Long has the color pie stood as one of the fundamental principles of Magic. Each color has a couple of things that it’s great at, but also something else where it’s completely lacking. Red, for example, can deal with artifacts in a major way but is relatively lacking when it comes to enchantments.
On top of this, you might have one or two good answers in your color but deck space is tight. There is a time honored way to fix both issues at once!
Enter the Removal Lands
Lands have been a source of colorless removal for any deck in Magic basically forever. Yes, this goes back to the first expansion in Magic’s history, Arabian Nights. Sure Desert is extremely humble by the standards of today, but in some cases, for example an Eldrazi deck, it’s the freest of real estate! You would be surprised at how a “free attack” can result in someone losing a creature because of one damage.
While there are some great color specific removal lands like Barbarian Ring and Cabal Pit there are far more that can go into any deck. If you are playing Snow lands then Mouth of Ronom packs a considerable punch. Four damage kills over half of the popular commanders on the EDHREC top 100 Commanders. That is enough to removes all the creatures in the current Top 100 cards. So it’s definitely a deck neutral piece of removal that does enough if you need it.
Look at Underdark Rift from the Adventurers of the Forgotten Realms. Not only can it handle just about any creature, it can also target planeswalkers and even artifacts. Mono-black, for instance, has a tough time removing artifacts but this land can solve that issue. Furthermore, sending problem permanents back into the deck versus the graveyard really gets rid of them for the time being.
The Doctor Who set introduced Ominous Cemetary so you can have another reasonably costed, instant speed, colorless creature removal effect that sends a problem creature back into the deck and shuffles it away. Getting a key creature sent back into the deck is a major obstacle for many decks. Perhaps one day the “tuck rule” will be brought back?
Also, there are some situations where a land is the only thing you can do. Grand Abolisher shuts down a lot of things but cannot stop you from removing it with a land! Having diversification in your removal is valuable. That being said, what could be more diverse than including the card type that has always had it all?
The History of ArtifactsNevinyrral’s Disk provided colorless mass removal since Alpha, but was not the only artifact to do so that early. You also had the banned in every format Chaos Orb and the incredibly weak Rod of Ruin with an honorable mention to Icy Manipulator. No matter the colors, you always had the possibility to have interaction. You have always needed a way to deal with every situation and artifacts have always helped do that.
When Magic first made formats called “Type 1”, “Type 1.5” and “Type 2” we saw this. These became, respectively, Vintage, Legacy and Standard but early on had some significantly different rules. One of these format specific rules was a deck requirement to include a minimal number of cards from each set. Thus both Serrated Arrows and Aeolipile found their way into decks as the minimum viable cards that could go into any deck. Both could help a mono-black deck kill a White Knight and a mono-white deck kill a Black Knight and later on the “pump knights” from Fallen Empires.
While modern Magic is well aware of powerful artifacts like The One Ring, as just one current example, artifact based removal has always been an important option for any deck.
Eldrazi Spell Options
That’s right, when all is said and done, any deck can also slot in colorless spells primarily thanks to various Eldrazi cards like All Is Dust or Eldrazi adjacent cards likeSpatial Contortion, Titan’s Presence or Calamity of the Titans.
But there are more than enough spells that don’t have an Eldrazi connection. Introduction to Annihilation exiles anything that isn’t a land and Scour From Existence exiles absolutely anything. Both fully colorless, both ready to go into any deck. Sure, they cost a little bit more total mana than an Anguished Unmaking or Utter End but a red, black or green deck might simply need the option.Warping Wail is in a special class of its own and requires a separate mention. A colorless spell that can be mana ramp, a blocker, removal, and on top of all that a limited counter spell against sorceries is in a class all its own for infinite flexibility. Virtually no other card in Magic can do this much while simultaneously being accessible to every single deck. There is massive value to including this card into decks that are lacking certain resources.
Two Big Advantages
There are two large strengths to playing just one color in Magic. One, an incredibly easy mana base and two, high repeatability for specific effects. Take white for example. You’ve got Swords to Plowshares as the single best creature removal spell in the game. Path to Exile isn’t far behind. You have mass removal like Final Judgement, Wrath of God, Terminus and Farewell. White has almost too many options for excellent removal.
Green, on the other hand, has far fewer comparable effects. For mono-green, you can always run cards like Perilous Vault and Oblivion Stone. They cost more mana and are not quite as good as the effects in white, but can be close enough to get the job done.
There’s always the counter point of why not just play another color? Certainly it’s a valid question and overall Commander decks are vastly multicolored and not mono-colored or colorless. That said, a Rakdos deck will have a lot of trouble with enchantments, two colors or not, because a single Chaos Warp can’t always be enough interaction.
Additionally, you may really enjoy the ramp that green has while still acknowledging that you do need to have some kind of board wipe in your deck. Strong colorless cards can add a virtual second “color” to a mono-colored deck. Furthermore if a deck is heavy with cards like Phyrexian Obliterator or Phyrexian Vindicator, colorless cards are going to interfere with strict mana requirements a lot less than trying to play another color entirely.
Doing Things Colors Shouldn’t be Able to do
Should green have a Time Walk? Well, they do not, but green gets Seedtime and it’s nowhere near as good. Black gets Temporal Extortion which has a built in counter, so yeah, it has a huge problem in a multiplayer environment. White? Nothing, unless you count multicolored cards. Red and blue, however, are swimming in extra turn cards.
Thanks to Commander Masters, we now have Rise of the Eldrazi that can go into any deck. Certainly there are a few colorless artifacts that grant extra turns but they aren’t as straightforward as Rise and only Magistrate’s Scepter is reliable, but exceedingly slow. Will a mono-white deck ever run Rise? Who knows, but, at least now it’s an option and options that are not good now may become good in the future!
An Alternate Solution for Deckbuilders
Most players have an idea of what they are trying to achieve for any particular deck. The first run of your deck exposes some of the flaws in your thought process through play. Improving and refining your deck often reaches a point where further changes become significantly more difficult to evaluate, especially when constrained by color.
The next time you’re trying to add a little more removal, don’t forget about both lands and artifacts! No matter the color or colors of your deck, utility lands, artifacts and colorless spells can shore up weaknesses and give you options that simply don’t exist in your combinations. More options are always better than less!