Top 10 Instant Counterspells in Magic: The Gathering

Updated on December 6, 2018
Jeremy Gill profile image

Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.

What Are Counterspells in Magic?

In Magic, counterspells bear some variation of the phrase "counter target spell", allowing you to negate cards that your opponents play! Almost all counters belong to the blue faction, so get your island lands ready to utilize these feared day-ruiners. Since they react to other cards, counters are instant speed, able to be cast at any time. Unlike most other units, this means you can add to the stack even in non-main phases or your opponent's turn!

But not all counters are created equal. Many offer lower prices or added benefits to your team, both denying your adversary their unit and gaining you supplies. In standard formats, you'll likely only need one or two different types of counters, but in blue commander decks (where only one of each card is allowed), you'll need to stock your library with a handful of separate negations. But with hundreds of variations, which counters reign supreme? These are the ten best counterspells in Magic: The Gathering!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Essence ScatterFalse SummoningPreemptive StrikeRemove Soul
Essence Scatter
Essence Scatter
False Summoning
False Summoning
Preemptive Strike
Preemptive Strike
Remove Soul
Remove Soul

10. Essence Scatter/False Summoning/Preemptive Strike/Remove Soul

CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 2

Here's four duplicate clones who all do the same thing for the same price. With just two mana (one of which can come from any color), you counter a creature spell. The only downside of this inexpensive negation is that you're restricted to just cancelling creatures, but almost all decks include 'em, so you shouldn't have to wait long before employing the ability. This is particularly true in EDH, where every deck will have at least one creature (their commander) available at all times.

You'll notice the thumbnailed images of False Summoning and Preemptive Strike bear an awkward wording of the ability (due to their age), but their odd text translates to the same 2-cost creature counter as Essence Scatter and Remove Soul.

Annul
Annul

9. Annul

CMC: 1

When an instant counter costs a single mana, you know there's gotta be some sort of restriction or price. Luckily, in Annul's case, it's a pretty negligible one: you can only use it to counter artifacts or enchantments.

Thus, while Annul can't negate creatures, planeswalkers, or the like, it offers a bargain deal that can invalidate one of two common card types. Artifacts are particularly abundant since most are colorless, meaning you'll find them in just about any deck list.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Mana TitheForce Spike
Mana Tithe
Mana Tithe
Force Spike
Force Spike

8. Mana Tithe/Force Spike

CMC: 1

Mana Tithe and Force Spike both wield the same ability for the same price, only differing in color. While Tithe isn't actually better than Spike, it's one of few counters white possesses, making it particularly noteworthy for its non-blue revoking prowess.

Both spells cost a single mana and counter a spell of any type—unless its controller spends an extra mana. Thus, your adversary can potentially dim your card by paying the added price, but even then you'll have drained them of additional mana. Still, try to wait for your opponent to spend all their resources on a big play, then watch them despair as they realize they lack the mana necessary to escape the penalty.

Cryptic Command
Cryptic Command

7. Cryptic Command

CMC: 4

While you'll need to fuel Cryptic Command with more resources than our prior entries, four is still a mid-range play, and at resolution you get to choose two of four awesome traits to apply:

  • Counter target spell
  • Return target permanent to its owner's hand
  • Tap all creatures your opponent controls
  • Draw a card

Unlike some multispells, you can't pick the same option twice, but you've got four awesome effects to select from. Often I recommend using the first to void an enemy's plat and the second to bounce a monster back to their hand (causing them to have to recast it and again deal with summoning sickness), but the army-tap and hand advantage are also worthy choices to bear in mind.

Counterspell
Counterspell

6. Counterspell

CMC: 2

This one's as straightforward as they come. For two blue mana, you simply negate a target spell. While there aren't any added effects to further aid you, there likewise aren't any restrictions or erratas to worry about, making this an incredibly reliable and inexpensive neutralization.

Counterspell can be trickier to utilize in multicolor decks since it specifically demands blue mana for both its symbols, so you may want to choose other units when deck-building with three or more hues. Still, it's a popular staple of monoblue and two-color decks.

Mana Leak
Mana Leak

5. Mana Leak

CMC: 2

Mana Leak operates very similarly to Counterspell. You're again paying two mana to counter a card of any type, but now your opponent can block your counter by spending three mana. Unless you're targeting a late-game weak spell (and you should probably save counters for the bigger threats), odds are strong your opponent won't be able to afford this price. Even if they do, you're spend two for Leak while forcing them to waste an extra three, so you still come out ahead.

To make up for its almost-negligible errata, Mana Leak allows one of its mana to stem from any source, superbly replacing Counterspell in multicolor decks.

Memory Lapse
Memory Lapse

4. Memory Lapse

CMC: 2

Yet another Counterspell alternate, Memory Lapse likewise costs two mana and vaporizes a spell of any type at quick-play speed. Similarly to Mana Leak, it allows you to satisfy one of its symbols with any hue, blending well in multicolor builds, and its "price" can actually work to your advantage. Instead of sending the negated unit to the graveyard like most countering spells, Memory Lapse instead places the card on top of your opponent's deck.

Sure, this means they'll soon draw it and have another chance to cast it, but you're essentially killing their draw by forcing them to reclaim a unit they already had. This also helps keep your foe's graveyard empty, denying them access to graveyard-revivals and dampening graveyard-dependent plays (like delirium and spell mastery).

Mystic Confluence
Mystic Confluence

3. Mystic Confluence

CMC: 5

As the most expensive of today's spells, Mystic Confluence helpfully offers several options similarly to Cryptic Command. However, not only do you get to pick three, you can choose the same mode more than once, granting unrivaled adaptability. You can:

  • Counter target spell unless its controller pays three mana
  • Return target creature to it's owner hand
  • Draw a card

Often, your best bet is to counter a spell with the first option then bounce two creatures with the second, slamming your foe with three huge disadvantages. Being able to draw cards instead helps if your foe hasn't played many creatures, and remember that Confluence only needs two of its five mana to be blue, making it another strong choice for multicolor arrangements.

Force of Will
Force of Will

2. Force of Will

CMC: 5

No, silly, we're not talking about the Force of Will trading card game. Rather, FoW offers one of blue's best instant spells. While it may look a bit steep at five mana, instead of paying its cost, it lets you exile a blue card from your hand and pay one life. That's right, for pinching yourself and simply banishing a card in hand, you can toss out a counter at anything without spending any resources!

This also makes it hard to predict FoW; your opponent may think it safe to access their best cards when your lands are tapped, only to lament your trickery as you throw out a Will. An impressive card, but remember that islands don't count as blue cards (despite providing blue mana), so keep another blue throwaway at the ready.

Mana Drain
Mana Drain

1. Mana Drain

CMC: 2

You probably saw this one coming. Mana Drain offers an upgraded form of Counterspell (in itself a worthy negation) with absolutely no drawbacks to balance out the added powers. Like Counterspell, you pay two blue mana and thwart a spell of any type. However, at your next main phase, you also add an amount of colorless mana to your pool equal to the countered spell's CMC!

With one fierce stroke, they're down a card and you're suddenly up a bunch of mana, letting you play huge spells much earlier than normal. I'm amazed Mana Drain hasn't been banned in EDH (honestly, it belongs to the cards that probably should be), and it's an easy choice in any of my blue decks. I highly recommend Mana Drain to any competitive player, though considering its one of the best MTG cards ever produced, original copies often cost $60 or more. Thankfully, you can buy alternate arts at much lower prices ranging around $10.

Which counter do you prefer?

See results

How to Counter Counterspells

Blue's unrivaled in countering, but consider pairing with another faction to compensate for its comparatively weaker creatures. Still, its formidable nullifying abilities hinder any deck; most counters can cancel any type of spell, meaning it's hard to defend against them. And while very much a blue specialty, counters have gradually seeped into other colors, so always stay on the lookout for potential traps even when facing nonblue camps.

A longtime meta tactic, counters are here to stay, so love 'em or hate 'em, you'll want to take them into account when constructing your deck. Watch out for tutors and other searches that can quickly pull them to your opponent's hand. Luckily, some cards offer rare protections against counters, which can help against check-happy opponents, or you could fight fire with fire by assembling your own counter build. Regardless of which route you opt for, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of awesome counter spells, vote for your favorite instant and I'll see you at out next MTG countdown!

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Jeremy Gill

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • profile image

        Roger 

        2 months ago

        Any thoughts on Pact of Negation?

      • Jeremy Gill profile imageAUTHOR

        Jeremy Gill 

        2 months ago from Louisiana

        @Simon

        Not currently in modern, but it's legal in commander and has been featured in several sets, so it could come back eventually.

      • profile image

        Simon 

        2 months ago

        Is that cheap Mana Drain legal in modern?

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hobbylark.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hobbylark.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)