I get this is kind of a noob question, so bear with me. My friend plays a legacy discard deck, and he'll usually dark ritual or something to make me discard 3-5 cards in the first 3 turns, and by turn 5-6 my hand is empty. (More specifically he's running Griselbrand reanimator, so his hand is rarely empty.)

While this might not work against cheap aggro (I regularly win with RDW), I don't see how any other deck can really handle this. When he has a full hand and I'm limited to 1 new card per turn, which I have to either cast or lose thanks to specters, how am I supposed to ever catch up?

Yet at the same time I know discard isn't like auto-tournie-win, so I'm just not sure how people deal with it.

To give some info about my specific situation and the key cards I use, I am playing:

My friend is primarily using Griselbrand Reanimator, using Griselbrand / Buried Alive / Animate Dead / Zombify / Dark Ritual / Cabal Ritual / Dark Petition / a bunch of tutors / Crypt Ghast and the death knell being Mind Twist (discard my whole hand) and Infest (kills all creatures in both my decks). On paper he wins using Sorin's Vengeance, Debt to the Deathless, Consume Spirit, and Exsanguinate, but Mind Twist is really what does it.

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    I'm not sure this is a duplicate: losing your whole hand is rather different from just having Thoughtseize ruin your early tempo.
    – Alex P
    Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 16:02
  • Yes, exactly...that's my argument as well. I don't seem to have enough rep here to vote to reopen, but whatever. Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 16:18
  • Though TBH Hackworth's answer there is better than my answer here, by a mile.
    – Alex P
    Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 18:29
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    Sure, I can do that. Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 19:27
  • I was confused about the meaning of "targeted discard" in the title of the other question. I thought it meant "discard spells that target a player", but it really means "discard spells that let you choose a card". Sorry about that. I think the information you've added distinguishes your question from the other.
    – Rainbolt
    Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 19:55

2 Answers 2


Against decks that rely on 3-8 precision cards to disrupt you but mostly consist of another strategy, I recommend these resources:

Against decks that are practically wall-to-wall discard, here are some techniques that may help:

Get "under" them

Play out your hand faster than they can rip it apart. This is what your red aggro deck is doing.

Rely on strong topdecks

One of the biggest weaknesses of discard decks: most discard cards are sorcery speed. Even once you're "hellbent," you'll usually be able to draw your card and play it on your turn. So you'll still be making land drops and you'll be able to cast most of the permanents and removal spells in your deck.

The worst thing about playing a dedicated discard deck is that half the cards in your deck just do nothing once your opponent is topdecking. So, focus your resources on taking out the cards of their that still have value — finishers, combo pieces, and engines of advantage.

Play out of your graveyard

With some exceptions, discard typically puts stuff in your graveyard. Flashback spells, reanimation effects, self-reanimators (like Gravecrawler).

Incidental Hosers

Some staple creatures are also, incidentally, discard hosers — for example, Wilt-Leaf Liege, Loxodon Smiter, and Obstinate Baloth.

Precision tools

This is a quality sideboard card:

Leyline of Sanctity

You can drop it on turn zero, for free. It blocks all of Thoughtseize, Cabal Therapy, Inquisition of Kozilek, Duress, and Hymn to Tourach. It's also a strong card against burn decks, many combo decks (e.g. Tendrils).

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    @Aerovistae: ​ There are also other ways to get hexproof. ​ ​ ​ ​
    – user13741
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 1:32
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    @Aerovistae The thing is you need a solution ASAP, while you still have a hand. I used Witchbane Orb a lot back when it was in Standard with Bonfire of the Damned and Rakdos' Return, but it's not great against these kinds of 1-drop discard cards. (Though, TBH, if your opponent's main victory condition is reanimator stuff, I'd be siding in 4x Leyline of the Void instead.)
    – Alex P
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 3:10
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    I just don't want to spend the $70-$100 for 4x Leylines, even then I only have a % chance to have it in my hand and would otherwise be unable to use it. Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 20:49
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    @Aerovistae If money is a concern, that's really something you need to mention in the question. Leyline of Sanctity is an established sideboard card in competitive Magic (example1, example2), because it deals with both targeted discard and burn. Chalice of the Void fills a similar role, but is slower, more flexible, and can trip you up by countering your own spells.
    – Rainbolt
    Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 15:43
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    Cards that manipulate the top of your deck and instant speed draw can be valuable of you are relying on strong top decks. Castle Vantress and Castle Locthwain are excellent ways to pull ahead in your topdecks. Commented May 10, 2020 at 23:09

Alex P has given some great options, but I think this point is worth emphasizing: Play cards that are individually strong.

Quoting from the "Thoughtseize You" article linked by Alex P:

My philosophy in deckbuilding is to focus on cards that are individually powerful by their own merits. However, this is not the only way to build Magic decks. In fact, my friend and teammate, the esteemed Sam Black, takes much the opposite approach, looking for advantages in favorable interactions between cards. Such an approach has many benefits. Even my Tarmogoyfs will look foolish when they face down Sam’s Bonescythe Sliver, Megantic Sliver, Syphon Sliver, and Galerider Sliver all in play at once! (I insult Sam’s creativity only in the interest of a simple example).

It’s cards like Thoughtseize that allow the well-rounded, Rock-style strategies to compete against the (typically) more powerful synergy-based decks. Thoughtseize represents a way to trade resources quickly and efficiently, and once you can force that Galerider Sliver to stand on its own, your more powerful cards will win their individual battles. The Thoughtseize effect accomplishes the goal of breaking up synergy better than more situational answers like Doom Blade or Naturalize because of its applicability against creature-based strategies, control, and combo alike.

The point here is that Tarmogoyf is an individually powerful card - it's often a 2-mana 4/5 or better - but if the opponent is able to assemble all of Bonescythe Sliver, Megantic Sliver, Syphon Sliver and Galerider Sliver against it at the same time, then Tarmogoyf is just not good enough. Discard is a defense against these synergistic decks because if you take out one of these Slivers, suddenly all the other Slivers gets weaker, possibly to the point where Tarmogoyf is once again the strongest creature on the board.

Extrapolating from this you should find that when your deck is dependent on synergy, targeted discard is at its best against you. In fact, discard is very good against Griselbrand Reanimator. If you Thoughtseize them and see a hand of land, Dark Ritual, Griselbrand, Mind Twist and Lotus Petal, you can take the Mind Twist and suddenly the rest of their hand does nothing. For the same reason, you should find that your opponent's discard strategy is stronger against your Elves deck than your Red deck.*

But if that's the case, why is your opponent beating you anyway? The reason is simply that your red deck is playing underpowered cards. A 2-mana 2/2 haste is not Legacy viable! In a format as powerful as Legacy a 2 damage/turn clock is not fast enough; your opponent can easily take some damage before eventually reanimating Griselbrand, a card that single-handedly beats you. In the same way, cards like Trumpet Blast, Rakdos Cackler, Hellrider - they are just too slow for Legacy.

If you want to play monored in Legacy, take a look at Legacy Burn. It's not a top-tier deck, but it should be very advantaged against anyone trying to play discard spells. After all, they might make you discard one burn spell, but chances are you're going to draw another one next turn anyway.

*NB: by the way, your opponent likely misbuilt his deck. The point is that Mind Twist does not help him reanimate Griselbrand. If he spends all his fast mana on Mind Twisting you, then the Griselbrands are going to be dead in his hand. He is likely better off focusing on the primary gameplan of animating Griselbrand, and if he has to adopt a plan B, he's likely better off using the fast mana on a big creature that threatens to win the game on its own. Last I saw, the standard creature used in this way is Grave Titan.

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