Today, we’re gonna go over all the common removal spells, combat tricks, and other forms of interaction in Guilds of Ravnica. We’ve got a ton to go through, so let’s jump right in!


Luminous Bonds is the obvious best white removal spell. It shuts down everything but activated abilities for the very reasonable cost of three mana. Sure, it’s no Pacifism, but it’s still a top tier removal spell that other colors will be happy to splash. Aura-based removal isn’t at its best in GRN, where white and green have flexible spells that incidentally destroy enchantments, but it’s still solid.

After Luminous Bonds, white’s common removal gets a whole lot more situational.

Collar the Culprit is an awkward removal spell. It’s expensive and can only target particularly large creatures. It’s potentially a maindeck card in Boros (where its high power, low toughness creatures need strong blockers gone) and a sideboard card in Selesnya. Green creatures are weak against Pillar of Light effects, whereas most other colors have few creatures that can be targeted by Collar the Culprit.

Righteous Blow and Slash of Talons are always worse than they look. Both Avacyn Restored and Ixalan were aggressive formats with lackluster removal—in theory, they should have been perfect homes for these combat-Shocks. However, those race-based formats were defined by undercosted beaters (which don’t die to Righteous Blow) and powerful combat tricks (which counter Slash of Talons and provide extra damage).

Moving away from removal, Take Heart is the latest incarnation of the W: +2/+2 with upside instant, joining the recent ranks of Lithomancer’s Focus, Strength of ArmsBuilt to Last, Vampire’s Zeal, and Moment of Triumph. Take Heart looks to be a solid addition to the format, since there’s no cheap instant-speed removal to blow it out, both Boros and Selesnya can use the lifegain to win a race, and Boros can use it proactively to trigger Mentor. This card is likely better than it looks.

The problem with Falter effects is that they either do nothing, or they win you the game. That’s a pretty high ceiling, but a dismally low floor. Intrusive Packbeast is a mini-Falter with the unexciting, but real fail case of always providing a 3/3. Make no mistake, this isn’t a strong card, but it’s a role-player and an awkward finisher.

White Overall: B

Luminous Bonds is an excellent removal spell, but white’s two other removal spells are underwhelming. Take Heart has the potential to be very good, particularly in Boros. Because white has one very good, splashable removal spell and nothing else very exciting, white’s removal is probably worse than usual.


Capture Sphere is the triumphant return of Mystic Restraints, only now it’s splashable. It has all the advantages and problems as Luminous Bonds while gaining flash and shutting down Convoke and tap ability for the cost of an additional mana. Blue is usually ecstatic to have such an effect, since it classically lacked a hard removal spell.

Capture Sphere is an instant but lacks one key function of instant-speed removal: it can’t punish opponents for playing combat tricks. It’s still a top tier removal spell, though four mana is a bit slow if aggressive decks are fielding a plethora of must-answer two and three drops.

Voyage’s End was the best common removal spell and potentially the best common in Theros. That format had weak removal and was all about going big with a single creature via Heroic, Monstrosity, and Bestow, so that made sense. Guilds of Ravnica looks to be quite different; but as long as blue tempo decks exist and there are powerful aura-based removal spells, Unsummons with upside with be playable, if not great. Time will tell just how good Unexplained Disappearance is, but I have high hopes for the card, especially since it’s the only instant-speed removal that costs less than four mana.

Dazzling Lights is the heir to a slew of cheap blue combat tricks that are usually bad, but feel so good when you get someone with them. This card is at its best out of the sideboard. Sure, it looks like it goes well with Crackling Drake and Piston-Fist Cyclops, but it’s a reactive card that needs the perfect time to be cast—otherwise, it’s just card disadvantage.

Blue Overall: A-

Blue has two inexpensive, powerful, and instant-speed removal spells, which is more than it gets in most sets. Moreover, they’re splashable, something blue decks with ambitious mana bases will deeply appreciate. Blue is looking quite good already and we haven’t even gotten to Artful Takedown.


Nowadays, black usually gets a five mana removal spell with upside. Sometimes it’s quite strong, such as Lich’s Caress. Sometimes, it’s passable, as with Contract Killing in aggressive Ixalan. Sometimes, it’s awful, as Final Reward was in hyperaggressive Amonkhet. Deadly Visit looks to be an excellent removal spell, since it provides a real advantage for both controlling and aggressive decks. Because it costs double black, it can’t be splashed and decks with ambitious mana bases will have to be very cautious about including it, making it more likely to arrive in the happy hands of Dimir and Golgari players.

Deadly Visit looks to be outstanding, but if the format proves very fast, it could be too slow to stymie Boros aggro.

Dead Weight is another top-tier removal spell. For a tiny mana investment, it kills small threats (the kind that control decks fear most) and neuters massive Siege Wurms. Black’s off to a good start.

Hired Poisoner isn’t technically a removal spell, but one mana deathtouch creatures are often Seal of Immolating Glare. This is an excellent answer to both early aggression and massive green creatures and is an effect black is often glad to come by.

Bone Splinters is not a good magic card. Sure, you’ll play it if you’re light on removal or need to kill a specific creature, but card disadvantage. Yes, it fuels Undergrowth, but you’re still down a card. Cards like Launch Party can at least be two-for-twos by virtue of being instants, whereas Severed Strands only gets that benefit when you’re playing against Luminous Bonds or Capture Sphere. I’m not excited to play this effect unless I’m producing a bunch of tokens (something green doesn’t do too much of in GRN despite Selesnya being in the set) or creatures with enters-the-battlefield or leaves-the-battlefield effects.

Nausea is generally a mediocre sideboard removal spell, whereas Cower in Fear‘s instant-speed and asymmetry make it a main-deckable combat trick. Mephitic Vapors seems more of the former. Sure, you’ll be happy to have it against certain Boros and Selesnya starts, but three mana is a big cost for something that might not have any targets.

Black Overall: A+

Black is gifted with a bounty of removal spells with diverse effects and mana costs. Guilds of Ravnica looks like a very good time to be a black mage.


Command the Storm is probably red’s removal spell, and that’s not a good start (notwithstanding how impossible it is to follow black’s act and not be disappointing). Command the Storm can kill almost anything, but five mana is a hefty cost (and unlike Deadly Visit, Command the Storm doesn’t provide additional advantage and can be blown out by combat tricks). Make no mistake, this is a solid removal spell and one that’ll be splashed for, but for red’s best removal spell, it leaves much to be desired.

Shock‘s strength stems from its mana efficiency and instant speed. Direct Current lacks both features—it trades down in mana for what it’s likely able to kill, it’s easy to stop with a combat trick, and it’s color committing. However, Jump-start changes the calculus, because Direct Current isn’t one bad spell, but two flexible spells. It has the potential to be Bathe in Dragonfire, Lunge, Boros Charm, or Swelter, either in one gloriously expensive turn or spread out over time.

It’s hard to evaluate cards like Direct Current when both the speed of the format is unknown and we’ve never really seen something incredibly close to it before. I think it’s better than it looks, but that’s not a very high bar to surpass.

Barrage of Boulders was often excellent in Khans of Tarkir as it could function as both a removal spell and a win condition in the board stalls often seen in the format. Cosmotronic Wave provides both halves of the animal, and the increased cost doesn’t hurt the Falter half of the card but it does make the Simoon half much worse. You probably only want to play this card as an aggressive finisher, and for those decks, it’ll be only slightly worse than Falter, since you probably won’t be able to also cast Sure Strike.

Combat tricks are king where instant speed removal is lacking, and that seems to be the case in GRN. Sure, Sure Strike can’t stop damage-based removal, but it’s going to almost always be a split card of Divine Verdict and Lava Spike that also has great synergy with Mentor. Sure Strike might be the best combat trick in the set, and it owes much of that to how lackluster red’s other removal is.

Red Overall: C+

You might think it strange that Red gets so low a grade when blue gets an A-. My rationale is that blue’s interaction is above average for what it normally gets, whereas red’s interaction is below par for red. Red lacking a Shock, Lightning Strike, or Electrify variant really hurts the color. That said, this is likely by design—if Boros aggro is the fun police that stops the format from devolving into durdly multiguild decks, then it also sporting some of the best disruption would likely be too much for the format to bear.


Prey Upon has been a staple of green removal ever since it and Fight were introduced in Innistrad. Prey Upon has vacillated from being strong to awful, depending on the format. For Prey Upon to be good, green needs to have bigger common creatures than every other color (particularly ones available on turns three and four) and for cheap, instant-speed interaction to be scarce. The latter is true, and Centaur Peacemaker, Siege Wurm, and Rosemane Centaur suggest that Selesnya is poised to Hunt the Weak, whereas Golgari will struggle to find its Time to Feed.

Crushing Canopy was a solid card in Ixalan (owing heavily to how good One with the Wind and Swashbuckling+Blightkeeper were). This is the kind of sideboard card green mages are happy to have in the maindeck in Sealed, but it’s a bit too limited in draft. Sure, it can blow up Capture Sphere and Luminous Bonds, but sometimes it won’t have any (worthwhile) targets.

Gather Courage is back, and it’s worse than ever. Three mana is the ceiling for combat tricks, and Pack’s Favor lacks the advantages of Awaken the Bear, Ferocious Charge, and Wildesize. Convoke is at its worst on an expensive combat trick, since combat tricks are at their best when you’re on offense, going wide so that your opponent is punished for making the wrong block. The saving grace for Pack’s Favor is that there is no way to get blown out at common unless your opponent is playing white (since Unexplained Disappearance is only a one-for-one).

Green Overall: C

Without an Ambuscade, Rabid Bite, or Hunt the Weak or a strong combat trick, green is a lot worse than normal. Selesnya looks like it’ll be in a bit of trouble killing things and Golgari will be relying heavily on its black removal spells.

Multicolor and Hybrid

Everything said about Hired Poisoner is true of Pitiless Gorgon, with the exception of mana efficiency. Black decks will probably not need this Daggerback Basilisk much, but green decks will likely welcome her to the fold.

Undercity Uprising is rather similar to Severed Strands—it’s probably going to result in an unfavorable exchange against you. However, what it loses in mana efficiency, it gains in enabling a massive attack: Undercity Uprising is the card Golgari mages want to cast the turn they’ve turned the corner. They trade their worst creature for their opponent’s best and then get in a massive swing. I don’t think I’ll be picking this card highly, but it will lead to same dramatic board states.

Overall, I don’t think either Golgari card changes the math much for black and green’s removal suite.

Hypothesizzle is emblematic of the high level of silliness we’re seeing in Ravnica, something I’m quite appreciate of. This card is a slam dunk in terms of utility: it’s either an expensive Inspiration (which is a bad card) or an Inspiration that also turns a spell in your hand into Electrify and casts it for free (which is an outstanding card). This card helps fill the hole in red’s removal suite but it does basically the exact same thing as Command the Storm, only better (+1 card is better than +1 damage most of the time), meaning Izzet mages will be overloaded with options at five mana.

Overall, I think Hypothesizzle makes red’s removal suite denser without actually improving it much. Red needed a cheap interactive spell rather than another five drop.

Sonic Assault isn’t a removal spell, but it is the third Falter-esque card in Guilds of Ravnica. The dream is actually pretty simple—cast this on your opponent’s end step, then cast it again on your turn. This knocks out two blocks and Boros Charms their face, giving you likely more than enough tempo advantage to win. You can even use this in a race to stymie a bit of damage before swinging for the win.

Sonic Assault is a powerful-looking tempo spell that’s going to be awful in all slow and most midrange decks. I can even imagine it giving Boros a reason to splash into blue if Plan A of pure aggro falls through.

Artful Takedown is basically Flatten with upside. It’s a worse combat trick, but the -0/-4 part is way more important than how much power reduction it does. It even taps down a creature if you need to buy time or are racing your opponent. This curve is excellent, and provides even more reason to be black. The only issue is black already has tons of great removal.

Three mana 3/2s are usually awful, and I wasn’t much impressed by Hired Blade in Core 2019. Whisper Agent has two big things going for it, however—first, blue and black have a bunch of instants, so flash creatures get better as they give you something to do even if your opponent doesn’t cooperate. Secondly, Surveil 1 means you get advantage when trading Whisper Agent off. This mitigates the sting of trading it down for two drop, even potentially putting you ahead. I don’t have high expectations for Whisper Agent, but I can imagine this rogue sneaking into being one of the better common creatures in the set, particular in blue or black decks.


Guilds of Ravnica has clunky removal. Whereas Dominaria had excellent common removal spells in white, blue, black, and red (with multiple good options across all colors and mana costs, excepting green), Guilds of Ravnica consenses most of its best common removal in black, blue, and white. Red is missing a cheap interactive spell and green lost the coinflip for whether its common removal spell provided a power boost. This makes sense—Selesnya and Golgari both rely heavily on creatures (and Golgari’s mechanic basically punishes you for every non-creature spell you put in your deck), and Boros runs the risk of being too strong if its disruption suite is powerful.

And there you have it! All the common removal spells, tricks, and tempo spells in Guilds of Ravnica. Hopefully this’ll help you build your Sealed decks at prerelease this weekend and possibly prepare for drafts beyond.

And, as always, thanks for reading.

—Zachary Barash

Zachary Barash is a New York City-based game designer. He designs 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 Syndic of Tithes. Sometimes, a simple but powerful mechanic on a simple, but serviceable is all a card needs to shine.

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