Last updated on May 26, 2023
Swords to Plowshares | Illustration by Jesper Ejsing
As someone who’s been playing Magic for years, I know just how important it is to have a reliable arsenal of spells. Especially when it comes to dealing with pesky creatures that stand in the way of victory or annoying permanents that are neutralizing your plans.
White needs removal, as do all colors, and today I want to analyze their strengths and weaknesses to give you the information you need to build a deck that shines even more.
Intrigued by what this list may contain? Let’s find out!
What Is White Removal in MTG?
Path to Exile | Illustration by Todd Lockwood
Removal is often defined as cards that can get others off the board. In this case, white removals are white cards that fulfill this job. They can be permanent or nonpermanent spells that can destroy, exile, and, in some cases, send other cards from you or your opponents to different zones.
I want to make an honorable mention of Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, because it’s technically not a removal. Still, it’s well known for making other creatures and some archetypes bend over in its presence.
#35. Crib Swap
Crib Swap is a 3-mana instant that exiles a target creature and replaces it with a changeling.
#34. Divine Reckoning
Divine Reckoning isn’t the worst nor the best of board wipe effects. Of course, opponents get to keep their best creature, and most of the time you need to get rid of everything. Running this card in a Voltron-like Commander deck might make sense.
#33. Fierce Retribution + Immolating Glare
These two cards do the same job in a nutshell. But Fierce Retribution is slightly better than Immolating Glare if you can pay its cleave cost.
#32. Valorous Stance + Destroy Evil
Valorous Stance and Destroy Evil are very similar to each other because they can deal with big creatures and have different secondary value effects.
#31. Fiend Hunter + Banisher Priest + Brutal Cathar + Palace Jailer
Faceless Butcher is one of the first Magic cards with the effect of exiling a creature as long as it remains on the battlefield. Fiend Hunter, Banisher Priest, and Brutal Cathar are all from the “Butcher” family because they share the same effect. Palace Jailer is an honorary member of this family because it technically does the job, but the creature remains exiled as long as you’re the monarch, even if your Jailer is killed.
#30. Leonin Relic-Warder
For just two mana, Leonin Relic-Warder can exile a target artifact or enchantment until it leaves the battlefield. Something very peculiar for the “Butcher” family.
#29. Seal Away + Stasis Snare
Enchantments that exile creatures at instant speed are rare already, and Seal Away is a cheap one that does the job with little effort. Stasis Snare is another great card that does the job exceptionally well with the advantage that, unlike Seal Away, the creature doesn’t have to be tapped.
#28. Winds of Abandon
Exile target creature for two white mana is already a good effect, but since that creature’s controller may search for basic lands equal to the number of creatures exiled this way, it makes Winds of Abandon a strictly worse Path to Exile. The good part is that it can act as a one-sided board wipe if you manage to overload it.
#27. Cleansing Nova
Cleansing Nova is a versatile board wipe that can destroy all creatures or all artifacts and enchantments on the board. It’s worse than Austere Command (by a lot) since it has fewer modes on it.
Hated by many, loved by a few, Cataclysm is a powerful board wipe that forces players to sacrifice all but one of their permanents for each type among creatures, enchantments, and artifacts. This can be a devastating spell for opponents who have over-extended or are heavily reliant on a particular permanent type.
Sunscour reminds me of Force of Will, but the price to cast it for free may be too much to justify. It may be exactly what you need in a pinch.
Seven mana may seem like a lot, but the unique ability to cast a board wipe at instant speed makes Rout a great addition to decks that can afford it.
#23. Planar Cleansing
Planar Cleansing is a sorcery speed spell that can help players simultaneously deal with multiple types of permanents, including planeswalkers.
#22. Martial Coup
I like Martial Coup because it’s a board wipe that creates a number of 1/1 white Soldier tokens equal to the number of mana paid. This makes it an excellent option for token-based decks that want to replenish their board state while also dealing with opponents’ creatures.
#21. Dismantling Wave
Dismantling Wave is an exceptional card that removes artifacts and enchantments for just three mana. This makes it an excellent option for players looking to remove multiple artifacts or enchantments from the board.
The card’s cycling mode can be helpful in certain situations, making it an even more versatile choice.
#20. Skyclave Apparition
Skyclave Apparition is a powerful spell that can remove any nonland, nontoken permanent with a converted mana cost of four or less for three mana. This allows you to target various valuable cards like Smothering Tithe or Rhystic Study in Commander. It also sees its fair share of playability in Pioneer/Modern and Legacy, and it was a staple of white decks when it was in Standard.
#19. Generous Gift
Players can instantly destroy any permanent on the board for three mana, including lands. It’s a unique feature among white spells as Generous Gift is the only card that can unconditionally destroy any permanent type.
The minor downside is that the permanent’s controller receives a 3/3 green Elephant token, but that’s insignificant when considering the overall flexibility and power of this card.
#18. Quarantine Field
Similar to other effects like Oblivion Ring, Quarantine Field exiles multiple nonland permanents, scaling with the amount of mana paid. They’re returned once Quarantine Field leaves the battlefield.
#17. Final Judgment
Final Judgment is a simple but effective card that exiles all creatures from the game.
#16. Austere Command
Austere Command is a card that provides players with a wide range of options and flexibility in dealing with a variety of board states. Whether facing a board full of tokens or looking to remove more expensive creatures as a token player, this spell allows players to wipe out specific permanent types while preserving their larger creatures and enchantments.
It’s difficult for Austere Command ever to be less than effective in any game with such versatility.
Terminus is a unique board wipe that puts all creatures on the bottom of their owners’ libraries, allowing you to deal with creatures that can’t otherwise be dealt with.
#14. Hallowed Burial
Like Terminus, but a bit cheaper. These types of effects are brutal in Commander. While Terminus can potentially be cast for only just one mana, Hallowed Burial is strictly better if you had to decide to cast between one or the other if they’re in your hand.
#13. Banishing Light + Oblivion Ring
Banishing Light is a versatile removal spell that exiles a nonland permanent, but with the drawback of returning it to the battlefield if it’s removed.
Like Banishing Light, Oblivion Ring exiles a nonland permanent until it leaves the battlefield. But it also has a unique ability that can permanently exile a permanent if it’s removed before Oblivion Ring‘s ability resolves.
#12. Grasp of Fate
Grasp of Fate is like Banishing Light but strictly better since it can remove multiple targets based on the number of opponents on the table.
#11. Wrath of God + Day of Judgment
Wrath of God is the progenitor of a lot of other white board wipes because it does one job and does it excellently. Other cards like Day of Judgment are just strictly worse by definition, but not by much.
#10. Unexpectedly Absent
Unexpectedly Absent puts a nonland permanent on top of its owner’s library based on the mana you spent to cast it. It serves as a way of delaying a card’s impact and allows you to deal with potential threats later.
Oblation allows a player to shuffle a permanent they control to draw two cards or send back an opponent’s permanent in exchange for letting them draw two cards. I’m wording it like this because players aim to target their opponent’s permanents more often than not, but you can also get the benefit of it.
#8. Council’s Judgment
Council's Judgment is unique in the sense that it’s a spell that allows multiple players to vote on which nonland permanent to exile, creating a democratic approach to removal.
#7. Fateful Absence
While it may not be the best option for killing creatures, Fateful Absence can be a valuable addition to a deck that frequently faces planeswalkers. The card’s cost of two mana is suitable for targeted removal, and the downside of giving away a Clue token is relatively minor.
#6. Declaration in Stone
It may not seem like much, but Declaration in Stone is perfect against token decks since you can exile an entire opponent’s board for the mere cost of two mana and giving them a Clue token.
#5. Darksteel Mutation
Darksteel Mutation is a popular card among EDH players that can be devastating if it successfully resolves. The card can transform an opponent’s commander into an indestructible insect artifact creature without any abilities for two mana. This effectively removes the commander from the game because it can’t return to the command zone and is locked out of play until the enchantment or the insect itself is removed from the game.
#4. Prismatic Ending
Prismatic Ending is a versatile removal option that can target a wide range of permanents, from tiny creatures to powerful artifacts or enchantments. It’s become one of the best removal spells available for control strategies in formats like Modern.
Condemn sends an attacking creature to the bottom of its owner’s library, giving white a way to dispose of creatures other than destroying them, dealing damage, or removing them from the game.
#2. Path to Exile
Path to Exile is a bargain with a cost. It exiles a creature but also grants the opponent an extra basic land, giving them a significant advantage in most cases.
#1. Swords to Plowshares
By far the best white removal spell. Swords to Plowshares exceeds at removing a creature from the battlefield for the mere cost of granting its controller life.
This spell has become a signature of white’s removal, and an all-time favorite for many players.
Best White Removal Payoffs and Synergies
Removal is good on its own, and often they don’t need to be paired with other things to shine in matches. Still, there are a few creative ways to use some of the ones I mentioned.
Silent Arbiter has a curious effect that only lets one creature attack each turn, meaning you only need to deal with one at a time. This makes your spot removal way better, and Condemn in particular can benefit greatly from this kind of effect.
Divine Reckoning can shine in Voltron strategies, and it just so happens that Uril, the Miststalker is one of the best commanders in that regard. It’s only logical that you’ll end up with the biggest and baddest creature on the field if you attach multiple auras to it. If you narrow the board to just a handful of options, chances are that Uril can take on all of them at once with ease.
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is well known for taxing players and making noncreature spells cost one mana more than they should, so why is it a good payoff? Mostly thanks to the ”Butchers” because they can remove opponent threats and are unaffected by Thalia’s effect. You’ll dominate battlefields every time if you pair them with cards like Cataclysm.
Some token strategies that use Intangible Virtue as one of their core anthems can use board wipes like Martial Coup or Austere Command to overcome many different complicated match ups.
Wrath of God | Illustration by Kev Walker
White removal spells are essential for any player looking to gain the upper hand in their matches. Whether you’re playing competitively or casually, having access to the right spells can make all the difference in determining the outcome of a game. White has the widest variety of board wipes available along with the two best spot removals ever printed.
From Swords to Plowshares to Path to Exile, there are plenty of powerful options available to help you neutralize your opponent’s threats and emerge victorious. Next time you’re building a deck or tweaking your strategy, be sure to consider the top white removal spells on this list and give yourself the best chance to succeed!
Did you enjoy this list? Was there any card I may have excluded? Let me know in the comments below or over on the official Draftsim Twitter.
Thanks again, and we’ll catch up in the next one!
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