Devon has been playing Magic since 1994. He is an enthusiastic player who mainly enjoys the Legacy, Vintage, and Competitive EDH formats.
Why Is Creature Removal Important?
CEDH is a constantly evolving format. Even a year ago, the meta looked completely different. We had many more linear combo decks and very few control/interactive decks. But this day and age, interaction is king. There are more creature-centric decks than ever, especially with the rise of Tymna decks and hatebears. Creature pressure is now a valid strategy for reducing the effectiveness of Ad Nauseam and Necropotence. Powerful, linear combo decks have given way to more midrange, interactive combo decks that can handle the hate creatures and protect their life totals. Here are the current best options for ways to handle creatures.
1. Toxic Deluge
Toxic Deluge has been a long-time staple for board sweepers in this format. It's cheap and easy to cast and uses your life as a resource. The newer meta, however, sees a lower instance of this card being used. Why? Because paying life for Toxic Deluge eats into your life resource that could be used for Ad Nauseam or Necropotence. Life totals actually matter now and players are looking for alternatives to this once omnipresent card.
2. Pongify/Rapid Hybridization
Pongify is a card that often slips under the radar for players looking for removal. So why is it so good? First of all, it's a one-mana removal spell in a non-white color. It also is superior to Swords to Plowshares in Protean Hulk-oriented decks because you can use it to trigger your own Protean Hulk at instant speed. Lastly, it can pitch to Force of Will, Misdirection, or Force of Negation. It should be said, however, that giving the opponent a 3/3 creature has become more of a downside since the rise of Tymna, the Weaver.
There's a real theme starting to form here : Tymna, the Weaver. Massacre is good because of the real prevalence of Tymna decks in the format. It can usually be cast for zero mana and takes care of most creatures that you care about. This is a great card but is very situationally based on your opponents playing a high level of Tymna.
4. Cyclonic Rift
Cyclonic Rift has been a format staple for a while now. The instant cast aspect of the card, coupled with its flexibility makes it almost a must-have in any blue deck. This can be used to disrupt an opponent's single combo piece or clear the board at the end of your opponent's turn. This is especially good if your deck can easily produce a bunch of colorless mana.
5. Lightning Bolt
What? Lightning Bolt? Direct damage is bad in EDH, right? Well, normally, I would agree, but something happened in CEDH: The Dramatic Reversal/Isochron Scepter engine. Why does this matter? Well, the Paradox Engine/Isochron Scepter/Dramatic Reversal package is pretty much ubiquitous in CEDH. Almost every deck runs this engine and has many ways to put it together. Why does this matter? Well, the PSD engine can be made into a win condition with the addition of Lightning Bolt and Copy Artifact. You will already be running Copy Artifact in almost every PSD deck, so by just adding a Lightning Bolt, you've created another win condition that is also a removal spell that handles most of the creatures you would want to kill. This dramatically increases the viability of Lightning Bolt in any deck running PSD and red.
6. Reality Shift
Reality shift has been seeing a lot more play, as of late, in CEDH. This is largely due to the fact that it exiles a creature in a non-white color, and also effectively mills the opponent. Normally this wouldn't be a big deal, but the milling effect turns Reality Shift into a combo kill card. When you couple Tasigur, the Golden Fang's recursion, infinite mana, and Beast Within, you get an infinite mill engine that wins the game on the spot. The fact that those combo pieces double as interaction make this combo very good for control-style decks.
7. Gilded Drake
Gilded Drake is amazing against combo commanders. It comes down early and easily handles Commanders who get ramped out early and win the game. Some examples of this would be Arcum Daggson, Gitrog Monster, and Narset. I can't tell you how often I've seen this card completely disrupt a Commander-centric deck, because it doesn't actually kill the Commander, so they can't simply recast it. They have to find a way to kill the Commander first. Very good card, overall.
8. Swords to Plowshares
Swords to Plowshares really is the workhorse removal spell of the format. It's cheap and it handles most any creature, permanently. There isn't a whole lot to say here. It isn't part of a combo, it just removes things very efficiently. That being said, the aspect of giving your opponent life can actually help them with their Ad Nauseams and Necropotences. It's still a staple in any deck running white.