Five Board Wipes for Nadu and Other Creature Decks in cEDH

Harvey McGuinness • June 23, 2024

Whether you chalk it up to new brew syndrome or are a fully fledged supporter of our newest Bird Wizard overlord, there's no denying it: Nadu, Winged Wisdom is a pretty popular, and powerful, commander.

cEDH has been a midrange format for a while now, and Nadu has taken the meaning of value engine to a whole new level, turning even the most innocuous of mana dorks into a potential source of card advantage. That being said, it's not like we haven't seen creature-heavy cEDH decks before. Think back a year ago, and Winota, Joiner of Forces was the scourge of tournaments far and wide. More recently, Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy has continued in Winota's stead: a kill-on-site commander that turns small creatures into snowballing sources of advantage. 

Historically, the answer to these decks has been targeted removal. Bolt Kinnan, Swords a Winota, etc. The commander is the problem, so why waste resources dealing with the insignificant fodder they look to support? No one thinks twice when about little old Llanowar or Fyndhorn Elves, but in Kinnan these can pose a real problem. Yes, cards like these are at their most threatening when the deck's commander is out (who even remembered Shuko existed until Nadu was printed), but does that really mean we should let them muck about as the game goes on just because the commander has yet to be cast? Casting Nadu, Winged Wisdom into an empty board only nets you two triggers a turn, but casting it into a board pre-conditioned with mana dorks left and right is a whole different ballgame. 

Taking these less-immediately threatening creatures into consideration, I believe it's time we retool our removal suites to contain an effect that has long since been treated with disdain in cEDH: the sweeper.

In a midrange-dominated cEDH metagame, it isn't enough to simply kill the commander. Yes, it puts a pause on Nadu or Kinnan or whatever else is plaguing you that day, but this isn't a real solution; soon enough, the commander will come back, and in the interim their controller's board will have inevitably grown full of the support creatures necessary to maximize the deck's value in a single turn. With sweepers, the spot-removal pause is extended dramatically, clearing away not just the focus of a threat but its support, too. Currently, most decks have settled on running one or so such effects, with Cyclonic Rift and Toxic Deluge among the top contenders. Fire Covenant clocks in at number three, popping up occasionally, but that requires targets, something Nadu is priming us to avoid. So, what other sweepers can we look to as we increase our wrath count? Here are five more of the best board wipes worthy of consideration.

#5 - Final Showdown

Number five on our list is the most mana-intensive, but most flexible, sweeper on our list. For one white mana, you get an instant that does... nothing, but that's because you're never really going to cast this spell for a single mana. Rather, you have the option of paying any of three additional costs to gain the associated effect: one generic mana adds either "All creatures lose all abilities until end of turn," or "Choose a creature you control. It gains indestructible until end of turn," (both if you pay two generic), and three generic plus double white adds "Destroy all creatures." 

So, if we just want to look to Final Showdown as a board wipe, then this card costs three generic and triple white for an instant-speed Wrath of God. Not bad, but not great. So, why put it on the list? Like I mentioned earlier, it all comes down to flexibility. Some of Magic's most powerful cards are good not because of their rate, but because of their ability to be useful in any number of situations. Sometimes, Final Showdown is a wrath. Other times, it's a pseudo-Dress Down in white, or even a counterspell for someone trying to remove your own creature. Taken together, and all these options make Final Showdown not just excusably inefficient, but a pretty attractive all around card. 

#4 - Wrath of the Skies

Next up on our list is a card that has had barely any time to shine in cEDH, and that's Wrath of the Skies. For X generic and double white, Wrath of the Skies functionally reads as "Destroy each artifact, creature, and enchantment with mana value X or less." Yes, there's some text about energy counters tucked away in there, but that's very rarely going to matter.

Now, like Final Showdown, this may not seem to be the most efficient in face value, as the mana cost scales with the permanents to be destroyed, but let's think about what Wrath of the Skies is really here to answer: a board clogged full of small, value-oriented permanents. For X = 1, you're paying three total mana to destroy just about every mana creature and mana rock in the format, plus Esper Sentinel, Mystic Remora, and Dragon's Rage Channeler. Bump that up to X = 2, and now you're hitting Signets, Talismans, and Bloom Tender. You see where this is going? You'll never realistically hit a Tivit, Seller of Secrets with this, but that's not what this card is meant to do; instead, it's a correct measure to break the foundations of all the value piles running around you. Not too shabby.  

#3 - Blasphemous Act

Alright, now we're getting to cards that have come and gone from cEDH before, starting off with Blasphemous Act. Just like Wrath of the Skies, Blasphemous Act has a deceptive mana cost, but in the reverse direction. Rather than potentially costing more and more as the game goes on, reaching ever higher for bigger targets, Blasphemous Act sets out with an exorbitant starting mana cost that creeps ever smaller as it's use becomes increasingly needed. You won't be casting this card on turn one, but by turn five, when everyone has run out their commanders and mana dorks, suddenly Blasphemous Act costs a reasonable three, two, or sometimes even one mana. Now that's a mana cost cEDH decks can get behind. One note of caution though: don't play this card with Ad Nauseam. I love living by the mantra that just about any slot can be a flex slot, but some cards just don't go in the same deck. With a mana value of nine, this card just costs too much to flip. 

#2 - Winds of Abandon

We've made it to the final two, and it's here that you're going to start noticing some striking similarities. So, what is the penultimate pick, the weaker of the two? Well, that'll be Winds of Abandon

For one generic and a white, Winds of Abandon is a sorcery-speed Path to Exile that can't target your own creatures. Why that restriction, you may ask? Overload. For a total cost of four generic and double white, Winds of Abandon can be expanded to hit all creatures you don't control, presenting cEDH with white's Cyclonic Rift look-a-like. Now, Winds of Abandon's standard rate might not be good, but it's far from exorbitant. The flexibility to exile any creature for two mana is pretty solid, but attaching that to a one-sided board wipe is what makes this card stellar, and while six mana is a lot, it's only two colored pips, far from the triple white in Final Showdown.

Now, while overload is certainly a fun keyword, let's take a brief moment to talk about my favourite part of this card: the fact that Wizards of the Coast chose to model its effect off of Path to Exile rather than Swords to Plowshares. Plenty of cEDH decks exist that want to have a high life total to spend on broken effects, from Ad Nauseam to Necropotence, and as such giving them more life to spend really is a trade-off worth thinking about. Meanwhile, there are far fewer decks that have mana bases chock full of basic lands (especially after the MDFC drop from Modern Horizons 3), meaning that there will more often than not be times when a resolved Winds of Abandon doesn't actually give an opponent anything in return for having their creatures exiled. Now that's value.

#1 - Damn

Here we are, the top of the list. I've talked about flexibility, I've talked about efficiency, and I've talked about the overloard mechanic. Now it's time to wrap it all up. Here's Damn, one of my favourite cards in Magic.

Just about everything I said for Winds of Abandon can be applied to Damn, except almost always with a better return on investment. While the base rate is worse (there's no way around it, two colored mana is a lot more difficult to cast than one and a generic), Damn is nonetheless a stellar removal spell. While it destroys, rather than exiles, I honestly can't think of a single problematic creature in cEDH at the moment that has indestructible stapled to it, so that difference is largely irrelevant. What isn't irrelevant, however, is the fact that your opponent gets nothing out of having their creature removed. No land, no life, just nothing. Moving to the overload cost, we can see that Damn blows up your own board as well, but in exchange it costs a whopping two generic mana less to cast, bringing it down to Wrath of God level. Yes, it'll suck to lose your own creatures (if you have any), but odds are the trade-off of clearing three other boards will be well worth it. 

Wrap Up

cEDH is full of slow games and grindy value engines right now, but that's not just because of Rhystic Study and The One Ring. Nadu, Kinnan, Tymna... there's a whole bevy of low-cost creatures hanging around the command zone right now that reward decks which are full of innocuous creatures which can become threatening at a moment's notice. It's time for us to wise up to this shift in the meta and our removal accordingly. Don't cut your Lightning Bolts or Path to Exiles, but do think about the other removal out there. Sometimes you just have to wrath the board.

Harvey McGuinness is a student at Johns Hopkins University who has been playing Magic since the release of Return to Ravnica. After spending a few years in the Legacy arena bouncing between Miracles and other blue-white control shells, he now spends his time enjoying Magic through cEDH games and understanding the finance perspective.