An effective Magic: the Gathering player is prepared to deal with a range of threats as they emerge in the game. Through a mixture of spell types, they should be able to respond to a variety of pressures being put on them by opponents, whether it’s from a large creature, artifact, or army of tokens.
One of the most common threats players will be confronted with is a powerful creature card. If you don’t want to eliminate everything else on the battlefield with a board wipe because you want to preserve your own board, you’ll need something more targeted for dealing with that pesky creature.
What you need is a kill spell. In the event you’re looking for some timely removal, we’ve compiled several of the best MTG kill spells. Keep reading to discover convenient spells that are perfect for shaving down an opponent’s board presence.
What is a Kill Spell in Magic: the Gathering?
Let’s look at what makes a kill spell, a kill spell first. The definition can vary based on who you ask, so we’ll provide you our own definition.
Some people define a kill spell as any spell that removes permanents– usually creatures – from the battlefield. We’d tighten our definition a bit further than that.
For the purposes of this article, we are defining kill spell as any spell that removes a particular permanent. Generally, it is used to remove a creature through destroy effects or effects that apply -1/-1 counters to it.
We are not counting exiles spells as kill spells, although they remove things from the game, because they do not technically kill the permanents they remove. They simply bar those permanents from the game.
Kill spells are perfect for when you want to deal with a specific permanent on the board without risking losing your own presence with something like a board wipe. It is a good idea to incorporate them into just about any deck you make.
Best MTG Kill Spells
It may not seem like it at first, but Tragic Slip is one of the best black kill spells in the game. One reason for its power level is that it only costs one black mana, so you can easily cast it early.
Once cast, it applies a -1/-1 static penalty to a creature for that turn. This gets around indestructability since it technically does not use “destroy” as a keyword.
It gets really good if another creature has died on the same turn you use it. As opposed to subtracting only 1 from that creature’s power and toughness, it subtracts 13. This will be enough to eliminate just about any creature you could possibly encounter.
Read Also: Best Counterspells in MTG
When we think of a classic kill spell, one of the first ones to come to mind is Terminate. If you’re playing a Rakdos (red-black) deck, you should probably have one of these in there.
For just a measly one red and one black mana, you can destroy any target creature. Your opponent cannot use regenerate to save it from going to the graveyard.
Like other kill spells, it’s just not as potent as exile, and it’s also stopped in its tracks if your target is indestructible. You also may be forced to face the same creature again if your opponent is using any graveyard recursion cards. Assuming it works, though, it will at the very least throw a wrench in someone’s plans.
What we like about Agonizing Demise is that it doesn’t just target a nonblack creature – it also has the potential to do additional damage to your opponent’s life total. If you have red in your deck, you can kick Agonizing Demise by paying one generic and one red mana as you cast it.
After kicking it, the card will not only destroy a nonblack creature, it will also deal damage to the player’s life total equal to that creature’s power. It’s just like forcing someone to attack themselves with their own creature before killing it. Best of all, the more powerful that creature is, the more it will hurt your opponent as it dies.
Suicide black is a common archetype in black decks. It means that, as you hurt your opponents, you also hurt yourself. The key in decks like this is to make sure you just always hurt your opponents more.
Vendetta is an excellent example of suicide black in action. It will allow you to eliminate a nonblack creature, but in the process, you will lose life equal to that creature’s toughness. This makes it kind of like a reverse version of Agonizing Demise.
Keep in mind that gaining life back is a simple matter. Your life is another resource you can utilize, and Vendetta lets you utilize it as a quick response to a threat.
Related Article: Best Life Gain Cards in MTG
Enchantments can be surprisingly difficult to deal with. There aren’t as many enchantment removal cards as there are cards that kill creatures, which is precisely what makes Mortify so useful.
If you frequently play against someone who runs a lot of enchantments, slip this one into your deck. Otherwise, even if you’re not facing enchantments, you can still use it to simply kill a creature on the battlefield.
You won’t want to be able to eliminate just creatures – you’ll also want to be able to respond to an opponent’s unfortunate usage of an artifact. Putrefy will let you do that handily. Like mortify, though, you also have the option of using it to target a creature if necessary.
Most creatures aren’t also artifacts, so it’s safe to say that Go for the Throat will be able to get rid of just about any creature, as long as it isn’t indestructible. This is a solid and affordable instant that you’ll be able to make use of at just about any time in the game.
There isn’t much else to say about Go for the Throat. It’s a powerful and useful card with a simple purpose.
As you may have noticed from the rest of the cards on this list, kill spells tend to be mostly within the purview of black. However, Lightning Bolt is one of red’s most famous burn spells, and it can easily be used to kill a creature, so we feel it also counts here.
For a single red mana, you can instantly deal three damage to a particular creature. This won’t get rid of most creatures necessarily, but since you can cast it early on, it’s entirely feasible that it could prevent an opponent from getting ahead of you.
Like enchantments, it’s often hard to target planeswalkers in Magic: the Gathering. Most decks won’t run more than a few planeswalkers, but those few planeswalkers can absolutely wreck your board state or let an opponent get leaps and bounds ahead of you.
With Dreadbore, you can get rid of that planeswalker before it accumulates too many loyalty counters. Of course, it also offers you the flexibility of destroying a creature, too, and all for just two mana.
The biggest downside to Dreadbore is that it’s a sorcery, so you’ll only be able to play it on your turn. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad card, though – just a little more limited.
If you’re looking for removal, you’ll notice that there are frankly not a lot of blue cards to choose from. That’s precisely why we chose to include Rapid Hybridization – it’s one of the best examples of blue removal that there is.
It only costs one blue mana, so you could afford it on your first turn. It will destroy a creature and give that creature’s controller a 3/3 creature token, so the goal is to make sure you destroy something that’s significantly better than the token the player would receive. This isn’t too hard to do, though.
Common Kill Spell Questions
How many kill/removal spells should be in a Commander deck?
There is no firm rule for how many spells of each type you should include in a Commander deck, including kill/removal spells. It really depends on a variety of factors, such as what kind of strategy you’re going for, which colors you’re using, and how you want your deck to play.
If you’re planning on being more controlling, then of course you’ll want a healthy number of removal spells. But if you’re going for a creature-based strategy, such as a particular tribe, then the number of slots you have in your deck for removal is a bit smaller, given that you’ll want to incorporate as many creatures as you can.
Do instants count as spells?
A spell is any card you pay to cast that goes into the stack and (hopefully) resolves. We use the word “pay” loosely here – the cost of the card doesn’t have to be paid in mana and can often be paid in life or by sacrificing creatures depending on the card. There are even some free spells that don’t necessarily cost you anything up-front to cast.
By this definition, yes, instants are spells. This includes instant and sorcery removal spells, too.
Kills spells are your best option in the game if you’re looking for targeted removal. A lot of the time, they let you destroy one permanent with little or even no downside on your end.
This can be a true gamechanger. If you keep a kill spell in your hand, you can be prepared to deal with your opponents’ most threatening creatures the moment they emerge.