When it comes to picking a board wipe for your Commander deck, it can sometimes feel like there are too many options. There are 116 cards alone that have the words “destroy all creatures” on them, and that’s for starters. When you factor in damage wraths, exile wraths, bounce wraths, and the more niche cards too? That number increases by a lot. How do you know if you’ve made the best choice when there are so many to choose from?
Today, we’ll look at how to pick a board wipe, what makes a board wipe good, and some great budget alternatives to the most expensive removal around.
The Best Board Wipes in Commander
The best board wipes in Commander are the best for two main reasons: they’re hyper efficient when it comes to mana investment, or they’re asymmetrical.
Efficiently Costed Board Wipes
Many board wipes are desirable because of their low mana investment. The less you have to pay for these types of effects, the better — that way, you can start to repopulate the board immediately on the same turn, putting you in position to be the first one that untaps with creatures, and the first to attack again.
At the top of this category, we have the out and out cheapest answers that deal with the most permanents. For three mana, you can’t get better than these. Toxic Deluge can lower toughness by as much as the life you’re willing to pay, Blasphemous Act kills most things, and when Terminus hits its miracle cost, it’s probably one of the most efficient wipes in the game.
There are other solid spells at three mana, and you’d be surprised what you can actually get for your buck. Though they won’t always be able to get rid of everything, they can simplify the board by a large degree — and sometimes, that’s more than enough. For other times? Hour of Revelation is very, very good.
There are also ways to “bank” a board wipe for later. Along with the classic Oblivion Stone, you have cards like Pernicious Deed and Sarulf, Realm Eater that can deal with multiple permanent types, but take a little while to get going, often over multiple turns.
Paying in installments is just another form of efficiency, and gives you some amount of flexibility but also some amount of political clout at the table. Don’t underestimate how much virtual card advantage you can gain from holding one of these on-board tricks over the rest of the table. Just be careful, though, as smart players will force the “Buckaroo!”
The new Kaldheim board wipe, Doomskar, is another card that can come down for three mana when foretold, which helps massively with rebuilding the board afterwards. I expect both it and Spectral Deluge will go on to see a lot of play in the format.
Asymmetrical Board Wipes
The other main type of board wipe considered the best to run in Commander is the asymmetrical board wipe. These are cards that will affect each opponent, but not yourself.
It’s clear to see why these are considered the best, but that power comes at a high mana investment and sometimes, in the case of Winds of Abandon, a downside.
These spells will often be narrower than mass-answers, or harder to cast, like Ruinous Ultimatum. They might not always be obvious, either — Apex Altisaur is a dinosaur that can come down and keep fighting, which is in many ways one-sided, but it might not cross your mind as a viable “board wipe.” If you’re playing mono-green, though? It might be amongst the best options you’ll have.
Ugin, meanwhile, isn’t always asymmetrical, but can often be so, either because you’re playing a lot of artifacts and colorless spells, or because you’re sequencing up to casting him and not dropping too many resources into play. He’s up there as one of the best wipes in the game because he doesn’t discriminate, gets around indestructible, and gives you a little flexibility when casting him.
How to Choose a Board Wipe for Your Deck
So, we’ve covered the best board wipes in Commander — but how do you decide which ones to run in your deck?
Generally, your deck will want four to six board wipes on average. You shouldn’t need more than that unless you’re playing control, or if you have a way to win that doesn’t involve combat damage.
Of the board wipes available, it’s reasonable to take one or two of the super cheap ones in your colors, and one or two of the asymmetrical ones. But what about the rest?
Bread & Butter Board Wipes
First up, you’ll want to look at some of the “bread and butter” board wipes on offer. These are the most popular board wipes by far, and while they’re generally cheaper to buy than the “best” board wipes, they also sit somewhere between the efficient and asymmetrical ones when it comes to mana cost: they’ll usually be four or five mana.
Four mana to destroy all creatures is the benchmark, and these spells will do it. Outside of these, you have options in other colors, too.
There are also plenty of options that will wipe the board clear at five mana, too, and you generally can’t go wrong at this mana cost — though there are better options.
Board Wipes with Synergy
The better cards are often deck dependent, and so you’ll want to try and pick a board wipe that synergizes with your strategy.
Black-White decks, for instance, might enjoy the lifegain from Fumigate, or the reanimator-enabling Living Death or Life’s Finale. These board wipes are perfectly fine to run instead of the more expensive ones, but again, there’s usually room for both.
If your strategy revolves around Auras, Winds of Rath is the ideal card to pick — it will protect your creatures from removal, and often end up being asymmetrical. It’s the same for Scourglass and Scrap Mastery in an artifact deck. One of the hallmarks of synergistic board wipes is that they’ll end up being asymmetrical — or close to it — if you build your deck right.
Flexible Board Wipes
Alongside synergistic board wipes, you’ll want to prioritize flexible board wipes in your search.
The gold standard for these is Austere Command. Austere Command is very rarely a bad play from where you’re sitting, and it can have an asymmetrical effect provided you play into it. Others may argue the gold standard is Merciless Eviction, though, and they’re probably not wrong — unconditional exile is fantastic, after all.
Flexibility isn’t just about modality, though. Some spells can also have flexible costs. Running board wipes with an X in the mana cost can mean they’re always relevant — and later in the game, you can put as much mana as you need into them.
Flexibility also helps when it comes to navigating a game. Having your Planar Cleansing stapled to a land in the form of Ondu Inversion helps smooth out draws substantially. Being able to cycle Decree of Pain to get rid of a few utility creatures and draw a card can sometimes make a difference. Play of the Game, meanwhile, allows two players who are behind to share the load and attempt to get ahead by reducing the cost of the wipe.
Budget Board Wipes
“But Kristen,” I hear you say, “what if I can’t afford to play the top rated board wipes?” Well, that’s a fair point. Here’s some guidance on some great alternatives.
Massacre Girl is amazing, and she can do so much work from the Command Zone or from the 99. She can get around indestructible effects like Toxic Deluge, but at a fraction of the cost. I like to run her at the head of a deck and also in Chainer, Nightmare Adept.
While Wrath of God and Day of Judgment remain fairly steady at $5, you can go cheaper for a similar effect. Both Kaya’s Wrath and Shatter the Sky mostly do the same thing, and give you a little resource for your efforts.
Kindred Dominance is now over $30, and at seven mana, it can be difficult to cast, anyway. Why not look at Harsh Mercy instead? This card might not get rid of everything, but in a tribal deck, you might find that it works really well against “good stuff” builds.
Bane of Progress is undoubtedly the best artifact and enchantment wipe in green, but even with a recent reprint, it’s still a little spendy. Depending on the composition of your own deck (and the decks your friends play), Creeping Corrosion, Calming Verse and Back to Nature are all great substitutions.
Underplayed Board Wipes
While I’ve covered some of the more popular board wipes, people love to hear about hidden gems, and it’d be a shame to close our look at board wipes without covering some cards that I don’t see nearly enough. I’d hesitate to call any of these “hidden gems,” per se, but they do offer some excellent effects that can really enhance your deck’s game.
While blue decks mainly concentrate on bounce wraths — of which they have an abundance to choose from — they don’t have ways to wipe the board for good outside of maybe Curse of the Swine. While it does have a more fitting home in Morph decks, I’d argue Ixidron should see play in more blue lists. It can simplify the board and be circumvented on your side through flicker effects. Likewise, Floodgate can be flickered, too, and it might actually kill some things!
I’d like to take a moment to advise that, where possible, you should be advancing the game state when you use a bounce wrath. It’s one of the reasons cards like Devastation Tide have begun to fall out of favor, and why I’m happy to see Spectral Deluge printed.
Next, I want to advocate for some board wipes that have a lasting effect. Descend Upon the Sinful is criminally underplayed, and when you need to get rid of creatures, this thing does the job. The upside of having a 4/4 flyer afterwards isn’t too hard to turn on, either.
Necromantic Selection, on the other hand, allows you to reanimate the best creature that just died. This includes people’s commanders, as the spell reanimates as part of the spell’s resolution, and it isn’t a trigger — meaning you can take their commander before they get a chance to decide where to put it!
We all know the power of cards like Slash the Ranks, but Phyrexian Scriptures offers lasting value. It lets you keep a creature of your choice, and it also exiles graveyards on the way out. I’d be happy to play this in any black deck.
My final mention is one that most people don’t consider a board wipe, but it’s a personal favorite of mine. Nemesis Mask can allow a beefy or otherwise indestructible creature to singlehandedly decimate an opponent’s front line. I love to put it on Rhonas the Indomitable, but there are a bunch of commanders and creatures in the 99 that can use this spicy little equipment. If you’re in an equipment build, try Kusari-Gama instead.
Bringing it Together
Board wipes are in many ways a necessary evil in Commander. If you don’t pack them, you can suffer from not being able to halt a player dominating the table. They also help considerably when you’re behind and want to level the playing field. Played creatively, they can break through a board stall. I know I’m partial to the ol’ Boros-Charm-then-board-wipe play.
There’s an art to playing board wipes, but also an art in not playing too many. When it comes to such game-changing cards, it pays to think about how you might benefit the most from your choices of what to include. By considering the use of highly efficient spells, asymmetrical effects, modal effects, and effects that synergize with your deck, you should be able to gain card advantage even when wrathing away the board.
It’s really important, where possible, to keep these things in mind. Board wipes can really slow down games, and some people don’t enjoy long, drawn-out grindfests. Me? I appreciate them from time to time, but sometimes I like to play more than one game in a session.
Hopefully, the pointers I’ve shared today will help you pick board wipes that give you the most bang for your buck — especially the budget options, which are highly playable in their own right. Let me know your favorite effects on Twitter to continue the discussion.
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. As a member of the Commander Advisory Group, Kristen lives and breathes Commander. When she’s not playing Magic, she works as a freelance writer and editor in the UK.