Last updated on January 13, 2023

Chain of Vapor - Illustration by Svetlin Velinov

Chain of Vapor | Illustration by Svetlin Velinov

Tempo is a difficult concept for new Magic players to grasp, but it’s at the heart of what makes bounce spells work. Reid Duke compares tempo to how a whole band plays together as opposed to one young clarinetist “playing from the heart.”

It may seem that a Doom Blade is better than an Unsummon because the bounce spell is only temporary. Depending on the structure of the symphony, the bounce might be the same or even better.

Let’s hop to it and look at what makes for the best bounce spells in Magic!

What Are Bounce Spells in MTG?

Unsummon - Illustration by Izzy

Unsummon | Illustration by Izzy

A bounce spell returns a game object or many game objects to their owner’s hand. It’s usually permanent, but it can sometimes be a spell being cast. Most of these spells are blue, and it’s the traditional removal component of blue’s place in the color pie. This kind of spell is a key part of a blue tempo deck, which generally pairs counterspells with bounce and card draw to control the board.

Although a bounce spell puts the thing back in its owner’s hand instead of removing it “permanently” to the graveyard, it has the same temporary impact on the board as traditional removal. Assuming counterspells are starting to control what the opponent casts, being able to recast a thing while drawing a card from the deck puts them in a bind.

If your counterspells and bounce are cheaper to cast, they can’t catch up. Psychologically, the sunk cost fallacy often puts a player, tilted by a mono-blue opponent, in the mood to land that big beater if it’s the last thing they do. Spoiler: it usually is.

Tempo is tricky. If the opponent is ramping and drawing cards, they can overwhelm the blue-tempo player with card quality. You need to choose your best bounce weapons! Let’s look more closely at the instants and sorceries that make up bounce spells (sorry permanents!).

Best White Bounce Spells

White has a series of Rescue effects at one mana.

#2. Alley Evasion

Alley Evasion

Alley Evasion is pretty useful if you need to save a thing. It’s also a nice combat trick.

#1. Light the Way

Light the Way

Light the Way is better. The untap surprise makes it a better trick.

Best Blue Bounce Spells

Most of these are in blue, so this is going to be big!

#40. Depart the Realm

Depart the Realm

Depart the Realm is what you want in a foretell deck. Outside of that, two mana for a single bounce isn’t enough.

#39. Storm of Forms

Storm of Forms

This seems fine in a deck that can make a salad bar of counter, like Perrie, the Pulverizer or Denry Klin, Editor in Chief, but I’m unconvinced that’s enough to justify Storm of Forms. Maybe throw in a Clockspinning and go for winning the hard way?

#38. Absorb Identity

Absorb Identity

This card is absolute game-winning gas in a deck with lots of changelings. The only reason this is in less than 5% of Morophon, the Boundless decks is that it only came out in a Kaldheim Commander deck and might be a bit unknown.

#37. Gust of Wind

Gust of Wind

Tolarian Geyser is the Dominaria United bounce a thing for three and draw a card tempo darling, in a long line of such effects including Repulse and Symbol of Unsummoning. Paying two for that effect with Gust of Wind is awesome. In a flyers deck, this is a premium spell. Without that, it doesn’t cut it.

#36. Fumble


This is funny. Fumble isn’t usually going to work the way you want it to. When it does and you grab a stack of pants with All That Glitters, that’s maybe worth having an under-rate piece of spot bounce?

#35. Stolen by the Fae

Stolen by the Fae

This card got a bit lost in the generally OP shenanigans in Throne of Eldraine. In Commander, Stolen by the Fae can be especially useful to hold off voltron commanders, who usually don’t cost that much but have lots and lots of pants. Soon enough, people will start brewing seriously around the new uncommon, Najal, the Storm Runner, who can cast this as an instant for a total blowout with its new BFF Wizards of Thay.

#34. Banishing Knack + Retraction Helix

Banishing KnackRetraction Helix

Classic infinite combo jank alert! Pair one of these with something like a Battered Golem and a zero-casting cost artifact to bounce auras, then you just need a wincon. Old school makes a lot of golems with Golem Foundry. Simplest is something like Reckless Fireweaver.

Are Banishing Knack and Retraction Helix good as regular cards? Probably not.

#33. Perplexing Test

Perplexing Test

There are lots of times Perplexing Test allows your Drake tokens to have the last laugh or your Voltron commander to sweep aside a table of tokens. There’ll usually be a mix of things out there, and Perplexing Test just feels frustrating. It’s still worth building around.

#32. Veil of Secrecy

Veil of Secrecy

This is an oddity. 93 cards in the original Kamigawa block have the spell subtype arcane. You can splice a spell onto a cast arcane spell by paying the splice cost, revealing the card from your hand, and adding the abilities of the card you reveal to the existing spell while keeping the spliced spell in your hand.

Veil of Secrecy bounces one of your creatures to make something like your Voltron commander hexproof and unblockable. You can cast something like the Peer Through Depths cantrip and splice the Veil onto it (reserving the Veil for another use). If you can get value from bouncing your creature to hand, bonus.

I play this and a series of arcane spells in my Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest Voltron deck, and it’s worth it. I think this card is criminally underplayed, perhaps because the splice business is funky and hard to grok.

#31. Consuming Vortex

Consuming Vortex

Think about what I said about Veil of Secrecy about the splicing business and now consider Consuming Vortex. There are cheaper spells, but it’s a worthwhile option in Commander.

#30. Part the Veil

Part the Veil

This is a weird one. You can bounce your own creatures, which is what you had to do to mass reset your ETB triggers before cards like Eerie Interlude. As an instant, you can also yoink your creatures back to hand to avoid a board wipe. That all seems clunky and sad, but Part the Veil is pretty unique in its effects. It may be just the thing you were looking for in your janky EDH concept.

#29. Aetherize


Aetherize is a bit like the small tempo-sized sibling of Settle the Wreckage. Useful to keep you alive while your creatures stay happy, this only targets one opponent in EDH, only targets creatures, and can never be used to bounce your own creatures. It only fits certain deck plans.

#28. Temporal Fissure

Temporal Fissure

In a storm deck, there’s a place for Temporal Fissure. In other decks, hard pass at this cost.

#27. Mystic Confluence

Mystic Confluence

This is really expensive to cast, but Mystic Confluence remains really popular. Even if I were playing a cost-reducing themed EDH deck, like Anhelo, the Painter, I’m not sure this always makes the cut.

#26. Wash Out

Wash Out

Wash Out is sneaky good. In a local meta, it could be the best card on this list. Everyone plays green ramp, huh?

#25. Consuming Tide

Consuming Tide

Consuming Tide lets people leave their best stuff out there, and that’s why people aren’t playing this more in Standard. Against go-wide decks, especially tokens, this is brutal. If a table full of artifacts is a deck after The Brothers’ War comes out, this is brutal. If your creature is better, like a classic Dream Trawler or the new Haughty Djinn, you’re in good shape.

#24. Expel from Orazca

Expel from Orazca

If you have a lot of treasures and can get the city’s blessing reliably, Expel from Orazca is the best rate for this effect. This is Memory Lapse for permanents with the blessing, and cheaper than the typical rate, which is three mana for cards like Sweep away. If you care about the top of their deck, like with commander Daxos of Meletis, you’ll want this.

#23. Unsummon


There are a few of these one-mana blue bounce instants based on this original. Unsummon effects are key in mono-blue tempo decks to be able to deal with creatures that make it past your counterspells. Are any of these worth it in EDH? Sure! Tempo and spellslinger commanders like this kind of thing. Etrata, the Silencer decks seem to be the greatest users of this card.

#22. Vapor Snag

Vapor Snag

For when you want an Unsummon and a life loss trigger or when you just need another copy in Commander, snag a Vapor Snag. Compare this to Void Snare as a stand-in for all sorcery single target bounce spells. Instant speed for one mana will always have a place.

#21. Rona’s Vortex

Rona’s Vortex

It’s generally worse to not be able to target your own creatures in a pinch to save them. In Dimir decks, Rona’s Vortex can basically hard remove an indestructible monster by tossing it on the bottom of the deck.

#20. Fading Hope

Fading Hope

It’s an improvement on the classic Unsummon. The faster your table, the more valuable spells like Fading Hope. In longer games with big boards, they just get a little sad and stale.

#19. Crush of Tentacles

Crush of Tentacles

This is okay for a mass bounce. If you’re playing Two-Headed Giant, the surge cost and added effect of Crush of Tentacles is wacky.

#18. String of Disappearances

String of Disappearances

The more pedestrian Chain of Vapor is still pretty good.

I bounce your blue Voltron commander before you kill me. Do you take your vengeance upon me by paying the two blue? Do you bounce someone else’s commander if I have nothing good to bounce? That’s maybe worth it for an Unsummon. If you’re mono red, easy. If I bounce my own thing, I can pay a bit more and bounce something else. Flexible is the String of Disappearances.

#17. Blink of an Eye + Into the Roil

Blink of an EyeInto the Roil

Four mana for bounce and a card? That seems like a durdly Limited card, but it turns out to be not bad, especially if you’re in Verazol, the Split Current kicker tribal. In that deck, I’ll go Into the Roil in a Blink of an Eye!

#16. Snapback


The pitch cost on this is steep, but pitch cards have blown out opponents since Force of Will terrorized its meta. Snapback has definitely won me games of Commander.

#15. Unsubstantiate


It’s not as good as Memory Lapse, but in EDH (where you don’t have a sideboard of lessons), it’s better than Divide by Zero. Unsubstantiate is just as annoying to play against as you imagine it might be.

#14. Divide by Zero

Divide by Zero

Divide by Zero, annoying enough for a Standard ban, is better than Unsubstantiate when you can run a lessons sideboard. It’s worse in EDH where you can’t.

#13. Narset’s Reversal

Narset’s Reversal

Narset’s Reversal is a brutal, brutal Cube staple. Is there a better answer to a Time Walk, ultimatum, or command? You can counter it, but this is way more fun.

#12. Turbulent Dreams

Turbulent Dreams

Would you like to fill your graveyard to bounce a thing or two? With a lot of mana, would you like a lot in your graveyard for a janky board wipe? Turbulent Dreams is for you.

#11. Whelming Wave

Whelming Wave

It’s cheaper than the mass bounce cards, but this is bad against the wrong tribe. If opponents play lots of changelings in your neck of the woods, you may as well run something more consistent than Whelming Wave.

#10. Coastal Breach

Coastal Breach

Four mana for a mass bounce is great, and that’s the cost of Coastal Breach at a full 4-player table. At a smaller table, this is a bit less good.

#9. Displacement Wave

Displacement Wave

Displacement Wave climbs gets better as the game gets faster and EDH boards are clogged with all kinds of tokens. Two mana to smash all Treasures, token creatures, Clues, Food, and other tokens is pretty decent for a bounce spell.

#8. Sublime Epiphany

Sublime Epiphany

This is an amazing card. The bounce is only a small part of the story, but I have relied on the bounce from Sublime Epiphany to keep me alive in my Scholar of the Lost Trove reanimator decks in Historic.

#7. Cryptic Command

Cryptic Command

Here’s another amazing card, and the bounce is a bigger part of the story. For four mana, being able to counter one spell while bouncing something else is a huge tempo swing if you can manage the Cryptic Command mana.

#6. Evacuation


Five mana to bounce the table is pretty awesome for Evacuation.

#5. Devastation Tide

Devastation Tide

Take the previous card and pump it up to 11 by also hitting noncreature permanents. Devastation Tide has that janky miracle option.

#4. Spectral Deluge

Spectral Deluge

At six mana, Spectral Deluge is still decent. Being able to foretell it and cast it for three mana is ridonkulous.

#3. Capsize


Capsize is one of the best single-target bounce spells in the game. If you aren’t playing the mass bounce game, you gotta be able to see what’s good!

If you aren’t a Magic boomer, maybe you aren’t acquainted with the joys of buyback? Capsize is exactly what you want in Commander, so it’s in a lot of decks. Late game, you can just keep on playing this to drive the table mad. Be sure to pack a lunch and a wincon.

 I run a buyback suite in my Talrand, Sky Summoner deck, and Memory Crystal is the long-forgotten helpmate of that suite.

#2. Chain of Vapor

Chain of Vapor

This is a cEDH staple because it’s the fastest way to return anything but a land to its owner’s hand. When the game can end on turn one (!), a card like this is vital. As the game goes on, Chain of Vapor can be used politically. If it starts chaining out, that might be a good outcome for you as a tempo player. You could always use it to save your own stuff in a pinch.

#1. Cyclonic Rift

Cyclonic Rift

This is the nuts. Cyclonic Rift is so good because you can use it early or make the whole table sad later. At instant speed! Everyone says they hate this. Everyone plays it. Hmmm.

Best Multicolored Bounce Spells

They all have a bit of blue as expected, but many are charms or commands where the blue bounce is an option on a more expensive, more flexible card.

#12. Recoil


I don’t think this is playable anymore, but I have to put this here in tribute to control decks of days gone by. Cheers, Recoil!

#11. Clutch of the Undercity

Clutch of the Undercity

How valuable is transmuting for four? It depends on whatever janky combo you’re trying to enable on a budget. Otherwise, Clutch of the Undercity is a really expensive bounce spell in a pinch.

#10. Failure // Comply

Failure // Comply

It’s an Unsubstantiate with a nice bonus graveyard card that will usually give you one more turn to stop a game-winning combo. Failure // Comply is a decent consideration in Azorius control decks in EDH.

#9. Deny Reality

Deny Reality

Deny Reality has been good in cascade builds before, and it might now be in your cascade EDH deck. Maybe?

#8. Applied Biomancy

Applied Biomancy

See Quandrix Command. Applied Biomancy is better than you think.

#7. Crosis’s Charm

Crosis’s Charm

Crosis’s Charm is like the next spell but with worse options.

#6. Grixis Charm

Grixis Charm

Bounce for three is a bad rate. Removal or pump for three is okay. The choice is nice with Grixis Charm.

#5. Tyrant’s Scorn

Tyrant’s Scorn

A nice Eliminate that can bounce bigger threats, Tyrant’s Scorn is flexible spot removal.

#4. Quandrix Command

Quandrix Command

This can be a blowout even if Quandrix Command doesn’t crack the top ten of our commands ranking. I’ve used this most as a combat trick, but all modes have decent of value.

#3. Simic Charm

Simic Charm

Giant Growth or Unsummon with a small mana tax, but that hexproof is pretty sweet. There are only a few effects that do that, and although this isn’t as good as Veil of Summer or Heroic Intervention, the flexibility of Simic Charm is nice.

#2. Time Wipe

Time Wipe

I know. Time Wipe is the classic board wipe Azorius control pairs with Dream Trawler. If you really want to bounce and recast something while paying a bit more for a board wipe, this is an option you may have overlooked.

#1. Silumgar’s Command

Silumgar’s Command

This bounce option on Cube staple Silumgar’s Command has got to be its least chosen mode, but it’s there when you need it!

Best Bounce Payoffs

Any deck can utilize tempo-oriented bounce, whether that’s a Fade Away on a reanimated Eldrazi beater or a Cyclonic Rift to get you back in the game. There are some additional specific advantages to these cards also worth exploring.

Tempo Decks

Whether it’s a Curious Obsession blue flyers deck, a Divide by Zero anchored Izzet turns monstrosity, or a Haughty Djinn backed up by bounces, counterspells, and protection, dedicated tempo decks can be enormously frustrating to play against. I don’t think you really know how to play Magic until you can figure out how to successfully pilot one… and successfully beat one!

Young Pyromancer

In Commander, tempo decks are harder to pull off because there are too many players to control. They generally turn to Young Pyromancer style token creation to stave off death while the table consumes a player or two.

Token Removal

Token-making in EDH is just going wild. From treasures to go-wide aggro, there are a lot of these things out there. Bounce is the same as removal, no tempo debates are needed, against tokens. Bounce can do other things, like save your creatures and/or reset your ETB triggers, in a token-heavy meta, so these spells become modular in their options. Options are good!

EDH Politics

Board wipes are political. How many times have you heard an “If you attack me, I’ll have to wipe the board” as an opening political gambit at the Commander table? Mass bounce, especially if more than creatures, can be even more effective as a political move. Especially if your putative ally is fielding an army of tokens against a third player with ETB-laden creatures.

If the threat is stronger than the execution, you’re leveraging the salt players tend to feel about mass bounce to gain some advantage in the negotiations.

Wrap Up

Silumgar's Command - Illustration by Nils Hamm

Silumgar’s Command | Illustration by Nils Hamm

Despite my enthusiasm for bounce spells, I recognize that as ETB triggers proliferate and card draw gets stapled to more permanents, the tempo winds are shifting a bit. It’s harder and harder to keep the game stalled under blue dominion. That’s always been much tougher in Commander, where there are three times as many opponents!

Which bounce spells do you like to use? Which strategies do you like to pair it with? Let me know in the comments below or on Draftsim’s Twitter.

Rift away, my friends. Rift away!

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