Today, I’d like to highlight the new cards I’m excited to add to my Battle Box, affectionately dubbed The Danger Room. The Danger Room has some cool history and has undergone thousands of tunes, tweaks, and games and I am proud to own the first Battle Box ever to exist.
The basic premise of the format is that both players start with a cache of lands in exile that can be played, one per turn:
Five basics, five ETB tapped, and endless possibilities.
Players draw from a shared “big stack” of preselected cards (like a Cube) and battle. It’s essentially a ready-to-play-out-of-the-box version of Magic. It’s also nice that the game eliminates mana screw and flood, as both players have parity in terms of mana production each turn.
It’s important to have a baseline power level for all of the cards in the deck. You don’t want one player to draw a bunch of Olivia Voldaren and the other to draw a bunch of Hill Giants. My baseline is cards that I’d be thrilled to first-pick in Draft, without cards that are 100% unbeatable. So, no Umezawa’s Jitte or Bonfire of the Damned.
If you are a hardcore Battle Box player, or even a Cube Curator, today’s journey through Dominaria will highlight some of the most fun and interesting cards that appear in the new set.
The Updated Danger Room List
I’m always constantly cutting and adding cards from my list throughout the year, not just when a new set comes out.
With that being said, I get a lot of comments about the differences between the new list and the last one that are not explained. I don’t track every change and substitution I make. To me, the format is about trying new things and going with the flow, and I encourage others to experiment with their lists as well.
With that being said, this is exactly what is in The Danger Room as of writing this article:
Artifact and Mono-Colored Spells: 380
Weatherlight is a cool addition for several reasons. First, it’s one of the most iconic objects in all of Magic. Second, the card is sweet.
In a format where every color of fixing is readily available, a big part of what makes artifacts so good—no color commitment—is lost. Obviously, a 4-drop card that costs 1RWU is going to be inherently more powerful than one that costs 4.
That said, artifacts do offer Vehicles (which is a unique mechanic) and Equipment. So a powerful and flavorful Vehicle is going to make the cut every time. The fact that my stack isn’t overloaded with historic cards means the ship won’t always hit a card when it connects, which gives it a nice power level.
Time to Say Goodbye
I’m sad to say goodbye to Living Wall. It was one of my favorite cards when I first started playing because it was nearly impossible to get around. With that being said, power creep has finally pushed Alpha Living Wall out of my stack. The old-school cards are starting to feel weak. It makes me sad, but I created a second “Old-School Danger Room” so that these iconic and nostalgic cards will always have a home where they can be shuffled up to shine.
Mask of Memory
I think this was just a strict upgrade to Moment of Triumph, which got the cut. I love finding combat tricks that are good enough to thrive in an environment where they tend to be a little underpowered. The fact that this can be a counterspell to most removal spells makes it flexible on offense or defense.
This is one of the pound-for-pound best cards in Dominaria. Wonderful flavor. It is a good aggressive creature and has the ability to protect other creatures. I love that it is able to accomplish both of these flavor elements in an elegant and straightforward way.
I love this card and honestly wish there were more cards like it. Another tricky combat trick that is easily on the correct power level for my stack.
Most of the Sagas didn’t feel like they worked in my stack as they create a kind of “game” that wants to synergize with a specific kind of deck or strategy. The Danger Room is too broad in theme to make these cards worth the mana to cast.
HoB, on the other hand, is straightforward enough that it should be pretty decent in my stack. It’s good value.
Hasta la Vista
I don’t feel fondly about any one of these single cards to write them a proper send off. The cheap Rivals of Ixalan cards didn’t pan out. Lighthawk excites no one. Wing Shards has always been a decent card but it has been power creeped out of the stack.
Angel of Finality
Angel of Sanctions
Day of Judgment
Declaration in Stone
Dusk // Dawn
History of Benalia
Isamaru, Hound of Konda
Mother of Runes
Soldier of the Pantheon
Soulfire Grand Master
Spear of Heliod
Swords to Plowshares
Wall of Omens
Wrath of God
I don’t know if this is an acceptable card. Keeping creatures locked down and then bouncing them is quite good in the Danger Room. I basically just wanted to get another Saga into my stack and this one felt close. I wouldn’t be surprised if it became a mainstay for years to come. I also wouldn’t be surprised if I cut it after drawing it twice!
We Barely Knew Ye
A fine card but a little bit too situational for my taste. Plus, it’s super hard to ever cut a blue card. They are all great.
Blue Elemental Blast
Champion of Wits
Chart a Course
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
Time of Ice
Black is also deep on cool additions:
This is just a good card that people will be happy to draw
And the winner of the most nonsense name I’ve ever heard is…
I don’t hate giant monsters. In fact, I think they’re cool. It’s hard to find ones that are good but not too good, but I’m optimistic about Demonlord Belzenlok. He’s a big flyer that draws a card or two and loses a few life. A 6/6 flyer for 6 is already pretty decent, so I’ll have to keep an eye on Demonlord Belzenlok to make sure it plays fair. All things considered, Belzenlok looks like a pretty neat big monster for my stack.
I love Duress effects in this format.
I always make room for more mushroom in the Danger Room.
Say that ten times fast… I like the upside of this card.
Replaced by Divest.
Fungis are great.
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
Kokusho, the Evening Star
Lay Bare the Heart
Moment of Craving
Never // Return
Ritual of the Machine
Sever the Bloodline
Stir the Sands
Transgress the Mind
I really love the red cards from this set. I’ve often complained that red doesn’t have an identity other than haste creatures and burn spells, but there are some nicely designed cards in Dominaria.
Obviously, this card is fairly pushed. I didn’t add Rekindling Phoenix for power reasons but I think this card is at least close to being reasonable. For that reason alone I’m going to give it a shot. I like when the coolest cards in the set feel good but not so obviously broken that they feel like Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. It’s one of those situations where I’m between don’t play it, or accept that it is probably just a great card to draw in most situations. I’ll give the Dragon a chance to shine.
So happy about this.
I was sad when I had to cut my Two-Headed Giant of Foriys from my stack because 4R for a 4/4 trample just wasn’t very good by today’s standards. I think the new 2HG is at a nice spot for my stack. Solid.
Bye Bye Bye
Replaced by a more mature Dragon. If Verix is obnoxious I’ll be happy to slide the fledgling back in.
Abbot of Keral Keep
Dire Fleet Daredevil
Feldon of the Third Path
Flames of the Firebrand
Hound of Griselbrand
Krenko, Mob Boss
Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Pillar of Flame
Red Elemental Blast
Shower of Coals
Slice and Dice
Temur Battle Rage
Only one green card to add:
Never fight a Dinosaur.
The card is obviously great. 2GG for a 5/5 with the upside of becoming a Flametongue Kavu. Spoiler alert: I make some concessions to strict power level additions based on really cool flavor.
Goodbye, Norma Jean
It’s a fine card, but something had to go. Tappers are less effective in Danger Room games since they are unlikely to stall because players draw action every turn. He was a good apprentice—never great, but often good.
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
Multicolor 2-Color Guild Spells
The gold spots are very difficult to find room for. I only have TEN of each 2-color guild and three of each 3-color wedge/shard. With that being said, Dominaria is deep in great gold cards and there are going to be a lot of upgrades!
Azorius (U/W) – (10)
What can I say? I like flash creatures and this is a decent one.
Spell Queller is a great card, but not in Battle Box. There is too much removal and players draw action every turn. The card is too unreliable and can’t be counted on.
Boros (R/W) – (10)
Dimir (U/B) – (10)
Golgari (B/G) – 10
Gruul (R/G) – 10
Neat design. I believe there are enough kicker cards in my stack to make this creature consistently better than a 3/3 trample.
Ground Assault is a fine card. But from a flavor perspective I’d prefer not to use my limited gold space on 2-mana removal if I have other good options.
Izzet (U/R) – 10
A decent new card. Very similar to Storm Fleet Sprinter. Given how close, I’d rather take the option that adds another historic spell to the stack.
Storm Fleet Sprinter can take solace in knowing that he or she was beaten out by a true legend of uncommon historic significance.
Orzhov (B/W) – 10
Rakdos (R/B) – 10
I absolutely love this card. Easily my favorite addition to the stack. I’ve often felt that B/R and R/G have some of the weaker gold cards and both colors got a nice piece this time around to level out the playing field.
The card has a ton of payoff for being patient and sneaky, and “a ton” is the perfect amount of payoff to receive!
Rakdos Charm increases your charisma stat by -3. Just kidding. It’s actually a nice spell in the stack, but adding a gold card often comes with having to cut something that will be missed.
Selesnya (W/G) – 10
Simic (U/G) – 10
Multicolor, Shards, Wedges, and 5-Color – 31
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
Five-Color – 1
I really like Dominaria what it offers for some of the competitive/casual formats like Battle Box.
I was surprised that I didn’t add more cards from the set when it was all said and done: 15 total cards.
If Dominaria had come out a year ago, I probably would have added 35 cards. There were a lot of close calls that just barely didn’t beat out the next best option. I believe that is also just a symptom of the fact that my list is so tight on spaces to add or subtract cards.
I haven’t been this stoked about a new Magic release, since, well ever. One thing is for certain—I have a list of 15 new foils to track down!