EDHPSA: Oblivion Ring is not removal

Greetings, Average MtGers! I’m back with another PSA today, and I’d like to discuss why I do not consider effects like Oblivion Ring to be removal. Before you voice all those thoughts running through your mind, yes I concede there are caveats to this; we’ll talk about caveats down the line. But overall, I do not count these cards as removal when building my decks.

Don’t worry everyone….I’ll be back.”

We have seen several iterations of Oblivion Ring over the years (though I feel a bit bad not giving credit to Faceless Butcher), and each card has seemed less powerful than before. I’m speaking of cards such as Journey to Nowhere, Banishing Light, and even Grasp of Fate and Aligned Hedron Network. The problem I find in these cards is their lack of permanence. Yes, they are permanents, which is part of the issue; they don’t grant a permanent solution to your opponents’ threats. If I’m spending a card to remove one of theirs, why would I give it a chance to come back?

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Remember those caveats I mentioned? Let’s look at them. The early versions of this effect are worded so they can exile something for good. Faceless Butcher and Fiend Hunter are solid choices for decks built to sacrifice and recur their creatures when there’s a sac outlet handy that can be utilized at instant speed. If the deck is designed for this then full speed ahead; otherwise I feel they aren’t worth playing. The same holds for Oblivion Ring and Detention Sphere. Considered staples for enchantress decks, without ways to sac enchantments I would not look to them. Sphere gets some bonus points when facing token decks, and both it and Ring are great with Sun Titan, so indeed there are exceptions. The one version I find to be interesting is Palace Jailer. If you have a meta that is low on combat damage, it can be quite strong when coupled with the continued card draw from being the Monarch. I want to play in your meta – Editor

“I REALLY hope this bubble doesn’t burst.”

Since I am arguing against these effects, how about some cards that can (and probably should) replace them? Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile are the obvious choices, but likely those are already used. So let’s dig a little deeper. One of my favorites is Crib Swap. It may only target creatures, but for the same CMC as O-Ring, all they receive is a 1/1. It also will trigger some tribal abilities; it will give you a token if you’re playing Edgar Markov, and Depala, Pilot Exemplar will put it into your hand when revealed. Another fine mention is Ashes to Ashes. At first glance the five damage may be scary, but it is a small price to exile two creatures with a single card. And since those two are for creatures, I’ll end with something for those pesky artifacts and enchantments. Return to Dust is a must play, but even cards like the recent Forsake the Worldly are fine choices. Exile plus the ability to cycle is very handy in EDH.

Again, I know cards like O-Ring have their place. For some strategies they can shine, as long as your deck caters to them. But in too many games I’ve seen them used as general (not commander) removal. Suddenly they are swept away by Austere Command or Acidic Slime, leaving the original culprit back on the battlefield. So please, when you fill out your removal package, choose those cards that will be a more permanent solution to troublesome permanents.

Chris is a Strictly EDH player and thorough Melvin from Columbus, OH. He squeezes in games whenever he isn’t on adventures with his wife and toddler daughter.

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