I make no apologies for my unparalleled love for niche Magic formats. Battle Box, in particular, is my favorite because it provides such a unique and fluid game play experience. I love spoiler season, because it gives me an opportunity to find exciting new cards for not only Constructed formats but also casual variants.

Today’s article will feature my review of two sets: Battlebond and Core Set 2019. Battlebond wasn’t a great set for Battle Box, since it relies heavily on multiplayer mechanics, which is why I didn’t review it individually. But in concert with Core Set 2019, these two sets add some nice depth and several really fun cards.

A Battle Box article may be a little bit narrow, but also keep in mind that much of what I say about these cards in a Battle Box context can easily be applied to other casual formats such as Cube. So, even if you don’t own a Battle Box, there may be some nice Cube cards discussed as well today.

For those of you who have never partaken in Battle Boxing, it’s a real treat and I’d suggest checking it out if you ever find yourself in a position to play a few games. The concept is simple: The owner of the Battle Box collects a stack of creatures, spells, and artifacts for both players to use as a deck to draw from.

In addition, each player is provided with one of each basic and one of each ETB tapped allied dual land.

The “land cache” of 10 starts in exile and players can play one land from this pile per turn. The concept of the format is that Battle Box is a Magic variant where two or more players can sit down and play out of the box, like a board game, with no deck building or drafting necessary. Simply whip out the stack of cards, toss your best friend a pile of lands, and sit back and enjoy hours of quality Magic gameplay!

The Danger Room

The “Danger Room” is my personal Battle Box list that I constantly update and tune with each official MTG release. I have a certain “power level” I constantly aim for. I like my Battle Box experience to feel like two players battling with extremely good Draft decks.

I like the parity of mana production with both players having equal access to land drops at every point in the game and so I choose to shy away from ramp and land destruction. I also try to keep a fairly even baseline on power level. You’ll notice that I don’t include planeswalkers in my list because they’re swingy and it’s hard to come back from behind against them.

The key to any casual format is to do what you love with it. I encourage everyone to play with what you like and what your friend enjoys as well!

I know that a lot of people enjoy my list because I get asked for updates constantly, which is partly why I do these reviews. I enjoy the types of games my list allows, but it’s all subjective. Go wild, try new things that seem cool to you, and most of all, enjoy the experience!

Artifact and Mono-Color Spells – 380

Artifacts: 30 Total

Artifacts are one of the most challenging cards to include in the Battle Box. In a format where players have basically perfect mana fixing, the upside of no color commitments isn’t that big and so it’s often difficult to find artifacts that don’t feel straight-up weaker than cards with the same CMC but heavier color commitments.

Out

The card simply wasn’t very fun or exciting. There are not very many artifacts in the deck, which made it kind of difficult to hit historic cards with its trigger. The card was certainly “fine,” but I want more out of mythic rare in my Danger Room. Pretty easy switch.

In

A new printing from Core 2019… I love cards like Chaos Wand. Great flavor and simple yet strategically deep game play. I find this card difficult to evaluate, which is exactly why I’m excited to play with it!

Will it be a card that just dominates games, or will it not do enough? I’ll just have to play the games, I suppose.

Artifacts (30)

Awakened Amalgam
Basilisk Collar
Bloodforged Battle-Axe
Chaos Wand
Conqueror’s Flail
Crystal Shard
Duplicant
Engineered Explosives
Etched Oracle
Filigree Familiar
Fleetwheel Cruiser
Hangarback Walker
Icy Manipulator
Lightning Greaves
Loxodon Warhammer
Mask of Memory
Nihil Spellbomb
Peace Strider
Perilous Vault
Pierce Strider
Power Matrix
Runechanter’s Pike
Scrapheap Scrounger
Serrated Arrows
Smuggler’s Copter
Spellskite
Trip Noose
Triskelion
Walking Ballista
Sylvok Lifestaff

White: 70 Total

It seems like white always gets the lion’s share of neat new cards these days…

Out with the Old

There was nothing wrong or bad with these cards, but they were a little on the weaker and less exciting side of things. I keep my stack the same number of cards at all times and so if I want to add something it means something has to get cut! It’s sad, but it’s part of the fun.

In with the New

I’m a sucker for these types of cards. It’s hard not to be—the card has a good rate and a zillion abilities. These are the kinds of cards that people like to play with, which is why I always try to fit them into my stack.

The graveyard plays an important role in the Danger Room, as it does in all of Magic. It is difficult to include graveyard hate because most of the effective cards are just too narrow to be effective in an average game of Magic. It’s why people don’t main deck Tormod’s Crypt in Modern!

I love to see graveyard hate that is attached to an otherwise reasonable card (decent creature or on a modal charm spell). The Cleric can easily be a card that will be in the stack forever.

I think that a card like this could be a nice fit for the Danger Room. It is clearly powerful, but it dies to everything and is kind of mana-intensive. I feel like it will be a solid “threat” in the format.

White (70)

Adamant Will
Adanto Vanguard
Adorned Pouncer
Akroma’s Vengeance
Angel of Finality
Angel of Sanctions
Austere Command
Azorius Herald
Belfry Spirit
Blade Splicer
Brightling
Cloudgoat Ranger
Collective Effort
Commander Eesha
Dawn Charm
Day of Judgment
Declaration in Stone
Dismantling Blow
Dauntless Bodyguard
Dragon Hunter
Dusk // Dawn
End Hostilities
Exalted Angel
Final Judgment
Flickerwisp
Fumigate
Geist-Honored Monk
Glorious Anthem
Glory-Bound Initiate
Hallow
Hallowed Burial
Healing Grace
Hidden Dragonslayer
History of Benalia
Imperial Aerosaur
Imposing Sovereign
Isamaru, Hound of Konda
Karmic Guide
Kinjalli’s Sunwing
Kirtar’s Wrath
Lingering Souls
Mardu Woe-Reaper
Momentary Blink
Mother of Runes
Phyrexian Rebirth
Reciprocate
Regal Caracal
Remorseful Cleric
Resplendent Angel
Restoration Angel
Righteous Confluence
Rout
Scout’s Warning
Selfless Spirit
Selfless Squire
Shrieking Grotesque
Skymarcher Aspirant
Soldier of the Pantheon
Soulfire Grand Master
Spear of Heliod
Spectral Lynx
Sunscape Battlemage
Suture Priest
Swords to Plowshares
Terminus
Thraben Inspector
Trueheart Duelist
Valorous Stance
Wall of Omens
Wrath of God

Blue: 70 Total

No changes! Two sets and not a single blue card that I like more than what I’ve already got going on. I will admit, they don’t make blue cards like they used to (or they just reprint the same blue cards over and over). In any case, I’m standing with what I have.

Aeon Chronicler
Allied Strategies
Ancestral Vision
Angler Drake
Blue Elemental Blast
Bonded Fetch
Braingeyser
Careful Consideration
Censor
Cephalid Sage
Champion of Wits
Chart a Course
Circular Logic
Complicate
Concentrate
Control Magic
Counterspell
Deep Analysis
Delver of Secrets
Disallow
Dispel
Dismiss
Dungeon Geists
Envelop
Evasive Action
Exclude
Fact or Fiction
False Summoning
Flashfreeze
Harbinger of the Tides
Hydroblast
Jace’s Phantasm
Jilt
Jolting Merfolk
Looter il-Kor
Lu Xun, Scholar General
Man-o’-war
Merfolk Looter
Miscalculation
Mulldrifter
Negate
Nimble Obstructionist
Neutralizing Blast
One With the Wind
Opportunity
Persuasion
Phantasmal Image
Power Sink
Probe
Remand
Remove Soul
Repulse
Secrets of the Golden City
Serendib Efreet
Slippery Scoundrel
Snapcaster Mage
Steal Artifact
Stolen Identity
Stratus Dancer
Sun Ce, Young Conquerer
Syncopate
Talrand’s Invocation
Tidings
Time of Ice
Unsummon
Vesuvan Shapeshifter
Warkite Marauder
Whirler Rogue
Willbender
Wonder

Black: 70 Total

Black is getting close to blue status in my Battle Box. It is simply getting difficult to cut cards because the competition is so stiff. With that being said, there are a handful of cards that I had to add.

Out

Again, no bad cards here but something had to go. These spells were kind of low impact and a little low on power level. Nighthawk and Haruspex are both cards that I’ve wanted to be good for a while, but they just aren’t.

In

A neat Battlebond card. I’ve always had difficulty making “enchantments matter” in this format but this is a good one. It does a bunch of different things, and they are all pretty rude! Flavor win.

I complained about the flavor of the card a few weeks ago, and I do think this card could have been cooler. With that being said, it has a nice power level balance that meshes nicely with my stack.

I’d basically put almost any Skeleton Dragon into my stack.

I like this card and the way that it is effective in the early turns as well as the late turns. It is possible that it won’t be effective enough at either to be worth the spot, but I have high hopes for this little ghoul.

Black (70)

Bane of the Living
Big Game Hunter
Bloodsoaked Champion
Bone Dragon
Bone Shredder
Cast Down
Chainer’s Edict
Coffin Queen
Collective Brutality
Consuming Vapors
Crypt Angel
Dakmor Lancer
Damnation
Dance of the Dead
Dark Banishing
Dark Hatchling
Demonlord Belzenlok
Despise
Dismember
Divest
Doom Blade
Doomfall
Drana, Liberator of Malakir
Dread Wanderer
Duress
Dusk Legion Zealot
Entomber Exarch
Expunge
Fatal Push
Flesh Carver
Ghastly Demise
Go for the Throat
Gonti, Lord of Luxury
Graveyard Marshal
Gurmag Angler
Inner Demon
Inquisition of Kozilek
Keening Banshee
Kokusho, the Evening Star
Lay Bare the Heart
Lifebane Zombie
Moment of Craving
Murderous Cut
Nekrataal
Never // Return
Noxious Gearhulk
Night’s Whisper
Ophiomancer
Ostracize
Phyrexian Gargantua
Phyrexian Rager
Ravenous Chupacabra
Rend Flesh
Ritual of the Machine
Sever the Bloodline
Shriekmaw
Skeletal Scrying
Skeletal Vampire
Skinrender
Smother
Stir the Sands
Sudden Death
Thoughtseize
Tragic Slip
Transgress the Mind
Unburial Rites
Undying Evil
Unearth
Withered Wretch
Wretched Confluence

Red: 70 Total

Red is one of the colors I’ve most been enjoying in the Danger Room. Many readers have commented in the past that my list has been creeping up in power level over the past several releases. True.

With that being said, one of the biggest reasons for the creep was to create more diversity among red cards. In earlier builds of the Danger Room I felt like I was passing over red threats because they were too powerful, and as a result my red suite felt like a bunch of cheap burn spells and Fire Imps.

I wanted some sicko Dragons and monsters. Can you blame me?

Outro

The Trailblazer just couldn’t hack it.

I’m actually a huge fan of this card and think it looks flossie flossie in old card face and foil. It was a tough one to cut. But I cut it because it was just too swingy. It was one of the closest things to an “auto win card” in my stack. Very one-sided.

Intro

I love the flavor of this card! The Dragon demands a “snackrifice!” Obviously, a powerful card but Dragons should be.

Another cool flavor add! I’m glad that I’m adding several new Dragons this time around! Based on how this new list plays, I may consider revisiting Khans block for more “Dragons-matter” spells.

Red (70)

Abbot of Keral Keep
Abrade
Anger
Ahn-Crop Crasher
Arc Lightning
Barbed Lightning
Beetleback Chief
Brute Force
Burst Lightning
Carbonize
Chain Lightning
Collective Defiance
Conquering Manticore
Cunning Sparkmage
Deem Worthy
Demanding Dragon
Desolation Giant
Dire Fleet Daredevil
Disintegrate
Dualcaster Mage
Earthshaker Khenra
Faithless Looting
Feldon of the Third Path
Fiery Confluence
Fire Imp
Fireball
Firebolt
Flames of the Firebrand
Flame Slash
Flametongue Kavu
Forked Bolt
Frenzied Fugue
Goblin Dark-Dwellers
Grim Lavamancer
Hordeling Outburst
Hound of Griselbrand
Hungry Flames
Incendiary Flow
Incinerate
Kird Ape
Krenko, Mob Boss
Lightning Bolt
Lightning Strike
Mindclaw Shaman
Pardic Arsonist
Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Pia Nalaar
Pillar of Flame
Punishing Fire
Pyroblast
Rampaging Ferocidon
Red Elemental Blast
Resounding Thunder
Roast
Searing Spear
Shock
Siege-Gang Commander
Slice and Dice
Spit Flame
Starstorm
Smoldering Werewolf
Temur Battle Rage
Thunderbreak Regent
Thunderscape Battlemage
Tribal Flames
Two-Headed Giant
Verix Bladewing
Vulshok Sorcerer
Warfire Javelineer
Zurgo Bellstriker

Green: 70 Total

There are also a couple of neat green cards among the new releases…

Out

Too slow and ineffective in close games. I want fewer cards that blow board stalls completely open. I know that seems like a strange thing to say after just pointing out how I like that effect on Runic Armasaur, but there is a difference between a flashback draw 5 and an ability that stops an opponent from using abilities. I just wasn’t impressed.

Tendershoot broke my rule about cards that just take over games and end them if not immediately answered. It dies to a lot, but if it doesn’t, it’s game over. Not even my affinity for Saprolings could save this little dude.

In

I love a creature that can block well and provide me with some good utility. This little Dinosaur can do both in spades. I think this card will make an impact in Constructed but it will also be a nice little addition to Cubes and Battle Boxes.

A 2/2 will have lots of nice blocks on defense, especially when behind. The static ability also plays nicely on stalled boards.

I’ve set aside my distrust of the hexproof mechanic out of love for creature type: Horse. It’s a cool card and it reminds me a little bit of a Phantom Centaur. Anything that makes me think of Phantom Centaur makes me happy.

Green (70)

Ana Battlemage
Arborback Stomper
Autumn’s Veil
Basking Rootwalla
Benefactor’s Draught
Berserk
Blastoderm
Blossoming Defense
Briarhorn
Call of the Herd
Caller of the Claw
Deathmist Raptor
Deathgorge Scavenger
Den Protector
Earl of Squirrel
Elvish Visionary
Eternal Witness
Flinthoof Boar
Forgotten Ancient
Gaea’s Might
Genesis Hydra
Giant Growth
Harmonize
Hooded Hydra
Imperious Perfect
Jungleborn Pioneer
Kessig Prowler
Loaming Shaman
Majestic Myriarch
Manglehorn
Master of the Wild Hunt
Mitotic Slime
Moment’s Peace
Noose Constrictor
Obstinate Baloth
Ohran Viper
Patagia Viper
Pelakka Wurm
Phantom Centaur
Polukranos, World Eater
Predator’s Strike
Qasali Slingers
Rancor
Ranger’s Guile
Reclamation Sage
Regrowth
Resilient Khenra
Ridgescale Tusker
Ripjaw Raptor
River Boa
Runic Armasaur
Scavenging Ooze
Seed Guardian
Skyshroud Elite
Skyshroud War Beast
Somberwald Stag
Spider Spawning
Stingerfling Spider
Sunblade Elf
Territorial Allosaurus
Thornscape Battlemage
Thragtusk
Thrashing Brontodon
Vengevine
Vine Mare
Wall of Blossoms
Wild Mongrel
Wild Nacatl
Withstand Death
Wolfir Avenger

Multicolor 2-Color Guild Spells

There were not a ton of gold cards that interested me in these two sets. But I did find room for a couple of Elder Dragon legends in the Shard/Wedge section.

Azorius (U/W) – (10)

No changes.

Absorb
Azorius Guildmage
Cloudblazer
Hindering Light
Ojutai’s Command
Ordered Migration
Raff Capashen, Ship’s Mage
Reflector Mage
Supreme Verdict
Wall of Denial

Boros (R/W) – (10)

No changes.

Basandra, Battle Seraph
Boros Charm
Boros Guildmage
Boros Reckoner
Bull Cerodon
Foundry Champion
Lightning Helix
Sky Terror
Relentless Raptor
Warleader’s Helix

Dimir (U/B) – (10)

No changes.

Baleful Strix
Countersquall
Dragonlord Silumgar
Far // Away
Hostage Taker
Psychatog
Shadowmage Infiltrator
Soul Manipulation
Spite // Malice
Woodlot Crawler

Golgari (B/G) – 10

No changes.

Abrupt Decay
Baloth Null
Consume Strength
Dreg Mangler
Gleancrawler
Golgari Guildmage
Maelstrom Pulse
Obelisk Spider
Pernicious Deed
Putrefy

Gruul (R/G) – 10

No changes.

Assault // Battery
Bloodbraid Elf
Dragonlair Spider
Fires of Yavimaya
Ghor-Clan Rampager
Hallar, the Firefletcher
Huntmaster of the Fells
Khenra Charioteer
Raging Regisaur
Wort, the Raidmother

Izzet (U/R) – 10

No changes.

Adeliz, the Cinder Wind
Counterflux
Dack’s Duplicate
Electrolyze
Etherium-Horn Sorcerer
Fire // Ice
Izzet Charm
Prophetic Prism
Swerve
Turn // Burn

Orzhov (B/W) – 10

No changes.

Blind Hunter
Castigate
Death Grasp
Elenda, The Dusk Rose
Ghost Council of Orzhova
Karlov of the Ghost Council
Mortify
Orzhov Pontiff
Sin Collector
Zealous Persecution

Rakdos (R/B) – 10

No changes.

Bituminous Blast
Blightning
Claim // Fame
Cut // Ribbons
Garna, the Bloodflame
Kolaghan’s Command
Murderous Redcap
Olivia, Mobilized for War
Terminate
Unlicensed Disintegration

Selesnya (W/G) – 10

No changes.

Advent of the Wurm
Dromoka’s Command
Elderwood Scion
Enlisted Wurm
Kitchen Finks
Loxodon Hierarch
Loxodon Smiter
Mystic Enforcer
Selesnya Charm
Voice of Resurgence

Simic (U/G) – 10

No changes.

Aether Mutation
Ethereal Ambush
Icefeather Aven
Horizon Chimera
Jungle Barrier
Mystic Snake
Plaxcaster Frogling
River Hoopoe
Shardless Agent
Simic Charm

Multicolor, Shards, Wedges, and 5-Color – 31

Abzan (G/W/B) – 3

Abzan Charm
Anafenza, the Foremost
Doran, the Siege Tower

Bant (W/U/G) – 3

Out

I think that Arcades is just a better defensive card for the mana cost and space in the stack. Monk is a cool card, but it’s actually not that exciting to play with.

In

Arcades Sabboth was always my favorite of the Elder Dragon Legends. Back when I was a kid and first playing the game, one of my friends went to a trade show (back when it was hard to find Magic singles) and paid like $30 bucks for this Dragon, which was a lot at the time.

With that being said, this card has neat flavor and is powerful without being obnoxious. It’s a Dragon, and a very different Dragon in terms of what it does and how it plays. There are also several walls in the deck, which means that there is a good chance of seeing its ability fully realized.

Arcades, the Strategist
Bant Charm
Rubinia Soulsinger

Esper (U/W/B) – 3

Dromar’s Charm
Punish Ignorance
Trial // Error

Grixis (U/R/B) – 3

Dark Intimations
Gwendlyn Di Corci
Slave of Bolas

Jeskai (U/W/R) – 3

Lightning Angel
Mantis Rider
Sage of the Inward Eye

Jund (R/B/G) – 3

Darigaaz’s Charm
Jund Charm
Sprouting Thrinax

Mardu (B/W/R) – 3

Crackling Doom
Mardu Charm
Ponyback Brigade

Naya (R/W/G) – 3

Fiery Justice
Marath, Will of the Wild
Woolly Thoctar

Sultai (B/U/G) – 3

Sidisi, Brood Tyrant
Sultai Charm
The Mimeoplasm

Temur (R/U/G) – 3

Savage Knuckleblade
Temur Ascendancy
Temur Charm

Five-Color – 1

Fusion Elemental

Afterthoughts

While I think that Battlebond is an interesting experiment and multiplayer Limited set, it didn’t really offer too much in terms of cards I’d want to add to my stack. But I could certainly see somebody with a multiplayer Cube or Battle Box being very excited. For me, there were a lot of cards that felt interesting that simply wouldn’t work in my stack.

Core Set 2019 is a pretty dazzling set. There are lots of cards that I’d be excited to sleeve up in here!

Of all the cards, I’m most excited to add Remorseful Cleric. It is exactly the kind of card that I like and it adds an effect that I’d like to have more of in my stack in a way that feels very organic. I’m also anxious to see how all of these new boss Dragons play in my stack. I only got to add one Elder Dragon to my Danger Room, but I wasn’t expecting to get any, so I’ll take it! The other Elder Dragons just seem a little too out of control for the kinds of games I like to build for.

All things considered, I think these changes will likely make for a wonderful play experience for my friends and me. The casual formats matter, and I’m glad to see several unique and interesting gems in these two releases that will certainly enhance my casual play experience!