Youuuuu shalll not paaasss!!! (Removal in the MTG Standard Metagame)
I’ve been posting a lot about the metagame and decks lately, but I think it would be a good idea to talk a little bit about removal. Some of the more casual players probably have read articles in the past about drafting and limited and came across this term but weren’t really sure what it meant. Others know about it only too well. So what is removal? Well, it comes in a variety of forms.
No, we’re not talking about the disinfectant wipes that you buy at the store in order to clean your floor or table tops, we’re talking about spells that wipe the board clean of all spells.
The most common (as well as the most effective) form of board wipe in the current environment is Supreme Verdict. The fact that it can’t be countered is a moot point. This isn’t a card you’d use against other control decks. This is the cheapest of all the board wipes, and gets the job done 99% of the time (1% being a Predator Ooze). It’s a mainstay of Bant and UW control, and also sneaks it’s way into some other decks. However, there is a drawback to this spell. The drawback is, if you’re playing against a fast deck like Rakdos beatdown or GW aggro, and you DON’T have this in your hand by 4th turn you can be so far behind in life that it won’t matter if you cast it. You can have all the control in the world, but if you can’t finish your opponent or draw that WIN card, it’s worthless. Supreme Verdict is also not as effective against Frites or GWB Reanimator, which has become a force to be reckoned with in the current metagame.
Other board wipe suggestions:
- Bonfire of the Damned
To a lesser extent, Mizzium Mortars, Devastation Tide, and Cyclonic Rift could be considered board wipes as well. Out of all of these suggestions, I think the best is Supreme Verdict in this meta, followed by Mizzium Mortars and Bonfire of the Damned. Bonfire was the go to mass wipe a few months ago, but I think that Mizzium Mortars is a lot more useful. It’s easier to cast early on if it’s stuck in your hand and kills Smiters and Restoration Angels, and if you save it until later on it becomes a very effective board wipe against 4 toughness creatures. It’s also much better to flash back than Bonfire is.
Spot removal. You drop something on your clothes and you gotta get it out. So you spray the area and . . . wait, I’m doing it again. We’re not talking about cleaning chemicals here. We’re talking about spot removal. Think pin-point, surgical . . . you need to hit the target while leaving the other parts unharmed.
Spot removal is INCREDIBLY important in this metagame and the best one right now is Ultimate Price. It takes care of all of the biggest threats: Angel of Serenity, Thundermaw Hellkite, Hellrider, Silverblade Paladin . . . pretty much everything. If you are running black you need to run 3-4 of these cards. There is so much aggro in the current metagame that you need to be able to kill anything and everything. Your problems are going to be with the multicolor creatures like Loxodon Smiter, Falkenrath Aristocrat, and Olivia Voldaren. For Smiter, I’ve been using Abrupt Decay in my GWB deck. It works well against him and the other 3 mana or less creatures, and it also takes out flipped creatures like Huntmaster of the Fells, but you can’t use that for the others.
Other thoughts for removal:
- Detention Sphere
- Oblivion Ring
- Selesnya Charm
Spot removal is actually a little more layered than just spells, because you can use creatures to do it to. Fiend Hunter is great, but it will die to just about every burn spell. Angel of Serenity is the best creature with removal, at least until it gets killed or taken out by removal. A lot of people play Oblivion Ring, but when you can only play four you run out ways to get rid of their threats fast. Detention Sphere is sort of a mini board wipe/spot removal card, but it’s draw back is that it’s stuck in the white/blue colors.
Rebuke doesn’t get a lot of love, but against aggressive decks it’s a decent addition to add to your arsenal. Murder, and to a lesser extent Victim of Night are good removal, but their double black casting cost make it difficult to cast in non-black decks. Selesnya Charm is also good, but it’s uses are limited to large creatures.
Looking at just the board wipes and spot removal cards, I’m kind of inspired to put together a blue/black control deck that uses cards like Mutilate, Devastation Tide, lots of removal, and mill cards as their win condition. I know Dimir doesn’t come out until Gatecrash in January, but when it does you can be sure UB control will be surging back on the scene.
The last topic on removal is burn. Burn is the weakest of the removal because it doesn’t always kill it’s target. There have been great burn/wipes like Slagstorm and Whipflare in the past that have done great jobs at keeping control players safe, but as of late they’ve been severely weakened.
The tale of Pillar of Flame has faded and returned onto the metagame scene. It’s popularity is directly tied to the popularity of Zombies, but you have to be careful how you use it. It’s worthless against Thragtusk, Loxodon Smiter, and any other creature with toughness of 3 or more. It’s somewhat useful in the current metagame, but it loses it’s usefulness after the first few turns when the creatures multiply. I mentioned it above, but I think Mizzium Mortars is the best burn spell right now.
It’s very dynamic. It can be a 4 damage blast which will take out big creatures early on, and after a few turns it becomes a highly effective board wipe. Sure you lose your ability to make sure those zombies stay dead, but you make sure it’s just one or two zombies coming back instead of 8 coming at out.
Other good burn spells:
- Devil’s Play
- Searing Spear
- Annihilating Fire
Searing Spear is a mainstay of aggro decks and is easy to flash back, but Annihilating Fire could see more play since it beefs up Pillar of Flame’s effects and takes out the pesky Thragtusk from reanimator decks. I also think that Devil’s Play could see some more play because of it’s flashback cost. You can be in big trouble if your deck runs out of gas, so it’s important to use not only your library but your graveyard as a resource.
What the Future Holds
You can’t get away without using removal in this current metagame. Be careful how you balance burn, spot removal, and board wipes and make sure you have an endgame. You should also take a close look at what decks are popular at the moment. Are there a lot of creatures? Then you should use board wipes/mass removal. Is your opponent dropping “bombs” (big creatures)? Then you should be using spot removal. Are you going up against midrange decks that have a lot of medium sized creatures after a few turns? Burn might be better for that. Look at your deck’s weaknesses and use removal to strengthen them. I ignored my sideboard in November and paid dearly for it.
Also, don’t be afraid to change your sideboard every week to keep up with the metagame! If you don’t, you could hurt your chances of winning some tournaments. Thanks for reading and I hope you found this article useful.