Since we’ve started talking about spot removal, I thought we’d open up this installment of Smoothing the Curves to board sweepers!
Let’s look at this one on more grass roots level and determine the impact of the wipe, and why we’d need to play it in the first place.
We’d obviously need this if someone has outpaced us in advancing their board and its hit, or is about to hit, critical mass in some respect that they threaten victory during their next turn if left unchecked. The sweeper effect is especially impactful against “go wide” strategies and sees diminished usefulness with hard cast strategies and is of negligible effect on Tron (if we’re being honest here, Tron is probably its own worst enemy).
This “reset button” requires special consideration for everyone’s board state – wiping everyone’s board with Wrath of God, leaving only a Blightsteel Colossus may only expedite your defeat. It’s also worth noting that sweepers can get around “protection from colour” effects as they do not target.
The kind of deck you’d want to run these cards in should be decks in which you retain your capacity to repopulate your board presence quickly as you’ll probably be the last to do so and after investing the 4+ CMC to execute the board wipe in the first place, there’s not likely to be much mana left over to do anything really impactful until your next turn.
The sweeper’s we should be considering should follow much the same kind of logic as the spot removals in that they should be flexible and place as much distance between the player and their pieces while offering some degree of flexibility for you in what they target while synergizing as closely as possible with your deck. Hallowed Burial and Merciless Eviction are among my favourites for these reasons, however they cost both 5 and 6 CMC respectively. I am especially fond at tucking creatures back into my library with decks that I can recur them later, like with Gishath, Sun’s Avatar. Austere Command is another that offers a lot of flexibility but is hard to cast.
Sweepers also come in 2 varieties: symmetrical and asymmetrical.
An example of a symmetrical board wipe would be Toxic Deluge – probably the lowest CMC of any board wipe (without needing to jump through hoops like Miracle) in which everyone is impacted by the same effect. These types are the most prominent.
An asymmetrical board wipe would be an overloaded Cyclonic Rift, bouncing all of your opponent’s non-land permanent’s to hand, clearing the path for you to swing in. Naturally, this is the preferred type however the limitation on it is of the monetary variety.
Next time you move to play a sweeper, check in with yourself why you feel you need to. Is it because it’s the easiest way to address the field, or are you trying to hit just a single or a couple of pieces? Check in with your deck to see if the sweeper feels like an organic feed, or if you should look to a spot removal effect instead.