Last updated on April 26, 2023
Chaos Warp (Mystical Archive) | Illustration by Anato Finnstark
Red has it made when it comes to efficient removal spells for creatures and artifacts. Unlike black, which typically just outright destroys a creature or permanent, red finds its removal in the form of direct damage more often than not. In fact, what makes many red removal spells good isn’t just the amount of damage you get for the mana you’re paying, but how limited you are in where you can direct that damage.
Today I’m breaking down the top red removal spells in the game from worst to best. It mostly includes damage-based removal spells, but I’ll also give some of the best artifact removal spells a mention. Let’s get started!
What Is Red Removal in MTG?
Lightning Bolt | Illustration by Christopher Moeller
Red removal is any card that’s exclusively red, no multicolored or colorless, and either destroys, exiles, or gets rid of something in one way or another, usually permanents. This includes everything from Lightning Bolt, your classic direct-damage spell, to Avalanche Riders.
Shock is pretty much the baseline here. Every other card on the list is better, and it’s a solid starting point since it has so many better versions.
As is, this is a 1-mana spell for 2 damage to anything. It’s a great card on its own, and even now it still occasionally sees play in burn decks within formats with limited direct-damage spells.
#29. Flame-Blessed Bolt
Flame-Blessed Bolt is a direct upgrade to Shock. It does everything that Shock does, but it has the added benefit that it exiles the creature or planeswalker it might have hit if it would die this turn. It exiles if that spell kills it, or something else does that turn!
#28. Raze the Effigy
Raze the Effigy is sort of like the Shock of red artifact removal. It’s instant speed artifact destruction for one red mana. Any other artifact removal piece beyond has that same value or better.
Just goes to show how strong red is at dealing with artifact threats when you get that level of ability on such a cheap card.
Strangle is, unfortunately, not instant speed. But three damage for one mana is Lightning Bolt levels of efficiency.
This is a great card if you’re playing this in a format or group where the sorcery speed and targeting limitations aren’t too much of a drawback.
#26. Burst Lightning
Burst Lightning gives you two damage for one mana, or four damage for five mana. Again, this is slightly better than Shock.
I think the ability to pay extra and get more damage is stronger than the inability to target planeswalkers.
#25. Magmatic Sinkhole
Magmatic Sinkhole is a 6-mana instant that deals five damage. That sucks, but with the ability to become much cheaper, as cheap as just one red mana, it becomes a lot more valuable.
Delve is a great ability that I love to take advantage of, and it’s really easy to get going as the game progresses. Especially if you’re running a deck with fetch lands.
#24. Spit Flame
Spit Flame is a little bit bigger in every way. More damage, more expensive, and it can come back from the graveyard multiple times if you’ve got the dragon synergies to support it.
#23. By Force
By Force is today’s first card with X in its casting cost. This time around you can destroy X artifacts. Since you only have to pay a single red mana on top of the X this is one of the most efficient, non-wipe artifact removal spells.
The reasons it’s this high is that it sits in this weird middle ground. You’re paying more than just one mana per artifact, it doesn’t have any flexibility, and it’s not a total board wipe.
#22. Mizzium Mortars
Mizzium Mortars is an all-time classic. Two mana for four damage is great, and the overload ability makes for a great board wipe that’s reasonably priced.
#21. Cathartic Pyre
Cathartic Pyre is two mana for three damage to a creature or planeswalker. That’s not too bad at instant speed.
You also get a second ability that allows you to discard cards to draw new ones. While you won’t use that ability most of the time, it’s nice to have since it prevents this card from being dead weight in certain situations.
#20. Soul’s Fire
Soul's Fire is a 3-mana instant that deals damage to any target equal to the power of a creature you control. This card depends on you having a relatively strong—or strong enough—creature in play to generate power from it, but it has a really high damage ceiling.
This is a great way to kill just about anything in play if you’ve got a big dragon that’s beating down every turn.
Fling is a classic Magic card, and the namesake of the non-official fling ability. For just two mana and the life of one of your creatures, you can “fling” the creature’s power anywhere you’d like.
The reason it’s ahead of Soul's Fire is that the sacrifice outlet is often an advantage in the right decks, and it costs less mana.
#18. Flame Slash
Flame Slash is a 1-mana sorcery that deals four damage to a target creature. You’re limited by sorcery-speed and only targeting creatures, but four damage for just one mana is, honestly, quite a good deal.
#17. Shatterskull Smashing / Shatterskull, the Hammer Pass
Shatterskull Smashing is the only MDFC on this list, but it certainly doesn’t disappoint. It deals X damage divided however you wish across up to two creatures or planeswalkers. If X is six or more, it deals double that amount.
Pretty nifty, huh?
#16. Comet Storm
Comet Storm is another red removal spell (shocker). This time it has multikicker.
Comet Storm deals X damage to any target, and can hit multiple targets for each time you kick it. This gives you a lot of flexibility for what creatures you want to remove and how, which makes it useful far more often.
#15. Chandra’s Ignition
Chandra's Ignition starts up next. This 5-mana sorcery has a creature you control deal damage equal to its power to not only each other creature, including your own, but also to each opponent.
This combos off with Blightsteel Colossus for a one-shot kill in Commander, but it’s generally also just a great board wipe.
#14. Chain Reaction
Chain Reaction comes in at sorcery speed for four mana. It deals X damage to each creature on the battlefield, where X is the total number of creatures!
It’s a great ace in the hole versus any creature decks that go wide, and to top things off, you can play around it to a certain degree if your creatures all have significantly higher toughness.
#13. Fiery Confluence
Fiery Confluence is the red Confluence spell, and it does just about what you’d expect it to do. It has three options, and you can choose any number of them when you cast it; dealing one damage to every creature, smacking two damage onto each opponent, or destroying an artifact, you can do it all!
This card is basically just some of the best cards before it all thrown together, and it’s a nice mix of versatility and efficient abilities.
It wouldn’t be a red removal ranked list if Abrade weren’t in the better half. Two mana to either bolt a creature or destroy an artifact at instant speed is great value, always has been and always will be.
#11. Shattering Spree
Shattering Spree is another one of those 1-mana destroy-an-artifact spells, but this time it has replicate for just . That means you’re maintaining the ability for just one mana each time! That’s great value and it’s a top card for a reason.
Did I mention it looks great in foil?
#10. Blasphemous Act
Blasphemous Act is one of the end-all-be-all removal spells in red. It’s a damage-based creature board wipe that also gets cheaper the more creature there are in play.
I’ve cast this bomb for just one red mana more times than I can count, and it never gets old.
Vandalblast is one red mana to destroy an artifact. Nothing new, but being able to turn into a complete artifact board wipe for just is quite good.
This card is good because it does both ends of the spectrum quite well, and it doesn’t try to do both at the same time like some other cards.
#8. Avalanche Riders
Avalanche Riders is one of my favorite red creatures, and for good reason: it destroys lands! This is the first—but not only—land destruction spell of the rankings, and it’s a great start.
Land destruction is one of the most punishing and effective forms of stifling an opponent’s gameplan, and it counts as removal!
#7. Stone Rain
Stone Rain is a more efficient land destruction spell than Avalanche Riders. There isn’t much to say here.
Skred is a classic card that exceeds expectations in just about any snow deck it’s in. It’s seen a lot of play in Izzet () Pauper decks since there are so many great snow dual lands nowadays, and for good reason. This can very quickly become a high-damage removal spell as the turns go on.
I think Fury is one of the most underrated elementals out of Modern Horizons 2. Or, at least, it was.
It provides not only a great body for the mana, but a great evoke ability as well. Four damage however you want can kill most things in Modern, and it’s just as good in formats like Commander.
#4. Red Elemental Blast + Pyroblast
Red Elemental Blast and Pyroblast are basically the same card with different names. They’re both super playable in general as sideboard cards, and I’d argue they could even see play in Commander thanks to the prevalence of blue decks.
#3. Wild Magic Surge
Wild Magic Surge is a 2-mana instant that destroys any opponents’ permanent and replaces it with the next type-sharing permanent off of the top of their library. It’s a slightly-worse Chaos Warp but has enough in common that it’s still great.
#2. Lightning Bolt
Lightning Bolt comes in high, which I’m sure surprised nobody. Bolt has always been one of the best red cards in the game, period. Three damage for one mana, and it can target anything at instant speed.
What else do you want?
#1. Chaos Warp
Chaos Warp is the best red removal spell. It’s incredibly efficient, hits just about every threat out there, and almost always replaces it with something far less deadly or important to a combo.
Best Red Removal Payoffs and Synergies
Virtually any strategy or deck has huge benefits to having efficient removal, regardless of color, but red’s removal spells are some of the most impactful when they’re at their best. Being able to destroy creatures or permanents on the cheap allows you to spend the rest of your mana and resources on something else, further out-tempo’ing your opponents.
This is most often the case in low-to-the-ground red decks that play a bunch of cheap creatures and threats alongside efficient removal spells to make the absolute most out of every turn. Every time you’re able to deal with threats for cheaper than what it cost your opponents to play them, you’re pulling ahead.
Fury | Illustration by Raoul Vitale
That wraps up today’s rankings on the best red removal spells in Magic! There are certainly a lot of great ones, and it was honestly a little tough comparing one them to find a victor.
What did you think of my rankings? Did I miss any important staples, or misrepresent any cards? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, or come talk about it in the official Draftsim Discord.
Until next time, stay safe and stay healthy!
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