Fans of playing Black in Magic often inevitably have a conversation that asks the question, “What is your favorite spot removal card?”
Everyone seems to have their favorite, and like anyone well versed in the necromantic arts, it often comes down to a matter of style. Some people prefer to stick to the classics, with the original restrictive nonblack options such as Terror and Dark Banishing, or their old-is-new-again forms like Doom Blade and Hideous End.
Others prefer to take something down with a bit of flair, opting to Go For the Throat, to make them Snuff Out, or to Smother them. Still others like to take advantage of cards that are fare more powerful outside of their original block – your Chill to the Bones, Eyeblight’s Endings, Ultimate Prices, Victim of Nights, and Rend Fleshes.
Then there are your true utilitarians, who want the simplest, most direct way of taking out a creature in the most cost-effective way possible. No hoops to jump through, no colors to avoid. They want Murder and Hero’s Downfall merely because they are straightforward and simple.
Such a debate happens because there are so many wonderful options to ’86 someone’s creature, and, at the end of the day, they all get the job done one way or the other. The argument ultimately comes down to a matter of speed, style, and how much more punitive damage you want to inflict.
That last aspect is usually found in the more expensive (read: greater than 4-CMC) spot removal cards. Spread the Sickness, for example, lets you proliferate, while Sever Soul gains you life. Murderous Spoils steals all the creature’s Equipment. Annihilate lets you draw a card. And so on. It just is a bit more costly.
The biggest, baddest of these expensive ones, though, is Phthisis. It’s a heavy Black mana commitment if you want to hard cast it, but it’s also a heavy gamble if you opt for the suspend cost. And, really, it’s a terrible waste of talent when someone sees a Phthisis coming several turns out and is prepared for it.
Suppose that you aren’t just limited to Black mana, however. That opens a few more doors, such as use of the highly popular Unmake. Unmake is the logical combination of Black and White effects, turning creature destruction into creature exile – probably in a semi-painful manner.
Now, how about mixing Black and Red? Why you get today’s card!
Today we have: Agonizing Demise
Name: Agonizing Demise
Edition: Invasion / Ajani vs. Nicol Bolas
Focus: Spot Removal / Damage Dealing
Highlights: Agonizing Demise is a wonderful alternative to Phthisis if you have the requisite Red mana available, although there are some notable differences between the two.
For starters, Agonizing Demise follows the long-held rider that it cannot destroy nonblack creatures. (This appears to be something that R&D is moving away from, however.) While this does add an extra restriction for the card – something that can be potentially detrimental in Commander games where it’s common to see multicolored creatures you’d prefer not to deal with – what it gives you instead is a worthwhile tradeoff.
Those trades come in three aspects. First, Agonizing can be cast as an Instant. Nothing is more worthwhile for a kill spell than to take care of a problem creature when it’s buffed, attacking, buffed while attacking, or being given an Aura or Equipment. Sorcery spells can often be cheaper for the same effect in exchange for their slower response time, but given a choice between the two, especially in an unpredictable format, Instant speed is nothing to scoff at.
Second, it has a better alternative casting cost vs. Phthisis. The six-mana investment of Agonizing Demise against its seven really is a negligable factor. The economic aspect is that rather than wait several turns and have it be public information like Phthisis does, you can simply…not cast it with the Kicker. If you’re in a tight situation where you need to have something die right away and don’t have enough to kick it, you still have the option to destroy it fairly easily.
Third, it has the other long-held rider that the creature can’t be regenerated. (This is also something R&D has moved away from.) Phthisis does make the player lose the creature’s combined stat totals, but it could also potentially stick around. Agonizing Demise ensures that, barring being Indestructible, the creature will bite it. Hopefully with an added fireball to the face.
Agonizing Demise is a great little spitfire of a card that often can be overlooked due to its off-color Kicker, and that would be a shame. This card can easily take care of massive nonblack creatures – and do a heaping amount of damage at the same time. And as any good Black player will tell you, the only thing better than killing your opponent’s heavy hitter is making sure they take a swing at their owner on the way down.
Keep an eye out for us to be regularly featuring other more accessible-but-worth-it Commander cards going forward. In the meantime, we’ll keep the light on for you.
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