Nahiri, the Harbinger - Illustration by Aleksi Briclot

Nahiri, the Harbinger | Illustration by Aleksi Briclot

“When in doubt, always loot.” This piece of wisdom was popularized by some MTG pro players around the web, and it signals how the mechanism of looting and the advantages of looting in MTG are unknown.

Loot is MTG lingo for drawing and discarding, and it’s named after Merfolk Looter. Question is, how can you loot, and is looting a good strategy? Should you play looters in your deck, and which are the best ones? Let’s jump in and find out!

What Are Looters in MTG?

Tomebound Lich - Illustration by Cristi Balanescu

Tomebound Lich | Illustration by Cristi Balanescu

Looters come from Merfolk Looter’s mechanic: draw a card and discard a card. This action became synonymous with looting in the MTG community. It’s important to keep in mind that you’re not getting an extra card, you’re just drawing one and discarding another. What you’re getting is card quality.

If you have excess lands in your hands and you draw an extra spell, discard the land you don’t need and be happy with it. Maybe you’re playing Limited and you desperately need a removal spell for your opponent’s bomb. If you loot you’ll happily discard a 2/2 you need less. You can look at looting as a way to upgrade a card.

Some effects are similar to looting. When you discard a card to draw a card, that’s considered “rummaging.” Some cards let you draw a card and exile a card instead of discarding.

Best Blue Looters

#13. Enclave Cryptologist

Enclave Cryptologist

Like Looter il-Kor, Enclave Cryptologist used to be the blue staple. The loot abilities become better when you level it up. It goes from a 0/1 looter to a straight 0/3 that draws a card.

#12. Looter il-Kor

Looter il-Kor

Looter il-Kor used to be an evasive creature that would loot every time. Unfortunately it’s not good enough, but you’ll see it in Pauper Cubes or low-powered formats.

#11. Teferi’s Tutelage

Teferi's Tutelage

Teferi’s Tutelage is, like Sphinx’s Tutelage, a mill build around card. The difference is that Teferi has a direct impact on the game, and it’s better with blinking. Still, the milling allowed by Sphinx’s Tutelage is better.

#10. Mirrodin Besieged

Mirrodin Besieged

What’s better, draw a card every turn or draw two and discard one? If you chose the second option then Mirrodin Besieged is a good card for you.

You’ll get a second win condition by discarding a bunch of artifacts in artifact-heavy decks.

#9. Pollywog Symbiote

Pollywog Symbiote

Pollywog Symbiote is the kind of card that decks based around the mutate mechanic play. It has synergies with those spells and is a good body to mutate into. You get to loot every time you mutate, and your mutate spells are cheaper.

#8. Urza, Powerstone Prodigy

Urza, Powerstone Prodigy

Urza, Powerstone Prodigy is the newest card on the block, and its power remains to be seen. It’s a 1/3 that lets you loot. You’ll create a Powerstone token once per turn that you discard an artifact.

It seems very powerful, and a new blue artifact deck staple card.

#7. Sphinx’s Tutelage

Sphinx's Tutelage

Sphinx’s Tutelage is a cheap and fun build around enchantment, in the sense that you’ll mill your opponent after you draw some cards. You sometimes mill two cards, sometimes four, and it’s even good in multiples.

You can play it in Commander to self-mill too.

#6. Teferi, Master of Time

Teferi, Master of Time

Finally, a Teferi card that isn’t broken. Teferi, Master of Time is a good planeswalker that also lets you activate its abilities on your opponent’s turn, so you’ll loot a bunch.

This is good in control decks where you need to select the answers and land drops you want according to how the game goes. You also threaten to ultimate, so you get a bunch of turns that way.

#5. Moon-Circuit Hacker

Moon-Circuit Hacker

Moon-Circuit Hacker is played as another instance of Ninja of the Deep Hours in decks that want it. Both cards are good in ninja-based tribal EDH decks and Pauper mono-blue decks.

The first time the Hacker connects, you draw a card. After that you “just” loot.

#4. Jacob Hauken, Inspector / Hauken’s Insight

Jacob Hauken, Inspector can loot to its heart’s content. You’ll be looting each turn until you have mana, and then it transforms into a source of card advantage. It’s a good fit for blue control decks.

#3. Suspicious Stowaway / Seafaring Werewolf

Suspicious Stowaway is a card that sees some sideboard play in blue decks as a post-sideboard threat since your opponent will have fewer removal spells. You get to loot when it connects, even draw cards if you transform it.

#2. Baral, Chief of Compliance

Baral, Chief of Compliance

Baral, Chief of Compliance is a looter that can make your spells cheaper. It’s also a staple of storm combo decks, replacing cards like Goblin Electromancer. It’s got a few bans in formats like Historic Brawl because it’s unfair to have it always at the ready.

#1. Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy / Jace, Telepath Unbound

Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy was at some point synonymous with the Modern and Standard formats. It’s card that has high playability all the way to Vintage thanks to the ability to flashback a spell once it’s transformed.

This is a good thing to have in the format of Ancestral Recall and Time Walk.

Best Red Looters

#3. Sarkhan, Fireblood

Sarkhan, Fireblood

Sarkhan, Fireblood is valuable because of its dragon tribal abilities, but it can loot to boot.

You can discard some dragons to reanimate or get what you need quicker. Dragons are expensive, after all, and you’ll put the extra mana to good use.

#2. Insolent Neonate

Insolent Neonate

Insolent Neonate is a fun dredge engine. It allows you to sacrifice it, discard a dredge card, and then draw it by triggering the dredge and self-milling that are key in various graveyard centric decks, all for just one mana.

#1. Zurzoth, Chaos Rider

Zurzoth, Chaos Rider

Zurzoth, Chaos Rider is a devil generator, and a devil tribal commander. There are some cards in red that are devils or make devils, and you’ll make one Devil token whenever your opponent draws a card outside their turn.

It feeds itself when you attack an opponent with a devil: it forces them to loot, netting you another devil.

Best Multicolored Looters

#11. Improbable Alliance

Improbable Alliance

Improbable Alliance is quite the engine for two mana. You’ll have your faerie army production à la Bitterblossom, and it even feeds itself if you have the extra mana to pay for the ability.

#10. Tomebound Lich

Tomebound Lich

Tomebound Lich is a card that was important in reanimator decks in Standard, and it can see play in Commander too. The 1/3 body with lifelink is relevant for defense, and you’ll loot to increase the chance of discarding big threats.

It’s a zombie too, which has lots of tribal synergies going on.

#9. The Locust God

The Locust God

It costs six mana, but The Locust God is worth it for the return to hand clause like with The Scarab God, because that’s a very good ability in Commander. You’ll always have your commander available after a sweeper, and it rewards you for drawing cards and looting which blue and red decks usually do.

This works wonders with your and your opponents’ wheel effects too.

#8. The Royal Scions

The Royal Scions

Although it can’t protect itself, The Royal Scions is good for what the card and costs, especially in proactive Izzet () tempo decks. You’ll loot with the first plus ability and push damage proactively with the second, leading you to threaten to ultimate.

The loot also helps in Izzet decks with “spells in the graveyard” theme.

#7. Narset of the Ancient Way

Narset of the Ancient Way

Narset of the Ancient Way is a very good planeswalker for Jeskai () control decks because it allows you to loot and search for answers. You also get to discard an expensive card and use it as removal. It’s very relevant since control decks usually have expensive cards but no perfect window to cast them.

The lifegain doesn’t hurt against aggro either, and you can play Narset with cyclers for good synergies.

#6. Lord Windgrace

Lord Windgrace

A powerful commander for Jund () colors, Lord Windgrace allows you to discard lands and draw cards, among other things. There’s already a powerful land-based strategy revolving around cycling lands, manlands, utility lands, and expensive cards, and Windgrace fits that strategy perfectly.

#5. Anje Falkenrath

Anje Falkenrath

Anje Falkenrath is a staple Rakdos () commander, which is also the madness combo. You can fill your EDH deck to the brim with madness cards so that you also get card advantage each time you draw and discard.

Plus it’s a vampire, which is relevant in Rakdos colors.

#4. Jeskai Ascendancy

Jeskai Ascendancy

Jeskai Ascendancy was at some time the bane of the Modern format, but the format has since become stronger. You’ll easily combo off with cheap cantrips and mana dorks, allowing you to win as quickly as turn 3.

The banning of delve spells like Treasure Cruise has hit the Ascendancy quite a bit too. Still, it’s a good enchantment to build around for card selection and the ability to buff your team.

#3. Kaito Shizuki

Kaito Shizuki

Kaito Shizuki is being played in Standard and Pioneer as a good card advantage tool. It’s friends with Raffine, Scheming Seer in midrange decks.

Kaito works with itself too by making an unblockable token to pressure planeswalkers.

#2. Nahiri, the Harbinger

Nahiri, the Harbinger

Nahiri, the Harbinger is a staple of Cube and eternal formats with a specific function in control and combo decks. It’s a flexible card allowing you to use it as removal and loot.

Nahiri can put a strong win condition like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into play with that ultimate if you include it.

#1. Territorial Kavu

Territorial Kavu

Territorial Kavu is one of the staple cards in Modern nowadays, especially in the 5-color domain deck. It’s a good beater and a card that can give you card filtering.

A potential 5/5 for two mana is no joke, and it’s very important in a domain aggro deck.

Best Colorless Looters

#6. Azor’s Gateway / Sanctum of the Sun

Azor’s Gateway has synergies with cards that cost X to play, like Expansion // Explosion and Sphinx’s Revelation. You shouldn’t count on getting it transformed since the loot ability is already good.

#5. Bag of Holding

Bag of Holding

Bag of Holding is loot on a cheap artifact, which is good. It has synergies with discarding cards and even offers the possibility of recovering the discarded cards. A similar effect can be found on Toluz, Clever Conductor.

#4. Currency Converter

Currency Converter

Currency Converter is almost equal to Bag of Holding. The only difference is that you can get the benefit from the exiled card immediately. Just tap the Converter to move the exiled card from exile to the graveyard and obtain either a Treasure or a 2/2 Rogue token.

It’s good in discard-themed EDH decks and rogue decks.

#3. Desolate Lighthouse

Desolate Lighthouse

Desolate Lighthouse is a land that was heavily played in Modern in decks like Izzet Splinter Twin. Those decks want to loot actively because you’re searching for your combo and fueling your graveyard for Snapcaster Mage.

Paying three mana to loot on a utility land is quite useful.

#2. The Celestus

The Celestus

The Celestus loots at will and also controls the day-to-night transition, which is relevant when you have cards like Tovolar, Dire Overlord, Graveyard Trespasser, and Sunrise Cavalier in Standard format and Explorer.

You passively loot, gain some life, and generate mana, which makes The Celestus one of the best mana rocks available at three mana.

#1. Smuggler’s Copter

Smuggler's Copter

A card that’s been banned in formats like Standard and Pioneer, Smuggler’s Copter (nicknamed Looter Scooter) was a kind of design mistake. A 3/3 flier is very powerful.

It’s cheap to crew and loots on both offense and defense. It’s one of the most powerful vehicles and has taught WotC a few lessons on how powerful vehicles should be.

Best Looter Payoffs

Draw 2 Cards per Turn

There are lots of cards, usually in the Izzet color pair, that give you an advantage when you draw two or more cards a turn. Each turn has a draw step, and looting gets that second draw to trigger whatever you have. Eyekite, Faerie Vandal, and Improbable Alliance are just some cards with these kinds of payoffs.

Drawing Cards Matter

There are lots of cards that are better the more cards you draw. Nadir Kraken and Lorescale Coatl are good examples, as is Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim.

Reanimator Decks

Reanimator decks are funny because you need a lot of moving parts. You need to have a big creature card in your graveyard, and you need to find your reanimate spells. Loot improves both parts because it allows you to find the pieces you need and discard the big creatures that don’t belong in your hand.


The madness mechanic cares about discarding a card because you need to cast the card as it’s being discarded. Loot is especially useful in this case because you can draw an extra card and discard a madness card, getting card advantage in the process. You get the card you’ve drawn and cast the card you’ve discarded.

Delve and Threshold

Treasure CruiseGurmag Angler

Mechanics that care about the number of cards in your graveyard benefit greatly from looting since you’re discarding cards, filling your graveyard, and discarding strategically. You then reach your threshold condition quicker or play less for your Treasure Cruise and Gurmag Angler.

Is Looting Good in MTG?

Looting is very good. As the meme goes, “when in doubt always loot.” A player can feel like it’s not improving their situation because you’re not gaining an extra card, but there’s lots of value to be had by looting.

Not every card in an MTG deck is equal. Lots of them are land, which you usually don’t need in the middle to late game. In combo decks you usually need a certain combination of cards, and active looting speeds up the process.

So many cards also have value in the graveyard, so you’re often not even losing a card entirely. There are plenty of mechanics, like flashback and unearth, and other cards that have activated abilities in the graveyard.

Wrap Up

Jacob hauken, Inspector - Illustration by Aurore Folny

Jacob Hauken, Inspector | Illustration by Aurore Folny

Loot is very good in Limited because the difference between your best cards (uncommons, bomb rares) and your commons and basic lands is huge. Looting improves your chance of drawing bombs. In Constructed you usually play loot effects because they’re strong cards, or because you need to fill your graveyard. You’ll want to loot if you have a commander like Muldrotha, the Gravetide.

What loot effects do you usually play in your Constructed and Commander decks? Let me know in the comments below or over in the Draftsim Discord.

Thanks for reading, and stay safe folks!

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