A few weeks ago, I altered the rules for my Battle Box (which I call “The Danger Room”) to extend snow typing to all of the basic and nonbasic lands that comprise each player’s 10 card mana base.
It’s kind of a big change for me because aside from a unique set of rules of Battle Box (player’s start with lands outside the game and draw from the same big stack of spells), I’ve never made any other special rules to make specific cards work as intended.
I have no issue with other players adding a card like Goblin Guide or Path to Exile to their stack, but I don’t like to include cards that don’t work in the spirit of how they were designed to function. I’ve never thought any single card was important enough to warrant inclusion if it makes the rules feel muddy or weird.
With that said, snow seems like an important and iconic mechanic that deserves to be represented mechanically in the stack, now with three “snow matters” sets out there. It would be easy to just use snow lands, but I think the Thriving lands actually provide more flexible and interesting sequencing options. My final conclusion was that I wanted to add snow cards to my stack, but I didn’t want to be beholden to playing with snow basics and ETB tapped lands.
I think it’s a good compromise and not too convoluted of a rule and so I wanted to do a quick retroactive update of my stack to include some of the old “snow matters” cards from earlier expansions that have been previously omitted due to lands not explicitly having snow typing. I won’t be including the full list (which you can check out below) but these are all cards that I think are worth looking at to showcase snow in a Battle Box.
In general, I like a lot of cheap, efficient creatures in a Battle Box stack because they’re flexible and help ensure each player can use their mana on curve to make plays that matter (especially in the early turns of a game). I like exchanging cards that feel a little bit narrow, mana intensive or cumbersome in favor of cards that provide a little more flexibility and efficiency.
A one-drop 2/2 is obviously about as efficient as it gets! On the other side, I’ve always been a fan of Phyrexian Ironfoot. The fourth point of toughness allows the card to match up nicely when deployed on the draw, facing down a three power creature.
In contrast, cards that are less flexible or impactful and require players to continue to make investments of their mana have a higher likelihood of being suboptimal draws.
When I was weighing pros and cons of making a special rule to incorporate snow in my stack, one of the strong pros was that I knew there would be a lot of sweet cards like these that would find the perfect home in my stack.
I’ve often lamented the fact that Simic’s guild color identity is so entwined with making mana (a resource that’s fixed and equal in Battle Box) which excludes a lot of Simic’s most interesting cards from being included in a Battle Box such as mine. As a result, I always felt like I was scraping the bottom of the barrel to find enough Simic cards to round out my roster.
Swapping in two cards that feel tailor-made for Battle Box box play for two cards that felt loose at best is an upgrade that feels really great.
I found today’s update to be satisfying because I’m finally able to put cards into my stack that I’ve always wished were included. I also feel a lot of nostalgia (particularly for Phyrexian Ironfoot, Skred and Stalking Yeti) because I designed and played a UR Snow Control deck back in Coldsnap/Time Spiral Standard, and Skred is also an iconic card I’ve enjoyed playing with over the past few years in Pauper.
Dead of Winter is a fantastic sweeper with some cool applications. I love that the -X/-X gets around indestructible and regeneration shields, but also that pump spells like Giant Growth can potentially save creatures from freezing to death! The fact that you can play a land before or after casting Dead of Winter also allows some control over the extent creatures will be shrunk for the turn.
Last, but not least…
I generally don’t like enchantment-based removal that exiles a creature only so long as the enchantment remains in play, such as Oblivion Ring, because of how punishing it can be if an opponent happens to have Disenchant effect. The biggest beating of all is when circumstances dictate a player needs to exile a creature with an ETB effect and hope the enchantment stays in play. If they “have it,” not only do they get their creature back… but an additional ETB trigger to boot.
When I’m deciding which cards to add or subtract, I always try to keep in mind that player’s don’t control what’s drawn and so I try not to put cards into my stack that punish players for randomly drawing them from a shared deck of cards.
With that said, having access to that effect for a single mana is actually pretty darn great.
I used to have Chained to the Rocks in my Battle Box and it was a pretty good card despite it’s vulnerability to enchantment removal. A one-mana answer to any creature created a lot of opportunities to play multiple spells in the same turn. Having a three-drop enchantment blow up in one’s face is so much worse than a one drop! The issue with Chained to the Rocks was that it forced players to develop their mana by playing a Mountain in order to be cast.
Since snow has been added to all lands. there’s no conflict with developing one’s mana around a specific land in order to cast a removal spell in the early turns of a game. It has all of the upside and risk of Chained to the Rocks but without the awkward conflict of having to play a specific land in order to be cast. Even if On Thin Ice does bite the dust, and the opponent’s creature returns to play, the caster only invested a single mana into the removal spell (as opposed to two or more). One mana and being able to enchant any lands feels like the right cost for this type of effect in a Battle Box, so I’m happy to add it.
I had considered adding a few more cards as well.
All of these are interesting inclusions for a Battle Box that uses snow lands, but ultimately I didn’t feel like they added enough to be worth cutting something for.
The ability to self-mill with Iceberg Cancrix is really powerful and I love good, cheap, defensive cards, but I ultimately decided against it because one of my favorite ways to play my stack against somebody is all the way through! Instead of Best-of-One, Best-of-Three or Best-of-Seven, I’ve always been a fan of playing games until the entire stack has been depleted and keeping score.
Who knows when the next time I’ll be able to sit down and play through the entire stack with a friend, but because that’s such a fond memory of how I’ve played in the past, I try to avoid cards that aggressively mill cards from the stack. While there’s obvious synergy with being able to mill over cards that can be played from the graveyard, I try to avoid cards that shred too much of the stack.
There’s not a ton of changes overall, but I do like the quality of spells I’m adding to the stack and I’m especially happy to tighten up my artifact and Simic spells. It’s kind of funny that now, with the retroactive snow additions, it’s like snow was always a part of my stack. I think that was the right call, especially with WotC adding more snow cards to Magic in Kaldheim. It’s an important and iconic mechanic and it makes sense to have those cards represented in my Danger Room.