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Challenge the Stats – Reclamation Sage
Reclaim the Stats
“What was once formed by masons, shaped by smiths, or given life by mages, I will return to the embrace of the earth.”
Welcome to Challenge the Stats! This series is based on the awesome EDHRECast segment where we pick out cards that might be overplayed, underplayed, or sleepers to challenge EDHREC’s data. Remember, these are merely comments on the data, and card choices made by you, the brewer, for any reason such as flavor, budget, art, or fun are always most important and are what keep our format unique and awesome.
(Rec Sage) is a hallmark single-target artifact and enchantment removal card, and it's only in 22% of decks that can run it. Is it perfect for every deck? No.
However, this opens up a bigger question: are artifact and enchantment removal cards as a whole underplayed?
Let's dig into some data to find out.
The idea for this article started when user dibles420 on the Challenge the Stats Discord suggested as a challenge. It hits three target enchantments, exiles instead of destroys, and has Cycling for the moments when it's a dead card in hand - that's fantastic! It's only in 1,700 decks. Way underplayed. Enchantments (and often artifacts) can be game-winning and hard to deal with. I started poking around at numbers for other pinpoint enchantment and artifact removal cards, and overall, I observed pretty low inclusion rates, even for something considered a "staple" like Rec Sage.
Thus, we're going to take a look at a whole bunch of them to see how often they're seeing play. As you read, I invite you to think critically if you're playing enough of these!
Choosing which artifact/enchantment removal spells to play depends on our deck, and it's always good to synergize the removal with the overall goal of the commander. Sure, we could jam a Rec Sage in every green deck, but we can maximize our efficiency by playing removal more tailored to our deck, such as a Token deck using(which only appears in 4% of decks that can play it), or using (in 2% of decks) in a +1/+1 Counters deck.
We'll measure by general percent inclusion (in parentheses), rather than strict numbers. So for instance, keep in mind that a colorless card can go in any deck, a mono-green card can be included in a green-inclusive deck with any number of other colors, but a Simic card can only be included in decks with both blue and green. This helps sculpt our understandings of the relative rates of play a little better, in ways that raw numbers alone might disguise.
Signpost Permanent Removal
There are several removal spells that can take care of any permanent, and they're worth mentioning for comparisons to the other cards we're about to discuss. The mono-colored ones are:(36%), (19%), and (28%). While deck diversity is fantastic, it's hard to find a reason not to include these if you can play them, so I'm a bit surprised at the relatively low inclusion rates. This was another clue that removal might be a completely underplayed category of card.
Alright, now let's get to what we came here for: artifact and enchantment removal. We're going to separate them by where they mostly reside: the green cards, the white cards, and then the multicolored cards.
is in 22% of decks that can play it, making it the top played artifact and enchantment removal spell in the format. Being tacked onto a creature means we can get additional use out of it by bouncing, flickering, or recurring the creature. In creature-based strategies, we also might want a creature to attack, block, sacrifice, or hold Equipment.
However, not all decks care about the creature, and might prefer other options.
The top green instant for artifact and enchantment removal is lower over the last few years.at 16% inclusion, and this one is probably a meta call. Are you tired of someone in your playgroup blasting you out of the game with ? Get 'em good and pack a so they can't activate that ability in response to your removal. Otherwise, the cheaper our removal is, the better, especially as we've seen the Commander format get faster and mana curves get
Those lower mana curves love(16%), which is a close second to . Giving an opponent 4 life is trivial in our format, and that one mana is really easy to hold up. Impressively, has been able to keep up with , despite being printed in zero precons compared to Krosan Grip's four precon printings. If you haven't thought about in your green decks, definitely consider it, as it's a premium removal rate.
Now let's look at some lesser-played options in green!
(8%) was a nice upgrade to (3%), letting us get some graveyard hate tacked on there for free! That's really helpful in today's game where an unchecked graveyard can be just as dangerous as an artifact or enchantment.
I've been a fan of(4%) recently, where I can use it to ramp early in the game and take out a greedy player's , and it's not nearly as dead as a later in the game.
(3%) is a new Rec Sage-esque option we got in Kaldheim for one mana cheaper, but which asks us to exile a creature from our graveyard. The one-mana reduction is a big improvement, and asking us to exile a creature isn't a high price. Every once in a while it will be dead if we try to reuse it too many times and don't have any creatures left to exile, or if we just got hit with a or even worse, a in response to us casting the Vandal. I don't think that warrants the low inclusion rate, though, and folks might be sleeping on this one. In addition, it's a Changeling, so can happily go in every green tribal deck.
Dana Roach has been touting the benefits of these cards for years, and I can confirm that they are a very satisfying "gotcha!" Every time you hear, "Wait, it shuffles in? That's so much worse!" feel free to send me and Dana handwritten thank-you letters.and are often more permanent forms of removal than simply destroying the target, preventing any kind of graveyard shenanigans. EDHRECast cohost
In a color that often has a big creature that loves trample or has trouble blocking fliers,(3%) is a really nice alternative to Rec Sage that has extra utility if we're not trying to do Rec Sage shenanigans to destroy multiple artifacts or enchantments. Beefing up a utility creature to a 4/4 (and out of incidental damage range) can also come in handy. Don't be afraid to rock Mutate cards in non-Mutate decks. I, for one, cannot wait to Mutate onto in my deck.
(2%) is another Rec Sage alternative, giving us the option to Evoke it for two mana or keep the creature for four mana. Having that option is really nice, and we keep the enter the battlefield ability, which lets us take advantage of bouncing, flickering, or recurring the breaker just like we can with Rec Sage.
articles, I also talked about another Nullmage, Nullmage Advocate (342 decks, 0%), which can be good if we like playing politics.(1%) really shines in token decks where we have a lot of creatures sitting around. The ability on the Shepherd doesn't care if the creatures have summoning sickness, either. If you saw one of my recent
is the most-played white artifact and enchantment removal spell, appearing in just 11% of possible decks. At four mana, most of today's Commander metas can't afford to hold the mana open for this one, and for that reason I think it's falling out of favor. (7%) puts to shame. Perhaps the lifegain mode is throwing folks off, or people are very attached to the exile option instead of the destruction, but that rate for the removal mode in any deck is *chef's kiss*.
Let's look at some less-played options in white!
If you like the exile of, consider this one as an alternate. It's only in 3% of possible decks that could play it, but the instant speed seems more realistic here. It can't mix and match like , but the Dust can only mix and match when it's cast at sorcery speed, which could mean we're tapping out and leaving our shields down. That trade-off is probably worth it when you want to actually hold up interaction at instant speed.
Matt Morgan has been shouting its praises since they previewed it. At three mana to hit three things, we have a great rate for removal, but at sorcery speed. The Cycling mode on can also hose an Enchantress deck, like or , and as a back-up mode, that's a really nice option to have. Sure, it's awesome in , but don't forget about it in other decks, too!was a EDHRECast preview card, and
(4%) and (5%) are good options for enchantment or blink decks. I find myself staying far away from them in any other strategy, though. I want things to be permanently gone, and sometimes when you thought you took care of the problems with these choices, one board wipe that hits enchantments brings them all back again.
in only 2% of eligible decks seems critically underplayed to me. Okay, I know politics aren't for everyone, but this is three mana to at least exile one thing that you want, up to four things in an ideal situation, and it gets around hexproof and shroud! Try it out, and if you don't like it, I'll mail you a handwritten apology letter.
(192 decks, 0%) is a pet card of mine, and we are seeing more white-inclusive decks these days that would love to pitch things to the graveyard with this Spellshaper like , , , and .
Just like the monocoloredand friends, we have signpost permanent removal cards in multicolored, like at 27%, and at 28%. We saw similar inclusion rates to their monocolored counterparts ( and friends), so how do their multicolored artifact- and enchantment-focused cousins stack up in comparison?
top 100 saltiest cards on EDHREC.(12%) is an oppressive way to get rid of our opponents' artifacts and enchantments. It makes sense that it shows up in the
(4%) has quickly become one of my favorite removal spells in Gruul colors. You all know I love rattlesnake effects, and this one stole my heart. If this is sitting out on turn two, nobody wants to play their haymaker artifacts and enchantments into it. Plus it can do a good amount of damage because nobody wants to waste their removal on it, either! It's also made me start running and in a handful of decks, too, and I've been happy with the results.
(8%) has the awesome upside of being able to potentially take care of 4 different permanent types, but comes at sorcery speed. I personally haven't gotten to try it out yet, but I can't imagine being disappointed seeing it in hand in a Boros deck. However, once we add any colors outside of red and white we get access to many other options, so I expect to see it relegated to the guild. Have you had any experience with it? Let me know in the comments.
I was surprised(8%) doesn't see more play, but looking at the modes and mana cost, it's a jack of all trades but a master of none. It's probably the 105th card in a lot of lists, and ultimately getting bumped for something more efficient.
(4%) is a brand-new card out of the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms precons. Let's see how it stacks up. Getting an X-damage board wipe is a nice option, and we'll have lots of mana to sink into it in Gruul colors. I'm a bit sad it doesn't hit fliers, though, which Gruul can have trouble blocking. The removal mode doesn't have the best rate, but if we control our commander and get to wipe out a bunch of creatures and a bunch of our opponents' artifacts and enchantments at the same time, this can feel like a mostly one-sided wipe.
I'm surprised(2%) isn't in more decks. We probably need to be in Boros/Lorehold because it's asking us to have basics, but in that situation it's even better than Rec Sage! We get to blow up both an artifact and enchantment if we have two plains and two mountains. That's also an enter-the-battlefield effect, so we can blink, bounce, or recur it, all of which are possible in these colors.
Anarchy Comes in Many Forms: Social, Individual, Gruul…
Do you think pinpoint artifact and enchantment removal is underplayed? Are there any other cards you like that I forgot to mention? Let me know in the comments below! As always, you can find me on twitter @jevin_mtg.