Top 10 Spot Removal Cards in Commander

Continuing the "Top Ten" list theme from my previous post, I've decided to explore spot removal in multi-player commander and attempt to put together a best of list for cards that fall into this category.   As before this top ten is for cards otherwise in a vacuum and doesn't take into account potential synergies that might benefit specific decks.  The goal is to create a short list of spells that can fit into almost any deck and be effective, provided they fall into the Commander's color identity.

10) Return to Dust

     Does a very nice job of nuking one or two or your opponents best artifacts or enchantments and making sure they never come back.   The cost is a bit steep, but you can pinpoint remove exactly what you don't want on the table, and flexibly use this during a main phase or an end step depending on what is necessary.   With apologies to Hull Breach, this one has an edge because although it costs more mana, the color requirement is easier to achieve and the targets are exiled instead of destroyed.

9) Decimate
    This is one of those borderline cards that I debated on whether it's really "spot" removal and rather falls into the mass removal category.  I stuck with the former term since it does target and only removes one of each category.   This spell is a bit clunky in that it "must" have 4 valid targets to actually cast and also has an obtuse casting cost and color requirements.   Despite all this in multi-player the 4 valid target dependency is easy to satisfy, which makes this sorcery an absolute monster.  Demolishing a Maze of Ith, Future Sight, Consecrated Sphinx and Sword of Light and Shadow for 4 mana is outstanding.  

8) Capsize

     I have a hard time not putting this at the top of my list for every blue deck I create.  It is incredibly versatile and once you ramp up fast enough becomes a recurring disaster for your opponents.   The cost is steep, but even then it can be cast for only three mana in a dire emergency.    Blue doesn't have many quality removal options and boomerang is pretty good.  In a format where mana is often plentiful capsize tops out at amazing.

7) Swords to Plowshares

    Sometimes you just have to appreciate the originals.   Plow has been exiling problem creatures since the 20th century and it still stands up just fine in Commander.   It's cheap and efficient, it is an instant, and the drawback is negligible, especially in a format where starting life totals are doubled.   If there is one downside to the plow is that it specifically targets creatures, but creatures are pretty common, so it's not going to sit in your hand unused for long.

6) Beast Within

    Pretty amazing unrestricted permanent removal in a color which usually doesn't have such options.  It's one of the few cards in green that can deal with creatures and it does it at instant speed for only three mana.   It also deals with artifacts, enchantments, lands and planeswalkers and in a pinch is an amusing combat trick when your forest transforms into a beast to eat an incoming attacker.  Yeah it leaves a token lying around, but when you're playing in a format with giant dragons and menacing Eldrazi, giving your enemies a 3/3 beast seems like a suitable trade off.

5) Bant Charm

     This card is incredibly under-rated and does a wide array of things in a format where versatility is king.   Demolish an artifact, tuck a general away into an opponent's deck, or counter an instant spell.   It's pretty amazing for only 3 mana.  The drawback is that you have to be playing Bant colors, so it's not applicable to a lot of decks, but if you are in this color combination and you're not playing this card you're simply doing it wrong.

4) Oblation

     This card isn't really a secret any longer since it was published in the commander pre-con decks, but it was under-appreciated during Onslaught's legality in standard and now is a top choice in most commander decks running white.    As a common refrain:  It is versatile.  It removes just about anything, including problematic planeswalkers and tucks the target away, allowing you to avoid recursion tricks or a general you simply don't want to come back.  In a multi-player format the 2 extra cards you give an opponent stings less.  In an emergency feel free to tuck away your Sol Ring when it's no longer exciting and simply draw two yourself.

3) Maelstrom Pulse

    The second clause on this card is less interesting in a singleton format, but it still can pay dividends against multiple opponents running the same problematic permanent.  It's also gratifying using it to nuke an army of saproling tokens without harming your own permanents.   The only drawback is that it can't touch lands, and that it requires an odd color combination to play.  If you have forests and swamps in your deck though, it's usually an auto-include.

2) Chaos Warp

    Another permanent removal tool that scores big in the versatility department.  It's also one of the few red cards that can actually deal with enchantments which makes it highly valuable in mono-red, Rakdos, and even Izzet or Grixis decks.     The drawback is likely to only hurt you at worst 30% of the time.   Often you're giving your opponent a land instead of the threat you wasted.   Tucks generals as well.   Just like Oblation, feel free to use this on your own card that's about to die anyway and hope for something useful.

1) Vindicate

     This card is at the top of the list because it has absolutely zero drawbacks.  If you're playing the colors it's hands down the best spot removal option in Commander, creature or otherwise.   It kills anything you need it to, including lands, and your opponent gets nothing in return.   It is unfortunately a sorcery, but for three mana it's hard to complain about this kind of efficiency.

Apologies to: Oblivion Ring, Condemn, Dreadbore, Hull Breach

Top 10 Counterspells in Commander

     I thought I'd put together a "top cards" commander series based on my experiences with my weekly playgroup.   We've put some thought into this, and time and again when I'm playing blue I tend to reach for the same counterspells over and over.   This list is a bi-product of those deck creation sessions.  Note most of my decks in the blue color identity don't contain all of these, because I often simply don't have the room, and this list doesn't include some situational counterspells that might be amazing in a specific deck but generally are unplayable in most others.  If I'm making a blue deck, these are always considered in the permission slot, and usually in the order I have listed.

10) Desertion

Not only can you counter a spell but you get to steal a powerful permanent. I pity the player who has their Mindslaver stolen in this fashion. More importantly, this card allows you to steal enemy generals, keeping them out of your opponent's control and also out of the commander zone. If this card cost less colorless mana, it would probably be at the top of the list.

9) Forbid

One of the challenges in Commander is being able to deal with a large number of threats in a multiplayer environment, this is compounded when playing a permission battle. Forbid allows you to cheat this by countering multiple threats with the same card. The cost is steep, but in decks that like to jettison things into their graveyard anyway, this card is a natural choice, particularly when you have a reanimate in your hand. At worst this card is a cancel with options, which is a heck of a lot better than cancel.

8) Muddle the Mixture

At face value this is a crummier version of vanilla counterspell, but it can counter powerful game breaking effects like Wrath of God, Armageddon or Insurrection for two blue mana while also serving as a tutor when the time is right. Tutoring up Lightining Greaves or Scroll Rack in a deck full of islands is nice. A fabricate that can backup as a counterspell should be appreciated. It can't counter creatures, which is notable, but doesn't make it not worth strong consideration in your blue deck.

7) Force of Will

The only real drawback to the Force is that using it to its potential costs you a card in a meta-game where tempo is often less vital than card advantage. It's also notable the card you pitch must be blue making it harder to take advantage of the more colors you have in your deck. Force is the best permission card in Legacy, but in Commander it has to settle for being just really good.

6) Pact of Negation

A potent spell that allows you to push through that game winning combo or back-breaking Time Stretch certainly deserves to be on this list. The only problem with the pact is it lacks viability early in the game, unless of course you plan on never relinquishing your turn to begin with.

5) Voidslime

Our lone multi-color counterspell on this list, it offers choices at a reasonable cost which pushes it into the top tier. It not only stops problem spells from resolving, but it also can serve as a stifle when needed.  Voidslime stops un-fun cards like Tormod's Crypt, Bojuka Bog, Sun Titan or Eldrazi annihilator triggers from fulfilling their potential.

4) Cryptic Command

The Swiss Army Knife of counterspells. Versatility is crucial in commander and this card offers plenty of choices. It is a Dismiss, Boomerang and Sleep all bundled into a single card. It's prohibitive cmc of 4 and triple blue casting requirement cost makes it difficult to play in 3+ color decks, and prevents it from being higher on the list.

3) Spell Crumple

WOTC was prescient enough to understand that tuck is one of the most devastating effects in Commander, so they included this card in the Commander Pre-Constructed decks. It doesn't disappoint and for only 3 mana and the ability to banish any commander or spell into an opponent's deck, this is one of the most powerful counterspells in the format.

2) Hinder

A Spell Crumple with some negligible options. It offers a memory lapse effect if desired and more importantly, unlike spell crumple, goes to your graveyard instead of your deck, making it slightly easier to retrieve with stuff like Call to Mind.

1) Mana Drain

This is premium spell for commander, both in power level and price.  It's inexpensive to cast and can swing a game in your favor dramatically with the mana boost.  Follow this up with a timely Rite of Replication or Time Stretch and crush everyone else at the table.

Apologies to:  Counterspell, Spelljack, Foil