Having cards in your deck that deal with opposing threats is vital to deck building. After all, you’re likely not playing the game alone, and your opponents will have powerful cards that will move their strategy toward victory. Devoting some slots in your deck to removal is a must, and Black has some of the best in the game. Today, I’ll review the best black removal spells in Magic: The Gathering and their pros and cons.
Black has some of the most efficient single-target removal in Magic: The Gathering. It can destroy creatures, as well as Planeswalkers, for very little mana. Often sacrificing other resources like expendable creatures or the caster’s life total to help pay the cost. As far as black is concerned, there is no cost too high to get the job done.
I want to mention now that this conversation is specifically for the best single-target removal in black. We have a separate article for the top 10 black board wipes if you’re in the market for mass removal. With that out of the way, let’s jump into some kill spells, their strengths & weaknesses, and the formats where they are best.
The Top 11 Black Removal Spells
Honorable Mention: Doom Blade
Doom Blade doesn’t see much play, but I’ve got to give it a shout-out. It’s a classic, and assuming your opponent isn’t playing black themselves, it’s a pretty efficient spell. If you know your meta and there aren’t decks primarily in black, this could be a decent option. However, there are many safer options if you’re going into a meta where you aren’t sure what you’ll come up against.
Two mana, instant speed removal isn’t bad, but having it possibly be a completely dead card against things like Bloodtithe Harvester, Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger, Dauthi Voidwalker, or Blood Artist, all of which see play in various formats is a risky game to play. And it’s not worth it with so many other options. So, without further ado, let’s jump into those alternatives.
11. Hagra Mauling
Modal Dual-Faced Cards (MDFCs) have, by and large, proven themselves to be excellent since their release in Zendikar Rising. Having a spell on one side and a land on the other is highly versatile. Simply put, they allow players access to more lands and spells in their deck for a single slot. If you’ve never played with these, you choose which side of the card you’ll use as you cast/play it.
So, in this case, you could have a land that taps for black mana or a removal spell. And while neither is exceptionally efficient (the removal portion costs three to four mana, and the land enters tapped), the versatility is phenomenal. You can swap out a basic swamp for a copy of this in most decks with minimal downside, and the upside of having access to a relevant card as opposed to more land later in the game can be huge.
|Removal when you need it & land when you don’t||Slightly over costed|
Recommended Formats: Pioneer, Commander
“The only shortcut in a bog is to the bottom.” The flavor text for Defile is awesome and sums the card up pretty well – The denser your
The thing to keep in mind is that this spell scales with the game unless your deck can put multiple lands into play on early turns. That said, if your deck has enough swamps to make this playable, it can be a solid one-mana removal spell that can take down large and small creatures alike.
|Instant speed||Only good with a ton of swamps|
|-1/-1 counters get around indestructible creatures|
|Cheap to cast and scales as the game goes on|
Recommended Formats: Commander
9. Go for the Throat
Go for the Throat is similar in casting cost and effect as our honorable mention, Doom Blade. It’s two mana, instant speed removal with a restriction. However, artifact creatures are less common than black ones, so this option is much safer. And where anything but an artifact creature is concerned, the spell is very efficient.
While artifact creatures aren’t altogether uncommon the majority of them aren’t “remove on-site” threats. For example, some of the most common artifact creatures in Commander are Solemn Simulacrum, Burnished Hart, and Ornithopter of Paradise, all of which aren’t game-ending cards.
On the other hand, you may come up against Wurmcoil Engine, Blightsteel Colossus, or Platinum Angel and be in a world of hurt. Knowing your meta and having a diverse array of answers can help mitigate some of the risks that come with removal like this.
|Cheap to cast||Doesn’t remove artifact creatures|
|Removes most creatures|
Recommended Formats: Standard, Commander, Oathbreaker
8. Tragic Slip
Tragic Slip is a classic. It can be some premium removal when timed correctly, and it’s a cool card design. For a single black mana, a creature of your choosing will get -1/-1 until end of turn. However, if a creature died the turn you cast it (regardless of whose creature or how it died), that creature will get -13/-13 instead! In formats like Commander, with multiple players, having a creature die in some way isn’t usually hard to do.
This can be used in many tricky ways – You can sac a creature for value and take something out or chump block a massive creature and cast it to finish it off. The possibilities are endless. The only two downsides are: When you can’t get morbid online and when an opposing creature is way bigger than a 13/13.
|Cheap to cast||Requires a creature to die to work well|
|Can remove large creatures||Doesn’t outright remove the largest of creatures|
Dismember’s power lies in the versatility of its casting cost – You can cast it for three mana, two mana & two life, or one mana & four life. As mentioned, black loves to use life totals as a resource; this is a perfect example. This can cost as little as a single mana (of any color, for that matter) to take down a five-toughness creature. Furthermore, the -5/-5 instead of the word “destroy” makes this highly effective against indestructible creatures.
The fact that you don’t have to have black mana to cast this if you pay life also makes it a phenomenal option for decks in other colors that lack efficient removal. For example, you’ll usually find a copy or two of this in Mono-Blue Merfolk decks in Modern.
|Instant Speed||Costs life|
|Circumvents indestructible||Doesn’t remove larger creatures|
|Versatile casting cost|
Recommended Formats: Modern, Legacy, Vintage, Commander
For very little mana, Eliminate removes an incredible amount of the creatures and Planeswalkers in formats with low average curves, like Modern and Pioneer. This became an essential card for dealing with Wrenn and Six in Modern as it increasingly became an issue.
The ability to remove both creatures and Planeswalkers up to the three mana slot for a low, easy-to-meet mana cost sets this a notch above many of the cards we’ve looked at so far. While this doesn’t see much play in Commander (due to the higher mana value of the spells), I think it could. A quick search on edhrec showed that this hit 57% of the most played creatures in the format and around 25% of the planeswalkers.
That said, most EDH players looking for this type of removal will probably prefer the number four and five cards on the list. But still, I thought the numbers were pretty good, so I wanted to mention them.
|Removes creatures and planeswalkers||Doesn’t hit higher CMC spells|
|Cheap to cast|
Recommended Formats: Pioneer, Modern
5. Bone Shards
Bone Shards is fantastic in decks where you want to sacrifice creatures or discard cards. If that’s the case for your build, this will not only be a versatile, efficient removal spell, but you can turn the “downside” into a sac or discard outlet that can further your game plan while it cleans up opposing boards – All for a single mana. Considering any deck running this will be able to use the first line of text, the only real downside here is the sorcery speed.
|Cheap to cast||Sorcery speed|
|Removes Planeswalkers and creaures||Requires you to sacrifice a creature or discard a card|
|High synergy with aristocrats and discard decks|
Recommended Formats: Commander, Oathbreaker, Modern, Pauper, Legacy
4. Murderous Rider
Murderous Rider is a removal spell and a relevant creature all tied up into one efficient package. The removal portion, Swift End, is a three-mana instant that can unconditionally destroy a creature or planeswalker for the cost of two life. Two life to make the most significant, scariest thing on
And that’s only half of the card. Once you’ve cast the removal portion and exiled the card, you can still cast the creature on a subsequent turn. And the rider is no chump. A 2/3 body with lifelink and two relevant creature types in zombie and knight is beyond solid when you already have much value from the adventure portion.
I add this to nearly every commander deck in black that I play, and I’m never disappointed. If you’re playing a zombie or knight tribal deck, this becomes even better and is an absolute slam-dunk.
|Removes creatures and planeswalkers||You lose life|
|Comes with a creature attached to it|
|Doesn’t have mana, color, or creature-type restrictions on what it removes|
Recommended Formats: Commander, Pioneer, Oathbreaker
3. Fatal Push
If you’ve played Modern since this card was released (or Pioneer since the inception of the format), you’ll be familiar with Fatal Push. For the longest time, it was Modern’s premier removal spell in black. You can remove opposing one and two-mana creatures for a single mana, and for years, that covered the bulk of the threats in the format. And decks that can reliably trigger revolt by sacing creatures or cracking fetch lands get even more value.
The prevalence of Fury, Solitude, Greif, Murktide Regent, and Archon of Cruelty have made the card slightly less effective in the meta of today. Even still, the card has plenty of targets, and it’s hard to get much more efficient than a single mana to get rid of creatures anywhere from zero (including all tokens) to the four mana spot on the curve.
|Cheap to cast||Usually doesn’t remove higher CMC creatures|
|Revolt can take down larger creatures|
Recommended Formats: Pioneer, Modern
2. Deadly Rollick
It doesn’t get much more efficient than removing an opposing creature for free. And assuming you’ve got your commander in play, that’s precisely what you get with Deadly Rollick. Free spells (especially removal spells) are potent and make it very hard for opponents to play around your spells.
You can be holding up interaction at any point in time that your commander is in play, even if all of your mana is tapped – This keeps opponents on their toes and thinking twice about sending attackers your way. More importantly, it allows you to spend your mana advancing your
You’ll want to cast this for free whenever possible, but in a pinch, it’s still a good spell without your commander in play. Four mana (with the chance to be free) is more than reasonable to exile a creature. Usually, white spells get the exile effects, but it’s more than welcome here in black.
|Can be cast for free||Isn’t free without your commander in play|
|Exiles the creature|
|Very hard for opponents to play around|
Recommended Formats: Commander, Oathbreaker
1. Feed the Swarm
For two mana, you can destroy any opposing creature or enchantment. And faithful to blacks’ “no cost is too great to get what I want” approach, you lose life equal to that permanent’s mana cost. Black can destroy creatures and Planeswalkers with ease. But as a solo color, it has almost zero ways to deal with artifacts and enchantments – It just isn’t in the colors wheelhouse.
In fact, outside of Feed the Swarm, only Ghastly Death Tyrant has the words “Destroy target enchantment” on a mono-black card – It’s that unique effect, and this is by far the better of the two options. As a result, nearly every mono-black deck capable of playing it wants this card somewhere in the 75. After all, dealing with a creature for two mana (plus some life) isn’t a bad rate, and you won’t get that priceless enchantment hate anywhere else.
|Cheap to cast||Sorcery speed|
|Removes creatures and enchantments||Costs life|
|One of only two cards in black that removes enchantments|
Recommended Formats: Commander, Oathbreaker, Pauper, Pioneer, Modern
Overall, if you’re looking for cheap, efficient, single-target removal, black has some of the best in the game. You may have to pay a little life, sacrifice a creature, or discard a card, but what are those things compared to the nasty creature your opponent just spent several turns building up to? Regardless of format or play style, there’s something in black to help you clear the