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Nerdarchy > Blast from the Past  > See All Things as They Truly Are with MTG Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Book of Vile Darkness
mtg adventures in the forgotten realms book of vile darkness 5E D&D

See All Things as They Truly Are with MTG Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Book of Vile Darkness

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I wrote a while back about my excitement for the Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms expansion for Magic: The Gathering and since the set released I’ve been enjoying it immensely. Spending mana to invoke all manner of awesome D&D creatures, magic items and spells brings an extra layer of nerdy satisfaction. Creating content related to tabletop roleplaying games and fifth edition D&D in particular is Nerdarchy’s bread and butter but we all enjoy plenty of other games too and it’s fun to share those other game experiences from time to time. Let’s get into it.

D&D’s Vecna and the Book of Vile Darkness in MTG

Adventures in the Forgotten Realms leans hard into Wizards of the Coast’s D&D game. Starting with flavor text on its basic lands meant to represent a Dungeon Master’s description of a location the set incorporates lots of classic elements and iconic qualities of D&D. There’s even a series of cards representing the adventures of a party like You Hear Something on Watch, You Find a Cursed Idol and of course You Meet in a Tavern. Even 5E D&D’s character classes make an appearance in the set in the form of Enchantment — Class cards.

All in all the design team for Adventures in the Forgotten Realms knocked it out of the park, working closely with the D&D team across the board. This is a smart move tying WotC’s two juggernaut properties together more coherently. Collaborating together started in earnest in the opposition direction with 5E D&D books like Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica and Mythic Odysseys of Theros, which of course we covered in great detail too along with the upcoming Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos.

At the time of this writing the standard rotation includes the Throne of Eldraine set onward, including Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. The rotation changes in September to accommodate Innistrad: Midnight Hunt and I believe the Throne of Eldraine, Theros Beyond Death, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths and Core Set 2021 rotate out. This leaves Zendikar Rising, Kaldheim, Strixhaven: School of Mages and Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms for the standard block.

This rotation won’t affect a really fun deck I’ve been playing recently in the least in terms of anything rotating out. I’ll definitely keep my eyes peeled for new cards to enhance how it plays though for certain. The deck in question began quite differently when I tested some ideas for a deck themed around the Deck of Many Things. I thought I was really onto something by incorporating cards meant to represent the actual cards in the 5E D&D magic item like Vizier of Many Faces from the Amonkhet expansion but it was a hot mess.

After suffering many defeats I abandoned the idea in favor of a much darker deck idea — the very darkest in fact! What kind of D&D nerd would I be without showing respect to perhaps the greatest source of evil in the multiverse, Vecna and the Book of Vile Darkness?

“Most believe the lich-god Vecna authored the Book of Vile Darkness. He recorded in its pages every diseased idea, every unhinged thought, and every example of blackest magic he came across or devised. Vecna covered every vile topic he could, making the book a gruesome catalog of all mortal wrongs.” — from the 5E D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide

Only very rarely do I search around for decklists and discussions related to MTG cards and decks. Since I’m not deeply connected to the MTG culture or community frankly I’m not even sure where such things might be found. Usually whenever I search for stuff like this I wind up with either sites selling single cards or a site where players share decklists but without any discussion or analysis. In this case I did come across a decklist and adopted it myself. The focus and goal of a deck like this is so specific and if I’m honest I’m not nearly as clever as dedicated MTG players when it comes to constructing this sort of deck.


That’s right I’m calling this collection of 60 cards Deckna. I can’t take any credit for the actual decklist but from my experience MTG decks don’t often acquire any sort of name beyond an explanatory one so here’s hoping this one catches on. I could tell right away how focused the decklist is because of how it’s stacked together. Just about every card in the list includes four copies, which is a strategy I almost never follow in my own constructions. I rather enjoy a bit of variety and usually incorporate several one-off cards either as an answer to the current metagame or simply because they’re a fun surprise for me when they come up.

“I see all things as they truly are! I see . . . decay in all flesh, and betrayal in every heart.” — MTG’s Adventures in the Forgotten Realms’ Eye of Vecna flavor text

There is a small amount of change I incorporated into this Deckna pet project of mine. However this is due to a lack of cards and Wildcards to complete the decklist I found. As for how Deckna works I’m pleased to report quite well! Getting a Vecna onto the battlefield tends to happen pretty quickly, which speaks to the strength of the focused decklist. The strategy is fairly straightforward. Get the components out there as quickly as possible and keep the opponent at bay while doing so. Before getting to the Deckna decklist itself I’ve got a piece of advice I picked up along the way. Protip: Activating your Book of Vile Darkness at the end of an opponent’s turn means Vecna is all good to go when your turn begins.

Update: This post was revised on Jan. 20, 2022 to reflect changes in the original deck list

The Eye of Vecna and Hand of Vecna are both powerful artifacts from the earliest days of D&D lore. In MTG’s Adventures in the Forgotten Realms expansion they’re integral components of a Book of Vile Darkness deck. [Art by Irina Nordsol]


  • Portable Hole (4). One of the key components of keeping opponents at bay. This is a terrific card with super low cost and versatile removal capabilities. This is the lowest cost artifact in the deck and pairs wonderfully with the only creature card you’ve got too.
  • Eye of Vecna (4). A low cost means of consistent card draw and also an easy way to ensure your Book of Vile Darkness triggers at the end of your turn. Also it’s one of the cards upon which the entire deck turns.
  • Hand of Vecna (4). A really strong artifact to grant a tremendous buff on an attacker. The Eye of Vecna helps fuel the bonus and along with the Poet’s Quill gives you opportunities to regain huge amounts of life. Also it’s one of the cards upon which the entire deck turns.
  • The Book of Vile Darkness (3). On it’s own this mythic rare card isn’t too impressive but once you’ve got the Eye of Vecna and Hand of Vecna out there you’ll see how powerful it becomes. For a while I played with four copies of this as well. Recently I swapped one of them out for shiggles.
  • Poet’s Quill (4). Wowie wow wow this is phenomenal in Deckna. The low cost means you’ll get this out early and pairs great with your only creature card. I was really surprised the decklist I found did not include a sideboard with Lesson cards, which I’ve found incredibly useful plus they don’t take up any space in the deck itself.
  • The Book of Exalted Deeds (1). I swapped out one The Book of Vile Darkness for one of these. While tinkering with the deck and poking around to see if anything caught my attention after playing this deck a while I saw this and thought I’d give it a try for fun because wouldn’t it be interesting for good ol’ Vecna to get an angelic assist? So far it’s come up a few times to terrific effect! Gaining life is child’s play for the indestructible zombie god with the Poet’s Quill in hand.


  • Ingenious Smith (3). I’ve got to say I was apprehensive about rolling into games with a single creature in my deck but with all the removal and ease of getting Vecna onto the battlefield it’s been totally fine. Even without Vecna around the rest of the cards in Deckna can turn this artificer into an extremely heavy hitter in their own right.
  • Icingdeath, Frost Tyrant (1). I love this card for lots of reasons not the least of which is sacrificing it to mutual destruction against an attacker and getting an off-turn pump on my Ingenious Smith. Plus it’s a great target for Search for Glory.
  • Acererak the Archlich (2). Right up there with Vecna in terms of evilness I’ve found this a fantastic addition. Sometimes this lich plows through the Lost Mine of Phandelver and sometimes his own Tomb of Annihilation but most often strolls through Dungeon of the Mad Mage late game to overwhelm opponents.


  • Bloodchief’s Thirst (2). Destroying a creature or planeswalker for one black mana cannot be beat. It’s restricted to things with a mana value two or less but the Kicker cost removes this restriction, which probably won’t be a big deal to pay at all in the mid- to late game when you have more mana anyway. I absolutely loathe planeswalkers too so a card to get rid of them makes me very happy.
  • Search for Glory (4). For a deck with such specific goals including a tutor alongside already maxing out the copies of key cards makes sure everything runs smoothly. Plus you get some life back too!
  • Doomskar (1). Getting swarmed, dealing with fliers and sometimes even pesky pointers on life gain creatures get out of control real fast. With this in the deck they’re all doomed! It’s extra awesome when Vecna is already on the board because his indestructible trait leaves him alone amidst the wreckage of your opponents board presence.


  • 2 Vanishing Verse (3). Like Portable Hole this is about as versatile as removal gets since it works on any permanent. Whereas the hole only works on permanents with a cost of 2 or less this only works on monocolored stuff but boy does it work! If I made any further changes to Deckna I’d seriously consider another copy of this one.


Thank goodness MTG Arena alerts you when your deck includes cards to interact with the sideboard when you do not have any cards in your sideboard and go to save and exit the deck editor. Because of Poet’s Quill you get access to seven extra cards without affecting your card count. I’m not super familiar with the Lesson cards so I chose the ones that felt most useful.

  • Academic Probation (1). If you can anticipate what your opponent might play this is super useful. I love cards giving you options too and this one’s secondary power locks down a troublesome creature on your opponent’s side too.
  • Introduction to Annihilation (1). Having the mana for this one has been a lot easier than I anticipated so I’m considering putting more of these in the sideboard. Exiling any permanent is hugely powerful — way more powerful than the single card drawn by the owner of the exiled permanent.
  • Expanded Anatomy (1). Putting a couple of +1/+1 counters on a creature is nice but the temporary vigilance is way more impactful especially when good old Vecna is on the battlefield.
  • Environmental Sciences (2). Purely for smoothing out the mana ramp and gives you a little life boost while doing so makes this a terrific Lesson to learn!
  • Confront the Past (1). I put this one in to deal with annoying planeswalkers but they must not be highly regarded in the current meta or something since I’ve never had occasion to use this one.
  • Mascot Exhibition (1). Another inclusion for shiggles but also it fits a fun little narrative I like to imagine where Vecna takes his Poet’s Quill to pen the story of my opponents grisly demise in The Book of Vile Darkness so this inky-themed Lesson makes a wonderful late game bomb.


  • Snow-Covered Plains (8). Search for Glory gives you life based on how much snow mana was spent to cast it, which is pretty much the only reason to use snow lands instead of regular lands.
  • Snow-Covered Swamp (8). Search for Glory gives you life based on how much snow mana was spent to cast it, which is pretty much the only reason to use snow lands instead of regular lands.
  • Snowfield Sinkhole (4). It’s a snow land and a dual land to generate both colors of mana you’ll need so it’s a no-brainer. There’s additional lands in the original decklist I followed but I don’t have any of them.
  • Shineshadow Snarl (4). Despite not being a snow land to key off Search for Glory it helps so much with mana balance. Easy enough to avoid coming into play tapped if you hang onto another land for such circumstance.

*Featured image — According to the 5E D&D DMG regarding the Book of Vile Darkness the contents of this foul manuscript of ineffable wickedness are the meat and drink of those in evil’s thrall. No mortal was meant to know the secrets it contains, knowledge so horrid that to even glimpse the scrawled pages invites madness. [Art by Daniel Ljunggren]

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Doug Vehovec

Nerditor-in-Chief Doug Vehovec is a proud native of Cleveland, Ohio, with D&D in his blood since the early 80s. Fast forward to today and he’s still rolling those polyhedral dice. When he’s not DMing, worldbuilding or working on endeavors for Nerdarchy he enjoys cryptozoology trips and eating awesome food.

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