Swords to Plowshares
– Masters 25
April 6, 2018
Commander [EDH]: 4.35
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale.
1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Despite this version of Swords to Plowshares lacking flavor text, it’s far from what Unstable‘s Ineffable Blessing would call “bland”. I might be saying that partly because Terese Nielsen is my favorite Magic artist, but I defy any of you not to pause and take a breath when you see one in person!
This is undeniably a staple of any format it’s legal in, not to mention a poster child for whether the argument over whether answers were historically too strong and/or creatures too weak. It’s even debatable how significant the drawback is in a lot of decks – control or combo decks obviously might not care how much life the opponent is on if they have inevitability or some kind of one-shot finish, but there are even ways to use it in beatdown decks. Kavu Predator, also returning in Masters 25, is a good start, and you could try something like Eventide‘s Stigma Lasher too.
If you recall last year’s Card of the year was a single mana removal instant. Today’s card, Swords to Plowshares, is just that.
The pros are pretty obvious. It is cheap, its instant, and exiles the creature which is great against black. All these strengths are shared with one of my all time favorite cards, Path to Exile.
The con isn’t that bad. From a mathematical stand point if I attack with a 2/2 you can either take it and go to 18 or remove it, bringing my life to 22. Both are variances of 2 but consider that you don’t win the game by gaining life (Felidar sovereign aside) and how rare it is that a game ends with exactly 20 damage dealt. Whether its a Birds of Paradise or a Tarmogoyf, the life difference is almost always worth it.
Back in Monday’s review of Ihsan’s Shade, I mentioned Swords to Plowshares being the strongest spot-removal spell of the era, and its immunity to the spell made it a powerful creature. Turns out that Swords to Plowshares is still good two decades later.
One mana to unconditionally remove a creature from the game is a powerful effect, no matter what the “trade-off” is. That said, trading their creature for a small bit of life gain is a trade you will want to make 99% of the time, as eroding that away is something well within the realm of possibility in subsequent turns. And even if you’re popping an unfathomably large creature with it, I’d rather give them 10 life than be bopped by an Ulamog. It’s one of the staple removal spells of Legacy for good reason, and it would eviscerate Modern if Legal there. It’s to where Path to Exile, a “fairer” version of the spell, is a Modern staple for the same reasons, but occasionally shows up in Legacy; eight spot-exile spells can be better than four, after all.
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