Last updated on March 3, 2023
Cyclonic Rift (Double Masters) | Illustration by Chuck Lukacs
Blue is perhaps the worst color at removal, whether targeted removal or board wipes. Hey, you can’t be good at everything. Leave some pie for the other colors, hm?
It feels like bad news if you’re building a mono-blue EDH deck and are looking for something besides the Cyclonic Rift that your LGS or playgroup has just banned. But there is hope.
Let’s dive deep into blue board control!
What Are Blue Board Wipes in Magic?
Crush of Tentacles | Illustration by Jama Jurabaev
Blue doesn’t generally have destruction and exile effects the way you see in most colors’ board wipes. The few spells that do that tend to replace the creatures with tokens, which is a definite step down from Day of Judgment or Shadows’ Verdict type of effects. You could say blue deals in board control instead of wipes.
Blue is best at temporarily wiping the board through returning creatures to hand, tapping them down, or phasing them out. Those are clearly more tempo in nature than a Blasphemous Act, but it can have the same effect as a board wipe on the outcome of the game. Remember playing against Kiora Bests the Sea God in Standard a few years ago? All board wipes are kind of temporary at best against go wide or aggro strategies.
Blue’s approach to board wipes has some hidden benefits. Imagine you’re playing Talrand, Sky Summoner, still one of the most popular mono-blue commanders. You don’t really want to wipe your drakes off the board but you’d love to lock down an opponent (or all opponents!) so that your drakes can swing in freely. Blue has more one-sided board wipes than any other color when put in that perspective.
In an increasing aristocrats Commander world, sometimes your opponent(s) might want a destructive board wipe to start stacking up The Meathook Massacre triggers. Blue can lock down the board without generating any pesky triggers like that.
There may be a place for blue board wipes even when paired with colors that have good traditional board wipes of their own. There’s something sneaky and unexpected here, and there may be a few hidden gems.
Most cards that only hit one player’s creatures or permanents didn’t make this list. Most of them don’t seem playable outside of Commander, and you need to deal with multiple players’ boards in EDH. There are some more situational or expensive board wipes that didn’t make the cut either, but 35 should be enough to start digging for buried treasure.
#33. Siren’s Call
Siren’s Call is a destructive board wipe for one mana. It hits only one opponent, but it’s still useful. The trouble is that you need to pair it with something like No Mercy to seal the deal. That’s janky, but it’s good to know it exists if you’re playing in this space of effects.
#32. Perplexing Test
There are lots of times Perplexing Test allows your Drake tokens to have the last laugh or your Voltron commander to sweep aside a table of tokens. There’ll usually be a mix of things out there, and Perplexing Test just feels frustrating. It’s still worth building around.
#31. Thousand Winds
This seems like a gotcha. An opponent attacks and bam! Flip Thousand Winds and got ‘em! Your opponents also play this Magic, so they know there’s rarely a morph card in a predominantly blue deck that’s not this or Willbender. They’ll take steps.
I don’t know if this is worth it as a regular 6-drop, even in a blink deck.
#30. Distorting Wake
You can bounce three things for six mana. Distorting Wake is unplayable from that perspective. This can give you a mass bounce of everything but your stuff if you have a deck that makes a lot of mana. That’s nice, but it’s still a lot of mana.
#29. Crush of Tentacles
This is okay for a mass bounce. If you’re playing Two-Headed Giant, the surge cost and added effect of Crush of Tentacles is wacky.
Bouncing a side swinging at you with Aetherize is good. It used to be better than the next entries, but I almost prefer tapping down to bouncing in an age of power-creeping ETBs.
#27. Cone of Cold
Sorcery speed is rough. Four mana to tap down everything with a 50% shot at keeping it tapped for another turn is fine at best for Cone of Cold.
#26. Gridlock + Icy Blast + Reality Spasm
Being able to tap down a lot of things at an instant speed is useful. These are all nutso with Hinata, Dawn-Crowned. These are fine inclusions if you have a deck with a lot of mana.
I’m not sure what noncreatures you’re tapping with Gridlock that matter. Icy Blast is extra good on ferocious mode. Reality Spasm can be used to untap defenders in a pinch or to tap down lands to stop instant speed replies next turn phase.
Four mana to tap down everything is a lot easier on the mana pool than on previous cards. Still, Blustersquall isn’t quite as good as what’s coming up.
Here’s a hot take for a chill list. Ensnare is busted, and no one plays it. You can buy it for a lot less than a dollar.
It has defensive uses if it sounds like someone is gunning for you before they declare attackers. That’s so clunky it probably explains the cost. If used as an aggressive board control card, this bombs. Run it with no mana up on your last opponent’s end step and you can swing in lethally. I’ve killed an EDH table with this.
#23. Wash Out
Wash Out is sneaky good. In a local meta it could be the best card on this list. Everyone plays green ramp, huh?
#22. Consuming Tide
Consuming Tide leaves everyone their best thing, but it may be worth it at four mana.
#21. Tempest Caller
Tempest Caller is mostly offensive in nature because it affects only one player’s creatures, but it can explode its Sleep effects in a blink deck.
#20. Curse of the Swine
I get less and less excited about Curse of the Swine and have started dropping it from decks. It exiles creatures and replaces them with nerfed tokens. That’s decent against decks with creature synergies (read: lots of decks).
You need the mana to pay for it, I’m sure you can think of something better to do with 30 spare mana than this. It’s pretty legit if used as a 3-drop to exile a problem creature, though.
#19. The Phasing of Zhalfir
I still haven’t figured out how to use the first two chapters effectively, and The Phasing of Zhalfir doesn’t do much good against most token decks. The third chapter actually destroys things in blue, which is noteworthy for this. It doesn’t exile like Curse of the Swine, but it’s cheap to cast compared to the Curse.
#18. Illithid Harvester
You need enough mana to tap down with Illithid Harvester. If you have it, you lock creatures down for a turn and then nerf them into 2/2s. With less mana you can focus on wiping away the biggest threats.
#17. Cryptic Command
The best tapper, Cryptic Command can also use a second mode when cast to combine for a counterspell or tap down blowout.
Turnabout is a mass tapper that can untap your lands. It’s your card if you need some infinite combo potential in an otherwise innocent seeming package.
#15. March of Swirling Mist
Assuming you have lots of mana or are running Hinata, Dawn-Crowned, March of Swirling Mist can really create havoc. If you phase out opposing attackers they don’t phase back in until the start of their turn. That player is now wide open for a crackback.
This can be used to just flick aside defenders at the right time. It’s also great to defend against opponent removal.
#14. Flood of Tears
Flood of Tears is the second best of the 6-mana bounce spells. It hits all nonland permanents and can bounce or drop a new creature for you.
#13. Whelming Wave
Four mana for a mass bounce is great. You can facepalm if running against a changeling deck or that other person you know who plays kraken tribal, but Whelming Wave is good. Not overwhelming, not underwhelming.
#12. Coastal Breach
Four mana for a mass bounce is great, and that’s the cost of Coastal Breach at a full 4-player table.
#11. Fade Away
The downside here is that your opponents need to be tapped out and that this is sorcery. Sometimes the stars align and Fade Away just wrecks the table.
It also always wrecks a tokens board because they generally don’t have enough lands to cover this. Opponents you target can sac other permanents instead of their creatures, so they could get around Fade Away with a Treasure hoard.
#10. Displacement Wave
Displacement Wave climbs the list as the game gets faster and EDH boards are clogged with all kinds of tokens. Two mana to smash all Treasures, token creatures, Clues, Food, and other tokens is pretty decent for this.
This card gets worse at higher mana costs, but part of blue’s historic board control problem is that everything costs at least four (usually six or more) mana.
#9. Turbulent Dreams
Turbulent Dreams can only wipe a small board if you haven’t drawn a million cards with Reliquary Tower in play. Sometimes you need a board wipe for just a few things.
This is just a bonus in a deck that wants to feed the graveyard. I may put this into my Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver deck now that I really look at it.
Five mana for Evacuation is about as good as it gets for this kind of table-wide bounce, and it’s on par with the cost of board wipes in other colors.
#7. Devastation Tide
Take our previous card and pump it up to 11 by also hitting noncreature permanents. Devastation Tide has that janky miracle option.
#6. Spectral Deluge
At six mana, Spectral Deluge is still decent. Being able to foretell it and cast it for three mana is ridonkulous.
#5. Scourge of Fleets
Scourge of Fleets just locks the table in misery in a blink deck, which is the definition of blue mage fun. I like to run it as the only creature in my Talrand, Sky Summoner deck and tutor up my Polymorph to act as a Transmogrify on one of my drakes. You’re welcome.
#4. Kederekt Leviathan
The get-wrecked leviathan is a blinkable overloaded Cyclonic Rift for one more mana from hand. What’s nice is that the unearth effect reanimates itself to cause mayhem in any graveyard recursion deck.
Kederekt Leviathan is expensive to cast, but a Rift on a stick you can Reanimate? Sure!
#3. Thing in the Ice / Awoken Horror
Thing in the Ice blanks against horror tribal and against changelings, it can trigger astonishingly quickly, perhaps even on the turn it hits the table.
It would feel weird to give the top spot to a card that’s banned in Commander. Upheaval just resets the game. Mass land bounce is second to mass land destruction on people’s salt-inducers, and for good reason.
If you play this and don’t have a way to claw back and win, it just makes the world hate your guts. If you do this with some mana floating and drop a bomb, oops you win?
#1. Cyclonic Rift
Could there be anything else? Cyclonic Rift ranks highest among these cards on EDHREC’s salt list. It can reset the game when cast for its overload cost because it bounces all nonland permanents.
In a pinch you can just use Cyclonic Rift like the adventure side of Brazen Borrower. Power plus flexibility is a winner.
Flood of Tears | Illustration by Adam Paquette
Wiping the board feels like a hard reset. Everything’s gone. Begin again. The slate may be clean, but your opponents may have fresh new threats ready to go. In the end, wiping the board is always only a temporary solution.
Blue board wipes have a place at the table. They’re the most temporary, but they can do things other board wipes can’t. You can rebuy your ETBs or you can avoid generating death triggers or filling opponents’ graveyards. You have better answers to indestructible tribal in Commander. Yes, that’s a thing! No, it’s not very good!
What are your favorite board wipe effects in blue? Are you ready to try a few of these for yourself? Let us know in the Draftsim Discord, on Twitter, or in the comments below.
See you later, blue mages. You got this!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: