command zone. There is no restriction on casting a denizen from any other zone, such as from a player’s hand, if one ends up there. Denizens can end up in the hand, library, and graveyard as normal but there are slight differences on what to do if you are using certain kinds of sleeves.
If you are not playing with sleeves or are playing with the denizens in identical sleeves to the library, make sure it is clear which creatures are denizens on the front side. You will have to take care to make sure the correct cards are in the denizen deck at the start of the game. Playing with identical sleeves can keep game play cleaner when using cards that shuffle creatures into the library.
If you are playing with the denizens in different sleeves from the library, it will be clear where they are if they end up in the library. This is fine except when the position in the library would need to be randomized. In that situation, move the affected denizen cards to the bottom of the denizen deck in a random order. Playing with different sleeves make it easier to separate out the denizen cards and makes it more clear which permanents are denizens.
It is possible for a denizen card to not be a creature card but care should be taken when making this rare exception.
(Consider saving old sleeves from drafting in case you would like the option of playing with your denizens in different sleeves. You may wish to do this anyway depending on your library size and denizen count since that may go over the typical amount that sleeves sell with.)
The support cards in a Realms deck solve the problem of creating playable opening hands in Realms. In other forms of Magic, this is solved by mulligans, however this is unsuitable with all players sharing the library, since cards in the old starting hand would be known to not be in opponents' hands. Filtering the support cards through an opening hand will also get games started more quickly.
In Realms, each deck has multiple copies of deck-specific support cards that are distributed to each player at the start of a game. This is commonly two lands and a cheap card selection spell, but other configurations are possible on a case-by-case basis. Each player adds one of each of the support cards to their opening hand and then returns that many cards from that larger hand to the library. This ought to allow players start with at playable minimum number of lands, but can also help hands reduce excess an excess land count. Flooding out is generally less of a problem in Realms with the ability to cast Denizens.
Players can keep any number of the support cards in their chosen seven: none, all, or just specific ones. The cards not kept are shuffled into the library along with the ones other players didn't keep and at the end of this, each player should have a 7 card hand. Players won't know which support cards other players kept. The starting Denizen selection is not revealed until after players have finalized their starting hands, though some configurations may wish to reveal them first.
The support cards are not intended to disrupt the flow of game play. You may optionally play with support cards in different sleeves from the rest of the deck to assist setup, but will need to keep them from returning to the library in this case. In 2- or 3-player games using a deck built for 4 players, it's not intended for the support cards the missing players to be part of the library, but it likely won't be disruptive if they are.
Support cards used to cease to exist when put into the graveyard or library, but are just a part of the library unless different sleeves are used.
Since the library, graveyard, command zone, and exile are all shared zones in Realms, certain cards work differently or cease to work sensibly. The intent of some cards breaks down in this space. If how a card works is too ambiguous, just don't include it in the deck. Remember that even if you understand how a card works, it may not be clear to the player that draws it. For example, Empty the Catacombs just doesn't work sensibly in Realms and should be excluded.
"Owner" does not refer to the player who owns the deck. In Realms, the owner of a permanent on the battlefield is the player that most recently put that permanent onto the battlefield. This preserves the intuitive use of Unsummoning a creature from under Mind Control or Act of Treason. However this does functionally change how cards like Praetor's Grasp or Sepulchral Primordial function since you won't be returning things to an opponent's hand.
The graveyard is each player's graveyard and each card in the graveyard is both simultaneously in an opponent's graveyard and your graveyard. The same is true of the library. Of note here is that if players are to reveal the top card of their libraries, such as on cards with clash or parley, the card being revealed is the same one for each player since the act of revealing a card does not actually remove it from the library.
Disentomb effects can return a creature card to your hand that an opponent previously cast since that card will also be in your graveyard.
You may end up drawing an opponent's creature card that you targeted with Griptide effects.
If you Unsummon your denizen, you will no longer control a denizen. If you play a land and cast a new one from the command zone, nothing prevents you from then casting the one in your hand. As a result, you will not be able to cast a denizen from the command zone until both of those denizens have left the battlefield. A future rules change may effectively legend rule denizens to weaken these situations and the spells that cause them.
Soaring Show-Off makes each player draw a card. The order players draw cards matter. As per normal rules, players do so in turn order starting with the active player, the player whose turn it is. Words of Wisdom works slightly different: the caster draws two then the other players draw in turn order starting with whoever's turn it is, which can vary since it is an instant.
When a player loses, it is handled similarly to normal play.
800.4aWhen a player leaves the game, all objects (see rule 109) owned by that player leave the game and any effects which give that player control of any objects or players end. Then, if that player controlled any objects on the stack not represented by cards, those objects cease to exist. Then, if there are any objects still controlled by that player, those objects are exiled. This is not a state-based action. It happens as soon as the player leaves the game. If the player who left the game had priority at the time they left, priority passes to the next player in turn order who’s still in the game.
When a player loses in Realms, effectively all of the permanents that player "owned" and the cards they had in hand cease to exist. They are technically not exiled since a minority of cards can interact with cards that have been exiled. They are definitely not put into the graveyard and the graveyard and library itself are unaffected by a player losing.
Be careful if you happen to include abilities which change control of permanents on the battlefield as they will need to be accounted for when a player loses.
800.4d If an object that would be owned by a player who has left the game would be created in any zone, it isn’t created. If a triggered ability that would be controlled by a player who has left the game would be put onto the stack, it isn’t put on the stack.
Triggered abilities that trigger when a permanent leaves the battlefield do not trigger for a player who has lost. To make play clean and intuitive for all players you might encounter, avoid using cards templated like Oblivion Ring (which will not trigger when a player loses, leaving the card in exile) and instead use cards templated like Banishing Light instead where applicable.
717.4 If the monarch leaves the game, the active player becomes the monarch at the same time as that player leaves the game. If the active player is leaving the game or if there is no active player, the next player in turn order becomes the monarch.
When playing with cards that make a player the monarch, remember how to handle this if the monarch dies for a reason other than combat damage.
Realms can be played under a Two-Headed Giant variant with two players on each team. There are wrinkles introduced by this setup that warrant slight rule adjustments. Open the block here if you are playing this way:
Teams start with 30 life. Helpfully, this significantly reduces the amount of damage that needs to be done in a game of four (from 60 to 30) in order for the game to end. Consider playing this way if your four-player games aren't concluding quickly enough.
The starting team does not draw cards on their first turn. This is just a reminder when switching from four-player free-for-all since the game only has two opposing sides.
The denizen casting limitation happens at the team level as opposed to the player level. Essentially, each team can only control one denizen at a time. The denizen can be under the control of either player, but while the team has one, no player on the team can cast additional denizens from the command zone. (Again, the same caveats with disentomb and unsummon variants.) Casting a denizen from the command zone still requires playing a land by the specific player that intends to cast one. Your teammate playing a land doesn't allow you to cast your team's denizen: your teammate will have to cast it.
Drawing for turn during the draw step can occur in either order. During the draw step, players on the team may draw cards in either order. This may become relevant when the library's contents become known due to certain cards or scry effects.
805.6 The Active Player, Nonactive Player order rule (see rule 101.4) is modified if the shared team turns option is used. If multiple teams would make choices and/or take actions at the same time, first the active team makes any choices required, then each nonactive team in turn order makes any choices required. If multiple players would make choices and/or take actions at the same time, first each player on the active team makes any choices required in whatever order they like, then the players on each nonactive team in turn order do the same. Once all choices have been made, the actions happen simultaneously.
805.6a If an effect instructs more than one player to draw cards in a game that’s using the shared team turns option, first each player on the active team, in whatever order that team likes, performs that player’s draws, then each player on each nonactive team in turn order does the same.
805.7 If multiple triggered abilities have triggered since the last time a team received priority, the members of the active team put all triggered abilities any of them controls on the stack in any order they choose, then the members of each nonactive team in turn order do the same.
For Soaring Show-Off, for example, the players on the active team each draw a card in any order they choose. Then each player on the non-active team draws a card in any order they choose. For Fleshbag Marauder, the active player announces their creature choices, then the nonactive team does the same, then all the chosen creatures are sacrificed simultaneously. Howling Mine triggers once for each player on the team and can be put on the stack in any order.
Some changes will be coming to Realms soon. Among them, deck sizes will be more flexible, and milling out will no longer be a concern. Support cards will be restructured and become optional, though still suggested since mulligans are messy in Realms. I'm looking into an embedded draw mechanic that will keep people with things to do, and while monarch is an established mechanic, it has some experience problems that I think can be improved on.
Building a Realms Deck
When building for Realms, there are a number of factors you may want to consider, but the most important is the kinds of players you intend to play that Realm with. Individual Realms can be optimized for playing with heavily entrenched competitive players, players who have a looser grasp on the rules or who are just learning to play Magic, and players who just want to have a fun game with some goofy uncommons that are hard to find a home for.
Each deck has a lot of moving parts and they all need to be doing their job to produce the best play experience. While the Realms rules set didn't finally start to gel until the year of this post, I've been actively brewing decks in this vein since the release of the original Zendikar set with the original ancient prototype created back around Kamigawa. I don't claim to be an expert and I don't presume to tell you or your play group what you'll find fun, but I have found a number of heuristics that I feel make games play better when building a deck to be shared between players.
Remember the exposure problem: A relevantly sized portion of games will be the first time many players have played your particular Realms list. It may be the first time they've seen the cards and mechanics and they will have to spend more time than you'd anticipate simply reading what the cards they're dealt do. Even all but the most entrenched players will still have to consider the ways these cards they haven't seen interact with one another on the fly. This is all on top of players potentially learning the differences of Realms or multiplayer. Complexity is thus the top factor to consider when building a deck.
(Do note: Denizens being in a public zone can be read and discussed by all players, which loosens restrictions the exposure problem might otherwise put on, for example, a combat trick, which would be self-defeating to have to reveal to ask how a keyword or new mechanic works.)
Think about which audience you're building for. Are you trying to play pick up games at the end of FNM? Do you want to play with family you're going to visit? Are you expecting to play the deck between Grand Prix side events? If you're playing a lot of different decks or are playing with a mix of strangers on the go, the exposure problem will be a constant. Restrict the complexity for the audience you're aiming for and err on the side of less. You can have different decks for different audiences. And why not? More decks to brew!
If you're trying to include as many potential players as possible, tend to use cards only on the simpler end of the complexity scale. There can be exceptions, but be picky with the ones you keep. Try to use printings of cards that come with reminder text, even for things as simple as Flash. Protection is an example of a mechanic that can be excluded from these Realms decks for that reason. There is plenty to say on the topic of complexity when building for the broadest audience, but the main offenders are cards that a new player won't know what it does without asking and having to reveal that it's in their hand. These are the kinds of cards you should avoid the most.
If you're building for people who already know how to play Magic, you have a wider range of cards to choose from. Complexity creep can still be an issue, but it's more of a gradient and will be a factor more on a card-by card basis most of the time. Again, try to avoid cards (or printings without reminder text) that will force a player to reveal a card and ask what it does. The greatest complexity I've run into in my builds was a mill-oriented deck where milling was the main win condition and the final turns were managing on-board tricks with instants in hand and using the various contents of the graveyard to avoid milling out but making sure everyone else did. This was not an experience that was easy for most of the players at my LGS to grasp and I decided to overhaul that deck as a result.
One point I want to include here is avoiding the use of utility lands. In many of my previous builds, lands have served various utility roles and without the support cards/denizens, numerous dual lands, fetch lands, and utility lands had to be included to even out the problem of drawing too many excess lands than other players. Lands that turn into creatures. Lands that search the deck for other lands. Lands with Hideaway. These all add minutes of time when players have to read them to find out what they do on top of whatever mana producing powers they have. With the support cards, clean, basic, textless lands should be the default for the bottom level of complexity at minimum, and given the exposure problem, this should probably extend to the LGS level of complexity as well. Denizens make those lands not dead and the support cards should guarantee people access to their colors. Simply put, clean up your deck's complexity by just playing basic lands.
As a consequence of the exposure problem, try to avoid cards that search the deck. A card like Diabolic Tutor is cool, but nobody will know what it functionally does without knowing the contents of the deck and in trying to find something they want, will have to read dozens of new cards in the process. If you intend for Expedition Map to grab Bojuka Bog or Cabal Pit most of the time, players aren't going to realize that. Even with something as simple as Evolving Wilds will lead to a player looking through the deck mid-game and having to shuffle before the next player can draw. Knowing what is still in the deck will reveal what is in players' hands and that sort of card-counting edge should be avoided for decks being built for casual play and with the support cards and denizens, very few land-searching effects should be needed anyway.
As ever, play testing will give you valuable feedback for how to tweak things. When building for the lower level of complexity, it may be necessary to get fresh players to actually test the changes with since the previous players will already have their questions about cards answered.
I am going to break the decks I list into three broad categories for complexity: Friends and Family: These decks are specifically intended to be easier to pick up and play with people who might not know how to play Magic or might have not played Magic very much or in a few years. It may be possible to build even simpler as an introduction to Magic product, but that's not an area I've yet to explore.
Local Gaming Store: These decks play more like a board game that you bring to the card shop to play after draft with players who definitely already know how to play Magic. If it's a regular group of players you play with, they'll quickly adjust to the card pool being used so you will quickly get past the exposure problem. The audience these decks are aiming for can handle added complexity, so that added complexity is fine.
Going Deep: These decks have an unusually high level of complexity for one reason or another. Perhaps there are a lot of on board tricks or are using cards in intuitive ways. They may include a large number of non-basic utility lands on top of this. These decks may require numerous games to understand all the working pieces and are not intended for a general audience. I would advise avoiding this level of complexity almost entirely, especially if you don't have easy access to players who can manage it and don't already have a simpler Realms option to play if your regular playgroup as a new addition.
Portability is another large meta-factor which plays into a unique appeal of Realms: the ability to play with no other product needed. With a single Realms deck, a whole group of players can play. This can allow you to play when traveling, but the deck must be designed to be portable.
The largest factor in a deck's portability is the need for pieces outside of the cards themselves. A small number of tokens can be fine, since they can be squeezed into the deck box, but transporting dice is a larger commitment. Depending on the venue you are planning to play at, dice may already be something you plan to have on hand, but if you're taking a deck to play after dinner somewhere, you may not be able to count on dice being present. As such, counters of any kind will hurt a deck's portability, however once you've started using them, you can basically use any number of cards with counters since portability is already affected. (The reverse is true of tokens as each token will consume extra space in the deck box.)
Often, +1/+1 counters appear on spells that improve creatures or on creatures that get bigger on their own. If you are trying to improve the portability of your deck, consider looking for auras (possibly auras with flash) and creatures that can alter their stats either with mana or by checking some other condition like certain cards in the graveyard.
Managing complexity is also not to be underrated when making a deck portable. Especially when you don't know who you might end up playing with, trending towards the lower end of the complexity scale will allow cleaner games with a wider range of players.
For managing players' life totals, you can use a smartphone app. If you don't already have one, try MTG Familiar.
Support cards exist to make starting hands immediately playable without the need for mulligans which gets messy and unbalanced when sharing the library. These cards should not overwhelm the rest of the deck in their utility or complexity, so just keep it simple and you'll be fine. The support cards can be almost obvious after it's clear what colors the deck is going to be.
Firstly, for a deck aiming for very low complexity, especially for a new audience, simply use a single basic land of each color as the support cards and don't bother with a card selection spell. Some lists may be able to get away with a cycling land and a basic land or a guildgate equivalent and Blasted Landscape. A theme like heroic will want the Anticipate equivalent to make sure the theme actually comes up.
There ought to be two land support cards for each player. If the deck has several restrictive CC, 1CC, or 2CC costs, consider Shimmering Grotto and its variants as the second land option, when your audience is more entrenched and can more or less automatically skip reading and thinking about it.
(For a more competitive-oriented Realm, it may come up that grabbing as many lands as possible to get to a denizen first becomes disruptive. Either adjust the quality of the second land's fixing to make overloading on lands more costly or adjust the costs and efficiency of the denizens to make rushing for them less effective. It's possible to empower the rest of the Realm to compensate for highly efficient and powerful denizens, but it will require more effort empowering the ~90 library slots than depowering the ~15 denzien+support slots.)
Guildgate + Blasted landscape may suffice for some lists, but if you have a third support slot, that spell will serve the role of a wild card. It flexes between being an extra land or an extra spell depending on the needs of that starting hand and what it replaces. The spell you select should be something that can be cast using just the two guaranteed lands provided in the support slot. The spell probably shouldn't be a creature since that will have a ripple effect with every other card in the list. The spell should be easy to read and understand so as to not add any unnecessary complexity to the starting setup. The classic example here is Anticipate. The number of good support candidates is low. For ease of reference, I will list the best ones I've come across here.
Excellent default choice. Being an instant will add potentially unwanted complexity in places where the top of the library becomes known contents. Impulse and Shimmer of Possibility are stronger for digging but become more of an autopick which is potentially unwanted.
As a sorcery, avoids that aspect of Anticipate's complexity, but adds it back even more by dumping cards into the graveyard. I would only advise if that is a theme of your deck and only in certain cases.
UChart a Course
As a turn two play, this offers less card selection but can ditch unwanted cards already drawn. This encourages aggression, but very loudly favors the starting player in most cases which makes me avoid this, but I don't want to forget this exists.
This is the only red support card I can remember finding that fits the criteria I had. It allows more hand fixing than Anticipate, but less reliability on finding a desired card. This style of looting is not ideal due to the slight complexity it adds but it's all red has at the moment.
RThrill of Possibility
Red now has an instant speed version of Tormenting Voice. This allows it to be cast on an end-step which lets a player wait to make their discard decision with as much information as possible. Being an instant potentially makes game play more complex if scrying is involved and another player interrupts. This can be an unexpected feelbad, so be mindful of your complexity goal.
GSeek the Wilds
There are other green spells in this vein but this feels the best iteration of the ones that exist so far. It can only hit lands and creatures, meaning that it typically cannot find removal which may skew how a deck plays and how often it actually does the job it's trying to do, but this is serviceable.
BRansack the Lab
Modern Horizons offers black its first true option for a spell in this slot, kicking out Night's Whisper which would have been an autopick. It has the exact same play pattern as Strategic Planning. Any other option should be used instead. If Realms gains a rule to prevent players from losing to an empty library, this will end up being a fine inclusion given Black's many recursion-centric spells.
It is worth pointing out here that I could not find any quality support spells for pure WB. I have not yet attempted to solve that problem, but one option is to add a third color for access to the support spell there, but that might muddle the theme. Night's Whisper is simple and is castable on 2, but is pure card draw so if going that route, the cost of 2 life would have to be notable since it would become an autopick based purely on power level which is undesirable. Something that cycles for 2 might work but it offers no card selection at all and the spell it is attached to would affect the game.
Even a card like Scroll of Avacyn could potentially work as a way to simply cycle away an undesired card from the starting hand but it's not necessarily worth the added complexity when Blasted Landscape can offer that utility in all cases except a starting hand of 7 spells.
The basic pattern outlined here is a good default. There may end up deck-specific reasons to experiment with departing from this default. Sticking with the default keeps it simple to transition between playing one Realms deck and another.
Denizens ultimately serve the role of lessening the blow of drawing more lands than other players, keeping the person in the game rather than losing purely due to chance. In normal Magic, players are driven to tune their decks on their own to make their decks better, however Realms is a zero-sum format. One player drawing a strong spell means that other players cannot draw that strong spell. While efforts could be made in a normal deck to reduce the number of excess lands by other means, Realms can shift a portion of that responsibility to the Denizen slots. There are only so many mana sink mechanics and not all of them are always suitable for use in Realms due to either complexity or portability.
A consequence of shifting extreme top end to the denizen slots is that the curve of the remaining cards in the library should go down, increasing the playability of opening hands in general. Prior to Realms, I had been using creatures like Shoreline Ranger, but decks required a critical mass of these kinds of flexible pieces to solve the hand-fixing and flooding-out problems and the cards themselves weren't thematic to the deck.
To solve the intended role of denizens, denizens should be expensive. With rare exception, denizens ought to cost six or more mana. If denizens are too cheap, the first player gets a clear advantage in picking first when reaching the appropriate amount of mana, especially if the remaining denizens cost more. At around seven mana, there will be gaps between land draws and one player will simply draw more lands than the others, reaching the denizen threshold first. That player will also need the denizen the most having not drawn as many spells as the other players. On the flip side, low cost denizens can become irrelevant later in the game when players are flooding out and empty the denizen deck too quickly. From both ends, low cost creatures undercut the intended goal.
Denizens should push the game toward a conclusion. Typically expensive creatures do this, but not all of them do. Evasion helps with board stalls and vigilance helps encourage extra attacking when wanting to block. Denizens that are mostly defensive in nature are probably not the best choice. The 90-card library gives the game about 12 turns with the full four players, so stalling after 8 turns does not play well.
Denizens should not be so backbreaking that the rest of the deck doesn't matter. The decks they are in should be able to handle them reasonably well and that threshold of playability will depend on the quality of removal a color combination has access to. A typical uncommon 7-drop from a draft environment may be sufficient for comparison.
It is possible to use non-creatures as denizens. In this space, I feel like auras work the best, but there aren't too many quality top-end auras. Artifacts and enchantments don't work well in most decks since it adds a layer of needed non-creature removal and planeswalkers will both need counters and act more as value-engines than as game-enders. I could see Elbrus, the Binding Blade work in very specific configurations.
Here are some options to consider:
Not every card here is necessarily suitable as a denizen or may only be suitable in a specific deck due to the spells available to its color combination. Remember that it is important for denizens to not simply invalidate the rest of the deck: the library should contain multiple ways to favorably interact against the included denizens. In regular Magic, 7-drops have an opportunity cost where they get stuck in your hand for several turns so need to have huge effects to make up for it. Here, that is never the case, so to be balanced with the rest of the deck, denizens may need to be less efficient than the average 7-drop. Remember that your goal is not to pick the most efficient, winningest threats.
When building a Realms deck, you are curating a list from among the thousands of cards that have been printed over the years. You will be selecting the best cards to complete your list and each color has specific attributes in this context.
White overall has a lot of depth. It has many small creatures to choose from which the main library will care about the most. White also has a lot of combat tricks to choose from that help creatures get through slightly larger blockers. White also has the most flexible removal options with various Banishing Light variants that scale to creatures with any size and allow you to also interact with artifacts and enchantments without resorting to a niche disenchant variant. This gives white the ability to fill the holes left by the other color in your deck. As Magic's card pool grows, these effects will continue to be printed, giving more options to build with at a regular pace.
Blue feels tricky to build with. The nature of how denizens work with Claustrophobia enchantments cuts out a lot of the common space for blue removal. The slots will have to be filled with very specific an unusual designs like Illusory Wrappings which still allow a denizen to chump block to get off the table or Anchor to the Aether. There are probably enough options for a deck if you dig hard enough, but very few new ones get printed with regularity. Blue's combat tricks are even more sparse with almost none of them offering a way for small creatures to beat larger creatures. Blue will end up more reliant on its partner color in that regard. It may also be preferable to design blue decks with a smaller, flatter creature size spread to allow these narrower interactions to play out, but will also require more care to make sure games can end on time.
The most unique part of black is that it has a long and deep history of disentomb effects which are stronger and more reliable in Realms, though in the grand scheme of things, this is a minor element. Black has a long history of removal, much of which doesn't work in Realms. Fortunately, modern design has become more flexible, though this has also lead to more of black's removal caring about creature size. Black also has access to deathtouch and relevant combat tricks. Black feels quite average in terms of its card selection with the possible exception of the depth of creatures based on exact power and toughness needs.
Red can be a tough color to work with. Smaller burn spells only work on the least relevant threats when the list is mismanaged. It's important to be careful of including too many spells that simply invalidate red's removal since it leads to a more luck-based play experience where the player who drew the biggest creatures can just keep board supremacy. The zero-sum nature of Realms makes this less satisfying though I haven't looked at this issue since Denizens removed the largest creatures out of the main library. Red has a small number of removal spells that ignore attempts to save creatures with combat tricks. Combined with the nature of burn, red feels like it plays best when creature sizes don't get too large. Like black, red feels like it has gaps in creature sizes at the low end and has to go deep to find some diversity. Unfortunately, red lacks access to deathtouch which makes it even harder to find bodies that scale.
Despite traditionally having negligible amounts of removal, green feels like a rather solid color. Green has creatures of all types of efficiency at the lower end and a lot of combat trick options. Deathtouch gives green access to a way to interact with its own large creatures without having to completely rely on another color and modern design has been giving green a slow trickle of fight spells from which to choose. Green also has more larger creature options which are a helpful tool for making games end. The only problem with green is that it feels like too many of the options are samey brute force damage stats which reduces the actual number of interesting pieces from which to choose.
In multiplayer, attacking is hard. It typically only happens when there is a clear disparity of board states. Combat tricks create an element of surprise and the potential threat of activation. Multiplayer also needs some level of card advantage otherwise 1-for-1s are a net negative. Combat tricks that permanently enhance the creature they go on or combat tricks that can be a 2-for-1 are the ideal. Clear Shot is one of my favorites, able to destroy two creatures with the right placement, while still being a solid card on its own. There aren't many of these, but they add spice and surprise.
One important thing to do is look at how the combat tricks you're running interact with each other, with the creatures of various sizes, and with the removal in the deck. Combat tricks that protect creatures from removal can compound the zero-sum nature of the format since it favors the players who draw the larger creatures since they can maintain their board dominance.
I have also found it less than ideal if combat tricks simply boil down to which gives the biggest boost. Thankfully there are tricks that provide a variety of options, even in green. Lace with Moonglove is a combat trick I've been on for this format for several years since it allows a small creature to trade up while giving a large creature no bonus at all. The cantrip makes this a card-neutral trade. Provoke is another nice utility trick, able to pivot between a fight spell and a surprise blocker, often in a card-positive way.
Viable combat tricks are going to vary based on color and the spread of creature sizes. White and green naturally tend to have the most options but even blue has tricks if the creatures in the deck are all of a narrow band of sizes. If you want combat tricks to be a part of your deck, they will be one of the more constraining factors since the creature sizes and removal spells will have to hang around the ones you pick.
Removal is an immensely important factor in Realms. Any given Realms deck is its own closed environment. The deck opposes itself and the removal spells need to be able to interact with whatever it is doing. Every threat needs removal for it. The zero-sum nature of the deck means you don't want niche removal like Shock. If a spell is in the removal slot, it needs to interact with a large swath of the deck's threats, if not all of them. Naturalize is typically a bad spell since it can't interact with the majority of the threats in a deck, though it can get a small bit of added play if the deck or denizens contain more artifact creatures than normal. You want to be very careful of removal that punishes unusually small or unusually large creatures.
Pacifism variants are also off the table almost entirely, unfortunately. If a Claustrophobia is played on a denizen, the denizen remains in play preventing that player from casting any further denizens. This is really punishing to the mechanic and if that player had a denizen, it means that player also was beginning to flood out and it would be that much more punishing when they draw future lands. Unfortunately, adding sacrifice outlets and bounce effects in those same decks can be risky with how they interact with denizens and those are typically reasonable ways to deal with a creature being enchanted. Journey to Nowhere is a better tool here than Pacifism since it doesn't punish a fundamental aspect of the format.
If a particular deck's theme relies heavily on non-creature permanents, white has several catch-all spells like Banishing Light that can deal with a variety of threats reliably. For the most part, however, Realms decks need to be almost entirely creatures.
Effects which Transition Differently
A number of effects transition awkwardly into Realms and should be used with care.
Bounce spells typically have the basic play pattern of saving creatures from removal, countering combat tricks, or dismantling auras and counters. When saving big threats from removal or combat tricks, this is a snowball effect in Realms due to the zero-sum nature. This may be less of a factor now that the large creatures are largely available to anyone who draws enough lands, but denizens now make bounce spells have the option to turn into large creatures. If you bounce your own denizen, you can play a land and then play another denizen and can end up controlling two at once. This is not necessarily an intuitive interaction and it's not clear if this makes bounce spells too strong. Use with care. (In a similar case, slow flicker effects share this problem.)
Tempo-heavy or deck-specific spells
In limited, Frost Breath and Trumpet Blast find play in very specific, focused decks that are typically doing something very different from the opposing decks. The disparity between the two decks is being preyed on by these cards. Realms simply does not have this kind of interaction. Every card in a Realms deck needs to be useful both on offense and defense in most situations. Be careful with creatures that are only good for defense.
With Flashback, instants should be almost entirely avoided. The nature of flashback means that priority comes sharply into focus whenever one enters the graveyard and just makes game play very awkward. Spells with high flashback costs actually work out pretty well, though, especially on spells that are desirable to cast from hand. This mimics Denizens helping players who flood out more. There aren't many hits here, but they are good.
Aftermath designs are varied, but the main thing here is what shows up with most other cards in this category: it feels bad to play cards that give your opponents options. Prepare // Fight no longer has the freedom to be a combat trick and has to be a 6-mana fight spell to be "safe". Planning out how to actually use these kinds of cards also adds a lot of complexity.
Unearth, Scavenge, Embalm, and Eternalize all share a game play element. The creatures with these mechanics tend to become more aggressive than defensive. The turn they die on gives the player whose turn it is more options. Players will not want to block these as much or block with them. Depending on the ability cost, they can feel effectively unusable when the controller doesn't have enough lands to use the ability but an opponent does, and that feels bad. On top of that, opponents can (and are incentivized to) use removal on these creatures so they can get a free effect for killing them which also feels bad when the cool thing your creature does is used against you. Unearth feels less bad here because it's just free damage and reverses the attacking/blocking interaction, but doesn't have any compelling designs. Scavenge plays more like an aura which can be easier to overcome. Embalm and Eternalize have the most extreme play pattern changes.
Dredge would also get a mention here, but is unsuitable for essentially every deck. It leads to milling out and drags the game into a repetitive state where the same thing happens.
Scry and similar library mechanics
Scry itself is a reasonable card flow mechanic, but in Realms, most scry effects just never happen at the time they would perform that job. The only time Scry can be used as a card flow mechanic is when it is on an instant cast during an opponent's end step or in combination with another card draw effect like cycling. Outside of this, Scry ends up turning into Fateseal, which can be interesting, but defies expectation and isn't what most decks really care about. (Awkwardly, Spin into Myth does actually play well.)
Clash and Parley are similar in that they care about the top of the library. Revealing the top of the library doesn't change where cards are, so for these mechanics, only one card is ever revealed. This can defy expectations and makes these cards play out poorly. There's also a disconnect between which cards each player reveals and which cards players move. These should just be avoided entirely.
Strong Card Flow
If you DO want a cardflow mechanic, single-shot looting is probably the best, though this tends to really be what cycling is. Repeatable looting is even stronger than in draft or sealed due to the zero-sum nature of card power in Realms. Divinations chain into themselves, making the first player to draw a card flow effect snowball and control the rest of the card draw effects.
A more meta concern is that a Merfolk Looter will rapidly drain the deck, causing the game to end due to milling and that player can use the looter to adjust when that happens. This is not advisable for most decks.
Go Wide Tokens
Specifically something like Beetleback Chief. Tokens tend to end up sitting around clogging the board until they can multiblock since they can't attack profitably. Tokens themselves also end up as time-wasting chump blockers. All of this is aside from consuming precious box space for something to represent them on the battlefield.
Powerful Lifegain, Lifelink
Lifegain of any kind, especially repeatable scaling lifelink needs to be tested very carefully with any particular configuration to ensure it isn't making games run long or that there are other forces which scale damage the longer the game drags on. The denizens can sometimes handle this but it is important to test. You don't want the game to come down to drawing the last card. It's possible that Realms could use an extra rule to handle this when it comes up naturally, but the environment can also just be crafted to avoid it.
Cycling plays spectacularly. It plays better than even in other formats. Players don't have control over what they draw and when, so being able to replace cards that show up in the wrong order is perfect. Before the Realms rules set gelled, I made a lot of use out of cards with landcycling since they played extremely well. However, with Support Cards fixing the starting hands and denizens pulling top end out of the main library, the need here has dropped considerably and allows decks to diversify based on their themes. If your deck ends up with a slew of cycling cards, monitor that the rest of the deck is doing enough to end the game before the library runs out. The largest danger of cycling is added strategic complexity if too many cards make the top of the library known information and players start to fall in a pattern of fighting over who will draw which cards. This can be an interesting subgame, but should be kept out of decks aiming for a lower level of complexity.
Mana Sink Mechanics
Natural mana sinks are desirable in leveling out differences in spell counts. Monstrous is the best mechanic in this vein since it lets you cast the creature immediately and then later make it bigger. Level Up is in a similar space but these mechanics require the use of dice which makes them inherently less portable. The trade off can be worth it though since the deck will have a larger threat density and can end games easier. Kicker and variants are also in this space. Unlike monstrous, however, players on the cusp cannot use their cards right away if they need the added oomph for their card to be relevant.
Bestow is thwarted by the same things as the Denizen mechanic: aura-based removal. Once you remove that element, bestow becomes an all-upside mana sink mechanic. Not every design works well and some of the bodies are not quite suitable for play on their own, but the 4-drops scale quite well in this space. To make it play best, you'll want a few untap combat tricks, natural vigilance, and removal that scales to all sizes of creatures.
How might Wizards make this work as a product? There are a few points to touch on and these are just my thoughts.
Obviously whatever packaging the product is displayed in would be able to contain the entirety of the cards, however many players like playing with sleeves, so if the extra space they consume is not accounted for, the packaging may not suffice for those players. Realms being intentionally a portable product, the packaging would ideally contain a box that isn't any larger than it has to be to hold all the cards needed. It could be argued that if players are going to sleeve the cards, they'll likely also have the means to acquire something else to store the deck in. Either way, this should at least be considered in the packaging design.
Storage space should also be allocated for a rules insert, any minimal number of tokens, and any number of reminder cards explaining three basic parts that makes Realms different from other formats.
Lack of Sleeves / Denizen identification
If the product is truly intended to be playable out of the box, then it will need to adopt the pattern of playing with identical sleeves for both the denizen deck and the main library. As such, denizens will have to have a card frame alteration such that the denizens themselves are easily identifiable. Due to legendary creatures already having a frame treatment, the simplest solution I can think of is having a modified ring around the expansion symbol, similar to how the Power 9 were identified in the Magic Online power cube. Since the kinds of cards that make good denizens do not make good main library cards, this would solve the issue out of the box.
It may also be desirable to alter deck requirements by either removing two denizens or removing two cards from the main library. This would keep the natural deck size at 100 to stick to the normal sleeve counts that are sold for Commander. Those products typically include a few extra spares, but that can't be guaranteed. I personally prefer putting denizens in alternate colored sleeves that were leftover from excessive draft play but not every player will have otherwise unused sleeves for this purpose.
The support cards will be the odd cards out for this since even with the library and denizen deck totaling 100 cards, no sleeve product will be able to include the twelve support cards as well. I don't think play would work with shrinking the library by another 12 cards however unless basic lands were used as the lands and the support spell be allowed to stay in the library/graveyard, though this may be fine? The basic parameters of the format could change to accommodate real world forces. The spell would want a similar frame treatment as the denizens if that were the case for ease of locating them from a shuffled pile of cards.
Resistance to Cannibalization / Alternative Monetization
Board games do not work if they are missing components. As Realms plays closer to a board game than other preconstructed decks, it would be preferable for the standard list not to include cards that people want to strip out simply as a valuable reprint. Magic Game Night did this though it did include cards unique to Magic in the decks that came with it. While stock Commander decks are intended to be a starting point for a player to change a deck to their desired form of play, Realms is much more heavily curated and modifying the lists too heavily without forethought or testing can quickly lead to less desirable play patterns. The stock list would need to avoid valuable reprints or efficient or flexible new cards that could conceivably be attractive to Commander or Legacy to avoid being cannibalized immediately, especially if the deck hinges on specific interactions.
One possibility that could allow a product to still be attractive to established players as well as provide a small pool of safe replacement options would be to include a seeded booster pack with each deck that could contain on-theme cards that have looser constraints or that would be more valuable outside of the context of Realms, allowing the product to contain valuable reprints without making it unplayable when those elements are stripped out for use elsewhere.
An example of this would be a Rune-Scarred Demon reprint among the pool of cards that could appear in the seeded booster pack. It would make a reasonable denizen in any black deck, but due to its utility in commander, the player may want to use it there instead. If not, they could always replace one of the preconstructed denizens with it to make their Realms deck more unique than the stock list with the safe suggestion from the seeded pack. To stay in line with the previous points, any denizen alternatives that would be included in these seeded packs would need special frame treatment to match.
Additionally, if the seeded booster contained cards functionally similar to different pieces in the stock list, any cards the player might want to cannibalize would have a functionally similar replacement in the seeded booster to patch the hole with. Decks that are more modular would be easier to replace parts for in general. The seeded booster could also contain cards that are overall more complex but not suitable for a first play through of the format. For example, Anchor to the Aether introduces players to the concept of putting an opponent's creature back into the library. It could later be upgraded to the Griptide or Metamorphose from the seeded booster once they understand the interaction. This also allows a sliding scale of complexity put in the hands of the player after purchase but without the need to research and track down alternatives that play well with the stock list.
Designing to Portability
As ever, portability strongly prefers the cards included to not involve dice and as few tokens as possible. R&D is in the unique situation of being able to print new cards designed specifically to suit the needs of the product. Mechanics like Bestow and Soulbond offer a glimpse into the kinds of mechanics that might be able to exist in a diceless world, but also any creatures whose stats can be improved based on the battlefield or graveyard. Bestow and Kicker are excellent examples of mana sink mechanics. Bestow in particular is one of the few, if only, existing mana sink mechanics that can improve your board without the use of dice. It would be nice to see what the freedom of a self-contained product with its own needs would produce.
Many cards in my example lists below may be suboptimal due to the lack of available alternative options. Specifically designed new cards would also allow any Realm's theme to be supplemented if the existing card pool is too slim on suitable inclusions. Being constrained by existing cards also artificially raises complexity when multiple keyword mechanics get used on single cards to fill the deck out. With the ability to design cards for a specific deck, the number of keywords could be better controlled to keep complexity in check.
After experimenting with several multiplayer ideas in this space, this is the first deck I have completed with the Realms rule set proper. It is intended to on the easier end of complexity to grasp compared to the other decks I've built having realized that most players don't know what any of the cards in the deck do when they themselves didn't build it. Until I can retrofit my other multiplayer decks to fit Realms, this is the only example deck I have.
Ghitu Chronicler can be a budget replacement for Dire Fleet Daredevil. I experimented with Act of Aggression, but the play pattern of stealing an opponent's creature to block is not something new or more casual players are all that familiar with which is what I'm trying to optimize for with this particular deck since it's the one I'm trying to make the most hyperportable.
I tried Inferno Hellion in place of Lightning Shrieker as a card with more options, but it ended up just being a defender that traded up which slowed the game down, didn't actually push the game towards a conclusion, and didn't even get to do the shuffle effect as a result. This deck is having a bit of trouble with ending the game before the deck runs out so I'm trying less life gain and reverting this to the splashy surprise dragon that anyone might draw again at any time.
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Complexity Goal: Local Gaming Store, a lot of +1/+1 counter math
Portability: Heavy Use of Dice
This list is a retrofit version of a much older Panglacial Wurm deck I built and as such may still need tuning to work well for Realms. (Some interesting cards in past builds include Rhys the Redeemed, Marshal's Anthem, Unstable Obelisk, Evolution Charm.) This deck was originally built on the idea of making sure everyone hit land drops and giving everyone mana sinks for all that mana. Panglacial Wurm was a card that turned excess ramp and fetch lands into a threat for whoever flooded out or ramped the hardest and thus Panglacial Wurm is directly responsible for the pushing me down the experimental path that led to Realms. As the deck is presently, I'm trying to play up the battlecruiser elements of the original list since that aspect felt like it transitioned the best.
[ TappedOut ]
Complexity: Going Deep, not even as complex as it could be
Portability: Complex, Requires Opaque Sleeves for DFCs, Otherwise portable, no dice needed
Play time can be unusually long. Even non-basic utility lands removed, this can be uncomfortably complex to share.
Denizens ought to be sleeved in the same sleeves as the main library due to several shuffling effects.
*This list is being cleaved from Nephalia since any amount of self-mill theme drags the entire rest of the deck with it.
This list makes many exceptions and is the fourth or fifth iteration of this general concept. A UB mill-centric deck in this spirit goes back almost a decade for me at this point and I've been trying to make it more approachable with each iteration. The deep concept of milling, fighting over control of the better cards, and tipping the deck at the right time to cause an opponent to mill out while preventing it from happening to yourself is interesting, but the audience that can handle that extreme complexity is just too narrow. Even as it is presently, the deck has a lot of moving parts and everyone has to pay attention to anything that ends up in the graveyard and explicit priority passes are much common than in any of the other decks. The individual cards complexity isn't that much higher than Setessa, but how they interact with everything else and the number of things that have to be tracked makes lines of play very cerebral. There are many on-board interactions which generate extreme amounts of board complexity, even after stripping down earlier lists. As such, this is more of a pet project than a quality Realms example, but it has a distinct play experience that I just can't stop tuning.
Not all of the cards in the deck are fixed, but quality pieces to replace them do not yet exist. I'm looking for more varied black board wipes, combat tricks that can deal with large fliers, and top-end which plays better to replace some of the denizens. Even so, the lines of play that emerge are very interesting to me and I expect to tune it more as more cards are printed.
Older versions of this list intended for the game to end via milling 90% of the time but as changes have been made, this has dropped significantly. The present configuration is less about killing with mill and more about pressing players to use tools to save themselves early rather than safe them to stop themselves from milling out. Vortex Elemental is a perfect example. It will stop you from milling out indefinitely, but you can pressure the controller to pop it by attacking them. The other interesting element of older lists is that you can invalidate a board advantage by milling the deck out if none of those cards are endgame relevant. It's hard to capture that aspect when milling isn't happening as much but threats like Liliana's Elite can be nullified by removing cards from the graveyard.
[ TappedOut ]
Complexity Goal: Local Gaming Store*
(This list has not yet been tested or tuned.)
*Bestow is complex, it applies to several cards and combines with french vanilla creatures cleanly. Having a teammate to ask alleviates some of the mental burden, though 2-headed giant comes with a few added wrinkles as is.
Skarrg plays up the Realms' ability to be used as a 2-Headed Giant format. The deck is designed primarily with 2-Headed Giant play in mind. Red-Green seemed to be the most obvious color pairing for explicit 2-Headed Giant support and auras tended to drive the core of the decision-making here both with the kinds of creatures to put them on and the interaction suite.
I have yet to amass the components and give this list a proper test and tuning but it looks reasonable though likely will feel fast given that buffs tend to invalidate blockers and come with "haste".
Entangling Vines is an interesting case here as that is the kind of card which punishes Denizens hard, but I feel it's able to squeeze in here both due to multiple combat tricks causing it to fall off but also the large presence of auras allowing Naturalize Variants to be reliable combat tricks that can opt into removing the pacifism. The vines also has the play pattern where it doesn't prevent a denizen from blocking until it starts to attack. The slot also bolsters the number of removal spells that can actually deal with large creatures which was a severe constraint in crafting this list.
Cards on the chopping block: Laccolith Grunt - In a 2HG environment, the potential political angle is nonexistent. It's cute for the free for all variant and there are auras to support it but if the expected play pattern is 2HG, there may be better options for that environment.
This Realm is exploring several new spaces at once. I've decided that my very old 1v1 decks are due for retrofitting into Realms and decided to start with the black deck and go all in on the soulshift subtheme, playing up the Kamigawa subtheme to the fullest. The small cardpool for the theme pushed me into other extra colors for a light splash which also works well as the denizens are late game plays. I wouldn't have typically used 6-drops but they fit well into the structure denziens now provide. Having Yamabushi's Flame in particular really makes me happy.
Also a deviation here are the support spells, a basic swamp and Barren Moor as the hybrid second land and way to remove an excess land from a starting hand. There are a few BB 2-drops so it was important to me that they be castable on turn 2 given that the deck is nearly monoblack. The splash colors are otherwise overrepresented in the mana base and it's quite easy to draw into the 1 source of each color to play the denizens and the scant few spells that need them. I'm quite happy with how this turned out and feel like this would work with multiple shells of this size.
Building a play environment out of Kamigawa block commons really highlit the changes in design since then and more modern cards were added to fill in the missing gameplay gaps. Returned Centaur, Umezawa's Charm, and Unlikely Aid. Older black creatures never had high toughness and combat tricks were almost nonexistent outside of green and white.
What I find notable is that Deathcurse Ogre as a 3/3 for 6 is still a valuable free card as a denizen which highlights how strong denizens end up being in 1v1 so future reworks with looser creature constraints will want to be a bit more picky than this was able to.
While posting the list here, the creature to spell ratio seems off so the spells I'm the least happy with probably ought to become new creatures.
Starting with Core Set 2020, I'm going to try to evaluate sets with respect to notable cards for Realms when using a power level approximating limited. I won't touch every card, just those I consider notable, especially in roles that are often hard to fill.
At the time of this writing, I have more or less decided that Realms needs a shuffle back mechanic of some kind akin to other board games to prevent games from coming down to drawing the last card, but I'm not yet sure of how that will actually work regarding where dead denizen cards will end up. This may come with some kind of card flow mechanic such as a neutral starting monarch since the extra card flow won't pose a risk to ending the game and limited game play doesn't scale into multiplayer perfectly.
This is just my personal list of cards I want to find a home for eventually and don't want to forget about them.
WHITE Aerial Assault - This is clean removal that scales to any size, but pushes players to be more passive. It has interactions with vigilance, tapping, and untapping. Even ignoring the life gain, it feels like there are better options for most decks.
Ancestral Blade - I always loved how living weapon played in this space. This lets you move the equipment without losing the token. 2-drops that become relevant late are always in demand. I see this finding many homes, though it does consume a token slot.
Hanged Executioner - This seems like a fun card to play with, though it requires space for a token. The visible removal aspect may encourage the attacking player to go after someone else.
Loxodon Lifechanter - This is very explosive. Killing it will be hard and it threatens to end games immediately. It's an exciting denizen, but it likely needs to be in a WB shell with deathtouch creatures and a lot of removal that scales to any size. Recursion and bounce also retrigger the life setting effect which is much less oppressive than gaining 10 life each time. I just worry that it would come down early and make the game entirely about it.
Starfield Mystic - This is begging to find a home when we return to Theros. Cost reduction 2-drops work very well with denizens and this also wants to play with bestow. Whatever Theros-themed WU heroic deck this goes in will likely already be using +1/+1 counters as well.
Agent of Treachery - I have a feeling this won't work out since you can just chump block with it, keep the thing you stole, and then cast a new denizen. Granted, the things you typically want to steal would be denizens anyway. It may cause passive play if people don't want to attack into it to leave you stranded with a small body. There's probably a configuration that this plays well in though and this is the kind of flashy effect that makes denizens exciting.
Brineborn Cutthroat - Flash 2-drop that can easily grow to 3 power. This feels like it should have a lot of immediate applications. 3/1s have less utility than I think they do, though, since trading off is card disadvantage. Still, this is easily a blue 3/2 for 2 which makes it notable. This mechanically makes Anticipate matter.
Cloudkin Seer - This just seems all upside. It pushes the game forward. It can trade off without disadvantaging the caster, but it's also able to attack, so won't keep the game locked up.
Scholar of the Ages - This might be good for a Realm where it's on theme, but being able to trade off for value and then unlock another denizen play probably makes it less suitable for every blue Realm.
BLACK Agonizing Siphon - This is much more palatable at 4 than at 5. It's narrow removal, but it will work in some lists and the lifegain is appreciated.
Bladebrand is reprinted. Fantastic card. Perennial.
Blood for Bones - The recursion slot is often easily filled, but this does seem to have an interesting way to upgrade 2-drops. It can grab multiple denizens super late, but seems like it will be below rate most of the time. In Realms, it will have more options sooner than in limited, but those options will likely be too small to be worth casting it at that time.
Embodiment of Agonies - This might be workable in either the main deck or as a denizen. The deathtouch makes it seem like it would just be free value to the first player, but since it dies on an empty graveyard, players will probably just block less until it's not as relevant of a body when it does eventually come down. The deck it goes in will need to handle it with care.
RED Chandra's Embercat - This is a bear that makes mana. If a decent number of denizens are elementals, this is immediately more notable and also cute.
Goblin Smuggler - This is the most pushed version of this effect, though the stats aren't great so it will need the right environment to be both relevant and not a liability. Monarch helps.
Rapacious Dragon - Tokens aside, this is a very clean card for realms. It ramps into a denizen and gives options.
GREEN Howling Giant - This has a strong token cost but it's value that can be whittled down. It's probably a tad too strong in most decks.
Throne of Eldraine
Adventure as a mechanic overall is a complex mechanic and it adds unnecessary complexity when as a 1-of. It's also likely to result in a player drawing it and not knowing how it works, forcing them to reveal it to ask, which makes it work even more poorly on reactive effects like combat tricks for a general audience. As a result, I'd suggest avoiding the mechanic unless you're intentionally doing a high-complexity deck for a specific demographic. Either way, they should probably not be used as denizens since they don't technically track within the rules, allowing someone to stockpile a second denizen in exile for later use to control multiple at once.
I want to avoid food tokens as well just due to the overhead cost of physically carrying them. Other options exist for most of the cards that won't require tokens.
WHITE Charming Prince - It still seems on the weaker end when played on curve. Probably wants a deck with a bit more cycling than usual and aura-based removal. Feels roughly comparable to War Priest of Thune and I'm not quite there on it for Realms.
Giant Killer - The card itself is very attractive, but likely punishes denizens only, even after you get over the complexity hurdle.
Realm-Cloaked Giant - This is the kind of board wipe that is never a dead draw. It won't work well as a denizen, but I think it could work in the main deck for specially crafted decks that can manage the size of it. Either way, it's likely going to be one of the strongest cards a player can draw, so it would need a lot of testing.
Shepherd of the Flock - This is the kind of 2-drop I like. It's fine on-curve, it can trade up, and it comes with a way to sometimes get extra card advantage. I'm wary of the possibility of stockpiling denizens this way, however.
Silverflame Squire - The combat trick portion is mediocre, but passable and comes with a body attached. It feels inefficient for the complexity it adds, but it IS a combat trick with added value...
BLUE Brazen Borrower - Perfect stats, effects, costs. I would actively enjoy finding a place to put this and just eat the complexity cost.
Charmed Sleep - This is just Claustrophobia but has better flavor for generic settings. Claustrophobia is still ill-suited for Realms due to how it behaves on denizens, but this is still a nice upgrade.
Moonlit Scavengers - As a denizen, this seems an appropriate power level for 6 in many cases. An easy budget option.
⭐ Run Away Together - This is the stand out card of the set for me. They took Peel from Reality and made it all upside for multiplayer. The few cases it's desirable to bounce your own creature, you can do that. Otherwise it's just a quality bounce spell you get extra tempo out of for free.
So Tiny - The efficiency here is quite nice, it just makes me worry that it ends up playing out poorly on Denizens, though they do keep their abilities and can block. If it slows the game down, it's probably causing more harm than good.
Wishful Merfolk - A rare blue 2-drop that can trade up. It doesn't seem like it will make the game go quicker though.
⭐ Blacklance Paragon - Black finally gets an Ambush Viper and once it's out on the board, it loses deathtouch, which changes the play pattern of up compared to all the other utility deathtouch blockers that often stall out until they get killed before a relevant attack.
Forever Young - If Ransack the Lab hadn't been printed, this might have been an acceptable last resort support card. I wish this were still an instant so it could be cast on end step or upkeep. As it is, it's hard to actually get the second creature out of this, so I think it falls on the unusable side.
Foulmire Knight - This mechanically works just fine and gives you a political ward with a bonus card for multiplayer settings.
Malevolent Noble - Usually these kinds of creatures have a floor that's below the playability threshold. This is closer if you're in a place where you can use counters.
Murderous Rider - This is straight up raw power. It works sufficiently well if the raw power isn't a problem.
⭐ Order of Midnight - This is a gravedigger that plays well at all parts of the game. This is the quintessential 2-drop that scales into the late game. Despite the complexity, it plays well, and there's much less reduced power if a player has to reveal it to ask how the mechanic works compared to a combat trick.
RED Merchant of the Vale - A 2/3 for 3 with a loot is solid. I'm a fan of 2/3s for 3; in red, they're less common.
Raging Redcap - Easier to cast Two-Headed Cerberus. Plays out differently from other 2/3s for 3, especially with combat tricks and auras.
Oakhame Adversary - This seems quite appealing for the stats, but is probably too strong.
Once Upon a Time - This is hyper-powerful as a support card. Were this to be used, it would be an autopick. It's an interesting gimmick that might work for the right deck, but it doesn't seem viable for normal use.
Golden Egg - This is a last resort budget support card if there's a deck that needs a lot of mana fixing.
Theros Beyond Death
Escape is yet another graveyard mechanic and I'm generally sour on these because the players I've played with describe drawing one of them as feeling bad because they tend to be weak cards that give the opponent the incentive to kill it and get a bonus for doing so.
Constellation generally is a fine mechanic though you'll want at least one denizen to be able to trigger it for it to feel good. I'm neutral to Devotion. Sagas are more easily portable than other cards with counters since you can just keep track of the chapter rather than the actual number. Scry remains problematic due to timing.
Dawn Evangel - There are few ways to create extra bodies without using tokens.
Daxos, Blessed by the Sun - This probably requires better fixing from the support cards to be reliably castable, but as a 2-drop, it's easily a 2-mana 2/3 and can scale into a decent blocker in the later part of the game.
Dreadful Apathy - This feels like an upgrade to Choking Restraints. Realms probably needs an update that allow Pacifisms to work cleanly in the format. It's possible some formats will want the higher cost to make static abilities more relevant, but the cheaper cost makes them less relevant. Tuning!
Leonin of the Lost Pride - White finally has a 3/1 for 2 with a real ability. It's hard to find a home that is white but also cares about this effect. Ruin Rat plays in this space and is in a color where the secondary effect matters and probably would be better as a 3/1 for early game aggression.
Taranika, Akroan Veteran - This is on the strong side, but seems fine if you have enough 1-, and 2-drops that trade with it.
BLUE Omen of the Sea - This potentially works as a support card but it's very complex, doesn't initially hand fix well as simpler options, and seems generally disruptive early, but all the scrying at least gets to happen when you want it to happen and the mana sink lets you bluff instants more after you curve out. I don't think it will play well (cleanly), but it's definitely a different take.
Naiad of Hidden Coves - Cost reduction mechanics are very clean and this body is fine. This doesn't feel good enough for an average environment though. Making 2-mana instants into 1-mana instants is probably a bigger deal than I realize. Especially when you can hold them up while playing a creature.
Shimmerwing Chimera - This is the most interesting card in the set to me. A 3/2 flier for 4 is solid and it comes with optional value that prevents bad auras on your creatures from sticking around and lets you move others as desired.
Stinging Lionfish - Rarely are blue 2-drops worth consideration. This scales into denizens by making your tricks into surprise blockers or using removal for added tempo. The body does not trade well which worries me.
⭐ Starlit Mantle - This is in the space of Eel Umbra and is different enough that it's worth consideration. Eel Umbra is overall the better card IMO, but it doesn't stop bounce spells, auras-based removal, -X/-X effects, among others. This is a notable inclusion to blue's arsenal going forward.
Vexing Gull - Simple, cute. Possibly too easily outclassed.
⭐ Pharika's Libation - This actually removes Pacifisms and probably will do so reliably. The edict at 3 doesn't seem strong enough removal, typically but this modes available here to black is notable. Granted, this also doesn't play well if you drew the Pacifism yourself, but you do have multiple opponents to choose from.
Soulreaper of Mogis - The stats here are reasonable and the ability is interesting enough. Pair it with some death triggers to get tricky.
RED Aspect of Manticore - This is a better trick than Dragon's Grip because it can be used on the smallest creatures as a solid trick, but it's too inefficient for what little staying power it gives. Flaming Sword might be too strong to see a functional reprint. Spiteful Motives remains the most reliable version in this space. Dragon's Grip is at least reliably turned into a trick with an eventual denizen and the occasional midgame creature. The continued first strike is important in multiplayer and when bodies are already power-heavy.
⭐ Careless Celebrant - Red finally gets Perilous Myr and it's MUCH better. This compares to Mudbutton Torchrunner with its ability to trade with an X/4, but the ability doesn't snipe outside creatures when it blocks. Still, as a 2/1, this also can actually attack meaningfully and isn't clogging up the 3-drop slot in decks. This is a huge upgrade to red. I think this is the best card for Realms in the set.
Dreamshaper Shaman - This seems really interesting as a denizen and upgrades bad creatures.
Dreamstalker Manticore - Stats are pushed but not beyond trading off and has added utility. The ability may be too strong in a 3/1 space or with 2/1s that upgrade themselves or 1/1s with deathtouch.
⭐ Iroas's Blessing - Finally a successor to Galvanic Arc. Modern creatures have more toughness, so 4 is very needed and the permanent +1/+1 this gives is more needed in those spaces. Galvanic Arc did better work in high power, low toughness environments but typically can't interact with denizens.
Warbriar Blessing - I'm skeptical on how reliable this will generally be when everyone has large creatures and this gives no bonus power.
Ikoria / Commander 2020
Mutate is an extremely complicated mechanic and I would heavily red flag its use in Realms. It's potentially safe when it's expensive as a mechanic on Denizens where it's visible to everyone and people can ask questions openly. Making a realm focused on mutate so multiple cards benefit from the discussion. Remember, not everyone who plays Magic keeps up with every mechanic and the depths of how it works so we want to avoid them having to reveal a card in their hand because they don't know what it does.
Keyword counters are an ok mechanic but they become a portability problem. Some cards that generate counters are just instants/sorceries and if the graveyard is untouched for those decks, the cards that generate them can be used as a counter proxy, but otherwise, as with any counter card: Avoid using counters unless you're using a lot of counters/tokens or expect to only play this realm in places where counters are going to be available anyway.
WHITE Fight as One - As a potentially 2-mana Ajani's Presence, this is a notable upgrade in some cases. Combat tricks that offer a 2-for-1 are rare. The biggest draw to protection spells is protecting denizens from removal though white does have more exile effects than other colors.
Maned Serval - 1/4 at 2 mana makes room for 3s and gives more variety than 3/1s. I worry that this will be worse than a 3/1, but offers decent defense early.
Solid Footing - Auras with flash are always worth another look. This wants to go on a 2/3 for 3 to beat anything from 2-4 mana in combat. This is ultimately too narrow compared to other options, I think.
Spontaneous Flight - If you can use the card as the counter, I like it, but it's inefficient.
Martial Impetus - Best of the cycle for realms. The creature isn't that much harder to kill, white removal tends to not care about size, and this offers a gameplay fix to Spectral Grasp in 1v1 when a denizen could be trapped for 2 mana. Definitely weaker than Sectral Grasp, but it can also draw out utility creatures and buff one's own team. The cycle is overall better than the Vow cycle for forcing combat, which removes the enlargened creature from blocking.
BLUE Archipelagor - This is potentially a denizen, but it's so complicated.
Avian Oddity - This has two solid modes. You'd need counters in a deck with creature recursion.
Mystic Subdual - Examine how this interacts with other cards in your Realm to determine how often this will behave intuitively for your expected audience. Few players have a mastery of layers.
Phase Dolphin - I like this type of creature but it requires giving up a blocker for a guaranteed connection. I think it plays worse in multiplayer than 1v1, but it does function as intended in 2HG.
BLACK Blood Curdle - I think this has the best cost:effect:gameplay of any of the counter cards. It's also the one you'd most desire to recur.
Boot Nipper - Design is cute and I think it can be played without the need for a counter, but I really wonder how often lifelink will get chosen.
Dirge Bat - I don't like denizens at 4, but also while this would be a cute mana sink in the 90, mutate is complex. I would probably make an exception for it.
Extinction Event - A rare board wipe that is safely playable. It never has to kill your own board but may not kill anything you care about, though. Worth investigation as it can kill multiple denizens simultaneously.
Heartless Act - When optimized for portability, this is probably the cleanest black and most efficient removal spell black has, though that does punish interesting combat tricks. It's probably more interesting in places where tricks place counters as an element of risk.
Unexpected Fangs - Can physically represent both counters. +1/+1 is again hard to make relevant, but the lifelink on a denizen remains relevant in more situations than the trick alone. Unfortunately, the repeatable large lifelink probably plays poorly.
Parasitic Impetus - As with the white one, this is clean to use and the same color has removal that doesn't care about size, especially with access to deathtouch. Black probably needs this less than white but at the same time, black probably has less variety in its interaction than white.
RED Clash of Titans - Rivals' Duel's cost remains attractive but being an instant and not caring about targets is a huge upgrade. Both would prefer some deathtouch creatures in the realm as a safe low bound thing to target.
Ferocious Tigorilla - The decision on this can likely be remembered with no physical aid. The stats are a bit aggressive bt probably fine. 4s fill up much more quickly than 2s do, though.
Fire Prophecy - Looting option is desireable utility when denizens often dodge this. Removal for small creatures tend to make denizens more of the focus and you don't want to loot away lands in Realms nearly as often. On this flip side, this can help you find more.
⭐ Heightened Reflexes - Is this the Flaming Sword reprint I wanted? The card can represent the counter. Even without the +1/+0, first strike helps fragile bodies stay potent and trading the trick with a card will feel worthwhile when the 3/1 becomes better than everything else in play.
Rumbling Rockslide - Removal that scales to the size of Denizens. Stonefury probably wants this slot to fight tricks since it's just an inefficient 1 for 1, but 4 for 4 might be needed earlier if the deck is too aggresive.
GREEN Migration Path - A rare pure ramp spell. It cycles when you don't need it preventing it from being a dead draw. There may be a deck where this feels good. Typically these cards feel bad when drawn by players who don't need them or at a time when they're no longer useful.
Ram Through - It's no Clear Shot, but at 2 mana, it's easier to hold up. Not getting a boost probably is worse than Fall of the Hammer given how spread out green is and green's higher average toughness.
Core Set 2021 / Jumpstart
WHITE Angelic Ascension - This plays out like a combat trick that untaps your creature and grows it to a 4/4 flier permanently. This has the potential to be really strong and worth having to store a token for it. It can also exile your own Denizen so you can get a new one.
Celestial Enforcer - Classic 2/3 for 3 with conditional value. This should keep it playing different from game to game as well as influence denizen decisions. Easily applicable to any shell.
Daybreak Charger - White continues to explore 3/1s for 2 with value. This definitely wants evasion and some lifelink to feel noticed. Vigilance turtles might also like this too, but the ability seems hard to be relevant outside of getting small attackers moving into large blockers. 2/3s for 3 that typically bounce off each other will notice it as well and/or if you manage to fit it into a flicker shell or can punish an opponent with large creatures.
Faith's Fetters - I don't particularly favor this printing since it doesn't immediately imply to beginners that this can be attached to a creature like older printings did, but its inclusion in the core set suggests it may not be as big of a problem. Pasicisms that cost 4 are probably the most palatable generally due to how strong they are on denizens and this at least gives you back some tempo with the life.
⭐ Feat of Resistance - Core set printing comes with reminder text! Perfect. This is a fantastic trick and is the first spell I think of that I'd want to break my no counters design choice for.
Gale Swooper - 3/2 flier for 4 is already quite reasonable in places. It doesn't block particularly well, but the occasional value from the trigger is real and will increase replayability.
Rambunctious Mutt - 3/4 for 5 can be acceptable if your environment has targets for this. The body can definitely stabilize from all the ground bodies before the game shifts over to denizens.
Seasoned Hallowblade - Two in one set! I like this better than the unicorn but it's probably a trap. In regular limited, this turns lands 7+ into extra 3/1s, which is reasonable value and the tempo of blocking early can help a control deck catch up in 1v1, but for Realms, all those extra late lands are still live draws as Denizens. This probably needs a madness shell to feel correct, but maybe not.
⭐ Swift Response - This is as clean and efficient as commons tend to get. It pushes games towards stability as Denizens are allowed to set up and block and creatures generally are punished for attacking. The card itself is simple, though it will glaringly miss any creature with vigilance, but does combine with tappers.
Brightmare - 2/3 for 3 with incidental lifegain and blocker removal. Scales against denizens and different sides of the card make it always relevant.
Battlefield Promotion - A lot is going on here but it's worse than Feat of Resistance except in shells with a lot of beneficial auras or shells that value lifegain. First strike is a bit more relevant than Indomitable Will when paired with 3/1s though.
BLUE Keen Glidemaster - Good and clean utility on a 2-drop that can help finish a late game. Grafting flying onto deathtouchers to stop big denizens would also feel good.
Mistral Singer - This is the first time the flying + prowess combination has had 2 toughness, which makes this immediately a considerable inclusion since a single spell, makes this 3-drop eat other 3-drops even without the spell being a combat trick targeting it. The previous iterations were just not solid enough stats.
Pursued Whale - This is very stat dense and has good abilities. It needs to be in a Realm with more efficient removal that typical. Deathtouchers with flash are also more notable.
Shipwreck Dowser - This seems solid. It's straddling the edge of wanting to be a 1-of 5 mana denizen and being the top of a Realm's curve. The Prowess is a big deal here and getting back an Anticipate to trigger it would be fantastic.
Teferi, Master of Time - He seems quite reasonable for a planeswalker despite emptying the deck quickly. Looting is weaker when you still want to hit 8 lands, but you'll still dig towards the better spells to fuel up his phasing ability. He might simply not be good enough.
Teferi's Protege - 2/3 for 3 with added optional value. Clean. Always an option going forward.
BLACK Caged Zombie - 2/3 for 3 with value. It's like this is a cycle or something. Is this limited environment slow creatures bouncing off each other? Either way, more options for Realms.
Carrion Grub - Wall that scales up as the game goes longer is a genre I like. Keeps games slower while people find their legs and then turns on.
Goremand - If you can stomach the art, this is reads as a solid Denizen. It can sometimes allow opponents to sacrifice their own Denizens to upgrade, which may come up.
RED Bone Pit Brute - Bulk Denizen, but the etb trigger is potentially interesting.
Brash Taunter - Unlike Stuffy Doll, this could actually work as a Denizen, but it likely needs a RB shell to get enough removal for it.
Conspicuous Snoop - The Realm that can play this will be a weird one, but I want to see it. Bears are hard to make relevant, but this might end up with a decent amount of utility with the library cycling 4 times a turn. Everyone casting spells can interact with that as well. Possibly RU with Achor to the Aether to steal goblins.
Kinetic Augur - Classic slow start wall that gets big. ETB looting is nice bonus for this costing 4 as opposed to 3. This kind of card will interact with spell-based support cards so you'll want to do Blasted Landscape to avoid that.
⭐ Living Lightning - A surprising gem out of Jumpstart, this is how to do card advantage in a tokenless, counterless, format. The 3/2 will sit in play turns ahead of spells entering the graveyard and then can either flex into the spell or trade and gain value. It looks decently solid, though they'll definitely attack into you while the graveyard is empty. This may be a case where it's fine for the support cards to interact since getting an Anticpate or Thrill of Possibility when it dies isn't too outrageous.
Spiteful Prankster - Not a fan of 3/2s for 3, but the stats here are fine. This is not getting blocked and will probably eat removal more quickly as a result. It won't be a stable board position since anything can attack in. In spite of that, it still attacks well and players may prefer to not leave themselves open just to attack you. The trigger seems pretty reasonable too.
GREEN Colossal Dreadmaw - Bulk denizen reprint but is being a meme worthy of inclusion?
Hunter's Edge - This is MUCH stronger than Mark of the Hunt if you're doing counters since your 3/1s can actually kill some of the top end denizen and won't die.
⭐ Primal Hunt - Now THIS is a fight spell. For 5 mana, anything should be able to beat a denizen. Or costs 1 after casting a denizen to immediately strike something else down. Great flexibility. The tempo is likely going to be fantastic as well given 3 opponents.
Trufflesnout - When playing with counters, both modes have uses.
Track Down - Beware. This reads as a support spell but the cards not chosen are left on top. Slag can be left to the following player and this adds wasted thinking time to this slot that's trying to have low impact. While it may sound interesting, the usecase where that's actively good is very niche compared to Seek the Wilds.
Direfleet Warmonger - 3/3 for 3 with is solid, so the niche ability is just gravy that can be mechanically relevant later. This can easily find a home.
Indulging Patrician - 1/4 flier for 3 is acceptable for stabilizing early. If this ever gets a combat trick, you get to bleed opponents, but it wants to be a voltron target. This can find a home.
Leafkin Avenger - Solid stats and produces mana. Probably a bit much but much since its size can bully opponents and then ramp ahead of them to the first Denizen. Easily can be played in relevant decks but provably too good in them for more competitive-minded playgroups.
Obsessive Stitcher - 0/3 for 3 blocks 2/3s all day. This seems a bit swingy and there won't be anything good to reanimate until the first round of Denizens have died, so this might just be shrinking the deck too much. Otherwise it's a really cool card. 7 mana to bypass singleton Denizen restriction is probably fine. This also does not have any use for combat tricks, so it might just be not good enough.
Lightning-Core Excavator - Wonky body and stats but wards off 2/Xs and eventually blasts a small body. Decidedly not pushed, but as a removal spell, it can block bears early.
Thriving Grove - As a support card, this cycle is not better than dual lands or trilands for relevant decks. It's possible a 5-color configuration exists that will want these, but they come with memory issues.
The mechanics of this set are Party, Landfall, modal double faced-cards, and kicker. Kicker remains a reasonable mana sink and landfall does not add much complexity. Party is probably minorly complicated to explain if it only shows up on one card, but creature types are otherwise easy to check, potentially changing which kinds of cards you'd want to include.
Modal double-faced cards are much more complex to explain and will require players unfamiliar with what they do to pull them out of sleeves to read both sides when they draw them, which is highly disruptive for players who aren't familiar with them. This set only has lands on the back, which is helpful in that they all act the same way and that the reverse side is basically textless. These being lands specifically makes them way more relevant if a shell weren't using support cards to fix starting hands. These seem both unnecessary and also problematic in the context of Realms and my advice is to not include them except when building a Realm specifically for entrenched Magic players. I do like some of the spells otherwise, but I won't be covering them here.
WHITE Farsight Adept - The cost to efficiency ratio on this seems quite good and in multiplayer games, the draw effect is a fine way to help out the player in last place.
Makindi Ox - This is at the edge between top-end and denizen and simply being a 4/4 for 5 probably means it should be out of the denizen slot, though it's notably vanilla as a denizen if you fail to draw more lands: if you do, you could have had something better. Either way, the relatively cheap bulk means it probably trends towards pairing with green or black for easier counterplay.
Tazeem Raptor - A clean Wind Drake with optional upside. There's got to be a home for this. Denizens effectively being a landfall effect means this can be a late top deck if you already have enough mana, except you have to wait a turn. It wants to play with utility lands or MDFCs so it might be hard to find a place that wants this. Landfall cards generally will like being able to play this when a land drop is going to be otherwise missed.
BLUE Bubble Snare - This IS a pacifism, so it won't be desirable in a lot of cases, but the option to play it for 1 but then costing 4 to remove a blocking denizen seems an extremely reasonable trade off. I'm beginning to think that pacifisms are going to be generally safer in environments where denizens are more expensive than typical which means the situations for getting a denizen locked up, preventing a new one will be much rarer. Very lengthy games probably will still feel it though, and some denizens have utility even under a pacifism.
Deliberate - This is a cleaner version of Omen of the Sea without all the baggage. Unfortunately, the core problem remains in that it is fundamentally less direct at the job it's supposed to be doing than Anticipate, both digging less but also potentially leaving things on top that other players will draw. It's workable, but it's going to be disruptive when players cast it on an opponent's upkeep to try to scry things to control what other players draw.
⭐ Skyclave Squid - This fills a role blue typically lacks. This is a 2-drop that trades up and can attack into 2/3s and 3/3s. Landfall is a reasonable requirement since this will want to hang back more often the later the game goes, so getting to peck in once or twice to pressure someone into trading off their creature before hanging back to ward off 4-drops seems solid. The only problem I have with it is that typically this role comes with a tangible upside. Red and White 3/1s have some bonus and black and green deathtouchers do as well on top of trading with denizens.
BLACK Subtle Strike - This is a reprint and it uses a counter, but in a deck without spell recursion, the card can sub in for that. This is an ok combat trick that gives a permanent bonus which offsets the card cost for multiplayer play.
⭐ Fissure Wizard - I've been waiting for this little guy since before Return to Ravnica. Not quite there for general builds, but maybe eventually we'll get the 3/1 version.
Kargan intimidator - This actually seems like it might be too good for general builds. It can't be blocked for a while and then trades up expertly. Applying this much pressure probably lets it trade with the utility creature you want off the table.
⭐ Roil Eruption - This is able to kill 2/3s for 3 but also scale up to kill a denizen in the very late game. Not being an instant is a notable downside however.
GREEN Adventure Awaits - This seems problematic as a support card. It can simply cycle but it doesn't guarantee a land if that's what is needed and also digs quite far which may make it closer to an autopick for otherwise fine hands.
Might of Murasa - Yet another giant growth with kicker. The numbers are fine.
Monarch remains a solid mechanic if you can guarantee games are multiplayer. Partner is irrelevant to Realms in the context of denizens: there is no interaction with how denizens work. Encore is yet another graveyard mechanic which plays out worse when opponents can kill your creature and get a benefit from doing so. Cascade is an ok mechanic for Realms but I have no experience with it.
WHITE Anointer of Valor - When counters are available, this is an interesting denizen option. High toughness probably mandates pairing this with black or green.
Livio, Oathsworn Sentinel - For a 2-drop, this brings a ton of utility. It can allow white to remove its own denizen at will which is worth keeping an eye on for power level reasons, but as a 2-drop, that's probably fine.
Radiant, Serra Archangel - This is a fine denizen. Four toughness is perfect for remaining vulnerable to a variety of counterplay.
BLUE Azure Fleet Admiral - Blue finally gets a monarch creature at normal mana costs. The evasion makes this very agressive and push it to be a card that maintains advantage as long as your life total can stay padded.
Brinelin, the Moon Kraken - Compelling 8 mana denizens are hard to come by and this is a reasonable option in blue. The ability is unlikely to matter beyond entering the battlefield, but 6/8 with a bounce is a solid finisher. This will more easily find a home paired with black and probably will want spells like Ovinize in the combat trick slot more than normal.
⭐ Fall from Favor - This is my favorite card in the set and as a pacifism, it doesn't fully shut off a denizen provided that the player has a way to get the monarch and keep it for a turn cycle. Also as a claustrophobia variant, this can be undone with an untap effect and also cantrips since it expects to be undone. Introducing the monarchy this way plays well. This is also an effect which is easily replaceable in 1v1 with something like Capture Sphere or Singing Bell Strike depending on the rest of the deck's contents.
Merchant Raiders - This is a 2/4 ground version of Dungeon Geists which is a good alternative to have when sculpting an environment that may not want something that aggressive.
Siani, Eye of the Storm - Scrying doesn't work as intended, but scrying on your own turn can give you information about what's on top for better context if you have draw effects like cycling. This being a 3/2 flier for 4 is a solid baseline for that marginal utility.
Sphinx of the Second Sun - This is the kind of exciting card that makes a good denizen provided that the realm is capable of interacting meaningfully with a 6/6 flier.
Deranged Assistant - Reprinted with updated oracle text, which includes reminder text for mill.
BLACK Feast of Succession - This might be too strong but a board wipe that introduces the monarchy does help the game keep going assuming people have more creatures to play to steal it with. And if they don't, they are not the ones that will be attacked if the monarchy is being faught over.
Vow of Torment - New vow to replace intimidate. Menace is way cleaner for realms too, but the Vow cycle tends to lead to stalemates when they don't attack. Parasitic Impetus is the better alternative most of the time.
Corpse Churn - Reprint with updated template and reminder text for mill. The original printing may be better for brevity's sake when playing with new players.
RED Boarding Party - As a denizen, this is probably a bit too strong but the flavor here is good.
Coercive Recruiter - This would need to be at the top of the curve, but the stats are quite easy to counterplay in red, so it's just a 5 mana body with effectively haste. This may interact weirdly with denizens but this and the blue card inspire a pirate Realm.
Crimson Fleet Commodore - 5/2 for 4 is a reasonable body and tossing monarch and trample to grab it is an excellent prospect. Unlike the 2/4 in white, this won't stalemate the game since any old 2-drop can attack into this.
Emberwild Captain - This does much of the same except punishes people for attacking the monarch. The 5/2 trample is probably better for most realms.
Dargo, the Shipwrecker - This is an interesting denizen, but the discount turns this into a glorified aura which can conflict with the intended anti-flood role of denizens. If you typically build with a singular 5-mana denizen, this should be treated like one of those since it upgrades a random 2-drop.
Fists of Flame - Reprint remains less than ideal for the Bladebrand slot but still approximates it when attacking into 2/4s and denizens.
Ambush Viper - Reprint lacks reminder text, but is the first reprint of this ever. Deathtouch bodies tend to be awkward since they stalemate and then eat removal before getting attacked through, making the slot weak when you want to apply pressure. With flash, the option to surprise an opponent will means the deathtouch actually does its job.
OTHER Kangee, Sky Warden - This is an extremely mechanically satisfying card but 5 in the air is probably too strong for a denizen or as part of the top end.
Araumi of the Dead Tide - This looks plausible but is 9 lines of quite possibly irrelevant text. Unclear how making token copies of a denizen should work. I need to think about and clarify how this ought to work.
Staunch Throneguard - This could slot in a denizen slot or as the top end of a deck. As a denizen, it comes with a rather large opportunity cost with the 5 toughness, though vigilance does mitigate that to a degree, especially in a shell with voltron elements. As is, this seems a rather notable upgrade over Palace Sentinels, even in white. 5 toughness is enough that it can stonewall some denzien-sized threats.
The key mechanics of this set are Boast, Foretell, and snow. Boast on its face offers a mana sink for attacking, which is a nice reward for pushing the game forward and being spelled out on the card means these can theoretically go in any deck. Foretell is a mana smoothing mechanic on spells but does so in a hidden way. Foretell cards should tend to be played as a group or not at all. There are similar cards to most of these designs so nothing will be lost unless you're making a flavor-driven Kaldheim realm.
Snow is a tricky mechanic. If all the lands are snow, the mechanic is trivialized. The best I could see it doing is in a heavily mono-color Realm where there are a couple light splashes but the main color lands are snow so that any land searching effects offer a meaningful trade off between colors and snow enabling. The few snow cards that exist will all want to go into the same deck just for the sake of density of theme, but there may simply not be enough of them.
WHITE Sigrid, God-Favored - This is a hybrid between Benalish Knight and Banisher Priest, neither of which are quite good enough to merit inclusion on their own. The body she creates is perfect for any voltron elements and she stradles the space between 3/1s for 2 and 2/3s for 3 in an interesting way.
Divine Gambit - This may actually be perfectly suited for Realms since the largest of threats never exist in players' hands. It could theoretically go in any Realm, but as a sorcery, and specifically double white, it may not feel appropriate in some settings since casting it may require tapping out of the color your combat trick is in. Perhaps a white-focused Realm?
Goldmaw Champion - 2/3 for 3 with upside. This looks solid, but it's actually a very aggressive card that, while it can stabilize, it breaks parity rather easily. This is closer to Haazda Snare Squad than Celestial Enforcer. I'm glad all three exist because they each have a different feel. Attack triggers are easier to learn the timing for, but Celestial Enforcer will remain my favored choice. Not having played with this yet, I worry it's a bit too aggressive, especially for a 1v1 list.
Axgard Braggart - If counters are already available, this is a relevant design for white's higher end that pairs well with black or green who can deal with the large body this produces.
Stalwart Valkyrie - Assault Griffin with some added graveyard hate may be relevant somewhere.
⭐ Revitalize - This is now a real contender for a white support spell. It would want the white-heavy list it's being put into to have when life is gained to matter to feel cohesive or to have a few life payment effects such as phyrexian mana. There's a degree of risk if this becomes chosen too often, but letting a starting hand be fixed more easily even if it's just cycling away a single card is better than leaving players with no control over their starting hand. This IS very weak when it comes to hand fixing compared to the offerings other colors have but an option is better than no options. Without looking it's possible some cantrip artifacts may provide better options for some shells. The deck this would go in would need some extra aggression or good 1-drops in the 2-drop slot to better punish taking a turn off.
Starnheim Courser - If this sets up some dual-typed denizens, I think it plays the best. This is approaches Warden of Evos Isle. It kind of wants aura-based removal but there aren't many that aren't also pacifisms. Including non-creature permanents in proto Realms was always tough since it adds another axis of interaction that's mostly cut off. This might work with auras or a particularly spicy aura in the denizen slot, especially given that this has flying.
BLUE Inga Rune-Eyes - It's been a while since I've used Architects of Will, which admittedly sound cooler and allude to the interaction you want to include with this via their cycling. Messing with the library is something you don't want too much of but a hill giant is fantastic and the body this leaves behind is remeniscent of Rushing-Tide Zubera but is not as as easy to get value from except through a board wipe. Scry 3 won't inherently work in full multiplayer without something like Monarch involved but you can still set up a political rebalance of the cards to be drawn.
Mistwalker - This is an upgrade to Updraft Elemental, but is probably only ideal in a 1v1 scenario. If monarch is involved, the flying 1/4 body may be good enough utility.
Strategic Planning - Solid reprint to pick up as a blue support card with better art than Hour of Devastation.
BLACK Burning-Rune Demon - This is a neat subgame, though the demon is a bit too aggressively costed for the Realms I tend to build. It may be acceptable for a more pushed Realm and the minigame is undeniably fun.
Koma's Faithful - This would have been a lifelink upgrade to Necromancer's Assistant, but 12 cards is too much to surprise people with in most cases late in the game unless the Realm is explicitly mill-oriented. The body is in a reasonable place for that though.
Raise the Draugr - Disentombs really want to be instants so you can cast them on end step and play the spells you got back. This can also grab multiple small creatures that likely share a type in a given Realm and 2 is a reasonable price to pay. This may interact awkwawrdly with denizens depending on the exact rule in use at the time.
Withercrown - This is nice soft removal that plays well on its own or with a spell to undo it. It also leaves a temporary blocker in the meantime. It's likely to play differently than any other removal black is offering the deck.
Weigh Down - Clean removal with some graveyard hate. This is a solid option. Corpse Lunge is in this space and may offer better interaction vs the second wave of denizens if the game goes very long.
RED Cinderheart Giant - A cute denizen wherever you can manage to support X/6s in a half red Realm.
Squash - 5 for 6 as an instant is acceptable. Denizens being giants is where this gets fantastic, but the discount is largely just to thwart combat tricks at that point. This deck may want a couple mid-drop changelings too as solid utility.
Tuskeri Firewalker - This is actually a reasonable collection of stats for a 3/2 for 3. Randomized draw as a mana sink offers possibilities.
GREEN Realmwalker - 2/3 for 3 with the utility of being able to look at the top of the library. It will feel bad for players to not know what creature type to name so it will need a sense of direction or a sticky note, but this is a fun card with good stats. You may or may not want to avoid flash creatures.
Elven Bow - 2/3 for 3 with reach that leaves behind an equipment makes a lot of waves. It requires a token though, but shouldn't be too hard to manage without one.
Roots of Wisdom - This is close to a support spell, but if any land is milled, it can't find a nonland unless the deck is heavily populated with elves. It will never wiff like Seek the Wilds, but it's probably weaker for most lists.
Strixhaven introduces Learn and Lessons. Lessons would consume the space tokens typically go, but also the common lessons produce tokens themselves, so it may be logistically difficult to commit to this mechanic. Magecraft is easy to support since spells will already be in the deck.
⭐ Beaming Defiance - This is a fantastic new tool for white but likely does not supplant Adamant Will for entry-level situations. The reminder text on Will better reflects the nature of stopping a removal spell from killing a creature whereas with hexproof and even the protection on Feat of Resistance, countering an exile spell is nonobvious to a new player. Still, this is a new tool that does different things and remains notable.
Combat Professor - This really needs a 2/3 environment to stabilize as a 4-drop given it can't eat 2/3s attacking it or trade with an opposing 3/3. Vigilance and flying is extremely good in multiplayer for getting in free chip damage and synergizes with combat tricks to wait out the clock in a safe way. Giving a denizen vigilance will feel amazing.
Defend the Campus - I'm typically not interested in Smite the Monstrous, but this does have a mode that lets one 2/3 kill another 2/3 in combat which makes the card not dead. This wants to be in an environment where +1/+1 is enough to win combat, perhaps the UW prowess shell. At the end of the day, this mainly preys on denizens and voltron.
Eager First-Year - This is in the direction of a 3/1 for 2 but with a different play pattern and two toughness. It doesn't auto-trade with 2/3s. This is going to be less reliable but it has play to it. Consider this paired with Anticipate as the support spell, as an example.
Leonin Lightscribe - This dabbles in the same area but is overall more complex and higher variance. Lacking a spell still is a 2/2 but with, it eats 2/3s and affects other creatures in combat. This also disrupts toughness-based removal and fight effects. After the variance spike, it returns to being a 2/2, though, which denizens outclass. The threat of the support spell likely prevents it from being blocked early if that were to matter. Both of these do want more spell-based tricks and removal as opposed to auras.
Expel - This feels like a new efficiency option for this effect that may help lessen it blowing out combat tricks. It being castable without being in combat helps compared to Rebukes since it can be cast on end step.
BLUE Bury in Books - This is vaguely intersting for the tuck slot, but it tucks in a place where you'd need a draw effect if using it on an attacker, meaning this is probably very balanced when you're trying to steal a specific denizen, requiring this to be done as a sorcery in 1v1 and at an unusual time in multiplayer. The multiplayer seating arrangement gives you twice as many players you might be able to steal from if you have a cantrip to pair with it.
Curate - This compares to Deliberate, but drops cards in the graveyard. This offers an instant alternative to Strategic Planning for graveyard synergies. It spells the effect out which helps compared to situations where scry is nonobvious. Anticipate still feels better at the support job overall.
Frost Trickster - I tend to not like 2/2s for multiplayer, but flying and a freeze are together reasonable utility.
Kelpie Guide - Denizens always reward ramp and hitting 8 later anyway gives you an extra denizen and turns this into strong removal. This not being a 2/3 is probably a good thing.
Vortex Runner - 2/3 for 3 that becomes super relevant late. This has no other utility so there's probably better options.
BLACK Baleful Mastery - This is probably too strong for the combat trick environments I tend to build but would be fantastic for Realms that aren't mimicking limited combat.
Specter of the Fens - 2/3 for 4 is less desirable than for 3, but flying helps. As an invoker, this looks only desirable in 1v1, but the activation does not compare well to just casting a denizen. Still, it applies a lot of pressure.
RED Pillardrop Warden - This isn't Living Lightning, but it does wall off an attacker; reach is notable. This really needs you to stabilize before using the recursion ability and wants there to be removal that is cheap moreso than Living Lightning, which can also just grab a combat trick.
⭐ Sudden Breakthrough - This is a solid combat trick which also ramps into a denizen. Given how denizens are free cards, this can sometimes be worth firing off just to get the treasure to get a denizen early. This will eat a token slot but the gameplay is unique and seems to play well for multiplayer. Gaining resources is stronger than trading resources but this does both.
Tome Shredder - This has a bit of complexity and quite a bit of power for a common. It feeds off the shared graveyard expertly, straddling the 2/3 line with a single activation. The exiled cards can be used as the counters. This is probably above the power level of what I typically build, but even a bounce spell can undo the lengthy investment this takes to set up. This probably makes more sense in a deck where the support spell is already an artifact to avoid the easy feeding.
GREEN Dragonsguard Elite - This has high variability between games, but it's a 3/3 for 2 a lot of the time, which may make it too good vs 2/3s. Green has a lot of deathtouch options though.
Honor Troll - This is mainly just a 2/3 for 3 with vigilance. There might be a chance to make it a 4/4 early on if a singular spell can enable it. Vigilance wears auras well too. This shows promise and replayability.
Bookwurm - As an 8-drop, this does a ton. This is a huge reversal when it comes down. The activation is not a problem for priority like an instant with flashback would be, but it does mean this never dies. It will require exile-based interaction. It may be this is just too disruptive but it will definitely end games.
Fortifying Draught - This cares about something new, but lifegain typically doesn't happen midcombat to where this would 1 for 1 a denzien.
Big Play - +3/+3 and reach is solid for 2. The counter sticking is a big deal in 2/3 world.
OTHER Magma Opus - As mentioned, treasure are effectively an extra denizen early. This vertical cycle could function in the library to some degree.
Radiant Scrollweilder - Design works cleanly for realms, though a 2/4 for 4 may be a bit too stally. This does at least do things. May want to watch how this interacts with support spells. Might just draw too many cards passively or need a higher power environment.
Prismari Command - This is probably more playable than it looks with how treasure and denizens interact.
⭐ Deadly Brew - Mass edict is playable. This lets you trade your 2-drop for anything that died ever, including cards killed by this. As a Disentomb, this functions at every stage of the game.
Returned Pastcaller - This veers in the direction of providing value and then trading off to allow another denizen after, which isn't ideal, but it does something unique. It might be able to squeeze this into the main library as it does a ton of work for 6 mana.
Silverquill Apprentice - Taking that common and making the +1/+0 go anywhere opens a lot of lines. Check for how this interacts with each combat trick. At the end of the day, this is a 2/2 for 2 and will still be stonewalled by 2/3s without help. There could be a +1/+1 counter war.
Lorehold Pledgemage - This is right at the cusp of being a 2/3 for 3 but also just always beats 2/2s and 3/1s. This threatens to beat 2/3s and 3/3s without the spell being a combat trick targeting this so it can get 2-for-1s where otherother versions of this don't and otherwise benefits from threat of activation.
Modern Horizons 2
In leiu of touching on set mechanics, I'll just point out again that complexity creep is a deck building concern for hidden information cards in cases where players are unfamiliar with how a mechanic works. If a partiular deck is intended for established players, there will be some leeway.
WHITE Piercing Rays - It's possible that the multiplayer aspect will tone down the tempo play of using this as an aggressive tapper. Not being an instant is less good for multiplayer but as a removal spell, this design pushes the game back towards stalemate by being cheaper for the player that's behind.
BLUE Shattered Ego - A cheap way to slow down a faster deck until the full payment shifts control of the creature. This kind of aura allows afflicted denizens chump themselves off the table.
Tragic Fall - This is just all around solid. It's going to miss against unblocked large flying denizens, which is where the hellbent payoff will feel at its best. Unlike Tragic Slip, this is a reliable draw without the condition being met.
The d20 mechanics are going to be hit or miss. If you plan to have plenty of spindowns available to track life totals, these might work but the deck will be unplayable if you forget to bring them. It's possible a phone app can be used both for tracking life and rolling dice though. Venture is plausible from the angle that everyone can use the same single dungeon card which is a single token slot, but trickier when you consider that dungeons also produce tokens and require a counter to mark progress. Scrying in dungeons also does not work as desired, so probably avoid this mechanic.
WHITE Blink Dog - This is a reasonable body with a ponderous mana sink. It has the risk of getting out of control in some games, and while that would typically warrant more instant speed removal, that conflicts with empowering combat tricks, so tappers are probably more desirable in the shell that this finds a home in.
⭐ Minimus Containment - This is the first good aura-based removal since Compulsory Rest. Denizens will not be stranded in play since they can be sacrificed at any time. This also produces a mana to help pay for a replacement denizen, which makes the drawback even more impactful than in normal magic. Compared to Compulsory Rest, this can hit artifacts and enchantments, which puts this into Banishing Light territory while forcing an opponent to sacrifice the denizen to get a new one when Banishing Light leaves open the option to get it back later with a disenchant. Happy this exists, but it may be too weak at these numbers since playing it on an early threat ramps them into their first denizen early.
Potion of Healing - While there are colorless artifacts in this space, this may function as a support spell if desired for a deck that is thematic around life gain. Compared to Revitalize, this does its job and then sits in play to play with life gain synergies later but threat of activation might make this awkward.
Priest of Ancient Lore - This could potentially go anywhere, but it's not particularly impressive. 2/3s for 3 with utility typically have interesting directions they can take you. This probably wants lifegain synergies and some kind of go-wide strategy since this is kind of how you'd support it without tokens. Perhaps a sacrifice synergy.
Rally Maneuver - Quite the combat trick! This providing first strike plays well with 3/1s where a typical +2/+2 trick wouldn't. Lifelink is also a good mode this can flex into. Multiplayer will have no shortage of irrelevant targets should one be needed to give your sole creature lifelink.
White Dragon - A new solid denizen option. White gets few large creatures so these are always welcome options when they show up. Despite being on the cheap side, the utility is at its best when it's snaring another denizen, so it remains relevant even when it's revealed as one of the later denizens.
BLUE Clever Conjurer - This 2/3 for 3 ramps you which is probably overall too strong for a card in this slot, but worth remembering. Kelpie Guide had the drawback of being bullied by 2/3s and the eventual target on its head anyway for locking down denizens. It's not clear which of these is better in-slot, but the 2/2 encourages aggession against the ramping player to encourage them to trade off before the utility takes over.
Shocking Grasp - I still think I prefer Jace's Scrutiny for this archetype since -4 is the area you want for blocking denziens, but the simplicity here is solid. Blocking tricks want to be low mana and this lets you play it and a 3-drop on 5 lands.
Soulknife Spy - I find this kind of card to be quite a risk for an environment, but the strength here will definitely force a 2/3 to trade off when given the option.
BLACK Black Dragon - The numbers here are quite reasonable for a denizen.
Grim Bounty - As a 4-mana sorcery, this is quite poor removal for Realms in multiplayer, but getting a treasure pushes you towads denizen territory the following turn, letting you commit something to stabilize the board. This seems like it can be particularly strong overall, especially if there's a denizen worth getting to first. Not being an instant remains a drawback late but it can hit any threat.
Manticore - This has similar space to Bladebrand in helping creatures trade up. 4 mana is troublesome to hold open and a 2-powered flier for 4 is not terribly efficient so this will be constrained by the efficiency of everything else around it since it doesn't trade with anything relevant by itself.
RED Valor Singer - A bit aggressive, but this kind of utility is fun. The stats here are quite dense for the cost.
Coven is easy to support and is perfectly modular. Triggers that are turn-dependent or that make counters or tokens are less usable. Day/Night only requires a single token slot and can theoretically be supported. Flashback and Disturb are both problematic graveyard mechanics. There's a ton of great commons in this set though.
Candletrap - Aura removal that still lets denizens chump block off the table. Possibly too efficient, but also just a 1 for 1 that leaves abilities intact. Test it.
⭐ Cathar Commando - Literally everything. 3/1 for 2, but has flash so it can actually bite something if you want to ambush. Can flex into non-creature removal if desired, which helps it remain relevant. Beautiful. White has been sorely missing a solid entry here.
Duelcraft Trainer - Solid body all around. The trigger becomes insane with a denizen. The base body's rate might be too good in some shells.
GREEN Bounding Wolf - I don't favor 3/2s for 3 in this space but these two abilities are reasonable includes. Flash creatures have a degree less utility here though since not having a blocker invites attackers and you don't really want to trade off.
Briarbridge Tracker - This is PUSHED compared to commons but there may be places where an 4/3 for 3 that draws a card when it dies is merely good. This does consume a token slot, however.
Contortionist Troupe - If you're already going in on +1/+1 counters, this is a fantastic include since it's putting counters on multiple things anyway. This probably has to be GB or GW since red and blue will struggle with the size this can be.
Dawnhart Rejuvenator - This is probably overpowered. It stonewalls all attackers while gaining life and isn't worth a combat trick. Then it ramps into a denizen sooner, which is equivalent to cantripping into a 5/5.
Blood tokens consume limited token space but I'm sure some iteration of this specialized theme will eventually merit a small build around Realm. Cleave is complex and limited to the hand, so I would avoid it since it would have to be revealed to ask questions. Training uses counters so I'll skip them since these highlights are for general purpose. Exploit is a mechanic with no problems sliding into decks, but lacking tokens and graveyard mechanics, not many will be efficient enough to make the cut.
WHITE Adamant Will - A great reprint with reminder text. This can greatly tax removal, so I would be cautious and intentional when deciding which 1v1 lists to include it in.
By Invitation Only - A board wipe that can be used when you have the most creatures or when you have the least creatures without losing effectiveness. This merits some testing since either situation could come up for the player that draws it and it's beneficial that that player can keep over-extending rather than feel handicapped when drawing it.
Fierce Retribution - All things considered, this design is solid. This would have been better with [tapped] and/or as a kicker cost, but is still reasonable as is.
Fleeting Spirit - 3/1 for 2 with threat of activation first strike and graveyard hate. The discard outlet is relatively minor but is always relevant to the threat of activation. This might be doing too much but it's the strongest 3/1 for 2 white has had so far since it can beat a 2/3 in combat and live.
BLUE Cemetery Illuminator - 2/3 for 3 with flying, graveyard hate, and a card advantage minigame. It's above rate but it looks reasonable for multiplayer.
Dreamshackle Geist - A nice twist on Dungeon Geists that can respond to the board changing. This WILL make the seating arrangement matter in ways that might be annoying.
⭐ Serpentine Ambush - 5/5 is a much more relevant size compared to the the many various 4/4 versions on similar cards since this lets creatures eat 4/4s which are more problematic to blue than 3/3s. This is often +3/+2 which, for blue, is HUGE. This may or may not work against denizens, which is fine, since it also doesn't help block flying creatures. This is more about attacking safely into boards.
Stormchaser Drake - The rate here is great. It can't block, but is probably not getting blocked. It ends up fearsome in 1v1 but inconsistent in multiplayer, so use with care.
BLACK Fell Stinger - This is one of the few 3/2s for 3 that looks appealing. It trades with denizens and you can pressure it by attacking into it with 2-drops. The exploit might matter some of the time.
Rot-Tide Gargantua - This is solid all around, possibly too big, but black can deal with it.
RED Alluring Suitor - 2/3 for 3 with a nice minigame. The ramp allows deep penetration into denizen range, but can result in sacrificing a creature to do so. Getting a denizen this early is unusual.
OTHER Wandering Mind - Evasive creatures that can't block really need to replace themselves in multiplayer since they're also too small to trade.
Kamigawa Neon Dynasty
Modified is a fantastic condition to check that is backwards compatible with a wide variety of cards. +1/+1 counters are the easiest way to satisfy it though which will makes it narrower for portability than might otherwise be obvious. Reconfigure is cleaner than living weapon to include and is in bestow space. Channel as an ability word has all the text on the card and should be easy to include. Ninjustu is more complicated to understand and having to ask how it works ruins the surprise. The flip sagas should be fine as long as you have a way to track the age.
WHITE Golden-Tail Disciple - A classic 2/3 for 3. The lifelink can get oppressive with some voltron occasionally but this should be fine.
Light the Way - This is so flexible for a combat trick that I'd want to include it even in places where counters aren't handy.
Repel the Vile - This punishes voltron and only hits denizens, but also hits enchantments which is a hard kind of removal to get into lists without it being niche.
Selfless Samurai - 2/2s are a bit awkward in a multiplayer context but this scales with whatever other creature it's along side and the lifelink might also scale.
Sky-Blessed Samurai - White rarely gets expensive creatures and this is a simple design that can go in the denizen slot.
BLUE Saiba Tresspassers - It's hard to get pure tempo decks into these lists and this flexes into a large creature.
GREEN Favor of Jukai - As with the rest of these, this is a solid spell mode with another option.
OTHER Enthusiastic Mechanaut, Jukai Naturalist - Fantastic utility 2-drops that can make some denizens cheaper is the kind of creature I like a dusting of in decks. Especially when they guide you down a specific denizen path.
Streets of New Capenna
Capenna is a tricolor faction set, meaning that there will be a lower precentage of general hits. If your Realm is already using counters, shield counters have no problem being included, but otherwise will need a marker. Connive has the same constraint. Casualty has no deckbuilding problems, but as it appears on spells in hand, your first game with any given player, they may have to reveal a card if they need to ask how it works. Blitz has the same dynamic, but both don't require extra components. Alliance does not require any extra components, but the token and treasure themes can be physically taxing depending on your storage.
WHITE Angelic Overseer - This is a bit cheap for a denizen, but it has a solid, simple interaction with players' board states. If citizens are sufficiently common, this probably favors the first player with how cheap it is. As an evasive 3/3, it's not exactly a game ender, so might be better for a 1v1 list. As long as there's a couple citizens, this seems a solid option and there weren't many white creatures at the top end competing for the slot.
Gaida, Font of Hope - This is the other half of that dynamic and is a solid 2-drop that also reaches for angel denizens. The base body here is also different than the typical 2-drop which adds some variety.
Raffine's Informant - A handfixing 2-drop in white is unheard of. This upgrading to a 3/2 from a 2/1 is extremely relevant but won't always happen.
Refuse to Yield - This compares to Act of Heroism. Practically, extra toughness is probably better than being able to block twice, especially in multiplayer (maybe Act wants a 2-headed giant configuration with deathtouch?) Extra toughness means double blocking is able to work, but due to the nature of sequencing, either you get the surprise blocker or you get to double block, because if you do both, they can eat the spell and the smaller creature. All three modes are sufficient and gives it some replayability. This also works well on 3/1s, though so would anything with first strike.
Swooping Protector - I really like this card for Realms, but it wants a narrower band of powers and toughnesses. This compares to Hollowhenge Spirit in that it can negate an attack the turn you play it, but Hollowhenge Spirit can trump a combat trick. Swooping Protector can eat an attack provided it doesn't have trample and can knock off an X/2 or double block and is a sturdier attacker if the removal package tends to get shut off by the shield.
BLUE Brokers Veteran - This is an archetype of creature typically only seen in white. This can chump attack or block to double down on protecting a better creature you play later, which might end up giving this inopportune evasion or slow the game down. Awkwardly, the removal blue itself brings to the Realm bypasses shield counters, so the creature isn't really safe, but making an annoying creature harder to trade off with might eat removal that would be better used elsewhere. This has some play to it.
Hypnotic Grifter - This can be a 2/3 for 3 on turn 3 if you play the body out early. It's quite solid through that lens while being an ok 4-drop.
Majestic Metamorphosis - This is in the space of Code of Constraint and Phantasmal Form. Blue has to try hard to get Lace with Moonglove. This lets you get a 1-for-0 on early drops and relevantly boosts power. All feel weaker than Lace with Moonglove in that they also get stopped by pump spells which leaves their big creature alive. Phantasmal Form is probably the better card here since it skews towards dealing with denizens larger than 4/4. Be mindful of when you're playing with +1/+1 counters and auras, which this new card plays better with in a mixed setting. Serpentine Ambush, Ovinize, and Turn to Frog are also considerations.
Fake Your Own Death - This is a solid combat trick that sets you up to cast an early denizen. Unlike Sudden Breakthrough, it does have to be used in combat which is inconsistent and is probably more balanced.
RED Riveteers Requisitioner - This is a super interesting 2-drop. This wants to trade off into an early denizen. It can blitz to cycle for a treasure. I really like this.
This set is a very specialized draft environment that is optomized for its own draft experience with some relevancy to commander. The initiative is quite a bit more complex than the monarchy and Backgrounds won't function here at all. Instead I'll be examining some general categories of cards.
There are a plethora of good top-end creatures with cheap utility adventures in this set. They would make a good case for building a Realm without Denizens entirely if they are the topend or if the adventures are spells usually too niche to include. Guardian Naga is a great example. If you're doing this as your top-end replacement, just make sure your players know how adventures work. It's very possible this is the direction a singular Realms precon should work anyway.
Chief among this set's mechanics that might inspire a Realm is domain. The deck would want to be 5-color focusing on two main spell colors and using one of a common tap land with types. While the set includes these, I'd suggset first looking at the Kaldheim snow duals and considering if you can also support a snow subtheme. Not clear to me at the time of writing whether such a deck would want off-color snow duals in the list or snow dual as the support or the off-color basics as snow or the on-color basics as snow. The denizen assortment as a 5-color deck would surely also be spicy.
Enlist is wordy but Question Time is on attack, so asking is not problematic. Read Ahead sagas play out more cleanly than traditional Sagas since you can time them better, but since they're Sagas AND have extra casting complexity, take care when using them with anyone other than entrenched players. Kicker is more in the middle of these and due to its long history, you may be able to leverage a mass of kicker to alleviate cast-time questions.
WHITE Benalish Faithbonder - I'm not a fan of 1/3s, but this can attack respectably in the air while still holding off 2/3s and threatening to trade with 3/1s. It will care about your combat tricks a lot more and scales into a duplicate threat when it borrows your denizen's power. Definite potential here. Also actively dodges tap-based removal, so be mindful of that interaction.
Benalish Sleeper - A solid split card in a black-white list which makes the 2-mana 3/1 slot have better use late and scale to multiplayer.
Join Forces - White already had the pump part but now catches up with green in also untapping the targets, which is a huge upgrade in multiplayer and creating surprise.
Mesa Cavalier - Generally not a fan of fragile flying bodies, but this is easier to cast than Kemba's Skyguard. Most palatable in 1v1 when a late surprise deploy can flip a race. In mulitplayer, wants something like monarch to value the flying over a more stable blocking body, though does at least peck away through opposing 2/3s. Chapel Geist is probably still better in multiplayer.
Phyrexian Missionary - 2/3 for 2 and two relevant extra abilities. Very solid. This pushes the power level of whatever list I'd be putting it in and the ambient lifelink makes me want to check the Ixalan BW lifegain matters theme, but that makes this strong card only stronger.
Prayer of Binding - Flash on these oblivion rings makes them far better but I'm not sure this would replace Stasis Snare in a list unless you for sure needed to hit artifacts/enchantments.
Take Up The Shield - This is doing a lot of little things. +1/+7 can flip a few fights but will want the P/T spread to be a bit more constrained. Leaving behind a permanent buff has good implications for multiplayer but the P/T spread will greatly affect how useful that is compared to the myriad of +2/+2 buffs like Act of Heroism, Adamant Will, Beaming Defiance, Desperate Lunge, Mighty Leap or Moment of Heroism. Triclopean Sight also lets it be a surprise and forever blocker at the same P/T buff. This feels like it just wants to protect your biggest creature and gain life to absorb damage on the crack back.
Battlewing Mystic - If I'm going to play a 2/1 flier, it being a 2-drop is great. This is extremely pressuring in 1v1. Late game refreshing a hand is solid utility. This wants a smidge of flying matters in multiplayer to make up for being a bad blocker but it's a 2-drop so that feels less bad.
Impulse - A reprint of one of the most powrful support spell options a deck can have. All 2-drops will fight with this. Anticipate typically is good enough so this might be more appropriate if your list is more reliant on card interactions like Heroic or Prowess.
Joint Exploration - This is interesting for a support spell, but too complicated and disruptive. You can cast during a player's upkeep to choose what they'll draw that turn, which is interesting but weird. Only use with entrenched players or in the main library if this effect is needed.
Rona's Vortex - Powerfully shuts down opposing combat tricks. (Be mindful though in a UB shell, a larger precentage of their tricks will target your creature rather than their own, but this still stops your creature from being killed.) Upgrades to a full removal spell when needed. Very strong in both modes. Being full instant-speed removal at 4 also constrains how oppressive this can be to combat tricks.
Shore Up - Blue lists will tend to have a flatter P/T spread, making better use of the +1/+1 than normal and in 2/3 matchups. This otherwise hoses removal and a percentage of opposing combat tricks. This and the surprise untap makes it best at snowballing a denizen or protecting a voltron. Potentially dangerous for 1v1, but very solid looking in multiplayer. Dive Down would only make that differnce more extreme despite being a stronger role player at that job.
Timely Interference - If you can make the modes work reliably, I like this trick. It might be too niche for a general audience in finding an angle to use it. It needs a 3/2 or bigger to eat the typical bodies. Using it as a 3-mana Provoke could be fine if there are a lot of 4/1s running around, but then that locks it into that mode since the -1 power mode won't have any use cases. Might want Prowess.
BLACK Balduvian Atrocity - 2/3 for 3 with menace. Sold. The extra minor utility will have some interesting implications based on the build but Careless Celebrant is a likely desired target.
⭐ Battle-Rage Blessing - Finally a modernized Necrobite. This is pushed to 2 mana which feels very noticed. There have been a few +2/+0 tricks over the years in this space and some of them have the creature die and come back. The exact needs of your list will dictate which is warranted. Blessing goes into green lists to scale with a wider P/T spread, but it will definitely bully fight spells there and the indestructible can allow Denizen snowballs. Bladebrand is the other side of this equation, punishing denizens and being of no use to them.
Tribute to Urborg - A reasonable -2/-2 trick. I'm sure I'm forgetting others, but this upgrades to a full removal spell at 4. This feels impacted by support spells existing in the graveyard or not.
Writhing Necromass - This is a nice and simple denizen that's too expensive early but becomes cheaper when combat starts happening. This can make blocking worse in the midgame when a trade or even a chump attack can give a player a free/first denzien. The gampley looks to work out in a positive direction and black should be able to handle 5/5s compared to the other cards in this cycle in other colors.
RED Balduvian Berserker - I'm not sold on a 1/3 for 3 but it trades as a 2/3 despite not attacking well without enlist. With Enlist, it feels a bit all-in. This wants some untap tricks, tricks that pump power, and voltron elements to feel best though it will end up with a lot of toughness in those cases and not die anyway. Vicious Offering along with an enlist will make this feel great. Very different play pattern from Mudbutton Torchrunner but feels harder to make use of other than blocking 3/1s and 2/3s. Torchrunner at least trades with 4/4s on defense.
Flowstone Kavu - 2/3 for 3 with menace is already solid. Sculpting to a 3/2 to force a trade or a 4/1 after double blocks pushes it to another level. This doesn't reach the bully level of Ingenious Skaab but that's probably a good thing. Red now has several 2/3s for 3 with solid abilities to choose from when sculpting a list. Minotaur Sureshot is in a similar space and Nimble Birdsticker is a solely defensive option.
Hurloon Battle Hymn - Warleader's Helix is just a tad clunky for a toughness-based removal spell. This gives a smidge of flexibility for the removal portion but be mindful that it will prey on combat tricks more often. As a toughness based-removal spell, the reverse is also true, however and both will want a flatter P/T spread since it's entirely possible that both will blank on some denizens.
Molten Monstrosity - As a denizen, this wants you to have a big creature, but your biggest creature was only ever going to be a denizen anyway, so the discount here is not too extreme. Rarely will you peak above 3, making this cost about 5-6, but keeping someone off creatures with removal will prevent them from casting it. This will change how people value their board, possibly allowing some extra damage to get through. It's worth testing. It could be that both players having the option to cast this is too complicated for decision making and it could be that it makes games more passive since a 5/5 in red is enormous compared to black.
GREEN Bite Down - Not functionally new but this is a simple flavor version of bite as an instant. I think Clear Shot is still probably better for helping you punch up in green vs green settings. but this exists now.
Tear Asunder - Another 4-mana removal spell that has a cheaper utility mode. It's already hard to get naturalize variants to be worth playing and this just gets a discount when destroying rare types.
Yavimaya Iconoclast - This is a 3/2 for 2 that's easy to cast, which feels relatively rare, but the card itself isn't doing anything spectacular or interesting.
The main three mechanics going on here are unearth, powerstones, and prototype. Unearth has historically been problematic when it comes to attacking/blocking and removal since the caster pays for a card with utility they may not benefit from later. Powerstones can be tricky when it comes to limited token space, though as a mana source, can potentially be interesting with artifact denizens. Prototype is a solid mana that creates mana sinks. Prototype can have an exposure problem when in the deck on singular cards, but it can still be cast normally. Keep an eye out for interactions with flicker and recursion spells.
A larger number of artifact creatures potentially allow for more free use of Naturalize variants that tend to otherwise be too narrow. This is especially true if the denizens are artifacts which makes those cards have high baseline utility.
WHITE Deadly Riposte - I tend to not like small number burn on white removal but the incidental lifegain along with not being forced to target an attacking tapped creature can keep a player in the game.
Powerstone Engineer - A 2-drop that has utility beyond trading is interesting, but it needs things that the mana can be spent on for this to work out.
Static Net - White ramp is atypical and this is acceptable removal otherwise.
Warlord's Elite - An interesting 5-drop. 4/4 for 4 + a creature is a strong rate. This probably works best in white-green and possibly white-black due to how restricting large creatures tend to be for removal and tricks.
Combat Thresher - Would be interested in trying this out, though it gets stonewalled by 2/3s and 1/4s, but it does still hold off 3/1s and it draws a card. If this shows up late it trades with denizens.
Steel Seraph - This tends to be above rate for what I would put into decks but for a multiplayer environment, it seems a bit closer to fine.
Desynchronize - You will tend to not to get to draw the card you hit with this. This does hit non-creatures too, but consider Spin into Myth at this cost.
Koilos Roc - The rate here is a bit poor for the kinds of creatures it can surprise block, but getting a powerstone for artifact denizens can potentially make up for the meager size.
Third Path Savant - This IS a 2/3 for 3 but I'm not especially excited by drawing more cards at that point in the game. The deck may simply run out.
Weakstone's Subjugation - I'm a fan of these designs that are cheap answers to stuff that already hit you while giving you full priced option to take it out proactively. I'm not sure if Bubble Snare would be easier to read or not but but this does also hit artifacts which may be occasionally useful.
Depth Charge Colossus - This seems like a potential prototype denizen. Pseudo vigilance at that point along with being immune to blue's tap-based removal is a solid interaction.
Hulking Metamorph - This will be a vanilla 3/3 for 4 some of the time and that's still fine. It will occasionally be very interesting depending on what it can copy. It just looks really fun.
BLACK Battlefield Butcher - This takes a while to get going but is more threatening than most 1/4s.
Carrion Locust - Generic flyers tend to not be spectacular but this another angle at incidental graveyard interaction.
Disciples of Gix - This could be an interesting Denizen but unclear what that deck would look like or why this would matter.
Overwhelming Remorse - The promise of 1-mana removal is attractive in some respects but it may blow out combat tricks too easily if setting it up is trivial.
Ashnod's Harvester - This does come with the awkwardness of unearth, but a 3/1 for 2 that also has graveyard interactions is not something to immediately dismiss.
Goring Warplow - While deathtouch 1/1s come with the risk of not being proactive, this does have the upside of being held as a big creature late. This also interacts directly with black's common recusrion tools to reuse the body after it trades off. Keep an eye on whether opponents kill this just to get it as a 6/5, which may carry the feel bads of unearth.
RED Bitter Reunion - This could be ran as a support spell which comes with a small amount of extra utility. Playing around the haste might be more trouble than it's worth, but this does offer the unambiguous not being an instant or sorcery which might be relevant to deckbuilding interactions where Tormenting Voice might be disruptive.
Excavation Explosion - This has potential despite not killing denizens. If cast early, it can ramp into denizens of one's own.
Horned Stoneseeker - This is about as close to a traditional mana dork in red, though the artifact itself can be sacrificed separately and the 2/2 for 2 body at least can attack through a single 2/3. This probably pairs well with Icy Manipulator.
Penregon Strongbull - 2/3 for 3 with a ponderous ability. Depending on the available fodder, it might have threat of activation. Keep an eye on how easy it is to activate this for minimal cost. This letting you sacrifice a denizen to cast a new one is notable but only works with artifacts and is probably fine. Powerstones can sacrifice themselves for free.
Blitz Automata - I'm not as big a fan of 3/2s for 3 but this has some extra utility late.
GREEN Argothian Opportunist - Speaking of which, this 3/2 for 3 has solid upside in mana prouction independent of sticking around. Green also tends to have several mana sink mechanics despite not having a lot of artifact synergies. It's both better and worse than it looks.
⭐ Bushwhack - I tend to not favor land searching. This gives a solid early game mode to a sometimes hard to use removal mode. Fighting spells are even harder to use in Realms due to the lack of size disparity that green decks tend to leverage.
Gnarlroot Pallbearer - 6 feels a bit inexpensive for a denizen in green but I like the idea that this can come down and give you some tempo immediately on another body.
Boulderbranch Golem - Not spectacular at 4 but is still solid. The mana sink mode is great for stabilizing. Green decks are the most tempted to play naturalize variants which this offers a target to.
Cradle Clearcutter - Elvish Aberration designs are always awkward to me. The mana sink mode is better than not existing but this feel slike it wants the denizens to be 8-9 mana to justify being run over other 3-drops.
This set's primary mechanics are Toxic, Corrupted, oil counters, and proliferate. Toxic might be easier to track and proliferate interacts without requiring extra components. However, poison counters will require a very specific Realm to be crafted around it and as such none of the cards with Toxic will tend to feel right appearing by themselves in any general list. Proliferate encourages the use of counters but oil counters or any other kind of counters you might want to include will require an additional component which will tend to not fit in a deck box. The deck you use them in will be less portable but you can plan for a particular play space with it.
Since many of the cards in this set will tend to draw in other cards adjacent to them, fewer of them will be noted here than normal for general use.
WHITE Bladed Ambassador - While it uses a counter, that corner of a napkin makes this a 3/1 for 2 that can eat a 2/3 without dying. It is worth noting that tracking a single counter is easier than tracking multiple counters.
Goldwarden's Helm - 2/3 for 3 that leaves behind an equipment. This wants a narrower power and toughness spread to feel impactful. It also requires a token.
Planar Disruption - Pacifism for a shell with noncreature artifacts. This feels rather pushed and probably will heavily punish a denizen.
BLUE Chrome Prowler - 3/2s for 3 feel less palatable to me in multiplayer but this offers a couple angles of utility and is decidedly modular.
Experimental Augury - For a highly specific list, this might be a cautious consideration for the support slot.
Gitaxian Raptor - Still don't like the heavy counter use, but this is a flier than can block a while and then trade with a denizen without being a huge threat in blue.
Glistener Seer - There's a highly niche competitive Realm somewhere where this can help you fight over the best cards and deny your opponent access to answers.
Ichor Synthesizer - I like the promise of this card but the educated risk you take drafting it and leveraging deck vs deck is lost in Realms. 1/3s that become 3/3s with some utility are appealing to me but this doesn't cut it.
Malcator's Watcher - This isn't especially strong but the sum of the parts lets it peck away while warding off 3/1s.
Mercurial Spelldancer - This feels weak in multiplayer but will occasionally get the chance to do something big. Unblockable gives it a different texture than most of the other low drops, but it makes you fragile and probably wants to threaten trading with a 3/1 if your hand doesn't imply an eventual double spell. Also prefers non-aura removal.
Transplant Theorist - Body is solid for multiplayer and the mix of utility here is interesting but this probably won't be amazing or the gameplay that makes it amazing may not be healthy.
BLACK Annihilating Glare - I really like these optional sacrifice Bone Splinters variants. I think some of the older ones I prefer more but more varations can only be better for the deck builder.
Offer Immortality - This is closer to flavor neutral to a card that already exists but I'm waiting for the even more neutral version.
Sheoldred's Edict - The wording will feel weird in a Realm without tokens or planeswalkers, but the effect at two mana is quite reasonable and allows a list to straddle 1v1 and multiplayer more easily.
Testament Bearer - This is a very unusual stat line and has utility to compensate the fragility. This will make combat have some texture to mitigate this being a powerful 2 for 1. Play with aura-based removal and optional sac outlets.
⭐ Barbed Batterfist - 3/1 for 2 with an equipment that's easy to use. This is solid and interesting. After quickly trading off, the artifact itself can be sacrificed as well. This will find a home.
Bladegraft Aspirant - Equipment themes tend to be a hard ask in Realms. 2/3 for 3 with menace is a solid and flexible body that has the option to stall to see if the utility can be meaningful. This makes me want Elbrus as a denizen. Starnheim Courser competes for this slot but is all in on evasion which I think makes it feel worse, but its utility can hit more denizen options.
⭐ Blazing Crescendo - Interesting space. It's worth noting that due to the top-end being stripped out of the main list, you will almost always be able to cast the card this flips. Blue is probably the color that wants to play thisthe most to either kill the 1/4s or to have the 1/4s kill whatever they're blocking as well as offering more ways to deal with large denizens. Due to the free card, there will also be times when you can cast this on an opponent's creature that's in combat without losing cards. This is effectively a red Lace with Moonglove.
Capricious Hellraiser - This looks like an interesting denizen option. 4/4 isn't oppressively big, it'll become cheaper for a big comeback turn and it offers random value. Unless it ends up being pricey to acquire, looks like good clean fun. Might want the list to be a bit more aggressive than normal since 6 is a bit cheap. This might also interact with the support spell which is something to keep in mind as a full table of Thrill of Possibilitys will nearly satisfy its condition.
Dragoning Glider - This might be an interesting speculative denizen since when the token dies, you keep the equipment and are locked into it as a denizen. This will definitely warrant extra artifact destruction, probably in a white shell with more flexible removal.
Hexgold Halberd - 2/2 with first strike for 2. This slots in cleanly between 3/1s and 2/3s. Leaving behind a mana sink is solid.
Oxxida Finisher - Simple denizen body that encourages having equipment. This also makes equipment that aren't living weapon have meaningful value in the list, which is a notable since they tend to underperform otherwise and dropping this from 7 to 6 is a notable cost improvement.
Shrapnel Slinger - 2/2 for 2 and artifact-only removal are not fantastic options, but this is yet another optional sacrifice effect that can kill things that want to die. The utility of that tends to be greatest in realms with pacifisms to unlock a denizen but this also wants artifacts worth destroying as a sorcery, likely denizens.
GREEN Armored Scrapgorger - While this seems exceedingly strong in other places, the value of incidental graveyard hate is not as good in Realms since the lists are tailored to the threats and desired gameplay. Support spells make becoming the full 3/3 trivially easy and any form of denizen ramp gives both card advantage and selection. There doesn't seem to be any opportunity cost here and it looks like it's just a bit too high above rate for the Werebear trope.
Branchblight Stalker - Previous speculative Poison lists all ended up with a very diminished spread of creature sizes. Toxic allows the list to explore a wider spread and progress the game a bit faster progressing both damage and life together. Mixing Toxic and Infect will be tricky but the increased proliferation options and the addition of Corrupted will make crafting such a list significantly easier. It's also worth noting that a poison deck really wants to be designed as 1v1 since Corrupted will be trivial to get going in a multiplayer setting with everyone playing poison cards.
Cankerbloom - 3/2 for 2 that can sacrifice to naturalize. The option is nice since the effect is highly niche for Realms. Not having 1 toughness will make this list much more reluctant to run anything with 1 power since the body itself is aggressive enough to lead to quick noninteractive snowball wins.
Tyvar's Stand - This will tend to be at its strongest keeping Denizens safe from removal. It values an environment with low toughness creatures it can protect but also an environment with low power creatures so that the inefficient size boost can be a meaningful trick.
OTHER Atraxa's Skitterfang - All four of these abilities and the limited uses of them make this design feel like it plays best in 1v1 where it's easier to and more meaningful to account for combat and races. As a mere 2/2 for 3, the body is poor but the utility feels interesting with choices. Being able to slot in incidental lifegain is also a rarity for certain colors and strapping lifelink onto a large denizen is something red and blue would value in the late game. Without a Monarch-like mechanic, the lifelink feels like the most notable option this provides to multiplayer, making the choices less interesting.
Zenith Chronicler - This is a 3/1 for 2. It is concievable that the denizens might be all multicolored cards for a colors-matter Realm where this might find a home.
The Fair Basilica, The Surgical Bay, The Dross Pits, The Autonomous Furance, The Hunter Maze
These lands as support could work in a list that lacks denizens as a way to mitigate flood later in the game. They would likely become autopicks but that kind of list might want to be super aggressive anyway which could punish slower starts. In Realms with denizens, these lands are quite weak since you tend to want to hit 7-8 mana for the free top-end.
March of the Machine
This set's primary mechanics are Battles, Backup, Convoke, and Incubate it has many DFCs. Incubate requires both tokens and counters, which is a relevant constraint for portability. DFCs can work but require more setup and can be awkward for players new to any individual card. DFCs are better in places where you expect a regular playgroup to play the same list a lot. Transforming DFCs are much better than MDFCs since the back side can be consulted after revealing that it has been drawn, though for Battles, since the spell on the back might be cast immediately, it's still going to be awkward. Battles further slow down the game since they don't reduce players' life totals. Probably best to skip them outside of maybe battlecruiser lists. The creatures that transform in this set instead act as a Monstrous-like mana sink and are pretty solid designs. Backup requires counters and most of the designs at common don't appear to want to use the mechanic by default since it eats into the P/T of the body. It can give replayability, however, so it's worth looking at them for lists where you know counters will be available. Convoke is always an easy mechanic to include.
WHITE Aerial Boost - Convoke on combat tricks is not ideal for Realms where you expect to play with new people each time. If they have to ask how Convoke works, it reveals the trick and knowing that you can immediately Convoke with a creature you just played is not clear to all players. Save this for a Convoke-themed Realm.
Alabaster Host Intercessor - Landcycling on top-end was a staple prior to Denizens. This is quite a solid set of options. Deck-searching is slightly not favored due to revealing contents of opponents' hands, but this existing is a solid option in the future. Landcycling on a denizen is irrelevant, if inelegant. This is about the rate you'd want for a denizen in 1v1 lists.
Angelic Intervention - Feat of Resistance that also lets you get protection from artifacts. Might be relevant somewhere. Conveniently, this printing automatically comes with reminder text which I wouldn't have suggested playing without. The single counter is typically easy to track using a card from the graveyard.
⭐ Kithkin Billyrider - Flexible cost and solid stats. Easy to voltron with. Great card. Be mindful of how easy it is to snowball with this and the removal suite to catch up once that happens. Toughness-based removal will be weaker when this gets voltron'd.
Seraph of New Capenna - An optional sacrifice effect out of a white card is rare. White is also able to manage the lifeloss better than most other colors, making splashing phyrexian mana easier.
Swordsworn Cavalier - There are other 3/1s for 2 that have less constraining utility but this might be solid in a themed list. First strike won't let it pressure utility 2/3s into trading, but it not having first strike with the possibility of not being able to trade off later might be enough.
Tarkir Duneshaper - Becomes vanilla mid later, but offers a uility body early. Likely only relevant to convoke things, though there's historically many in these colors.
BLUE Captive Weird - Blue-Red does not have lifegain, which makes this a precarious card. For multiplayer, the lifeloss and card advantage is solid, but it can be a dead draw later in the game if life is low. Lands exile off this can help increase land count but when the Denizen rule requires discarding a land to cast one, hitting a land with this becomes a bit less helpful.
Disturbing Conversion - A graveyard-focused Realm will greatly enjoy the utility of milling 4-8 cards on a combat trick. Without a library reshuffle rule, large mill effects become too easy of a wincon in stalemate games in addition to encouraging passive play to enable them. The utility of this trick is going to be more reliable than Winds of Rebuke.
Ephara's Dispersal - I do not favor bounce spells generally. Disrupting combat tricks without card disadvantage and disrupting voltrons or aura-based removal is the most reasonable utility they can provide in this space which is sometimes desirable. The discount when on the defensive and the tax when removing a pacifism or defensive trick is a good mix of stats. Surveil can control who draws what, which, in small quantities is a neat aspect of Realms.
Furtive Analyst - Horned Turtles tend to be unable to pressure opponents doing a value plan. Vigilance offers a voltron platform which can leverage power pumping with the sturdy body. Looting offers utility when pressure is not possible. Probably wants a voltron home more so that it can loot into something that makes it a threat.
Halo-Charged Skaab - For a similarly mill-oriented Realm, large aggressive bodies tend to be better than normal since they provide value only to you and not everyone else. Being able to recur a spell to the top is notable if you can interact with the library afterward, but even the mill 8 is doing something useful for everyone.
Invasion of Vryn - This is pretty generic and could fit into any list. It helps that denizens can theoretically flip Battles on their own. The effect of the back is one an opponent may let you get without blocking for political reasons.
Moment of Truth - As a support spell, this offers some graveyard interactions that Anticipate does not while still being an instant.
Oracle of Tragedy - 1/3 body is not quite enough with two loots. If being able to optionally shuffle things in on death on top of graveyard synergies with looting is relevant, might be interesting, but the body feels like it's going to be a liability in a multiplayer setting.
Saiba Cryptomancer - Hexproof combat trick in the form of a creature. This scalpel will offer something extremely unique that blue's spells typically don't. Backup with flash that grants hexproof is a complexity ask, however. As a trick, they may have to reveal it to ask.
Skyclave Aerialist - For an aggressive flier, it becomes a good multiplayer blocker when it flips on top of replacing itself. Becoming a sturdy sky blocker after having to pay life is also convenient. It can put the land in hand so you can discard it if you choose. Solid package if the aggro flier isn't too much. Typically them not being able to block on the backfoot makes them a nonstarter for multiplayer lists.
Stasis Field - Nice aggressive rate for aura-based removal. Denizens shrunk to 0/2 should have no trouble trading off, though they do lose flying which might leave acceptable gaps.
Temporal Cleansing - In 1v1, this can put the creature in the correct place compared to Anchor to the Aether, but then they just choose to put it on the bottom instead if they can't snipe it from you. Anchor was at least guaranteed removal if you wanted it to be while also being cheaper unless you wanted to snipe it from the top. The convoke sorcery bit here is awkward but it might be a softer rate for lists that want it. Spin Into Myth let you control both the timing and whether it was permanent removal but it's a much worse rate, warranting a slower list. Cleansing does at least notably offer the option to target auras and as the density of flexible removal continues to grow, the ability to play non-creature permanents will be opened.
Tidal Terror - Once again a solid card with landcycling. This is a bit too big for red lists to handle well in addition to not dying to Inner Struggle. As a denizen, the body is a bit too stat-dense, so would need a really aggressive list to feel like it fits in. Green's deathtouchers slow it down enough for its evasion to come online, so it'd depend on blue's removal suite.
Zephyr Singer - Provided you can represent the counter, this seems like it'd be a solid way to jump your 3/1s in a multiplayer environment where you're the early threat. This might jump multiple creatures which might be problematic.
Zephyr Winder - Also a hyperaggro rate, but can at least block 3/1s while racing 2/3s. Giving vigilance to anything bigger on the ground is just a bonus.
Zhalfirin Shapecraft - Blue combat tricks are tough. Especially when counters and auras are at play. This is another attempt. Phantasmal Form allowed you to trade your creature with theirs as a Lace with Moonglove. If the critical toughness is 4, this would still be in that space. Ovinize is another angle that at least lets you block fliers.
BLACK Aetherblade Agent - Deathtouch blocker that becomes a solid body and draw engine.
Bladed Battle-Fan - Protction trick that leaves a voltron element behind. Looks fun. Might easily break the critical toughness threshold.
Blightreaper Thallid - Uses multiple tokens that invalidate 3/1s and becomes a fast 3/3. And yet it still feels compelling enough.
Collective Nightmare - Not big enough to kill a denizen but provides a trick against it. Unlike +3/+3, doesn't have much interaction with 3/1s, though this is mostly removal and pump is mostly a trick.
Deadly Derision - I still need more experience with how these single treasure producers are with respect to denizens. If you have to discard the land to cast the denizen rather than play it, these get notably worse outside of getting your pick of the litter before anyone else. I favor Sudden Breakthrough over this, though they do different things.
Dreg Recycler - 2/2 for 2 with optional manaless sac outlet may be useful for a particular shell.
Failed Conversion - Removal that can't be countered with a pump spell. In 1v1, surveil 2 lets you control your draw on top of theirs. That utility may not be as impactful with denizens pulled out of the library.
⭐ Final Flourish - Optional sac outlet removal spell / combat trick hybrid. Vicious Offering was fantastic. This has slightly better effect and allows sacrifice of an additional type. Might be relevant for some shells, but Vicious Offering generic flavor remains my preference otherwise.
Flitting Guerrilla - Evasive beater that can block to recur a better creature. This probably plays better in 1v1 where blocking guarantees you'll draw the body you pick, though multiplayer would like the mill 8 dig deeper if you can time the death right.
Gloomfang Mauler - Unfortunately, this member of the cycle requires counters and I also find it less interesting. Seven mana over six is more appropriate for a denzien but it's just a pile of square stats without much to go on. It is a better rate than Wormskin Forager and it not being small means it doesn't trade off into another denizen easily. Spreading out the stats is probably the best play but it again requires counters. Probably solid endpusher in a multiplayer setting but anticlimatic for 1v1 since there's no opportunity cost tension.
Invasion of Ulgrotha - I always liked this clunky rate but it's best for a slow 1v1. The back side needs counters but it's unlikely to come up. Even if it does, just use the creatures that die to represent the counters.
Pile On - This is great. Much cleaner to use than Lethal Scheme. The stalemate that 2/3s create means they'll be available to convoke with when you're jostling for position.
Seer of Stolen Sight - 2/3 for 3 with utility. You're more likekly to control what other people draw or otherwise mill, though a cantrip in hand can snipe something good as you sift through. The utility here is minor but it probably still belongs in a graveyard-focused list since it'll speed up the library running out, mandating some kind of shuffleback effect.
Tenured Oilcaster - Another fantastic option for a mill-focused list. This turns on almost immediately, and miling 4 cards per swing means that it's enabling everyone else's graveyard cards.
RED Furnace Host Charger - More landcycling. This is much more aggressive than Chartoothed Cougar, but I think I prefer the latter for that reason except maybe for multiplayer. As a denizen this is above rate and haste is a bit of a weird pressure for Denizens to when pushed this much.
Furnace Reins - This is a better rate than Involuntary Employment, but the treasure is less guaranteed. This kind of spell is rarely good or reliable enough to include without an easy out like cycling, but the treasure enabling a denizen is an angle that's notable. It's both ramp and pure aggro which is a weird mix. And being able to stabilize with a denizen might be worth a card. The 3 vs 4 difference also allows it to more easily combo with a sacrifice effect.
Khenra Spellshaper - These 2/2 to 3/3 straddle the 2/3 boundary between being irrelevant to being a bully. As a 2/2 with prowess, it already would benefit from certain support spells than others. Would warrant testing if an instant support spell becomes too easy to bully with this. Multiplayer probably doesn't care since the incentive there is to sit back anyway and being aggressive is already weighted down by the increased number of opponents.
Nahiri's Warcrafting - Sorcery removal for big creatures. Late game, it might draw a card. With the Denizens split from the library, the likelihood of revealing something cheap is higher. Also provides value when killing a smaller creature. Kind of an inverse Sarkhan's Dragonfire.
Shivan Branch-Burner - This is a rate I like for denizens. even when it comes out on 5 mana, it's still just a 4/4 flier and can be managed. Super late, haste is big for finishing players off, even when the body is below rate.
Volcanic Spite - Just run Fire Prophecy. Reasonable utility but small burn spells cannot leverage disparaties between decks since everyone's drawing from the same pool. Also looting is worse when you need all the lands for denizens, so this becomes most meaningful in a list with high synergy needs that also has small creatures.
GREEN Ruins Recluse - This is a worse rate than some other deathtouch bodies that become threats but it's still a neat mana sink.
Tandem Takedown - While not offering a 2-for-1 possibility that Clear Shot has, this lets green lists deal with its own wide power spread more easily.
Timberland Ancient - More landcycling. As with the red card, body is above rate for denizen. In normal play, there's tension and payoff when you're holding one and need to get the game to stall to drop them at which point the efficient stats make up for them clogging your hand. This limited environment is also fast, which lends itself to more stat-dense commons.
OTHER Invasion of Amonkhet - Cantrip 3 mana mill 12 is strong. It can't surprise mill out an opponent since you'd just die first, so it's a value play. The flip payoff is solid recursion and a decent body regardless of what you grab since most of the graveyard is going to be small until denizens die. The rate seems a bit too good for this but milling 12 will likely help everyone else more on average. All the big milling effects may also shuffle the library back in multiple times, and this would refresh the graveyard afterwards. A bit too niche for all this thought.
Lord of the Rings / LOTR Commander
This set's primary mechanics are The Ring Tempts You, Amass, and Food.
The Ring Tempts You probably only requires one token slot, two if multiplayer, and wants a doodad to mark progress, though to feel right, you'd want a depth of cards that makes the ring tempt a player more than once to justify its inclusion, which seems relatively constraining and you lose an element of flavor inserting one of them in an arbitrary list, particularly with all the named characters. Amass has multiple portability concerns wanting both token space and counters, though admittedly, only one token per player would be needed at most and you could get by with just dice since they're just stats. If you end up doing anything with amass, you can at least mix it with the older amass cards. Food uses a lot of token space and tends to slow the game down if used for life gain. It may be better to save them for a singular food themed list and ensure it can end the game in a timely fashion.
WHITE Banish from Edoras - The defender discount has become a recurring design motif which is excellent. Easy to cast general removal on defense that taxes you if you're at parity or winning. This is perfect for softly nudging the game back to parity.
Eagles of the North - 3/3 flying is just a smidge too fragile for what I'd want from a 6-drop. The aggession slant this ends up taking feels like it can easily whiff for a player trying to stabilize. Architypal disparities aren't present in Realms compared to typical 1v1 environments where this would feel a bit more at home as a low-opportunity cost Overrun than a stabilizing play. Still, more landcycling options is always better since the depth can enable Denizenless lists.
Earthfarsting Farmer - 2/3s for 3 are always on my radar. A metalcraft list benefitting from the food token. Even in multiplayer, this stabilizes early very well, though I'd want a mechanical use for the food for the speculative utility to feel more present.
Éowyn, Lady of Rohan - This feels a bit too overstatted and might be too effective at warding attacks off at 2/4 for 3, but the vigilance and first strike voltron elements seem desirable for encouraging players to poke for weaknesses on a stalled board.
Soldier of the Grey Host - The stats seem only suitable for a 1v1 limited style Realm but I like the trading up this offers on small creatures or as a way to deal 4 to an attacker.
⭐ Westfold Rider - 3/1 for 2 with utility! I like that this is a sorcery activation given that it's manaless. It won't disrupt aura-based combat tricks on the opponents' turn or midcombat and can't escape a losing combat by destroying something. This is also main-deck equipment destruction which is rare since naturalize variants tend to be very niche. Feels like the most relevant printing from this set.
Grey Havens Navigator - Solid low drop development. Low cost flash creatures have overlap with instants and if this trades with a 3/3, you're probably happy. The timing of the scry may be hard to get value from in multiplayer.
Ioreth of the Healing House - Another 3-mana blue ramp piece. Kelpie Guide or Clever Conjuror will probalby have better gameplay but this offers a wall in place of removal or power. Walling up into ramping a denizen out feels a bit passive but it might be fine for multiplayer if one person does it. In 1v1, having a 3/1 pressure you into trading off your ramp piece is probably more ideal.
Isolation at Orthanc - Clean Griptide version of Commit/Memory. This one you cast on your own turn to naturally steal their creature or otherwise are required to cantrip ino order to get it from an end step cast. It's probably weaker than Griptide and that might be a good thing. It's fantastic to have a choice between the two.
Ithilien Kingfisher - Seems a solid multiplayer common. Requiring it to trade off makes it less snowbally than being an enters trigger.
Elvish Mariner - An aggressive multiplayer body that attacks through blockers and looks at cycling targets.
Denethor, Stone Seer - Development into setting up removal and monarch when the 1/3 body has outlived its usefulness.
⭐ Bitter Downfall - This is secretly a Vicious Offering or Spark Harvest variant. This doesn't sacrifice a denizen or consume a creature removed by an aura, but it does have a full payment mode that is full kill as an instant which remains a solid floor. This also has a bit more play in multiplayer like Bladebrand where you can be a third party to combat and disrupt an opponent's board for cheap.
Lash of the Balrog - Actual Spark Harvest. This has a bit looser color requirements which can make it splashed.
Morgul-Knife Wound - I am partial to this style of aura-based removal. This is probably better gameplay than Cast into Darkness on a denizen since they're not stuck with a diminished beatstick that they can't force off the battlefield. Stab Wound was just a tad too expensive despite sometimes taking over a game with walls and also made it so players were punished for playing creatures at all.
Troll of Khazad-dûm - More landcycling. 6/5 menace for 6 feels way overstatted, so I would assume this would have to be used in a green-black shell with plentiful removal and larger bodies. Multimenace means deathtouch doesn't interact with this and the portability cost of including tokens means this is likely just unblockable.
RED Oliphaunt - 6/4 Trample feels better to me. Particularly since red removal commonly tops out around 4 damage. Other top-end red creatures should be able to trade of with this by themselves.
GREEN Elven Farsight - Not a viable support spell option since it cannot also get lands.
Gift of Strands - This is a more multiplayer oriented trick with how snowbally it can get. A bit harder to stop than Spiteful Motives, though green lists should be built with higher toughness in mind anyway.
Lothlórien Lookout - I like that the 1/3 is likely to survive more easily than the 2/1s in red and white, but you'll still need a chunk of cylcers to make this work. The blue version with flying is easier to use in this psace due to blue's cantrip depth but this does pair with Poison the Blade now that that exists. It might be time to pull out that Mul Daya Channelers shell now.
I will be using a new post to continue set reviews starting with Wilds of Eldraine
First of all, thank you for sharing this format in such a detailed manner. I've been on the verge of constructing a fourth Cube (after a Legacy-, Artifact- and Unstable-Cube) with the cards I always wanted to play but which are simply not good enough. However, I changed my idea to having something ready to play without a drafting process, but not requiring constructed decks. This way, I could lure friends into the game and eventually to drafting my cubes I found "The Danger Room"-format, but after some theorycrafting came to the conclusion that the cardpool would not be to my liking, since I could not incorporated fleshed-out archetypes. Your idea combines the idea of the shared deck from "The Danger Room" with the possibility of choosing synergistic cards in the deck. I never thought of parting ways with the 5 color balance of Magic to create the format I wanted - a good idea! I'm planning on trying it out this weekend with a friend. Will report on how it went, but my friend is very sceptic^^
A bit late, but after playing some games with it my friends and I really like the concept and playstyle! The ability to start playing without any deck-construction time is perfect. Exactly the niche I wanted to fill between Cubes and a set of ready-made Decks.
A bit late, but after playing some games with it my friends and I really like the concept and playstyle! The ability to start playing without any deck-construction time is perfect. Exactly the niche I wanted to fill between Cubes and a set of ready-made Decks.
Happy to hear it is working out for you. Might you have a deck list you've been working from? I'm curious how others are using this; what works and what might be changed.
It's worth noting that I give the most praise to genre agnostic combat tricks and removal options since creatures tend to be far more easily replaceable. While I may not favor a particular mechanic, a Realm built around that mechanic or plane will find a way to make the theme work within constraints and then fill in the gaps with whatever applicable generic staples it needs.
Wilds of Eldraine
Set mechanics this time include the return of Adventures, Role tokens, Bargain, Food, and Celebration. I will continue to earmark token mechanics as logistical hurdles for a Realm's portability, so Role tokens and food mechanics will tend to want a bit more focus before the individual cards are considered. Adventures continue to offer the possibility of mana smoothing, though they continue to have a first exposure hurdle outside of the release windows. Take more care with instants for that reason when building for a wider audience. Bargain and Celebration can effortlessly mesh with general decks though may be harder to use without highly curated card pools. Bargain itself probably benefits from having a few more artifact or enchantment creatures running around depending on the nature of the bonus.
It's worth noting that there are very few denizen candidates this set as all the expensive mana sinks are stapled onto an adventure and there are several 5-drops straddling the line with an adventure pushing them into that space. There may be a general trend to avoid printing 7- and 8- drops in modern design and if this continues, there may be a need to revisit format structure.
WHITE Frostbridge Guard - This is one of the rare 2/2s I think can work. It can still trade with 3/1s and can attack into 2/3s when threatening a trick. Three mana to lock down a denizen is, I think, a fair rate when the creature itself can be killed more easily than a pacifism.
Moment of Valor - Valorous Stance upgraded to actually be a combat trick makes this playable in normal scenarios when it's not able to wait for a denizen to snag.
⭐ Plunge into Winter - This continues to move the bleeding edge of white's support spell options. This has game play implications and could also conceivably work as a heroic trigger source. Not sure how much I like it for the role but it's highly relevant.
Savior of the Sleeping - A bit more themed than Tenth District Veteran, but more suited for a voltron list where you're likely already playing counters anyway. 2/3 + Vigilance is both rare and solid as a starting point for multiplayer.
Werefox Girlfriend - Temporary flash removal is significantly better than Banishing Priest. Has protection and combo angles. Sigrid, God-Favored is also in nearby space, but they both offer different things. I think Sigrid tends to be the better of the two for Realms, but there are some lists where the combo angle will be desired.
BLUE Brazen Borrower - Getting a reprint in a precon and remains something I desire.
⭐ Bitter Cold - This is an extremely high rate for this kind of card since Narcolepsy. I remain wary of aura-based removal this strong for locking out denizens, but aggressive lists will value that this isn't dead disadvantage to an untap trick.
Diminisher Witch - The overhead is high for this kind of card which is why I'm a bit down on these mechanics but it's definitely possible to craft a Realm to make them work and this is one of the cards that would be suitable there. It's interesting that this and Tenacious Tomeseeker are both 3/2s for 3.
Freeze in Place - This is a bit worse in Realms since you can't dig as far for a permanent answer or for gas. This also doesn't want to go in a multiplayer deck, but there could be a spells-focused list that doesn't want aura removal at all and four turns is enough to make some plays. This card pushes the game away from parity rather than towards it, like most other interaction.
Icewrought Sentry - This is extremely aggressive for blue. 1v1 games will swing a bit more wildly with this and multiplayer games will value this cracking board stalls.
⭐ Merfolk Coralsmith - This is a collection of stats! It's a 2/3 that can choose to trade rather than bouncing off another 2/3. It can aim to trade with a 4/4 denizen. When it dies, you get to sculpt draws in 1v1. This is quite the upgrade over Water Courser and cleaner than Ingenious Skaab, particularly for multicolor lists.
Misleading Motes - Mentioning this as there's been a recent trend of Gritide variants that let the opponent choose to bottom the creature. Realms has the interesting scenario where you can steal cards this way that these new variations undermine, but it's worth considering these as Murder variants compared to mind controls. They still remove the creature, but the rates should be scrutinized for this space more heavily. Griptides stealing the best creatures in a zero sum scenario make them much stronger and should cost more than the murder variants which merely remove the creature. There will be decks where you need catchall removal for large creatures that isn't an aura, and where removal for large creatures is so sparse that the mind control becomes too back breaking. Blue-Green is a possible home that might want this.
Quick Study - I generally haven't liked draw 2s in 1v1 Realms. Since pure card draw tends to draw into more card advantage. I do like the rate on this with respect to its use as a prowess trigger and would like to see it find a home with that context.
⭐ Water Wings - Hexproof is quite an upgrade on Wings of Velis Vel. This still requires a squashed p/t spread for it to be a trick below the denizen range and will be highly sensitive to auras and any counters that might be present. Prowess is quite notable here for not impacting portability.
BLACK Candy Grapple - This is not a Vicious Hunger. It can't sacrifice creatures from under auras but has a higher base removal rate. I'm concerned it punishes combat tricks too heavily and that the bonus mode is going to be too hard to pull off to be worth the complexity. This can be used as a combat trick against denizens without upgrading it anyway, so it feels like a different card would better fill this slot.
Shatter the Oath - This is a low rate but it is optional targeted enchantment removal in black and one of the few options at present.
⭐ Sugar Rush - Not Bladebrand. I've been waiting for this to be printed in red. This can be used as a tempo spell or in conjunction with lifelink in ways that Bladebrand cannot, but it's worse in black-green. Being able to deal surprise damage out of nowhere is an extra mode this has over Bladebrand that probably makes it a better experience in lists where not being deathtouch doesn't completely undermine its role of punching up.
RED Boundary Lands Ranger - I want to like this but it's less good in Realms both as a 2/2 but also because it needs you to play a denizen which wants all the lands this would have you discard. Even if you aura with this, looting away lands is less helpful than normal.
Frantic Firebolt - There are already 4s for 3. This is only really interesting in red-green where support spells get this up to 5+ relatively trivially and where you'd need that damage to cut through green's size. Very specifically in green space, scaling burn damage is so much better than fixed since you can wait a little to get to the necessary threshold.
Monstrous Rage - Flash auras are generally rare. This is only +1 toughness but still flips all of the 2/3 matchups below denizen.
⭐ Redcap Thief - 2/3 for 3 and a treasure. This is a strong rate and grabs at denizens. It's nice and simple for an intro to Realms but it's a bit generic. I would think Sudden Breakthrough would be a healthier version of treasures for denizens since it requires nudging the game to a place where the trick can be used as a 1 for 1 and if it can't find a way to do that, be card disadvantage when played as a ritual. I like the look of Redcap Thief, but Plundering Barbarian or Swashbuckler Extraordinaire as a 2/2 might be the better game piece if ramp end is that strong. Or Patron of the Arts in a multiplayer setting where it has a bit more play to it and the social dynamics will account for one player getting head of the others.
GREEN Curse of the Werefox - Savage Stomp exists and I still prefer Clear Shot to that. This really needs themeing and a tight p/t spread for me to want to risk it. Fight spells tend to be very touchy in Realms since there's no deck vs deck disparity that green can leverage over other colors.
Hamlet Glutton - The first denzien I've mentioned. The set mechanic can be explained out in the open as a denizen. The discount costs something rather rare which means that mode won't be available to all players.
Rootstrider Faun - I don't favor mana dorks or 1/3s for Realms but for gameplay variety, this does push you towards stalling for a denizen early rather than curving out and being aggressive.
Johann, Apprentice Sorcerer - This would be extremely good in multiplayer where you get to look at four cards per turn cycle on top of timing your cantrips and cycle effects.