Presenting the Innistrad Booster Battle Packs!

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Having been reviewing preconstructed Magic decks for some eighteen months now, it's not at all unusual to get comments from readers on older articles that reviewed a deck they were interested in. And so it was some time back on our article of the Magic 2012 Booster Battle Pack release, "I do wish they had these booster battles for non-core sets, would be neat to play ISD only." I suggested in my reply that it might be a fun thing to build, but it stuck in my mind a bit until I decided I'd give it a try myself!

For those unfamiliar, the Booster Battle Packs were a riff on the popular "Pack Wars" limited format where you take an unopened booster pack, some land, and shuffle them together. Last September's product was an attempt to give the format a little bit of shape and direction. Each pack came with two boosters as well as "two 20-card semi-randomized decks."

What this really meant was that each player would get two 10-card packets which contained five cards of a single colour (four common, one uncommon) and five of the corresponding basic land. To mix things up, Wizards designed two different packets for each colour, many of which explored a small sub-theme or aspect of the colour represented. The randomness came in which packets you found waiting for you when you opened the Battle Packs up, but in all cases you got a nucleus for a 25-card two-colour deck, as you'd open the booster pack and pick exactly five cards from it.

This was a novel way to play with Magic 2012 cards. But what if we took the same approach with Innistrad?

Today I'll be building ten sample packets for some Innistrad pack wars, which is a great way to teach and develop those folks who may be new to the game, or just have a bit of fun yourself.

We'll break down the Magic 2012 packets to give us an idea of what Wizards' intent was and then rebuild using Innistrad cards. Together with some Dark Ascension booster packs, you've got a fully operational Death Star limited format!  Here goes!


M12 White A

M12 White B

As you can see in these first two packets, there was some thought given behind how each packet would be composed. In this case, you have two different facets of White creature-based strategies.

Packet A has the ground forces of the lot, with a solid aerial finisher in the Serra Angel. The Divine Favor gives you a bit of a battlefield boost for one lucky trooper, with a dollop of lifegain thrown into the mix.

For packet B, we have the core of a skies deck, including a nifty interaction between

cards focused on the Griffin Rider. One thing to bear in mind here is that these cards form the core of a deck in miniature- 25 cards is not a lot, so even with singletons you'll have a good opportunity to draw and play them. Add to the fact that these quasi-Limited matches tend to be a little on the slower side and you see that the Griffin Rider is a solid pick here.

For Innistrad, we'll be mirroring these two constructions.

INN White A

This is your 'ground forces' core, with a combat trick (Moment of Heroism) thrown in. The Avacynian Missionaries // Lunarch Inquisitors Priest is a good lockdown/stall card, and can pry open a defense to help keep the beats rolling. Thraben Purebloods is a functional reprint of Siege Mastodon, and a good finishing beater as its high toughness can be hard to deal with.

For the uncommon slot, while the Fiend Hunter is considerably stronger than the Spectral Rider, I kept the power level deliberately lower in keeping with the original, but you could just as easily make the substitution to give this player an extra dose of removal. It should also be noted that in a Booster Battle Pack there is no colour overlap between packets, so if you get the White one, your Rider is free and clear!

INN White B

For our skies construction, we have an easy recourse to the Spirits tribe - though the [/card]Abbey Griffin[/card] makes a fine midrange body. Our uncommon here is a creature card and surprise removal all in one, Midnight Haunting. Mausoleum Guard would be alright as well, but you'd have to find room for another noncreature card, as each pack had at least one.


M12 Blue A

M12 Blue B

Again the pattern is clear here, taking two different aspects of the colour and highlighting each.

For pack A we see a milling sub-theme through the enchantment Jace's Erasure and the Belltower Sphinx. That's not a lot of arrows in the quiver, but the tactic is aided by the small size of the deck as well as in the slower pace of the format. You also want to be careful not to overload a packet, which can gain a serious advantage if the corresponding booster pack has a lot of cards that support that strategy.

The second pack gives you your aerial option, much as it did in White. You also get some of Blue's signature element - countermagic - as well as a combat card in Frost Breath. This pack had a lot of special effects to help take over the later game, such as the Chasm Drake's passenger ability as well as the card-drawing mana sink of the Azure Mage.

For Innistrad, we'll need to change things up a bit.

INN Blue A

INN Blue B

There was a certain temptation to invert Blue A, turning it from a minor offensive mill theme to a self-milling theme to take full advantage of Innistrad's various incentives for doing so. Deranged Assistant, Stitched Drake, Armored Skaab and Skaab Goliath would form a superb nuclear core for such a deck, with a Dream Twist to round it off. The problem here is that such a construction would run a very real risk of self-decking with only 28 cards left in the library after you draw your initial hand.

Another consideration worth mentioning is that this is a product largely keyed to the novice. It's been well established that self-milling is a "feel-bad" tactic for newer players, so it might be something we avoid this time around. By the same token, we're also excluding all dual-faced cards. Though they'd make for some entertaining inclusions, we'll take our cue from the Intro Packs and make do without.

Back to our packs. We'll include a Selhoff Occultist in pack A for a dollop of offensive milling, the Crab for some defense, and give the merest hint of what is possible with your graveyard by including the Stitched Drake. For our uncommon, we're going with A-Mischievous Catgeist // A-Catlike Curiosity for some card drawing. As a creature aura, this will go well with the Stitched Drake or any other evasive creature we find. For B, we want something a little more aggressive to contrast the two packets, so we're going with some birds in the air and some removal and countermagic.


M12 Black A

M12 Black B

Notice the theme that jumps out of Black B? Bloodthirst! Everything there either enables it or takes advantage of it, and with that being a set mechanic we have carte blanche to make a replacement packet however we like. Packet A by comparison is a much more generic construction, with some typical Black effects (draining, discard, recursion) and a couple fat beaters. With Innistrad as heavily tribal as it is, these packets almost create themselves!

INN Black A

INN Black B

Both of these packets are similar in composition, drawing almost exclusively upon Black's tribes for the set. That said, there's enough differentiation between them that they don't feel like carbon copies of one another. For A's uncommon, we passed up the Diregraf Ghoul. A strong second-turn 2/2 attacker, they go rapidly downhill when drawn later in the game. The Abbatoir Ghoul is more expensive, but it is useful at any point and keeps us on-theme with the Zombies.

A shortage of suitable Vampires forced the inclusion of the Typhoid Rats in pack B, but they also can come in handy. Even when drawn late, they can be a strong defensive threat thanks to their deathtouch. It was a bit of a coin toss for the uncommon slot, as Falkenrath Noble would do a job there as well. Consider bringing along Dead Weight if you decide to go that route instead.


M12 Red A

M12 Red B

It might not jump out at you, but packet A for Red actually contains a fairly clever little interaction. Use the Goblin Tunneler to make a low-power, pumpable creature unblockable, then pump them up once they get in for damage. The Fiery Hellhound combos perfectly here, but any small weenie will do when you've got access to a Cursed Firebreathing Yogurt. As we saw above in Black, Red also comes equipped with a bloodthirst-theme, meaning we'll be starting from scratch there. As with Black, though, we can easily fill the gap with a tribal core.


This packet seems to hearken back to the old Bard's Tale/Wizardry computer games when your party would be attacked by the most random and ridiculous gaggle of unrelated mobs you could possibly imagine. Since we're passing up Werewolves, we have to make do with what we get. Fortunately, there are still some synergistic options available to us.

The Pitchburn Devils offer up a free Lightning Bolt when they die, and if you happen to pop them with the Skirsdag Cultist (perhaps in response to removal) you get a free Aether Shockwave to go with it. It would be a shame to let all that killing go to waste, so there's a handy Harvest Pyre to stack the bodies onto to help eliminate your opponent's biggest threat.


Aaand here's the thematic choice! The all-singing, all-dancing, all-Vampires troupe, you don't need to open any others in your booster to still get some good use out of the Vampiric Fury or the Rakish Heir, though of course the more the merrier. Regardless of which creatures you end up with, the [card Bloodcrazed Neonate]Neonate[/card] becomes a must-deal-with threat, and the Crossway Vampire can blunt your opponent's best defender to help you go for the jugular with one last attack.


M12 Green A

M12 Green B

Alas, poor Green. Sadly typecast in the role of red zone beaters, you don't find a great deal of differentiation between these two packs. Both the [card Garruk's Companion]Companion[/card] and [card Spampeding Rhino]Rhino[/card] in packet A have trample, but everyone gets invited to that party once you land your Overrun.

Meanwhile, packet B promises a brutal Greater Basilisk + Trollhide + Allure of the Unknown combo to kill off your opponent's best three defenders while the rest of your army rushes past, but doesn't give a great deal of flavour besides. Luckily, Innistrad's bursting with it, so let's make two very distinctive replacements.

INN Green A

INN Green B

Packet B gives us a fair sampling of Innistrad's morbid mechanic. If there's a weakness there, it's that these creatures tend to be a bit on the expensive side, to to even that out we have a couple of cheap options. The Boneyard Wurm only gets better as the game goes long, and in the creature-heavy limited environment of pack wars, you can expect casualties in the red zone. To force the issue, there's also a Prey Upon. In this packet, it should work for you almost every time - even if you use it to 'fight' one of your useless weenies against a better creature, your own chump's death will give you a morbid trigger!

For packet A, you get a more rounded sampling of Green's creature power. The Ambush Viper is occasionally exaggerated as "Green's Doom Blade," but there's no mistaking that it has some strong killpower as a surprise blocker. The Orchard Spirit gives you some evasion while Ancient Lumberknot can become very large very quickly. Ranger's Guile is there for a combat trick as well as a way to counter your opponent's targeted removal.

For each packet, you'll want to throw in five basic lands of the appropriate type. Then all you need is two booster packs of Innistrad and a friend, and you're good to go!

The Contest

To the winner go the spoils!

We'll be giving away an "Innistrad Booster Battle Pack," sleeved and ready for play, to one lucky Quiet Speculation reader!

The prize package includes every card listed above from Innistrad - all ten packs. Each pack is fully sleeved, containing the five cards listed in each packet above, five land of the appropriate type (also sleeved), as well as three empty sleeves for the cards you pick out of your boosters.

Boosters? That's right! We're throwing in four Dark Ascension booster packs to get you started on your path to Limited gameplay! And just to make sure you've got something more tangible than glory to play for, we've even thrown in a prize - a pair of foil, promo Mondronen Shaman // Tovolar's Magehunter, the giveaway for Dark Ascension's release parties.

This will be a random drawing from all participants, and will end on Monday, 20 FEB, with the winner to be announced in the next Magic Beyond the Box feature.

Here's how you enter:

1. Leave a comment on this article in the comments below. Simply let us know what you thought of the original Booster Battle Packs or of the new one we've created above. If you would have done it differently, what might you have included? Was there anything we left out? Is this a good way to tech new players Limited, and, if not, do you have any ideas of your own? Any of these questions are fine, or leave some comments of your own! As ever, it doesn't have to be the great American novel, but we always like to hear the community's thoughts - especially when Wizards attempts something new. Doing this will get you an entry in the pot.

2. If you retweet the "official contest announcement tweet" on Twitter (from me, @ErtaisLament), you'll get another chance to win as well!

Good luck to all, and as ever thanks for reading!

Jay Kirkman

50 thoughts on “Presenting the Innistrad Booster Battle Packs!

  1. I’ve just came back to play Magic “on paper”, because of the PS3 game. I love the Innistrad Block. I think its a grea idea use only this cards to make the BBP. I like the green ones. I have two decks created around Lumberknot / Boneyard Wurn e have lots of fun with them.

  2. my brother and i did something like this once when we had two extra boosters. the one big deference was that i had a M12 booster and he had a innastrad one, as for the ten card packs mine where not exactly the same as the official ones, but they were based on them, they were blue and white. my brothers packs were incredibly similar to your red A and black B the differences were: instead of a Tribute to Hunger and Typhoid Rats we had a Falkenrath Noble and dead Dead Weight and for the red pack we used a Brimstone Volley instead of a harvest pyre

  3. Interesting ideas here. I like how you were able to well-represent both Zombies and Vampires, though it would have been cool to do a white or green one based on humans.

  4. I think you do a good job representing different themes…it's a great way to introduce newer players to the set. I do agree that this would be a good thing to see in non-core sets.

  5. I bought my firstBooster Battle Pack on a whim, figuring it would be a fun, quick and easy format to try – and even if it wasn't that great, there were some cards from the M12 set I would have been happy to pick up from the pre-cons. Surprisingly, Booster Battle Packs quickly became my favorite play format, and I often opted to buy one of those instead of regular boosters.

    I thought about trying to do something similar with Innistrad, just because I enjoyed the concept so much, but I didnt have nearly enough cards to make viable sets. The ones you have crafted look awesome, and very sound. Great Work, as always!

  6. I really like these new permutations of the packs. They have a solid way to teach beginners, but aren’t as weak as the pre constructed decks. I hope you do more of these (and the giveaways)

  7. I’m not really a big fan of the battle packs having certain set cards inside, or at least so few varieties of options. I like to think if i go and buy two and play with a friend the likelihood we will crack the same preset of cards is lower. Its happened to me before where i only bought two and got duplicate pools.

    1. In theory, you should see a variety. Not only do you have ten different packets available (of which you get 4), but they also don't cross colours. If your firend gets Red, you shouldn't, etc. Sounds like an unlucky pull. The themes are there, though, to give some direction to drafting out of the pack. The idea is you see what the theme is, then 'draft' cards from your booster that strengthens it. I do take your meaning, though, and thanks for the comment!

  8. I find the concept really interesting. Being a total amateur(a friend of mine introduced me to Magic a couple months ago), I would definitely buy a Booster Battle Pack and play with it, having fun and getting to know the game better at the same time. The most interesting feature, according to me, is the "theme" included in every 5-card group: the player can immediately take a look at how different cards work together, and having to work with less cards makes it easier to understand interactions and possible combos.

    1. Surprisingly, I think a lot of folks missed that part of it, that there were "themes" present in the packs. Sadly, they were often panned as being "random jank."

  9. This would be amazing for new players to Magic. I remember that when I started, I was very confused as to what sets to get cards from. I think this would help ease new players into what a set really has to offer. Plus it teaches deck building and strategies at the very same time. I think WOTC should definitely take note and start offering packs like these more often. It definitely does a lot more for a new player than an intro deck that gets killed by any constructed deck. I am sure everyone has been in that situation at one point, and it is very discouraging to new players who are still learning what cards do what.

    1. I don't know the numbers, but I'm not sure how well the original did, commercially. Of course, it might have been intended as a one-shot, or just a Core Set release. I definitely agree with your comment, and thanks!

  10. Wow, I almost instantly bookmarked this. It sadly never came to my mind that you could simply rebuild these from the commons and uncommons which all of us have lying around somewhere anyway and use some spare boosters. Cracking boosters (which I love…) becomes even more fun this way. Normally I would just play sealed when I buy a display instead of simply opening those boosters.

    I only bought a M12 booster battle pack once and it was quite okay for the money spend. Only problem is that most people don´t have any use for the commons and uncommons any more so the money could be spend better and personally I don´t like core sets.

    I think the idea to simply build these by yourself to have some fun with unopened product and introduce new players to limited or just have some fun with friends is simply amazing and I´m still kicking myself for not having thought of that myself.

    I think most of your “decks” are representing Innistrad and the set mechanics quite well, although zombies, selfmill and especially werewolves/flipcards are missing but balancing could be quite the issue there.

    I will definitely try this, when I get my hands on some unopened boosters again.

    1. Glad you enjoyed! The good news is that there is a Zombie packet (Black A), though you're right about the self-mill and flips. With a miniature 25-card deck, I didn't think there'd be the resources for the longer game that self-mill looks for, and you'd just end up losing. I passed on the flips because I wanted to keep with the spirit of the first release, and target it as accessible to beginners. The flips are great, but a tough high on copmplexity (which is why we haven't seen them in Intro Packs, either).

  11. I tried this once with M12 and it seems like an interesting idea but one really good card can make it absurdly one-sided. I think a larger pool of cards may make it more fun.

  12. This is a great idea for kitchen table players, i'll probably do it myself, but with other editions as Time Spiral or Lorwyn.

    I think your black selection is a bit lacking. I would have opted for zombie creating sorceries with flashback, and maybe the regenerating skeleton. I think there's one at common rarity and another as uncommon.

    The other colour's cards are fine, specially red and blue (maybe red it's a bit too good). They will make good casual decks.

  13. I played with the booster battle packs and they were definitely fun, although I think the package itself was slightly overcosted, considering that I could've gotten all the starter stuff they threw in for about $.30. However, I was still happy about the production value and it was definitely an enjoyable experience and required some quick thinking, although less than regular sealed. On the other hand, it was also significantly less mindbreaking than regular sealed. So yeah, thumbs up from me.

  14. Good Article. A friend and I picked up one of these packs each and had some fun using them. They are a great way to start out new players. Although the choice of cards is somewhat lacking I guess, but they are relatively cheap so whatever. Good idea with the innistrad thing too dude, keep up the good work.

  15. Since I'm just getting back into Magic, I am unfamiliar with these, but the concept looks pretty good. Some of the folks I play with mentioned them as overpriced, which is fair, but short-sighted. The concept is great for introducing players, but probably not that enticing for those who've been in the game awhile.

  16. These pack battles are a really quick fun way to teach newer players the game. We've all been there, trying to explain to a new player all of the rules at once, the pack battle format allows you to teach the new player rules as they come up, allowing you to use in game examples. I have allso payed pack wars with friends over lunch when breaking out the commander or 60 cards decks would have been less than optimal. I personally find it really fun if both you and your opponent are both useing under powered cards, reminds me of when I first started. Honesty the only changes i would make is getting rid of having lure and basilisk in the same pack. It may seem like the classic Timmy combo but in my opinion it clogs up the board state. And as an after thought, what if you included 1 or 2 artifacts? They would give you more card options and work in any deck.
    Anyway great article, keep writing them and i'll keep reading.

  17. I really like the inclusion of the tribal theme in the Innistrad packs. Its been a very big part of the set and its cool to see them included here too. They'd be a great inclusion in any Innistrad based deck.

  18. I like the red one. I did something similar. I back to play Magic with Innistrad since Scourge. I like the new modes and the new world with vampire werewolves zombies and humans. Ptichburns Devils is a good card if someone wants to take this card out of the game.

    1. Alan,

      Congratulations! You've been selected as the winner of this contest. Please email Jay at ertaislament at gmail dot com with your contact information so that we can send you your prize.

  19. I didn't know the concept of the battle packs but this seems like a fun way to learn somebody the game; I would add a removal to INN Black A and INN Red B; and I would add a two-drop to INN Green B cause this seems to rely heavily on the other pack drawn…

  20. I really like this idea. I've thought about picking up the M12 ones before. It seems like it would be a great way to teach my girlfriend to play. I tried to teach her once from a couple of my decks that I put together, but it was a bit overwhelming for her. She seemed to catch on ok, but all of the rules and abilities were a bit much to take on all at once.

    1. I taught my girl using my decks, but seeing both my hands and hers, and explaining to her everything I was and wasn't doing, what she should and shouldn't do and why. She understood it really well and really fast. 🙂
      But sadly, she grew bored of magic really fast… 🙁

  21. I dig this idea, and I think that wizards will be missing a big boat if they don't keep churning these out. Not only does this appeal to the casual players, it also help to teach new players the game. If I win this, I plan on donating them to my LGS and using them to help some of our newer players get better, or brand new players learn the game.

  22. I think that the booster battle is a decent way to teach people limited. It's not exactly flawless, but it's as good a place as any to start with new players.
    It's also easier to do than arranging a whole limited event.

  23. Black seems pretty powerful for this draft format. Tribute to Hunger (in pack b) is just bonkers. Although I am sad to say that there's no doom-blade like spell available for black, and tribute is really the only thing we've seen so for that is 'playable' beyond limited.

    The only issue I really had with the booster battles was how simple the decks turned out to be. Sure, you can get somewhat creative but overall you're going to be seeing the same card interactions several times. I think making it a pool of 4 sets of 15 cards and 3 packs each would really boost the ability to make interesting decks.

  24. Good job with the packet construction! I would only question 1 of the packets: White B. I think that Midnight Haunting is just a hair too complicated for such an intro-focused product.

    The spell is an instant combat trick that involves tokens AND is usually played between the sub-steps of combat. That’s a lot going on with packets that usually only have cards with 1 relevant ability line at most.

    I would suggest replacing it with a Gallows Warden to show off the semi-lord synergy with the other spirits in the packet (and highlight Doomed Traveler’s ability).

  25. The battle packs were not very popular around here, but in my opinion, it's better than cheaper than doing almost anything else (movies, etc).

    If you split with a friend, that's $5 for a pack and some misc cards. Not too shabby. And it's a good way to kill time. Now, in terms of an introduction to limited, not much choices to be made. You pretty much just add the correct color cards out of your pack into your deck, and that's it. Although drafting or sealed deck would be intimidating for a brand new player.

  26. This sounds like a great way to play! I missed out on these battle packs. A friend and I are starting to construct a (pauper) cube and looking into “Winchester” drafting in order to get our drafting fix, the traditional version of which doesn’t make sense with two people, obviously. Your deck lists look great, and this may well encourage my friend and I to try this mode as another drafting alternative for kitchen table play. Thank you!

  27. Pretty cool. The only way I would make it better is by adding more cross-pack synergy. Like if you open the black and the red, you have the core of a Vampire deck, but none of the other colors go together that well. I’d at least do a blue zombie pack, and maybe make green and white particularly aggressive so they combine if opened together. Though I guess this has the problem that off-color combos kind of suck. A dilemna.

  28. I just got back into playing Magic with New Phyrexia, and now I'm teaching my girlfriend to play. We're both really excited about Innistrad's Gothic Horror motif. These packs are a great idea for beginners! I really like the way you highlighted the card mechanic interactions. As always, a clear and enlightening presentation. Nice job!

  29. When the battle packs launched, I read a lot of people saying that those were a waste of money, dumb, way to cheat you out of your money, etc… But when my friend bought one, and we played with it, I was actually surprised at how much fun it was! And as for the price, I think its totally worth it. Just a little bit more than buying 2 separate packs, , but you get lands and some cards. I would have definitely bought an INN battle pack if Wizards had them released.
    I just wished that you had made a red or green pack with werewolves… I'm a fan of werewolves since Werewolf: The Apocalypse.

  30. I would love so much to win these! Booster Battle Packs are a great format for two-player duels, plus new Dark Ascension cards are awesome! I've been trying to assemble these card packs from my collection or through trading, but no such luck 🙁

    Booster Battle Packs, especially a complete set, offer almost infinite limited fun (that's an oxymoron). I'm particularly impressed with how the packs work together both thematically and mechanically. It would be interesting to see if you could build a complete deck using two packs as a starting point.

  31. Never got ahold of the battle booster :/ The local supplier only bought a couple, and they sold fairly quickly. My plan was to cram the battle booster into my bag, and when me and my girlfriend were out, far away from our decks, I could pull it out as a surprise.

  32. These are great, especially for reintroducing lapsed players who have some recollection of what's going on and want to jump in to the sets that everyone is playing now over the core set from the summer before. Something that would be cool would be to have battle packs with enough semi random cards to end up with 40 card decks to better simulate what playing sealed actually looks like. Maybe have the packs fit some of the two color limited archetypes with 22 commons/uncommons and 18 lands and then have the booster pack to customize the deck.

  33. I was wondering if it’s worth it to buy fat packs and booster boxes in general, I know it’s a matter of oppinion but some people have told me its better to just buy the singles that you want/need most..

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