Login | Register


All times are UTC - 7 hours


It is currently 2019-Sep-18 12:05 pm




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 17 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next
Author Message
 Post subject: Spot Removal in Commander
AgePosted: 2015-Apr-19 7:39 am 
User avatar

Joined: 2010-Mar-15 2:19 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: Denver, CO
"Spot removal is bad in Commander, just play sweepers."

This is an oft-repeated bit of strategic advice, and one I've always disagreed with. Spot removal is a powerful tool for proactive and reactive decks alike.

Now, when I say "spot removal," I basically mean cheap instants that kill a single creature. I'm not talking about flexible sorceries like Vindicate or expensive blowouts like Spinal Embrace. I'm talking about cards like Doom Blade, Swords to Plowshares, and Pongify.

Here are the three main reasons spot removal is powerful:

1) It Allows Opponents to Attack Eachother

Commander is a format about big threats. Giant dragons, voltron generals, and other large beasties abound. At some point, you're going to have to kill these guys if you don't want to get beat down.

But a lot of the time, these creatures will end up attacking someone else first. If you pack your deck full of wraths, you'll miss out on a lot of damage from opponents attacking eachother. Cheap instants give you the freedom to wait and see where those heavy hitters go.

Play nothing but sweepers, and you will often find yourself trying to deal 120 points of damage all buy yourself.

2) Some Threats Need to Die NOW

Creatures like Consecrated Sphinx, Seedborn Muse, and Deadeye Navigator can generate insurmountable advantages if not killed immediately.

I think the widespread misconception that spot removal is bad is a big part of why these cards are such an issue. All of them die to Doom Blade with no benefit and a loss in mana, which leads into our final point...

3) Tempo is Actually a Big Deal

Tempo is frequently undervalued in Commander. The conventional wisdom is that mana and card advantage are far more important. What people fail to understand is the relationship between these things.

Tempo in Commander is essentially the dynamic between pressure and resource development. The more pressure you're under, the less mana and cards you can spend on gaining resources. If I'm attacking you with Phyrexian Crusader or Rafiq of the Many, it's pretty risky to tap out for Explosive Vegetation and Damnation can take up your whole turn.

Cheap spot removal lets you answer threats while developing your own board. I've often heard, "The problem with spot removal is that you're still down a card to the other two people at the table." But by playing Swords to Plowshares instead of Hallowed Burial, I can spend that extra mana on a Concentrate or Cultivate.

Practical Takeaways

Given all that, how much spot removal should you run? Which cards are good?

I use similar starting numbers for spot removal, sweepers, and counterspells: 8+ if they're core to the deck's strategy, 5 on average, minimum 2 for emergencies even if they don't fit my gameplan.

My priorities when selecting spot removal are the following:
1) Reliability - If I'm going to spend a slot on removal, I want it to work. "Attacking creature" and "nonblack creature" are both scary restrictions that I avoid if possible. Lightning Bolt and Dismember are both efficient, but they aren't always big enough to kill the things I want to kill.
2) Cost - The cheaper the better. One mana is great, two is good, three or more starts to lose the advantages of spot removal.
3) Drawbacks - How much does it hurt you to give them an extra land with Path to Exile? Pongify and Beast Within may be perfect for a deck full of flyers but terrible in Edric, Spymaster of Trest.
4) Upsides - Can the card do something other than kill creatures? Does it exile the target? These are meaningful, but not as important as the other qualities.

Some examples:
Swords to Plowshares - The gold standard for removal in Commander. Cheap, hits anything, exiles the target, drawback is usually minor. Path to Exile is similar but has a much bigger drawback.
Doom Blade - Not good enough. Two mana is good, but lots of creatures are black in this gold-loving format.
Go for the Throat - Unlike Doom Blade, this generally kills the things you need to kill. It's a good baseline - a card I'm happy to run or cut depending on the specific needs and themes of the deck.
Snuff Out - As prices go, "free" is the best. So good that it's often worth the "nonblack" clause.
Pongify/Rapid Hybridization - Cheap removal in a color that's supposed to be bad at it. I'm happy to run these in most decks without Black or White, although some decks fear the drawback more than others.
Mortify/Putrefy/Hero's Downfall/Various Charms - These trade off some efficiency for flexibility. It's fine to run a few of these, but you generally want more cheap cards than flexible cards, especially if your deck has other ways to deal with noncreatures.

_________________


Top
 Offline Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Spot Removal in Commander
AgePosted: 2015-Apr-19 9:46 am 

Joined: 2010-Sep-11 12:19 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Doom Blade is terrible.

Don't play Doom Blade.


Top
 Offline Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Spot Removal in Commander
AgePosted: 2015-Apr-19 12:05 pm 
User avatar

Joined: 2010-Dec-10 12:16 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
I'm a fan of using Berserk (and similar) on Threat A when Player A attacks Player B with it instead of me.

I've used Lightning Axe (and similar) in the same way. 5 damage handles many threats, and chump blocking can fill in some of the gap when necessary (especially when somebody else is doing it).

_________________
V/R

HK

Hazezon Tamar - Manland theme
Seshiro the Anointed - Snake Tribal
Jedit Ojanen of Efrava - Cat and Warrior Dual Tribal
Doran, the Seige Tower - Wall Tribal
Progenitus - Hydra themed Proliferate Deck
Karona, the False God - Backstabbing Hug


Top
 Offline Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Spot Removal in Commander
AgePosted: 2015-Apr-19 1:59 pm 
User avatar

Joined: 2009-Mar-31 8:25 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: New Zealand
I made a similar post with a similar premises awhile back here:

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=16864

So can't say that I disagree, though you broke down the arguments in a better way I think.

_________________
Xenagos, God of Revels
Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas


Top
 Offline Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Spot Removal in Commander
AgePosted: 2015-Apr-19 2:25 pm 
User avatar

Joined: 2010-Mar-15 2:19 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: Denver, CO
GoodbyeWorld wrote:
I made a similar post with a similar premises awhile back here:

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=16864

So can't say that I disagree, though you broke down the arguments in a better way I think.

Cool, thanks for the link.

We're definitely on the same page as far as the political and reactive value of instant spot removal.

_________________


Top
 Offline Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Spot Removal in Commander
AgePosted: 2015-Apr-19 3:27 pm 
User avatar

Joined: 2015-Mar-18 12:55 pm
Age: Drake
It might be worth mentioning that spots are usually easier to get ahold of when compared to most board wipes. Cheaper, too.

_________________
The QFT Section
Sheldon wrote:
The cards didn't just warp the way the games were played, they warped how I was conceiving and perceiving the format. That's the sign of a problem.

Carthain wrote:
The idea that you should be able to build your deck however you want and still be competitive is false, and a bad idea to have. Taken to the extreme, that's like making a deck with no removal in it, and then complaining that you can't win because stuff your opponents play gets in your way.


Top
 Offline Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Spot Removal in Commander
AgePosted: 2015-Apr-19 5:32 pm 

Joined: 2012-Oct-09 1:35 am
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: Stoke-On-Trent, England, UK
I have always packed spot removal in all of my decks since day one, when I first discovered swords to plowshares, exile and altar's light i fell in love, not forgetting lightning helix and disenchant ofc!

I usually have around 10 spots for removal, as many instants as possible, with the exception of powerful sorceries ofc. Sometimes the wraths are included in that count as I may have creature based removal too. We have a creature heavy meta, lots of big armies, or huge fatties, so removal is key, plus it increases the tension, play a threat, will it be answered by the other 4 people? No? Cool, hit something in the face or build the field with juicy synergy and head towards a victory.

_________________
Uriel wrote:

I didn't failed nothing


My EDH Cube


Top
 Offline Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Spot Removal in Commander
AgePosted: 2015-Apr-20 4:44 am 
User avatar

Joined: 2008-Mar-24 12:14 am
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: Oakland, CA
Treamayne wrote:
I've used Lightning Axe (and similar) in the same way. 5 damage handles many threats, and chump blocking can fill in some of the gap when necessary (especially when somebody else is doing it).

This is true, but more importantly to me it really highlights how terrible red is at removal in this format. Titans, C Sphinx, Teneb and Rith's cycles, Wurmcoil Engine, the Elemental Incarnations from Lorwyn, Sheoldred, Vorinclex, and many more staple must-answer threats are just a point away from being vulnerable to Lightning Axe. However, toughness-based destruction becomes REALLY costly at 6. Red's cheapest consistent option is Spitebellows, although Skred will pretty reliably get there if you don't run too many basics, and Weight of Spires will semi-reliably get there if your opponents do run too many basics. But Spitebellows isn't instant speed, so if you are holding it as an answer to C Sphinx, by the time you can actually use it your opponent will probably have already drawn about 4 or 6 cards off it. That's not great.

Going higher up the mana ladder we find Burn Away and Volcanic Offering, but by doing so we're losing one of the key advantages of running spot removal in the first place. And at that point, we might as well depart from toughness-based destruction anyway because being sitting with not-good-enough removal in your hand as your opponent smacks away with Omnath is really disappointing. At 5 mana, red does have access to Fissure and Word of Seizing (which is usually removal, especially if you have a sacrifice outlet or even better a Bazaar Trader), also Cinder Cloud is a card, I guess. But I would play Chaos Warp before any of those, anyway.


Top
 Offline Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Spot Removal in Commander
AgePosted: 2015-Apr-21 6:42 pm 

Joined: 2015-Mar-27 10:51 am
Age: Wyvern
Excellent, excellent post. I'll be sharing it:)

I tend to run a pretty decent amount of spot removal--just enough that people believe me when I present an untapped plains or something.

That said, I've stopped playing much removal that "destroys" because of a pretty big uptick in the playable indestructible things in the last few sets. I feel like most of the time black is better off with edicts or -X/-X style removal, even though edicts are pretty risky. Too damned many times I've seen people caught with a Go for the Throat for a suited up God (or Ulamog, or whatever).

I am a very big fan of the twofers (like Into the Core and Return to Dust) and even Putrefy and Mortify for the flexibility.

_________________
UW Ephara Hatebears
GB Skullbriar Voltchantdrege
UGW Jenara Enchantress
UR Keranos Control


Top
 Offline Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Spot Removal in Commander
AgePosted: 2015-Apr-22 3:05 am 
User avatar

Joined: 2010-Jun-01 10:21 am
Age: Drake
Location: Montreal, QC
This post explains exactly the way I feel about spot removal in Commander.

I have yet to build a black/red deck without Terminate - it is the third best spot removal spell.

Just to weigh in on a minor point from the post...

At higher costs (4+ CMC), spot removal tends to have other effects tacked on that can be beneficial and compensates at least partly for the card disadvantage. For example: Grisly Spectacle and Foul Renewal, which do very good work in my Lazav deck. I run them over Go for the Throat or Hero's Downfall, which are more efficient but also more generic / less flavorful.

And lastly, a question: For the purposes of this discussion, do counterspells count as spot removal?

I've found counter magic to work mostly the same way as spot removal, the best ones being the low cost ones (Swan Song, or good old Counterspell) or ones with extra effects tacked on (Trap Essence in Yasova to increase her power).


Top
 Offline Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Spot Removal in Commander
AgePosted: 2015-Apr-22 5:01 am 

Joined: 2015-Mar-27 10:51 am
Age: Wyvern
I consider counterspells as part of my "targeted control" count personally, but I also try to think about my total number of counterspells separately (and if it's too low, either remove them all for more spot removal or wraths, or add more). I find people will not respect open blue if you don't have critical mass of counterspells (usually in the 5-7 range).

_________________
UW Ephara Hatebears
GB Skullbriar Voltchantdrege
UGW Jenara Enchantress
UR Keranos Control


Top
 Offline Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Spot Removal in Commander
AgePosted: 2015-Apr-22 5:13 am 

Joined: 2010-Sep-11 12:19 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Volcanic Offering is my new favorite red removal. 4-for-1 is very good, 5 mana instant speed Scooop tool.


Top
 Offline Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Spot Removal in Commander
AgePosted: 2015-Apr-22 7:48 pm 

Joined: 2015-Mar-04 12:43 am
Age: Drake
I heartily agree with all that was said here!

Joz wrote:
Volcanic Offering is my new favorite red removal. 4-for-1 is very good, 5 mana instant speed Scooop tool.

So true! It's the best Offering by far.

Also, Council's Judgment deserves a mention. It's a shame it became so pricey, so I hope it gets reprinted at some point.


Top
 Offline Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Spot Removal in Commander
AgePosted: 2015-Apr-22 10:22 pm 
User avatar

Joined: 2010-Dec-13 6:01 am
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: Washington D.C.
My answer is: Never enough :)

... or at least, I run tutor-light decks, so I never seem to have my spot removal when I need/want it.

Side note: I rarely pack sweepers in my decks. I either run super aggro, and expect others to sweep when needed (since I don't want to blow up my own board), or my deck is so themed that there really aren't any viable sweepers.

_________________
My decks on Tappedout.net


Top
 Offline Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Spot Removal in Commander
AgePosted: 2015-Apr-28 1:50 am 

Joined: 2015-Mar-28 2:33 am
Age: Wyvern
I mostly prefer sweepers in decks that are resilient to them. Decks that aren't very creature heavy, has lots of creatures who survive them, or can rebuild quickly. Every deck wants some but nothing is worse then when you have a good position and need to use a wrath where all you really needed was a swords.

Basically I either want to be the deck that wants to sweep the board or the deck that pushes people to sweep and can hopefully deal with them.


Top
 Offline Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 17 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next

All times are UTC - 7 hours


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Majestic-12 [Bot] and 24 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum

Search for:
Jump to: