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.)

  • Force of Will is really bad against Duress/Thoughtseize, it means you 2-for-1 yourself. Against Hymn to Tourach, it's still quite bad since it effectively means the Hymn hits Force of Will + one other blue card in your hand anyway.
    – Allure
    Commented May 11, 2020 at 6:53

3 Answers 3


There are quite a few ways to play around discard decks:

Play Leyline of Sanctity to make yourself Hexproof.

Since all relevant discard effects (except combat damage effects) come from spells and abilities that require you, the player, as a target, this one card hardcounters discard decks and, incidentally, also burn and many combo decks.

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.

Play a deck that benefits from discard

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

Draw more cards than your opponent can make you discard

All card advantage strategies apply. While this does not directly counter targeted discard, it allows you to draw more cards and therefore more copies of your win conditions, overwhelming your opponent's capability to discard them. Of course, if you lose all of your win conditions to discard, with no way to retrieve them from the graveyard, no amount of card draw will salvage the game.

Tutor for key cards

Nearly all discard, and AFAIK all targeted discard has sorcery speed. Use instant speed tutor effects 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 or 2 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.

  • 4
    There is one thing you can do: gatherer.wizards.com/pages/card/…
    – Affe
    Commented Jun 29, 2012 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
    Commented Jul 2, 2012 at 23:45
  • The examples you gave for cards that benefit from discard are all cards that you still need in hand/in play, but like other cards to be in your graveyard. There are also ones that are even fine if they get discarded. There's really obvious ones like Loxodon Smiter, but also things like flashback spells (discarding them only takes half the use away).
    – Cascabel
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 20:31

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.

  • 1
    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
    Commented Jul 2, 2012 at 23:48

Addressing the second part about gameplay decisions: there are precious few ways to play around targeted discard once you've built your deck. Here're some ideas, but in general, you can expect that it's not really possible to do so.

  • You could try to empty your hand of legal targets for your opponent's discard spells. For example, if you're expecting Duress from your opponent, play your noncreature spells that turn even if they're less effective.
  • You could try to play out the cards more vulnerable to discard first. For example, if you have two copies of card A but only one copy of card B, play card B first. Then next turn you'll always still have a copy of card A.
  • You could try to get the important cards out of your hand. This requires specific cards, the most important one of which is Brainstorm. In response to the discard spell, play Brainstorm and put your most important cards back on top, then draw them again.
  • When scrying, you could try to keep the important card out of your hand. For example say you cast turn 1 Serum Visions and see an important 3-mana card on top. You can scry it 2nd from top, so that it's not in your hand but you will draw it on turn 3 when you can actually cast it. In this way a turn 2 discard spell from the opponent will not get the card. Warning: if you are forced to shuffle your deck, you will lose the card.

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