Last updated on April 30, 2023
Invoke Despair | Illustration by Donato Giancola
Hello planeswalkers! Welcome back to your source for the best cards and synergies to take your MTG play to the next level. Today let’s take a look at black removal spells. Removal is on the mind of every single MTG player. If you’re not disrupting your opponent’s plan, then you’re most likely doomed to lose.
Here at Draftsim we’re taking a look at all the different colors of removal and how their specific removal spells fit into the meta and (hopefully) your future builds. I can’t think of a better color to highlight for removal than black. So let’s get right down to it and destroy your opponent’s strategies with black removal spells!
What Is Black Removal in MTG?
The Elderspell | Illustration by Daarken
Today we’ll be focusing on the mono-black cards that remove permanents from the battlefield. We’ll look at sacrifice, destroy, exile, and -X/-X effects and how they can alter an opponent’s strategies. Multicolored spells that splash black mana are also powerful and should be highly considered, but let’s keep today’s lesson to the mono-black removal we all know and love.
#35. The Elderspell
The Elderspell is a highly specific removal spell for your superfriends decks. This card will most likely be a sideboard piece, but it can have great value against a planeswalker-heavy opponent. Any way to remove threats and pump your planeswalkers is a great strategy in my book.
#34. Tragic Slip
Morbid is a great keyword to pair up with many of the removal cards we’re discussing. You can snowball your removal in a single turn or use a chump blocker with Tragic Slip to remove even the biggest of threats. Make sure you always have ways to kill or sacrifice creatures to maximize the removal power of Tragic Slip.
#33. Battle at the Bridge
Let’s include a decent black removal spell for artifact decks. Battle at the Bridge is a variable-cost removal spell that can be made as big as needed or can be afforded. The value is that this card has improvise to help increase the value of X. If you’re considering an artifact deck in black, then Battle at the Bridge is a wonderful addition.
#32. Necrotic Fumes
I’ll include Necrotic Fumes because of its lesson card type. It fits well into Golgari () sacrifice decks and can be stashed in your sideboard. Make sure to include your learn spells like Eyetwitch and Hunt for Specimens. The exile a creature casting cost is very much worth exiling a creature or planeswalker that’s giving you trouble.
There’s no black removal article that can’t mention Murder. It’s the no-nonsense and non-restricting removal spell. The three CMC and creature focus are what limit its value as removal, but everyone loves a good ol’ Murder card.
#30. Malicious Affliction
Removal spells with morbid often allow you to remove multiple threats in a single turn. Malicious Affliction takes that idea to another level by copying the spell if the morbid keyword is satisfied. For two mana and morbid, you may remove two nonblack creatures. That’s wonderful value!
#29. Royal Assassin
When talking about black removal, it’s always good to mention some of the creatures that have removal abilities. Royal Assassin is a wonderful deterrent for non-vigilance creatures.
#28. Avatar of Woe
Avatar of Woe is a crazy versatile card. First, the ten creatures in all graveyards can easily be satisfied by sacrificing creatures and using removal. Next, you get a big creature that’s hard to block. Finally, you have wonderful removal if you need it in the later game. This is a wonderful black card for Modern and Eternal formats.
#27. Do or Die
Do or Die is a fun Eternal card to force your opponent to make a decision. Your opponent chooses between two piles of creatures to destroy. So, separate one powerful creature from a few smaller ones, or just separate creatures that combo off with each other. There are many possibilities with this card, so have fun!
#26. Sheoldred’s Edict
Sheoldred's Edict is a new Standard darling removal card. For aggressive decks, this is a great card for removing threats in your path. For the later game, the planeswalker removal is fantastic. The sacrifice ability is also fantastic to get around hexproof and indestructible.
#25. Chainer’s Edict
Making a player sacrifice a creature can be a great strategy to navigate tricky keywords. Chainer's Edict allows you to use this spell twice with flashback. The major downside is the cost of seven mana for the flashback ability. Sacrifice has its purposes but can also be easily navigated by your opponent with tokens and cheap creatures.
It seems that every few sets, there’s a creature that ETBs and makes both players sacrifice a creature. This is hopefully used to sacrifice a weak creature to take out one of your opponent’s powerful creatures. Plaguecrafter may be the best example of this type of creature. It doesn’t have any requirements for the sacrifice and the three CMC is curve-friendly.
#23. Victim of Night
Victim of Night is a great and classic black removal spell, with fantastic art if I might say. The restrictions of targets lowers its value, but for most situations, this card is going to do exactly what’s needed.
#22. Force of Despair
Force of Despair is a wonderful trick removal. With all your mana tapped, you can lure your opponent into a false sense of advantage. By exiling a black card from your hand, you can destroy all the creatures that entered the battlefield this turn. This is a cerebral kind of removal card, and I’m here for all the wonderful interactions this card can create.
#21. Annihilating Glare
We need to include some of the sacrifice cost removal spells as well. I choose Annihilating Glare because it’s legal everywhere, it can destroy creatures and planeswalkers, and you have a bigger casting cost option if you don’t want to sacrifice a creature. There are plenty of great sacrifice casting cost removal spells that can fit the flavor of any deck that wants them.
#20. Eat to Extinction
Eat to Extinction is a great creature and planeswalker removal card. The instant speed and exiling instead of destroying adds some great value to this card. Eat to Extinction also gains some value when you can play with your graveyard.
Defile is a fantastic mono-black removal card. For one mana you can give a creature -1/-1 counters equal to the number of Swamps you control. This is a one-drop that you may want to wait with to maximize its impact.
Shriekmaw is a widely popular removal creature in Modern and Eternal formats. You have the opportunity to remove a nonartifact, nonblack creature for two mana if needed. If you can hold out longer, then you get a decent creature with fear and removal. This is an all-around great addition to decks that need some removal and creature presence.
#17. Snuff Out
Your life total can be used as a resource. Snuff Out gives you the option of using an alternate casting cost of four life instead of paying its CMC. Having the option of using your mana in other places gives this card huge value for responding to threats while developing your board presence. You do need to control a Swamp to use the alternative casting, so make sure you include some of the basic Swamps with your other nonbasic lands.
Dismember is a wonderful way to remove pesky creatures. The -5/-5 will remove the majority of creatures and creatures with indestructible. The value of Dismember is the flexibility of casting with the two Phyrexian mana. The size of the minus counters and flexibility of casting makes this a must-have removal in Modern and Eternal formats.
#15. March of Wretched Sorrow
March of Wretched Sorrow plays very well in many black decks. There are so many great black cards that take some life, so pair some more removal with lifegain to adjust for your lost life. Use expensive and hand-busting cards like Plague Wind to remove a creature or planeswalker and gain the lost life back from cards like Phyrexian Arena.
#14. Heartless Act
Heartless Act is a cheap removal spell with some restrictions. Unlike other removal spell restrictions like nonartifact, this card can’t destroy any creatures with counters on them. There are more than plenty of cards that can give counters, so beware. This card may have a lot more value if the second text read “Remove up to three counters from target nonland permanent.”
Cheap removal can take a deck to really competitive heights. Vendetta costs one mana to destroy a nonblack creature. The downside is you lose life equal to that creature’s toughness. Vendetta is a great removal spell if you have contingencies to deal with the loss of life.
#12. Feed the Swarm
When building a deck, it’s always important to be able to also stop or remove the noncreature permanents. Feed the Swarm gives us the option of enchantment hate, and if your opponent isn’t using enchantments, you also have creature removal. It’s great to have removal that’s versatile in different game situations, but do mind the loss of life.
#11. Cut Down
Cut Down is an absolute staple in Standard at the time of writing. If you’re reading this after rotation, I can safely bet that it’s a staple for Modern and Historic too. Cut Down has a surprisingly wide range of different MTG creatures it can remove for the cheap and quick cost of one mana.
#10. Liliana, Dreadhorde General
I don’t think I could do a black removal article without one Liliana planeswalker. I choose Liliana, Dreadhorde General because when you make an opponent and yourself sacrifice creatures, you also get to draw. Shoutouts to Liliana of the Veil, Liliana of the Dark Realms, and all the other Liliana planeswalkers and their removal abilities.
#9. Doom Blade
Doom Blade is a no-nonsense removal spell in most non-Standard formats. For two mana you can remove any nonblack creature. This card’s only downsides are the nonblack restriction and destroying the creature instead of exiling it. I don’t think you can go wrong with a removal spell like this.
#8. Go for the Throat
Go for the Throat is a popular reprinted removal of nonartifact creatures. The two mana and limited restrictions makes this spell a wonderful removal spell that’s curve-friendly. It’s especially getting a ton of play in Standard at the time of writing.
#7. Soul Shatter
Soul Shatter is a great card to take out your opponent’s “biggest” threat. Making an opponent sacrifice their highest CMC creature or planeswalker will often take out the strategy they’ve been building towards. There’s also a ton of value in making an opponent sacrifice to circumnavigate targeting and protection problems.
#6. Deadly Rollick
Deadly Rollick is a Commander-must black removal. If you control your commander, this spell is free and it exiles that creature instead of destroying it. This is almost a no-brainer card to include in any Commander deck that supports black.
#5. Bloodchief’s Thirst
Bloodchief's Thirst is the flexible kind of removal card many players seek, and for good reason. It allows you to remove early threats like Stoneforge Mystic and Gideon, Battle-Forged, and later threats like Elder Gargaroth or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. The viability of playing this card at any phase in a match makes this card beloved and widely used.
#4. Infernal Grasp
Infernal Grasp is an all-around great removal spell. The cheap and instant speed spell can take care of any creature threat you may face. This card is wonderful for slowing aggressive plays and gives you a massive mana advantage when targeting big creatures. Don’t fear the minus two life too much, but have some sort of contingency plan for it.
#3. Baleful Mastery
When exiling something, you often have to pay up for this ability. Baleful Mastery allows you to cheaply exile a creature or planeswalker if you’re okay with your opponent drawing a card. I’m here to tell you that you should be totally fine with this. More times than not you’ll pay the four mana, but when you’re against the wall the two-mana alternate casting cost may be a lifesaver. Exiling is better than destroying and also being able to target planeswalkers makes cards like Baleful Mastery wonderful removal spells.
#2. Murderous Rider
The adventure cards of the Throne of Eldraine set can be quite powerful. Murderous Rider allows you to remove a creature or planeswalker and then play a creature with lifelink. This dual form of casting squeezes so much value out of each card with adventure. Murderous Rider is a removal spell and creature to put into many black decks in most non-Standard formats.
#1. Invoke Despair
Invoke Despair is a killer sorcery for any deck that can consistently get to four black mana by turn 5 or 6. This card gives you a wide range of removal, and for every card type that’s not removed, you draw a card and deal direct damage. Invoke Despair is the game-changing removal spell you need in black decks.
Best Black Removal Payoffs and Synergies
Building your decks around removing your opponent’s board can greatly benefit cards like Gisa, Glorious Resurrector, Massacre Wurm, and Morbid Opportunist.
By sacrificing your permanents to remove your opponent’s, you can get aristocrat effects from cards like Blood Artist, Grave Pact, and Mahadi, Emporium Master.
Black aggro creatures like Knight of the Ebon Legion, Demonic Embrace, and Phyrexian Fleshgorger can benefit from removing the obstacles in their way.
Removal spells are up there with the best ways to control a game. Remove threats and live long enough to play your win cons like Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Grave Betrayal, or Exsanguinate.
Reanimating your removal creatures with cards like Dread Return and Malakir Rebirth will give these cards even more value.
You don’t always have to focus on your own graveyard. Sending an opponent’s powerful permanents to the graveyard for you to grab later is a wonderful strategy. Your removal spells will help the likes of Rise of the Dark Realms and The Cruelty of Gix well.
These two styles of decks can benefit from removing all creature threats. Your removal spells can support your slow grind to cards like Lolth, Spider Queen or Nemesis of Reason.
Force of Despair | Illustration by Seb Mckinnon
Removal is one of the cornerstones of MTG. The black color themes are known for exiling, sacrificing, and destroying all threats to their dominance. The black removal spells will take any of your Constructed decks that have black mana to another level. In Limited, some black removal is even worth splashing for just to have them!
I’m just one man with one opinion. If you don’t agree with my rankings or believe I left out a vital black removal spell, please leave a comment below, or you can find us over on Twitter.
As always, keep fighting and grinding!
Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: