Game Night in a Box

Dale Zellmer • September 20, 2020

I've always been fascinated with the concept of an all-in-one Magic: The Gathering game night experience.  Cube, obviously, is the apex of this, but it's an all consuming labor of love that's a bit too intense for me.  A few months ago, I read an article on Cardsphere that introduced a new website called  After poking around the site and flipping through a few pages of deck lists, I realized that I'd found my summer hobby project.  It was the perfect idea for me; one that allowed me to use my bulk and Cardsphere credit to make something unique and fun.

To start, I selected my deck lists, pulled cards from my bulk boxes, and made a list of everything that was missing.  I moved that list to my Wants on Cardsphere.  Starting with low percentages, I inched up as needed.  Within about 45 days, I'd received 239 cards with an index price of $129.71, for $75.81 in credit (that's about $55.00 or 40% off retail).  This isn't a paid advertisement, but it's worth pointing out that those numbers really are meaningful.  The money saved on the actual cards paid for a lot of the other things that I needed - deck boxes, sleeves, and building materials.  

After a trip to my LGS (shout out to Issues Needed Comics in Apple Valley, MN) for odds and ends, I took measurements of my deck boxes and playmat, and put together a game plan for a custom made storage box to house all my decks and game night materials.

The planning stage itself - putting together specs and choosing materials - was a bit nerve racking, but the fabrication process was easier than I expected.  I used 1"x6" planks for the sides, front and back, 1/2"x3" planks for the interior pieces, and cut a 1"x10" plank to different sizes for the top and bottom.  The stencil used to paint the top of the box was made by my wonderful and talented wife, using her Cricut machine and a sheet of transparency paper.  

The whole thing was done in a day and I'm a novice woodworker.  I don't want to get into a ton of detail about the process here, but I'm happy to share more info with anyone who wants it.  Feel free to reach out to me on the Cardsphere Discord channel (@DZ3) or via message on Cardsphere.  

I learned a ton throughout this process - how to choose my decks, how to get missing cards and materials, and how to add the unique touches that made my project stand out.  

Here are a few suggestions for anyone else that's interested in making a Pauper Battle Box.

Make Deck You Want to Play

It seems simple enough, but this concept could easily get lost in the shuffle. Personally, I enjoy playing a lot of different strategies and that's reflected in my deck selections.  That said, if you love Control decks, make a bunch.  If they make your blood boil, make none!  Be selfish.  It's the only way to make sure that you'll have a deck you like if you pick 8th on game night, right?

Save Money

For me, that meant populating my Cardsphere want list with the cheapest versions of the cards I needed.  If multiple printings had similarly low prices, I added them all because casting a wider net inevitably leads to more matches.  I also made a few deck list substitutions, the biggest of which was subbing out Relic of Progenitus for Soul-Guide Lantern.  At the time that I was completing my decks, I could get 8 Lanterns for the price of a single Relic.  The effects are very similar and the cost savings felt too good to pass up.  I'd also suggest hitting up your friends and LGS for used deck boxes, D20s, and D6s.  Shop around for sleeves too.  I found a set of 600 older version Ultra Pros for about half price.

Personalize Your Battlebox

I didn't realize it when I started planning, but customization ended up being the most compelling and rewarding part of the process.  Admittedly I took it to the extreme, but there is a world of possibilities out there.  Create custom tokens.  Maybe make up a mini game to play at the beginning of the night to determine deck selection order. Make custom score pads or a record book to track your game nights.  

Big or small, the personal touches will make your project feel unique.

My Pauper Battle Box got its first test drive a couple of weekends ago.  It was really rewarding to see my friends check out the decks, pick one, and start playing.  Thanks again to the folks at Cardsphere and for the inspiration and for giving me all of the tools needed to add a great new showcase item to my Magic: The Gathering collection.