I typically like to wait until the full set is up before taking a peek, and my first sweep through the set is always with my Danger Room/Battle Box in mind.
I had very, very low expectations for War of the Spark in terms of Battle Box playables. Don’t get me wrong. The last few sets have been terrific. My main concern was that an epic planeswalker themed set likely wasn’t going to be a treasure trove of options for a format that doesn’t use planeswalkers. Wow, was I wrong!
War of the Spark will be the second set in a row that has caused me to rethink the hard and fast rules I use to build my stack. In addition to raising some serious questions about the nature of planeswalkers in the format, the set is also packed full of exciting goodies.
What the Heck is a Danger Room?
“The Danger Room” is the name of my personal Battle Box that I’ve worked on for almost a decade.
Battle Box is a popular community format and is similar to Cube except that it isn’t specifically designed to be drafted (although it can be!). You and a friend can sit down and start playing Magic out of the box.
Each player starts with 10 lands in reserve. One of each basic and one of each Allied Guildgate:
Once per turn, during your main phase, you can play a land from your reserve onto the battlefield as though it were in your hand. Essentially, both players have equal access to perfect mana and make their first ten land drops in a row.
Aside from never being mana screwed, players will also never get land flooded either. It’s a pretty nice gameplay experience overall. No flood. No screw. Just Magic.
There’s no right or wrong way to play. Play with the cards you enjoy. Make house rules. Try new cards. The great thing is that how you build your stack will facilitate different kinds of games. So, make the games what you and your friends enjoy!
I won’t be offended if you change my list. In fact, I encourage it!
Planeswalkers in the Danger Room?
Historically, I haven’t liked planeswalkers in my Danger Room lists for a variety of reasons. The first, and most obvious, is that planeswalkers are often some of the most powerful and game warping cards on the planet, and often make the entire game about whether you can get one off the table.
In a format where players have no control over what they draw I found this more likely to create lopsided and uninteresting game play. Planeswalkers, and especially planeswalkers from the past 3-4 years, were a little too powerful for my stack. There was also an issue where between three abilities, it was often hard to find examples of planeswalkers that didn’t in some way break one of my rules about mana or manipulating the tops of libraries.
War of the Spark introduces a new template for planeswalkers that I believe has a shot to be a lot of fun in Battle Box.
These new planeswalkers break from the traditional design of:
+1 Ability (advantage)
-2 Ability (removal/protection)
-8 Ability (win the game)
The problem with the old design was that simply protecting a powerful planeswalker that generated advantage turn-after-turn and ended the game was pretty bland and difficult to defend against. There are other Battle Box lists that are a little more powerful than mine and make fine use of planeswalkers, but those cards didn’t contribute to the types of games I was hoping to facilitate with my stack.
With all of that being said, the new template is much more Danger Room friendly. These planeswalkers feel more like global enchantments (that only end up helping the planeswalker’s controller), that can also be attacked in combat.
It’s really hard to find enchantments that are worth playing in a format where you can’t build around them, which opens up a nice space for these cards to be fantastic additions to my stack.
I’ve always wanted to get some planeswalkers into the Danger Room, and I hope these will finally allow the card type to shine in Battle Box.
Danger Room Constitution
The last time around I added a whopping 75 cards to my stack in order to accommodate the multiplicity of fantastic gold cards that Ravnica III block brought into the fold:
75 per color (375 total)
15 per guild (150 total)
3 per Shard or wedge (30 total)
=586 Total Cards
War of the Spark also comes at a great time, since adding so many cards with the last set gives me lots of room to work with.
Battle Box Set Review and Updated Danger Room List
I’ll be going through each color category to review the cards I think are the most fun and interesting additions for a Battle Box, and sharing the cards I’ll be adding to my stack. As always, it’s a process of trial and error, but there are definitely several cards I’m excited to try.
War of the Spark doesn’t have many artifacts to choose from and none felt appealing enough to overtake what I already have.
Fountain of Renewal
Mask of Memory
Sphinx of the Guildpact
Mono-Color Spells – 375 (+25)
I currently have 75 of each mono-colored spell.
Topple the Statue is a cantripping Disenchant, which is nice, but it’s also useful to tap a creature in a pinch. I really like having artifact/enchantment removal that’s still live if an opponent doesn’t actually have an artifact.
Let’s just jump right in with the riskiest planeswalker I’m going to try: The Wanderer. I think the card will be great in here, but I can also see it being either too good or too bad, which is sort of a strange thing to say. The moral of the story is that I’ll just have to play the games to see and I’m really excited about that prospect. The fact that I think it could go either way, too good or too bad, leads me to believe it’s likely a reasonable card to be playing here.
Angel of Finality
Angel of Sanctions
Day of Judgment
Declaration in Stone
Hero of Precinct One
Isamaru, Hound of Konda
Knight of Dawn
Martyr of Dusk
Ministrant of Obligation
Moment of Triumph
Mother of Runes
Soldier of the Pantheon
Soulfire Grand Master
Spear of Heliod
Swords to Plowshares
Topple the Statue
Wall of Omens
Wrath of God
Aven Eternal is a solid creature. I’m a big fan of cheap creatures that create two bodies. I like getting a 2-power flyer and some additional value in a token. It’s not on the broken side of a Danger Room 3-drop, but I think it’ll fit in nicely.
Commence the Endgame feels really powerful. Uncounterable, draw two, and a potentially large token. I mean, the card is worse than Mulldrifter, which makes me think it’s probably fine for a 6-drop despite the fact that it does a lot. There’s a lot of bounce and blink to counteract the advantage of the token.
Narset’s Reversal is the card I’m most afraid will be too good in here. Countering a spell (even for a turn) and copying it is a pretty big game. Of the three blue cards, Reversal is my pick for the highest quality card for my stack.
Blue Elemental Blast
Champion of Wits
Chart a Course
Commence the Endgame
Delver of Secrets
Fact or Fiction
Harbinger of the Tides
Lu Xun, Scholar General
One With the Wind
Secrets of the Golden City
Sun Ce, Young Conquerer
I didn’t add any blue planeswalkers, but there were two that I considered:
Kasmina might be just a little too weak for my stack and I don’t want to add bad planeswalkers just for the sake of doing it. Even if she is better than I initially think, I don’t believe she’s particularly fun or interesting to play with or against in a shared deck format where you have little control over the types of games in which you’ll draw her.
Narset, on the other hand, seemed like a potential problem card. I really didn’t want a card that is hard to kill and turns off an opponent’s ability to draw cards since that is an important part of my stack.
I do think these are cards worth considering for a Battle Box, but ultimately chose not to include them in my list.
All three new black cards are exciting.
Eternal Taskmaster is a great early drop with some awesome added late game recursion value added in.
Massacre Girl is also a sweet card. It’s a 4/4 body that casts a unique Infest-type effect that scales depending upon the board. I love cards like these. An absolute slam-dunk Battle Box card.
Ob Nixilis’s Cruelty is a solid removal spell. Nothing special, but worth including for the time being.
Bane of the Living
Big Game Hunter
Dance of the Dead
Drana, Liberator of Malakir
Dusk Legion Zealot
Go for the Throat
Gonti, Lord of Luxury
Inquisition of Kozilek
Knight of Infamy
Knight of Malice
Kokusho, the Evening Star
Lay Bare the Heart
Moment of Craving
Never // Return
Ob Nixilis’s Cruelty
Ritual of the Machine
Sever the Bloodline
The Eldest Reborn
Transgress the Mind
I also added:
It’s a solid removal spell that can target the planeswalkers I’m adding into the mix.
Red (75) +5
Red has been getting a ton of great Danger Room cards the past few sets, but this time around I’ll settle for just Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin. I don’t have a ton to say about the card other than I love Krenko (that’s how I won my GP!) and the card feels like a decent card. I like the way the tokens don’t ETB tapped and attacking, which means they are a little easier to put to good use (rather than suicide attacking into big blockers).
Abbot of Keral Keep
Dire Fleet Daredevil
Feldon of the Third Path
Fight with Fire
Flames of the Firebrand
Hound of Griselbrand
Krenko, Mob Boss
Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin
Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Pillar of Flame
Red Elemental Blast
Rix Maadi Reveler
Shower of Coals
Skewer the Critics
Slice and Dice
Temur Battle Rage
I wasn’t overly impressed with the green cards from this set, but I’ve decided to give Vivien’s Arkbow a chance:
I’m a little worried that the card is going to be overpowered as it lets you trade situationally dead cards for a shot at a great monster every turn. It’s also worth noting that this allows the user a shot at an uncounterable, flash monster on the opponent’s combat step! While I think the card is obviously powerful, I also think it’s fun, which is why I chose to include it.
Call of the Herd
Caller of the Claw
Earl of Squirrel
Master of the Wild Hunt
Mouth // Feed
Polukranos, World Eater
Skyshroud War Beast
Wall of Blossoms
I’ve been struggling to keep my artifact and enchantment count high enough relative to other card types, but Return to Nature is a nice addition for a Cube or Battle Box with a lot of artifacts.
It’s basically Naturalize, with the added ability to exile a card from a graveyard, which is a great way to break up powerful endgame engine cards like Grim Harvest or Disturbed Burial (which I don’t currently have in my stack, but are popular in other builds).
Multicolor 2-Color Guild Spells – 150
The last time around I expanded all of the 2-color guilds from 10 cards to 15. War of the Spark is also high on playable multicolor spells, and so it’s a good thing I opened up more space!
Azorius (U/W) – (15)
The Azorius got some nice role players in War of the Spark:
Elite Guardmage is the kind of card that feels tailor-made for my Danger Room. A reasonable rate for a relevant flyer, life gain, and a card.
Deputy of Detention
Wall of Denial
I didn’t add any of the Azorius planesalkers to my stack. The new Dovin messes with mana, which is a big “no-no” for me in Danger Room.
I can’t imagine this card is anything other than depressing to play against in any format. I can only play at sorcery-speed and all of my opponent’s stuff has flash? I want cards that add fun and dynamic game play, and Teferi makes an entire player’s game plan one-dimensional until he is removed. No thanks!
Boros (R/W) – (15)
Feather is a big, cheap flyer that allows players to do some tricky things with instant-speed targeted spells to help protect the rest of the team. I play Serendib Efreet and I see this card filling a similar role.
I think this card does enough and is interesting enough to earn a trial spot in my list. It may need a little bit of help in the form of a few new Equipment next time around. I’ve been wanting to add a few artifacts anyways. I’m going to give Nahiri a shot and see how it goes. I’m hoping these planeswalkers add another dimension to the format, but if they don’t it’s easy enough to pull them back out.
Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice
Basandra, Battle Seraph
Feather, the Redeemed
Integrity // Intervention
Nahiri, Storm of Stone
Tajic, Legion’s Edge
I like the card. 2/3 for U/B is a great rate for a body and the ability is awesome. A lot of cheap drops are bad in the late game, but the potential to draw extra cards makes this card a decent investment at any point in the game.
Draws cards? Deals damage to creatures? And makes a creature? Why not?
Connive // Concoct
Enter the God-Eternals
Far // Away
Spite // Malice
Thief of Sanity
Another card worth considering:
Golgari (G/B – 15)
The card is obviously powerful and I wanted to add at least one Golgari option to the stack this time around. I wouldn’t be surprised if the card feels a little bit OP, but without an ETB ability it’s probably fine for the cost. Time will tell and I’ll have to keep an eye on how the card plays out in real games.
Find // Finality
Slimefoot, the Stowaway
Status // Statue
Storrev, Devkarin Lich
Gruul (R/G) – 15
No changes. Gruul typically gets the short end of the stick when it comes to gold cards, and WAR is no different.
Assault // Battery
Collision // Colossus
Fires of Yavimaya
Huntmaster of the Fells
Rhythm of the Wild
Thrash // Threat
Wort, the Raidmother
I didn’t include this card in my Danger Room because I think it is likely too bad to play! I could be wrong and maybe the card is worth the mana. I just don’t think it does enough.
I also think “fighting” removal is too bad for the Danger Room because it is unreliable and leaves you open to getting 2-for-1’d. We have access to all the colors, so there’s no reason to play with lousy removal!
Izzet (U/R) – 15
Ral’s Outburst is about the ideal rate for this kind of effect in my stack and an easy include. 3-mana, situational 2-for-1, and doesn’t add anything to the board. I love it.
Adeliz, the Cinder Wind
Fire // Ice
Storm Fleet Sprinter
Turn // Burn
Orzhov (B/W) – 15
A neat burn spell that is attached to an enchantment body. I’ve added a handful of planeswalkers and so perhaps the enchantment part of the card will be quite good. It’s hard to tell, but I think the burn part is good enough to include on its own and the rest is just gravy.
I’m actually excited about this card. I’ve cut most of the Blood Artist type of creatures because they are typically pretty bad. They are 2-mana 1/1s that have little use in combat. Celebrant’s second point of toughness allows it to block 1/1 tokens and survive pingers. The card also triggers when it dies, which is fantastic.
Consecrate // Consume
Elenda, The Dusk Rose
Ghost Council of Orzhova
Karlov of the Ghost Council
Oath of Kaya
Rakdos (R/B) – 15
Angrath is one of the planeswalkers I’m most excited to try out in the Danger Room. I’m happy to draw it, and it’s strong in beatdown draws. It’s also reasonable when you are behind since it makes tokens with a -2 activation.
Here we have a neat Pyroclasm with a body. I’m not super excited about the card, but I think it could be a nice role player. There are not a ton of amass cards in my stack, but I did try to get in a handful to create the potential of building a bigger Zombie token.
Angrath, Captain of Chaos
Carnival // Carnage
Claim // Fame
Cut // Ribbons
Judith, the Scourge Diva
Olivia, Mobilized for War
I also added Dreadbore:
It was good enough before planeswalkers, and with the type added it just makes sense now.
Selesnya (W/G) – 15
Selesnya has always been the most stacked color combo in terms of ideal Danger Room cards. With that being said, there are a lot of great picks for the combination but few that I’d add to my stack.
It’s hard to find combat tricks that are worth including, but Pledge is an exciting option. It gains life and provides bonuses that stick around beyond the turn the trick is played. It’s also a nice way to boost up a bunch of little tokens, which is another angle where my stack is lacking.
5 mana for two bodies and potentially a favorable fight sequence. You can’t really argue with that rate! I like the flavor and the fact that the card is a more playable, updated version of a cool old character. I think this will be a fun one that will stick around in my stack for a while.
Advent of the Wurm
Assure // Assemble
Knight of Autumn
Pledge of Unity
Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves
Voice of Resurgence
Simic (U/G) – 15
A big “Serra Angel”-style flyer that adds +1/+1 bonuses when it enters the battlefield and triggers proliferate when it dies. Undeniably a powerful rate and a lot of board impact for a 5-drop.
I don’t know if this is good enough, but I’m willing to try it out. I ended up with a free card to cut since I found Hydroid Krasis to be too much for the stack the last time around.
It’s always such a bummer when a card that you genuinely enjoy breaks your format! Hydroid was one of those cards that made the entire game about rebuying it, bouncing it, and replaying it as many times as possible.
Incubation // Incongruity
Roalesk, Apex Hybrid
Zegana, Utopian Speaker
Multicolor, Shards, Wedges, and 5-color – 31
For the second set in a row, no changes to Shards and wedges (since there were not tri-color cards in War of the Spark).
Abzan (G/W/B) – 3
Bant (W/U/G) – 3
Esper (U/W/B) – 3
Grixis (U/R/B) – 3
Jeskai (U/W/R) – 3
Jund (R/B/G) – 3
Mardu (B/W/R) – 3
Naya (R/W/G) – 3
Sultai (B/U/G) – 3
Temur (R/U/G) – 3
5-Color – 1
Top 10 Battle Box Prospects
War of the Spark looks like it will be a very nice set for all Battle Boxes (including my Danger Room). By far the most impactful aspect for the format is a new design template for planeswalkers that makes them much more reasonable to try out, at least in my particular flavor of the format.
Even if you are not interested in trying the enchantment template planeswalkers, there are still a ton of exciting cards to consider.
In the dark, before I’ve gotten a chance to shuffle the foils into my stack, here are my top 10 Battle Box prospects from War of the Spark:
9. Ral’s Outburst – Nothing flashy or particularly unique, but a perfect rate of exchange. Outburst will likely be in my stack long-term.
8. Storrev, Devkarin Lich – He’s a big boy for 4 mana with an ability that can get some major value down the stretch. One of the more exciting Battle Box bombs that I’m adding to my stack.
7. Angrath, Captain of Chaos – One of the first planeswalkers I saw (I looked at the spoiler in alphabetical order) that made me think, “Geez, I’d really like to have this kind of planeswalker in my stack… I think he’ll be a solid addition even if the planeswalker experiment fizzles.”
4. Narset’s Reversal – An undeniably powerful tempo swing card. I think this will create some epic sequences in the near future.
3. Vivien’s Arkbow – A risky include, but one that has a lot of potential to be fun and unique. I can see a lot of interesting games involving the card, or I can see it getting cut. Either way, lots of potential and the ceiling is high.
2. The Wanderer – The most risky and exciting card I’m trying out. I’m curious to see how this goes. Also, is this Elspeth!?
1. Cruel Celebrant – Classic! I think this card will be in my stack 10 years from now.
Well, that wraps up my Battle Box review and Danger Room Selection for today. Were there any cards that you are excited to add to your stack that I overlooked today? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear about the cards you are excited to play. Secondly, are there any older planeswalkers that you’re really enjoying in your stack? I’m considering the addition of older PWs, but a lot of that will be determined based on how the new ones perform. I’m still interested to hear about which planeswalkers people like and how they fare in your stack!
Good luck at the prerelease and enjoy the set!