Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Creature Removals in Commander
Since commander decks are led by legendary creatures, creature removals become all the more important in EDH format. Although commanders can be recast from the command zone if destroyed, doing so requires additional mana (two per extra casting) and stalls them with more summoning sickness.
Ideal removals don't cost much mana and trigger at instant speed, giving fast and cheap executions—which reign supreme? These are the ten best low-cost creature removals in commander format of Magic: The Gathering!
10. Path to Exile
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 1
For a single mana, Path to Exile, well, exiles a creature at instant speed. Exiling prevents graveyard recovery, making this an especially potent removal; catch is, the creature's controller can play a basic land from their deck to the field tapped.
So try to cast Exile against foes using four or five-color decks (who are less likely to run basic lands and thus miss out on the land bonus), but don't be afraid to give someone that extra land when you need something gone. Heck, target yourself for extra ramp if you're hurting for mana and have creatures to spare.
9. Pongify/Rapid Hybridization
Basically the same spell, Pongify and Hybridization both instantly destroy a creature and prevent it from regenerating, almost guaranteeing a kill. However, Pongify gives the creature's controller a 3/3 ape token and Hybridization provides a 3/3 frog lizard.
So yea, you're boosting their ranks, but these tokens are fairly non-threatening since they lack abilities and have unsupported subtypes. Plus, these are some of blue's only spells that actually destroy creatures (most just return to hand), keeping their victims down and out.
8. Abrupt Decay
Spending one mana of each Golgari color, Decay instantly destroys any non-land of cost three or less. This means you can target a creature, enchantment, artifact (useful against "Sol Ring"), or whatever other non-land you need to beat. As a bonus, Decay can't be countered, preventing blue foes from negating its effect.
Sure, you'll need other spells to eliminate high-cost threats, but Decay spends two mana to potentially eliminate a three-cost unit (of practicality any type at that), so you're still gaining a mana lead. But to tackle those expensive foes, I'd recommend...
Reversing Decay's range, Despark only works on permanents of cost four or higher, toppling the biggest threats on the board. This time, you'll need white/black instead black/green, and Despark doesn't have Decay's counter-prevention, but it exiles its target, again preventing graveyard recovery.
Like Decay, you can target non-creatures with this too, making Despark a versatile spell that can also handle dangerous planeswalkers.
6. Malicious Affliction
Affliction requires two black mana, instantly destroying a non-black creature. However, its morbid effect lets you copy Affliction if a creature has already died that turn, meaning you could potentially destroy two creatures! Thankfully, morbid is pretty generous, triggering off any creature's death (whether yours or an opponent's) and blending perfectly with creature-sacrificing effects.
If you're running multi-color black decks, you might want to substitute "Doom Blade" instead (it only hits one creature but accepts a mana of any color), but pure-black themes have few better removal options.
5. Seal of Removal
Seal of Removal is essentially the enchantment version of the instant "Unsummon"—but it's better. Both return a creature to hand for one mana; however, you can set Seal ahead of time, sacrificing it whenever you want its effect.
Not only does this empower enchantment supports, it gives you an excellent first-turn play that saves your mana on future turns. Sacrificing Removal doesn't require mana, tapping, or any other cost, so use it whenever you need—you can even target your own creature to recast it and reactivate an entrance effect.
As opposed to 20 life in standard games, commander battles begin with 40 health per player. This gives more leeway to cast spells like Dismember with phyrexian mana symbols, which can be satisfied with either one mana (black in this case) or two life.
So you can Dismember for three if you have the resources, or you can play it for two/one and spend some life—your choice. Either way, it gives a creature -5/-5 for the turn, an enormous debuff that drastically reduces both power and toughness, likely killing them outright. This can eliminate creatures with indestructible, and it's today's only removal that you can pay with just colorless (if you spend life for the phyrexian symbols).
3. Lightning Bolt
Simple, cheap, and versatile, Lightning Bolt strikes any target for three damage. That's some impressive power for a one-cost instant, able to eliminate most early and mid-game creatures. You can also target planeswalkers or players when desired; hit an opponent to discount red spectacle cards (which lower in price when an opponent has lost life that turn).
Like Unsummon and Seal of Removal, Snap bounces a creature back to hand, either stalling a threat or helping reactive one of your entrance effects. It costs one extra mana, but in exchange, you also get to untap up to two lands! This basically means it pays for itself, and you can actually gain mana if you're running multi-mana lands like "Simic Growth Chamber".
An easy pick for my own blue decks, Snap is surprisingly cheap, costing well under two dollars!
1. Swords to Plowshares
Like Path to Exile, Plowshares instantly exiles a creature for one white mana. But this time, instead of giving that unit's controller a basic land from their deck, you grant them life equal to the creature's power.
That's a much smaller downside, especially since excess life doesn't matter against many of commander's win conditions, including deck-out, poison counters, commander damage, or insta-win (via "Laboratory Maniac" or such).
Other Removals in Magic: The Gathering
You might have noticed mono-green's absence in today's countdown; admittedly, its ranks have fewer removals, but you can pair with other colors to gain more. In addition to Abrupt Decay, favorites include blue/green "Temporal Spring" and black/green "Assassin's Trophy", so don't underestimate its prowess.
Also consider powerful counterspells like "Mana Drain" that negate cards before they arrive, creatures with deathtouch who destroy foes in combat, and board-wiping nukes that mass-remove creatures. But for now, as we await more creature-eliminating commander spells, vote for your favorite and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2020 Jeremy Gill