Battle Box Set Review and Danger Room Update with Throne of Eldraine

As fans of the Battle Box format probably already know, I go through this process for each new release and swap out old cards for new ones. Throne of Eldraine was one of the most difficult sets I’ve ever reviewed. In fact, I think it was the most difficult of all time.


The reason for the difficulty with Throne was I felt caught between a rock and a hard place with many of the new cards in the sense that I loved the flavor and unique designs but worried the cards were too power creepy to play nice in my stack. The goal, at least for me, isn’t to arbitrarily jam my Battle Box full of broken cards, but to find the best mix of fun, balanced, and diverse cards to create the best possible gameplay.

Many of the most interesting cards from Throne also felt like the most busted cards. At the end of the day, there were several cards I badly wanted to include but deep down felt they would be annoying to play with or against. I’m less interested in making my stack safe for Thrones and more on board with finding the cards that enhance my format.

Another issue was that there were a ton of sweet cards that have synergy with Throne-specific mechanics. I don’t have enough Knights to make the “Knights matter” cards work. I don’t have enough Food Tokens to use Food synergy cards.

With that being said, I love the adventure mechanic and the way it feels a lot like split cards with entwine. So, let’s get to it!

What is a Battle Box/Danger Room?

If you’re not familiar with “Battle Box,” it’s worth trying out. It’s kind of like a Cube that you don’t need to draft (but you certainly can!) that doesn’t include lands. Instead, players start with 10 lands in exile:

PlainsIslandSwampMountainForestUrborg VolcanoShivan OasisCoastal Tower - FoilSalt MarshElfhame Palace

One of each basic and one of each allied tapped dual land. Each player may play one land from exile as their land drop per turn. Essentially, both players are playing Magic from a deck of pre-selected creatures, artifacts, and spells and have access to equal and balanced mana production each turn.

“The Danger Room” is my personal Battle Box stack that I update with each release and is the first and oldest Battle Box in the world. Today’s article is about the cards I’m most excited to play in the format and how I’m changing my stack to make room for Modern Horizons.

A Danger Room With a Point of View

My take on Battle Box, The Danger Room, aims to facilitate a specific style of gameplay: I want the games to feel like each player is piloting an amazing Limited deck that is packed with the most fun to cast spells imaginable. There are beatdown cards, midrange cards, and control cards all mixed together and since no player can control which cards they are dealt, the style of game you play is shaped by what you draw!

Who’s the beatdown? It could be you, it could be me, and figuring it out is part of the fun and means that no two games are ever quite alike.

I like to think the format encompasses “all of Magic,” but there are some things that don’t translate well and are excluded.

  • Mana Ramping and Land Destruction: the game is predicated on parity of mana and these effects break that mold, are overpowered, and thus excluded.
  • Library Manipulation and Tutoring: Since mana flood and screw are removed, smoothing draws is less important. Tutoring a 600-card deck is broken. The idea is that you make it work with the cards you get and I’ve put a lot of work into making “finding the good cards” less important to playing the game.
  • Busted Bombs: I don’t include Plague Winds, Overruns, or cards that tend to always win the game outright if not immediately answered. A few examples of cards I actively love but have been cut for this reason are: Mistmeadow Witch, Umezawa’s Jitte, Bitterblossom, and Whisperwood Elemental.

Obviously, broken “power level” is a subjective thing and I operate on a “I know it when I see it” premise and that is part of what makes building and tuning a Battle Box so much fun: it can be whatever you want it to be! I encourage players to experiment with their stack (I do) and explore new options to see how they work out. I’ve played Combo Boxes, Control Boxes, Beatdown Boxes, and everything in between. It’s not right vs wrong, but a matter of preference and whether the games are fun to play.

Whether you already know the joy of Battle Box ownership or are thinking about taking one for a test drive, there’s no right or wrong way to have fun when it comes to building a stack and playing some Magic.

Danger Room Metrics

I want all the colors to be relatively equal. In the earliest days of the Battle Box, everybody always played Salt Marsh on turn one because the deck had way more blue and black spells than the other colors and the cards were simply better than the rest.

I limit the size of my stack and the number of cards included from each color, guild, shard and wedge. It’s a fancy way of saying I have the same number of cards of each color.

  • 587 Total Cards
  • 30 Artifacts
  • 75 /each Mono Color (375 total)
  • 15 /each Guild (150 total)
  • 3 /each Shard / Wedge (30 total)
  • 2 WUBRG

In order to make room for new cards, I must cut old ones to make room. Typically, I tend to cut cards that feel too far above or below the power level of an average card. I’ll list the cards I’m cutting and giving a brief reasoning for why the card was replaced with a new card.

Danger Room Updates with Throne of Eldraine

Artifact (30)

Throne of Eldraine is the first set in a while to provide useful artifacts for the stack! It’s about time.


Enchanted Carriage


Icy Manipulator

I was going to put Enchanted Carriage into the stack almost no matter what. I love the flavor, artwork, and design. With that said, I’m sad to see Icy go, but ultimately it’s one of the weakest cards in the stack.


Stonecoil Serpent


Peace Strider

It’s really hard to find artifact creatures that feel competitively costed for Battle Box and Serpent feels like it hits the mark exactly. As a point of comparison, Peace Strider is one of the weaker cards in the stack and makes its exit.




Trip Noose

Gingerbrute is a pretty decent one-drop and it easily wins out over Trip Noose, which again is one of the weakest cards in the stack. It’s difficult to find artifacts that pound for pound on the curve match up against multicolored spells.

Basilisk Collar
Bloodforged Battle-Axe
Conqueror’s Flail
Crystal Shard
Enchanted Carriage
Engineered Explosives
Etched Oracle
Filigree Familiar
Fleetwheel Cruiser
Fountain of Renewal
Hangarback Walker
Lightning Greaves
Loxodon Warhammer
Mask of Memory
Nevinyrral’s Disk
Nihil Spellbomb
Peace Strider
Perilous Vault
Power Matrix
Runechanter’s Pike
Scrapheap Scrounger
Serrated Arrows
Smuggler’s Copter
Stonecoil Serpent
Walking Ballista
Sylvok Lifestaff

White (75 Cards)


Faerie Guidemother


Ancestral Blade

I’m a big fan of the Adventure creatures. In particular, they are a great way to get actual combat tricks into the Battle Box while not diluting the creature count with purely conditional spells. Guidemother is one of my favorites. On the other hand, Ancestral Blade is kind of a bad Flayer Husk and so it was an easy cut.


Giant Killer


Hanged Executioner

Giant Killer is a sweet adventure creature. In many ways it’s a more interesting version of the card I cut to make room for it, Hanged Executioner. The adventure mechanic feels tailor-made for a format like Battle Box. Easy cut.


Silverflame Squire


Moment of Triumph

Again, cutting a narrow combat trick for one that provides more options. With the high power level of ToE, it felt important to target the weakest floaters in my stack for eviction.

Adanto Vanguard
Adorned Pouncer
Akroma’s Vengeance
Angel of Finality
Angel of Sanctions
Apostle of Purifying Light
Austere Command
Azorius Herald
Belfry Spirit
Blade Splicer
Cleansing Nova
Cloudgoat Ranger
Collective Effort
Dauntless Bodyguard
Dawn Charm
Day of Judgment
Declaration in Stone
Dragon Hunter
End Hostilities
Exalted Angel
Faerie Guidemother
Final Judgment
Geist-Honored Monk
Giant Killer
Giver of Runes
Glorious Anthem
Glory-Bound Initiate
Hallowed Burial
Hero of Precinct One
Hidden Dragonslayer
Imposing Sovereign
Inspiring Cleric
Isamaru, Hound of Konda
Karmic Guide
Kinjalli’s Sunwing
Kirtar’s Wrath
Knight of Dawn
Lingering Souls
Loxodon Lifestealer
Mardu Woe-Reaper
Martyr of Dusk
Ministrant of Obligation
Momentary Blink
Mother of Runes
Phyrexian Rebirth
Regal Caracal
Remorseful Cleric
Restoration Angel
Righteous Confluence
Scout’s Warning
Selfless Spirit
Selfless Squire
Shrieking Grotesque
Silverflame Squire
Skymarcher Aspirant
Soldier of the Pantheon
Spear of Heliod
Spectral Lynx
Sunscape Battlemage
Suture Priest
Swords to Plowshares
The Wanderer
Thraben Inspector
Trueheart Duelist
Valorous Stance
Venerated Loxodon
Wall of Omens
Wing Shards
Wrath of God

Blue (75 Cards)


Brazen Borrower


Allied Strategies

Did I mention that I love the adventure mechanic? Brazen Borrower is probably the most pushed of the adventure creatures I’m going to try out and it’s likely less “busted” than Allied Strategies, which is kind of an “unfun” card in a format that easily sets the table for it.


Hypnotic Sprite


Aven Eternal

Sprite is simply a more interesting card to include. I want a relatively high number of counterspells in the stack, but I also want as many creatures as possible. It’s always good to kill two birds with one stone!


Sage of the Falls


Harbinger of the Tides

Sage of the Falls is a pretty bizarre combination of stats and I think it will be a fun card to play with in Danger Room. With that said, there is already a ton of bounce and Harbinger excites me the least. Blue is pretty rough, there are so many strong choices, but I tend to give the nod to cards that feel the most different over effects that feel redundant. I want the greatest diversity possible.

Aeon Chronicler
Ancestral Vision
Angler Drake
Blue Elemental Blast
Brazen Borrower
Careful Consideration
Cephalid Sage
Champion of Wits
Chart a Course
Circular Logic
Cloudkin Seer
Commence the Endgame
Control Magic
Deep Analysis
Delver of Secrets
Dream Eater
Dungeon Geists
Evasive Action
Fact or Fiction
False Summoning
Hypnotic Sprite
Jace’s Phantasm
Jolting Merfolk
Looter il-Kor
Lu Xun, Scholar General
Merfolk Looter
Narset’s Reversal
Nimble Obstructionist
Neutralizing Blast
Phantasmal Image
Power Sink
Rain of Revelation
Remove Soul
Riddlemaster Sphinx
Sage of the Falls
Secrets of the Golden City
Serendib Efreet
Snapcaster Mage
Spectral Sailor
Steal Artifact
Stolen Identity
Stratus Dancer
Sun Ce, Young Conquerer
Talrand’s Invocation
Vesuvan Shapeshifter
Warkite Marauder
Whirler Rogue

Black (75 Cards)


Bake Into a Pie


Consuming Vapors

Bake into a Pie has great flavor (if you don’t think too hard about what you’re eating!) and solid flexibility and value. I’ve found Consuming Vapors to be wildly variable in terms of impact with so many arbitrary tokens in the stack which is why it gets the axe.


Murderous Rider


Hero’s Downfall

Murderous Rider is a solid 187 creature and worthy of a slot in the Box. I think it’s a more interesting card, which is why it gets the nod over Downfall.


Foulmire Knight


Phyrexian Gargantua

Foulmire Knight is sweet–it’s essentially a Dusk Legion Zealot with deathtouch that we don’t have to play both mana upfront! The days of Phyrexian Gargantua glory has come to an end. In the Danger Room, a six-drop needs to have a larger impact on the board.


Epic Downfall


Inner Demon

Epic Downfall is solid, clean removal spell for large creatures and I love the exile on here to keep those bombs from being regrown and replayed. I did not enjoy how Inner Demon played in my stack, it was always a blow out one way or another and there was no in between.

Bake Into a Pie
Bane of the Living
Big Game Hunter
Bloodsoaked Champion
Bone Shredder
Cast Down
Chainer’s Edict
Coffin Queen
Collective Brutality
Crypt Angel
Dakmor Lancer
Dance of the Dead
Dark Hatchling
Doom Blade
Drana, Liberator of Malakir
Dread Wanderer
Dusk Legion Zealot
Entomber Exarch
Epic Downfall
Eternal Taskmaster
Fatal Push
Flesh Carver
Foulmire Knight
Ghastly Demise
Go for the Throat
Gonti, Lord of Luxury
Inquisition of Kozilek
Keening Banshee
Knight of Infamy
Knight of Malice
Kokusho, the Evening Star
Lay Bare the Heart
Lifebane Zombie
Midnight Reaper
Moment of Craving
Murderous Cut
Murderous Rider
Never // Return
Noxious Gearhulk
Night’s Whisper
Ob Nixilis’s Cruelty
Orzhov Enforcer
Phyrexian Rager
Plague Mare
Ransack the Lab
Ravenous Chupacabra
Rend Flesh
Ritual of the Machine
Sever the Bloodline
Skeletal Vampire
Sling-Gang Lieutenant
Ransack the Lab
Sudden Death
The Eldest Reborn
Tragic Slip
Transgress the Mind
Unburial Rites
Undying Evil
Vampire Nighthawk
Withered Wretch
Wretched Confluence

Red (75 Cards)


Bonecrusher Giant


Flames of the Firebrand

Bonecrusher Giant is one of the more pushed cards I put into the stack this time around. It’s a great Adventure and the creature is well above average as well. At the end of the day, it’s just an oversized creature that dies to everything and gets a little value. It might end up hitting the mark I’m looking for dead on. I cut Flames of the Firebrand because it’s just a redundant Arc Lightning.


Claim the Firstborn


Goblin War Party

Claim the Firstborn is a unique Threaten effect that only hits small creatures. I’m curious to see how it plays out in here. I’m actually not sure if it will be too good or too bad! It’s likely fine. I cut Goblin War Party because it broke my rule of “no win the game” cards a little too hard. I don’t play with Overruns and I was hoping this card would be swingy without always killing the opponent on the spot. It turns out, it mostly just killed people when it resolved and had the utility of being a great four-drop. Easy cut.


Merchant of the Vale


Rix Maadi Reveler

I think Merchant is likely a more interesting version of the card it replaces. I like the design on the Merchant quite a bit, but am worried the body is a little too small and the activated ability is a little too cumbersome. I’m hoping it hits the mark.


Opportunistic Dragon


Thunderscape Battlemage

I’m a big fan of four-drop “Dragons” in the Battle Box. Not specifically Dragons, but big fliers with abilities. The card reminds me a lot of Dungeon Geist, which has been a staple since the day it was printed. Thunderscape lost its spot. It’s nothing personal, just that the card feels a little outclassed these days.

Abbot of Keral Keep
Arc Lightning
Barbed Lightning
Beetleback Chief
Bonecrusher Giant
Brute Force
Burst Lightning
Chain Lightning
Claim the Firstborn
Collective Defiance
Conquering Manticore
Cunning Sparkmage
Deem Worthy
Desolation Giant
Dire Fleet Daredevil
Dualcaster Mage
Earthshaker Khenra
Faithless Looting
Feldon of the Third Path
Fiery Confluence
Fight with Fire
Fire Imp
Flame Slash
Flametongue Kavu
Fledgling Dragon
Forked Bolt
Frenzied Fugue
Glint-Horn Buccaneer
Goblin Dark-Dwellers
Grim Lavamancer
Hordeling Outburst
Hungry Flames
Incendiary Flow
Kird Ape
Krenko, Mob Boss
Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin
Lava Coil
Legion Warboss
Lightning Bolt
Lightning Strike
Merchant of the Vale
Mindclaw Shaman
Opportunistic Dragon
Pardic Arsonist
Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Pia Nalaar
Pillar of Flame
Punishing Fire
Rampaging Ferocidon
Red Elemental Blast
Resounding Thunder
Searing Spear
Seasoned Pyromancer
Shower of Coals
Siege-Gang Commander
Skewer the Critics
Slice and Dice
Smoldering Werewolf
Temur Battle Rage
Thunderbreak Regent
Tribal Flames
Vulshok Sorcerer
Warfire Javelineer
Zurgo Bellstriker

Green (75 CARDS)

No Changes

It was really tough to include zero green cards, especially because I loved the flavor on several of them, but ultimately there were some issues.

Not In:

Wildborn Preserver

Questing Beast

Lovestruck Beast

All of these cards are sweet, but they break my rule of taking over a game if you don’t have a removal spell on curve. The other problem with the green cards from a Battle Box perspective is that green feels like tribal Food synergy. I can’t get enough food production into the stack to make these cards work (I had the same problem with some of the Knight cards). So, sadly, green remains the same.

Ana Battlemage
Arborback Stomper
Autumn’s Veil
Avoid Fate
Basking Rootwalla
Benefactor’s Draught
Blossoming Defense
Call of the Herd
Caller of the Claw
Deathmist Raptor
Deathgorge Scavenger
Deep Forest Hermit
Den Protector
Earl of Squirrel
Elvish Visionary
Eternal Witness
Flinthoof Boar
Forgotten Ancient
Gaea’s Might
Giant Growth
Hooded Hydra
Imperious Perfect
Kessig Prowler
Kraul Harpooner
Loaming Shaman
Master of the Wild Hunt
Mitotic Slime
Mother Bear
Mouth // Feed
Nightpack Ambusher
Noose Constrictor
Obstinate Baloth
Ohran Viper
Patagia Viper
Pelakka Wurm
Pelt Collector
Phantom Centaur
Polukranos, World Eater
Predator’s Strike
Qasali Slingers
Ranger’s Guile
Reclamation Sage
Resilient Khenra
Ridgescale Tusker
Ripjaw Raptor
River Boa
Scavenging Ooze
Shifting Ceratops
Skyshroud Elite
Skyshroud War Beast
Spider Spawning
Stingerfling Spider
Sunblade Elf
Thorn Lieutenant
Thornscape Apprentice
Thornscape Battlemage
Thrashing Brontodon
Veil of Summer
Wall of Blossoms
Weather the Storm
Wild Mongrel
Wild Nacatl
Withstand Death
Wolfir Avenger

Multicolor Guild Spells – 150

Azorius (U/W – 15)

No changes.

Deputy of Detention
Dovin’s Acuity
Dovin’s Veto
Elite Guardmage
Hindering Light
Ojutai’s Command
Ordered Migration
Reflector Mage
Senate Guildmage
Sphinx’s Insight
Supreme Verdict
Wall of Denial

Boros (R/W – 15)

No changes.

Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice
Basandra, Battle Seraph
Boros Charm
Boros Guildmage
Boros Reckoner
Deafening Clarion
Feather, the Redeemed
Foundry Champion
Heroic Reinforcements
Integrity // Intervention
Justice Strike
Lightning Helix
Nahiri, Storm of Stone
Tajic, Legion’s Edge
Warleader’s Helix

Dimir (U/B – 15)


Drown in the Loch


Psychic Symbiont

Drown in the Loch is a solid utility spell with cool flavor. I love how its value only increases as the game goes on. Symbiont was just a little bit too pricey a rate to be a high-impact player in Danger Room.

Baleful Strix
Connive // Concoct
Dragonlord Silumgar
Drown in the Loch
Enter the God-Eternals
Far // Away
Hostage Taker
Shadowmage Infiltrator
Soul Diviner
Soul Manipulation
Spite // Malice
Thief of Sanity
Thought Erasure

Golgari (G/B – 15)


Deathless Knight


Storrev, Devkarin Lich

Deathless Knight feels like a very cool graveyard synergy card for the Danger Room, which has always been a difficult dynamic to balance. I like how the ability to recur the creature is tied to gaining life, so it won’t always be on the table. Storrev turned out to be a little too busted. It either died immediately or won the game running away. Not the kind of card I’m looking to include.

Abrupt Decay
Baloth Null
Consume Strength
Deathless Knight
Find // Finality
Golgari Findbroker
Golgari Guildmage
Izoni, Thousand-Eyed
Lotleth Troll
Maelstrom Pulse
Pernicious Deed
Slimefoot, the Stowaway
Status // Statue

Gruul (R/G – 15)


Grumgully, the Generous


Reap the Past

In the span of a year, Gruul has gone from the guild that I felt lacked identity and strong cards to one I feel has the strongest flavor and cohesion of power level. I’ve had so many different three-mana 3/3s with weak abilities in Gruul over the years and I feel confident that Grumgully is exactly the card I’ve been waiting for to earn a long-term spot in my stack. I’m happy to get Reap the Past out and replace it with a card that felt a little more Gruul.

Assault // Battery
Bloodbraid Elf
Collision // Colossus
Dragonlair Spider
Fires of Yavimaya
Ghor-Clan Rampager
Ground Assault
Grumgully, the Generous
Gruul Spellbreaker
Huntmaster of the Fells
Raging Regisaur
Rhythm of the Wild
Thrash // Threat
Wort, the Raidmother
Zhur-Taa Goblin

Izzet (U/R – 15)

No changes.

Adeliz, the Cinder Wind
Beacon Bolt
Crackling Drake
Dack’s Duplicate
Etherium-Horn Sorcerer
Fire // Ice
Izzet Charm
Prophetic Prism
Ral’s Outburst
Storm Fleet Sprinter
Turn // Burn

Orzhov (U/R – 15)

No changes.

Blind Hunter
Consecrate // Consume
Corpse Knight
Cruel Celebrant
Death Grasp
Elenda, The Dusk Rose
Ghost Council of Orzhova
Imperious Oligarch
Karlov of the Ghost Council
Kaya’s Guile
Orzhov Pontiff
Sin Collector
Zealous Persecution

Rakdos (R/B – 15)

No changes.

Bituminous Blast
Carnival // Carnage
Claim // Fame
Cut // Ribbons
Judith, the Scourge Diva
Kolaghan’s Command
Lightning Skelemental
Munitions Expert
Murderous Redcap
Olivia, Mobilized for War
Unlicensed Disintegration

Selesnya (U/R – 15)

No changes.

Advent of the Wurm
Assure // Assemble
Dromoka’s Command
Elderwood Scion
Enlisted Wurm
Ironroot Warlord
Kitchen Finks
Knight of Autumn
Loxodon Hierarch
Loxodon Smiter
Mystic Enforcer
Pledge of Unity
Selesnya Charm
Trostani Discordant
Voice of Resurgence

Simic (U/G – 15)

No changes.

Aether Mutation
Ethereal Ambush
Frilled Mystic
Horizon Chimera
Icefeather Aven
Incubation // Incongruity
Jungle Barrier
Merfolk Skydiver
Mystic Snake
Plaxcaster Frogling
River Hoopoe
Roalesk, Apex Hybrid
Shardless Agent
Simic Charm
Zegana, Utopian Speaker

The Rest of the Multicolor

No changes.

Abzan (G/W/B) – 3

Abzan Charm
Anafenza, the Foremost
Doran, the Siege Tower

Bant (W/U/G) – 3

Arcades, the Strategist
Bant Charm
Rubinia Soulsinger

Esper (U/W/B) – 3

Dromar’s Charm
Punish Ignorance
Trial // Error

Grixis (U/R/B) – 3

Dark Intimations
Gwendlyn Di Corci
Slave of Bolas

Jeskai (U/W/R) – 3

Lightning Angel
Mantis Rider
Sage of the Inward Eye

Jund (R/B/G) – 3

Darigaaz’s Charm
Jund Charm
Sprouting Thrinax

Mardu (B/W/R) – 3

Crackling Doom
Kaalia, Zenith Seeker
Mardu Charm

Naya (R/W/G) – 3

Fiery Justice
Marath, Will of the Wild
Woolly Thoctar

Sultai (B/U/G) – 3

Sidisi, Brood Tyrant
Sultai Charm
The Mimeoplasm

Temur (R/U/G) – 3

Savage Knuckleblade
Temur Ascendancy
Temur Charm

Five-Color – 2

Fusion Elemental
The First Sliver

Top 8 Battle Box Additions from Throne of Eldraine

Overall, Throne of Eldraine is a strong set for Battle Box staples and there are several I believe will be in the mix five or 10 years from now on the strength of flavorful design that informs fun gameplay.

Here’s my Top 8:

8. Brazen Borrower

7. Murderous Rider

6. Bonecrusher Giant

5. Hypnotic Sprite

4. Foulmire Knight

3. Faerie Guidemother

2. Giant Killer

1. Grumgully, the Generous

Did I mention I like the adventure mechanic for Danger Room yet? With the exception of Grumgully (which is the 1RG Uncommon 3/3 I’ve been waiting on for years…), all of my favorite Battle Box cards from this set are adventures. Even without playing a single game, I already know these are cards that will help diversify gameplay by virtue of being both instants/sorceries and creatures. The fact that I can squeeze more combat tricks and interaction without diluting the creature count is going to make my stack even more fun to play.

So, while Battle Box may have whiffed a little bit on Knights, Food, and some of the cool cards being a little bit OP to hit my balance, overall I’m a big fan of what adventures will bring into the mix.

To the Battle Box fans out there, let me know if I missed or passed by any cards you’re excited to add to your own stack.

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