A hallmark of the combined Lorwyn-Shadowmoor block is an abundance of aggressively costed (or undercosted) creatures. This combines with a sincere lack of mana acceleration in the set. This will push the metagame toward creatures crashing into each other instead of the benchmark “best deck” of Time Spiral block, the Relic-driven Teachings build that could wipe the board, gain life back with Tendrils, and generally make things painful for aggro decks.
But I still like killing things before they get a chance to bother my creatures. So what are our removal options in the coming block season? In the extended, I break it down by price, from low to high, then cap it with a second look at mass removal in block.
Ever since the heady days of Swords to Plowshares, we haven’t had really effective one-mana removal. Let’s take a look at what we do have, and what it can do. In these entries, as elsewhere, I’ve noted the color or colors required to pay for the card, but not the specific cost.
Peppersmoke (b) — Kill an X/1, and maybe draw a card in a Faeries deck. This might, maybe, matter if people find themselves dying to Tattermunge Maniacs left and right.
Scar (b/r) — Kill an X/1, without the Peppersmoke bonus. Not so exciting.
Needle Drop (r) — Deal an extra 1 something. Terminally unexciting.
Shard Volley (r) — 3 damage, but you lose a land. A sure hit in R/G aggro decks, but much more likely filling the burn face role than trying to take out creatures.
Tarfire (r) — 2 damage. Very straightforward, and a bonus for Goblin decks.
The removal options really start to turn on around two mana, with Shriekmaw being the strongest example in the bunch.
Curse of Chains (w/u) — Tap down a creature. This can potentially backfire with untappers, but I don’t expect to see them having a big influence, so Curse becomes a quick way to deal with an attacking creature.
Last Breath (w) — RFG a creature of power 2 or less. This is almost a swords, but only for the teeny, early guys. This takes out a Maniac, and takes out some other value creatures, but it also misses a lot of the powerful, undercosted beaters.
Puncture Bolt (r) — Kill an X/2. This is decent removal in that way, but you can’t point it at your opponent, so it loses.
Weight of Conscience (w) — Need two creatures to RFG a target. Clunky, basically a Limited card.
Disperse (u) — Bounce. As good as bounce ever is.
Whirlpool Whelm (u) — Bounce, sometimes to top of library. Slightly better bounce for creatures, but much more limited than Disperse overall.
Nameless Inversion (b) — +3/-3. A standout removal card, the Inversion has the advantage of turning on tribal lands and being searchable by all the Harbingers. Clearly a good early removal card. The majority of creatures in the set are toughness three or less, including those damn swans.
Pack’s Disdain (b) — Highly situational -X/-X. A Limited card, at best.
Warren Weirding (b) — Force a sacrifice. I think this is brilliant in Goblin decks, as it triggers tribal effects, and in the absence of something to kill on the other side, can multiply your Goblins and trigger Boggart Shenanigans.
Crush Underfoot (r) — Deal some damage in a Giant deck. If Giant decks were any good, this might, maybe, be good.
Hurly-Burly (r) — 1 damage to all fliers or non-fliers. There are a lot of X/1s out there, and Hurly-Burly lets you sweep the board of them. Exactly how useful this will be will depend on what decks everyone else is running.
Lash Out (r) — 3 damage to a creature, sometimes with bonus damage. Maybe this will turn up as creature removal, although at this point I think a red deck can do better.
Release the Ants (r) — 1 damage, with clash. No.
Lignify (g) — Turn it into a tree. Lignify is great, especially against Legendary opponents. It also has the advantage of being tutorable by Treefolk Harbinger, a card that’s likely to appear in force.
(Shriekmaw (b)) — Terror critter. Just plain good. Sure, it can’t kill a Mutavault, but that’s what our Inversions are for.
Firespout (r/g) — 3 points of mass damage. Firespout looks amazing. As I mentioned with Nameless Inversion, a whole lot of the creatures in block are X/3 or less. For three mana, Firespout can completely clear the board, wrecking an aggro rush and giving you a chance to rebuild. That, and Firespout is a cool name.
Mercy Killing (w/g) — Sacrifice effect, but makes a bunch of 1/1s. This is like a tragically bad Crib Swap, when used as removal. This is more likely to be a combo element where you’re nailing your own creature. Edit: This may be better than I thought at first, as can kill the annoying pro-UBR Oversoul of Dusk.
Consign to Dream (u) — Bounce, with bonus against R and G. Decent, in contexts where bounce is your best option.
Moonglove Extract (a) — 2 damage. I don’t know if there will be contexts where this is a great card, although it may come in as a bad Seal of Fire in aggro burn decks.
Oblivion Ring (w) — RFG anything. Brilliant, as always.
Eyeblight’s Ending (b) — Destroy a non-Elf. Pretty damn solid, and fills the gaps that Shriekmaw leaves. Also searchable with Elvish Harbinger and turns on tribal things.
River’s Grasp (u/b) — Bounce into discard away. I really like this one. It can be creature removal at need, or just be point discard. In this way, Grasp is removal that doesn’t suddenly become a dead card against a primarily creatureless build.
Burn Trail (r) — 3 damage, maybe 6. Is this good enough for a burn-heavy aggro deck? Maybe. I’m unconvinced.
Neck Snap (w) — Destroy an attacker or blocker. Maybe. If possible, I’d rather Grasp something away.
(Cloudthresher (g)) — 2 damage to all fliers. Kryptonite for faeries, the Thresher is also brilliant because it can come in at a full six mana, rather than just evoking for four.
Gloomlance (b) — Destroy a creature, bonus discard for W/G. This is pricey, and it’s a Sorcery. Probably a no-go in Constructed.
Incremental Blight (b) — -3, -2, -1. Having to have three targets means this won’t make it into Constructed decks.
Final Revels (b) – -0/-2. Mass removal, if you’re not in the right colors to make Firespout effective. This might see play.
Violet Pall (b) — Destroy a nonblack creature, get a blocker. This is expensive, but it does give you a guy even as it takes out theirs. Still, significantly weaker than its most recent analog, Seize the Soul. Probably won’t make the cut.
Weed Strangle (b) — Destroy a creature, maybe gain life. No. Slow, poor side effect.
Consuming Bonfire (r) — 4 or 7 damage to a creature. Also probably not.
Incendiary Command (r) — Pyroclasm is the relevant effect here. For five mana, that’s not so great, even if you do get to kick four damage into their face at the same time.
Flame Javelin (r) — 4 damage. I placed this at its full CMC, but of course, the Javelin will often deploy for three mana in red decks. It’s an instant, it deals 4 damage to any target…an auto-include in many decks. Good stuff.
Corrupt (b) — Damage equal to Swamps. This is awfully expensive, but is has the life gain feature that made Tendrils so good, and might be a massive beating against aggro — if you can live through the early game.
Jaws of Stone (r) — Damage equal to Mountains, splittable. No life gain, but an easier-to-use fireball effect. Maybe a control card, but probably not.
Austere Command (w) — Mass kill. The good Wrath in the format, with some versatility that may come into play if people run out particularly problematic Auras.
Nettlevine Blight (b) — Slow kill. Not good even in block, I think.
Mass Calcify (w) — Destroy all nonwhite creatures. The bad Wrath in the format, coming in at seven mana and not even killing one of the known aggro archetypes (that’s Kithkin, if you’re playing along at home). Ugh.
Worldpurge (w/u) — Bounce everything. The mana-clearing aspect of Worldpurge has me trying to figure out if there’s any really good way to use this. You can Turn to Mist a beater ahead of the Purge, but now you’re hitting ten mana, and surely you can win in better ways off of ten mana.
Profane Command (b) — -X/-X. Beautiful, versatile. A gimme in many black-bearing decks in block. It’s shut down by Teeg (remember him?) but you’ll have cheaper removal to ace him out before you Profane for the kill.
Titan’s Revenge (r) — X damage, sometimes reusable. Best used as a burn to the face, but in a pinch, can kill stuff. It won’t be fast, though, with a 2-mana buy-in before you even get to actually kill any creatures.
The ultimate in useful removal is an effective sweeper. Time Spiral block had its four-mana bomb, a card that was quite likely responsible for the dominance of a control archetype by mid-season. Given the tribal emphasis of the first half of Lorwyn-Shadowmoor, it’s unsurprising that no really good Wrath effects were included in the set (also, expansion sets in general tend not to have great Wrath effects as long as Wrath is still in the core set). Checking in with the list above, we see that our mass-removal options are:
Hurly-Burly — Not stopped by Teeg, but doesn’t kill him, either. This half-strength Pyroclasm may mangle some aggro builds, but I don’t think it will do enough on its own to keep you alive in the face of a creature rush.
Firespout — At three mana, this ducks in under Teeg and kills him, along with many of the other aggro creatures in the format. This is a standout card, and I think might justify pushing some red into a B/G build (for example), just for the chance to torch the aggro player’s entire board. The good mass removal card of this set.
Final Revels — A five-mana Pyroclasm. This won’t save you in time, and likely won’t save you at all, as they’ll have out more than a few X/3s by turn four or five.
Austere Command — If you can accelerate into it, Austere might be halfway decent. I know I just said a five-mana play is too slow, but Austere lives in a color that can stall into it (and is likely to partner with green acceleration), and it one ups Revels by actually killing everything. Good enough? I don’t know — I need to test it.
Mass Calcify — Terrible, especially with the afore-mentioned flurry of tiny, Kithkin-shaped holes in its removal plan. You’d never take this over Austere Command, and have better things to do in addition to Austere Command.