After playing Magic The Gathering for over a decade, black board wipes are by far my favorite sweepers to play with. I, and many other Magic players, enjoy the process of deciding which black board wipe is right for the deck you’re putting together as black sweepers all come with their own advantages and drawbacks.
As a general rule, the best black board wipes are Damnation and Toxic Deluge. Many black board wipes have additional requirements and effects that take place when casting them. Black board wipes are known for additional effects that can be positive or negative depending on the situation.
If white board wipes stand for “Destroy everything” in Magic The Gathering, then black board wipes stand for “Destroy everything, but…“
It’s that “but” that makes black board wipes some of my favorite cards to build decks within the game, but the right black board sweeper for you may be different depending on your needs – So check out the list below to see which one works best for you.
1. Toxic Deluge
|Recommended Formats:||Commander, Vintage, Legacy|
As an additional cost to cast this spell, pay X life.
All creatures get -X/-X until end of turn.
|Cheap: 3 mana|
|Kills Indestructible Creatures|
|Easy Mana Cost: Only 1 Black mana|
“Toxic Deluge” gives all creatures -X/-X where X is the amount of life you pay.
I know that can sound like a bad deal to a lot of new players. Why would you cast a spell that causes you to lose life?
Toxic Deluge can clear the field of creatures at almost any stage of the game.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s turn 3 or turn 10, Toxic Deluge will almost always sweep the board as long as you have enough life to pay for it.
Because it only costs 3 mana, you can cast Toxic Deluge early and efficiently. You won’t have to worry about being choked on mana to be able to cast the spell when needed, and the low casting cost gives you leeway to be the first player to cast creatures to the board after you just wiped it clean – putting your opponent suddenly on the back foot.
Toxic Deluge can clear the field of powerful, indestructible enemy creatures.
Losing a few life points is by far an excellent bargain in dire situations – one I will take every time.
For example, you’re staring at 4, 5 power enemy creatures with no way to block them. That means it’s fatal damage to you on the next turn when they all come crashing in to attack you.
Using Toxic Deluge during your current turn destroys all those creatures for 3 mana and 5 life points. So instead of dying to 20 points of combat damage, you only lost 5, and you get to clear the board. Crisis averted.
2. Black Sun’s Zenith
|Recommended Formats:||Commander, Penny Dreadful|
Put X -1/-1 counters on each creature. Shuffle Black Sun’s Zenith into its owner’s library.
|Flexible: Choose the number of counters|
|Fast: Can be cast on Turn 3|
|Recursive: Placed back into the deck|
|Expensive: Can cost a lot of mana to clear the board|
Black Sun’s Zenith means to bring death to the weak and pain to the survivors.
You pay 2 mana plus another X mana to put X -1/-1 counters on each creature. This board wipe is relatively low cost vs. smaller creatures but expensive against larger ones.
Black Sun’s Zenith affects all creatures, even those with “Indestructible“.
Rules: If a creature’s toughness ever drops to 0 or below, they are sent to the graveyard even if they have special abilities like “Regenerate” or “Indestructible“.
Another thing I like about this spell is that the effect sustains beyond the end of your turn.
The counters placed on creatures remain until another spell or ability removes them. So even if an enemy creature survives the spell, it’s now significantly weaker and easier to handle.
I have used this spell to clean up a field full of smaller enemy creatures while keeping my tanky win condition in play. My win condition may have a few -1 counters on it now, but it’s still good enough to win the game and that’s what counts.
Lastly, Black Sun’s Zenith doesn’t go to the graveyard after casting. It’s shuffled back into the library instead. Fantastic for formats like Commander where games can go long.
With the recursion, you can draw and cast the spell again in future turns, unless your opponent has already lost from the first time you cast it…
3. Decree of Pain
Destroy all creatures. They can’t be regenerated. Draw a card for each creature destroyed this way.
|Flexible: Can be cycled if not needed|
|Versatile: Can be used with 5 mana|
|Utility: Draws cards|
|Expensive: 8 mana|
If you want a board wipe spell with a lot of upside, then I would tell you to look no further than “Decree of Pain”.
This card destroys all creatures with no chance of using Regeneration, an ability that allows creatures to stay in play after being destroyed – but not with Decree of Pain.
In addition, Decree of Pain lets you draw cards for each creature destroyed by it. Talk about insult to injury.
This board wipe spell is ideal during the late game when there are likely numerous enemy creatures on the battlefield and you are running low on cards in your hands.
Cast Decree of Pain to remove all creatures, then draw a completely new hand of cards. You now have a clean board to restart and a healthy amount of cards in hand to secure a strong lead – your opponents will also hate you, but I’m not casting this spell to make friends!
If you need a board wipe earlier or if you don’t have eight mana to spend, Decree of Pain can be cycled for 5 mana, letting you draw a card and gives all creatures -2/-2.
It’s a watered-down version of the card in exchange for the lower mana cost, but can save you in a pinch if your opponents get off to an aggressive start.
4. Life’s Finale
|Recommended Formats:||Commander, Penny Dreadful|
Destroy all creatures, then search target opponent’s library for up to three creature cards and put them into their graveyard. Then that player shuffles.
|Utility: Target combo pieces|
|Expensive: 6 Mana|
|Only affects combos involving creatures|
“Life’s Finale” is probably my least favorite black sweeper on this list, but I still think it is worth a mention due to its unique effect.
What makes this card stand out is that you can search up to three creature cards in your opponent’s library and put them into the graveyard. So you can think of this as destroying 3 creatures even before your opponent has even drawn them.
Here’s a tip for using this card well: I know it’s tempting, but try not to choose high-power creatures in your opponent’s library to send to the graveyard right away.
Instead, look for creatures that are vital to a win condition. Creatures with specific abilities and combo pieces are almost always the right choice when using this card’s ability.
Especially in singleton formats like Commander, Life’s Finale can be devastating as you can potentially strip out all the key combo cards from an opponent’s deck.
Be careful when using Life’s Finale against a deck that has a lot of ways to get cards back from their graveyard!
They might be able to play the card you chose to take out of the library – meaning you just helped your opponent combo faster!
Life’s Finale is not my first choice for a black board wipe, but if you play Magic with people that like to play with powerful creature combos, this card can be handy to have.
5. Plague Wind
Destroy all creatures you don’t control. They can’t be regenerated.
|One-sided: Your creatures survive|
|Expensive: 9 mana|
One of the biggest drawbacks of board wipes is that they are symmetrical; they destroy your creatures as well as your opponent’s. “Plague Wind” was one of the first board wipes ever printed in Magic that said, how about we just kill all of your stuff and leave mine alone…
This card destroys creatures other than the ones you control. Thus, you don’t have to worry about losing any of your creatures to this board wipe.
Strategically, assuming you have creatures in the field, casting Plague Wind gives you a massive board advantage since your creatures stay in play and watch as your opponent’s army go bye-bye to the graveyard.
Imagine both you and your opponent have 5 creatures on the board each. The game seems tight, and no one seems to be in total control of the game yet. You cast Plague Wind, and it suddenly becomes a one-sided game. Your opponent now has 0 creatures vs. 5 of yours!
Your opponents will have to scramble to defend themselves in your upcoming wave of attackers or, better yet, concede.
Plague Wind isn’t cheap though! Understandable so – it doesn’t matter how late into the game you are, it never feels good to fall victim to this card – it’s expensive mana cost is justified.
I like to use this card as a finisher to clear the board of blockers and deal fatal damage to my opponent using creatures. Before the combat phase, clear the board of enemies by casting Plague Wind to eliminate blockers. Then let all creatures attack the opponent for a win!
It’s a sinister yet straightforward strategy. Just add some maniacal laughter for theatrical effects.
6. Reiver Demon
When Reiver Demon enters the battlefield, if you cast it from your hand, destroy all nonartifact, nonblack creatures. They can’t be regenerated.
|One-sided: Black creatures stay in play|
|Utility: 6/6 Flying Creature|
|Color Restrictive: 4 Black Mana Needed|
|Expensive: 8 mana|
|Incomplete: Misses Artifact and black creatures|
“Reiver Demon” is a board wipe that comes with a 6/6 flying body to beat your opponent’s over the head with after you have cleared the board.
This 6/6 flying demon destroys all creatures except black and artifact creatures when you play it from your hand. Against non-black decks, this card is Plague Wind with wings.
I only really recommend this card for players that are playing mono-black decks or decks that are black with a small splash of other colors. If you are going to be playing this expensive card you want to make sure you are maximizing its effect by playing as many black creatures in your deck as possible.
Most likely, you have black creatures along with Reiver Demon in your deck, which means your creatures are immune to this board wipe.
Thus, enemy creatures are wiped out while yours are safe. As a bonus, you have an additional 6/6 flying demon in the field. It sounds like a great deal for an 8 mana card.
Take note, a disadvantage of this card is that if you’re against black and artifact creature decks, the board wipe ability of Reiver Demon becomes useless. The card is just an over-costed 6/6 flying demon in that case.
So the optimal way to use this card is against decks that do not have black or artifact creatures. This makes the card more of a pick for players that are playing with a familiar meta and I don’t recommend putting this card in your deck if you don’t know what you are going to be playing against.
However, if you know you are playing against a meta that has a lot of black or artifact decks running around, you can replace Reiver Demon with a more appropriate board wipe beforehand.
|Recommended Formats:||Historic, Penny Dreadful, Pioneer, Commander|
All creatures get -4/-4 until end of turn.
|Kills Indestructible creatures|
|One-sided: Large creatures survive|
|Incomplete: Misses larger creatures|
“Languish” was the first 4 mana black board wipe that I got to cast in a Magic standard format – and it felt great!
The spell is best used to eliminate hordes of enemy creatures in the early and mid-game.
It may not look intimidating, but Languish can be a powerful nuke! There aren’t that many creatures that have more than 4 toughness that can be played before you are ready to unleash this card.
Languish can level aggro decks such as mono-red or embarrass decks looking to flood the board with token creatures.
Use this spell when you are about to get overwhelmed by enemy creatures. Especially if you have a big creature that can survive the toughness reduction – feel free to level the field of smaller enemy creatures since the reduction effect only lasts until end of turn.
8. Killing Wave
For each creature, its controller sacrifices it unless they pay X life.
|Flexible: Can be fast of large and small amounts|
|Kills Indestructible creatures|
|Fast: Can be cast on turn 2 for effect|
|Creatures are sacrificed|
|Expensive: Large amounts may be needed|
|Control: Opponent chooses what creatures to keep|
|Incomplete: Leaves creatures in play|
If there is a sorcery spell that captures the essence of suffering, that would be “Killing Wave”.
Killing Wave forces controllers to sacrifice each creature they own unless they pay X life for every single one. In a field full of creatures, that’s a lot of life to pay.
Killing Wave can kill indestructible creatures since the spell forces the player to potentially sacrifice every creature they control.
Thus, this is a good way of culling your opponent’s board, or at the very least, draining them for a lot of life.
This spell forces your opponent to choose what is more important to them, their life total or keeping a presence on the battlefield.
An intelligent way to play this spell is to give a high X cost during the late game, at least X = 7.
That way, your opponent is likely to be only able to keep 2 – 3 creatures. If they choose to keep a creature, that’s 7 life points for every creature.
In formats like Commander, where players start with 40 life points, losing almost 25% of your starting life total to keep a creature isn’t cheap.
Your opponents will have some hard decisions to make while you smile at your sealed victory.
|Recommended Formats:||Penny Dreadful, Commander|
All creatures get -1/-1 until end of turn for each Swamp you control.
|Kills Indestructible creatures|
|Incomplete: May miss larger creatures|
What card is common among black decks? Swamps, lots of Swamps.
“Mutilate” is a board wipe spell that takes full advantage of black mages putting swamps into their decks. This spell gives all creatures in the field -1/-1 for every Swamp you control, giving this board wipe the power to scale into the late games as you continue to make land drops and increase the number of Swamps in play.
For 4 mana, you have a board wipe spell that potentially gets stronger as the game goes on!
If I am playing a 2 color Commander deck that plays black cards, I’m almost always pairing Mutilate with its best friend “Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth” – turning every land on the battlefield into a Swamp and maximizing Mutilate’s effectiveness.
Mutilate is best at home in mono-black decks, as most of the lands used in those decks will be swamps, but with some careful manabase construction, you can definitely make it work in 2 colored decks and even some 3 colored decks at a push.
Assuming you are hitting your land drops correctly, Mutilate can be a -4/-4 sweeper as soon as turn 4 making it a second copy of Languish in your deck which only gets better as the game goes on.
Also, unlike other black board wipes, Mutilate doesn’t require additional costs to play, such as having to pay life.
If you are playing enough swamps in your deck and you are in need of board wipes in black, Mutilate gets a pretty high recommendation from me and you should definitely consider it.
|Recommended Formats:||Modern, Commander|
Destroy all creatures. They can’t be regenerated.
|Good Mana Cost|
|Nothing to see here – The card is solid|
Damnation is black’s counterpart to white’s Wrath of God. At 4 mana, Damnation destroys all creatures on the board.
Creatures with regenerate can’t use the ability to return to the board.
What sets this black mass creature removal spell apart is its cost; you can cast this spell as early as turn 4, great against aggro decks summoning numerous creatures early on.
In the late game, it’s still just as good. This board wipe spell can take out large creatures cost-effectively, giving you enough mana to cast more spells after wiping the board clean.
Magic will most likely never make a black board wipe like Damnation again. Since its initial printing, black board wipes have moved in the direction of having conditions attached to them in order to sweep the battlefield.
Although some players may find this advice somewhat dry, Damnation is almost always the first black board wipe you should add to your deck when you are in need of a black sweeper. The card is just that solid and I recommend every Magic player try to own at least 1 copy of this card in their card collections – it’s well worth it!
Making Great Plays With Black Board Wipe Spells
By now, you may notice that black board wipes, similar to other black cards in MTG, have certain conditions that let you pay, sometimes dearly, to gain access to strong effects.
To the new player, it may feel like a “bad bargain” to play these cards. However, understanding how these conditions can sometimes be advantageous if played with the right cards and strategy, can really level up your game.
One highly effective strategy is to use your life as a resource. Yes, losing life can win you games – Just ask our friend “Death’s Shadow“
For example, when casting Killing Wave, don’t be afraid to lose life to spare your best creature on the board. If you know your creature can win you the game, the loss of life points is worth it.
Remember, winning with one life point left in Magic is still winning!
Another strategy, taking advantage of the self-inflicting nature of black board wipes, is to use creatures with death triggers.
Black has the most creatures with graveyard abilities and death triggers in Magic, making the idea of losing creatures to your own board wipe more appealing.
For example, “Vindictive Lich” can synergize with your board wipe spells to force opponents to lose life, discard cards in hand, or sacrifice their creatures in play.
You can also add enchantments that give you incentives when you lose creatures, such as “Open the Graves“, an enchantment that gives you 2/2 zombies whenever a creature you control dies. The enchantment mitigates your losses when using your board wipe spell, giving your opponents more problems while putting you in a comfortable board situation.
There are various possible strategies with black board wipe spells. So go ahead, try out these spells with your deck and see how much fun you’ll be having watching your opponents become horrified by their loss.
Black Board Wipes, What are their Strengths and Weaknesses?
Generally, black board wipes aim to destroy creatures on the board. These spells are great additions to your deck as a way to eliminate multiple enemy creatures within a single turn.
However, take note that, same as with other board wipes, black board wipes also affect even your creatures, so use these strong spells with attention and caution.
One of the unique effects of black board wipes is reducing creature power and toughness by putting “-X/-X” on creatures. This effect can last permanently or until end of turn. Have enough reduction to set the creature’s toughness to 0, and it is immediately sent to the graveyard.
The main advantage of this effect is that it affects and can kill otherwise indestructible creatures.
Another notable effect of some black board wipe spells is that it forces players to sacrifice their creatures. The effect bypasses indestructible and hexproof effects without causing any damage.
Sounds good so far? Well, since black has a “win at all costs” as one of its themes, the costs to cast some of their board wipe spells require you to pay more mana. Some may require you to sacrifice your life points.
Because of all the conditions attached to black board wipes, they are some of my favorite sweepers to play in with in all of Magic and encourages others to give them them all a try – not all of them will be to your liking, but sooner or later, you’ll find the black sweeper for you!