Catching Up

Although mtgbattlebox has been away for only a few weeks, it turns out that a few weeks is a long time in modern Magic. It turns out we missed the launch of not one, not two, but three new products.

Catching up is hard to do

Not only have two full draftable sets been released (Battlebond and Magic 2019), we’ve also seen the release of the first regional duel deck (rebranded Global Series, I guess because they were running out of letters for their duel deck abbreviations; they were up to DDU with Elves & Inventors ).

Instead of writing a full article for each of these sets, I will discuss each of them shortly in this article. You’ve seen all the cards already anyway, and there’s no point in trying to get you excited with old news. Instead, I’ll highlight the top Battle Box cards for each set and give you a ultra short review of each set.

First up: Battlebond

I like how Wizards is branching out in what it offers to players. No longer is Magic just a game for people that want to play Standard on Friday night. It is a game of Drafters, Commanders, Cubers, Battle Boxers, and miscellaneous other casual players. One of those other casual formats is Two-Headed Giant, or 2HG. It is played in two teams of two players, and players share one life total and take their turns as a team. They draw cards at the same time, attack the other team (not the individual players) as a team and block as a team.

Although I’ve only played 2HG once (at a local prerelease) I actually enjoyed the format a lot, and I think it is great that Wizards made a product that highlights such a relatively unknown format. When you examine the individual cards, it becomes clear that the main target audience for the set is not the handful of 2HG players out there, but Commander players instead (which I think is fine, and good business sense). Random suggestion for WotC: Maybe it’s an idea to make a product shining a spotlight on that other lesser known format, Battle Box, with a set that’s secretly aimed at Cube players. Just a thought…

Battlebond is not a great Battle Box set, unfortunately. The main focus is the partner with mechanic, which allows you to search your library for the partner of a certain legendary creature. That’s problematic, because we generally want to avoid searching the huge libraries that come with the format. The second new mechanic, assist, lets other players help pay for your spells. That’s fine in principle, but it means the base cost of the spells is a bit higher than you would normally pay for a similar effect. As it only works in multiplayer boxes, I don’t see big potential here either. The last “mechanic”, the friend or foe spells, let you give two different effects to players, one good, one bad. I think this mechanic will be great in multiplayer boxes, as it enables fun political plays.

I’m still on the fence on whether I should build a Battlebond mini Box. If I do, I will have to enable the partner mechanic in some way. That may be relatively easy, if I just leave half the partners in a separate partner deck to enable quick searching. But I also feel that the box should enable 2HG play, and I just don’t know if it’s realistic to support four players with a 90-100 card deck. What do you think? Leave a comment below if you think I should build a Battlebond box.

With the relatively small number of relevant mechanics, I limited myself to a Top 10 of best Battle Box cards:

Honorable mention: the multiplayer lands
These lands are a fantastic new asset for Commander players all around the world, and including them in multiplayer Battle Boxes would be like including the revised duals. That’s very powerful but it will take away any tension in building up the mana base. The question is whether that is such a big deal. In the Commander Box, the focus is on big plays and sequencing the cards you draw, not so much on sequencing your land drops correctly. And on the upside, including the duals will allow the cutting of the Mana Confluences, which will mean players will no longer get punished just for drawing cards that have 3 colored mana symbols. I think I will try them for a while to see how they fit.

10. Khorvath’s Fury
The first friend or foe card on the list. You can reset your own hand (and perhaps one or two others) and deal some damage to your opponents. It won’t be a blowout, but will push the game forward.

9. Together Forever
This is not a flashy play, but then 2 mana is not a lot and it will be more powerful in the late game. It will work especially well in a box with a +1/+1 counter theme.

8. Brightling
I think this is in line with Morphling, Thornling and Aetherling. That means it will be for higher powered boxes. It’s relatively cheap, which may make it too efficient, but it’s worth a shot.

7. Regna’s Sanction
When timed right this can boost your team while at the same time blowing out most blockers. Definitely not a high powered card, but has the potential for some fun.

6. Bramble Sovereign
Its ability scales with the power level of your Box, so this can find a home in any Box. Be aware that you don’t want too many spells that require constant mana investments, but if your Box has room for this, give it a try.

5. Inner Demon
Black’s variant on On Serra’s Wings. The creature boost is perhaps not as meaningful, although it will make most creatures scary enough. But the mini board sweeper will certainly be relevant at times and creates a nice tension in the card. Great Battle Box material.

4. Thrilling Encore
The dream play here is of course to play this after a successful board sweep. But the mana cost is a little high to manage that on your own turn. And you don’t want to keep up 5 mana in case your opponent has a sweeper either. What it is great for is cashing on a big combat phase where lots of creatures get traded. This is not that hard to do in Battle Box.

3. Virtus’s Maneuver
If I were a Magic designer and had to come up with friend or foe cards, this would have certainly been the first variant I would have thought of. It’s clean, it’s fun, it will be relevant most of the time. Can’t wait to play this.

2. Fumble
For Commander (where this will shine), this seems ridiculously cheap. I can’t see playing an interactive blue Commander deck and not including this. For Battle Box, its value depends a lot on how many auras and equipment you have in your Box. I would say you need a minimum of 5% auras/equipment to make this card work.

1. Stunning Reversal
This isn’t necessarily a Battle Box card, but I just like the design a lot. It has the potential to lead to some epic plays and miraculous comebacks.

To round up Battlebond, these are the cards I have decided to include in my boxes:

Battle Box:

Cheering Fanatic
Inner Demon

Commander Box:

Bring Down
Khorvath’s Fury
Stunning Reversal
Thrilling Encore
Virtus’s Maneuver

5x Bountiful Promenade
5x Luxury Suite
5x Morphic Pool
5x Sea of Clouds
5x Spire Garden

What about you? Will you be including any Battlebond cards in your Box?

Next up: Global Series

I think the Global Series is a nice idea with a lot of potential. It opens the door to so many different local legends, sagas and myths. And judging by the card quality of the first edition, it seems WotC really wants to make this a casual product. Obviously, that suits us fine as Battle Box players. Now to be honest, I was a little underwhelmed by the cards in this first set, but let’s hope the future will bring us some cool stuff. The only cards I would consider from the first edition are:

Ancestor Dragon
I don’t want to include too much life gain in my boxes because it slows down games. On the other hand, this gains you life whenever you attack, which helps move the game along. I think this is nice enough.

Jiang Yanggu
Like with the Planeswalker decks, the Global Series seems to provide some weaker powered planeswalkers. I think Jiang is a fine card to include in a normal Battle Box. He can potentially ultimate on the second turn, if you manage to protect him.

Mu Yanling
Similarly, this is a decent powered planeswalker. Making a creature unblockable or drawing two cards are both fine abilities. I would not play either planeswalker in a higher powered Box, but I think they will be fine in a normal Battle Box.

I will not be including any of these cards in my own Boxes at this time. I’ll be looking forward to the next Global Series deck to see what local story they will bring to life then.

And finally… Magic 2019

After a three year hiatus, core sets are back! And this time it brings more Dominaria nostalgia. All the old Elder Dragons are making an appearance, and Nicol Bolas weaves another layer into his tapestry of evil. The set has a lot of new cards, but as you’d expect from a core set most of them are not too fancy. So once again, I have kept my most wanted list down to a top 10:

10. Open the Graves
I think the effect is cool, but 5 mana is a hefty investment for something that has no immediate impact on the board. Works best in slower Battle Boxes.

9. Sigiled Sword of Valeron
Properly powered equipments are hard to find. Either they are too overpowered (like the Mirrodin swords) or they are underwhelming or too situational. The Sigiled Sword gives a small but relevant boost to a creature, and it slowly creates an army to boot. I would have preferred first strike over vigilance, but this is fine.

8. Heroic Reinforcements
You get two 2/2 soldiers that can attack immediately and your other creatures all get +1/+1 (and haste, although that will rarely be relevant). I think that’s nice enough for 4 mana, but only just. A fun card for less high powered boxes.

7. Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma
Magic’s first legendary bear. I doubt if Commander players will now all start playing bear themed decks, but Goreclaw’s abilities are actually not that bad. If you have a box with a decent number of fatties, Goreclaw can help them enter play earlier. And giving them all trample (including himself) is not bad either.

6. Mirror Image
Regular readers will know that I like clone effects. They are fun and they have the advantage of scaling with the power of your Battle Box, so they fit in anywhere. I think getting a discount for only being able to copy your own creatures is a great new addition. I would only include this in 2 player boxes, because in multiplayer the downside compared to other clone cards is too big.

5. Bone Dragon
A nice efficient dragon, but I don’t think he’s too overpowered. His ability to come back from the graveyard is difficult enough to achieve that I don’t expect it to happen more than once or twice in a game.

4. Leonin Warleader
The direct comparison is Hero of Bladehold, and I think the Warleader compares quite well. He hits a little harder, and while he doesn’t boost your team, his tokens do have lifelink. On a full board I would prefer the Hero, while on an empty board I think the Warleader takes it. Definitely a nice card.

3. Demon of Catastrophes
I think this is the cleanest variant of “sacrifice a creature” demons we have seen. I don’t particularly like his name, but I think he will be a great draw most of the time.

2. Cleansing Nova
It’s always great to have answers in your box, and this can take out most types of permanents that ruin games. It’s clean and reasonably priced. I love it.

1. Dismissive Pyromancer
A 2/2 for 2 is not the worst tempo play. And when it can’t attack, it can cycle cards for a small fee. Or it can go into full terrorist mode and blow itself up to take out a problematic creature. I think that’s a great toolbox, and this will never be a dead draw.

Finally, these are the Magic 2019 cards I have decided to include in my boxes:

Battle Box:

Demanding Dragon
Demon of Catastrophes
Dismissive Pyromancer
Riddlemaster Sphinx

Commander Box:

Cleansing Nova

That’s it for today. I love how many new things Wizards keeps throwing at us, but I’m also glad I can take a little vacation now. See you when the next new thing comes around.