Budget Commander Card of the Week: The Boardwipe is Dead – Long Live the Boardwipe

Boardwipes are fundamental parts of most Commander decks – whether you’re destroying or exiling all permanents of a single type, or even the lot of them, a Boardwipe is the best reset button you can get short of just starting the game over. When you have four people dropping permanents onto the table turn after turn, single target removal just doesn’t cut it.

In my experience, people generally don’t run enough Boardwipes, and by heck does it show – I’ve seen local metas shift hard towards go-wide and Voltron strategies because of Boardwipe shortages. I’ve even noticed myself lowering the number of Boardwipes I’m running in my own decks because the quality of the cards I’m running is just that much higher than those in the decks of my opponents – I simply don’t need Boardwipes often enough to merit running any more. This is a place I really don’t want to be in, because lowering the number of Boardwipes in your deck drastically reduces your chances of drawing into one when you really need to. And if you do find yourself sitting at a table with more wipes in your deck than everyone else? Well, it actually might be better to adopt a more controlling playstyle – by knowing you have a reset button you can play the long game, baiting out your opponents’ best cards and wiping them away while setting yourself up for bigger turns later on.

It doesn’t stop there though, because one of the biggest benefits of including more Boardwipes in your decks is that it changes your approach to deckbuilding for the better. You’ll almost certainly want to include more recursion in your decks, and you’ll probably learn to play fewer creatures that have to survive until you untap to provide any benefit – I’d go as far as to say that if the creature doesn’t trigger an ‘enters the battlefield’ or on cast trigger, and its abilities can’t be activated straight away, then it’s likely not worth playing. That’s a discussion for another time, though.

Diminishing Returns

I started playing Commander a good few years ago now, but back then one thing stuck out to me – 4 mana Boardwipes were the place to be (apparently). The price of Wrath of God and Damnation were high, and being able to wipe the board and play another spell in the same turn was a powerful tempo play. The price of Damnation is still pretty high, but both Day of Judgment and Wrath of God have dropped in price. Why?

One reason is that the difference between four and five Mana in Commander isn’t huge – it’s not like going from three to four, or even five to six, and the availability of good Boardwipes at 5 Mana has increased substantially over the past few years. Another reason is the increased prevalence of Indestructible permanents in Commander – as more powerful and more niche Commanders are printed, people want to keep them on the table as long as possible, and so newer tricks like Heroic Intervention and older staples like Boros Charm tend to show up a lot – not to mention Darksteel Plate, Hammer of Nazahn, and even Avacyn, Angel of Hope.


There’s also something to be said about value for money – sure, you can blow up all creatures for four Mana, but for just a little more, you can do some really cool stuff too.

Let’s dive into each colour and see what’s on offer for a budget player. There are two things I’d like to emphasise here: firstly, there are differences in what each colour can do, and so what I might recommend in one colour might be better than what I’d recommend in another; secondly – and perhaps more importantly – Boardwipes are Meta dependent. What works for one player might not be relevant for another, so have a think about your local playgroup and what you have the most trouble with. If you have any great recommendations yourself feel free to let us know in the comments or on Twitter – this is by no means an exhaustive list!

White

White tends to be very good at answering problematic boardstates. Honestly, if you’re reading this as someone who plays White a lot, you probably already own cards like Austere Command, which is probably one of the best wipes in all of Commander. It’s creeping back up in price though after its reprint in Iconic Masters, and you definitely need to be running more wipes than just the Command. So, what’s on offer?

The first recommendation I have is Cleansing Nova. You already know how much I love modal spells, and the flexibility here is great – you can choose whether to destroy all creatures, or all artifacts and enchantments. Providing similar utility to Austere Command for one less mana and 2 dollars cheaper, it’s an easy inclusion to your decks. One thing I’d like to point out here is that Akroma’s Vengeance, whilst being a great budget option at only 50 cents, can actually do a lot more harm than good, and I would generally avoid playing it unless you’re running a more Control-oriented deck or one that can really bounce back from wrath effects, as chances are losing more than just your creatures can sometimes set you back as far as your opponents.

That leads me quite neatly into my next recommendation – for around the same price as Akroma’s Vengeance, you can pick up Hour of Revelation. Hour of Revelation, in my opinion, is a  criminally underplayed card. If you’re limiting your investment to the board, being able to wipe all nonland permanents for only three mana is sweet – the older adage of playing a four mana wipe wasn’t incorrect in its approach, after all; it’s just that we have way better options now than there were back then. If you draw Hour of Revelation in your opening hand you can often completely blow out your opponents, and it also means that those pesky Planeswalkers that thrive on a clear board don’t stick around too.

An honourable mention goes to End Hostilities – if you’re seeing too much Voltron in your Meta, jam this baby in.

Blue

Blue is a colour best known for its inability to blow stuff up, and its inability to not terrify everyone when it holds up seven Mana. Cyclonic Rift is definitely a… card. The vast majority of the time, though, it’s just one player going off that tips your Blue Mage into flipping the table, and so in an effort to save you money, and your playgroup frustration, I’d like to draw your attention to River’s Rebuke. At only $1, it’s not quite Cyclonic Rift (and nothing ever will be), but it’s damn handy and can really help in a pinch. The fact you have to tap out at sorcery speed isn’t the end of the world, though – you can probably use table politics to buy yourself a turn of immunity for helping everyone out. That’s one thing you can’t ever get out of a Cyclonic Rift.

The other Blue card we’re looking at today is Curse of the Swine. Yes, it’s sorcery again, but if I really was that sick of playing against Blue in EDH, why would I recommend a card that kinda breaks the colour pie?

Exiling creatures is not really what Blue is known for, but much like its single-target cousin Reality Shift, why wouldn’t you put this card into your deck?! Getting rid of problematic creatures permanently is very powerful, and the pure flexibility of this card is great – you get to be hyper-political about it, and being able to pick and choose enemies as the Blue player is often more difficult as you’re regularly labelled the ‘fun police,’ even if you aren’t. Curse of the Swine is currently sitting at 40 cents. If you’re looking for a spicy budget card, I’ve certainly saved you a truffle hunt there.

An honourable mention goes to Aetherize. If you play in a meta full of aggressive decks and don’t really care about what your opponents are doing until they try and kill you, then spending 30 cents and four Mana to bounce all attacking creatures can be a wise choice. 

Black

If you about died at the sheer awfulness of that pig pun then fear not, we’ve reached the part where I can do you a favour and Reanimate you.

Black is typically pretty saturated with good removal, and although it doesn’t quite provide the type of flexibility White provides – with Dragons or Non-Dragons being the biggest choice you’ll ever make – it can do things other colours cannot, like ignoring indestructibility by messing with creatures’ Toughness instead (think Black Sun’s Zenith or Toxic Deluge) or by electing to have your board be completely unaffected by the boardwipe in question, with cards like In Garruk’s Wake or Kindred Dominance. Unfortunately, these wipes tend to not only cost more Mana but also tend to cost more money. Whilst I’d gladly recommend any of them to you, you’re here for something cheaper.

The first card is Mutilate. This thing can really pack a punch in a Mono-black deck, or any deck that runs Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. It scales with the game (an underrated metric) and ignores indestructibility. If you do have trouble casting this profitably then you’re either running it in the wrong deck or you’re not running enough basic Swamps.

Next up let’s look at Life’s Finale. For a little more Mana, at four generic Mana and two Black, you can not only destroy all creatures, but also go and grab up to three dangerous creatures from an opponent’s deck and drop them into the Graveyard. Whilst initially this might seem expensive, you’re essentially rolling Day of Judgment and Buried Alive into one card with the upside of getting someone else’s bombs. Being able to target any person’s Graveyard for re-animation never felt so good! For a card that hasn’t been reprinted in forever, $2.50 really isn’t too pricey, and you can expect its price to only go up from here.

An honourable mention goes to Consume the Meek. It’s not going to fit every meta or every deck, but being able to drop this at Instant speed is pretty nice. If you were at all considering Ritual of Soot, I’d be inclined to run Consume the Meek instead – the flexibility is worth the extra mana.

Red

When taking steps to control the board, you really want something that can scale with the game. Chain Reaction does just that – for 30 cents and four Mana you can deal X damage to each creature, where X is equal to the number of creatures in play. Oftentimes I see Red mages running underperforming cards like Comet Storm or Starstorm over this, or favouring their other colour for their Boardwipes. If that other colour is White or Black, then I can see this card being replaced – otherwise, this is a pretty solid card.

If you want something else that scales with the game and something that gets cheaper like Hour of Revelation, pick yourself up a copy of Blasphemous Act. Most Magic players likely know what this does by now, but if you didn’t,  Blasphemous Actat its best, reliably allows you to deal thirteen damage to each creature at the cost of one red Mana. That’s German levels of efficiency for sure.

Red can sometimes struggle playing damage-based wipes, as Indestructible, Protection, or other abilities can negate that damage. My honourable mention for Red is Hour of Devastation, which can also nuke most Planeswalkers while dealing with indestructible creatures. It caps out at 5 damage, so not all decks can run it beneficially (I don’t run it in Sylvia and Khorvath, for example, because I use Indestructible and most of my creatures have 5 or less Toughness) but it’s still worth a mention.

Green

Green really isn’t that great at getting rid of Creatures, but it has to be bad at something.

In Green you can generally outrace your opponents with more Mana and bigger bodies, but sometimes that isn’t enough. If you’re really in a bind, consider The Great Aurora. This is a card I hardly ever see played, and in some ways that’s correct – if you’re casting it super late in the game, you might give your opponents the combo pieces they need to just win (though I’d argue if a combo deck was going to win, it would be before you get access to nine Mana!). If you think a little deeper than that, though (especially if you play in a Meta with a low number of simple combos), you’ll likely get to drop more lands into play after this resolves than your opponents, allowing you to bounce back from a completely reset board a lot quicker. With the amount of artifact and enchantment removal in Green that’s stapled onto efficient bodies, chances are that if you do pull this off, you’ll have an answer in your hand for whatever your opponents play the next time you untap. Like Wave of Vitriol, this card can heavily favour you – it’s just about knowing when and how to cast it. You can try it for less than a dollar, so why not?

The other card I’ll recommend is Setessan Tactics. It’s a little unorthodox, but hear me out. As a Green player, you’re often not going to want to wipe the board completely – getting rid of some key creatures can be all that you require. With Setessan Tactics, you have a completely bespoke way to pick fights carefully. I mentioned earlier that the flexibility of Curse of the Swine can give you an edge politically, and this card can do the same – make some deals, ask for a little immunity for dealing with problem cards – you’ll get further than you think.

If you have a local playgroup that plays a lot of Flying creatures, I’ve got a card that can creep up out of nowhere. As your friends look to the horizon, they’ll never see it coming. Consider running Hurricane – this is a damage-based wrath that hits players too, so it’s never a dead card. It’s pretty sweet to let an opponent do blocking math and then hit them with burn in Mono-green. By the time it hits them, it will definitely be their last surprise! If you wanted to do so at instant speed, Squall Line is one Green mana more for the same effect.

The Aftermath

There are plenty of Boardwipes out there to consider, and we didn’t even look at the ones stapled to creatures – let’s save that for next week! Outside of the cards I’ve mentioned today, there are some bonus recommendations that you can fit into any deck. Perilous Vault, Nevinyrral’s Disk, and Oblivion Stone give all colours access to an instant speed reset button, and now’s the time to buy in – the first two can be found at prices under $2, and it’s the last chance you’ll get for a while to pick up Oblivion stone for less than $5 – as recently as M19 this card was $10 and it’s bouncing back as we speak.

Hopefully you enjoyed this week’s piece again, and I hope I inspired you to pick up some more budget cards to help round out your decks. Too often, beginners to Commander will purchase more expensive cards in a gradual fashion, which actually has a lesser impact on the overall power level of your deck. By making sure the bulk of your cards are efficient, flexible, and multi-purpose, you will be able to raise your win percentage across the board much faster than dropping your paycheck on a Demonic Tutor. Unless, you know, you like degenerate combos – I highly doubt you’re still reading this article if you do though!

Hit me up on Twitter @TheKristenEmily to have your say on cheap Boardwipes – I tried to stay in the $2-5 range here, so I obviously missed out some of the truly great ones, but likewise, I didn’t have nearly enough room to fit all of my recommendations here.

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