Too-Specific Top 10 - "And Each Player"

(Pestilence | Art by Kev Walker)

"Aggro" Boardwipes

Welcome to Too-Specific Top 10, where if there isn’t a category to rank our pet card at the top of, we’ll just make one up! (Did you know that Plague Spitter is the only creature-based Pestilence effect that happens every turn without an activated ability?)

The first deck I ever built in Magic was based around the interaction of red damage spells, like Earthquake and Inferno, and their white counterparts that could prevent said damage, such as Circle of Protection: Red and Repentant Blacksmith.

Well, 30 years later, I'm still pretty much up to my same tricks.

Commander (1)
Creatures (42)
Instants (8)
Artifacts (4)
Enchantments (8)
Lands (32)
Sorceries (5)

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My logic now is pretty much as it was then: if I can wipe the board with a huge "and each player" damage spell and then still have creatures left over, my opponents now have a lot less life than they used to, and I'm free to swing in for the rest. With 40 life, the math doesn't work out quite as well, but the way I think of it, if I can cast a Molten Disaster for 10, bringing myself and everyone else down to 30, and everything but my commander survives, I should be able to get everyone down to 20 fairly easily, and just do the same thing again next turn!

Surely Boros isn't the only color that would be interested in such a deal, so what are the best damage-based board wipes that hit players as well, regardless of color?

Top 10 "And Each Player" Board Wipes

I'm as big a fan of Ashling the Pilgrim as anyone. Bigger, probably, which is why I'm very aware that she's a board wipe on a stick that most people probably wouldn't consider when thinking of their average board wipe, so, instead of whittling things down to just grab the best Earthquake, let's make sure to keep things nice and wide so we don't miss out on strange corner cases.

Criteria: Cards that can deal direct damage to all (or all other) creatures and players. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.

10. Hurricane

(3,985 Inclusions, 1% of 673,397 Decks)

I don't know that your average Selesnya aggro deck would leap at the chance to play Hurricane, but there's no question that the numbers get a lot bigger a lot faster in green than they do in Boros. With that in mind, if you are in an aggro deck that mostly sticks to the ground, you could do worse than throwing in a copy of this old staple and seeing how many games you can close out with it.

Where I really like Hurricane, though, is in those huge Simic value decks that never seem to be able to pull a game out. Sure, there's a bit of a restriction in that you have to have a greater life total than your opponents, but at the end of the day, this just says "Pay X mana, everybody loses that much life." Seems better than finagling around with a Simic Ascendancy or a Helix Pinnacle, if you ask me!

9. Crypt Rats

(4,292 Inclusions, 1% of 734,677 Decks)

Black has a lot more options than green for taking out opponents directly, and is almost as good at getting ridiculous amounts of mana. While the "only black mana" rider on Crypt Rats does make things a bit awkward at times, there's also a reason it's a Pauper all-star. At three mana as a cost of entry, it's actually the cheapest Pestilence around, beating out Pestilence, Pestilence Demon, and old-school black control staple Thrashing Wumpus. Granted, it does kill itself as soon as you use the ability, if you don't have some means of making the Rats bigger or indestructible, but that's a small price to pay to have an instant-speed board wipe sitting at the table (that can also in a pinch just kill everyone with less life than you).

8. Pestilence Demon

(4,334 Inclusions, 1% of 734,677 Decks)

As you may have expected, the big guns win in this case, at least when it comes to inclusions in EDH decks. Pestilence Demon is a great finisher in a deck that has a ton of mana, whether that be the old-school Big Mana Drana decks or just your average lands deck with the cash for a Cabal Coffers and an Urborg. Whichever it is, eight mana gets you a flier that will do seven damage a turn on its own, and will let you wipe the board and hit each player for five damage every turn until you run out of mana. One way or another, that's going to end a game quickly.

If I can deviate just a bit for a second, however, I'm actually not a huge fan of Pestilence Demon. Eight mana is a ton to pay for a creature, even if you are living that Cabal Coffers lifestyle, and it's not a great Reanimate target because you still need to have a lot of mana for its ability to be worth it. With that in mind, if you're looking to abuse a Pestilence Demon, might I suggest setting your sights a little lower with Thrashing Wumpus or Plague Spitter?

7. Molten Disaster

(4,501 Inclusions, 1% of 687,758 Decks)

There's no feeling in the world worse than casting a huge X spell for the win and having the blue mage tap for two. Molten Disaster feels that pain, and gives you the option to make your game-winning board wipe uncounterable and mostly uninteractable. This does mean you have to have even more mana to pump into your huge X spell, but that's no problem for a big spender like you, is it?

6. Volcanic Fallout

(4,647 Inclusions, 1% of 687,758 Decks)

The third most popular Pyroclasm behind Incendiary Command and Pyroclasm itself, Volcanic Fallout also solves the Counterspell problem. While it is significantly less likely to end a game directly, there's little doubt that it will hit a ton of tokens and utility creatures at most tables, and it will still make the table at large down two. That's not a lot, but we've all been at tables where it would have made the difference.

5. Arcbond

(6,849 Inclusions, 1% of 687,758 Decks)

Long-time readers will know of my deep love for my favorite card in all of Magic, Arcbond. While it's only #5 on this list, it will always be #1 in my heart and my decklists. I would argue that it should be in yours, as well, with the following list of archetypes that this plays well in:

  • Spellslinger/Copy: The only thing more ridiculous than a single copy of Arcbond is multiple copies of it triggering off of each other in a cavalcade of damage that won't stop until the table, or all the creatures on it, are dead. Even if the latter is all you get out of it, it will still usually be enough damage to have your local Guttersnipe-equivalent finish things out. Even if you're not on a Storm turn, it's just an instant-speed board wipe in an archetype that never has enough creatures to stop from getting alpha-striked.
  • Aggro: This one we can more or less skip, because we've been talking about it for this entire article, but one thing we haven't talked about yet is how good this is as a combat trick, whether you're involved in that combat step or not. There are few better feelings than watching someone's 10/10 that was about to just get chump blocked by a Soldier token instead take out the whole table and a quarter of everyone's life total.
  • Group Slug: Another crazy interaction of Arcbond is with any kind of damage doubling. With a Furnace of Rath in play, damage dealt to the creature you target with the Arcbond will already be doubled, and then will get doubled again when it triggers to then deal damage to each player. When damage is quadrupled, it doesn't take much to just outright end games!
  • Stuffy Doll/Repercussion Decks: In similar fashion to damage doubling, Arcbond will take a single instance of damage dealt to Stuffy Doll and end up doing twice the damage to your opponent, or will make any random creature on the board into a copy of Brash Taunter for you. On the flip side, if your deck is playing Repercussion, an Arcbond will almost certainly kill any player who has creatures.
  • Lifegain/Keyword Soup/Lifelinking Commander: This one may seem like a leap, but Arcbond isn't what actually deals the damage, meaning that a creature with lifelink will indeed gain you life for every other creature and player on the table. To give you an idea of just how out of hand that can get and how quickly, imagine a Legion's Landing token gets blocked by another 1/1. In response, you cast Arcbond on it. That one damage will then net you at minimum four life, assuming they're the only creatures on the board (an unlikely lowball). Make the blocker a 2/2, and it's 10 life. Block a 5/5 commander with a token deck at the table? It's not uncommon to gain hundreds of life with this maneuver. That may sound unlikely, but to get to net 100 life gained, you need only a 5/5 involved in combat and 15 other creatures on the table. That sounds an awful lot like the average mid-game Commander table, doesn't it?
  • Infect: Everything I just said about lifelink applies to Infect as well. Obviously you'll have to be a bit careful not to K.O. yourself along with everyone else, but it is fairly easy to put four or five poison counters on each player without using anything but combat.

If it seems like there's an inordinate amount of Boros+ piles in that list, well, then, good news! Sunforger can also search up Arcbond.

4. Pestilence

(7,093 Inclusions, 1% of 734,677 Decks)

Much as I love me some Crypt Rats and Thrashing Wumpus, there's no getting around the fact that the best Pestilence effect is Pestilence. Repeatable, hard to get rid of, and a constant threat to the entire table's life and way of life. Since the days of Alpha, Pestilence has been a card in a mono-black deck that has to be answered, and it's no different today.

3. Pyrohemia

(10,137 Inclusions, 1% of 687,758 Decks)

What's different today is that there's now a red version! While I would still classify it as a little less threatening, just because it's so much easier to acquire vast swathes of mana in black than it is in red, there's something to be said for synergy. Whether it's proccing a Dinosaur's Enrage triggers, dealing 3 damage to opponents in Torbran, Thane of Red Fell, or racing through life totals with Neheb, the Eternal, there's no shortage of crazy ways to take advantage of Pyrohemia in red that just aren't available in black.

2. Rolling Earthquake

(10,855 Inclusions, 2% of 687,758 Decks)

At the end of the day, however, what most people are looking for in a board wipe, is an actual board wipe. Rolling Earthquake might not be Blasphemous Act, but it still accomplishes the task of getting creatures off the board (provided you're not playing against a Portal Three Kingdoms enthusiast), so what's the reason to play it over Blasphemous Act? Well, there isn't much of one, other than the obvious "it might kill the entire table in the late game" that we've already talked about. Although there is also the old argument of "why not both?"

1. Earthquake

(16,943 Inclusions, 2% of 687,758 Decks)

There's one more reason why you might be playing the original Earthquake over its Horsemanship-centric companion: because you like your board wipes one-sided. In fact, it surprises me to see that this is not a staple of Kykar, Wind's Fury decks on Earthquake's EDHREC page. Given that Kykar constantly has a ton of mana and is a flier that makes more fliers, this just seems like a bit of a no-brainer.

Regardless of my feelings on everyone's favorite Bird Wizard, however, there is a reason that Earthquake is number one on this list, and it isn't because it's the best. It's because it's got the best name recognition. In the game since Alpha, it's been the quintessential red board wipe and finisher for over 30 years, and that kind of staying power isn't erased overnight.

Honorable Mentions

First off, a few folks have probably been screaming about omissions to this list in the form of "and each opponent" effects, and they're not wrong.

It's not much of a grouping, with only two spells on the list, but both of them are quite good. Chandra's Ignition is one of the quintessential red finishers, and Archangel Avacyn is one of the best effects to give your creatures indestructible at instant speed, stapled to a Serra Angel that can also flip and wipe a significant portion of the board. As for why I didn't include them, I have no other recourse than to tell you that I'm terribly biased towards older symmetrical cards, and am a lost cause for Group Slug. Combine that with the fact that a #1 Chandra's Ignition and #9 Archangel Avacyn would've knocked my pet card Crypt Rats off the list, and it was a personal no-brainer.

Besides the obvious omissions, there are a ton of other options that didn't make it anywhere near our list. Of those, they mostly fall into two categories: creature board wipes from the days of yore, and expensive instant-speed board wipes from the days of yore. So, being that I'm a huge fan of board wipes on a stick, let's start there!

Top 10 "And Each Player" Board Wipes On a Stick

  1. Pestilence Demon
  2. Crypt Rats
  3. Skirk Fire Marshal
  4. Plague Spitter
  5. Jaya Ballard, Task Mage
  6. Ashling the Pilgrim
  7. Bloodfire Colossus
  8. Cloudthresher
  9. Hammerfist Giant
  10. Magma Phoenix

Yeah, I left off Archangel Avacyn again so I could show off the glory that is Magma Phoenix. What of it?

Instant-speed board wipes that can also just end the game are a huge advantage. On more than one occasion I've watched a blue player hold open the dreaded two mana while I have a game-winning Fault Line in hand, only to have them tap that mana to play a cantrip at another player's end step, letting me spring the trap. The same can't be said of the less-variable Inferno, but I am still a huge fan of the card in any deck that can play things off the top of the deck or out of the graveyard for free. Six damage isn't a small amount, and being able to wipe the board of threats and pressure life totals in a spellslinger deck can be absolutely game-winning.

Finally, Pauper EDH players will need no introduction to Wail of the Nim, as it's one of the best board wipes and protection spells in the format, rolled up into one. For everyone else, you'd be surprised how often killing tokens and utility creatures is just what the doctor ordered, while saving your whole board in black is a similarly 'no one saw that coming' kind of move.

Nuts and Bolts

There always seems to be a bit of interest in how these lists are made (this seems like a good time to stress once again that they are based on EDHREC score, NOT my personal opinion), and people are often surprised that I’m not using any special data or .json from EDHREC, but rather just muddling my way through with some Scryfall knowledge! For your enjoyment/research, here is this week’s Scryfall search.

What Do You Think?

People are often dubious of my Tajic, Legion's Edge deck's approach to a combination of group slug and aggro, but I find that the deck does fairly well at mid-level tables. With that said, if there is a complaint, it's usually about the prevalence of board wipes. While once a mainstay of a slower, jankier EDH that is hard to find these days, board wipes have fallen out of fashion of late, with people instead adopting a shuffle up mentality instead of wanting to grind out a game that was saved from the jaws of defeat by a well-timed Rout.

Although maybe that's just my personal perspective. Let's find out, shall we?

Finally, what's your take on "and each player" board wipes? Should they be seeing more play to pressure life totals, or is Blasphemous Act really where it's at?

Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the table where everything was going well until Dave's drink doused each player's cards. C'mon, Dave!

Doug has been an avid Magic player since Fallen Empires, when his older brother traded him some epic blue Homarids for all of his Islands. As for Commander, he's been playing since 2010, when he started off by making a two-player oriented G/R Land Destruction deck. Nailed it. In his spare time when he's not playing Magic, writing about Magic or doing his day job, he runs a YouTube channel or two, keeps up a College Football Computer Poll, and is attempting to gif every scene of the Star Wars prequels.

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