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Beginner and Budget-Friendly Battle Box Blueprint

Sometimes less is more; Sometimes more is more; but, either way, more Battle Box content is a good thing! Today, presented for your enjoyment and consideration, a project I’ve been working on for the past few months since my last Danger Room update:

A smaller, compact, and budget friendly version of my Danger Room/Battle Box list!

For friends and fans of my traditional stack… Don’t worry! I’ll have an update to my traditional “Big Stack,” upcoming for Theros Beyond Death as per usual.

On the other hand… My Battle Box (The Danger Room) has become so large over the years that it’s quite cumbersome to transport to events or the LGS in a backpack (which was one of the things it was intended to do).

First world problems: “I have too many Magic cards in my Battle Box and it’s heavy.” 

It also occurred to me, as a “Magic in a Box” format variant, that 700+ cards full of expensive rares and mythics isn’t exactly an easy or budget-friendly option to assemble! While I know a lot of people (myself included!) appreciate and enjoy the expansiveness and collectibility of the “Big Danger Room,” it’s actually a swift departure from the modest origins of the format. The emphasis of the new stack is to get back to basics and provide a template for jumping into Battle Boxing and starting a collection and stack. I also believe (and hope!) even seasoned fans of Battle Box, and my Danger Room List, will consider this variant a more transportable variant.

It was also important to me that a “Beginner’s Battle Box” didn’t feel cheap or diluted in terms of game play or flavor. When I play Magic, I expect a game that is balanced, thoughtful, dynamic, and most importantly fun and exciting! I do believe the Box I’ve assembled today achieves that goal in a way that is repeatable and replayable. I also believe the baseline it creates is open-ended and lends itself well to personal tinkering and customization (an essential part of the MTG experience).

In terms of “less is more,” I’ve whittled the stack down to 350 total cards and less than 50 rares (zero mythics). I was also conscious of excluding expen$ive rare$ and opted for cards that were flavorful and exciting to cast, but also highly reusable across a wide array of other community formats (Commander and Cube).

Spending big bucks chasing individual cards may be a fundamental part of how “competitive” Magic works (and even Commander or Cube, to some extent), but it’s also possible to create, build, and customize an entire format with infinite possibilities for less than the cost of a single Modern deck!

I’ve already mentioned going back to grassroots and origins of the format, so before I get to the list, a little background:

What Is Battle Box?

Battle Box is a Magic: the Gathering format variant I came up with back in college. I called it, The Danger Room, after the training program from the X-Men Comic, because of how it sort of abstractly simulated games of Magic within a fixed format/environment.

I took my format to Gen Con and battled against anybody who’d play me. One individual who took a particular interest in the format was Poker Star, David Williams. He enjoyed the format so much that he took it back west and showed it to Ben Stark. They started calling it “Battle Box,” which is a great name, and it stuck! I continue to refer to my Battle Box stack as The Danger Room and I take a lot of pride in the fact that it is the original Battle Box.

In fact, BenS has published his own Battle Box lists over the years that reflect his preference for Limited play. I always enjoy looking at people’s Battle Box lists because they are such a pure expression of what and individual loves about playing Magic with their friends.  

When I put together my first version of the Danger Room I was sharing an apartment with my friend and former Vintage World Champion, Mark Biller. While we were both fans of Magic, and gaming in general, we were in different places with regard to our engagement with Magic.

Mark was kind of over competitive tournaments and Constructed and he wasn’t into buying new cards or building new decks. We’d have a few cocktails and fire up an MTGO Draft. We’d jam a few of my decks against each other every once and awhile, but overall it felt kind of redundant and he’d lose interest pretty quickly.

I noted that we had a far more engaged gaming experience when we sat down and played a game of Chess, Stratego, or Battle Masters than Magic, despite the fact that we both enjoyed the game play of Magic as much or more than other games.

I quickly realized that the source of the problem was that we had a disproportionate interest in building and tuning individual decks. So, what I wanted was a version of Magic that could be played like a standalone board game that didn’t require each player build or draft their own deck, but rather each player could simply sit down and start playing.

Elfhame PalaceUrborg VolcanoSalt MarshCoastal TowerShivan OasisMountain (343)Forest (347)Island (335)Plains (331)Swamp (339)

I came up with the idea to take the mana out of the deck and establish it as a fixed resource. The idea was each player gets ten unique lands that start the game in exile (1 of each basic and 1 of each ETB tapped allied dual land). Each player can play one from exile each turn, which essentially gave both players equal access to resources, but also completely removed mana screw and mana flood from the equation! BONUS.

The other component of the variant was a shared deck/library of preselected creatures, spells, and artifacts that were specifically chosen because they were fun to play. I simply dug through my four-column box of “better than bulk” Draft commons and uncommons and chose an array of cards that I was fond of and sprinkled in some nostalgic rares for good measure.

I’m pretty sure my first Battle Box was 60% blue cards and was hugely biased toward playing the types of grindy card advantage matchups that Mark and I enjoyed. The funny thing was, the first time I broke out the format to duel, we played straight through the entire stack and shuffled it up to go again. Mark was making a list of cards we should add and digging through the four-column for cards to add. It was a hit.

To the concept of playing through the entire stack… A “match” of Danger Room consisted of as many games (alternating between play and draw) as it took to use the entire deck (at the time, about 350 cards). We’d set the entire stack on the table and when a game would end, all of the cards played or drawn in that game would go back into the box, and we’d keep playing from the stack on the table. Whoever won the most “games” when the stack was completely gone was the champion.

If the library ran out during a game, there were no more draw steps for that game and we played it out with whatever we had left in hand, which actually made for some extremely interesting endgames when the game total was tied or within 1.

It also created some sweet meta scenarios, where if both players were intimately familiar with the contents of the stack both players would be able to play around spells that had not been played yet, but knew not to play around the cards that had already come up.

Fireball

“If Fireball hasn’t been played yet and there’s only 60 cards left… Don’t go to 9!”

Years later, I made an “Old-School Battle Box” (Alpha-Homelands) to play with my brother (who had not played Magic in 15 years—and so built around the cards he was familiar with) and we jammed through the entire stack. So, one of the great things about Battle Box is that it’s the Magic equivalent of riding a bike. Aside from each player playing lands from exile and requiring a big stack to share, all of the other rules remain perfectly intact and as Garfield intended them.

Another quick pro tip: Sleeve each “set” of lands in a unique color sleeves! They inevitably get shuffled into the deck by accident and you’ll save a ton of time being able to easily identify them. It also cuts out the, “An Urborg Volcano for you… An Urborg Volcano for me…” set up. You get blue sleeve lands, I get yellow. Let’s go.

O.K. let’s get to the stack.

About the Stack

It was hard to whittle it down to 350 cards. I had to Sophie’s choice some great cards, but overall it was a fun exercise in choosing between many viable options. The construction of the deck is as follows:

• 20 Artifacts

• 44 Mono-colored spells of each color (220 cards)

• 10 Multi-colored spells from each 2-color guild (100 cards)

• 1 Multi-colored spell from each 3-color Shard/wedge (10 cards)

=350 Cards

I set a limit of no more than 10 rares for each mono-color and tended to use rares that are in the $0.50-$3.00 range. I came in under 10 rares for all colors besides red and white.

I set a limit of no more than 1 rare for each multi-colored guild.

Artifacts – 20 Cards

Rares: 4

Artifacts are obviously a huge part of the flavor of Magic. The challenge for artifacts in a Battle Box is that with perfect fixing the colorless cost isn’t a huge advantage to playing with them. The key is in finding ones that are both unique and iconic. Combat is extremely important in this stack (and all of my stacks) and so I tend to enjoy quality Equipment (and neat early designs like Power Matrix that are proto-Equipment).

1 Bonesplitter
1 Clockwork Servant
1 Duplicant
1 Epochrasite
1 Etched Oracle
1 Fountain of Renewal
1 Icy Manipulator
1 Loxodon Warhammer
1 Meteor Golem
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Pierce Strider
1 Power Matrix
1 Pyrite Spellbomb
1 Sai of the Shinobi
1 Scrapheap Scrounger
1 Serrated Arrows
1 Skyscanner
1 Sylvok Lifestaff
1 Treasure Keeper
1 Triskelion
The Rares

Death-Mask DuplicantTriskelionPower MatrixScrapheap Scrounger

Multicolor – 110 Cards

Multicolored spells are easily among my favorite cards in Battle Box. The fact that the mana system is so fluid and flexible means these spells are typically easier to cast than they would be in traditional decks. I take full advantage and play a lot of them!

In this stack, I play:

• 10 cards from each two-color guild.

• 1 card from each tri-color combination (wedges and Shards).

Tri-Color – 10 Cards

Rares: 0

For the tri-color wedge and Shard spells I went with a simple and elegant approach that I hope you’ll find charming. 

1 Abzan Charm
1 Bant Charm
1 Mardu Charm
1 Jund Charm
1 Dromar's Charm
1 Jeskai Charm
1 Slave of Bolas
1 Sultai Charm
1 Temur Charm
1 Naya Charm

In general, I love modal spells that offer a ton of flexibility in games of Battle Box. Since players don’t have assigned roles and largely react to the situation at hand, it never hurts to have a high density of flexible cards.

The lone exception:

Slave of Bolas

I would love to have included Grixis Charm or Crosis’s Charm:

Grixis CharmCrosis's Charm

The problem with these cards is that they can bounce an opponent’s lands which breaks with my rule of “lands are off-limits.” You could certainly use one of these available options “as is” or simply make a rule saying “can’t target lands.”

I’m sure at some point we’ll see a CMC=3 Grixis Charm that doesn’t mess with land at some point in the future, but until then I’m open to suggestions on how to use the slot and am even considering designing my own “Bolas’s Charm” and proxying it up for use in my Danger Room. I’m open to suggestions about how to use the slot and/or what a “proper” Battle Box Bolas’s Charm would do.

Dual-Color Guilds – 100 Cards (10 of Each)

My expanded Danger Room has 25 cards from each guild and so it was no easy task to whittle down to only ten of each. With that said, I really went for cards that I felt personified the flavor of each color combination nicely while also making a conscious effort to be cost ($) efficient.

Azorius 10

Rare: 1
1 Absorb
1 Cloudblazer
1 Dovin's Veto
1 Elite Guardmage
1 Hindering Light
1 Ordered Migration
1 Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage
1 Reflector Mage
1 Senate Guildmage
1 Wall of Denial
Rare

Absorb

At $20 a pop I can’t justify Supreme Verdict as a “must have” in here, but if you’ve got an extra one hanging around unused, an uncounterable Wrath is a unique and useful effect. With that said, at one rare per guild, regardless of price, I’d choose Absorb over Verdict.

Boros 10 

Rare: 1 
1 Basandra, Battle Seraph
1 Boros Challenger
1 Boros Charm
1 Boros Guildmage
1 Heroic Reinforcements
1 Integrity/Intervention
1 Justice Strike
1 Lightning Helix
1 Sky Terror
1 Skyknight Vanguard
Rare:

Basandra, Battle Seraph

I had great rare options that fit my criteria in Boros. Deafening Clarion and Foundry Champion were enticing options, but the uniqueness and flavor of Basandra made the choice an easy one for me.

Dimir 10 

Rare: 1.5
1 Baleful Strix
1 Consult the Necrosages
1 Countersquall
1 Hostage Taker
1 Psychatog
1 Shadowmage Infiltrator
1 Soul Manipulation
1 Spite/Malice
1 Tomebound Lich
1 Woodlot Crawler
Rare:

Shadowmage InfiltratorHostage Taker

Do Timeshifted cards count as rares? I don’t know but I love both of these cards so much that I’m going to run it.

Golgari 10

Rare: 1
1 Baloth Null
1 Consume Strength
1 Dreg Mangler
1 Gleancrawler
1 Golgari Guildmage
1 Poison-Tip Archer
1 Putrefy
1 Slimefoot, the Stowaway
1 Status/Statue
1 Winding Constrictor
Rare:

Gleancrawler

I also considered Pernicious Deed for this slot in the stack, but ultimately Gleancrawler is simply one of my favorite big monsters in Danger Room and a very capable and flavorful leader for the Golgari in this stack. I also liked the idea of using the guild rares to incorporate powerful and flavorful creatures when applicable.

Gruul 10

Rare: 1
1 Bloodbraid Elf
1 Collision/Colossus
1 Dragonlair Spider
1 Fires of Yavimaya
1 Ghor-Clan Rampager
1 Ground Assault
1 Grumgully, the Generous
1 Rubblebelt Rioters
1 Savage Twister
1 Zhur-Taa Goblin
Rare:

Dragonlair Spider

One of the classic big monsters of my Danger Room. I once had a conversation where a friend was complaining that Dragonlair Spider might be OP. My response: “Are you really complaining about a format where Dragonlair Spider ‘might’ be too good?” Battle Box, a format where cards that feel awesome get to be awesome.

Izzet 10

Rare: 1
1 Dack's Duplicate
1 Electrolyze
1 Fire/Ice
1 Izzet Charm
1 Lightning Stormkin
1 Prophetic Bolt
1 Ral's Outburst
1 Razorfin Hunter
1 Stormchaser Mage
1 Swerve
Rare

Dack's Duplicate

I initially had Etherium-Horn Sorcerer as the Izzet rare but I didn’t love the way it played in the stack. With less overall game-breaking rares in the stack, one that could be replayed over and over was notably powerful. With a rare cap in place and smaller deck to work with I decided to use the opportunity to get one of my favorite Clone variants into the stack. Ionize was another Izzet rare that I may ultimately break my self-imposed rules to include (alongside Dimir’s Undermine).

Orzhov 10

Rare: 1
1 Blind Hunter
1 Castigate
1 Corpse Knight
1 Consecrate/Consume
1 Ghost Council of Orzhova
1 Grasping Thrull
1 Imperious Oligarch
1 Kaya's Guile
1 Sin Collector
1 Zealous Persecution
Rare

Ghost Council of Orzhova

Ghost Council of Orzhova is a relatively new addition to the Danger Room that I deemed OP in earlier iterations of my stack. With the power creep of the past three years the card has ended up feeling right at home alongside the powered up and efficient uncommons. Also, from a flavor perspective, it’s the perfect card. I’m also a fan of Karlov of the Ghost Council as a sweet Danger Room 2-drop but I didn’t feel the card added “enough” for the price tag beyond a Corpse Knight or Imperious Oligarch.

Rakdos 10 

Rare: 1
1 Anathemancer
1 Bituminous Blast
1 Blightning
1 Claim/Fame
1 Hellhole Rats
1 Lightning Skelemental
1 Mayhem Devil
1 Munitions Expert
1 Murderous Redcap
1 Terminate
Rare

Lightning Skelemental

It doesn’t get more Rakdos than this. I just picked up a foil one. Best $3.50 I spent this holiday season.

Selesnya 10

Rare: 1.5 
1 Armadillo Cloak
1 Elderwood Scion
1 Enlisted Wurm
1 Good-Fortune Unicorn
1 Ironroot Warlord - Foil
1 Kitchen Finks
1 Mystic Enforcer
1 Selesnya Charm
1 Selesnya Guildmage
1 Shanna, Sisay's Legacy
Rares

Mystic EnforcerElderwood Scion

Elderwood Scion is a $0.35 rare, so hopefully you’ll forgive me for the Mystic Enforcer! Selesnya was the most difficult guild from which to cut back on rares because there are so many classics: I sat and stared at cards like Advent of the Wurm, Knight of Autumn, Loxodon Smiter, Loxodon Hierarch, and Assure // Assemble for a long time. If cost were not a barrier, Voice of Resurgence is my favorite Selesnya (and in general) card of all time and would be my selection.

I initially went with Loxodon Hierarch as my rare, but with the rare and cost constraints (particularly with regard to Wrath effects that exile) I found he was quite adept at teaming up with the available sweepers to create a one-sided Plague Wind “oops, I win” scenario. Again, Loxodon Hierarch being great isn’t the worst thing in the world, so I’ll leave that one to preference.

In fact, if I hadn’t given myself constraints for rares and budget to work around I would surely have put all of those rares into the deck, but I also think the cohesion of the stack was ultimately improved by sticking to the plan.

Simic 10

Rare: 1
1 AEther Mutation
1 Horizon Chimera
1 Icefeather Aven
1 Jungle Barrier
1 Merfolk Skydiver
1 Mystic Snake
1 River Hoopoe
1 Shardless Agent
1 Simic Charm
1 Zameck Guildmage
Rare

Mystic Snake

Mark Biller’s favorite card was a Simic “must” in the stack. Even if it didn’t have the sentimental connection, it would still have been my pick as a rare the embodies OG-U/G.

Mono-Colored Spells – 220 (44 of each color)

Mono-colored spells are the meat and potatoes of most Battle Boxes. After much thought and consideration I decided to draw the line at 44 spells of each color which provides a total of 220 cards. It also elegantly creates a 2-to-1 ratio of mono-colored to multicolored spells (110).

Again, I focused on the inclusion of cards that span history but also provide good flavor, utility and balanced gameplay. You may also have noticed from the previous section that there is a decisive emphasis on keeping the curve much lower than in previous Danger Room lists. It’s intentional. The majority of cards I tended to shave were rares, but also spells with converted mana cost of 4+.

The upside is obvious and evident in the gameplay. Fewer clunky draws, more decisions about how and what to do in the early turns, and more opportunities to double spell with greater consistency. Who doesn’t love that?

I was also conscious that I didn’t want “lower curve” to equate to “beatdown experience.” I love games with back and forth and ample room to set up and make plays, rather than simply reacting to pressure. Creating and leveraging pressure is essential to exciting and well-paced games, but I worked to create a mix of cards where like an Oreo, the good stuff happens in the middle. 

There’s also less “come over the top and dominate with card-advantage-based soft locks.” Especially in a smaller stack, each card choice has greater significance because it is more likely to be drawn from the deck. There’s less raw card advantage spell and/or extremely swingy effects to break open the mid-late game. Instead, you’ll need to do it via tight play and calculated strategy.

I would describe a typical game with this stack as having the pacing and feel of a Jund mirror but where every color’s identity is equally represented in the matchup. Again, feel free to return your personal fan favorites to glory in the list. I’m not going to be mad at you for putting Tidings or Aeon Chronicler back into the list, in fact I encourage you to personalize it. I tend to think of these Battle Box articles more as a map, rather than a destination, when I write them.

White – 44 Cards, 10 rares

I’ve got a lot of the staple sweet white cards in here. I think some of the biggest strengths white brings to the table for a Battle Box are cheap creatures of considerable quality, flexible combat tricks/creature protection spells, token generators, and of course the Wraths. The Wraths are important in a Battle Box because they give players a way to reset the board if they fall too far behind against an aggressive start and they also create a nice tension between when to commit more pieces to the board or hold something back.

1 Adamant Will
1 Adanto Vanguard
1 Angel of Finality
1 Apostle of Purifying Light
1 Apostle's Blessing
1 Belfry Spirit
1 Cavalry Drillmaster
1 Cleansing Nova
1 Cloudgoat Ranger
1 Dauntless Bodyguard
1 Dawn Charm
1 Day of Judgment
1 Dragon Hunter
1 Ephemerate
1 Exalted Angel
1 Faerie Guidemother/Gift of the Fae
1 Felidar Guardian
1 Flickerwisp
1 Fumigate
1 Imperial Aerosaur
1 Kirtar's Wrath
1 Knight of Glory
1 Knight of Grace
1 Lingering Souls
1 Lone Missionary
1 Mardu Woe-Reaper
1 Ministrant of Obligation
1 Mother of Runes
1 Reciprocate
1 Remorseful Cleric
1 Rout
1 Savannah Lions
1 Settle Beyond Reality
1 Silverflame Squire/On Alert
1 Skymarcher Aspirant
1 Soldier of the Pantheon
1 Spectral Lynx
1 Sunscape Battlemage
1 Suture Priest
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Thraben Inspector
1 Trueheart Duelist
1 Valorous Stance
1 Wall of Omens
Rares

Angel of FinalityExalted AngelCleansing NovaDay of JudgmentFumigateKirtar's WrathRemorseful ClericRout - FoilSoldier of the PantheonSpectral Lynx

White was the hardest color to get below the ten rare threshold. Wraths are always rare and there are a ton of quality creatures with a ton of play to them. I ultimately cut Isamaru, Hound of Konda and Wrath of God because they were $5.00 cards and easily replaced with significantly cheaper but functionally similar cards. “Regeneration” plays a significant role in this stack and it may even be better overall to have less sweepers that ignore it.

Blue – 44 Cards, 6 rares

There’s a reason people say blue is the best… It is! The Blue cards that are notably included or excluded from a Battle Box heavily shape how the stack plays. For instance, this list has a higher concentration of blue creatures than ever before. It’s nice to have Blue cards make an appearance on the battlefield rather than only on the stack!

With that said, I still have a bunch of sweet counterspells to ensure that nothing can ever be taken for granted.

The biggest difference between the condensed list is there is significantly less pure “draw spells.” In fact, the only blue one I’ve chosen to include is Fact or Fiction (mainly because it’s iconic and includes multiple decisions upon resolution), while cards like Deep Analysis, Tidings, and Concentrate are notably absent. With less space in the deck that was one area where I decided to make cuts, and I’m actually a fan of the impact it has on gameplay overall. After all, it’s not like I removed card advantage, not even close, but there’s simply less cards in the stack that say “draw multiple extra cards” without impacting the board in some way.

1 Angler Drake
1 Archaeomancer
1 Blue Elemental Blast
1 Bonded Fetch
1 Champion of Wits
1 Complicate
1 Control Magic
1 Counterspell
1 Delver of Secrets/Insectile Aberration
1 Dispel
1 Dive Down
1 Envelop
1 Evasive Action
1 Exclude
1 Fact or Fiction
1 Hydroblast
1 Hypnotic Sprite/Mesmeric Glare
1 Jace's Phantasm
1 Jolting Merfolk
1 Looter il-Kor
1 Man-o'-War
1 Merfolk Looter
1 Merfolk Trickster
1 Miscalculation
1 Mulldrifter
1 Negate
1 Neutralizing Blast
1 Power Sink
1 Pteramander
1 Remand
1 Remove Soul
1 Riddlemaster Sphinx - Planeswalker Deck Exclusive
1 Serendib Efreet
1 Siren Stormtamer
1 Spectral Sailor
1 Stratus Dancer
1 Syncopate
1 Talrand's Invocation
1 Unsubstantiate
1 Vesuvan Shapeshifter
1 Warkite Marauder
1 Watcher for Tomorrow
1 Whirler Rogue
1 Willbender
Rares

Champion of WitsRiddlemaster Sphinx - Planeswalker Deck ExclusiveSerendib EfreetStratus DancerVesuvan ShapeshifterWarkite Marauder

I wouldn’t have expected that I’d come in under the quota for blue rares and that they’d all be creatures!

Up until the final draft of the article I had Sun Ce, Young Conquerer in my “budget” list.

Sun Ce, Young Conquerer

Oops. He’s like $50.00. I’m pretty sure I got mine out of a dollar box like ten years ago! I absolutely love the card in Battle Box, and I hope it gets a reprint someday. I liked Riddlemaster Sphinx in Sun Ce’s place, and also tried Keiga, the Tide Star.

Black – 44 Cards, 7 rares

I love basic Swamp so much that I insist every Battle Box player uses one! The two most important functions the black cards accomplish in my stack are removal and discard. Removal is obvious, but discard is subtly important because it ensures players cannot simply hold onto a powerful spell when drawn and wait to cast it until the opponent is tapped out.

There’s a strong correlation, for instance, between putting a Fireball for X=9 onto the stack and an opponent being tapped out! The targeted hand disruption creates a tension where, “Sure, you can wait for the opponent to tap out to put that onto the stack, but the cost is that it could be Duressed away in the meantime.”

1 Bane of the Living
1 Bloodsoaked Champion
1 Bone Shredder
1 Cast Down
1 Chainer's Edict
1 Dark Hatchling
1 Despise
1 Diregraf Ghoul
1 Divest
1 Doom Blade
1 Doomfall
1 Duress
1 Dusk Legion Zealot
1 Eternal Taskmaster
1 Flesh Carver
1 Go for the Throat
1 Gutterbones
1 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Knight of Infamy
1 Knight of Malice
1 Kokusho, the Evening Star
1 Lay Bare the Heart
1 Lifebane Zombie
1 Nekrataal
1 Night's Whisper
1 Order of Midnight/Alter Fate
1 Orzhov Enforcer
1 Ostracize
1 Phyrexian Gargantua
1 Phyrexian Rager
1 Ravenous Chupacabra
1 Ribbons of Night
1 Shadow Guildmage
1 Shriekmaw
1 Skinrender
1 Sling-Gang Lieutenant
1 Smiting Helix
1 Sudden Death
1 Ultimate Price
1 Unburial Rites
1 Undying Evil
1 Unearth
1 Vampire Sovereign
1 Withered Wretch
Rares

Bane of the LivingBloodsoaked ChampionDark HatchlingFlesh CarverGutterbonesKokusho, the Evening StarLifebane Zombie

I was absolutely crushed when I was looking up prices on cards to make sure they were all budget acceptable that yet another one of my favorite Battle Box cards was priced out of my budget list at $13.00. On the other hand, I was quite pleased with myself for having a stack of them, as it was a card I always pulled out of $0.50 boxes at Grand Prix.

Ophiomancer

While the curve is lower overall in the new stack, I wanted to have at least a couple of big monsters in each color that embody big, bold, flavor of the color they represent.

Kokusho, the Evening Star

Kokusho, the Evening Star is the priciest card in the stack at $7.00 but there just isn’t a suitable replacement for what Kokusho represents in terms of flavor, coolness, and gameplay in the stack. Controlling a Kokusho on the battlefield is a great feeling and it’s quite powerful in my stack (as it should be!). A Battle Box without a Kokusho is like a face without a smile. 🙂

Green – 44 Cards, 4.5 rares

Green is obviously great in the Battle Box (I mean, what color isn’t great when you break it down to 44 hand-picked sweet cards?). Green has great creatures and ways to bolster one’s side of the board. My thought process was to let green be green in here! Lots of high quality monsters and combat tricks to protect them.

1 Arborback Stomper
1 Avoid Fate
1 Autumn's Veil
1 Basking Rootwalla
1 Blossoming Defense
1 Briarhorn
1 Call of the Herd
1 Caller of the Claw
1 Den Protector
1 Elvish Visionary
1 Eternal Witness
1 Gaea's Might
1 Giant Growth
1 Harmonize
1 Hedge Troll
1 Infuse with the Elements
1 Kessig Prowler/Sinuous Predator
1 Kraul Harpooner
1 Mire Boa
1 Moment's Peace
1 Mother Bear
1 Noose Constrictor
1 Pelakka Wurm
1 Phantom Centaur
1 Predator's Strike
1 Rancor
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Resilient Khenra
1 Ridgescale Tusker
1 River Boa
1 Skyshroud Elite
1 Skyshroud War Beast
1 Spider Spawning
1 Stingerfling Spider
1 Sunblade Elf
1 Thornscape Apprentice
1 Thornscape Battlemage
1 Thrashing Brontodon
1 Untamed Kavu
1 Vines of Vastwood
1 Wall of Blossoms
1 Wild Mongrel
1 Wildsize
1 Withstand Death
Rares

Caller of the ClawDen ProtectorResilient KhenraSkyshroud War Beast

If you had told me I’d leave six green rare spots on the table I would have thought it impossible, but here we are… I guess you could say 4.5 because there’s a humble Call of the Herd mixed in for good measure.

Notably absent with an $8.00 price tag is Scavenging Ooze. Scooze is a great card. If you have one floating around I’d suggest finding a space for it. However, with fewer total “rares” in the mix there is less emphasis on graveyard synergy than in my typical Danger Room stacks, so Ooze isn’t as important as a natural check and balance on graveyard cards like Coffin Queen, Snapcaster Mage, or Feldon.

Red – 44 Cards, 9.5

I’ve often noted a clear lack of creativity when it comes to red cards in Battle Box. When you’re trying to fill up 75+ unique slots, it comes down to: play 30+ CMC = 2.5 burn spells.

At 44 cards, on the other hand, there were a ton of interesting card choices to make and I took full advantage of maxing out the red rare Card because I felt the rares added a lot.

I kept the number of burn spells high, because it’s important to have ways to close the game outside of combat damage. I have two “X” spells, Fireball and Disintegrate (the Classics) and a Resounding Thunder capable of dealing an uncounterable, cycled 6 Damage. As much as I liked the idea of Fight With Fire, because it’s such a sweet card it ultimately proved too much “I win because I drew this” card.

I was on the fence about:

Shower of Coals

It’s probably the single best spell in this deck by virtue of being able to break midrange games wide open, which is a type of effect I tend to only use sparingly in my boxes. I chose to include it because people are always tend to notice (and disappointed) whenever I try to phase it out, but also as a homage to my history with the format. It was in the first Danger Room.

It’s worth noting that Shower of Coals is not the single most deranged mainstay in Danger Room. That distinction belongs to the reddest card of all, which happens to be an artifact:

Black Vise

I wouldn’t advise Black Vise in this list (as there isn’t a ton of Artifact destruction) but I’m fairly certain it’s the single most broken card to hold a spot in the Danger Room for an extended period of time.

1 Anger
1 Abrade
1 Brute Force
1 Burst Lightning
1 Charging Monstrosaur
1 Crimson Muckwader
1 Cunning Sparkmage
1 Desolation Giant
1 Dire Fleet Daredevil
1 Disintegrate
1 Dualcaster Mage
1 Earthshaker Khenra
1 Faithless Looting
1 Fire Imp
1 Fireball
1 Firebolt
1 Flametongue Kavu
1 Glint-Horn Buccaneer
1 Goblin Dark-Dwellers
1 Goblin Cratermaker
1 Hungry Flames
1 Incendiary Flow
1 Incinerate
1 Kird Ape
1 Lava Coil
1 Lightning Bolt
1 Merchant of the Vale/Haggle
1 Mindclaw Shaman
1 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
1 Pillar of Flame
1 Pyroblast
1 red Elemental Blast
1 Resounding Thunder
1 Roast
1 Shower of Coals
1 Siege-Gang Commander
1 Smoldering Werewolf/Erupting Dreadwolf
1 Starstorm
1 Thunderscape Battlemage
1 Tribal Flames
1 Viashino Pyromancer
1 Vulshok Sorcerer
1 Young Pyromancer
1 Zurgo Bellstriker
The Rares

Desolation GiantDire Fleet DaredevilDualcaster MageEarthshaker KhenraGlint-Horn BuccaneerGoblin Dark-DwellersSiege-Gang CommanderStarstormZurgo Bellstriker

I love how the red rares are all over the place and a hodge-podge of extremely fun cards to cast on different types of boards. The past few years have been great for red Danger Room staples.

Well, there it is. 350 cards and only 50 of them are rares. Of the 50 rares, I think Kokusho was the only one that stood out as being more than $3.00 retail. Despite leaving many of my favorite rares on the sidelines, such as Voice of Resurgence, Thoughtseize, Karmic Guide, Scavenging Ooze, and Wrath of God, I’ve found that overall I enjoy the play of this box as much and possibly more than my more expensive and expansive Danger Room stack. Sometimes less IS more! (It certainly doesn’t hurt that I’ve gained a decade of experience playing and tuning Battle Boxes since the last time I built one from the top down!).

With that said, I certainly wouldn’t discourage anybody from adding an Ophiomancer to their stack if they had one on hand…

I hope those who enjoy Danger Room will take this one for a spin and more importantly I hope that bringing the stack into a more accessible price point will lead some new players, but also perhaps retried grinders, to take the format for a test drive and if you do be sure to put your own spin on it and make it your own.

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