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Core 2021 Standard Set Review with Ali Aintrazi
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Ranking the Sweepers in War of the Spark Standard

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Welcome back!

Last week we talked a little about some of the interesting Esper cards in War of the Spark, including Time Wipe, which seemed like a pretty powerful sweeper for Standard. I mentioned that it could be good alongside Kaya's Wrath, but one thing I didn't realize at the time was how many sweepers Standard currently had access to. I'm not sure this is normal for the format or not, as I haven't gone back and checked previous Standard formats, but it looks like there are at least nine effects that attempt to clear the board currently in Standard.

I'm not going to go over cards that only affect two-toughness creatures or less, such as Golden Demise and Fiery Cannonade. The cards we're going to be discussing have to deal at least three damage, or have to kill the creatures completely, otherwise the list would be a lot longer. Without further ado, let's talk about where nine of the most all-encompassing sweepers in Standard fall.

9. Phyrexian Scriptures

Phyrexian Scriptures

Phyrexian Scriptures is at the bottom of this list for pretty good reason. This was a pretty impressive card when it was first spoiled, and it's even a mythic, which is pretty, uh, uncommon for a board wipe. But the truth is, despite mirroring Damnation's casting cost, Phyrexian Scriptures is often a turn too slow. This isn't because, when you play it on turn four, it doesn't "go off" until turn five. It's more because you have to spend your entire fourth turn casting it to no effect. This means that, not only does your opponent get another attack with their creatures, they also have an entire turn to play around the Scriptures, or plan their recovery. If you play Phyrexian Scriptures on four, they now know that they shouldn't commit any more creatures to the board. That doesn't even address the other issue of them being able to actually remove it before it triggers.

This card has two things going for it. One is that it lets you get the first shot at rebuilding after the second "chapter." And two is that has the potential to leave you with your own creature still on the board (rare as that may be). That being said, I still don't think the Scriptures are able to adequately compete with many of the other cards on this list.

8. Star of Extinction

Star of Extinction

Star of Extinction: for when you absolutely, positively need to kill every creature and planeswalker on the board. And also one land.

I mean, that's not the flavor text, but it might as well be. This card is awesome, and started seeing a lot more play when the Golgari decks began increasing in popularity. It was, and still is, very effective against those kinds of deck. The only problems I have with the card are that it costs 7 mana, which is a ton, and that it also kills our Planeswalkers. Usually with sweepers, you're playing them in a control deck and, as such, you're able to wipe the board and have a Planeswalker or two remaining. Not so with the Star of Extinction, and I see that as a pretty big mark against it.

While you're definitely killing every single thing in play, at 7 mana, you're certainly not casting anything after this, leaving your opponent with the first crack at recovery, which can be a pretty big deal, especially if you're playing against a deck that you needed to play Star of Extinction against to begin with. They will also likely have 7 mana, meaning their recovery will be even scarier than a four- or five-mana recovery.

7. Settle the Wreckage

Settle the Wreckage

Boy, how the mighty have fallen. I remember the day when Settle the Wreckage was the best you could get in Standard sweepers. Truth be told, when it was first legal, it was the best of few options. It was also an instant, which allowed you to keep your counterspell mana up in case your opponent was feeling timid. It also caused your opponent to feel timid, which could be a good thing or a bad thing. There was nothing better than casting Settle when your opponent was attacking with four or five creatures, but there were few things worse than them attacking with only their biggest because they knew you had it. Giving them lands for each creature also wasn't the most ideal.

Yeah, now we simply have better four-mana options and Settle just isn't seeing as much play as it used to. It's definitely a nice one- or two-of in between sideboard and main deck, but it's unlikely to be your four-of sweeper again any time soon.

6. Ritual of Soot

Ritual of Soot

Ritual of Soot is a lot better than it looks, and the reason is because it costs 4 mana, it's a single color, and it wipes a way of ton of problematic creatures in the format from Jadelight Ranger to every token you can think of. One of the glaring flaws of the card is that it obviously doesn't kill larger threats like Carnage Tyrant and Lyra Dawnbringer, but that's a lot to ask for in a single-colored, four-mana card, at least in 2019. It's unlikely we'll ever see a card as elegant as Damnation again, so Ritual of Soot is likely the closest we're going to get. And, that being the case, it's still immensely playable.

5. Deafening Clarion

Deafening Clarion

I like Deafening Clarion a lot, and I've even played it a ton in various Four-Color Dragon decks in Standard, but I do have a few reservations about it. The first is that it's two colors. This is a tall order for a deck to hit on turn three. It isn't impossible, but it often involves taking a couple points of damage or sequencing your lands correctly. Again, not impossible, just obnoxious. My second reservation is that it's damage-based, and only deals three damage at that. Often times this is going to be enough for what you want it to do, but there are some strong, early creatures that quickly outclass this, such as a Wildgrowth Walker with a single counter on it.

While I've rarely been able to take advantage of both sides short of having a Nicol Bolas, the Ravager or a Niv-Mizzet, Parun in play, the life gain mode is a nice option to have. I appreciate that it exists. Deafening Clarion fits on a nice point on the curve if you want to clear the board before your turn four play.

4. Cleansing Nova

Cleansing Nova

As far as our five-mana options go, Cleansing Nova is one of the more versatile. Not only is it going to clear away all creatures with no restrictions, it can also give us the option of removing problematic artifacts and enchantments we may come across in the higher-tier decks. This is something that none of the other cards on the list can do and is a pretty unique ability in the format. With artifacts and enchantments that you simply need to remove - such as Conclave Tribunal, Rhythm of the Wild, Search for Azcanta, Wilderness Reclamation, The Immortal Sun, and Treasure Map - it's nice to have a card in your main deck that isn't dead against control decks without creatures, and isn't dead against the more aggressive decks with creatures.

3. Solar Blaze

Solar Blaze

This one surprised me, because it was the second sweeper in the same set, in addition to Time Wipe, adding to the ridiculous number of sweepers in current Standard. This one is interesting because, again, it's damage based, but most creatures you want to kill are going to have a higher power than toughness, if not equal. It doesn't hit things like Wildgrowth Walker or Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice, for example, but it does hit things like Lyra Dawnbringer and Carnage Tyrant. This is likely the most metagame calls of all the sweepers and it depends on what you're trying to deal with. Out of the entire list, it has the largest fluctuation in its radius based on power vs. toughness in creatures, but the creatures it does kill, it kills them straight away and for 4 mana, so...

2. Kaya's Wrath

Kaya's Wrath

Realistically, the only thing this card has going against it is the color restrictions. Otherwise, it's the perfect Wrath of God cost at double White and four mana. Historically, that's the exact rate we're looking for, and with all 10 shock lands in the format, along with the check lands, the wwbb casting cost isn't really difficult to handle. When you get past that, you actually have an upside to the card in the potential life gain. I can honestly say I can count the number of times I've gained life from this card on one hand, which is actually good because it tells me there are very few times I'm killing my own creatures. It also tells me that there are enough control shells in Standard where this can find a home. When we look for a sweeper, we usually look for two things: that it costs four mana or less, and that it kill all creatures, without restriction. Kaya's Wrath fulfills that criteria.

1. Time Wipe

Time Wipe

We went over Time Wipe last week, but I think it will hold the position as one of the best sweepers in the format, allowing control decks to feel more comfortable not only playing creatures in their decks, but playing them out onto the board, knowing they can now save them when the moment is right. In addition to Teferi, Time Raveler, you could even case Time Wipe as an instant and save your own creature in response to removal, while simultaneously killing all of the opponent's. I think the combination of these two cards, along with all the other control tools and sweepers in Standard, are going to make for quite a few headaches in the coming months.

Thanks again for reading, and I'm super curious to see what you folks think of the list, and of the newly spoiled War of the Spark cards. Let me know how your own ranking goes, and if you feel like anything is out of place. As always, I'm looking forward to your thoughts in the comments!

Frank Lepore

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