Card Considerations: Removal

When people think about the types of cards that The EPIC Storm plays, rarely will people mention removal spells. The deck has played a variety of removal over the years, including bounce spells, spot removal, and mass removal. In the current iteration of the sideboard, let's take a look at the removal there!

Deck List

There are 4 Echoing Truth, a Pulverize, a Massacre, and a Grapeshot. That's just about half of the sideboard dedicated to removal!

Bounce Spells

Chain Of Vapor
Echoing Truth
Hurkyl's Recall

For now, let's start by examining some of the bounce spells. There are lots of options when it comes to bounce spells, but Echoing Truth has proven to be the best card to react to what opposing decks are throwing at us and 4 Echoing Truth is a statement to the power of its effect. Being able to bounce all opposing Chalice of the Void or Sphere of Resistance to clear the way to go off is key in its effect. For a similar effect in bouncing multiple cards with one spell, there is Hurkyl’s Recall. On the surface, it seems like this might be a better effect than Echoing Truth. It can remove multiple different problematic artifacts to clear the way. Unfortunately, Hurkyl’s Recall does not deal with many of the non-artifact permanents in legacy. Hurkyl’s Recall does not deal with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Gaddock Teeg, Counterbalance, or Eidolon of the Great Revel. Not having the option to deal with those significantly lowers the value of Hurkyl’s Recall.

Next up is Chain of Vapor! Chain of Vapor is, in a vacuum, one of the most powerful bounce spells in Magic. It can bounce anything and, with the "chain" clause on it, can increase storm count for free. Legacy is generally dominated by cheap spells and Chain of Vapor is only one mana, while Echoing Truth is two. So why play the more expensive spell? This is due to the metagame, almost exclusively. According to Mttgoldfish, Chalice of the Void is the number eight played card in legacy overall. Most of the time, it is preventing zero and one mana spells from resolving. Chain of Vapor, for all its merits, is not going to be useful against Chalice of the Void on one.

Thorn of Amethyst
ChaliceoftheVoid
Sphere of Resistance

There are also sorcery speed options for bounce spells as well. Void Snare and Consign / Oblivion are options that can be fetched with Burning Wish. Void Snare runs into many of the same problems as Chain of Vapor but is worse against Sphere of Resistance effects, as it costs more mana on the combo turn. Consign / Oblivion is a really interesting card. The bounce half of the card is an instant and is two mana, which passes a couple of the Echoing Truth benchmarks. The problem with the card is that it can never really be boarded in because it has a converted mana cost of seven. Hitting Consign / Oblivion off of Ad Nauseam increases the fail rate too much to be comfortable with. The problem with never being able to board in a bounce spell is that it increases the mana and card requirements to combo. At a minimum, it adds four mana and an extra Burning Wish or Infernal Tutor, forcing the combo turn to be later. A later combo turn can mean that more disruptive permanents are found or we are at a lower life total.

Classic Removal

Abrade
Abrupt Decay
Rending Volley

The next class of removal spell is single target removal. These are effects like Abrade, Abrupt Decay, and Fatal Push. Strict creature removal spells are not where TES wants to be in this meta, given that Chalice of the Void is the primary concern. This brings up the Abrade question. Abrade hits almost every disruptive permanent, barring enchantments like Counterbalance. It passes the Chalice of the Void on one test, yet it is still absent from the sideboard. The problem with Abrade is that it can not be cast off of basic lands. Decks with disruptive permanents often have Wasteland. Having lands required to cast Abrade destroyed by Wasteland is not going to lead to winning games.

Abrupt Decay has floated in and out of the deck list, but its primary job is to destroy Counterbalance. It also requires a warping of the mana base to include a Bayou, which means that before adding Abrupt Decay to the sideboard, Counterbalance must be prevalent in the metagame. That being said, it is one of the best removal spells that we play. Being able to kill any of the disruptive permanents, from Chalice of the Void to Gaddock Teeg, while being uncounterable, is huge. Even though Miracles is currently very good right now, it has been playing less and less copies of Counterbalance, preferring to lean on Back to Basics as its disruptive permanent of choice.

Rending Volley is a really interesting card. It showed up in the sideboard around the time of the Sensei's Divining Top ban when cards like Ethersworn Canonist were common out of the sideboard of UW decks. It has an incredibly limited range of creatures it can target, which limits its effectiveness, especially against Eidolon of the Great Revel. But, looking at what it does hit, its very good when TES does not want to be green and needs an uncounterable way to remove creatures.

Mass Removal

By Force
Pulverize
Meltdown

Not only does TES play single target removal, but it also plays mass removal. Currently, Massacre, Pulverize and Grapeshot is the current choices for mass removal. Each has their own respective use, but importantly, both Pulverize and Massacre are "free". While being sorceries like Void Snare, costing no initial mana allows them to be played on the same turn as the combo turn most of the time. Even if passing the turn after playing Massacre or Pulverize is required, they are 'destroy' effects and there is likely an opening on the next turn to comfortable.

Grapeshot is a little different than the other two. It offers more utility, as it can double as a win condition. Against some of the relevant targets, such as Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, it has the problem of being countered by Mother of Runes. It does have one major upside compared to Massacre: it can answer a game one Gaddock Teeg, or be a win condition through it.

Meltdown and By Force are incredibly similar cards. Currently, Pulverize is preferred over them, because there is room for the third mountain and it takes fewer turns on average to get to the combo turn. Meltdown and By Force often take three turns (one turn to cast Burning Wish, one turn to cast Meltdown or By Force, and one turn to combo), while Pulverize takes closer to two turns (one turn to cast Burning Wish and another to cast Pulverize and combo).

Heuristic Table

This is a quick reference for comparing some of the removal spells that TES has access to. It is by no means a final authority, especially as new cards get printed

Converted Mana Cost

  • 2
  • Variable
  • 1
  • 7
  • 2
  • 1
  • 2
  • 2
  • 4 (Free)
  • Variable
  • 2
  • 6 (Free)
  • 1
  • 1

Board-in / Wish-able

  • Board-in
  • Both
  • Board-in
  • Wish-able
  • Board-in
  • Board-in
  • Both
  • Board-in
  • Wish-able
  • Both
  • Board-in
  • Wish-able
  • Board-in
  • Both

Permanent Types

  • Any
  • Artifact
  • Any
  • Any
  • Any
  • Creature
  • Creature
  • Artifact
  • Creature
  • Artifact
  • Any
  • Artifact
  • Creature
  • Any

Number of Targets

  • 1
  • Variable
  • 1
  • 1
  • Variable
  • 1
  • Variable
  • All
  • All
  • Variable
  • 1
  • All
  • 1
  • 1

Unique Qualities

  • Uncounterable
  • Generates storm
  • Wish-able instant
  • Win condition
  • Uncounterable

Alex McKinley

Alex McKinley is a computer scientist who loves mixing Magic and technology. Occasionally, when he goes outside, he spends his time winning Quidditch Championships and camping.