Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Pair of Removal Spells

I've been blogging the past two weeks about how Born of the Gods will impact the current Standard Pauper metagame. Part 2 of my full review of the set should be up on Monday over at PureMTGO. But for today, I wanted to talk about two of the more unique removal spells.

It's been interesting to see over the past few years how the balance of removal spells has shifted, particularly when it comes to White and Black Commons. Not too long ago the bar was set pretty high with cards like Oblivion Ring and Doom Blade. It seems the Wizards has recognized just how powerful these two cards are, and has recently only reprinted these at Uncommon. So what kind of removal do we get?

Excoriate and Asphyxiate are what we get, at least in Born of the Gods. Let's talk about these two cards, starting with Excoriate.

Excoriate is yet another instance of a long line of conditional White removal spells. This is surprisingly similar to Divine Verdict, but for the most part is inferior. While it does exile the creature (which is particularly good against Bestow creatures as long Auramancer in the format), it does so at Sorcery speed. This is a big downside, and this means that you can never use Excoriate until after you've already taken damage from the creature you want to kill. What's worse, we already have several other stronger options in white, including Divine Verdict, Celestial Flare, Pacifism, and Last Breath. I don't see any reason why you want to run Excoriate over any of these three.

So, let's look at Asphyxiate. Gone are the days of cheap, Instant-speed, unconditional Black removal at Common. Instead, we now get spells like this. While this may be cheap (especially compared to other destruction spells at Common), the fact that it's Sorcery speed and requires the creature to be untapped is a painful combination of restrictions. Since you can only cast this on your turn, this can never target a non-Vigilance creature that's attacking you each turn. This is a pretty big downside, but I don't think it makes this unplayable. Given the scarcity of choices in the current format, I expect that this will still see some play.

Overall, given how powerful removal has been in Standard Pauper, perhaps this overall weakening of removal isn't such a bad thing.

What do you think of this new direction for removal? Is it good or bad for the format, and why? As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for reading.

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