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By: SteveJeltz, Rev. David Wright
Jun 05 2017 12:00pm
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“Thirty Five Ways to Die”


Black is in a funny place right now in the Pauper metagame. While it once was the king of Pauper, spawning decks like “Rats” and “Mono Black Devotion” (aka “Mono Black Control”), it is mostly used right now as a support color in a format dominated by Red, Blue and Green.


But what has always been black’s strongest and deepest suit is creature removal. In the old Pauper world, the formula was to trade removal with creatures, get ahead on cards and life, and win by attrition. These days, with decks dominated by 1 cmc creatures, and creatures with strong ETB and death triggers, good removal alone isn't enough.


What we’re going to examine today is the broad catalog of black’s removal spells. Some of these see more play than others, but all of them have or have had a place in the format somewhere.


The Edicts

Diabolic Edict

  1. Chainer's Edict - After a downshifted reprinting to common in Vintage Masters, this two-for-one edict rose up the charts to assume its perch as the most played black spell in Pauper. The irony of its popularity is that it is not terribly well positioned in a format where the most commonly played creature is Young Wolf. If you're going to run some edicts, I encourage you to play other removal spells to compliment them. Perhaps choose a couple from each category below so that you're in position to force a sacrifice of their evasive 10/10 Silhana Ledgewalker and not their Eldrazi Spawn token.


  1. Diabolic Edict - The original edict. Most popular right now as a tutor target for Mystical Teachings in UB control decks.


  1. Geth's Verdict - Your reward for being mono Black. Mostly supplanted by Chainer’s Edict, this card was a nice instant speed answer to Rancor.


  1. Innocent Blood - No creatures in your deck? Your reward is a 1-mana Edict. It also sees fringe play in Aristocrats decks.


  1. Predatory Nightstalker - Pauper lacks good ETB creatures that kill a creature like Flametongue Kavu or Bone Shredder. But this guy, a crossover from Portal, is a neat ETB Edict on a stick for a grindy deck.


The Doom Blades

Doom Blade

  1. Doom Blade - While a completely adequate removal spell, this card suffers from inefficiency. Trading a two mana removal spell for a 1-2 drop creature just isn't enough to get ahead. For this reason, it’s best suited as a Sideboard card for the format’s problem creatures, like Ulamog's Crusher and Atog.


  1. Terror - Ever since Alpha, this card set this standard for the cost and speed of black removal spells. Having two restrictions, one of which is Affinity’s artifact creatures, severely limits this card’s utility. But surprisingly, it does come with one plus clause, the “can't be regenerated”, which is surprisingly useful against cards like River Boa and Blight Mamba.


  1. Victim of Night - For the color restriction of BB, you can additionally kill black creatures, except ironically, the two most important black creatures you'd want to hit, Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Gurmag Angler since they're both zombies.


  1. Vendetta - On the surface, this card is formidable as a one-mana Doom Blade with Terror’s anti-regeneration clause. But the life loss can really hurt. In a control deck, giving up life is like letting the aggro creature hit you. So maybe the best home for this card is suicide black aggro.


  1. Ghastly Demise - Another one-mana Doom Blade, this time with a restriction of counting the number of cards in your graveyard. So far, this card has been solely adopted by Dimir Delver since not being able to kill a creature until you can fill your graveyard severely limits its early game utility.


  1. Snuff Out - Like 1-mana Doom Blades? How about a ZERO mana Doom Blade? All Snuff Out asks is that you have a Swamp and a flat rate 4 life to spare, versus the scaling rate cost on Vendetta. While I wouldn't recommend this card for a control deck, it's great in black aggro and a nice card in a metagame featuring creature based combo kills like Peregrine Drake.


  1. Wretched Banquet - This is a weird one. Its effect goes back to the Arabian Night’s rare Drop of Honey, killing the lowest power creature in play. If your goal is to kill all the creatures, this should trade for a card in play, not necessarily the best card, kind of like a Diabolic Edict that requires you to target the creature. I'd pass on this for now, but it has seen play in Caligula decks that either kill by a thousand paper cuts, or by milling the opponent out.


  1. Seal of Doom - I mention this card for two reasons: it recently saw a reprint, greatly increasing its supply, and it has a unique effect of buy now, use later while adding to your black devotion count in play.


  1. Executioner's Capsule - Similar to Seal of Doom in its buy now / use later effect, this 1 mana colored artifact can be fetched by Trinket Mage as part of a utility package.


  1. Bone Splinters - One mana Murder is quite efficient. The cost? Your own creature. Sees play in token and aristocrats decks, which these days seem to be GB.


  1. Murder - Speaking of Murders, for the full retail price of 1BB you get to kill anything with no restrictions at instant speed. That's probably too expensive for most decks since you're trading down on mana. But like Diabolic Edict, it makes a nice tutor target in a UB Mystical Teachings deck.


The -N/-Ns

Tragic Slip

  1. Disfigure - “Black Bolt” is exceptional as an early play since the median size of Pauper’s most played creatures is 2/2. Most of the time, this is the default best one mana kill spell for black decks.


  1. Dead Weight - Trading instant speed for a permanent effect does a couple things. It can neuter a creature like Kor Skyfisher while building devotion. It can also effectively kill an Atog since no many how many artifacts the goat eats first, State-Based Effects will revert its toughness to zero at end-of-turn. I usually prefer a 2-1 or 3-1 split favoring Disfigure.


  1. Grasp of Darkness - Also recently reprinted, this card comes with no color restrictions and is big enough to kill Affinity’s 4/4s. Right now this card doesn't have a home, but it's been a player in the past so I mention it here.


  1. Last Gasp - Speaking of old cards, this is the format’s only -3/-3 for 1B. It was mostly supplanted by Grasp of Darkness and Disfigure, but it's nice to know it's there, especially in a world where edicts are bad.


  1. Tragic Slip - If you can kill another creature first, or sacrifice your own, you can shrink anything -13/-13, for one mans, even the notorious Ulamog's Crusher! But the -1/-1 effect also has surprising utility, especially against faerie decks. Best as a player in a diverse removal suite, often alongside Chainer's Edict.


  1. Funeral Charm - I can admit it, this is a pet card for me. It got a cool color shift in Planar Chaos as Piracy Charm into a color that needed the effect much more. In addition to killing X/1s, or pumping your own X/2s, or granting Swampwalk, an ability I know you envy, this card has the rare utility of instant speed discard, meaning, yes, you can make them discard the card they just drew on their draw step. Right now the UB Flicker Deck achieves the same “Rat Lock” effect by casting Ghostly Flicker on their opponent’s draw step, flickering a Chittering Rats and an Archaeomancer. But you too can deny an opponent’s draw for one mana!



Crypt Rats

  1. Echoing Decay - While this card is ok as a two mana Disfigure, it's also extra valuable as a sweeper against same name Tokens like Kuldotha Rebirth goblins and Battle Screech bird tokens


  1. Shrivel / Nausea - Or you can Sideboard in one of these Effects which kills all X/1s in play regardless of name. Great against Elves and Slippery Bogles.


  1. Evincar's Justice - The only unconditional Pyroclasm effect in Pauper comes at a steep cost, 2BB, but the buyback cost of 3 allows this card to double as a repeatable sweeper effect and even a win condition! Most seen in Caligula decks alongside Pristine Talisman, I have also seen this card recently in Orzhov Monarch decks.


  1. Crypt Rats - Pauper’s most storied sweeper. You can leave it in play as long as you need it, or use it the turn you cast it, and then use it to either sweep the board or kill you opponent. If you learn how to hold priority, you can even stack triggers to use it multiple times before it dies, like BB then B to kill Young Wolf.


  1. Pestilence - Or for one mana more, you can play Pestilence, a completely broken card that ruins limited and should have never been printed at common. Two neat lines of play with Pestilence are to keep a higher toughness creature out like a Cuombajj Witches or a Wall of Hope that can survive 1-2 pings a turn so you can keep it out indefinitely, or you can activate it on the end step so that you guarantee at least one more turn out of the card before it goes away. Great in Mono Black Devotion decks, wherever they went.


  1. Wail of the Nim - I've been getting to play with this guy again in Mirrodin flashback drafts and I love the utility. Except instead of killing Silver Myr, Pauper uses this card as a tutor target to kill tokens, Bogles and Elves. Stop me if you've heard this one before.


  1. Cower in Fear - The new addition. Almost the same as Wail of the Nim except since it shrinks toughness, it can stop regeneration effects like Wrap in Vigor.


Drain Lifes

Tendrils of Corruption

  1. Sorin's Thirst - Gaining back a couple life while trading early is a great way to survive an extra turn against Stompy. This guy is fixed at 2 mana for 2 toughness creatures.


  1. Tendrils of Corruption - And this one scales quite impressively with the number of swamps you have in play. While four mana is an exorbitant cost to pay for creature removal, gaining back a big chunk of life can buy you a couple of turns against an aggro deck that lacks card advantage.


  1. Corrupt - And for a whopping six mana you can target creatures or players. In a pinch, this is a six mana Tendrils of Corruption. Ideally though, this is a great game finisher to compliment Mr. Gary.


Exile Effects


  1. Unmake -Three Mana is a lot, especially BBB. But what you get for your investment is a card that effectively skips death triggers. Personally, I recommend Magma Spray since the card you really need exiled is Stormbound Geist. But it's a good Sideboard option in mono-black, mono-white or Orzhov Midrange decks.


  1. Oubliette - This card benefits from archaic rules text that allows the caster to exile auras on creatures in addition to the creature. Normally it wouldn't matter. If I Journey to Nowhere your Muscle Sliver wearing an Armadillo Cloak, who cares if the aura is exiled with the creature or goes to the graveyard? The reason this clause matters, if you haven't guessed yet is Rancor, one of the most powerful and recursive cards in the format. Icing on the cake, the 1BB casting cost adds two permanent devotion to fuel Gray Merchant of Asphodel.


  1. Complete Disregard / Oblivion Strike - These two live in a fringe world where black is more dominant a force than it currently is and so protection from black, especially as granted by Obsidian Acolyte is a real Achilles heel. It's nice knowing that as a black mage you actually have access to colorless removal thanks to the devoid mechanic, even if both of these cards are overcosted.



Did I miss any? Leave a note in the comments.


35 is a lot of ways to die. If only black decks mattered more in the current environment that we could see such diverse play from black spells.


I'll be back next week with more of Pauper’s Staple Effects. Let me know if there's a topic you'd like to see covered.