Today, Kristen dives into a few of her picks of underplayed removal spells. We all know they’re playing second fiddle to other cards, but what makes them worthy of shortlisting, and why should you make room for them?

Removal spells are perhaps the sweetest things you can top-deck in a game of Commander provided everything else is going according to plan, and even when you’re behind in other ways, it’s never a bad thing to see. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing—too much interaction without enough proactive play doesn’t end a game—but I’m partly here today to try and convince you that you should make room in your deck for just one more removal spell.

More Targets = More Interaction

It’s pretty simple, really. The format has sped up a little in the past 12-18 months; and now more than ever, you’re likely to be sitting across from a “kill on sight” Commander, or a heavily pushed utility creature that can run away with the game. I talked recently about the power of ramp, but there’s also the issue of what the first player to ramp can do. If that first board piece is a threat, and nobody has an answer? The game might end pretty quickly from there. In other words—those “battlecruisers” now come with a bit of speed boost!

Before we dive in, a quick note. I think that although there are some great “temporary” spells like Song of the Dryads, Imprisoned in the Moon, and Lignify; those spells are a little worse right now due to all of the focus on Enchantments with Theros Beyond Death. If there aren’t more attractive targets, people will have enchantment removal burning a hole in their hands, and will happily negate your efforts. On the other hand, I think a card like Lost in Thought deserves an honorable mention. Being able to force other decks to remove their graveyards in exchange for temporary control of their creature is huge, and is a good way for Blue to interact with the graveyard beyond artifacts.

So, if you do need to pack an extra kill-spell, what should you take? Chances are you’re already running the clear staples, so what can you draft from the incredibly diverse second tier of spells? Here’s a few I like, in no particular order.

Ten Underrated Removal Spells

Lava Coil

Yes, it’s sorcery speed. Yes, it can’t hit face. That doesn’t stop Lava Coil from having a very relevant clause, though: exiling. At two mana, being able to permanently deal with a problem early-drop creature is incredibly useful. It hits a lot of three or four mana Commanders, and on top of that, hits cards like Dryad of the Ilysian Grove, a card I lamented was out of range of a traditional Lightning Bolt. If you’re in Red, or Gruul, or even Izzet, and have a lack of answers in other colors, consider this firey helix. It just might do more than you thought it could.

Lightning Bolt

Speaking of Lightning Bolt, I actually think this card might warrant inclusion a little more often these days. As much as it’s a bit of a meme—”Wouldn’t it be funny if they had a Bolt!”—this is a very real option. There will always be a utility creature to kill, and outside of that, the amount of games I’ve won off the back of casting Boros Charm for the damage mode is in the double digits. If you’re in mono red, I’d seriously consider how relevant this card could be.

Return to the Earth

Artifacts and Enchantments are big business, with a lot of the more popular decks revolving around one or the other. Usually if they aren’t they’re either playing incidental value targets this can hit, or they’re playing Voltron. Voltron loves flying creatures, and so this plucky Instant can actually do a lot of work in your deck. Past Krosan Grip, Beast Within, and Reclamation Sage; Return to the Earth is a fine spell. The fact it’s four mana can be somewhat overlooked—you’re in Green, you should be able to afford it.

Ob Nixilis’s Cruelty

Ob Nixilis’s Cruelty is a great removal spell. Often overlooked because it costs three mana, and has a cap, you’ll find most decks running more efficient options. What excites me about this card is that it can deal with Indestructible creatures, exiling them permanently (unless they live in the Command Zone). That answers just over half of every God card ever printed, and of the ones that can come back from Exile, it can still remove two of those. Gods are popular right now, and answers even more so. Erebos’s Intervention can hit more targets; but with the graveyard being such a hot resource in Commander, you can’t bank on the spell being immediately nullified by recursion.

Forsake the Worldly

Although Heliod’s Intervention is a prime new candidate for Artifact and Enchantment removal, not all decks care about the lifegain; and not all metagames give you the luxury of not removing something permanently. If you don’t have a deluge of graveyard hate ready to deploy, you might want to supplement Crush Contraband and Return to Dust with Forsake the Worldly. Coming in at one mana more than Revoke Existence, this gives you Instant speed interaction, and can be cycled if it’s a dead card (which it very rarely will be).

Radiant Purge

Most of the time, this card will read “Exile target Commander.” And honestly? That’s probably enough. If you don’t have the artifacts for Dispatch, Radiant Purge is a nice option to have. It’ll get rid of most Commanders; rarely will you sit at a table with three mono-color decks. Occasionally, you’ll get the upside of getting rid of something like Mirari’s Wake or an original Theros God, so that’s pretty cool too. Ultimately, it lets you save your Swords to Plowshares or Path to Exile for more crucial targets.

Sudden Spoiling

Yes, Sudden Spoiling is closer to a board wipe. It is, however, very good at dealing with a large obnoxious creature like Avacyn, Angel of Hope or Sigarda, Host of Herons. Next time an opponent takes a swing at you, you can really ruin their day, and eat up their attackers with ease. The fact this thing is so situational is probably why it isn’t in as many decks as it should be, and I don’t necessarily disagree with that logic. However, the split second ability is not to be sniffed at, and it has many uses beyond just allowing you to win a combat.

Snuff Out

Snuff Out is another such card, like Ob Nixilis’s Cruelty, that often falls by the wayside in decks that have better options. If you can run Anguished Unmaking, you rarely have need for this card, for instance. What it does do well, however, is lure opponents into false senses of security. Given the faster openings of many decks these days, and the importance of being proactive with your early game plays, having a “free” removal spell is huge, and I think it should see more play than it does.

Prison Term

I know I mentioned earlier that Aura-based, or prison-based removal—like Oblivion Ring—are probably out of vogue right now, but Prison Term is one I’m actually a little higher on. If you lean enough into Sun Titan and cards like it, this card can be surprisingly flexible. Being able to adjust threat assessment on the fly is actually supremely powerful when it doesn’t cost you any extra mana. Yes, the previous creature will come back, but it hasn’t left the battlefield, so the opponent won’t get any triggers to take advantage of. Try it, it might be decent. It’s virtual card advantage in White.

Volcanic Offering

Volcanic Offering is a bit of a pet card for me, I have to admit. It’s a great way to keep the “Archenemy” player in check—with table politics, you can usually convince people to do the right thing. More than that, it can help pull two stalling players back into the game, by hitting both of the players furthest ahead. There’s absolutely no downside to running this, as you can’t be targeted. It’s a little pricey at five mana, but considering you can get rid of four permanents, that’s a pretty good rate. I don’t think this card sees nearly enough play as a first choice, so please run it!

In Closing

Commander is an ever changing format. What’s good today will probably still be good tomorrow, but what happens more often is that what’s slightly sub par today could become great tomorrow. It’s up to you to find that out, and adjust for the metagame you play in. We all play the headline removal spells if we can, but as things stand right now, I’d encourage you to find room for one more—whether that’s a spell like the ones above, an on-board trick like Soul Snare, or even a creature like Noxious Gearhulk.

What removal do you think is underrated? I can’t possibly fit all of them here, and I’m bound to have missed some really juicy ones. Hit me up on Twitter to continue the discussion and let me know!

Based in the UK, Kristen is a lover of both Limited and Commander, and can most often be found championing the Boros Legion when called upon to sit down and shuffle up.

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