Last updated on January 19, 2023
MTG is becoming more and more dependent on the graveyard. Every few sets, players get to test a new mechanic that relies on the graveyard, and that’s without considering when fan-favorites return like flashback, delve, or the dreaded dredge. Creatures like Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath or Arclight Phoenix are so powerful with graveyard strategies that some graveyard hate is needed to fight those strategies.
What exactly is graveyard hate, and should you use it in your own decks? Which colors are best at dealing with opposing graveyards?
Come with me and let’s tiptoe through the tombstones!
What Is Graveyard Hate in MTG?
Crypt Incursion | Illustration by Svetlin Velino
Graveyard hate is a term for cards that help you to counter an opponent’s graveyard-centric plans. Just like you’ll use removal or sweepers to deal threats that are on the board, graveyard hate looks to deal with threats that are in the graveyard. Graveyard strategies can take many forms. Some decks count creatures or other card types that are in their graveyard (ex: Lhurgoyf’s power and toughness are based on the number of creatures in all graveyards). Others rely on returning permanents from the graveyard to your hand or to the battlefield.
As the name implies, graveyard hate messes with these strategies. You can exile cards (individually or in bulk) from an opponent’s graveyard, or you can force them to reshuffle their graveyard into their library. You can prevent cards from going the graveyard entirely sometimes by having them be exiled when they’re destroyed.
Each color deals with problematic graveyard synergies in different ways scattered along the mana curve. Black gets the most graveyard exile, while green is the second best. Artifacts and colorless lands help all colors, and white’s been getting more consistent graveyard exile together with symmetric effects like Farewell and Rest in Peace. Blue and red are the colors that interact with the graveyard the least, so they’re underrepresented here.
Ashes of the Abhorrent helps to prevent the abuse of certain cards in graveyards, like spells with flashback or creatures with escape or unearth. You also gain some life here and there, which is interesting to some EDH decks.
It’s a creature, a cleric, and it can exile graveyards at instant speed. Being a creature, Remorseful Cleric also allows for recursion and for tutoring for a creature with the ability, like in Birthing Pod strategies.
Lion Sash is almost like a white Scavenging Ooze, a creature that’s a staple of various Constructed formats. It’s a mix of equipment and creature thanks to the reconfigure mechanic, and it’s been played in formats like Standard and Explorer.
It’s important to note that these targeted graveyard exile effects can be done at instant speed. “Oh, you’re activating a flashback? Lemme do something real quick….”
One of the best sweepers and selective sweepers, Farewell only whiffs on planeswalkers. You can sweep creatures from both sides, enchantments, artifacts, and graveyards. The power lies in the flexibility, so it’s maindeck graveyard hate that you can also use to deal with other permanents.
Rest in Peace is white’s most famous way of dealing with graveyards simply by not allowing them to exist. It costs two mana, so it’s cheap enough to prevent degenerate strategies. You also won’t get one, but you usually won’t care about your own graveyard when you play Rest in Peace. You can play Rest in Peace in almost any format aside from Standard.
Blue’s got the short end of the graveyard interaction stick, so the most you can do is to force someone to shuffle their graveyard into their library. It’s also good to use Learn from the Past to shuffle your own library and graveyard if you’re getting milled or if you’re out of win conditions. You even get a card for your efforts.
#2. Mnemonic Nexus
It’s like Learn from the Past but applied to all graveyards.
Timetwister, aside from being a Power Nine card, is also a graveyard hate tool in the sense that you’ll shuffle everybody’s graveyards. This interaction is sometimes seen in Vintage, so there’s that.
It’s reanimation at instant speed plus graveyard hate. Nurgle’s Conscription is interesting to play in EDH against certain decks, the downside being that it is too slow and expensive.
While not direct graveyard hate by any means, Misery’s Shadow is something proactive that you can play. Just keep beating them and prevent creatures from dying and filling graveyards. This clause can prevent text like “When this creature dies” too.
Phyrexian Scriptures is a saga that delivers a mix of graveyard exiling and a wrath effect. If you’re playing artifacts in black, give this card a chance.
Sometimes your opponents’ combos are too fast to interact with, and that’s what Faerie Macabre allows. You’ll simply discard it and get two cards from them. The hate mode is 99% more useful than the 2/2 flying, but sometimes you can also cast the creature.
Cling to Dust is a hate card that you can maindeck in certain metas. You get to draw a card or gain life depending on the card you exile, and you can escape later in the game and do it again. You usually get a spell with flashback and a card for example, or a problematic creature and life against red aggro.
Ravenous Trap used to be a hate card for dredge in Modern, and the trap is triggered by self-mill. When your opponent is self-milling for value, you can fire the trap at no cost and exile their graveyard.
Erebos’s Intervention doubles as a removal spell and a gravehate tool. You get to kill problematic threats that are indestructible or get rid of problematic synergies, all in a single package.
Crypt Incursion is usually played in the context of black control decks in Pauper since you’ll gain a bunch of life. It’s more of a lifegain spell than a graveyard hate, but it works both ways.
It’s a Mind Rot with the exile graveyard clause. Go Blank became a sideboard staple against slow decks and decks relying on graves. You get two cards from opponents no matter what they discard. Your typical Greasefang // Parhelion deck won’t discard the expensive vehicles, instead losing important resources and future flashback activations.
You’re not putting Leyline of the Void unless you’re fighting off a deck that relies 100% on their graveyard, like dredge or reanimator. If you do, and you get to cast it, it’s almost GG because they won’t have anything left. It works from your starting hand, so if you’re playing leyline, you should mulligan more to find it.
Besides being a good threat that gains you life and clocks your opponent, Graveyard Trespasser has the maindeckable light graveyard hate that so many creature decks desire. The trespasser is good against almost every deck except the more linear/combo-y. It also puts pressure on your opponents because if they don’t do anything, Graveyard Glutton is even more backbreaking.
Decree of Annihilation is a way to exterminate everything, including graveyards. Its cost is somewhat prohibitive to see play, but it’s one of the few ways that red can deal with all the graves in the game.
The Daredevil is an impersonation of Snapcaster Mage. It’s not that powerful, of course, but at least you can exile cards from their graveyards and use them as your own.
Cemetery Gatekeeper is a way for vampire decks to have a synergy card and a piece of hate in the main deck. A 2/1 first strike that’s also a vampire isn’t bad, and you can have cost reduction based on what you exiled.
Green is the second-best color at dealing with graveyards, but also for graveyard synergies. Froghemoth is a good threat with haste that grows while exiling some graveyards in the process.
Part gravehate, part “don’t deck myself,” Gaea’s Blessing has been played since the 90’s to avoid decking. You’d play a control deck focused only on not letting your opponent win and shuffle three cards into your deck again and again so that you won’t lose. If you use Gaea’s Blessing on your opponents, you’ll choose up to three cards that they’ll shuffle.
One of the modes on Primal Command is to shuffle a graveyard into a library, and you can use it on any player. Combined with the “put the permanent on the top of the deck” mode, you can deal with a graveyard and a problematic card at once.
Scavenging Ooze is a beater, a source of lifegain, and targeted graveyard hate. It’s good enough to see maindeck play in midrange strategies and especially coming out of the graveyard.
Endurance is a 3/4 flash and reach for three mana, and you can even play exiling another green card for the evoke effect. When Endurance ETBs, you’ll put a whole graveyard under their owner’s library, being effective graveyard hate. This card has since become a staple of the Modern format since there are lots of graveyard effective strategies there.
You buff your creatures while nerfing your opponents, kill a bunch of X/1’s, and transform foes’ best creatures into 1/1 (2/2 after buff) spirits. Ethereal Absolution is an absolute bomb in Limited and an interesting card in Orzhov EDH decks or bleeder decks.
Anafenza, the Foremost is a 4/4 that delivers the beats and passively cripples graveyards. It’s best in an Abzan +1/+1 counters deck.
Pharika, God of Affliction is an indestructible god that works well as a commander. You get exile cards from graves to make 1/1 deathtouch snakes. Try some snake tribal or deathtouch tribal with this commander, or themes tied to enchantments.
Kaya, Orzhov Usurper is a low-power planeswalker, but it also costs only three mana. It’s narrow, but it’s good in a variety of scenarios. You can prevent a graveyard from getting big or exile small creatures and cheap permanents like Portable Hole, so Kaya’s use is situational. In a deck that cares about exiling your opponents’ permanents, it can be a good role-player.
Kunoros is also a good role-player because it’s a good beater and passive graveyard hate. You’ll hose their creatures and their flashback spells while also having a good creature that you can protect and buff.
It’s clear that Orzhov shouldn’t have problems with graveyards. Kaya’s Guile works like a command in the sense that you get to choose two of four options. One of them is grave exile, and the other ones are useful to either get a 1/1, some life, or an edict effect.
Like Deathrite Shaman, you’ll want targets in your opponents’ graveyards to advance your plan. Klothys, God of Destiny is a sideboard tool in some formats to deal with graveyards and control decks alike since it presents a clock while on board. You can also ramp with it.
Each activation of Ashiok, Dream Render exiles your opponents’ graveyard, so there’s that. There’s also hate for tutors in a single package, and you can self-mill without losing anything.
The Scarab God is a powerful commander and a powerful hate tool. You’ll want them to have full graveyards to give you more targets for your eternalize abilities, but it can also deal with the problematic stuff.
A new tech in Standard and Pioneer, Corpse Appraiser is a new Grixis tech. You get to exile something from their graves, and if it’s a creature you get card advantage. It’s best used to get targets like Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger or Arclight Phoenix, but any creature will do, honestly.
Deathrite Shaman’s sole purpose is to feed from a graveyard to benefit you. You get mana and life and deal damage to your opponent, all in a 1-drop package. You can exile whatever card you want, so you’re advancing your plans and breaking whatever graveyard synergies they have.
Best Colorless Graveyard Hate Cards
#10. Thran Foundry
That’s old Relic of Progenitus for you. Most graveyard hate cards offer a possibility of drawing a card, but in this case you’re not. It certainly works if you need more gravehate.
#9. Scavenger Grounds
Scavenger Grounds is hate on a land, which is free to play especially in 1- or 2-color decks. Still, you need to trade a land for their graveyard, so that’s not great. It can save your bacon sometimes.
#8. Nihil Spellbomb
Once played in Modern, Pauper still needs some gravehate and Nihil Spellbomb does that well. You need to play black to draw the extra card though, so give it a thought if your deck has black mana.
#7. Weathered Runestone
Weathered Runestone is a target hate for reanimator strategies and dredge strategies. It’s cheap and works well. It’s not doing much in your main deck though, so it’s better used as a sideboard card or as a Karn, the Great Creator tutor target.
#6. Soul-Guide Lantern
Soul-Guide Lantern offers you a choice. Either you get a card from your opponent’s graveyard and draw a card, or you exile the whole graveyard without drawing a card.
#5. Tormod’s Crypt
It’s free, what more can you ask? Tormod’s Crypt provides you with zero tempo loss and graveyard exiling.
#4. Bojuka Bog
I’ve put this card here because all lands are colorless, but this card is technically black. If you play a black deck in Pauper or EDH, this is one of the ways to get almost free grave hate. There’s even land recursion with cards like the bounce lands to get your Bojuka Bog back and play it again.
#3. Grafdigger’s Cage
It’s almost equal to Weathered Runestone, but cheaper in mana value and probably more expensive financially.
#2. Unlicensed Hearse
Unlicensed Hearse is a vehicle from Streets of New Capenna that can exile up to two cards from a single graveyard. It later becomes a creature when crewed, and it’s stronger the more cards it exiled. It’s a constant source of grave hate and a win condition, and it’s seen play in MTG Arena formats like Standard and Explorer/Pioneer.
#1. Relic of Progenitus
Relic of Progenitus can keep exiling cards from your opponents’ graveyards or you can sacrifice the Relic to get ‘em all and draw you a card. Pay attention that the ability to exile a card isn’t targeted, so your opponents get to choose.
Best Graveyard Hate Payoffs
Graveyard hate is more of a disruptive element than a constructive one. You’re applying this to disrupt your opponent’s game rather than to boost your own, after all. Graveyard hate lets you mess with mechanics like flashback, reanimator, and threshold, among others.
Some creatures can be cast from exile, like Misthollow Griffin. If you happen to exile both graveyards, you may still cast it.
Umbris, Fear Manifest benefits from cards in exile, so your Umbris grows while you’re exiling your opponents’ graveyards.
Ashiok, Nightmare Muse allows you to cast up to three cards your opponents have from exile via ultimate.
The processor mechanic from Battle for Zendikar actually requires you to get cards your opponents have in exile and return them to their graveyards. It’s reverse graveyard hate.
Stonebinder’s Familiar gets better as you’re exiling cards from your opponent’s graveyard.
If you’re shuffling graveyards back into libraries, effects that put cards on top of the library like Time Ebb variants are extra powerful.
Desecrated Tomb makes some 1/1 fliers when you exile cards from your graveyard.
Kaya’s Guile | Illustration by Jason Rainville
Time to wash our hands after such a deep dive into graveyard hate. You can have main deck solutions that slow down opposing strategies like Graveyard Trespasser or Corpse Appraiser or sideboard silver bullets like Rest in Peace or Relic of Progenitus. Colors that aren’t well served like blue or red should use artifacts and lands instead.
Now I want to know from you: what graveyard hate cards are your favorite across all formats? Let me know in the comments section below, or take the discussion to the Draftsim Discord.
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