Now, I imagine the vast majority of you are tickled pink at the prospect of playing with new cards from Eldritch Moon. I am too, but I imagined no one is tickled pink quite like this guy:

Choking Restraints

Pardon the terrible pun, but it’s cards like this that excite me more than bomb rares or chase mythics. Common removal spells are the lifeblood of Limited: if removal is too weak, then sets tend to either become all about aggression (when there’s little ability to interact, the game becomes a race; see Avacyn Restored), or card advantage (when creatures are weak or easily blocked, the game drags on; see Magic 2014). Conversely, if removal is too strong, sets tend to either be all about card advantage (if creatures are too easy to kill, it only matters who can utilize their resources best; see Magic 2011) or about haymakers (everyone’s buying time until they can resolve their most powerful bombs that dominate the game; see Scars of Mirrodin). Removal needs to be carefully balanced to ensure that multiple strategies are viable without allowing one strategy to supercede all others.

Ever since the original Innistad, Wizards of the Coast has worked hard to find the right balance of removal for Limited. Frankly, I think they’re getting much better at it. There’s still a lot of wiggle room: compare the power level of Oath of the Gatewatch removal, which has two unconditional removal spells aggressively costed at common, with Shadows Over Innistrad, which has plentiful removal, but none of which is quite as strong as Oblivion Strike.

So, how does Eldritch Moon’s design shape up, and how does it compare to Shadows Over Innistrad’s removal?

Puncturing Light Angelic Purge

White in Shadows Over Innistrad has an excellent, highly flexible removal spell in Angelic Purge. It’s usually a terrible play early in the game, but one of the best answers to problematic permanents, and often one of white’s best Delirium enablers. Puncturing Light is a fine removal that’s great at answering combat tricks, but terrible against combat tricks and werewolves. It’s serviceable, but not top tier removal.

White is a solid color with two common removal spells, one of which is strong and the other of which is fair. Having a removal spell that kills anything is excellent, and having an additional medium tier kill spell to pick up late is a strong basis for a color. In addition, white has Expose Evil, Strength of Arms, and Survive the Night as auxiliary removal spells.

Sigardan Priest Choking Restraints

While White is losing removal spells in terms of volume, it’s likely gaining in terms of quality. Tappers like Sigardan Priest are always strong (despite their reliance of regular investments of mana), and Pacifism effects like Choking Restraints are some of the best removal white has to offer (though it costing an extra mana and existing in a set with Emerge are both strikes against it, it should still be a strong removal spell).

Just the Wind Press for Answers Stitcher Mangler Sleep Paralysis Gone Missing

Blue in Shadows Over Innistrad certainly doesn’t want for removal spells. Nevertheless, it is generally considered to be by far the worst color in Shadows Over Innistrad Limited. While it has a two-mana Unsummon, something which was the best removal spell in Theros (granted, Voyage’s End had upside and was excellent against Heroic, Bestow, and Monstrosity), blue’s low creature quality makes it generally unable to benefit from a tempo advantage. That’s fairly damning when almost all of blue’s removal is temporary. Sleep Paralysis, as a four mana unconditional removal spell, would normally be excellent, but it’s too expensive to stop the variety of two and three mana threats blue’s creature can’t deal with. Blue is a perfect example of how a color can have a large amount of removal that’s tempered by its awkwardness.

Spontaneous Mutation Fogwalker Drag Under

Blue is picking up more tempo-based removal (which is unsurprising, since the closest blue gets to killing creatures is Claustrophobia-style effects). Fogwalker is not a strong removal spell, but it’s a fine attacker, a fine blocker, and a fine topdeck later in the game; we’ll have to see how it plays out since we’ve never seen a creature quite like it. Spontaneous Mutation is another difficult-to-use removal spell; Sensory Deprivation is generally good at neutering a creature, and giving it flash and the possibility to become Chant of the Skifsang gives it a high ceiling, but it doing nothing when your graveyard is empty also gives it a very low floor. Finally, Drag Under looks like Repulse, an amazing removal spell, but its sorcery speed makes it lose much of its utility. I have high expectations of this card, particularly considering how good it can be against Emerge creatures, but it has many of the same problems of blue’s removal in Shadows; it relies on blue’s creatures being good enough to create board parity with or advantage over the opponent’s creatures.

Throttle Murderous Compulsion Dead Weight

Black removal in Shadows Over Innistrad is a little weird. You have an excellent, efficient removal spell in Dead Weight and a pair of fine but situational kill spells in Throttle (which often kills three and four drop creatures, making it inefficient) and Murderous Compulsion (whose requirement that you take damage before killing a creature most of the time is actually pretty bad in tempo-heavy Shadows Over Innistrad). Rancid Rats is one of black’s best ways of killing creatures efficiently, but it is vulnerable to removal itself and only functions as removal when it gets to block. Black has solid removal spells, but its lack of a kill spell that can take care of anything (something which both white and green have efficient instances of) leaves it wanting.

Borrowed Malevolence Certain Death Boon of Emrakul

Eldritch Moon provides black with the unconditional removal spell it always wants, and does so at the high cost that players will begrudgingly but frequently pay. Now, Sip of Hemlock is splashable and gains life, making its six mana cost perhaps not taste quite as bitter. Boon of Emrakul is the next in a long line of proud three mana, (functionally) three damage removal spells that are always solid; although it should be noted that Boon of Emrakul is worse at neutering a large creature than Dead Weight, since it grants the weakened creature a large increase in power. Borrowed Malevolence is a swingy card; while -1/-1 by itself is rarely good, Steal Strength has the potential to be a 2-for-1 if you can make combat work just right. Overall, it’s hard to say whether black is getting better or worse removal than what it already has. Time will tell.

Reduce to Ashes Fiery Temper Dual Shot

Red in Shadows Over Innistrad has a textbook great spread of removal. Fiery Temper is a fabulous removal spell with high upside in a deck that can enable madness, Reduce to Ashes is an expensive sorcery (with minor but relevant upside) that can kill the majority of creatures in the format (but rarely efficiently), and Dual Shot is a weak, occasionally amazing removal spell. Overall, red has quite strong removal in Shadows Over Innistrad, which combined with its strong combat tricks and average creatures makes it a strong color in Shadows Limited.

Make Mischief Galvanic Bombardment Alchemist Greeting

Red is about to get its first Shock since Fate Reforged, and this one gets more powerful if you can manage to snag multiple copies (something not supremely likely in draft, but possible). Alchemist’s Greeting is no Boulder Salvo, but it kills almost as much stuff as Reduce to Ashes does and has substantially higher potential upside. Make Mischief is the Dual Shot of Eldritch Moon; it’s rarely going to be amazing, but every now and then it’ll do good work (though unlike Dual Shot, you can use it to finish off a single creature without card disadvantage). The jury is out as to whether red’s removal is increasing or decreasing in quality with the new set.

Rabid Bite Clip Wings

Green in Shadows Over Innistrad has one of the best common removal spells in Rabid Bite (which may well be the best common kill spell); it’s incredibly mana efficient, can kill almost anything, and works very well alongside green’s top tier common creatures. Green also has one of Shadow’s worst common removal spells in Clip Wings; while a Plummet is usually excellent sideboard material and occasional maindeck material, Clip Wings suffers because of white’s abundance of spirit tokens, blue’s dearth of utility, and the other colors’ general lack of flying creatures.

Prey Upon

Prey Upon is another excellent removal spell, but the jury is out as to whether it’s better or worse than Rabid Bite. Costing half the amount of mana is a huge difference, particularly in the first five turns of a game, but Rabid Bite enables green creatures to eat something and then attack undamaged, whereas Prey Upon sometimes comes with a tempo downside or even an unfavorable 2-for-1. That said, it’s still a solid removal spell and one that won’t be disappointing green mages anytime soon.

Doom Blade

So, there you have it. The common removal spells of Eldritch Moon. There’s a large variety and variation yet every color has a removal spell that can answer most things. Hopefully this weekend it’ll help create a more diverse sealed format than we saw in Shadows’ copious green-white mirrors. That said, we’ll get the chance to find our for ourselves just how the format has changed and just how good these removal spells are this weekend.

As always, thanks for reading.

—Zachary Barash

Zachary Barash is a New York-based game designer. Playing since 1994, he loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). His favorite contemporary Magic design is Explore, because it’s a Time Walk cast for minimal value.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.