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Brewer's Minute: Deep Delve—Wraths


Hey, everyone! It's time for another Brewer's Minute! A while ago, we did a Deep Delve into targeted discard, which we followed up with a deep delve into counterspells. So far, the series has been pretty popular, so we're bringing it back today to talk about wraths! What are wraths? Why are they good (and bad)? Where and how should you play them? That's our topic for today on Brewer's Minute!

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What Are They?

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Wraths are named after Wrath of God, the original "destroy all creatures" card in Magic. It's the "destroy all creatures" text that makes a card a wrath (although it's worth mentioning that cards like Hour of Revelation, which don't technically say "destroy all creatures" but still have that effect, count as wraths as well). 

Wraths are a sub-category of sweepers. Sweepers refer to any cards that "sweep" away the board, which means non-wraths like Anger of the Gods and Pyroclasm fall under the heading. As a result, all wraths are sweepers, but not all sweepers are wraths. 

Wraths fall primarily into two colors—black and white—although it's arguable that some red cards (like Blasphemous Act) should be considered wraths as well, since 13 damage is generally the same as destroying all creatures. In Standard, the base rate for wraths is five mana, with cheaper wraths coming with significant downsides (see: Bontu's Last Reckoning) and more expensive wraths generally having added benefits (like Hour of Revelation). Meanwhile, in Modern, the base rate for wraths us four-mana (for Wrath of God and Damnation), while in Legacy, it drops to somewhere between three and four thanks to Toxic Deluge

What Makes Them Good?

  1. Wraths often allow you to trade one card for more than one of your opponent's cards. The biggest upside of wraths is that they often generate x-for-1s, with your single wrath trading for several of your opponent's creatures, which is essentially a strange form of card advantage.
  2. Wraths allow slower decks to catch up with more aggressive decks. Because wraths allow you to trade one of your cards for several of your opponent's creatures, they offer slower (often control) decks a way to catch up against aggro. Without the ability to kill two or three creatures at once, it would be very difficult for slower decks to stabilize and have a chance to win against aggro.
  3. Wraths protect against go-wide decks. While wraths aren't exactly safety-valve cards in the same way as Pithing Needle or Solemnity, they perform a similar function against go-wide decks like tokens. It's really hard to keep up with go-wide strategies with one-for-one removal like Fatal Push and Cast Out, so having cards like Damnation and Fumigate is necessary to keep these archetypes from running wild.
  4. Wraths answer hard-to-deal-with creatures. While this is a fringe upside, wraths give decks a way to deal with Carnage Tyrant and Slippery Bogle, which are naturally resistant to targeted removal thanks to hexproof. This is one of the reasons why wraths often show up in sideboards in both Modern and Standard.

What Makes Them Bad?

  1. Wraths are matchup dependent. The biggest downside of wraths is that while they are great in some matchups, they are dead cards in other matchups. Take Standard, for example. If you're playing against GR Dinosaurs, Fumigate is the single best card in your entire deck. On the other hand, if you are playing against Approach of the Second Sun, your Fumigate is the worst card in your deck. As such, putting wraths into your deck is, at least to some extent, a calculated risk based on the metagame.
  2. Wraths restrict deck building: Wraths are generally symmetrical, blowing up all creatures. As a result, to break the symmetry, you need to be destroying more of your opponent's creatures than your creatures. Because of this, putting wraths in your deck restricts the rest of the cards you can play. For example, you probably don't want to play Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch to accelerate into your Wrath of God.

Where to Play Them

The most common home for wraths is control decks, which not only naturally break the symmetry of wraths by playing few creatures but need wraths to catch back up against aggressive decks. In Standard, this means decks like Approach of the Second Sun, while in Modern, decks like UW and Jeskai Control are the most common home.

Another common home for wraths is decks with recursive threats, like Abzan Tokens in Standard. While Abzan Tokens is trying to make a ton of creatures, which at first glance makes the deck seem like a bad place for Fumigate, Fumigate makes a lot of sense when you consider that all of the creatures keep coming back from the graveyard, either with embalm or thanks to Hidden Stockpile.

Finally, wraths often show up in sideboards in both Standard and Modern. The sideboard wraths are typically to answer go-wide decks and also hard-to-deal-with creature decks (like Bogles or Carnage Tyrant decks). The equation is a bit different when it comes to putting wraths in sideboards, as breaking the symmetry of the wrath is less important than helping to fix problematic matchups, which is why semi-creature-heavy midrange decks often have wraths in the sideboard, even though they are unwilling to main deck them.

How to Play Them

When it comes to playing with wraths, there are basically two different plans. First, you can fire off your wrath as soon as possible, which is sometimes necessary (to stay alive) but often not ideal. Second, you can wait as long as possible to cast your wrath in the hopes that your opponent will play more creatures you can wrath away. Considering that the biggest benefit of wraths is that they can generate x-for-1 trades, the higher you can get the "x," the more powerful your wrath will be, which means waiting is often the best choice.

How to Play Them

Playing against wraths is basically the opposite of what we were just talking about. Your opponent is trying to get the "x" in x-for-1 as high as possible, while you are trying to keep the "x" in x-for-1 as small as possible. This means metering our your threats rather than just dumping your entire hand onto the battlefield while also trying to manipulate the game to a state where your opponent is forced to spend their wrath on as few creatures as possible. Then, you can refill the battlefield with the creatures you've been keeping in hand and hopefully finish off your opponent post-wrath.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today! What's your favorite wrath? What's your favorite wrath deck? Do you have any other tricks or ideas for playing with wraths? Let me know in the comments! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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