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Observations on the Removal in Kaladesh


My last article looked at the instant-speed tricks in Kaladesh, including instant-speed removal. This week, I'll look more broadly at the removal spells in Kaladesh. This insight can help our Limited game in a number of ways:

  • It helps us understand how fast/slow the format is, since cheap, efficient removal tends to lead to slower Limited formats, while expensive or very conditional removal tends to favor faster formats.
  • It helps us understand how difficult it is to kill a particular creature is, which can affect how highly we pick them, especially if they are more expensive to cast.
  • It helps us to understand how likely our opponent is to be able to kill a particular creature, which can affect when we play our creatures.
  • It can help us play around removal that kill multiple creatures at once.

Toughness-Based Removal

One-toughness creatures seem particularly vulnerable in Kaladesh Limited, since Red and Black both have spells that kill multiple one-toughness creatures. Red has Chandra's Pyrohelix and Fireforger's Puzzleknot at Common, and Aethertorch Renegade at Uncommon, while Black has Make Obsolete at Uncommon. Black also has Subtle Strike, which only kills one creature, but can also result in a two-for-one if used mid-combat or in response to a removal spell. Many of these effects are instant speed, so if your deck has a lot of one-toughness creatures, you should avoid drafting multiple pump spells, and try to play around these removal spells when possible.

In addition to these Red and Black spells, there's also Ballista Charger, an Uncommon artifact that can kill a one-toughness creature each time it attacks, and Take Down, which can kill all one-toughness flyers.

There are six spells that do two damage or give a creature -X/-2: two Commons and an Uncommon in Red (Chandra's Pyrohelix and Fireforger's Puzzleknot can do both points of damage to the same creature, and Furious Reprisal), a Common and a Mythic in Black (Die Young, which can kill larger creatures if you have energy counters from other sources, and Demon of Dark Schemes), and a multicolor Uncommon (Hazardous Conditions). This works out to an average of 9.2 spells in an eight-person draft. Two of these 9.2 spells (two Uncommons and a Mythic) kill multiple two-toughness creatures.

There are seven spells that do three damage: a Colorless Rare and Mythic (Dynavolt Tower and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship), a White Common that can only be used during combat (Impeccable Timing), a Black Uncommon (Essence Extraction), and a Common and two Uncommons in Red (Welding Sparks, Harnessed Lightning, and Incendiary Sabotage). An eight-person draft has an average of 8.1 of these removal spells, about half of which are Red. (The Red removal spells can sometimes deal more than three damage too.) Each color usually has about three drafters at an eight-person table, so even a Red/White drafter will only have about two such spells.

There are very few spells that do more than three damage:

  • Die Young (Common) provides two energy counters and then gives the target -N/-N, where N is the number of energy counters you spend.
  • Harnessed Lightning (Uncommon) provides three energy counters and then deals damage to the target equal to the number of energy counter you spend.
  • Chandra, Torch of Defiance (Mythic) does four or five points of damage, depending on which of her abilities you use.
  • Take Down (Common) does four damage to a flyer.
  • Hunt the Weak (Common) and Nature's Way (Uncommon), which do damage equal to the power of a creature you control. (Hunt the Weak puts a +1/+1 counter on the creature first, but is also a fight effect.)

Toughness-Independent Removal

Kaladesh also has a number of removal spells that don't care about the size of the creature. This list doesn't include mass removal that kills all creatures that meet a certain condition, since we will consider those spells separately.

There are an average of about 12 removal spells in an eight-person draft that don't care about the size of the target, and White, Blue, and Black have roughly 3.7 each. Each color usually has about three drafters at an eight-person table, so a drafter in one of these colors will end up with about 1.2 such removal spells on average, while a White/Blue, White/Black, or Blue/Black draft will end up with 2.4 on average.

Of these spells, there are two that let you steal an opponent's creature, both in Blue: Shrewd Negotiation at Uncommon lets you "buy" an artifact or creature in exchange for an artifact you control, and Confiscation Coup lets you steal an artifact or creature whose converted mana cost is equal to the number of energy counters you spend. (Red also has Hijack, a Common that allows you to borrow a creature for a turn, which will be covered later with the other temporary removal.)

In addition to the spells listed above, White has the Uncommon Skywhaler's Shot that cares about the creature's power instead of its toughness, and Blue has two Common bounce spells, Select for Inspection and Aether Tradewinds. (There's also the eight-energy bounce ability on the Rare Aethersquall Ancient, but that is covered later with the other mass removal effects.)

Reusable Creature Removal

Kaladesh has five spells that can kill creatures repeatedly. There's Ballista Charger and Aethertorch Renegade at Uncommon, Dynavolt Tower at Rare, and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship and Chandra, Torch of Defiance at Mythic. Alternately, Chandra, Torch of Defiance's ultimate ability allows you to do five damage for each spell you cast. Both of the Vehicles have to attack in order to do the repeated damage, although Skysovereign, Consul Flagship also does the damage when it enters play, and Aethertorch Renegade and Dynavolt Tower both require energy counters for each activation.

There are eight spells that allow you to temporarily remove creatures repeatedly: three tappers, two that prevent creatures from blocking, a mass bounce ability, one that causes your opponents' creatures to enter the battlefield tapped, and Dovin Baan, who can give an opponent's creature -3/-0 and prevent its activated abilities from being activated for a turn. Once again, there are two Uncommons, Janjeet Sentry and Maulfist Doorbuster, both of which require energy counters for each activation. There are five Rares: Deadlock Trap, Aetherstorm Roc, Aethersquall Ancient, Authority of the Consuls, and Pia Nalaar. The remaining spell is the Mythic Dovin Baan, whose abilities don't require energy.

Temporary Creature Removal

More than half of the temporary creature removal in Kaladesh is reusable, and is listed above. The five non-reusable ones are all Commons:

Non-Creature Removal

There are several creature removal spells that also affect artifacts. The only nonblue spell among them is Hijack.

Besides these, Deadlock Trap (Rare) and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship (Mythic) can target planeswalkers, Cataclysmic Gearhulk (Mythic) can punish an opponent who has multiple artifacts, multiple enchantments, or multiple planeswalkers, and Aether Tradewinds (Common) can bounce any permanent, including lands.

In addition to these spells, there are a few others that only target artifacts, enchantments, and/or lands. All of these are Common except for Creeping Mold, which is an Uncommon.

  • White: Fragmentize destroys an artifact or enchantment whose converted mana cost is four or less. The only enchantment with converted mana cost greater than four is a Mythic. There are 14 artifacts with converted mana cost greater than four: 4 Commons, 2 Uncommons, 2 Rares, and 6 Mythics. Of the Commons and Uncommons, three are Vehicles with high Crew costs and three are unexciting artifact creatures, so you're not likely to face them often. Fragmentize will usually get the job done.
  • Red: Demolish destroys an artifact or land for 3R. Ruinous Gremlin costs R to play and you can pay 2R and sacrifice it to destroy an artifact.
  • Green: Appetite for the Unnatural destroys an artifact or enchantment at instant speed for 2G. Creeping Mold destroys an artifact, enchantment, or land for 2GG.

Of these, Ruinous Gremlin and Appetite for the Unnatural are the only ways to destroy an artifact at instant speed, although Aether Meltdown can neutralize some Vehicles, and Aether Tradewinds can bounce artifacts at instant speed.

Off-Battlefield Removal

The analysis in my last article also applies here, since counterspells are necessarily instants:
"Blue has five counterspells, two Commons, two Uncommons, and a Rare. There's one each at one, two, and three mana, and two at four mana. The one mana Uncommon counters colorless spells, the two mana Common is a bad Mana Leak, and the three and four mana counterspells all require two Blue mana and are hard counters that can counter any spell."

There are three discard spells in Kaladesh: Mind Rot at Common causes them to discard two cards, Harsh Scrutiny at Uncommon allows you to make your opponent discard a creature card that you choose, and Lost Legacy at Rare requires your opponent to know (or guess) which card you have in your hand.

Conclusion

Kaladesh has a number of spells that kill multiple one-toughness creatures, so you should be careful about drafting a lot of one-toughness creatures and of casting your second one if you have alternatives. Many of these effects are instant speed, so if your deck has a lot of one-toughness creatures, you should avoid drafting multiple pump spells, and try to play around these removal spells when possible.

An eight person draft also has about nine spells that do two damage or give -X/-2, about ten spells that do three damage or give -X/-3, and about 12 removal spells that don't care about the creature's toughness, which may affect how you sequence playing your creatures.

The mass removal spells in the set include three Uncommons that kill creatures with one, two, and three-toughness. Black has a Mythic that gives all other creatures -2/-2, while White has a Day of Judgment effect at Rare, and Cataclysm on a creature at Mythic. In addition to these, Blue has mass temporary removal in the form of Aethersquall Ancient, a Rare with an eight-energy ability that bounces all other creatures. There are also a handful of spells that kill multiple creatures without killing all creatures, mostly in Red: Fireforger's Puzzleknot and Chandra's Pyrohelix at Common, Furious Reprisal at Uncommon, and Eliminate the Competition at Rare.

The reusable removal in Kaladesh (both temporary and permanent) is all Uncommon, Rare, or Mythic, and many of those abilities require energy counters.

There are several creature removal spells that also affect artifacts, of which Malfunction and Confiscation Coup are the most playable. There's also Aether Meltdown, but that can only enchant creatures and Vehicles. Of the spells that can only target non-artifacts, Fragmentize and Appetite for the Unnatural are the best options.

Relative to other sets, Kaladesh has particularly strong creatures, so I think counterspells are even weaker than they usually are in draft, but Ceremonious Rejection is worth drafting for your sideboard. On the other hand, Harsh Scrutiny might be better in this format since it costs a single mana, gets rid of the most threatening of their unplayed creatures, and lets you scry 1.


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