Dominaria looks to be a very different kind of large set than we’ve seen in the past year—the rich history and wealth of historical references, the introduction of the first batching mechanic (historic), and perhaps most importantly: a brand new Limited format!

Today, we’ll take a look at all common removal spells in Dominaria. Lately, almost all large sets have featured overcosted or lackluster common removal, leading to heavily aggressive strategies where combat tricks were often better than kill spells. We won’t know for sure how Dominaria compares to its forebears until we get to play with it, but we can glean a lot from what it has and what it lacks.


White features two common removal spells: Blessed Light and Gideon’s Reproach.

Blessed Light is a strictly better version of Iona’s Judgment, an excellent, albeit slow removal spell. It’s even more powerful than Final Reward, a shockingly underwhelming kill spell from Amonkhet. I’m similarly lukewarm on Blessed Light: sure, it can kill any bomb and even deal with sagas, but creatures have been getting better over time. We’ve seen plenty of common two and three drop creatures demand removal, and cards like Gust Walker and Headstrong Brute do loads of damage before expensive removal comes online.

On the surface, Dominaria appears to have fewer crazy aggressive decks than we’ve seen in the past year, but I’ve been burned enough times, seen enough undercosted beaters, and recognize the snowballing potential of historic-matters to accept that the format probably has great aggro decks. Blessed Light is probably way worse than it looks, just like Pious Interdiction was in Ixalan.

Gideon’s Reproach was an underwhelming removal spell in Battle for Zendikar. Dominarian creatures aren’t as massive as Eldrazi titans and its combat tricks seem fairly tame, but holding up two mana is a real cost for a kill spell with a high failure rate.

We’re not off to a great start so far. An expensive unconditional kill spell and a moderately priced conditional kill spell aren’t impressive. Both stack up poorly against white’s own cards: white has multiple common two drops that (can) have 3+ power. It has card advantage in Call the Cavalry, a potentially amazing tempo creature in D’Avenant Trapper, and a powerful aura in Dub that goes under Blessed Light and through Gideon’s Reproach.


Blue has three common removal spells in Blink of an Eye, Academy Journeymage, and Deep Freeze.

Unsummon effects are among the best removal spells in aggressive formats, since if your opponent can’t afford to recast their threats, you’ve effectively killed said creatures. Blink of an Eye is an amazing tempo spell because of its flexibility—if you’re pressing the offensive or need to buy time, you can trade a card to bounce a thing. Later in the game, it replaces itself, meaning you’re only trading mana for tempo, rather than mana and a card. Shockingly, Into the Roil is a great card and I fully expect Blink of an Eye to also be great.

Academy Journeymage looks like Man-o’-War but is probably closer to Separatist Voidmage. It shouldn’t be hard to find wizards to discount your Journeymage and then you’re getting a slightly overcosted body with an excellent ability. Sure, it can’t bounce your stuff to knock off an aura or recur a historic trigger, but the only color with aura-removal is blue. I expect Academy Journeymage to be quite strong if red-blue wizards is a solid deck and otherwise to be overvalued slightly.

Finally, we have Deep Freeze. It’s a cool twist on cards like Reduce in Stature, which tend to be awful. The neat thing about Deep Freeze is that by removing a creature’s abilities and imposing Defender upon it, you negate so many of the ways these types of cards come back to bite you. It’s basically Pacifism if you’re a defensive deck or a skies deck. I’ve been disappointed by such cards before and it’s certainly weaker than Claustrophobia, but Deep Freeze is a three mana removal spell that can deal with any creature in blue—something blue mages are usually delighted to have.

Overall, blue seems to be in pretty good shape. Sure, its removal is mostly tempo-based, but that’s how blue usually operates. It’ll certainly miss Claustrophobia, but not as much as white will miss having a Pacifism.


Black makes out like a bandit in Dominaria. Eviscerate is almost certainly the best common, with Vicious Offering likely coming in second or third. Fungal Infection is a situational spell, but it actually has a lot of knobs between Dual Shot an instant-speed, discounted Blister Beetle, and providing fodder for a sacrifice/saprolings deck.

I could talk more about black’s removal, but I’d just saying it’s amazing repeatedly. Both Eviscerate and Vicious Offering are well-costed and can kill almost everything. This feels like M10 and M11, where black is best at killing creatures and everyone wants to splash it, which will be the black drafter’s biggest problem.


We’re in classic Limited territory, where red (and black) are great at killing creatures. Shivan Fire, Fiery Intervention, and Radiating Lightning run the gamut of power level.

Shivan Fire is weaker than but contains the most important part of Burst Lightning—sure, it can’t kill your opponent (or their planeswalkers), but it efficiently kills all small creatures (making all combat tricks worse) and for five mana kills almost anything. This flexibility combined with a low mana cost make it an excellent removal spell. If the format turns out to be defined by three-toughness creatures, then Shivan Fire is worse, but I suspect it’ll have plenty of targets and is likely the second best common (with Vicious Offering close behind).

Fiery Intervention is a mediocre, unexciting card. For five mana, you can choose to kill almost anything. It’s not particularly efficient and it’ll rarely be close to as good as Blessed Light, but it’s always going to make your deck and set trees on fire or shatter robots.

Radiating Lightning brings up the rear as red’s underwhelming Simoon/Chandra`s Fury variant. It’s a sideboard card that isn’t particularly efficient at what it does and lacks the high ceiling of forbears like Barrage of Boulders.

Overall, red’s removal is fine. Shivan Fire is a great spell, but the buck stops there. Red is going to have problems with 3-4 drop creatures as they go over Shock and demand five mana for red to deal with them. Red has the tools to support a control deck, but can likely use its expensive removal as a curve-topper to push through damage.


Green tends to have two common removal spells: a fight card and a Plummet variant. Dominaria continues this trend. Pierce the Sky is going to be equivalent to Plummet 95+% of the time and start in the sideboard 95+% of the time.

Ancient Animus, on the other hand, is spicy, with the potential to be the most powerful common removal spell in the set. Its floor isn’t amazing but isn’t terrible: Pounce is not a very strong card, as it requires you to have a larger creature than your opponent’s and can get blown out by instant speed interaction (which every color but white has for two mana or less) or combat tricks. However, Ancient Animus becomes an instant speed Hunt the Weak if your creature is legendary, and that’s outstanding for two mana. This is a common removal spell which can generate value and take over the game if you’ve brushed up on your history.

Green’s removal is defined by Ancient Animus. If you’re able to get enough legendary creatures, you’re probably going to be able to take over the board (if not the game) with this spell. That’s an extremely high ceiling for a two mana common. Sure, its floor is low, but the Ancient Animus has the potential to outclass every other common removal spell.

Dominaria’s removal is a bit all over the place. Black is excellent, red and blue are decent, white is golfing below par, and green will sometimes have Savage Stomp at common and other times have to settle for Pounce. Green and white’s removal and creatures suggest that aggro will continue to be a strong strategy, though their lackluster combat tricks won’t be great at pushing through damage or winning combat. Blue and red’s removal also point towards aggressive, rather than controlling strategies, but can function well enough of defense. Black is just excellent and its removal enables it to play at every speed. I don’t know what the format will look like, but I certainly expect to see a lot of black decks in Sealed this weekend.

I’m quite excited to play Dominaria this weekend. Not only will it be a return to Magic’s (and my) roots, but it also begins a week of frenzied testing for Grand Prix Columbus, which I’m happy to say I’ll be competing in with two of the finest players I know. Here’s hoping Dominaria is a Limited format for the ages!

And, as always, thanks for reading.

—Zachary Barash

Zachary Barash is a New York City-based game designer. He works for Kingdom Death: Monster, has a Game Design MFA from the NYU Game Center, and does freelance game design. When the stars align, he streams Magic.

His favorite card of the month is Skymark Roc. It’s painfully good when played on curve but isn’t unbeatable. It even tells a nice little story—it delivers your opponent a present as it’s clawing at their eyes.

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