As a young boy in Catholic school, we learned that God basically had two moods: New Testament Mood and Old Testament Mood. If you stole candy from the corner store, and God was in New Testament Mood, He would ask you if you were sorry you did it. If you were, then it was okay and you should try to never do it again. If God was in Old Testament Mood, He would shout from Heaven, "Thou Shalt Not Steal!" and you knew you were doomed to burn in a fiery hell for that Jawbreaker.
You really wanted God to be in a New Testament kind of mood, but God in an Old Testament kind of mood was far more interesting to read about! Killing your firstborn or sending swarms of locusts made for some exciting stories! I never wanted to be on the end of it, but reading about the Wrath of God made religious studies classes far more interesting. Hardly surprising that Magic has an entire group of cards similar to Wrath of God, but no card named "Forgiveness."
Value of Wrath
Wrath effects have been a staple of casual play since four players got together and said "Let's just all play one game of Magic together." And this is a good thing.
Just a few weeks ago, my friends and I had a battlefield that looked a little something like this:
This is what can happen without a Wrath of God or similar mass-removal spell. In our case, someone did have a mass-removal spell, but he was waiting for the right moment to release it, and this wasn't it. When one player's creatures are all indestructible, you need to be using just the right Wrath effect (perhaps Final Judgment), or you are just giving the win to someone else.
The difficulty often lies in which Wrath effect to include in your deck. Thankfully, we're here to help. I asked a few hundred of my closest Twitter friends and came up with the:
Top 10 Wrath of God Effects
10. Winds of Rath
I hated this card for a long time. My friend Josh would play this in a deck that featured a number of enchantments and Auras. This would surprise me more often than I'd like to admit. A five-mana sorcery is a little more pricey than a straight Wrath, but it can run a solid backup position if need be. The benefit of having a one-sided Wrath is easily worth the extra mana on the cost, though. Getting rid of all of your opponents' creatures, then swinging in for win, is a wonderful thing!
This is also a card that should be considered when building with Theros cards. Using bestow to target a heroic creature can give you a dangerous creature. Casting Winds of Rath gives you an even bigger advantage when you are using a block that is as enchantment-heavy as Theros block has been so far.
The main problem with Wrath of God for me was that I never seemed able to really get caught up. I would play Wrath, but everyone simply played out more creatures before I would get another turn and the chance to put out creatures of my own. Phyrexian Rebirth gives me the Wrath effect and a creature to boot! I've never had anything less than a 10/10 Horror.
I tend to run this in my Allies deck. I play out a bunch of Allies, then play Phyrexian Rebirth with Cauldron of Souls out. I'll destroy five of my own creatures, all of my opponents' creatures, then get mine back. All the Allies enter the battlefield at the same time and give each other bonuses. On top of that, I also get a large artifact creature for my troubles!
I particularly like how this card gets better in multiplayer formats. If I'm going to pay two more for a Wrath, I want to get something. In a duel, I might only get a 4/4 creature, but in multiplayer, the numbers are bound to be higher. Six mana is always worth it with Phyrexian Rebirth.
Akroma's Vengeance is the first Wrath effect on the list that takes out artifacts and enchantments as well. This is handy versatility, particularly in a multiplayer game, since artifact mana and effects from enchantments are common problems. The Vengeance does cost a little more, but six mana is a small price to pay to eliminate three different types of permanents!
The ability to take out more than just creatures isn't the only benefit that Akroma's Vengeance offers. If you find yourself in a board state where you don't need to Wrath, then you are probably wishing you could just draw a card. You are either in control of the battlefield or the position is acceptable. The next best thing is drawing a card. For only three mana, this card can be cycled away for something more useful. It also means that Akroma's Vengeance is not a dead card in the early game when you don't have the mana to cast it. With three mana, you can draw into the next land you need, or closer to an answer that you need now, as opposed to sitting with it in hand, trying to convince your opponents that you are sandbagging something cheap.
7. Reiver Demon
While I put Reiver Demon as the card, pretty much any of these "Wrath on a Stick" creatures fits this slot. While I agree with Judson that "wraths on dudes are cool," they are another solution to the problem of not being able to take advantage of the currently empty battlefield after you Wrath. These creatures give you a Wrath effect, or at least a portion of one that your deck can maximize, and leave you with a big dude to smash face.
Judson listed some of the bigger, beefier options, but you can find others. Thrashing Wumpus is another that does a fine job on its own in the early going, and a more impressive job when you can give it a little help.
Seven mana is a little pricey, but consider what you are getting.
You are destroying Planeswalkers. Only one other card in the Top 10 can do that. We are starting to see more ways to deal with Planeswalkers beyond attacking them, but Fated Retribution is one of the best options, as you don't have to pick and choose. You can just make them all be gone.
You are getting instant-speed removal. You can respond to your opponents' actions with a Wrath. No other Wrath in the Top 10 can do that. When a Wrath costs this much, you worry that you'll just be able to Wrath, then sit there and do nothing while your opponents start building up before you can get the chance. Instant speed means you can cast it on your opponent's end step, then untap on your turn and play out your threats.
You are getting to scry! Okay, you have to play it on your turn to scry, and that sucks. However, you know that your next two draws are likely going to be something you can use, while your opponents will be drawing off the top of their decks, hoping for threats.
If this was only my Top 10, Austere Command would have placed higher. I agree with Abbott in that it rewards you for planning out when and how you are going to play it. With the kind of flexibility it offers, paying six mana is not an issue. I also love that most people never see it coming, particularly if you aren't planning to make it into a full Wrath. Players often don't notice that your creatures all cost three or less and you haven't played an enchantment the entire game.
This is also a great card when a Wrath isn't what you want. The opportunity to take all the artifacts and enchantments off the board should not be underestimated. Many multiplayer games involve someone with an overabundance of artifacts. They expect to see a few bite the dust, but rarely all of them. Austere Command is an all-star.
It costs six and requires white and black mana. It is a sorcery, so no responding to dangerous permanents on an opponent's turn. In spite of that, the flexibility to target creatures, artifacts, enchantments, or Planeswalkers makes this a favorite for many.
Much like many of the other cards on this list, flexibility is key. We are generally willing to pay an extra mana for an effect like Wrath of God if we can get a little more. With just two more mana we can take out the permanent that is causing us the biggest issue. This flexibility gets Merciless Eviction to #4.
This can't be understated. If you are planning to use a Wrath effect, you have sculpted the game around it. You have tried to create a scenario where, after you cast this card, you will go on to win the game. If an opponent manages to counter it, your game is altered in a way that is fundamental. Losing a creature to a counterspell is annoying, but you can try to cast something else. You can alter your game plan and try to work with what you have. If your Wrath is countered, you will likely lose. The Wrath is likely the fulcrum of your game plan. This is the spell that MUST happen.
Thus, the importance of Supreme Verdict's inability to be countered. That gives you a guarantee like no other. You can walk the brink and know that the Supreme Verdict will be there, and there isn't anything your opponents can do.
When Wrath of God first appeared, it felt like a shutdown card. You killed all the creatures. The board was clear. Nothing would be coming back.
While that wasn't completely true, there were some cards that brought creatures back from the dead, now there are entire sets of cards and keywords that bring creatures back. You can kill all of your opponents' creatures, but between graveyard recursion, persist, and a variety of other ways, it sometimes seems that a Wrath is little more than a speed bump anymore.
That's when Final Judgment comes in.
When you exile creatures, they aren't coming back. Sure, the Commander will be back soon enough, but exiling a creature offers a sense of permanency that you don't always get with other Wrath effects. Like Tim Morris said, "it just straight up deals with everything forever."
This fine card is widely recognized as one of, if not the greatest, multiplayer card of all time, and for good reason. It wipes out artifacts and enchantments, along with creatures, so it offers that flexibility that helps make a Wrath effect so good. It can take out everything or just the smaller permanents that are in the way.
The real key is that it sits on the battlefield and threatens your opponents turn after turn. It stops your opponents from even trying to improve their board state, since they know you'll only "Pop the Deed" once things get bad enough. Barring a Krosan Grip, you can activate it in response to anyone killing it, so it is almost impossible to deal with. The Deed hangs over your opponents like a cloud, letting you take control of the game and keep it in a vice lock until you are ready to release it.
May God's Wrath always be on your side.