Legacy has traditionally been dominated by counter wars and combos throughout its history. However many decks in the format often utilize a few choice removal spells. From Death and Taxes to Delver, removal spells have stamped their spot permanently into Legacy’s meta. Commonly used spells range from general run of the mill burn cards, to a few very unique and situational answers. Today we are going to be taking a look at the best removal spells in Legacy, and their applications.
– Legacy Removal Spells –
– White Removal –
White removal spells in Legacy typically take the form of board wipes and exiling effects. Most of them are either highly specialized or all encompassing, with only a few exceptions being general run of the mill removal spells.
Swords to Plowshares: For a single white mana, Swords to Plowshares is by far one of the most versatile removal spells in Legacy. Exiling a creature at instant speed is very powerful. Swords can be used for basically any creature that is commonly played (except Emrakul and True-Name Nemesis). Even though the spell lets your opponent gain life equal to the exiled creature’s power, the ability to remove a creature on the spot with no other repercussions is just too good. Swords is typically played in Death and Taxes lists as a four of. However it is also seen in UW Control, Stoneblade, and Maverick. This is definitely a great option if you are looking for versatile removal that can fit in almost any deck that plays white.
Path to Exile: This is like the discount Swords to Plowshares. Generally you will want to play Swords over this spell because ramping your opponent mana in Legacy is a no go. However some decks do play this in their sideboard. It is great vs aggro decks like Elves! and Eldrazi Aggro, and it can be alright against Delver, Midrange BUG, and Reanimator match ups. Like most white removal, this spell is typically seen in Death and Taxes lists, but as a sideboard card.
Fiend Hunter/Banisher Priest/Mangara of Corondor: These creatures are almost solely played in Death and Taxes. They provide Aether Vial-able, uncounterable, and protect-able removal for large threats like Emrakul and Griselbrand. Generally these are played as a one of with cards such as Recruiter of the Guard to tutor for them. However it is possible to play a few in the sideboard without Recruiter. Additionally Mangara has the classic combo with Karakas, where it can create a soft lock of exiling things. Overall they are alright options for removal, but only really work in specialized lists like Death and Taxes and Maverick.
Council’s Judgment: This spell is the catch all end all to literally everything in the game. Got an Emrakul problem? No problem! Staring down the face of a True-Name Nemesis? This spell’s got you covered. The only issue is that it is three mana to cast, which can be kind of difficult to reach in time. Council’s Judgement also has no protection from counter spells, so it is very vulnerable. In spite of these downsides I recommend playing a few copies somewhere in your 75 if you struggle against the aforementioned cards. Also I forgot to mention, it can exile planeswalkers….
Armageddon: Destroying all lands is a very niche market in Legacy. This card doesn’t actually see play that much, and it was much more popular when Counter-Top was a thing. However if the meta switches to a slow control oriented environment than it may come time to dust off our copies of this. Generally this card is good at hosing slower control decks, and it can be alright against midrange matchups.
Terminus: At one point this was another premier removal spell in the format. However with the banning of Sensei’s Divining top, its use has slowly plundered. UW control still plays it as a four of generally, but that deck is no where near as popular as the old Miracles lists. Anyways, if you have an issue against creature decks, this spell may be a good option for you to try out. Of course if it is too high costed Wrath of God or Day of Judgement also work quite well.
Unexpectedly Absent: Fairly new to the Legacy seen, Unexpectedly Absent is unexpectedly good. It has begun to see play in many variations of UW control. Typically it is played as a one to three of. Unexpectedly Absent (much like Swords to Plowshares) provides an answer to almost every creature that Legacy will typically throw at you besides Emrakul and True-Name. The upside to this spell over Swords is that it does not provide the life gain that Swords does, which can be difficult for control decks to win through (especially if it is a very high amount). Additionally, most control lists can more easily deal with the higher mana cost since they typically play a higher amount of lands than other decks.
– Black Removal –
Mono black removal in Legacy is typically very limited. There are only a few true removal spells that fall under this category, and none of them hit high end cards such as Emrakul. However where black lacks in brute force, it has a lot of tricks up its sleeve in the form of pseudo removal spells.
Dismember: For two phyrexian black mana and a colorless, the iconic instant spell Dismember is one of the most efficient black removal spells in Legacy. It is incredibly versatile, capable of killing anything up to five toughness. However it does not hit some of Legacy’s most infamous creatures like Emrakul and Griselbrand. Generally Dismember is played in Grixis delver decks and other tempo strategies such as Merfolk.
Fatal Push: This spell is incredibly versatile. Akin to a black Swords to Plowshares, Fatal Push works in almost every deck that plays black. It especially works well in decks that have fetchlands, since those will activate this spell’s second clause. The fact that it is an instant is just icing on the cake. However, like most other black spells, Fatal Push does not hit Griselbrand, Emrakul, or True-Name Nemesis.
Fearie Macabre: The first pseudo removal spell on our list. Remember all those creatures that we said black could not directly remove? Well lucky for us, Fearie Macabre solves half of our problems. It is amazing against any Dredge or Reanimator strategy, and serves as a versatile removal spell for cards like Griselbrand and Iona.
Surgical Extraction: Much like Faerie Macabre, Surgical Extraction can answer a lot of the things that black’s normal removal spells can not. However, Surgical Extraction takes it a step further. It is essentially a removal spell for not only permanents, but spells too! It’s great against decks like Storm and Reanimator, which look to use the graveyard often, and it is also pretty strong against control and Delver strategies. Usually it is best to run this card in the sideboard, unless you are playing a hand disruption deck.
Diabolic Edict: Diabolic Edict is a very strong control card. For only one black and a colorless you force an opponent to sacrifice a creature. This can literally remove any creature in Legacy (assuming your opponent has only one creature in play). It is a very powerful spell that can solve myriad issues you could encounter, like Griselbrand, True-Name Nemesis, Tarmogoyf, and Emrakul.
Toxic Deluge/Massacre: These two spells are primarily for two things; The Death and Taxes match up, and True-Name Nemesis. Because these spells give -x/-x they technically are not dealing damage to, or targeting any of your opponent’s creatures. So they very cleverly get around True-Name Nemesis’ protection from you and everything you own. Additionally, because Death and Taxes, and other similar decks are very low average toughness decks, these two spells can completely take over the match up in one turn. Toxic Deluge and Massacre are also very good against Elves!, Dredge, and Goblins.
– Green Removal –
Mono green honestly does not have much in the removal department. However it does have a few spells that Elves! and some midrange decks play to get a slight advantage.
Reclamation Sage: This is one of the best removal spells that mono green has access to in Legacy. Sadly, since the banning of Sensei’s Divining top Rec Sage is not as good as it used to be. However, it is definitely still a very useful card – especially in Elves!. Just to name a few targets, Reclamation Sage hits, Counterbalance, Aether Vial, Any Equipment, Pithing Needle, Phyrexian Revoker, Aluren, Food Chain, Sneak Attack, Trinisphere, and Chalice of the Void.
Scavenging Ooze: Removing things from the graveyard is always useful, and Scavenging Ooze allows you to gain life and advance your board state as you do! This Modern staple is definitely no joke in Legacy either. It is very good against almost any graveyard deck, and can even be good against grindy midrange matchups or even control decks. This creature is generally good in almost every deck it could be played in.
– Red Removal –
Mono red has a fair amount of good removal suites available to it. However most of the spells are low direct damage spells, or highly specialized. In spite of this, many red spells are instant spells, which give them an edge against other colors.
Lightning Bolt: The classic red spell blasts into Legacy with flying colors. Almost every deck that runs red (with the exceptions being combo decks) play this spell. It can be found in Delver, Burn, Canadian Delver, 4 color control, and Goblins. Playing one mana to deal three damage at instant speed is just too good not to play. Lightning Bolt also has the added bonus of having the ability to close out a game on its own if your opponent’s life total is low.
Pyroblast/Red Elemental Blast: These two spells are typically played as sideboard cards against control and combo decks. They were a lot more popular against Counterbalance decks, however they are still pretty good against most control decks that play blue. The two counter/removal spells can also be pretty good against Sneak and Show, Show and Tell, and other Stoneblade.
Ancient Grudge/Smash to Smithereens: Since artifacts are so prevalent in the format, these two spells see sideboard play quite often. Much like Reclamation Sage, these spells are good in a numerous amount of matchups, and are typically catch all end all type of cards.
Chain Lightning: Like playing Lightning Bolt? Here have some more Lightning Bolts for you Lightning Bolt. All jokes aside, this spell is almost as versatile as Lightning Bolt, except that it is a sorcery. It is usually played in Delver and Burn decks.
Forked Bolt: Forked bolt is like a toolbox Lightning Bolt. It has the ability to remove two creatures at once or deal two damage to one creature. It can also deal direct damage to a player, which can be powerful at times. While this spell is not as directly as powerful as Lightning Bolt, it still has a lot of uses.
– Blue Removal –
Mono blue actually has less direct removal than green does. But it does have a lot of powerful bounce effects. While these spells don’t permanently remove your opponent’s threats, they do remove them for long enough to by time to steal a win.
Jace the Mindsculptor: One of the most iconic cards in all of Magic is also one of the best removal spells available to blue. While Jace is typically renowned for his zero mana Brainstorm ability, his minus one can occasionally lock a game out. Not only does it basically hit every creature in Legacy (except True-Name Nemesis), but it is repeatable many turns in a row. Jace is most played in control and midrange decks, however he can be played in Stoneblade and a few tempo strategies.
Vapor Snag/Chain of Vapor: These are the big red buttons of blue removal. They can be used in a pinch to get you out of a tight situation, buying you a few extra turns to squeeze out a win. They also have the added benefit of being able to bounce your own creatures, so you can get extra value out of Snapcaster Mage, or protect your finishers from removal spells.
Hydroblast: Hydroblast is the Pyroblast of blue. It actually doesn’t see play that often, however if red decks are causing you a lot of trouble this spell can be pretty strong. It is important to note that it does hit Sneak Attack, and it also hits Young Pyromancer. Hydroblast is almost always a sideboard card.
Hurkyl’s Recall: This spell can be very useful against Stoneforge Mystic based decks. It allows you to buy some extra time just in case your opponents get too out of hand with their equipment. Additionally it can be useful if an artifact aggro deck every becomes popular in the format. It can also be alright against Eldrazi Aggro, however that deck does not have as many relevant targets besides Umezawa’s Jitte and Chalice of the Void.
– Colorless/Multicolor Removal –
The multicolor and colorless removal suite is arguably the most powerful and versatile set of removal spells in Legacy. Consisting of a variety of answers, there is a spell for almost everything here.
Abrupt Decay: Abrupt decay is one of the reasons that BUG Midrange is even a deck. Being able to destroy anything with converted mana cost for three or less without the worry of counterspells is very powerful. Abrupt Decay can deal with almost any deck in Legacy with the exceptions being Reanimator, Storm, and Show and Tell variants. Any deck that plays black green should really consider playing this spell.
Karakas: Karakas has a very specific ability that seems like it would be limiting. However most of the targets that you would want to hit with it are legendary anyways, so it is not much of a disadvantage at all. Some creatures Karakas can hit are Emrakul, Griselbrand, Iona, and Leovold. Generally if you play white it is a good choice to play a few copies of this.
Kolaghan’s Command: This is one of the most varied removal spells in Legacy. So much so, that sometimes it is not even a removal spell. Having the ability to destroy and artifact, return a creature from your graveyard to your hand, deal two damage to a creature or player, or force an opponent to discard a card, in one spell is incredibly useful. This card can do almost everything. If you run black and red, consider playing a few copies in your 75.
Umezawa’s Jitte: Jitte is not an outright removal spell, but it does have an ability on it that can remove creatures, and at an astounding rate at that. Jitte can very quickly rack up counters throughout the course of the game and has the potential to take out high profile creatures like Tarmogoyf and Deathrite shaman. The best part is that Jitte’s abilities can be activated at instant speed, meaning that you are not limited to your turn to use them. Not to mention Jitte has two other useful abilities that can help you out in a pinch.
Pithing Needle/Sorcerous Spyglass/Null Rod/Phyrexian Revoker: These four cards act as pseudo removal spells by making your opponent’s cards mostly unusable. They all prevent the abilities of select permanents your opponents control. Some of these spells are very heavily played in Legacy because they help slow down and even prevent combo decks. Additionally all of them except null rod can hit cards like Deathrite Shaman, planeswalkers, and equipment. If you have any issues with artifacts or activated abilities these spells are good options to consider.
Overall Legacy has access to one of the most varied removal suites of any format. There are powerful and relevant answers in almost every color. So no matter what color you play you can be sure that there will at least be some sort of efficient answer at your disposal. Typically the best removal spells are low mana costed and hit a high amount of possible threats. While every deck is different, it can sometimes be difficult to find just the right spells to play. But with all the variety available in Legacy, you’ll hopefully be able to find the right removal spells for your deck in no time.
I hope this article was helpful in some way to you! Did we miss any removal spells? Are there any that you particularly like to use? Feel free to leave any questions, comments, or concerns in the section below.
And as always, happy gaming!