After shaking up standard and even modern with many interesting and powerful cards, it is now time for Magic Origins to shake up my Battle Boxes. So hold on, sparks will be flying everywhere.
At the center of the Magic Origins set, we see five young planeswalkers find their spark and planeswalk the first time. While I think most of these planeswalkers are very interesting in general, their power level is a bit too high for the regular Battle Box while conversely their low impact when they are cast makes them a bit too erratic in the Commander Battle Box. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any interesting cards, though. On the contrary, Magic Origins is chock full of interesting cards for any format. As always, I’ll list all the cards I’ve added to the Battle Box as well as the cards I’m taking out with a short explanation of why.
The Battle Box: Cards In
I added the following cards to my Battle Box:
Abbot of Keral Keep
This card has been a hit in red constructed decks because of its power level so I have some reservations putting it in my Battle Box. However, its stats are certainly not overwhelming, and its value depends a lot on how early or late you play it (not being able to hit lands is a drawback early in the game and a bonus later in the game). I’m very eager to try it, because I love the card.
An efficient creature with nice stats that can do some untapping shenanigans during combat. Attacking into an open 3 mana has become a little more risky with this in the Box.
Clash of Wills
Power Sink and similar counterspells have always been an interesting addition to the counterspell suite, and I think it is nice that they made a clean version of this effect. It is a little less powerful than its predecessors, but a lot nicer to play with because it’s not so wordy.
The anti artifact/enchantment cards in the box felt a little thin, so adding just that attached to a nice body fills an important hole.
I can sort of see that Victor would be popular with the ladies, which is why I think it’s a little sexist that he can only enthrall low power creatures. Whether that was a (sub)conscious design choice or not, the card works very well for the Battle Box. A slim but slightly muscular body attached to a situational Threaten effect makes for exactly the sort of rich decisions we are looking for.
I know I cut Hearthfire Hobgoblin during the last update for being too low impact. I did decide to include the champion for two reasons. First, having to pay only 1 red and 1 white mana makes a world of difference early in the game and second, I intend to redesign the box a little by lowering its overall mana curve. More on that in a future article.
Not very easy to kill, prowess will allow the Thief to often attack into a bigger blocker and present the defender with a difficult choice. This allows for some bluffing and other tricks, which will hopefully add a nice layer to games.
An almost strict upgrade to Rise from the Grave, this was an easy swap. These cards often sit in your hand for quite a while before they are useful and having a chance to add a few +1/+1 counters seems like a fair upside.
I would have been interested if it just returned instants and sorceries, but being able to also return creatures to your hand makes this card very versatile. It is slightly expensive, but I think the value it provides is enough to warrant inclusion.
Certainly not an overly powerful card, but I think it might just win a few games by surprise. If someone plays this against you, try to sacrifice or destroy the creature to save yourself from potentially lethal damage.
I wanted to include at least one renown card, and most of them seem very efficient early but a bit weak later in the game. Because Battle Box games tend to go long, “later in the game” can be the vast majority of turns. The Maulers will at least have an impact, although they do need to become renowned to really be worth the mana investment.
This reminds me a little of Kird Chieftain from the previous core set. It doesn’t have the biggest impact by itself, but if you have a few other creatures it can really make blocking a nightmare for your opponents. It will provide plenty of interesting board states, I’m sure.
I’m not sure there are enough flyers in the box to provide synergy for the Wyvern, but even without friends this can be an interesting if somewhat overpriced card. If the synergies turn out to never come up, I might cut this again in a future update.
As always, the excitement for a new set probably leads to some inclusions that later turn out to fall a little flat. That’s OK, we’ll need to cut cards again during future updates anyway.
The Battle Box: Cards Out
To make room for all these changes, I took the following cards out of the Battle Box:
Ashling, the Extinguisher
Heidar, Rimewing Master
Obelisk of Alara
These cards were often a little too powerful. Ashling is OK on his own, but anything that gives him haste or evasion makes it immediately oppressive. I’m sort of sad to see these go, but the Battle Box will be better without them. The Obelisk did teach me that cards that require 5 colors to be useful are likely too powerful in the Battle Box format. In normal formats, Wizards has to balance these cards for the effort it takes to acquire all five colors, but in the Battle Box format all 5 colors can be reliably achieved in 3 turns.
The lifelink effect just made for life swings that were too big for the Box. Occasionally gaining life can be fine, but attacking for 10 damage (which is not unusual once you reach 6-7 mana) makes for a potential 20 point life swing.
Although the card isn’t cheap and also sort of vulnerable, drawing two cards each turn is already too powerful and being able to burn away an opponent’s creature on top made this an easy cut.
This card reads very nicely, presenting a dream of an army of 4/4 angels. In all the times I’ve seen this played in the Battle Box, I don’t think I ever saw an angel materialize, probably because there are always so many things to do and investing 8 mana to equip a creature is just a lot.
It’s not very exciting, and depending on the other player’s board it has the potential to be a very efficient defender. I don’t like defensive cards that have little proactive use, so I’m cutting it.
Spoils of Blood
Although the effect can be quite powerful, it is very difficult to time the effect. It is probably correct to play it as soon as 3-4 creatures die during normal attacking and blocking, but the dream of casting it after a big board sweeper is just too enticing to just play it for value. As a consequence, it was often just sitting in my hand for most of the game.
This card’s effectiveness was very dependent on the quality of a player’s creatures. If they had bad creatures, they were probably behind, and Stolen Identity did little to change that. If they had good creatures, Stolen Identity could be copied turn after turn, making this feel like a win more card. Neither situation meant the card was very helpful, even if it looks exciting.
Vow of Flight
Vow of Malice
From the original Commander decks, these cards are especially fun in multiplayer settings. I’m trying to bend my standard Battle Box more to 1 vs 1 because I already have specific multiplayer Boxes (the Commander and 90s Nostalgia Boxes). In 1 vs 1 these cards are basically just annoying, and don’t warrant inclusion anymore.
The Commander Box: Commander Pool Changes
I made two changes to the Commander Pool. I took out Intet, the Dreamer and Darien, King of Kjeldor to make room for Animar, Soul of Elements and Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius. I have an Animar Commander deck that is very tuned and very powerful, but I always felt Animar can easily command a fair deck as well. Adding him to the Battle Box allows him to bring out his fun side. I also wanted a Commander that leans a bit more towards raw card advantage, and Niv-Mizzet provides just that. His high casting cost and color intensive activations make sure he doesn’t get out of control.
The Commander Box: Cards In
I added the following cards to my Commander Box:
Having some mass destruction spells in the Battle Box helps to keep everything balanced. Adding the excitement of choosing the right moment and the right creature makes this card interesting and sometimes (but certainly not always) powerful. Exactly what the Battle Box wants.
Displacement wave seems a bit more versatile than Aether Gale and will therefor replace it. Aether Gale was often sitting in your hand until six creatures showed up, which is always a bit frustrating.
Although I’m a bit worried this might be too powerful, its effect is just too cool to pass up. You don’t get to search your library for creatures much in Battle Box because of all the logistics that would be involved, so effects that find them from the top of the library are a welcome addition. I’m hoping the fact that green mana is a limited resource will make the power level acceptable. Time will tell.
The reason for adding this is similar to Evolutionary Leap. The effect is just too cool not to include. However, in this case my worry is that it will be too weak. Let’s be clear, this is not Sneak Attack, which lets you cheat giant monsters into play without having to pay for them. When you’re playing an enchantment with no immediate impact on the board, the effect had better be worth it in the following turns. I think this card will shine if you draw it early but will often be a dead draw later in the game. Now if it could only copy your Commander…
Hixus, Prison Warden
The cool designs just keep on coming. Oblivion Ringing all your opponent’s attackers when they don’t expect it is certainly powerful, but at the same time Hixus’ vulnerability will mean the effect will not last forever. Timing the Prison Warden correctly will be a nice challenge.
Kothophed, Soul Hoarder
A big beater with a nice effect attached to it. Follow this up with a Duneblast and you are in a good place. The card draw might just be a bit too good, if that turns out to be the case Kothophed might end up back on the chopping board.
A nice, straight mass destruction effect that gets many creatures, but certainly not all (this being the Battlecruiser format). I am a bit worried the Box is getting too heavy on the board sweepers, but even then I will probably cut one of the others in a future update.
A Taurean Mauler with trample is certainly no joke, and it doesn’t take long before this starts growing out of control. It is a bit vulnerable, but then the mana investment is very reasonable.
I might be overestimating this card a bit. I think I have a soft spot for the prowess ability, and giving it to all your creatures is just too exciting not to include. I think the base stats are a bit weak, but blocking this guy’s team while your opponent has a bunch of open mana will be no easy task.
I think people underestimate this card’s power level. Sure, your opponents all get to keep some permanents, but you are the one choosing! Sure, players might not have more than one planeswalker or artifact but for every type where you can choose, you will be able to inflict some serious pain.
The Commander Box: Cards Out
To make room for all these changes, I took the following cards out of the Commander Box:
Pact of Negation
Spoils of Blood
Venser, the Sojourner
These cards were just not pulling their weight. Counterspells, however powerful they are, are just sort of weak in multiplayer environments. Strategic planning is just some card filtering, and I would rather save the spot for something more exciting. Spoils of Blood is weak even if you do play it after a board sweeper and Venser was OK but mostly underwhelming.
Mastery of the Unseen
Tatsumasa, the Dragon’s Fang
All these cards require some hefty mana investments after they are played. Because players rarely run out of cards to play over the course of a game, often these effects were just too expensive to be used. I may be wrong about cutting Steel Hellkite, but there are already so many conditional board sweepers in the box that I felt this one could go.
That’s all the updates for now. I think Origins is a homerun set, with many exciting additions, and I will not be surprised if some additional Origins cards will make it into my box as we learn more about them. You can always find the fully updated project lists here (including any updates done after this article was published).