Brother’s War and Phyrexia One are both strange, but exciting, MTG expansionss for outstanding payables for Battle Boxes and Battle Box themed Cubes. Today, I’m going to cover the cards that I think find themselves most at home in a Battle Box “big stack” and also have great application in my Cube version of the stack.
I decided to change up my formula for talking about adding new cards to my Danger Cube Battle Box stack. Instead of trying to guess which cards would be the best additions during spoiler season, I decided to wait and actually get a bunch of games in (Limited as well as Battle Box) before writing a review of the cards I believe are the best additions to a Big Stack.
In today’s article I’ll be discussing the cards I’ve added from the two latest MTG Expansions: The Brother’s War and Phyrexia One.
Limited has always been the blueprint for creating a coherent “Power Level” within my stack as well as my favorite competitive format. I want games of Battle Box (as well as Cube Draft) to very much feel like playing A+ quality draft decks with great mana. So, the cards I’ve selected to enshrine in my Danger Cube stack (for the time being!) will tend to be familiar Limited all stars. I always say, my Power Level is: cards you’d be happy to first pick in Draft without feeling guilty about, i.e. no unbeatable bombs like Jitte, Ethereal Absolution, or Grave Titan.
“Good luck ever beating a Jitte in Limited!”
I want to create games that are as fun, interactive and interesting as possible and exclude cards that create non-games.
I’m not going to get into the nuts and bolts of Battle Box format here (since it’s already well established in previous articles here at RIW). If you’d like to learn more about the format or my big stack feel free to check out these other free articles:
IMPRESSIONS OF BROTHER’S WAR AND PHYREXIA ONE FOR BATTLE BOX
I found 13 cards between both sets that I’m excited to add to my stack. That’s not a huge haul of playables but I keep my Big Stack balanced by CMC and color for Cube drafting. So, rather than just adding cards, I always need to cut cards to find room for new ones. In this case, I found 13 cards I felt beat out the next best option and improved the cohesion and fun factor of my deck.
I think that’s a pretty nice haul considering neither set is really designed to be an ideal Battle Box set! At least, not mechanically. Both sets introduced new mechanics that need a lot of support and redundancy (that I can’t provide in a Battle Box). Brother’s War “Power Stone” synergies and Phyrexia One “Toxic” don’t have the proper support in my stack, which means those cards won’t slot naturally into my stack and thus limits what I can use from each expansion. With that said, I did find cards I really like and believe make outstanding additions to Battle Boxes, Danger Rooms, and Danger Cubes of all shapes, sizes, and power levels.
Brother’s War is an artifact themed set and while Power Stone tokens are a little bit too specific in terms of the kind of synergies with artifacts they demand there are some really cool artifacts to play with in Brother’s War.
I like the Prototype cards because they are a unique way that color mana symbols can be put onto colorless artifact cards which makes them really interesting and unique especially in Cube Draft. I also think creatures with a dual casting cost option make for fun games of Battle Box in general since they are kind of like a split card with an expensive and less expensive cost option that can fit into one’s curve wherever necessary.
I enjoy cards that add +1/+1 Counters to the board and Simulacrum hits a lot of design territory I enjoy playing with. It adds power to the board that can often attack right away and it also has great graveyard synergy thanks to Unearth. When I’m thinking about what makes a good Battle Box card I often think about what would be good in a Cube Draft deck and I know a lot of archetypes would be happy to draft SS because it’s such a neat and flexible threat.
3-mana 3/3 fliers with an ability are a sweet spot in Battle Box and the fact that Steel Seraph can go bigger when you’ve got extra mana is cherry. While Steel Seraph is ‘technically’ an artifact, it’s also a White card in terms of balancing color.
Kind of a Snapcaster Mage variant. I’m a big fan of Snapcaster in the stack, so I don’t mind giving Blue another graveyard caster themed card. I also like how this card’s flexible cost really rounds out a Blue based Cube draft deck nicely. If there’s any card in today’s review I think risks being ‘too powerful’ for my stack it’s the Proxy, but it’s played well in the games it’s been drawn so far. Six and Seven drops (even one’s that are not Inferno Titan) tend to go a long way toward ending games quickly when they deploy.
Transmogrant’s Crown is just a quality Battle Box card. It slots nicely into black based Cube decks where its alternate cost can be paid, but I think is still flexible enough to go into non-black decks. I love equipment in Battle Box since it’s such an integral part of Limited play.
(On the left are the cards I cut from my stack and on the right are the new cards I replaced them with. I know some players like to try and replicate my stack so I’m including that info where I remembered to keep track of what I took out this time).
For Battle Boxing, it’s another Blade Splicer which is basically an all time classic staple. I play a Commander Cube variant with my Big Stack and it also makes a fantastic UW Commander Cube general.
I love the flavor and design of this card. It’s one of the strongest ‘fair’ rares in Phyrexia One limited and feels very Gruul. I love the smorgasbord of abilities tacked onto this creature and the fact they can only be used only a finite amount of times. I also try to save Artifact and Enchantment removal for special cards (rather than in an over abundance) and the card feels uniquely powerful.
Battle Boxes should be homes for the cards you’ve enjoyed playing, keep that in mind when building your stack. Every card I’m adding I have fun memories of drafting and playing with and against it.
No additions! Although Steel Seraph feels like a White card in terms of prototype cost.
As I’ve changed my stack to have a closer to limited deck construction distribution (more creatures) I’ve found Augur is a bit less reliable. The last two times its gotten cast it whiffed!
I also really like Thopter Mechanic as an early drop since it can trade and leave a flier behind. While I think Augur is a better card, I do think Mechanic is a better fit in my stack. Not the most exciting trade up in the world but I do think its a nice swap.
I like incidental graveyard hate but Cremate is a bit too narrow.
I’m a big fan of Duress effects in Battle Box. I think they add a smoothness to the games because they allow a player to remove a card they can’t realistically deal with given their hand before it ever hits plays. Dreams of Steel and Oil is a nice one that also provides some graveyard hate. I’ve also found that hand disruption that hits creatures, as opposed to Duress itself, is a nice way to hedge in a stack.
I’m not surprised to find red gets the most additions this time around. It is typically the case that red gets the most new toys for Battle Box. I’m not sure why, but I think it has to do with the fact that Red tends to get the most interesting card designs for Limited whereas other colors tend to get the wild Mythic planeswalkers I don’t include because they over power Battle Box games.
Fun haste creature that nets another card when it bites it. Very solid in Red Cube draft decks and a very reasonable battle box early game attacker that will replace itself later.
My favorite Red card this time around. It creates a solider that benefits from being equipped with the Halberd and the equipment is quite good later on in the game when things shift to be about attacks and blocks. Hexgold is one of those cards that’s likely a great fit in a lot of big stacks.
A big body with trample on turn three is a staple of my stack especially in Gruul colors like Red and Green. I’m a fan of this design all around and like having three drops that line up nicely against two drops. Obviously, I don’t want threes to straight up trump twos, and prefer a mix, but this is a fun Uncommon that impacts the game from a set where it was difficult to find playables because of power stones.
I loved playing this card in Phyrexia One limited and it does a lot of nice things in a Battle Box stack. I also found that Chatterstorm was simply too difficult to pull off and wanted to use that slot on an actual early drop, two-drop.
Obviously, making mana is a hot button issue in Battle Boxes. I like a little bit of mana production as another resource to be contested. The key is that mana production needs to be tied to creatures so it can be interacted with via removal. I found Signets were generally the best two drops in the format because they are difficult to remove and accelerate mana but a few mana dorks in the mix creates some fun opening sequences as well as plays a roll in building draft decks. I also love the incidental graveyard hate on the card which is what really pushes it over the top as a card I’d want to include for various reasons.
MY TOP 8 BATTLE BOX ADDITIONS FROM BROTHERS WAR AND PHYREXIA ONE
Overall, and despite both sets centrally featuring mechanics that don’t port well to Battle Box, I’ve found Brother’s War and Phyrexia One to have some really nice Battle Box staples if you’re willing to dig for them.
In particular, I think these eight are likely to remain mainstays of my stack for a long time to come and are fantastic additions to Battle Boxes of various power levels because they are fun designs.
7. Malcator, Purity Overseer
Simian Simulacrum takes the cake as my favorite Battle Box design from the latest two expansions. The card is basically a slam dunk in any stack, but especially MY STACK!
Remember that the key to a good battle box is to really make it one’s own personalized expression of playing Magic. I know a lot of player’s enjoy my power level take on trying to replicate super good draft deck play and so I share to help create a bassline that other players can model their stacks upon. Ultimately, it’s in the build that a Battle Box really takes on its identity but sweet, fun, Limited cards from new sets are a great way to start a stack!