Battle Box has long been my absolute favorite Magic format to play for fun and recreation. I’m optimistic that we’ve begun to turn the corner for the better with regard to the pandemic and that LGSs will be opening back up in my area in the next month or so, which makes designing a new Battle Box in anticipation of getting my game on the perfect cardboard activity for me at the moment. Today’s article will showcase the new Pauper Battle Box I’ve constructed as well as provide some insights about how to build a completely new and interesting Battle Box to play with your friends.
I’m a huge fan of Pauper and so I decided to run with that theme. In particular, the new cards from Modern Horizons 2 have really inspired me. My signature Battle Box, The Danger Room, has a relatively high power level which makes many of the Modern Horizons 2 commons that I’d like to play with a little below the power curve for Danger Room. However, a Pauper Battle Box is the perfect place to showcase and enjoy many of these new designs!
A Battle Box is really just a stack of cards that are chosen to play with, and a cache of 10 lands that start outside the game and can be played one per turn.
When I built my first Battle Box there were not a ton of options for dual lands. In fact, the only ETB tapped lands were the Invasion cycle:
Now it seems like there are endless options to explore: Gates, various scry lands, Thriving lands, snow duals and the new ETB tapped artifact Bridge lands:
I often get asked what I think about one cycle or another in terms of gameplay. For my Danger Room, I’m a big fan of snow duals or Thriving lands. The “Bridge” artifact cycle is extremely interesting for a couple of reasons: first, they can’t be “shattered” because of the indestructible clause. Second, they have some neat applications in regards to automatically meeting mechanical requirements for having artifacts in play such as affinity and metalcraft.
I thought these new lands created space to make a new sort of Pauper Battle Box that has some different dynamics (as a result of each player having access to five artifact lands) that would be fun to explore.
I also wanted to keep this deck relatively small compared to other Battle Boxes. It tops out at 230 spells in the stack (all of which are common) which makes it relatively easy of the pocketbook as well.
Here’s how I demarcated my stack:
- 30 spells of each mono color (150 total spells)
- 5 spells of each two-color guild combination (50 spells)
- 30 artifacts
Another good rule of thumb for building your own Battle Box is to keep the mana curve low and tight. For instance, more than half of the spells in my deck cost two or less mana. A low curve gives players more options (especially in regards to how they make early plays) and leads to less awkward draws. If you can cast things up the curve, chances are that the game will be pretty fun.
I would also say that roughly 75 percent or more of the cards in my stack cost three mana or less. So, I’m relatively stingy when it comes to adding cards that cost four or more mana to cast. With that said, the four-plus mana spells are often the most fun, exciting and game-breaking, so I tend to put a lot of thought into which cards I want in these coveted powerful, expensive spell slots.
I’m straight-up breaking two of the principle rules of Battle Box with this stack:
NO TUTORING AND NO RAMPING
I figured that since I’m already giving players free affinity and metalcraft that I’d explore some other mechanics to see how they can be refined for Battle Box play.
Tutoring is pretty standard in the stack. Since it’s only 230 cards, it’s not that much more cumbersome than tutoring through a Commander deck and with only Pauper-legal Commons in the stack, tutoring functions more like a toolbox than searching up extremely busted, game-ending spells. There’s no Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Ancestral Recall to find, but the ability to tutor up a removal spell or threat to fit the board state is actually pretty nice!
Obviously, I’m not going to throw a bunch of extra basic lands into the stack for players to draw. I decided the best way to do ramp for a Battle Box is simply to have a small extra stack of basics outside the game that can be accessed by any card that says “search your library for a land and put it onto the battlefield.”
If I draw, play, and sacrifice a Sakura-Tribe Elder, I can simply grab an extra basic of my choice and put it onto the battlefield under my control (in addition to the 10 lands each player starts with outside of the game.
One of things I noticed when I was building my mini Pauper Battle Box is that once I finished it, the stack was very close to being a playable Pauper Cube as well!
I think it could very easily be a dual purpose stack with the addition of some additional non basic lands for drafting. I suggest the following 45 Lands to be inserted in the Cube Draft Packs:
- 10 Bridges (Mistvault Bridge, Darkmoss Bridge)
- 10 Thriving lands (Thriving Bluff, Thriving Isle)
- 6 original artifact lands (Seat of the Synod, Darksteel Citadel)
- 10 bounce lands (Simic Growth Chamber, Gruul Turf)
- 1 Evolving Wilds
- 1 Terramorphic Expanse
- 1 Ash Barrens
- 1 Bojuka Bog
- 5 Eldraine Lands (Mystic Sanctuary, Witch’s Cottage, etc.)
230 + 45 = 275 Total Cards.
In order to support eight drafters, I’d need less than 100 more spells to turn this Battle Box into a fully functional Cube that can be drafted as well! I’ve never actually built a Cube from scratch before, so I’ll solicit help from some of the more experienced Cube builders/players at my LGS once things open back up.
However, just based on the cards that I picked, I can already see the archetypes lining up for draft: RW Artifacts, UB Control, UG Ramp, BG Sacrifice, RG Beats, Five-Color Goodstuff, etc. So, I’ll be racking my brain over another 15 spells of each color that will be useful in solidifying the color combination archetypes.
1 Aegis Automaton 1 Aeolipile 1 Aether Spellbomb 1 Bonesplitter 1 Excavated Wall 1 Fellwar Stone 1 Filigree Familiar 1 Flayer Husk 1 Gingerbrute 1 Glint Hawk Idol 1 Maelstrom Colossus 1 Mind Stone 1 Myr Enforcer 1 Myr Retriever 1 Myr Scrapling 1 Nihil Spellbomb 1 Origin Spellbomb 1 Ornithopter of Paradise 1 Peace Strider 1 Pierce Strider 1 Pristine Talisman 1 Pyrite Spellbomb 1 Rusted Relic 1 Skyreach Manta 1 Skyscanner 1 Sojourner's Companion 1 Sparring Construct 1 Springleaf Drum 1 Sylvok Lifestaff 1 Wayfarer's Bauble 1 Whispersilk Cloak 1 Azorius First-Wing 1 Chrome Courier 1 Hindering Light 1 Overrule 1 Sphinx's Insight 1 Goblin Legionnaire 1 Skyknight Legionnaire 1 Thrilling Discovery 1 Thundersong Trumpeter 1 Relic Sloth 1 Dihada's Ploy 1 Dimir Guildmage 1 Perplexing Chimera 1 Perplex 1 Pilfered Plans 1 Soul Manipulation 1 Consume Strength 1 Drey Keeper 1 Infuse with Vitality 1 Llanowar Dead 1 Putrid Leech 1 Branching Bolt 1 Burning-Tree Emissary 1 Exploding Borders 1 Ground Assault 1 Ground Assault 1 Savage Smash 1 Fire/Ice 1 Frostburn Weird 1 Hypothesizzle 1 Razorfin Hunter 1 Storm God's Oracle 1 Castigate 1 Grasping Thrull 1 Imperious Oligarch 1 Pillory of the Sleepless 1 Spiteful Squad 1 Blightning 1 Monstrous Carabid 1 Singe-Mind Ogre 1 Terminal Agony 1 Terminate 1 Armadillo Cloak 1 Call of the Conclave 1 Captured by Lagacs 1 Selesnya Evangel 1 Sumala Woodshaper 1 Applied Biomancy 1 Biomathematician 1 Ethereal Ambush 1 Gaea's Skyfolk 1 Wavesifter 1 Bleak Coven Vampires 1 Blightspeaker 1 Bone Picker 1 Cadaver Imp 1 Carrion Feeder 1 Cast Down 1 Chainer's Edict 1 Changeling Outcast 1 Disowned Ancestor 1 Divest 1 Doom Blade 1 Dusk Legion Zealot 1 Fungal Infection 1 Gorging Vulture 1 Gravedigger 1 Ill-Gotten Inheritance 1 Kitchen Imp 1 Liliana's Specter 1 Moan of the Unhallowed 1 Nested Shambler 1 Phyrexian Rager 1 Plagued Rusalka 1 Putrid Goblin 1 Rathi Trapper 1 Shred Memory 1 Sultai Emissary 1 Tragic Fall 1 Tragic Slip 1 Warp Artifact 1 Warren Pilferers 1 Artificer's Epiphany 1 Aven Eternal 1 Brinebarrow Intruder 1 Careful Study 1 Circular Logic 1 Cloudkin Seer 1 Corridor Monitor 1 Counterspell 1 Delver of Secrets/Insectile Aberration 1 Dive Down 1 Dreamscape Artist 1 Exclude 1 Hard Evidence 1 Jace's Phantasm 1 Keep Safe 1 Looter il-Kor 1 Mana Leak 1 Merfolk Looter 1 Man-o'-War 1 Mist Raven 1 Muddle the Mixture 1 Mulldrifter 1 Negate 1 Queen of Ice/Rage of Winter 1 Remove Soul 1 Scholar of Stars 1 Steelfin Whale 1 Think Twice 1 Thoughtcast 1 Trinket Mage 1 Annoyed Altisaur 1 Bannerhide Krushok 1 Basking Rootwalla 1 Carapace Forger 1 Chatterstorm 1 Citanul Woodreaders 1 Elves of Deep Shadow 1 Elvish Visionary 1 Fierce Witchstalker 1 Giant Growth 1 Granger Guildmage 1 Hunger of the Howlpack 1 Llanowar Visionary 1 Masked Vandal 1 Mire Boa 1 Nest Invader 1 Ondu Giant 1 Rancor 1 River Boa 1 Sakura-Tribe Elder 1 Servant of the Scale 1 Silverback Shaman 1 Snakeskin Veil 1 Travel Preparations 1 Vines of Vastwood 1 Vivien's Grizzly 1 Wild Mongrel 1 Wood Elves 1 Young Wolf 1 Abrade 1 Beetleback Chief 1 Blisterstick Shaman 1 Boarding Party 1 Dragonsoul Knight 1 Faithless Looting 1 Faithless Salvaging 1 Fiery Cannonade 1 Fiery Temper 1 Firebolt 1 Fissure Wizard 1 Galvanic Blast 1 Goblin Bushwhacker 1 Goblin Champion 1 Goblin Matron 1 Ghitu Chronicler 1 Incinerate 1 Kaleidoscorch 1 Kird Ape 1 Lightning Bolt 1 Merchant of the Vale/Haggle 1 Mogg War Marshal 1 Mount Velus Manticore 1 Reckless Wurm 1 Revolutionist 1 Rimrock Knight/Boulder Rush 1 Skirk Marauder 1 Tribal Flames 1 Viashino Pyromancer 1 Vulshok Sorcerer 1 Amrou Scout 1 Ancestral Blade 1 Arcbound Mouser 1 Ardent Recruit 1 Auriok Sunchaser 1 Blacksmith's Skill 1 Bound in Silence 1 Cartouche of Solidarity 1 Custodi Squire 1 Disciple of the Sun 1 Flutterfox 1 Heliod's Pilgrim 1 Icatian Javelineers 1 Irregular Cohort 1 Journey to Nowhere 1 Kor Sanctifiers 1 Mana Tithe 1 Oblivion Ring 1 Porcelain Legionnaire 1 Ramosian Sergeant 1 Recruit the Worthy 1 Law-Rune Enforcer 1 Shrieking Grotesque 1 Star Pupil 1 Sunlance 1 Suture Priest 1 Syndic of Tithes 1 Thraben Inspector 1 Unbounded Potential
I’ve goldfished a bunch of games already and it looks like the draws are really smooth and interesting with lots of game play choices (which is what I always strive for in a Battle Box).
There are some Pauper staples that I haven’t added, yet…
Battle Screech is a great example of a card that I don’t think is great for Battle Box (because you can’t always count on having enough white creatures to flashback) that would likely be a snap-include in the deck once it’s ready to be Cube drafted. Battle Screech and similar cards didn’t make my first cut of the Battle Box but they’re so strong for Cube that they’ll likely be added in later.
With that said, I’m also open to suggestions for cards that other Battle Box, Cube, and Pauper fans think ought to be added. There’s so many cards now that it’s easy to overlook some real gems and I’d love to get some feedback in the comments for cards I should look to add.
It’s pretty sweet that once I finish tuning the stack for the cube that my Pauper Battle Box stack will essentially be two complete formats that can support eight players for roughly the cost of a Standard deck! Who says playing Magic has to be expensive?
I’d love to hear what you think of the Pauper Battle Box as well as suggestions for cards you’d like to see included in the final Cube Box iteration. What do you think of adding tutoring, ramping or building in synergies around specific duals, such as the artifact Bridges? Let me know!