YOUUUUU SHALLL NOT PAAASSS!!! (REMOVAL IN THE MTG STANDARD METAGAME)
With Innistrad out of the picture, I think it’s time to go over the current removal we have left in standard and what will be the best cards to use in the next few months to get rid of any trouble you might come across. Last time I wrote this article I covered board wipes, spot removal, and burn, but this time I want to take it a little bit farther and also talk about tempo cards (or cards that return things to your hand or top of the deck) as well as enchantments. Of course we’ll be adding more removal to this list as the next few sets come out, but rotation is always the hardest time to put together a decent removal package.
For those of you new to Magic, you’re probably wondering what the heck “removal” is. Simply put, removal is a card you use to get rid of another one. This could be through destroying, exiling, or by taking it off the battlefield (or making it unable to participate. First off are board wipes.
Board wipes are cards that hit everything on the battlefield. They come in all sizes, and each have various effects.
Supreme Verdict is still the best form of removal in standard. In the new standard metagame we’ll have to worry about the indestrucible gods, but since Verdict is in Azorius colors, being able to shut them down with enchantments shouldn’t be too difficult. During the last few weeks before rotation, UWR, Esper, and UW control used it to great effect. However, due to a number of lands rotating, UW should be the most likely deck to be using this now. A new WR, WB, and UB dual land was printed, but they are both worse than the previous dual lands from Innistrad and M13 because they come into play tapped. This doesn’t totally put people off from playing Esper or UWR control, but I don’t think players will be confident to use the new lands for a while due to problems with consistency.
Other Board Wipe Suggestions
- Merciless Eviction
- Anger of the Gods
- Planar Cleansing
- Mizzium Mortars
- Curse of the Swine
- Aurelia’s Fury
- Gaze of Granite
Some of these are playable and some of them will never see the light of day. People said Planar Cleansing would never see play, but for a while it was in Esper control along with Terminus. With the gods being indestructible, I think Merciless Eviction will see more play in WB control decks, and after some reorganization GB control should also be back with Gaze of Granite as their boardwipe (now that Mutilate is gone). For red, Mizzium Mortars will still see some play, but I think Anger of the Gods will pretty much replace it since it’s a 3 mana spell that also exiles. You could cast 2 and deal 6 damage for the same cost as 1 Mizzium Mortars overloaded. The card has already hit 800 yen here in Japan, and I expect it to hit 1000 in another week or two. Curse of the Swine seems interesting as mass removal, especially against indestructible creatures, but if you play it you better have a card like Aetherize to get rid of all of those creatures left on your opponent’s table.
When you want to surgically strike at one creature instead of hitting them all at once, you want to use spot removal. This is a spell that targets just one creature and either kills it or exiles it.
Even though there are a lot of playable back creatures in standard right now, I still think Doom Blade is one of the best spot removal cards in the format. It’s instant speed, it’s two mana, and it can be splashed well in 2-3 color decks.
Another card that I think is going to become EXTREMELY popular is Selesnya Charm. With Monstrous, gods, and other 5 power + creatures finding their way into standard, Selesnya Charm will start to see a lot more play. This forces you into GW (GW midrange, GW aggro, GW hexproof), but that’s not an entirely bad thing.
Other Spot Removal
- Devour Flesh
- Orzhov Charm
- Hero’s Downfall
- Glare of Heresy
- Ultimate Price
- Celestial Flare
- Rapid Hybridization
- Abrupt Decay
Dreadbore is strong but in BR which means you have to play those colors. It’s also at sorcery speed. Hero’s Downfall is also a great card, but the double black in its casting cost means you’ll have to play it in a two color control deck (or mono black) if you want to be able to cast it consistently. I think Ultimate Price will see more play again now that the meta is shifting back towards more mono colored creatures. Devour Flesh and Celestial Flare are sacrifice effects, but still good in some situations, and I also think BW control will become big along with cards like Orzhov Charm. Also, don’t forget about blue’s Hybridization. Sure your opponent will get a 3/3 frog lizard, but they can kill the 9/9 that was there before which is a good trade off. Golgari also has some good removal spells, so you’re covered no matter what colors you choose.
Searing Spear, we hardly knew thee. You didn’t have to be rotated out, but Wizards wanted a more flavorful card that matched the Gods theme, so Lightning Strike was invented. Burn are cards that are usually red or a combination of red and another color that do a certain number of damage to a creature or player. Since we’re talking about removal, I’m just going to focus on things that hit creatures.
Lightning Strike is going to be the bread and butter of all red mages over the next few months. Just as Searing Spear HAD to be in every red deck, Lightning Strike will be there too. Three damage to a player or 3 to a creature is incredibly efficient. They don’t need to deal X damage because Red mages’ lives are short. They either win quickly or die trying. The more damage for less mana the better.
Other Good Burn Spells:
- Annihilating Fire
- Clan Defiance
- Izzet Charm
- Magma Jet
- Mizzium Mortars
- Flames of the Firebrand
Everybody was pretty excited to get Magma Jet back, especially mono red players. It’s a great burn spell because it helps you to smooth out 2 draws with Scry, but you do lose 1 point of damage for that ability while paying the same cost as a Lightning Strike. Clan Defiance is kind of in between a board wipe and spot removal. For 5 mana you can deal the same amount of damage as a Lightning Strike, but you can also deal that damage to a flyer and a player at no extra cost. Shock and Izzet Charm are your 2 damage spells, but Izzet Charm has 2 other useful modes to exploit if you’re playing Izzet colors, and Turn//Burn is also another great card to have in a control deck as it turns a huge threat into a 0/1. Mizzium Mortars is also in here again as it will be cast as a 4 damage sorcery 50% of the time.
Tempo are cards that don’t kill a creature, but rather they remove it from battle so they can’t harm you until the following turn. The could be at instant speed, or they can be enchantments. There are a few good ones out there to take into consideration if you’re making a deck that relies on tempo.
The king of tempo cards in the last block was Azorius Charm. A Four-of in every control deck using UW, it was a pain in the ass for midrange and other slower decks that put all their eggs into one basket when attacking with one creature (aside from hexproof). It was incredibly strong when coupled with Snapcaster Mage, but will it’s reign continue in Theros standard? I think so. You can bet to see more of this card in the coming weeks, but not as much as you did the last few months.
Other Tempo cards
- Voyage’s End
- Cyclonic Rift
- Hands of Binding
- Hidden Strings
- Inaction Injunction
- Simic Charm
Voyage’s End picks up where Unsummon left off in M13, but now it’s one more mana to cast. It should still see some play thanks to the scry ability attached, but I think more players will choose Disperse or Cylonic Rift as a tempo card because those can target most permanents while Voyage’s End only targets creatures. Far//Away is a great card for Dimir to play with, and I’m sure it will also see play in Esper and Grixis (BRU) decks as well. Hands of Binding and Hidden Strings never saw any play in Innistrad block standard, but I think they could possibly see some play now if tempo decks become popular. Tapping things and untapping your things is always nice. Inaction Injunction is alright since it draws you a card, and Simic Charm is much better than and of the 2 mana tempo cards I mentioned up above if you’re playing Simic. Adding a giant growth (+3/+3) or Hexproof is very useful. Aetherize will also have it’s uses I think, especially if some players continue to play with decks like Turbo Fog, Maze’s End, or Pillow Fort.
With Oblivion Ring gone, the role of exiling a permanent falls solely on the shoulders of Detention Sphere now. Both the charm and sphere are in Azorius’ colors, which means that players who decide to go with a tempo/control deck will fall into that camp of players. These aren’t the only control cards out there, but I think they’ll be the best in the coming months.
- One Thousand Lashes
- Krasis Incubation
- Chained to the Rocks
These aren’t permanent fixes, but if you’re looking to cripple your opponent’s forces or to just slow them down, enchantments might be the way to go. One Thousand Lashes is pretty much an Arrest with the bonus of hitting your opponent for a point of damage each turn, Arrest makes sure your opponent gets no bonuses by activating their abilities, and Pacifism is easy to cast. Chained to the Rocks is great for a Boros deck, Claustrophobia is a very good form of removal for blue, and Krasis Incubation could be both good and bad (for you and your opponent). All of these spells will stop your opponent’s creature until the enchantment is dealt with. Before this might have been a good idea because nobody had enchantment hate, but now I think it’s going to get a lot trickier thanks to everything being an Enchantment.
What the Future Holds
Which removal will become popular? Which will be the most effective? With the Theros metagame still in its infancy, we will probably be well into October before players find a good combination of removal for each deck. It will also depend on which decks become popular in standard. The metagame is ever changing, so it’s a good idea to keep your options open and to consider how each card could deal with the problems you’re having when choosing removal. I hope this helped some of you players that have less time to pour over cards. If anybody has other suggestions for good removal that I might have missed, please leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!