“I’m going to try this, and see what happens,” I said, trying to sound confident.“During your End Step, Seal of Fire your Ramosian Sergeant.”
“Seal of Fire your Ramsian Lieutenant.”
“Kris Mage your Nightwind Glider, with a Squee.”
“My turn, untap, get back Squee, draw. Cast Arc Lightning on your Steadfast Guard and Mother of Runes (inactive, of course). Hammer of Bogardan your Lin Sivvi.”
“Cast Masticore. Done.”
“Ok. I untap, draw, cast Arrest on your Masticore.”
BURN! Burn, burn, burn, burn, burn.
I killed six creatures in one turn, without using a sweeper spell, like Wrath of God. That’s a lot of removal. I effectively destroyed my opponent’s entire strategy, at the cost of my entire hand, along with most of my permanents. Similarly, my opponent was able to shut down my offensive, with a single spell, Arrest. However, in the aftermath of that Cold War era mutual resource destruction, my Hammer made sure that game stayed in my control.
That’s a good thing, too– because I built the deck to work that way.
One of the first things I ever learned about Magic was that“Terror is good.” A single card that lets you pick a creature, and remove it from play. Later, the concept of removal became duh duh obvious to me.
Right now, removal is kind of enigmatic. The big question is how to use it, currently. Because of the redundant card advantage built into White Weenie, oftentimes, a handful of removal only serves to slow an opponent’s development. In an environment where rebels are a brutal check on removal, what removal strategies will work the best?
There are four general styles of removal, in decks. All interactive decks use some form of creature removal, whether it is strategic removal or actual removal.
Real Deal Holyfield decks: major beats. Decks that use something in the neighborhood of thirty creatures. There’s no creature removal per se, but they’ve got creature removal– it’s called forcing you to block. Via sheer numbers, Real Deal places a ton of pressure on the early utility creatures most decks play. The creatures in these decks are monsters, from turn one… stuff like Pouncing Jaguars and Albino Trolls, creatures that demand some early attention. Toss in some real sporty stuff like Rancor, and Real Deal decks are smacking people around like they were named Buster Douglas.
Spot Removal decks: these are decks like Accelerated Blue, Rebel White Weenie and Opposition, which use very limited removal, like Treachery, Arrest and Powder Keg, to turn poor board situations into, at least, a balance. Usually, the removal spells are reserved for the big threats, like River Boa, Masticore and Thrashing Wumpus– the kind of“magic bullet” creatures that tend to sink the decks. The turnaround factor, especially on more impressive creatures, makes the removal all the more powerful. Card advantage or no, spot removal tends to shut down the most important creatures in the matchup– the ones that wreck you. Decks using spot removal tend to use four to eight slots worth of it, and rely on some other strategy to deal with the bustling masses (counters, Opposition lock, massive creature advantage).
You’re In My Way decks: decks like Sligh, Negatron and very classic Stompy use You’re In My Way removal. Very simply, these decks seek to kill early blockers so that their cheap beasts can smash your head in, before you can set up a real defense. You’re In My Way revolves around really cheap removal like Vendetta, Shock and Giant Growth, supplemented by some additional problem solvers like Snuff Out, Arc Lightning and Invigorate. The concept is to be holding enough removal to squeeze attackers through, until you have achieved an endgame position, usually called Fireblast, Fireblast, two Negators or Rancor/Invigorate/Might of Oaks/Etc.
Creatures Are Like Bugs.dec: this style of removal works on the premise“if nothing is moving, I’m not in danger.” This deck tends to use upwards of a dozen targeted removal spells, augmented with a severe sweeper or two, to ensure board control. Due to the rather unfriendly creature environment, Creatures Are Like Bugs.dec tends to use between three and ten creatures, which are not designed for the early game, unless they can be considered removal, like Kris Mage. Even the creatures tend to follow the removal theme, usually being Masticores, or other creatures, like Morphling, designed to rollick through the sparsely populated wasteland.
Thanks to the wonderful world of White Weenie, the game has changed. Removal has to be thorough. Real Deal Holyfield has a hard time punching through, if white gets to thawing creatures out. Spot removal tends to do very little past slowing white down, as most every creature in White Weenie is equally threatening (in the great scheme of things). You’re In My Way can work– but it has to work quickly, or else it loses its punch, in the sea of weenies. So, in most respects, it has to play the same game against White Weenie as it does against every other deck. Creatures Are Like Bugs has a similar dilemma– every creature is a threat, so to win the game, Creatures Like Bugs has to blow out the first three searchers, and buy enough time to set up some recurring threat removal, like Masticore or Hammer.
Lin Sivvi and her Mystery Machine full of Rebels adds a new difficulty to removal. No longer can ten removal spells stop a deck, even if you play them all– any creature that gets through can beat you. When building, take this into account. Either build a deck that plans to win in the first five turns (packing enough removal to keep the board open, during this time), or a deck with enough removal to keep the board clear, at all times.
Though totally unrelated, major props to Monster.com on their awesome commercial. If you haven’t seen it, it’s just a bunch of random well-dressed folks walking around, reciting the poem“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. Though I have no intention to visit their site (nor do I know what they’re all about), I’m glad that they decided to spice up the television with a T.V. rarity: culture.
Contributing Editor, Scrye Magazine
“To the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee;
for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and
all hearses to one common pool! Thus, I give up the spear!
Moby Dick, Chapter CXXXV, Herman Melville"
-Should have been the flavor text on Hatred.