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Thoughtseize Duress

Many decks in competitive Magic have access to targeted discard spells, like Duress and Thoughtseize.

Against counterspells, you can rely on a variety of tricks like baiting counters, bottlenecking your opponent's mana, and good old-fashioned counter wars. Targeted discard cards allow your opponent to attack your hand on the very first turn of the game, and go right for your key cards — and it can often be backbreaking when your opponent takes away a crucial card like a combo piece or a sweeper.

What tricks and tactics can you employ, either during deck-building or in play, to play around an opponent's targeted discard?

(I know that one of the answers is going to be Force of Will. That's excellent, but please also include approaches that work in formats without free countermagic.)

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2 Answers 2

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Obviously, if you exclude free counters, there is nothing you can do against first turn discard when you are on the draw. There are several answers to targeted discard after that, and before the match even starts:

Play a deck without cards whose loss would cripple your strategy/combo

Sligh comes to mind, or White Weeny, or Stompy. Anything but Combo, basically, preferably Aggro. If there are no key cards in your deck, you can't lose them to discard.

Use a deck that benefits from discard

Nowadays, there are many cards and whole mechanics that benefit from you having few cards in hand or many in your graveyard. Cursed Scroll, Ensnaring Bridge, Crucible of Worlds, Tarmogoyf, Hellbent, and Threshold are examples.

Draw more cards than he can make you discard

All card advantage strategies apply.

Tutor for key cards

Nearly all discard, and AFAIK all targeted discard has sorcery speed. Use instant tutor cards like Mystical Tutor to get you the cards you need exactly when you need them, without an opening for your opponent. That increases your flexibility and allows you to carry 1 each of a wide range of strong cards.

Use targeted recycle to get the discarded card back

Use cards like Regrowth or Noxious Revival to simply return the card you had to discard. Either you get the card back immediately, or, if you have to put it on top of your library, play the recycler at the end of the opponent's turn. If enough cards are in your graveyard, this even acts as a kind of tutor, since you may get to choose from a variety of cards. Recyclers are not wasted, either, when your opponent doesn't play discard, so they can be easily integrated into the main deck.

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There is one thing you can do: gatherer.wizards.com/pages/card/… –  Affe Jun 29 '12 at 21:51
Great answer! I'd argue that playing a deck like Kithkin, Lava Spike, or Stompy is sort of its own penalty: you get to duck pinpoint disruption (including targeted discard but also, practically speaking, counters and spot removal), but at the cost of a lot of flexibility. And your opponent can just side out (or not side in) the disruptive cards. –  Alex P Jul 2 '12 at 23:45

To supplement Hackworth's excellent answer, I want to expand a little bit on why card draw in particular can be powerful against discard strategies. Discard is inherently linear, in the sense that one discard spell doesn't make another inherently better; each Thoughtseize will trade one-for-one with the best card in your opponent's hand, but they don't interact much with each other and in extreme cases they can even interfere - stripping three cards from your opponent with one Fugue, for instance, might mean that the next one you cast only catches one card unless you wait a couple of turns. By contrast, draw spells have a tendency to cascade; drawing additional cards means that you have more opportunity to draw additional card-draw spells, which in turn will feed even more cards into your hand. This is somewhat less true with targeted discard, which is a great part of the reason why those spells tend to see play while 'victim-chooses' discard seldom does; and the cascading effect is somewhat less true with 'cantrip' card-draw, which I suspect is why Wizards has made those the primary form of efficient draw spells lately.

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This is a good observation. I think it's useful to point out that "real decks" don't try to bury you in targeted discard, though, just like most control decks aren't wall-to-wall permission. Instead they focus the disruption on taking out whatever's situationally most powerful, such as sweepers or powerful hate cards. –  Alex P Jul 2 '12 at 23:48

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