When last we visited Innistrad, we were at the beginning of a new Limited paradigm: common removal was significantly weakened. Creatures didn’t all need to be Mulldrifters when Doom Blade wasn’t a common. Dead Weight and Victim of Night were great removal spells, but they weren’t Terror. Since then, Magic has varied the levels of common removal but kept it all below the power level of Doom Blade and generally more circumstantial.

Now that we’re returning to Innistrad, things are a bit different. Black has three (plus two) common removal spells, and they’re all very good. While none of them are quite Doom Blade, they all appear to be first-pickable, making black potential the best it’s been in a long time.

Dead Weight

Dead Weight is back, and potentially better than it was before. While last time it was a key morbid enabler, this time around it puts an enchantment in your graveyard for delirium. Dead Weight still does a whole lot for just one mana: it does a great Disfigure impression and can neuter a problematic large creature.

It seems a shoe-in for best black common, but then there’s Murderous Compulsion.

Murderous Compulsion

This card looks amazing. Assassinate is already a first-pickable card. Swift Reckoning is an excellent removal spell. Murderous Compulsion does all that and has madness. It’s not Doom Blade, but it doesn’t look far off. It seems like one of the best common black removal spells we’ve seen in a long time.


Throttle makes a welcome return. It’s an unexciting, but very serviceable removal spell (and was one of the better common kill spells in Khans of Tarkir). It’s instant-speed and can kill most common creatures, but at a premium price (removal is generally worse when it’s killing creatures that are the same CMC or cheaper). The fact that it appears to be the third best common removal spell in black says loads about the power level of SoI.

Twins of Maurer Estate
I’m including Twins of Maurer Estate as a removal spell, because that’s the goal of the card: you want to discard it after your opponent declares attackers, allowing you to flash it in (for value, since you’re getting the benefit of whatever you’re discarding a card to) and eat a creature. If you have ample madness enablers, these kids should make your opponent think twice about attacking into three mana.

Rancid Rats

Rounding out black’s ability to kill creatures is Rancid Rats. Typhoid Rats are a decent removal spell, and while these rats are half as cost-efficient, they’re just as lethal. I don’t expect them to be great, but they don’t have to be; black already has plenty of ways to kill creatures. They’re the backup plan.

Doom Blade

All in all, black has three strong common removal spells, plus a strong trick in a ‘flash’ creature and an okay deathtoucher (to say nothing of Ghoulcaller’s Apprentice, which looks strong). I’d expect black’s creatures to suffer a bit to offset just how strong its removal is.

I’m excited to see the pendulum swing back towards stronger removal for a little while. While I believe Limited is better when common removal is weaker and more situational, it’s good to switch things up every now and then. We’ll see how this prediction holds up and whether black is all it purports to be (apparently red was the color to beat at this weekend’s pre-prerelease, but one tournament does not a format define). Here’s looking forward to this weekend and a return to one of the most beloved planes in Magic.

—Zachary Barash


Zachary Barash has been playing Magic on and off since 1994. He loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). He’s a proud Cube owner, improviser, and game designer (currently going for an MFA in Game Design at NYU). He has an obsession with Indian food that borders on being unhealthy.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.