A Spectacle? A Riot? Or Maybe an Afterlife?
I’ve taken a little longer than usual writing my article. Mainly it was because whenever I had to choose between buckling down and writing this article or drafting on MTG Arena, I kept choosing the latter.
I apologize for the delay, but on the upside the many drafts I did have given me a much better feel for the cards than I usually have when I write a new set review. So let’s view my mild Arena addiction as a mixed blessing and get to work.
After the 5 guilds of Guilds of Ravnica, it is now time for the other 5 guilds to shine. And while I loved the Guilds of Ravnica limited environment, I think I loved the Ravnica Allegiance environment even more. There were a few broken cards that were not much fun to play against (looking at you, Ethereal Absolution and Ill-Gotten Inheritance). But on the whole, the power level was high, the interactions were great and there was a nice diversity of strategies (although aggro builds were suffering a little as the format got solved). Anyway, we’re not here to discuss drafting, so let’s see what each guild brings to Battle Box
The Azorius have a nice and versatile mechanic with addendum. Either you play the card as an instant and get the value of surprise, or you play it as a sorcery and get some value another way. I was a little disappointed in the number of “addendum matters” cards in the set, but as a Battle Box mechanic it is absolutely fine.
I love the Gruul mechanic, riot. It has exactly the right feel for the Gruul clan and allows for some aggressive builds. In Battle Box, the speed that the Gruul cards allow is less relevant, but I still think the choice between haste or a +1/+1 counter will be relevant enough. Should fit nicely into Boxes with a +1/+1 counter theme.
I think afterlife is a nice mechanic. It lets you outwit your opponent during combat and it also allows for some sacrifice shenanigans. I run a deck based around afterlife tokens and Glass of the Guildpact on Arena, and it performs nicely.
I get that spectacle was supposed to enable aggressive Rakdos decks. It does (sort of), but I find there’s more value in using a sprinkling of Rakdos cards in other decks. The conditions are easily met by many decks (and all Battle Boxes) and the payoff is often significant enough. In Battle Box, it has the added advantage that it stimulates attacking, which is always good because it moves the game along. I will definitely insert some spectacle cards in my main Battle Box soon.
The adapt mechanic is open enough, although it does require significant mana investments. We’ll have to see how this works out in Battle Box. Usually, you draw “live” cards a little quicker than in normal Magic, which means you seldom run out of options with the cards in your hand. This can lead to cards with significant activation costs sitting unused on the board. I think you should mainly consider the mechanic if your Box has a significant +1/+1 counter theme.
Just like Guilds of Ravnica, Ravnica Allegiance has great Battle Box mechanics. None of them are parasitic, and most are open enough to work in almost any Box. Be sure to check out the Mini Battle Box as well.
The Top 20
Actually, I couldn’t trim it down to 20. The set is so rich in potential Battle Box cards that I decided to do a top 25 and hope nobody notices. So without further ado, here is my top 20-ish:
25. Lawmage’s Binding
Nothing much to say here. It’s similar to many white removal cards, but the addition of flash does give it a lot more flexibility.
24. Dead Revels
Getting back two creatures into your hand for 2 mana is quite a good deal. Getting them for four mana is quite a bad deal. That should give enough incentive to attack, making this a worthwile Battle Box card. It also provides a way to catch up when you’re behind, even if you have to pay full price.
23. Grotesque Demise
A powerful removal spell with a clear limitation is usually a recipe for a good Battle Box card. Power 3 will be common enough that this will rarely be a dead card, but it will not deal with all threats either. Its white counterpart (Bring to Trial) plays a similar role, and could be a better choice if your Battle Box is heavy on the big creatures.
22. Final Payment
Similar to the previous card, this provides efficient removal but at a significant cost. You will rarely be disappointed when you draw this, but you will still face an interesting choice.
21. Rakdos Firewheeler
A 4/3 for a heavy mana requirement is nothing special. Hopefully, the fact that you get to shock both your opponent and one of their creatures makes this worthwile. It could be it proves too underwhelming in the end.
20. Domri, City Smasher
If you haven’t seen this guy yet, he’s from one of the set’s planeswalker decks. I think the three modes are all relevant but not too powerful, and I think he hits a nice power level for a Battle Box planeswalker.
19. Angelic Exaltation
It’s the entire exalted mechanic in a can! I always like buildup dedicated exalted decks can achieve, and now we can add that experience to our Battle Box for the low price of 1 card. I like it a lot!
18. Savage Smash
It’s no secret that I like fight spells. They provide meaningful interaction, a decent hoop to jump through and the power to simplify the board. Giving your creature +2/+2 first is a huge advantage. And don’t forget that the power bonus doesn’t wear off until the end of the turn…
17. Gruul Spellbreaker
It’s an efficient beatdown creature. The partial hexproof may play some role, but it’s marginal. Gruul smaaaash!
16. Skatewing Spy
A 2/3 for 4 that needs 6 more mana to become a 4/5 flyer is rather underwhelming. On the other hand, if your Battle Box has a lot of +1/+1 counters flying around, I would at least consider including it.
15. Essence Capture
Two blue mana is a significant cost for a counterspell. It only counters creatures, but that is still 50%+ of the cards in most Battle Boxes. For that same reason, the +1/+1 counter will also often be relevant. It’s a nice swing of fortunes.
14. Wrecking Beast
It’s expensive, but it’s also one of the few riot cards where the haste option is perhaps picked more often than the +1/+1 counter. Depending on the board, this can easily be a 6 damage blow to the head when it enters the battlefield.
13. Simic Ascendancy
I’m not a big fan of mana sinks in Battle Box, because they are too often left unused. But the Ascendancy’s +1/+1 counter effect has a big impact on combat even if it is never played. It messes with your opponents’ combat math and the result will often be that you still have all your mana because paying for the counter proved unnecessary. Unless you have a heavy +1/+1 counter theme, I would not expect the alternative win condition to happen often, but who knows.
12. Collision – Colossus
I think Colossal Might is a decent Battle Box card in itself. Getting the option to destroy a flyer attached to it is serious gravy. And both halves are very reasonably priced.
If you haven’t noticed, this little guy has been making waves in constructed formats from Standard to Legacy. He rewards you for playing a string of instants and sorceries, and he is much faster than the Izzet drakes. In Battle Box, it will not be as quick to level up, but a 1/1 flyer for 1 is a decent early play and later in the game it can still be a serious threat.
It’s a decent aggressive play if you draw it early, and the deathtouch gives it some relevance later in the game as well. It also rewards attacking, although not as much as some of the other spectacle cards.
9. Orzhov Enforcer
It’s not too flashy, but it packs a lot of value for a small price. You get to take out an attacker and get a flying spirit token as your reward. And on an empty board, you can sneak in a few points of damage.
8. Mirror March
This set’s big red chaos card. If you don’t mind flipping coins, this can product some wild situations. Sure, it is expensive and will do nothing a lot of the time. But the dream of attacking with 5 Gate Colossuses compensates for that a bit.
7. Rix Maadi Reveler
As a 2/2 that lets you cycle a card, it’s OK but not great. However, later in the game, your reward increases significantly. The bigger reward also gives you a real incentive to attack.
6. Thrash – Threat
The Gruul clan gets some top notch split cards in Ravnica Allegiance. The other guilds have decent cards too, but many of them clearly have one half made specifically for drafting. Getting an Aggressive Instinct bolted to a 4/4 trampler is quite good. And again, neither half is too overpriced.
5. Rhythm of the Wild
If you have ever played against this in draft, you’ll know it’s a lot better than it looks. The mana investment is quite small, and every creature you play after gets a significant bonus. It’s especially nice in a Box that has a +1/+1 counter theme, although I would be careful if your Box has a lower overall power level.
4. Light Up the Stage
I love this way of drawing cards for Battle Box. Normally, card draw increases your options, leading to longer turns and more waiting. But if the cards you draw expire by the end of your next turn, this effectively reduces your options. You will almost always try to play these two cards first (unless your hand has something you absolutely have to play). This decreases your decision time and actually moves the game along. The fact that it also incentivizes attacking makes this a Battle Box hit.
3. Warrant – Warden
I think both modes are fine in any game of Magic, but if you tend to play your Battle Box games with one large communal deck, the first mode provides some great shenanigans opportunities. Play it on an opponent’s attacker, and next turn you will be the one who gets to draw it. If you play your Battle Box games with individual libraries, I would probably not bother with it.
2. Plaza of Harmony
I think this is a nice option if your Battle Box uses Gates for its dual lands and you want to put some cards with heavy color requirements in your Box. Adding this as an 11th land gives you a nice extra source of mana that requires some planning to play correctly but no investment after that.
1. Judith, the Scourge Diva
Judith gives your creatures a nice boost, encouraging aggressive play (something most Battle Boxes can use). And if your creatures die, you get to gut shot any target. This makes combat math more interesting, and it also allows for some value plays if you have cards that allow you to sacrifice a creature for some benefit.
I have not yet updated my Battle Boxes with the new cards, but you can be certain many of the cards above will make their way in. For now, have fun Battle Boxing and leave a comment to let me know which cards I missed.