Last updated on March 9, 2021
Wrath of God | Illustration by Thomas M. Baxa
In MTG, it can sometimes be very frustrating to face an opponent who gets the best curve and builds an army of creatures before you can manage to establish even just an average board presence. Even if you’re going toe-to-toe, sometimes your opponent brings some behemoths that you simply can’t kill. There is always single-target removal, but sometimes you just need to nuke everything and start all over or face loss head-on.
This is where board wipes come into play. There are literally hundreds of board wipes in MTG, some better than others. I’ll be ranking them today to give you a quick list of the best board wipes in each color, for different formats, plus some other criteria you might find helpful.
Without further ado, let’s dive right in!
Ruinous Ultimatum | Illustration by Chase Stone
Board Wipes: What Are They?
It’s actually pretty easy to explain board wipes: they wipe the board clean. Of course, that doesn’t always mean that they destroy everything. Some of them target creatures, artifacts, enchantments, and sometimes even lands!
Some players call them “wrath” effects after Wrath of God, the very first Magic card to feature a mass removal effect. WotC likes to call them “board sweepers,” so don’t get confused if you hear all these different names. They all mean the same thing.
Almost all colors have board wipes, although white is far, far ahead. You’ll definitely be able to find one that’s suitable for your deck. That said, some board wipes are much better and used more frequently than others in competitive settings (surprised?).
The Best of the Best
Now that we have a general idea of what board wipes are, let’s get to ranking them! There are just too many of them to go over each and every one, so I’ll only be listing the very best. It’s still going to be a long list, so strap yourself in and get ready.
White Board Wipes
Starting with a simple sorcery, Planar Cleansing is pretty straightforward. It destroys everything on the board be it enchantments, artifacts, planeswalkers, or creatures. It costs six mana which isn’t bad considering its effect, but you won’t be able to use it if you get rushed early before setting up for its expensive cost. Keep in mind that “destroy” effects are useless against anything with “indestructible” or regeneration, for that matter.
Akroma’s Vengeance is another high-cost board wipe, but it nukes all artifacts, creatures, and enchantments. Cycling can help if you don’t need it right away and it’s perfect for planeswalker or sorcery- and instant-heavy decks because it won’t affect your stuff.
Austere Command also has a somewhat high cost, but it can respond to a lot of different situations. It has four options: destroy all artifacts, destroy all enchantments, destroy all creatures with a CMC of 3 or less, or destroy all creatures with a CMC of 4 or more. You get to choose two of these options, so you can manipulate the board to your advantage.
What you lose in efficiency, you gain in tremendous optionality.
Wrath of God
As the original mass removal, Wrath of God is still relevant years later and pretty strong. It costs only four mana to destroy every creature and, even though the regeneration keyword isn’t around these days, it prevents creatures from regenerating if you’re playing a format where that’s still a thing.
Terminus is one of the best options for white when it comes to board wipes. It costs more than a lot of other options, but the extra cost is negligible considering it removes indestructible creatures and denies graveyard plays. It also has the “miracle”keyword, which means that it only costs a single white mana to cast if you draw it as the first card on your turn and can give you a great tempo advantage.
Green Board Wipes
Unfortunately, green has almost no board wipes. It has some creatures that can be used as situational mass removal, but other than that, you should focus on other plays to secure your win.
Green’s thing is kind of all about creatures, so finding something that destroys all creatures is sort of antithetical to its color philosophy.
Whirlwind, like Hurricane, is a very situational board wipe. It destroys every flying creature, so it won’t probably hurt your side of the board as green doesn’t have too many fliers. However, it’s practically useless against land-based decks, so use with caution.
Wave of Vitriol
For a whopping seven mana, Wave of Vitriol can work wonders if your opponent focuses on artifacts, enchantments, and non-basic lands. Destroying lands isn’t super common because it’s really powerful, especially against multicolored decks that rely on non-basic lands.
There are some green cards like Polukranos, World Eater or Bane of Progress that could act as board wipes in certain situations, but they’re not really board wipes. There are also some board wipes similar to Whirlwind (like Windstorm) but, frankly, you should pass on board wipes if you’re playing green.
Red Board Wipes
Starstorm is a very flexible and popular board wipe for red. It’s pretty useful because it’s an instant and can get you out of a lot of tough situations. You can also cycle it if you don’t need it at the moment, which earns Starstorm a place thanks to sheer flexibility. It does become less powerful in the late game because the damage is based on your mana, though.
Fault Line is very similar to Starstorm except it doesn’t hurt flying creatures and also damages each player. It’s marginally better because it can be used to finish the game if you have the mana for it and a higher life total.
Compared to Earthquake, it costs one more mana, but can be played as an instant, so you gain some extra options using it.
One of the biggest problems with board wipes is that you can easily hurt your side of the board as well as your opponent’s. Comet Storm is a good solution for this. You get to choose which creatures you want to target, leaving your side free and clear of any damage. It doesn’t completely wipe the board like some others, but it’s an instant and it acts like a board wipe, especially in the mid and late game.
Now, this one is a pretty straightforward board wipe. Jokulhaups destroys pretty much everything on the board without discrimination. Since it also destroys all lands, you should be very careful to not end yourself in the process. Enchantment-based decks can somewhat avoid Jokulhaups and its cost can be considered somewhat high at six mana, but it’s still a very popular and powerful sweeper.
Blasphemous Act is by far the best red board wipe in my opinion. Since the cost decreases for each creature on the battlefield, it usually requires only four or five mana to cast. It also destroys every creature on the field except in some really rare situations. Combine it with Repercussion and you win the game instantly.
Blue Board Wipes
Unlike other colors, blue doesn’t usually destroy your opponents’ permanents. Evacuation is one of the stronger wipes because it’s an instant. You can use it on your opponent’s turn to force them to re-pay for and potentially discard some of their creatures. It’s also very useful against token-heavy decks.
Crush of Tentacles
Since most blue decks have cheap spells to manipulate the board, you can easily pay the surgecost of Crush of Tentacles to bounce your opponent’s creatures on top of putting an 8/8 creature on the battlefield with just five mana. In terms of mana efficiency, it’s one of the best options out there.
Flood of Tears
Flood of Tears is a somewhat recent addition to MTG, but it quickly became one of the most popular options. It returns all nonland permanents to their player’s hand but also allows you to put a permanent from your hand onto the battlefield if four or more are returned. It provides a solid advantage since you’ll probably return more than four permanents almost every time.
Another mass bounce, Devastation Tide has a cost of five mana to clear the board. What makes it so good is its miracle cost. Similar to Terminus, you can cast it for just two mana if it’s the first card you draw on your turn.
One of the most popular sweepers in MTG, Cyclonic Rift offers great flexibility. You can cast it for two mana if you’re against an imminent threat and overload it to clean the board altogether. It’s an instant and has almost no downside whatsoever, which is almost unfair, so definitely consider using it in your blue decks.
Black Board Wipes
Toxic Deluge is especially strong against indestructible foes because it gives -X/-X rather than simply destroying them. The only downside is the life cost, which makes it ineffective against stronger creatures. But for the mere cost of three mana, it is incredibly efficient.
Black Sun’s Zenith
This one is a bigger version of Toxic Deluge. Black Sun’s Zenith doesn’t have any life costs compared to the Deluge as it simply costs more mana. It also bypasses the indestructible keyword and shuffles back to your library instead of going straight to the graveyard. Plus the “shrink” effect of the counters sticks around, even if you don’t kill every creature.
Languish costs only four mana and bypasses indestructible and damage prevention, but it’s only useful against creatures with 4 toughness or less. Still, it’s a very useful card to consider.
Things are getting serious now. Life’s Finale is a fantastic sweeper not only because it destroys all creatures, but it also allows you to search your opponent’s library and remove major threats from their deck. The only downside is its high mana cost.
For only four mana, Damnation destroys all creatures and prevents them from regenerating. This is probably the best board wipe for black thanks to its extremely efficient mana cost.
Colorless Board Wipes
One thing we all know is that if you meet an opponent who goes full colorless, you need to be careful because they probably know what they’re doing. If you’re aspiring to become one of them, here are some board wipes that will make your opponent even more miserable.
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
The first and only planeswalker on the list, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon isn’t a board wipe by itself but acts like one. Its second ability exiles all permanents with a CMC of X or less that aren’t colorless, which is a fancy way of saying that it exiles pretty much anything but your stuff. Considering that Ugin starts with a loyalty counter of seven, you can use it safely in almost all cases basically right away.
I struggled hard between choosing Perilous Vault and Plague Boiler, but I think the Vault takes the upper hand here. Activating it at instant speed might be very costly, but there are better alternatives to the Boiler when it comes to delayed wipes. Perilous Vault also exiles the board rather than destroying them, so it’s more useful in most cases.
Speaking of delayed board wipes, one of the most infamous board wipes in MTG, Nevinyrral’s Disk can’t be used immediately after playing it since it enters the battlefield tapped. However, it can act as a powerful deterrent if your opponent doesn’t have any means of removing it, giving you room to manipulate the board. After paying its initial four mana cost, you only need to spend one more to destroy pretty much everything.
Oblivion Stone is one of the strongest cards out there. It has a very high mana cost but it’s a constant threat on the board. It can put a fate counter on a permanent, which excludes it from its effect when you want to use it. Your opponents need to destroy it quickly or they’ll wail when you wipe one side of the board.
All Is Dust
All Is Dust has a high cost of seven mana, but it’s a one-sided board wipe if you’re going full colorless. It bypasses indestructible and hexproof since your opponent is forced to sacrifice their creatures instead of you destroying them.
Best Board Wipes for EDH
Now we talked about all the colors, let’s talk about which sweepers are the best in Commander.
Evacuation makes the list because you can play it on your opponent’s turn and force them to discard.
Merciless Eviction is similar to Austere Command, but stronger. Although you only get to choose one option this time, you get to exile permanents rather than destroying them, which is always better. It’s a very versatile option with a somewhat high cost.
Akroma’s Vengeance takes the eighth spot because of its sheer strength. It destroys all artifacts, creatures, and enchantments. Unless your opponent has a lot of indestructible cards, it’s a great option. You can also cycle it, which adds to its versatility.
With a cost of just five mana, Time Wipe destroys all creatures and allows you to return one of your creatures to your hand. This is a really powerful mechanic as you can protect a high-value creature while otherwise clearing the board.
Blasphemous Act is really powerful if there are a lot of creatures on the battlefield, which earns it a high ranking. It’s especially powerful against token decks and you can cast it early- to mid-game most of the time.
Terminus ranks high on the list thanks to its fantastic miracle mechanic. Sure, you won’t be casting it with its miracle cost all the time, but it’s so satisfying when you do.
Doomskar is a recent addition to Magic and a pretty powerful one. Its 5-mana cost is already good, but its foretell ability gives a potential 3-mana board wipe and makes it one of the cheapest wipes you can get.
Wrath of God and Damnation
These two spells are identical except for their color. Their 4-mana cost makes them very cost-efficient. The fact that they can also prevent regeneration is just a bonus.
You guessed right, Cyclonic Rift is the best board wipe you could get in Commander. It has a high cost but, considering that it’s a one-sided board wipe, it’s unstoppable except for a counterspell and an instant. You get to force your opponent to discard some of their valuable cards, so it deserves every single mana you use to cast it.
Best Board Wipes for Modern
Hour of Revelation
Hour of Revelation usually goes under the radar, but it’s actually one of the best board wipes for Modern. Its cost drops to three mana if there are ten or more non-land permanents on the board and it wipes the board clean.
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Again, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon isn’t a board wipe in the traditional sense but gets the job done thanks to its loyalty ability.
Blue has a lot of aquatic creatures and Whelming Wave complements that characteristic. It has a rather low cost of four mana and keeps your side of the board safe if your deck focuses on sea-dwelling behemoths. The Wave would rank much higher if only it included merfolk.
It’s really easy to get rushed in Modern, so Aetherize is a great option in early- to mid-game. It doesn’t destroy your opponent’s creatures but it’s very useful since it can be cast during your opponent’s turn and give you some time to regroup. It’s much more devastating in the late game since your opponent can’t play high-value cards one after another.
Although it’s pretty useless in the late game, Languish deserves a spot thanks to its rather low cost and ability to bypass indestructible.
Martial Coup is a very powerful card in token-based decks. It’ll cost seven mana to use its effect, but it creates five or more tokens for you while destroying your opponent’s creatures. Combined with token buffs, it can easily win you the game.
A wrath spell for just four mana is pretty powerful by itself, but Kaya’s Wrath also allows you to gain life. It’s fair to say that it deserves its spot. The only downside is the mixed mana cost, otherwise it would rank much higher.
The Top Three/Four
Now, I thought a lot about including different options for the top three spots in Modern, but it just doesn’t feel right to give spots to undeserving challengers. Doomskar, Wrath of God, Damnation, and Cyclonic Rift are also legal in Modern, so they’ll take the top three for the same reasons as in Commander.
Best Cheap Board Wipes
Since we already listed most of the best board wipes in MTG, it’s blitz time!
Bontu’s Last Reckoning
Bontu’s Last Reckoning is the cheapest wrath spell you can find. However, it has a major downside that you can’t untap your lands on your next turn. It works wonders if you have enough mana to keep going and, even if you don’t, it can get you out of a tough spot as a last resort.
Languish and Mutilate
Languish once again makes the list, but this time shares its place with Mutilate. If you’re not running a multicolored deck and have a lot of swamps, Mutilate is much better, but Languish is more effective in combo decks.
A 4-mana wrath spell with life gain? Pretty good.
Wrath of God and Damnation
It’s kind of obvious why these two board wipes rank high in almost every category. 4-mana to destroy everything is just too good.
Doomskar isn’t exactly one of the cheapest if you’re paying its full cost, but foretell allows you to cast it for just three mana later in the game.
Best Instant Board Wipes
You need a little bit of mana to make good use of Comet Storm and that might be difficult on your opponent’s turn, but it definitely hurts a lot if you can manage it.
Rout is an expensive wrath spell on its own and even more costly if you want to play it as an instant, but it nukes all creatures and they can’t be regenerated. It might be expensive, but playing it as an instant can be very powerful.
Evacuation bounces every creature back to its owners’ hand and potentially forces your opponent to discard some of them. It’s also useful if you want to re-trigger some of your creatures’ ETB effects.
This one isn’t exactly an instant since it needs to already be on the battlefield, but it becomes a powerful instant/deterrent for just one mana. Yes, your opponent will be aware of the incoming board wipe, but sometimes that’s a good thing.
It’s the top place and it’s Cyclonic Rift. You shouldn’t be surprised at this point.
Best One-Sided Board Wipes
It’s a bit pricey, but Ruinous Ultimatum is a terrific one-sided wrath spell if you can pay the cost.
Settle the Wreckage
Settle the Wreckage can change the tide of the battle in an instant. Pun intended. It might be a double-edged sword since it gives your opponent some free lands, but if they don’t have many basics it becomes very useful. It also exiles attacking creatures, so you won’t be giving your opponent any room for graveyard mechanics.
All Is Dust
Another very expensive board wipe, but it bypasses pretty much anything your opponent has. It’s useless against colorless decks, though.
Except for its cost, there’s no downside to Cyclonic Rift. It just stands highest in every list.
Bonus: How to Avoid Board Wipes
We talked about all kinds of board wipes, but what about avoiding them? Although board wipes are very powerful, there are some ways to counter them. The key thing here is the keywords. Most board wipes “destroy” creatures, so one way to protect your creatures (and permanents) is to buff them with the “indestructible”keyword.
Other than that, protection from certain colors won’t protect you from wrath spells or mass removal since they only prevent the permanent from being targeted, damaged, blocked, and enchanted. Hexproof also works the same way, but since board wipes target the board, they’ll bypass these keywords.
The only remaining way to counter board wipes is with counterspells. However, this is somewhat difficult since only blue decks will have reliable means of countering. Even then, spells like Supreme Verdict can’t be countered at all. Of course, you can also try to have your opponent discard their board wipes, but that’s pretty difficult to do.
Well, it’s been a long day considering the sheer number of board wipes out there. There are probably some parts you won’t agree with me, so feel free to comment below and let me know! That’s all I’ve got for you, though. Have a good one, and stay safe!
Kaya’s Wrath | Illustration by Victor Adame Minguez