Last updated on November 2, 2022

Blim, Comedic Genius - Illustration by Jason A. Engle

Blim, Comedic Genius | Illustration by Jason A. Engle

Discard is an integral part of Magic. It disrupts other strategies, like combo or control. Effects that make your opponents slowly discard cards are nice ways to get an edge in grindy matches or fight opponents with a hand full of cards.

Today we’re going to look at the best cards that make your opponent discard cards, the best discard payoffs, and answer some rules questions.

I hope you’re ready! Let’s go.

Table of Contents

What are Discard Effects in MTG?

Kolaghan's Command - Illustration by Daarken

Kolaghan’s Command | Illustration by Daarken

Discard effects are effects that force your opponent to put a card from their hand into their graveyard. Discard effects are usually black according to the color pie. Like counterspells are blue and burn spells are red, black always has a sorcery spell or creature that makes your opponents discard cards in every set.

Best Black Discard Spells

#31. Liliana’s Specter

Liliana's Specter

A 2/1 flier that makes your opponent discard a card is a reasonable threat. Liliana’s Specter counts for two black devotion in the decks that care about it, like in Pauper and Commander.

#30. Bad Deal

Bad Deal

Bad Deal can generate lots of card advantage, drawing you two cards and making the opponent lose two. Unfortunately, it’s possible that you’ll overpay for a Divination if your opponent’s hellbent by the time you cast this card for six mana.

#29. Addle

Addle

Addle is a good discard effect if you know your opponent’s colors.

#28. Acquisitions Expert

Acquisitions Expert

A discard effect tackled to a creature that can be blinked or Unearthed. Acquisitions Expert scales well with the party mechanic.

#27. Distended Mindbender

Distended Mindbender

A 5/5 that can cost less than its mana value thanks to the emerge mechanic is okay, but Distended Mindbender‘s ETB will net you at least one card from your opponent, maybe two. These abilities made the Mindbender see some play in Constructed.

This is also an Eldrazi for decks that use Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple to generate more mana.

#26. Demonic Pact

Demonic Pact

You have three options with Demonic Pact: draw cards, drain a target, or make the opponent discard. Good to use with flicker effects or sacrifice (and needed, otherwise you’ll eventually lose the game). Cards like Brazen Borrower are good combinations with Demonic Pact since you’ll have a playable bounce effect.

#25. Urgoros, the Empty One

Urgoros, the Empty One

The nice thing about Urgoros, the Empty One is you draw cards if your opponent doesn’t have any cards to discard, shoring up one of discard’s biggest weaknesses.

#24. Elspeth’s Nightmare

Elspeth's Nightmare

A Duress attached to a saga is good because there are other abilities to fall back on, even if it fails to find a target. Combining all the effects in Elspeth’s Nightmare made it a good card in its Standard, and certainly playable in EDH decks interested in enchantments or discard.

#23. The Eldest Reborn

The Eldest Reborn

As with Elspeth’s Nightmare, The Eldest Reborn’s effects do add up to a decent card. And in this case you also have an edict effect, a discard effect, and a reanimation effect.

#22. The Haunt of Hightower

The Haunt of Hightower buy-a-box promo

Although it easily dies to removal, The Haunt of Hightower is a very good threat if it survives. It makes opponents discard when attacking and also has synergies with mill effects.

#21. Concealing Curtains / Revealing Eye

A card playable in black decks in Standard, Concealing Curtains‘ front side is a good defensive creature. You’ll have a better creature added to the disruption of the discard/draw effect if you transform it.

#20. Herald of Anguish

Herald of Anguish

A big demon that synergizes with artifacts and makes the opponent discard during your end step, you’ll benefit from Herald of Anguish almost immediately. You can also use the Herald to kill small creatures.

#19. Rankle, Master of Pranks

Rankle, Master of Pranks

A good haste 4-drop that’s playable even in Explorer and Pioneer. Rankle, Master of Pranks; abilities are optional, but it’s nice that you can use all of them when they’re best.

#18. Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage

Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage

Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage synergizes with discard while being a discard effect itself. The good thing about Davriel is that it usually makes the opponent discard two or even three cards (and maybe deal some damage) against midrange/control decks.

#17. Inscription of Ruin

Inscription of Ruin

Inscription of Ruin is a flexible Mind Rot variant with three different modes. Seven mana for the kicker is a lot, but decks that have the mana to kick it and play the three effects should play it.

#16. Go Blank

Go Blank

One of the best Mind Rot variants, mostly because Go Blank exiles the graveyard of the victim. That shuts down lots of synergies, and it’s a very good card to sideboard against enemy midrange or control.

#15. Hypnotic Specter

Hypnotic Specter

Turn 1 Dark Ritual into Hypnotic Specter defined most of Constructed MTG play back in the ‘90s. The fact that the discard is random makes the Specter effective, since your opponent can’t choose the worst card in their hand.

#14. Collective Brutality

Collective Brutality

Collective Brutality is playable in lots of formats, from Modern to Cube. The flexibility here is very nice because you can play this as removal, discard, drain, or any combination you so choose.

#13. Torrent of Hailfire

Torment of Hailfire

If you have enough mana from artifacts or Cabal Coffers/Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, and Torrent of Hailfire is one of the best ways to spend it.

#12. Junji, the Midnight Sky

Junji, the Midnight Sky

All the legendary dragons from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty have death triggers, and Junji, the Midnight Sky’s trigger either forces your opponents to discard or let you reanimate a non-dragon creature. All this package in a 5/5 flying creature for five mana.

#11. Wrench Mind

Wrench Mind

A similar Hymn to Tourach but conditional, Wrench Mind makes the opponent discard two cards at random, or an artifact card. This can be very powerful in the right metagame.

#10. Duress

Duress

Nothing special about Duress, but this is one card that we usually take for granted while almost every black deck plays one or two in the sideboard. This is a key card for battling control, midrange, and combo decks. It’s very effective in what it needs to do and it has no downside besides missing every now and then.

#9. Archon of Cruelty

Archon of Cruelty MH2

One of the best reanimator targets ever printed, Archon of Cruelty is a 6/6 flier that triggers a little Cruel Ultimatum effects. Reanimator strategies usually depend on the creature having immediate impact on the board, and Archon will make your opponent lose a creature/planeswalker, a card, and three life, all while giving you resources. It’s even relatively good to cast for eight mana.

#8. Tourach, Dread Cantor

Tourach, Dread Cantor MH2

Cards from Modern Horizons 2 are generally good, and Tourach, Dread Cantor is no exception. This card is a good midrange threat that usually comes from the sideboard. Its kicker effect is literally Hymn to Tourach, and after that you’ll have a good-sized threat in a 4/3 with protection from white.

#7. Grief

Grief MH2

The cycle of mythic elementals became a staple of most Constructed formats. Grief is a 4-drop that discards a card from your opponent. And it becomes a devastating threat once you pair it with blink effects like Ephemerate or Undying Evil.

#6. Hymn to Tourach

Hymn to Tourach

Hymn to Tourach‘s two mana to make your opponents lose two cards at random is very strong, perhaps too strong for certain formats like Modern. People really don’t like discard at random because it breaks a good mulligan or a good hand, and it’s very hard to play around that.

#5. Mind Twist

Mind Twist

Speaking of discard at random, Mind Twist is a good first pick in Cube because it’s so effective when cast. Opponent has five cards? Mind Twist for three is already good, but it could be cast for five and take their whole hand.

A single Twist could spell game over in formats known for generating fast mana.

#4. Liliana of the Veil

Liliana of the Veil

Another card that’s a staple in a lot of formats, Liliana of the Veil offers a symmetrical discard effect. Usually best when your cards have flashback, are dead in the matchup, or if you’re hellbent.

Oh, and it ticks to a game-winning ultimate.

#3. Cabal Therapy

Cabal Therapy

A card most played in Legacy, the best thing about Cabal Therapy are its flashback ability and the synergy with Gitaxian Probe and similar cards.

#2. Inquisition of Kozilek

Inquisition of Kozilek 2X2

You know, Thoughtseize’s little brother. Inquisition of Kozilek only works for cards costing 0-3, which is still solid.

#1. Thoughtseize

Thoughtseize

There’s not much to say about Thoughtseize, except that it sees play in every format where it’s legal, and it’s hard to think of a more staple card than this. Taking any nonland card from your opponent is huge, and the life loss is often worth it.

Best Multicolored Discard Spells

#15. Disinformation Campaign

Disinformation Campaign

Disinformation Campaign was good with Thought Erasure and cards like Doom Whisperer, because you’re drawing and the opponent is discarding.

#14. Blightning

Blightning

Blightning was one of the best Mind Rot variants for a long time, with the damage tackled onto the card. Especially good in Jund () decks that would pressure the opponent with Tarmogoyf.

#13. Dinrova Horror

Dinrova Horror

Pauper was taken over by Dinrova Horror after its downshift to common. It’s also one of the more powerful cards in blink/control strategies. Blinking it with Ghostly Flicker and cards like Archaeomancer is a legit win condition for the format.

#12. Basilica Bell-Haunt

Basilica Bell-Haunt

Your opponent discards a card and you gain three life when Basilica Bell-Haunt enters the battlefield. This is a good midrange threat, usually in the sideboard against aggro decks, but it’s hard on the mana cost. Blink it in Esper () decks for maximum value.

#11. Nath of the Gilt-Leaf

Nath of the Gilt-Leaf

As long as Nath of the Gilt-Leaf is in play, your opponent will be discarding cards at random and you’ll make some 1/1s. The bad thing is that it doesn’t do anything when it ETBs, which isn’t ideal in a 5-mana card.

#10. Thought Erasure

Thought Erasure

Thought Erasure was the premier Thoughtseize effect in Standard for a long time, and it even comes with surveil 1. A good discard effect to play in Dimir () decks.

#9. Lord Xander, the Collector

Lord Xander, the Collector

Seven mana for Lord Xander, the Collector is a tad expensive, but I heard that Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord can put it into play as early as turn 3.

#8. Lightning Skelemental

Lightning Skelemental

Ball Lightning mixed with Blightning is a nice card. And Lightning Skelemental is miles better than Blightning if you have some sacrifice synergies going on.

#7. Esper Charm

Esper Charm

A card played for versatility, Esper Charm can be a discard two, draw two, or destroy target enchantment. This card is never dead and is one of the reasons to play Esper control in formats like Modern.

#6. Rakdos’s Return

Rakdos's Return

Rakdos’s Return is like Mind Twist for Modern times. This variant doesn’t discard at random, but it does flat-out kill your opponent with enough mana.

#5. Ob Nixilis, the Adversary

Ob Nixilis, the Adversary

The new planeswalker from Streets of New Capenna, Ob Nixilis, the Adversary forces your opponent to discard a card or lose life. It’s better played with board pressure since your opponents won’t keep their cards in hand when their life total is low. And the tax becomes real with lots of activations since there are usually copies of Ob around.

#4. Blim, Comedic Genius

Blim, Comedic Genius

I like designs like Blim, Comedic Genius that create amusing situations. 4/3 flying for four is good, and you’ll give a permanent to your opponent when it deals combat damage, and then they’ll be punished for how many permanents they own but don’t control. Demonic Pact with all counters used should be a fun one.

#3. Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger

Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger

Another card that given time will be a good win condition, Kroxa is a discard and deal damage spell. And with some cards in the graveyard it becomes a powerful creature. As long as you can keep your graveyard full, Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger will always come back for more.

#2. Nicol Bolas, the Ravager / Nicol Bolas, the Arisen

One good reason to play Grixis (), Nicol Bolas, the Ravager comes down as a 4/4 flier that makes your opponent discard. It also becomes a powerful planeswalker that can dominate the game with enough mana.

#1. Kolaghan’s Command

Kolaghan's Command 2X2

The flexibility here is king, because Kolaghan’s Command is never a dead card. You can kill a small creature, force your opponent to discard, destroy an artifact, or even Raise Dead a creature.

Best Discard Payoffs

Discard is already a good effect in and of itself, but there are some cards out there that give you that extra incentive to attack your opponent’s hand.

Cards like Liliana’s Caress and The Rack punish your opponents for having few cards in hand.

Waste Not

Waste Not is literally a discard deck build-around since its abilities trigger whenever your opponent discard something.

Tinybones, Trinket Thief

You can draw cards using Tinybones, Trinket Thief and punishing your opponent for having no cards.

When Can You Discard a Card in MTG?

You can only discard when a certain effect tells you to do so. You can discard cards on your turn or on the opponent’s turn, and you can discard multiple cards or even your whole hand. It all depends on the description of the effect or ability that made you discard in the first place.

Do You Only Discard on Your Turn?

To hand size: yes! But for any other effects you can discard a card on your opponent’s turn too. In fact, you’ll be more likely to discard a card on your opponent’s turn since most discard effects are activated at sorcery speed.

Can You Just Discard Something Whenever You Want?

Well, of course… not! You can only discard a card if an effect or ability tells you to, or to maximum hand size on the end step. Strategies like dredge and reanimator require that certain cards go to the graveyard so a specific effect is required, whether it’s the looting effect on Faithless Looting or the rummage effect on Bazaar of Baghdad.

How Does the Discard Step Work in Detail?

There’s a phase called the cleanup phase during your end step. In this phase, you’ll need to discard cards until you have seven (the maximum hand size) if you have eight or more cards in hand.

You can freely choose what card you want to discard and the order, if that’s relevant. It’s also important to point out that are also some cards that specify that you don’t have a maximum hand size, like Sea Gate Restoration and Reliquary Tower.

Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur

Effects that reduce the hand size can also be applied, like Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur. In this case your opponent’s maximum hand size is reduced by seven, which means they have to discard down to zero cards during the cleanup phase.

What’s a Discard Deck?

A discard deck is a deck that has multiple effects that forces the opponent to discard, and some synergies that trigger when that happens.

One classic discard deck is 8Rack. It’s a reference to The Rack, which damages the opponent if they have two or fewer cards in hand. Cards like Megrim and Liliana’s Caress punish the opponent each time they discard a card.

Is Exile the Same as Discard?

When you exile a card from your hand you’ll lose the card, but it’s put into the exile zone. This isn’t the same as discarding a card.

Is Surveil the Same as Discard?

Surveil is a different effect entirely, and closer to mill than discard. Surveil lets you see the first card in your deck and put it in the graveyard if you want to. Discard only works from your hand.

Can You Discard with No Cards in Hand?

No, you can’t discard if you have no cards in hand. If an effect makes you discard a card and you don’t have any, nothing happens. In the same way, you can’t activate an ability that requires you to discard a card if you haven’t got any cards to discard. That is a way to take advantage of symmetrical effects like “each player discards a card.”

Does a Creature Dying Count as Discarding?

No, it doesn’t. A creature dying will be put into the graveyard as a state-based effect, and it’s considered destroyed. Discarding involves a card moving from a player’s hand to that player’s graveyard.

Can You Discard from Your Library?

No, you can only discard from your hand. But there is a way to put cards from your library in your graveyard, like with mill or surveil effects.

How to Stop or Counter Discard Strategies? 

Here are the most effective ways to play around discard strategies:

  • Draw a bunch of cards consistently, which is unfortunately something that some colors struggle to do (blue and green are the best colors for drawing cards).
  • Cards that let you play a spell when you discard, like Loxodon Smiter, were designed as an answer to discard effects like Liliana of the Veil. Other cards like Ajani’s Last Stand also play around discard nicely.
  • Mechanics like flashback and disturb that allow a card to be played from the graveyard mitigate the effect of discard, but don’t circumvent it entirely.
  • HELLBENT! You can’t discard if you have no cards in your hand. Okay so this is a bit extreme, but it works.

Wrap Up

Duress - Illustration by Steven Belledin

Duress | Illustration by Steven Belledin

Well, that’s all for today folks, and I’m happy to have covered it all! Discard is something that will always exist in MTG, especially on black cards. Although losing a card is frustrating, and discarding one of them at random certainly is more frustrating, that’s just part of the game, as are bad luck and mulligans.

As extensive as this list was, I could have missed your favorite discard effect, so let me know in the comments below. And our Discord server is a nice place to discuss our stuff and other MTG formats, so be sure to check that out too.

Be safe, and may your hand be full of cards that you don’t mind discarding!

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3 Comments

  • Avatar
    Daniel July 13, 2022 10:20 pm

    What about Bloodhusk Ritualist with multikicker?

    • Avatar
      Dan Troha July 14, 2022 9:55 am

      Looks like you’ve just added the 47th!

  • Avatar
    Connor October 26, 2022 6:24 am

    Nice! I didn’t know this card existed and it’s definitely going into my discard deck.

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