nossr50's Beginner's Spellbook: Board Clears

Introduction


Board clears are a peculiar thing in Magic, and especially in the somewhat limited format of the Arena. The board clear MVPs such as Wrath of God, Condemnation or even Fumigate are currently out of our reach, and poor control players like me, so we are left to make due with what we have at hand. In this article, I will take a close look at every board clear currently available in the format, discuss their strengths, weaknesses, and the potential uses they have.

First of all, the board clears we put in our decks are primarily decided by its color identity and the composition of units within it. If one runs a lot of low health units, then Golden Demise which reduces the strength and toughness of each creature on the board by two, might not be the best choice, as we would be nuking our own creatures :(

If you are playing a control deck you will almost certainly want 3-6 board clears in it.

TIP: Board clears are most useful in mid-range and control decks
I wouldn’t recommend running board clears in an aggressive deck as it will have poor synergy with your gameplan. Aggressive decks try to develop the board with many unit, and as the majority of the board wipes affect both players, the use of them is counterproductive.

Before diving deeper into the subject, I’d like to take the opportunity to iterate some terms for those of you unfamiliar with Magic lingo:

Destroy
“Destroy” will send a creature to the Graveyard unless it is indestructible. There are many cards which can return from the Graveyard and additionally spells which can return creatures from the Graveyard to hand. The Amonkhet block, which is currently available in Standard and Arena features Eternalize, Aftermath and Embalm abilities, allowing cards to stay relevant from the graveyard, many of them potentially returning to play.

Exile
In Magic, Exile is a lot like the Graveyard except with fewer ways for a unit to return from this zone back into play. Exile as its name implies will exile a unit to the Exile Zone instead of the Graveyard, making it a lot more… Permanent? Currently, the only standard legal card that can be cast from the exile without the help of a different card is Squee, the Immortal. Considering this, most of the time if you Exile something it's not coming back into play. Exile is a very strong removal effect so it's rarely seen on board wipes without a major drawback or steep prerequisites.

Stat Reduction
Alternatively you can kill a unit simply by reducing its toughness to or below zero, this will kill even indestructible units, which is very useful to keep in mind as you keep reading and play the game.

White


Type: Destroy
This is an interesting board clear as it specifically targets things above 2 power, which means it can work very well in a tailored mono-white aggro list. The aftermath card Dawn can be cast after you have first cast Dusk, and this will bring all units with power 2 or less from your Graveyard back into to your hand. As you may expect you can build a deck filled with 2 strength units which will have great synergy with both Dusk & Dawn.

NOTE: I’ll sometimes see this in white decks as a board clear with no regard to the Dawn synergy, until we get Fumigate in standard you can consider using this card instead. Although Settle the Wreckage tends to work better as a pseudo-clear.


Type: Exile
Ruinous Blast is often found in decks running almost exclusively legendary cards such as UW Flash. It’s a bit of a hit or miss card because often the strongest things on the board tend to be legendary. This card can do wonders against tokens, decks that go wide, and a lot of midrange decks. It also hits enchantments which can be nice, but will punish you for having Seal Away, Cast Out or Ixalan’s Binding on the board.

This card seems a bit mediocre outside of UW Flash.

NOTE: You have to have a legendary creature in play to cast this spell, but in a deck like UW Flash that’s not hard.


Type: Exile
If you are playing UW control, you are playing this card. Often if you are running white, you are running this card. If you are running a control deck this is an absolute necessity. While not being the most reliable board wipe, it's reliable enough and that's what matters. Exiling all attacking units when cast, it can stabilize a losing game very quickly. Opponents will often play around this card even if you aren’t holding it, effectively bluffing your way into living for another turn. You can get value out of this card without even having it in your deck!

Note: I like to bait my opponent by pressing shift+enter at the start of my turn to quickly “roll” through all the phases of my turn to make them think I don’t have settle (as settle is instant speed and will pause at every phase normally), this doesn’t work on everybody but when it does work it's hilarious. You might find it amusing to learn that even the lead dev of MTGA does this trick!


Type: Destroy
Note: At the time of writing KLD (Kaladesh) is not live in MTGA, but once it is live you will be able to play with this bad boy.

This is the definitive board clear for White.
This card will Destroy all creatures and heal you by 1 for every creature destroyed in this manner. This card is INSANE against decks that go wide (having many units on the board). The only drawback is that it cannot remove Indestructible creatures, which are often on the board by the time you get enough land to cast this.




Blue


Type: Bounce
Blue does not have much in terms of board clears, but if you happen to be running a tokens list or an aggro list you can sometimes blow out your opponent with a well timed rivers rebuke, effectively removing all of their blockers and permanently removing any tokens they have in play.

When playing control however, this card is often somewhat lacking as it is a temporary stall measure at best. It's worth noting this card does remove stuff other than creatures, which means it can remove enchantments and planeswalkers from the board temporarily. I wouldn't suggest running this in control most of the time however as its incredibly expensive to play and there are not many situations where it will be the right card to play.




Black


Type: Stat reduction
If you are playing a black-heavy deck this board wipe is one of the better options currently available in MTGA. Black tends to lacks good board clears in standard but this one gets the job done against aggro and tokens most of the time. While not quite as reliable as Bontu’s Last Reckoning it does find a home in many black decks. It can also bypass Indestructible and avoid Enrage triggers since it does not deal damage which is a nice perk.

I’d recommend 2-3 (I use 3 in my own Blue/Black control deck) of these in any black control deck as long as you aren’t running red or white which tends to have better options.


Type: Destroy
Bontu’s Last Reckoning is typically a sideboard card but unfortunately we do not have sideboards in MTGA yet, as a result I’d recommend including a single copy in your deck if you don't many creatures. It's often the only reliable form of removal against stuff like Carnage Tyrant, and the like once they are on the board.

Beware the downside of Bontu - tapping out for 2 turns is no joke, and you are usually helpless for at least one turn after casting this in the early game. The ideal time to cast Reckoning is after your opponent’s hand is depleted, and they have over-committed. Of course, if they are threatening to end the game you will be forced to cast it early.


Type: Destroy
Although not a true board clear, the Elder Dinosaur Tetzimoc can serve the purpose of clearing your opponents units with his ETB (Enter The Battlefield) trigger, provided you have marked your opponent’s units beforehand with his secondary ability. He's tanky and also has death-touch (destroys any unit he damages), so you can use him to block pesky units like Carnage Tyrant.

Tetzimoc is having trouble finding a home in the current meta and has consequently cut from almost all the lists outside of mono-black. If your deck can afford to run this slow but powerful death lizard, you ought to give it a try.


Type: Destroy
This saga is a very weak board clear primarily because it doesn’t trigger immediately. I wouldn't recommend running this in a control list as you often cannot afford to wait another turn to clear the board; Not to mention it costs quite a bit of mana to cast.

I’m sure this card will see play in some lists, but I would personally be weary of putting it in any list haphazardly.




Red


Type: Damage (Removes Indestructible)
This is a very reliable board clear. It comes at a steep cost though, as it can kill your own planeswalkers (as long as they aren’t named Bolas) and it generally doesn’t come online until turn five. I’d recommend at least 2 of these in a control deck to manage midrange match-ups.


Type: Damage
This is your go-to bread and butter board clear in red control decks, it comes online early and most units in the game fall at or below 3 toughness. I’d definitely recommend at least 2 of these in a control heavy red deck if not more. The cycle ability is nothing to scoff at either, and very handy in games that go late.


Type: Damage
This card is an absolute meme.

It can be used to remove an opponent’s land while simultaneously dealing 20 damage to everything, including planeswalkers. This isn’t as reliable as you would think for board removal in the late game as indestructible units or Gods won’t really care about this spell, and considering this is often played at or after turn 7, there's a good chance that there will be a few Gods in play.

You can run one of these in your deck if you like, but its only decent in ramp decks and not easily justified outside of them.




Green


Type:
Green decks typically don’t have board wipes and this is probably the closest thing to mass removal you could put in one right now. The green part of this split-card only affects flying units while the aftermath ability - Earth, requires red mana. If you are splashing red in your deck then I think you’re much better off running Hour of Devastation or Sweltering Suns.

This card should probably never be in your deck. Consider the choices you have made in life if you have put this card in your deck.


Conclusion


Thanks for reading the first entry of this series aimed at getting beginner players up to speed with the game! My next entry will be on counter-spells found in MTGA, which I'm sure everyone will have an opinion on.

nossr50 is a Master rank MTGA player. You can find him on Twitch and our Discord:



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