Booster Battle Pack Review (Part 1 of 2)
In the hullabaloo with the impending release of Innistrad and all the spoilers that go with it, the recent launch of a new Magic product- the Booster Battle Pack- seems to have gone largely unnoticed. A new limited product, the phrase “deck of semi-randomized cards” in the marketing blurb got our attention. If they are only semi-randomized, does that make them to some degree planned? And if they’re planned, could that put them in the realm of preconstruction? Close enough, we thought, and picked one up to investigate.
The Pack consists of two cardboard deck boxes, and within each deck are four things. First, a booster pack of Magic 2012. Next, an insert (either the “Booster Battle Pack” tutorial or the ubiquitous “How to Play” one). Finally, there were two plastic-wrapped packs of 10 cards, each containing five cards of a single colour and five corresponding land cards. The object is simple- take your deck of 20 cards, then open the booster and add five more of your choice. Shuffle up, and you’re ready to go! Jimi and I sat down to test them out and put them through their paces.
For my part, my base cards were Red and Green. I opened the Red first, and noted that there were four commons and one uncommon. My base was interesting: a Fiery Hellhound and Firebreathing each gave me a way to turn extra Red mana into damage, though these are always somewhat constrained in a deck playing more than one colour. But aha, a trick! There was a Goblin Tunneler present as well, which gave me some sneakiness as I could make a creature unblockable, attack with it and then pump up its power. Devious!
For my last two cards I was given a bit of threat. A Chandra’s Outrage was my lone spot of burn, and I had a closer in the form of a Volcanic Dragon. A decent start, I then opened up the Green. This was where the real muscle lay, with a Giant Spider, Greater Basilisk, and Sacred Wolf. There were also a pair of creature auras with a Trollhide and Lure. The Lure + Basilisk was the obvious combo here, but the Trollhide was fine as well. This environment is almost guaranteed to be removal-light, so auras would involve less peril to play, which greater chance to enjoy the upside.
Next it was time to pop the booster! Most of them were easy cuts, being off-colour: Aven Fleetwing, Stormfront Pegasus, Dark Favor, Sorin’s Thirst, Phantasmal Bear, an Onyx Mage, and- sorrow of sorrows- a Sun Titan. That aside, this was actually a fiarly fortunate pack as it gave me much to work with.
Giant Spider: I gave a thought to taking a second Spider, but figured I wanted to try and work with the aggression factor the deck was moving me to. For my initial ten cards, it seemed that Red was there to add some shenanigans and support to Green, and a 2/4 Spider just didn’t hit hard enough.
Sacred Wolf: This was an immediate pass. The hexproof is nice, but less so in this format, where Jimi wouldn’t likely be blessed with abundant removal. The 1 Toughness means that it could die to nearly anything, and just wasn’t worth keeping. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the one I had to take, I certainly wasn’t going to double down on the Wolf.
Llanowar Elves: These, on the other hand, were an easy selection. With the Basilisk and Dragon costing five or more mana each, the ability to deploy them up to several turns earlier was too good to refuse.
Goblin Arsonist: Not that great a body, but that point of burn was a welcome sight to a very bland removal suite. In.
Goblin War Paint: The haste on this, I thought, was fairly worthless. The things that were easy to cast I couldn’t care less if they had haste, and the bigger threats I wouldn’t want to wait around for two more land drops to appear before launching them. Great if it worked out, but if it didn’t that extra +2/+2 was fine by me!
Tectonic Rift: Against a very basic two-colour deck, landkill wasn’t all that appealing. However, like the Arsonist I kept this because of its secondary effect- a Falter with a crowded board could let me swing in for the win. And if I had the option to mana-screw Jimi, so much the better.
Crumbling Colossus: This was my last include, and as the biggest body I could find- and reasonably costed- it was an easy fit. The sacrifice clause was fine- if I could precede it with the Rift or give it extra punch with Firebreathing, it could also set up a win.
And there it was- 25 cards, 40% land, and with a few synergies in place and closers ready to go, I shuffled up and prepared to do battle. For her part, Jimi had also hand-picked five cards from her own booster, and there was no telling what she’d come up with. Join us next time when we pit the decks against one another, and see how they hold up!
Thanks for covering these – they’ve gotten almost no attention, aside from a couple Magic Arcana features. I came across one quite by chance in a card shop, but haven’t seen them anywhere else.
I picked one up for me and my seven-year-old son, and while we enjoyed the experience, it wasn’t as good as the Duel Decks, because you naturally end up with less flavor and synergy. We ended up exchanging our boosters, because there simply weren’t enough on-color cards. I plan to play again with two more boosters, and see where that takes us.
We got one pack with red and green cards, and I believe they were the same ones – so what they mean by “semi-randomized” is that you get two packs of 10 cards in two different colors. The “randomized” part is which colors you get, and the “semi” part is that the contents of the packs are fixed. Therefore, it would not make sense to buy more than a couple of these per set, because repetition would set in.
I’ll be interested to see how your playtest went – I have a feeling that these will go the way of the $1.99 6-card boosters, that new players don’t necessarily want to buy products that are intended for “new” players; they want the same stuff that their experienced friends have. My own introduction to Magic was 9th Edition, but I quickly abandoned it for the much cooler (and less “new player”-friendly) Time Spiral.
I just came across this a little while ago: http://forums.mtgsalvation.com/showthread.php?p=7328712&posted=1#post7328712
Someone made a list of the card contents. You’re right- the cards are fixed and the randomness applies to which colours you get- but I had no idea that there were two packs per colour, giving it a little extra variety.
The only way I can see this having a little more traction that we might expect is the price factor. Like you say, most new players graduate to the more advanced stuff fairly quickly. The biggest problem with Limited tends not to the the complexity or learning curve, but instead the fact that it’s expensive to draft over and over again. This might be a gateway to that format without a lot of the cost.
I play these every now and then, close to once a week with my fiance. I will agree that the repitition of the precon packs is a bit annoying, but realistically its and extra 2 dollars, and I have found that we usually pull a $10 plus card out of one of the 2 boosters. Phantasmal image, Garruk Primeval, and Sun Titan to name a few.
I enjoy them but for the extra 2 bucks I have thought about just getting 4 boosters, and playing regular pack wars instead. I do wish they had these booster battles for non-core sets, would be neat to play ISD only.
If you’re the kind of person that enjoys making a cube or the like, it might be fun to make your own ISD Booster Battle pack. Just use a similar template to what they did for M12! Then each time you play you draw one at random (make up 6 or so), grab a couple boosters and you’re off and running…
They just released a new version of these for the 2013 core set. I really liked playing last year’s with my kids (they are old enough to get the simple game but too young to really play more complex decks). The two decks in my pack were: white (attended knight, war falcon, angel’s mercy, glorious charge, crusader of odric) / red (bladetusk boar, trumpet blast, volcanic strength, krenko’s command, arms dealer) and blue (welkin tern, archaeomancer, hydrosurge, merfolk of the pearl trident, talrand’s invocation) / green (deadly recluse, ranger’s path, spiked baloth, bountiful harvest, duskdale wurm).
I am very curious what the other little preconstructed 5 card units look like.