Last updated on October 18, 2022
Blasphemous Act | Illustration by Daarken
Sometimes the game gets away from you when you’re playing a fast deck. Control stalls you out and you need a reset button. Red board wipes can do that while also cleaning up planeswalkers and triggering damage effects like Stuffy Doll.
Destructive Force (Magic 2011) | Illustration by Jung Park
A board wipe ideally will destroy all the creatures on the table. Although some red sweepers do that, most of them are damage-based instead of destroy-all or exile-all effects. That means that creatures can simply be too big for these spells to kill.
But an upside to that is that the damage often gets splashed to other things, like players and planeswalkers, which is a unique benefit.
Another bonus is that they can be scaled to fit your board. Got a lot of chonkers on your side? Sweeping tokens away while your teams weathers the storm can be an excellent strategy. Think of the Ents withstanding the flood while goblins get washed away at the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
Unless you’re mono red, these are likely role players, but these are often unfamiliar cards to players used to packing Day of Judgment for their sweeping needs, so there may be some gems with odd effects you might find useful for your Commander deck in this list.
Ready to burn through the list?
I’m going to leave this as a proxy for the dozens of cards in red, from the single-damage Tremor to cards that only kill non-flyers. There will be times when that will make you feel like a genius in your dragon decks or whatever, but other times they’re just silly.
RIP to the OG.
Inferno as a tap ability? I mean, why not? It’s on a fragile creature that can do wicked things with that first anti-blue ability.
I’ve never seen this actually work, but I’ve heard tales of Skirk Fire Marshal doing work in a goblins deck. With enough goblins you can kill the table. Oh, it’s also a sweeper, it seems.
Magma Phoenix belongs in a deck with a sac engine. In a board stall, this can feel very oppressive to play against. Otherwise, you’ll just feel bad when someone exiles this.
If you’re playing blink with access to red, Caldera Hellion can be sooooo obnoxious. I’m convinced that Boros () blink will be a thing someday, and I’ll keep playing that deck until a good commander comes along for my Seasoned Pyromancer and Firbolg Flutist! Of course, this card is in that deck. Watch out!
I guess this is something to do while you ramp to your Eldrazi? Disaster Radius can be that for you while it sits in your hand waiting to get ‘em with a one sided-board wipe that you can’t draw the second card for.
Again, two for three isn’t great, but to do this at instant speed and hit players is nice.
Noticing a pattern? Two for three isn’t great, but to do this at instant speed and spare your flyers is great, especially for Izzet () decks.
Three for four is below rate, but if you roll well and save something important on your side, I guess that’s not bad for Thunderwave.
Three for four is below rate. But Fiery Confluence can instead dome everyone for six, which is big game.
Four for five isn’t super great. And Lavaball Trap is terrible at eight mana. Still, it’s an instant, folks. Take note.
It’s kind of a hot take putting this up so high, I know. Why do you want this card? In a tokens deck, Heat Stroke can keep you alive as the boards of other players start to outclass yours. Let’s say you’re playing Krenko, Mob Boss. Seems okay, right? Note that Heat Stroke is an enchantment, so you can just keep giving your tokens the equivalent of deathtouch.
Two mana for two is still good. Pyroclasm handles most tokens and obnoxious utility creatures. If your deck is weak to go-wide strategies, these kinds of mini-sweepers will keep you in the game a bit better than more expensive sweepers.
#21. Rough // Tumble
Okay, this probably isn’t great, but Sudden Demise can be absolutely hilarious. In a mono-red EDH deck, you have to include this as multicolor creatures become ever more prevalent. Worst case, you nab an annoying creature or two. Best case, you obliterate the table. Middle ground for eating someone’s token army while keeping your goblin on the table still isn’t bad.
Sweltering Suns is a lot worse without the… wait, we’re finally here. Three for three is good for getting most things, and you can cycle it away if that’s not relevant. If Commander had sideboards, Sweltering Suns would probably go there.
Four for six is way below rate, but that’s the floor as a sweeper when she drops. So, six for this planeswalker is way too much given other Chandras, but Chandra, Flamecaller can fill a board-wipe space in a deck that isn’t sure whether it really wants one. A planeswalker sweeper is useful, and in the meantime Chandra, Flamecaller can make hasty tokens.
Inferno is about as good as it gets for a wrath at instant speed. Sure, it’s too expensive and it’s hard to pass the turn with seven mana up and a straight face, but whatever, you know?
Beautifully flexible. For six mana, Starstorm will wipe most of the board, usually, which is below rate, but it scales up and down and also cycles!
Four for four is good. Storm’s Wrath probably isn’t big enough to actually wipe most boards these days, but it does hit planeswalkers.
Look, as a board wipe, Pyrohemia does its Pestilence impression pretty well. But like that card, it’s not super efficient as a board wipe at one go. It’s nice that you can keep using it, but only if you have one big beater like Charix, the Raging Isle who keeps surviving. Really, this card is useful as a combo piece for decks like Kazarov, Sengir Pureblood or Neheb, the Eternal.
Sure, Structural Assault wipes out your Treasures and mana rocks, but it does so for everyone else as well. There aren’t a lot of ways to wipe artifacts at instant speed, but if someone drops a Fracturing Gust on your turn, you can still cast Structural Assault and it counts those dead rocks. Similarly, they can’t sac their Treasures to get out of the damage as the card still counts those. With your Dockside Extortionist in play you can wipe the board on turn two with this, which is a rare but sobering possibility.
If I pay six mana, I hit seven things for six damage. That’s below rate, but Comet Storm’s ability to hit players as burn also helps a lot. In late game, this can wipe all the creatures that matters on opponents’ boards while leaving yours intact. That’s big game. Also, it’s an instant. No other instant can levy damage across lots of targets the way this can.
Five for five is good. And the ability to save a creature or two is a nice Time Wipe-style effect. The trouble is Temporal Firestorm counts as Jeskai () colors for EDH with those kickers, so its color identity will limit the number of decks it can enter.
Five for five is good. Since it can hit planeswalkers, that’s enough to remove a just-ticked-up Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and other menaces. The other mode is just amazing, though. I’ve won outright with the devils as attackers in Standard, especially when Burn Down the House gets run in an Arcane Bombardment deck.
Seven to kill the board and that one Cabal Coffers over there is a bit expensive to cast, but if you absolutely need to kill the superfriends player dead, accept no substitutes.
In Commander, this will usually kill the board for four mana. That’s why Chain Reaction matters. Four-mana board wipes in red usually top out at four damage, which sometimes isn’t enough. Sure, this is nerfed if there are only three creatures on the table, but in that case, save your sweeper for later.
Here we pour one out in salute for the cards that have taken inspiration from the OG red wipe Jokulhaups and have become the salt bombs of the format. Rule 0 conversations in Commander generally aim for a game everyone can play, and mass land destruction is often thrown off the table at that time. This begins to feel more problematic as lands get more and more powerful, but the idea is that wiping all the resources off the board just makes the games take too long. So, here’s a Rule 0 Tier List of board wipes that wipe maybe the entire board, not just creatures:
Five lands isn’t as bad as the rest of these, so maybe they’ll let you get away with Destructive Force? Five damage for seven is a bad rate as a sweeper, though.
Devastating Dreams is super powerful in a deck that wants to fill the graveyard fast. It seems most likely that you’re sweeping for two or three damage with this, which is decent for the rate. And that’s maybe an acceptable level of land destruction for the table, especially because Devastating Dreams lets people choose their dead lands?
For ten mana this leaves enchantments and planeswalkers on the field, but it also hits graveyards. And it cycles just to kill lands! So Decree of Annihilation is pretty salty without being good enough for the enmity.
Seven for creatures and lands. Hard to imagine Devastation is worth it unless you actually just want it for the lands, which apparently makes you the bad guy, then.
The scourge of LGS casual Magic back in the day, this has the best rate for these kill-em-all kinds of cards. Six mana for all this is actually still a decent rate after all these decades for Jokulhaups.
Brutal. I mean, it’s the Apocalypse, right? The classic trick for all these kinds of things is Taniwha if you have another source of mana to get to the five casting cost on the turn your lands phase out. A later trick is to drop Teferi’s Protection. There are others.
Listen, between you and me, if you play this while keeping your lands to win, bravo. But if you just make us start over and grind it out for another two hours, we’re not cool at all.
Recently unbanned, I like the weird, tense mini game that happens when Worldfire is cast. I feel like this is a must-include if you’re trying to make mono-red work in EDH. You reset the board and hope to topdeck your Monastery Swiftspear or Lightning Bolt before the combo and control players can do anything. Okay. Respect.
Tidy Conclusion | Illustration by Bastien L. Deharme
In most of my decks that touch on red, I run a few of these sweepers, even if there seem to be better sweepers in my other colors. These are really flexible spells, and some of them are cheap enough and small enough to bide you time until you need to pull out your Farewell or Blood on the Snow.
See you next time. Meanwhile, feel the burn, crafters!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: