Nath of the Gilt-Leaf | Illustration by Kev Walker
Discarding cards has an incredibly strong effect in Magic that works both ways. If you force your opponents to discard cards you can cut away their vital resources and whittle them down during a long game. Discarding your own cards enables powerful graveyard-based strategies like reanimator or madness.
Discarding cards is an effect worth building around in Commander. There are plenty of effects that make each opponent discard a card for some strong card advantage. It’s a great way to drain your opponents of resources and fight against countermagic or combos they’re trying to hold onto. Discarding your own cards sets you up to pull off your powerful gameplans, so let’s look at the best discard commanders in Magic!
What Are Discard Commanders in MTG?
Tourach, Dread Cantor | Illustration by Greg Staples
Discard commanders are legendary creatures that either make players discard cards or benefit from making players discard. This list has two primary groups: commanders that give you discard outlets, and commanders that make your opponents discard for profit.
Commanders that benefit you from discarding your own cards serve as free or repeated discard outlets so you can empty your hand at your leisure and benefit from doing so. You’re looking to get as many cards from your hands into your graveyard as quickly as you can, so you aren’t interested in cards that make discarding a part of a cost like Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald.
As for the commanders that want you to make your opponents discard cards, those are either payoffs or enablers or a mix of the two. They either force your opponents to draw cards so you can eat away at their resources or benefit you by using cards like Necrogen Mists that make them discard. The goal is to run your opponents out of resources and reap the benefits.
Best Black Discard Commanders
#12. Infernal Kirin
Infernal Kirin is a hit-or-miss commander in a very literal sense. The more spells you play the easier it is to get a few hits from the Kirin, but your first spells can often miss since you have no information about what’s in their hand.
That said, this card potentially strips a ton of cards from your opponent’s hands with a bit of luck and can be highly efficient.
#11. Cao Cao, Lord of Wei
This is a discard commander that definitely hits some cards. Forcing an opponent to discard two cards for no mana is quite powerful.
That said, Cao Cao, Lord of Wei is a little slow. It doesn’t do anything but force one opponent at a time to discard cards, and it costs a little too much mana. A Strionic Resonator activation or two can still get you a lot of cards quite quickly.
#10. He Who Hungers
He Who Hungers is a commander that trades quantity for quality by stripping your opponents’ hands of the most important pieces. It’s also a pretty cheap sacrifice outlet in the command zone that you can use multiple times per turn at instant speed, which is a valuable tool for black decks in general.
#9. The Haunt of Hightower
The Haunt of Hightower gives you a Voltron commander for those looking to make your opponents discard. This is a bit of an expensive commander, but it grows big pretty quickly. It pressures both your opponents’ life totals and resources when it attacks.
#8. Junji, the Midnight Sky
If you can find a way to loop Junji, the Midnight Sky to repeatedly get its death triggers, you’ll win the game. Even one sacrifice outlet to force your opponents to discard cards makes this a powerful six-for-one.
It’s also quite versatile since you don’t need to make your opponents discard if they’re empty-handed, which helps combat one of the weaknesses of a discard commander.
#7. Urgoros, the Empty One
Another commander that pressures your opponents while making them discard, Urgoros, the Empty One wants you to get into the red zone. Forcing your opponent to discard at random is much stronger than giving them a choice because they’ll rarely discard the critical cards willingly.
You can even draw a few cards once you’ve stripped your opponents’ hands.
#6. Armix, Filigree Thrasher
The first partner commander on deck, Armix, Filigree Thrasher is pretty specific but enables some powerful cards. Plenty of decks that want to get artifacts in your graveyard for reanimation or other purposes. Armix fills your graveyard with those cards while killing off opposing creatures.
#5. The Raven Man
The Raven Man is an enabler and payoff. Four mana for a repeated three cards discarded gives you a reliable way to trigger its triggered ability and other cards like Waste Not. The Birds give you sacrifice fodder or an attack force to close the game.
#4. Tourach, Dread Cantor
If making your opponents discard one card at random is good, imagine how good getting two random cards is. Tourach, Dread Cantor eats away at your opponents’ hands and grows while doing so.
This is a great commander for recursion effects, so you can keep casting it and shredding your opponents’ hands.
#3. Rankle, Master of Pranks
Rankle, Master of Pranks is just a fantastic black midrange commander. It does a great job of emptying your opponent’s hands while serving plenty of utility besides that.
This isn’t the most focused discard commander, but it serves that function well.
#2. Tinybones, Trinket Thief
Forcing your opponents to discard cards is a form of card advantage; you’re often taking their resources away at a greater pace than you’re spending yours.
Tinybones, Trinket Thief takes this further by drawing cards as you deny them to your opponents. It can also close out a game quickly once you’re in control.
#1. Tergrid, God of Fright / Tergrid’s Lantern
The best black discard commander, and honestly the best discard commander on this list, is Tergrid, God of Fright. One Dark Deal and you’ve won.
Tergrid punishes your opponents for being silly enough to put permanents in their decks and dominates any game when it stays on the battlefield.
Best Red Discard Commanders
#3. Brallin, Skyshark Rider
Red’s discard commanders discard cards for your benefit. In the case of Brallin, Skyshark Rider, you grow pretty big and deal a bunch of damage.
You’ll often want to partner it with Shabraz, the Skyshark, but it can be plenty interesting as a solo commander. Its ability begs to be broken to make it Voltron-sized or even kill a table.
#2. Amber Gristle O’Maul
You want your discard commanders to dump your hand into the graveyard as quickly and cheaply as possible. Amber Gristle O'Maul discards your entire hand at once and draws you a couple of cards for a reward. It costs no mana and happens as soon as it hits the battlefield for no extra cost.
#1. Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion
Red’s best discard commander sends your hand to the ‘yard in favor of fresh cards and a burst of mana. Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion is basically a personal wheel that fuels all sorts of storm strategies.
This card offers a ton of firepower every time it connects paired with something like Past in Flames or Containment Construct.
Best Multicolored Discard Commanders
#16. Nicol Bolas
Once upon a time, Nicol Bolas and its fellow elder dragons were the commanders that gave EDH its name. They’re a bit outdated at this point, but Nicol Bolas can still be interesting as a discard commander when paired with cards like Quicksilver Dagger.
#15. Borborygmos and Fblthp
Borborygmos and Fblthp fall a bit lower on the list because it’s incredibly specific. It fills the graveyard with lands for cards like Splendid Reclamation or Cavalier of Flame but is limited to attacks, and ETBs significantly cut the utility.
Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar is a hell of a card name and the cheapest discard commander on the list. It comes with a great discard outlet in The Underworld Cookbook and is just a 1-mana 3/3 commander that kills off opposing threats.
#13. Olivia, Mobilized for War
Olivia, Mobilized for War is an efficient commander for a reanimator strategy. Cheap creatures pitch your reanimator targets like Archon of Cruelty into the graveyard. When you get them back later you can give them haste to hit harder and faster than you would have before.
You want to pitch all your cards at once, and Malfegor does it while impacting the board. This card fills up your graveyard quite easily and puts your opponents far behind. It’s another great effect for a reanimator deck since it fills your graveyard and gives you plenty of time to take out your opponents.
#11. Anje Falkenrath
Anje Falkenrath is the epitome of a powerful but narrow commander. You can’t do much better for a madness deck than this quasi-unlimited discard outlet. You don’t even need to cast the madness spell to get Anje to untap.
This commander tears through your library and stocks your graveyard at the same time.
#10. Rielle, the Everwise
Rielle, the Everwise sets you up for an explosive turn or two later in the game. It works great with wheels and red’s ample rummage effects like Big Score to set up a big turn.
It stocks your graveyard while keeping your hand full of gas for a fantastic card advantage engine.
#9. Lord Xander, the Collector
There was a brief time when everybody thought Lord Xander, the Collector would be the most broken card in Commander. While that never came to pass, it’s an excellent commander to whittle away your opponent’s resources. It eats at their hands, their board, and their library.
#8. Oskar, Rubbish Reclaimer
Oskar, Rubbish Reclaimer is a powerful tool that lets you cast discarded cards. It’s a very sneaky tool that gets around timing restrictions; you can cast the spell by paying its costs whenever it’s discarded so you can cast creatures or sorceries on your opponent’s turns.
Commanders with a mana reduction ability aren’t to be underrated.
#7. Rona, Herald of Invasion / Rona, Tolarian Obliterator
Rona, Herald of Invasion is fresh out of March of the Machine and is ripe for use as an engine for infinite combos, as burgeoning Pioneer decks have proven. This can fill up your graveyard and enable plenty of strategies that want to fill your graveyard with cards.
#6. Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger
Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger is a great grindy piece that wins an attrition-based game. This grinds your opponents’ hands away while costing them plenty of life. It’s also nearly impossible to kill.
You can send it back to the command zone to repeatedly get the ETB ability until you’re ready to escape it and get a nasty titan on board.
#5. Blim, Comedic Genius
Blim, Comedic Genius is great for anybody who likes to give away their cards and strip away their opponents’ hands at the same time. It takes a bit of time to get this stand-up show going, but it’ll leave your opponents rolling on the floor in laughter or pain.
It’s also a fun way to punish those players who insist on stealing everybody else’s permanents.
#4. Borborygmos Enraged
Borborygmos Enraged brings an angry clock to the table. Unlike its most recent iteration, this version of Borborygmos lets you discard your lands whenever you want for far more value. It also churns through your deck to dump nonland cards into the bin for any other strategies you might employ.
#3. Chainer, Nightmare Adept
Chainer, Nightmare Adept is a great discard outlet in the command zone. Its ability is free and can be activated multiple times in a turn cycle. The recursion ability is also incredibly powerful.
At the bare minimum this lets you cast a solid creature with haste by dumping it into the graveyard and recasting it. Later in the game it turns excess lands into action.
#2. Nath of the Gilt-Leaf
I’ve talked plenty about the value of making opponents discard at random, and Nath of the Gilt-Leaf does it for free. It also generates a ton of tokens to overwhelm the board.
Nath is powerful for its flexibility. It can be an elf commander, a dedicated discard commander, or an aristocrats commander that generates plenty of sacrifice fodder.
#1. Toluz, Clever Conductor
Topping the multicolor list as the best commander for making yourself discard cards is Toluz, Clever Conductor. This is another commander that works incredibly well with wheels since it stores the cards you discard while refreshing your hand.
You’ll want to make sure you’ve got plenty of sacrifice outlets to go with it; you want to use the cards and deny your opponents the ability to exile Toluz to prevent you from getting the exiled cards.
Best Discard Commander Payoffs
There are several great payoffs for discard Commander decks.
There are several pieces that give you even more benefits than just stripping your opponents of resources when it comes to decks looking to make your opponents discard cards. Geth's Grimoire turns their loss into your gains; Waste Not and Liliana's Caress tax your opponents for discarding cards.
As for the commanders that want you to discard cards, you’ll often find that they encourage the strategy you want to play. Wheels like Reforge the Soul and Windfall can dump your hand.
There are also cards like Containment Construct and Pyre of the World Tree that turn your discard outlets into card advantage.
Reforge the Soul | Illustration by Jaime Jones
The hand is the source of all strategy in Magic. Your entire gameplan builds out of the cards you start with, so using discard spells to impede the plans of your opponents is a fantastic way to disrupt their plans and leave them scrambling for a way to win the game.
Forcing yourself to discard is also a great way to fuel graveyard-based strategies or exploit powerful effects like wheels that get you new cards. What are your favorite discard commanders? Who have you built? Let me know in the comments below, or over in Draftsim’s official Discord.
Stay safe, and keep those hands empty!
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