Commander may be the non-tournament experience of choice for the overwhelming majority of Magic: The Gathering fans, but when I’m in the mood to sling some spells for funsies, The Battle Box is my go-to format. It makes a lot of sense, considering I did invent the format to suit the specific interests of my friends and myself!
The Commander deck series may be tailored for the Commander crowd but these editions typically include cards that are unique and have interesting play design, which port well into my Battle Box stack.
History 101: Battle Box/Danger Room
For those of you unfamilar to the The Battle Box but are interested in learning more about the format:
My original primer on Danger Room rules.
Doug Linn’s Danger Room primer.
Ben Stark’s Battle Box primer.
There is a little bit of confusion about Danger Room/Battle Box and why it has different names. I came up with the format several years ago and was playing with with my friends. At GenCon 2014 I was hanging out with David Williams and played a bunch of games with him. He was really excited about the format and told Ben Stark and crew about the format. Ben also enjoyed the format and wrote about it.
At the time I was calling the format “The Danger Room,” which was a reference to the X-Men’s training facility from the comics. Ben et al. didn’t know what to call it and started calling it The Battle Box, which in all fairness is a better name that aptly describes the essence of the format. It is a box of battling!
One of the things that I strongly encourage is that you customize your own “big stack” of cards. Make it your own and play with the cards that you and your friends enjoy. With that being said, I have my own Battle Box (the first and original Battle Box!) that I update and fine tune with each new set release. I call my particular stack “The Danger Room” as an homage to the origin of the format.
As many of you have noted, the last Danger Room card selection article didn’t include a master list of the stack and so this time I’ll be including my full up-to-date stack with additions from the Commander 2017 lists.
The Impact of Commander 2017 in Battle Box
The newest Commander set adds some pretty exciting new cards to the mix, and one of the most important aspects of having an awesome Battle Box stack is creating balance among the cards. You need some focus on having a baseline power level. For example, if you are going to include cards like Umezawa’s Jitte (which I don’t), the overall power level of the spells needs to be extremely high.
I tend to avoid cards that quickly run away with the game if they go unanswered for a turn or two. I don’t have Titans or planeswalkers for this reason. I like to think of my stack as playing with a deck full of Limited first picks, but not ridiculous bombs. To put it in perspective, my stack would be cards that are top tier Draft picks in Limited that are worse than Glorybringer.
A little too first-pick-y.
I’m always happy to try out new powerful cards, but I’m not shy about cutting cards that always run away with the game, or cards that just feel consistently weak.
Let’s get to the cards that I’m excited to try out:
Let me Axe you a question: How many Axes are too many axes?
I love this card from a design perspective: An equipment that makes more copies of itself? Sick.
Artifacts are difficult-to-find includes because the Battle Box has access to perfect mana at all times, which means that being colorless isn’t the upside that it is in Constructed Magic.
With that being said, equipment cards are among the most interesting artifacts in the Danger Room.
As far as mono-colored spells, white is the big winner from Commander 2017.
Cat scratch fever.
Tribal Cats—who would have thought?
These cards are the epitome of what I enjoy in my stack. Both have good stats for their mana cost and impactful abilities. I didn’t like Notion Thief because the card was too much of a blowout, but having a draw spell against Alms Collector is more reasonable and the 3/4 flash body can do some work inside of combat.
Stalking Leonin is kind of like a slowtrip Flametongue Kavu. The biggest downside is that everybody will make the same joke about “I wonder which player I’m secretly going to choose…” in 1v1 duels. I do play a fair amount of this format in multiplayer, and so the ability will be fun in those scenarios.
You’re so Vein—you probably think this song is about you…
I have reservations that this card may just be too powerful. I’ve included Noxious Gearhulk, and that card feels powerful but not backbreaking. Patron might be better than Gearhulk by a big enough margin that it will need to be cut.
The card is a significant upgrade to Dark Hatchling, which is already a pretty decent card in the stack. I’m going to give it a whirl with the understanding that if it runs away with too many games, it’ll need to go.
The purr-fect answer to artifacts and enchantments…
Qasali Slingers is a neat card. It’s like a Harmonic Sliver, but for Cats. I like having answers to artifacts and enchantments in the Danger Room because they are quite powerful but they really need to be tacked onto something useful. Too many Disenchants=too many situationally dead cards.
I like the reach ability on the card as well. I think it is one of the better Disenchant creatures available, all things considered.
On to the multicolored cards:
Why wouldn’t U/W have the best 1-8-7 creature spell?
Azorious has it all. The rich get richer.
This card is insane. It’s like a Control Magic that can’t be disenchanted that also captures the ETB triggers. It’s pretty darn spicy.
I don’t think I need to explain why this card is great and I think it flirts with the power level limits of my stack, but I’m going to give it a go. One of my rules is that I like the “best” or “most powerful” cards in my stack to be cards that don’t get to see play in other Constructed formats. Great cards that need a place to shine… if the most broken cards in your format are Fractured Identity and Dragonlair Spider, well, sounds like a pretty fun format to me!
In Multiplayer Danger Room, this card also hits that angle really well. I prefer Battle Box Multiplayer to Commander because it feels like old-school multiplayer before everybody’s Commander decks were just ramp, combo, and Time Walks (all things you cannot do in Battle Box!).
Bringing that Old-School Dominaria flavor back!
G/W is by far the hardest guild to include new cards for because the competition is so high. With that being said, I had to find room for this card because it is so sweet and unique. It’s a great version of one of the classic characters from Magic lore.
It also perfectly hits the power level that I want in Danger Room. Goodbye Loxodon Smiter, you will be missed.
The Mardu Boba Fett.
As I was looking through the Shard and wedge-colored cards, I was kind of disappointed that most of them had “command zone” related abilities. Obviously, the Danger Room doesn’t use the Command Zone, so many of these sweet cards are simply not options for my format.
With that being said, Mathas, Fiend Seeker slots perfectly into my game! It also worked out perfectly that Mardu needed a nice third card to round out the line-up. Ponyback Brigade was not exactly an exciting card.
The flavor of this card is also sweet. It puts a bounty on the head of one of the opponent’s creatures that rewards you for killing it down the line. Menace is also a keyword ability that I’ve come to love and makes for interesting game play.
O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami W/U/B/R/G
O-no, it’s O-Kagachi!
For the most part I have a strict rule about cutting a card to add a card. But I’m making an exception in the case of O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami. I decided that I wasn’t going to cut my only other W/U/B/R/G spell (Fusion Elemental) and would just add a second creature to that category.
There is also a fair chance that I’ll have to cut this amazing Dragon for power level reasons. I feel like I’m on the fence about adding this card because it is so sweet and epic.
A 5-color Spirit Dragon? Come on! How can I not at least try this bad boy out? If it is too much, I’ll cut it next time around but I’m at least going to take it for a test flight!
I’m excited to get my hands on these new Commander cards.. What do you all think? Did I miss any cards that you think are great? Do you disagree with any of my picks? Are Cats OP? Will O-Kagachi be an unbeatable hologram Danger Room end boss? Let me know in the comments!
DeMars Danger Room/Sorted Card List
Mask of Memory
Angel of Finality
Angel of Sanctions
Day of Judgment
Declaration in Stone
Dusk // Dawn
Isamaru, Hound of Konda
Mother of Runes
Soldier of the Pantheon
Soulfire Grand Master
Spear of Heliod
Swords to Plowshares
Wall of Omens
Wrath of God
Champion of Wits
Delver of Secrets
Fact or Fiction
Lu Xun, Scholar General
Old Man of the Sea
Scour the Laboratory*
Sun Ce, Young Conquerer
Bane of the Living
Big Game Hunter
Dance of the Dead
Drana, Liberator of Malakir
Go for the Throat
Gonti, Lord of Luxury*
Inquisition of Kozilek
Lay Bare the Heart
Ritual of the Machine
Sever the Bloodline
Patron of the Vein
Transgress the Mind
Abbot of Keral Keep
Feldon of the Third Path
Flames of the Firebrand
Hound of Griselbrand
Krenko, Mob Boss
Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Pillar of Flame
Red Elemental Blast
Slice and Dice
Temur Battle Rage
Call of the Herd
Caller of the Claw
Gnaw to the Bone
Master of the Wild Hunt
Polukranos, World Eater
Thrill of the Hunt
Wall of Blossoms