This week’s article hearkens the return of the Top Ten series! There has been neither a Top Ten article nor video for quite some time now, and I would like to change that. Sadly, this cannot be a weekly segment like the previous Top Tens were, but this one deserves a special spot as I count down the Top Ten Legacy Removal Cards as part of the normal series. You will notice that it is called “cards” rather than “spells” because there are a few cards on this list that remove things but not when cast. It is also obvious that I did not specify the type of removal about which the list would be. This is because the removal is varied, and can deal with different types of cards. Check out the video at the bottom for the list in video form, with nice shiny visuals, as well as the spoiler to the #1 slot, which will not be in the article. So, without further ado, here are the Top Ten Legacy spot removal cards:
Red Elemental Blast, Pyroblast, Blue Elemental Blast, and Hydroblast are all good cards. They destroy opposing permanents and are also 1-mana counterspells. Painter decks also abuse Red blasts as 1-mana Vindicates with a Painter’s Servant in play. All of these are solid effects, but a special shout-out to the Blue blasts for being basically the only Blue-colored spot removal out there! Most Blue mages are happy to just Daze away problems, but the savvy blue mage know that his red arch-nemesis does NOT want his Chandra, Pyromaster killed.
Goodness, this card is amazing. It is banned in Modern, an UNCOMMON, that is a 2-mana Shock. All because it can come back every turn with Grove of the Burnwillows. The combo could almost be considered broken, as there is so much value to be gained from the interaction. It can be used to slowly, 1 point at a time, win games against grindy decks, while also killing off their creatures. Flipped Delver? No problem for PF. The only issue is that without a Grove, it really is just an underwhelming 2-mana Shock. The fact that it requires another card to be incredibly useful compelled me to not include it in the main list. None of the other cards on the main list need anything else to function as removal, except for maybe #5.
Am I technically cheating here? No, not really, because Wasteland kills manlands. Merfolk’s Mutavault hates all of those nasty players playing this nasty card because it deals with common land threats. Sometimes, a Rishadan Port is locking out the game. Sadly, our friend Hydroblast cannot deal with that, but Wasteland can! It is a versatile and powerful card that is a Legacy staple for a reason, and is not included in the main list because yes, it technically is not spot removal.
Damnation and Friends
This list started as a list of “Top Ten Removal Cards.” Then I realized that with a list like that, board sweepers had a place, too. I was out of room, and desperate to give these guys a spot, so I give them an honorable mention for being great at mass killing. Wrath of God, Supreme Verdict, and CounterTop’s Terminus are all examples of good ways to beat aggro decks without a huge mana investment in multiple removal spells. Most of these cards are worth their relatively hefty price tags to save on mana and win more games against aggressive decks.
Manriki-Gusari – Three words: Stoneblade’s Worst Nightmare. It should be at least in the ‘board of every player using Stoneforge Mystic as a silver bullet in the mirror match, and yet no one plays it. The small stat boost and cheap equip cost make it very easy to use to stop opposing equipment while still poking in for an extra damage. Removing the all-powerful swords and Umezawa’s Jitte in a tutorable package is a deal that is hard to resist.
Oblivion Ring – Remove anything but a land for ? Sign me up! Opposing Jace, the Mind Sculptor fatesealing you into oblivion? No problem, just O-ring ’em. Batterskull wrecking your day? Boom, problem solved. As long as the opponent has no enchantment hate of their own, this card is an extremely versatile way to deal with problem permanents. It has also been printed in nine different sets at common and uncommon rarity, AND is abusable with Flickerwisp and AEther Vial. ‘Nuff said.
Anything that deals with True-Name Nemesis – technically I’m talking about edict effects here, but really anything that will deal with that nasty bugger fills this slot. Diabolic Edict, Marsh Casualties, Golgari Charm, and Zealous Persecution will all kill TNN if a condition (such as him being alone on the battlefield for Edict) is met. True-Name is so prevalent in the format right now that some decks are devoting 2-3 sideboard slots just for this one card. The Edict effects in particular are effective as they also mitigate effects like Hexproof and can kill Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Without question, pack some of these if you ever plan on going to a Grand Prix.
Qasali Pridemage – A versatile, effective removal spell, Qasali Pridemage gives a nice little pump to attackers before smashing an opposing Sneak Attack. One can Green Sun’s Zenith for Pridemage, and his green-white color scheme makes him easy to throw into any Maverick build or even Elves. I would absolutely prefer him to Naturalize, even though he technically costs 1 more mana to use.
Maelstrom Pulse – This one is a doozy. It can deal with any non-land permanent, just like O-ring, but it also can wipe the board of tokens or beat up two Tarmogoyfs. All of this for a mere three mana makes this card often a 1-2 of in decks like Shardless BUG and BUG (Sultai for you Khans junkies) Control. The biggest downside to playing Maelstrom Pulse is that it’s sorcery speed removal. Then again, I understand the reason because it would be busted like nothing else at instant speed.
NOTE: Henceforth there is some ambiguity. Not on my choices, but on the order in which they are placed. I have done my best to sort them, but it is quite difficult given the situational nature of Magic cards. Not all cards are amazing all the time, and some of these are better than others based on any given gameplay state. That being said, this is a general ordering based on average effectiveness.
Umezawa’s Jitte – This is where removal “card” really starts to make sense. The Jitte is a very common piece of equipment employed by Stoneblade and Weenie decks. It’s numerous modes all have some benefit, as the counters can be dumped even for lifegain if the equipment is subject to removal. However, the removal aspect is probably the most game-defining. Sure, the pumping means a potentially faster kill or a kill out of nowhere with a wild Lightning Bolt, but against a deck like Goblins, the Jitte counters relate directly to little dead green men and keeping swarms from taking over the game. Against a deck playing Lingering Souls, Jitte trades 2 counters for half of their card. Death and Taxes’ army of X/1’s cannot beat a Jitte on a True-Name Nemesis; the advantage from the counters is too great. The versatility of the Jitte when combined with its removal potential earns it this spot.
Vindicate – Three mana, anything dead. Need I say more? Spot removal for literally everything. Everything without shroud, hexproof, indestructibility, or protection that is.
Lightning Bolt – “LIGHTNING BOLT! LIGHTNING BOLT! LIGHTNING BOLT! LIGHTNING BOLT! LIGHTNING BOLT!”
Burn players worship this card. RUG, UWR, and Grixis Delver (yes that’s a thing) all run a playset of it. Death and Taxes (yes them again; they hate removal) plays Mother of Runes in part to deal with the magical for three damage spell. The card can even provide a little bit of reach to close out games when necessary. WARNING: Attempting to Bolt a 2/3 Tarmogoyf without an instant in the graveyard will lead to its survival. Other than the weird Goyf errata, Bolt will deal with most early creatures the opponent can dish out without a problem.
Abrupt Decay – Two mana, dodges all counterspells, and kills almost every relevant early threat? Oh yes, this card is good. Often played in the same decks as Maelstrom Pulse, Abrupt Decay kills things from Sword of Fire and Ice to Goblin Piledriver to Liliana of the Veil. Any deck with green and black usually has this card at least in the sideboard, because it is so versatile. Heck, even ANT will board in three of this card to deal with misers like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Pithing Needle. The uncounterability is definitely its most powerful aspect, though, because as you all know Blue is the most popular, and often times considered to be most powerful, color in the format.
Oh come on, any savvy Legacy player knows what goes here! Just watch the video below to confirm that the number one spot is basically the most popular Legacy spot removal spell. I’ll give you a hint in case it’s 3 a.m. and you have no more brain cells left: It costs and is an instant that will deal with ANY non-protected creature. Really, did you expect anything else in this slot?
That’s all for this week! I hope you enjoyed reading and watching, and I hope to see you here again next week for more Legacy action. Peace.