Skip to main content

Top 10 Ability Counters in Magic: The Gathering

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

Mirrorshell Crab

Mirrorshell Crab

Activated, Triggered, and Mana Abilities

In Magic, abilities offer reusable effects that can turn a game's tide in your favor over the long haul. Activated abilities have an activation cost: anything that proceeds the colon in the text, usually requiring tapping and/or spending mana. Triggered abilities are a bit different, simply occurring whenever their condition is met (they don't have colons). Mana abilities, well, provide mana (like tapping a land) and are the one type that doesn't use the stack, meaning they can't be responded to.

Once a card is out, players mistakenly think it's safe from being countered, as most counterspells don't work on abilities. But most isn't all; these are the ten best ability-countering cards in Magic: The Gathering!

Overcharged Amalgam

Overcharged Amalgam

Voidmage Husher

Voidmage Husher

10. Overcharged Amalgam/Voidmage Husher

Counters: Anything (Amalgam), only abilities (Husher)

Here we have a pair of four-cost creatures with flash (instant speed) capable of countering abilities. Amalgam exploits (sacrifices) one of your creatures on entry to negate a spell or ability; he can pick himself if needed, but he makes great use of weak fodder tokens.

Husher can only counter an ability, not a spell, but you can return him to your hand when you cast a spell, offering reusable ability-negation. Also, both have some tribal synergy; Amalgam with zombies and Husher with wizards.

Whirlwind Denial

Whirlwind Denial

9. Whirlwind Denial

Counters: Anything

Denial's fantastic against combos or cascades, as it negates all opposing spells and abilities currently on the stack unless your opponent pays four mana for each. Barring an infinite mana combo, there's almost no way they'll be able to pay such a fee. This also shuts down hard-cast eldrazi like Ulamog the Ceasless Hunger (blocking both its arrival and casting effect that would exile two permanents).

Interdict mtg

Interdict mtg

Squelch mtg

Squelch mtg

Trickbind mtg

Trickbind mtg

8. Interdict/Squelch/Trickbind

Counters: Activated ability (Interdict or Squelch) or triggered (Trickbind)

Scroll to Continue

Here are three instants that counter an ability while offering a little bonus. Interdict and Squelch both draw and counter an activated ability (note they can't stop triggered); Interdict also prevents the source from using more abilities that turn, but unlike Squelch, it can't target planeswalker effects.

Meanwhile, Trickbind doesn't draw, but its split-second effect means it can't be responded to, pretty much ensuring you'll successfully block the effect, and unlike the others, it can override triggered abilities.

Disallow mtg

Disallow mtg

Voidslime mtg

Voidslime mtg

7. Disallow/Voidslime

Counters: Anything

Simple yet effective, these spells counter any spell or non-mana ability for three mana. Disallow is slightly better as it has a colorless symbol instead of a green (meaning it can be discounted with cards like Baral Chief of Compliance), but both are worthy tools for control decks.

Azorius Guildmage

Azorius Guildmage

6. Azorius Guildmage

Counters: Only abilities

Guildmage fits into the classic white/blue control colors, offering a sturdy 2/2 for two mana of either type. From there, she can spend three mana to either tap a creature or counter an activated ability.

Both have their uses, but the ability counter is generally better. Keep in mind that while you can't stop mana sources, you can block activated effects of fetch lands (like Fabled Passage or Evolving Wilds) that would play other lands. Guildmage also doesn't need to tap to use her effect, so with enough mana, you can use her multiple times in the same turn.

Nimble Obstructionist

Nimble Obstructionist

5. Nimble Obstructionist

Counters: Only abilities

A flying instant-speed 3/1 bird wizard is already a decent surprise blocker, but Obstructionist really goes the extra mile with its alternate cycling effect, paying three mana and discarding itself to draw a card and counter an opposing ability.

In essence, you have a Squelch that costs one more mana but can also target triggered effects or be used as a creature when needed.

Repudiate // Replicate

Repudiate // Replicate

4. Repudiate // Replicate

Counters: Only abilities

This split spell lets you cast either half (but not both). Repudiate is most relevant today, countering an activated or triggered ability for two mana of either Simic color. Alternatively, cast Replicate for three mana to create a token copy of a creature you control (remember not to duplicate a legendary or you'll have to sacrifice one).

Both useful, just remember that unlike Repudiate, Replicate only works at sorcery speed.

Stifle mtg

Stifle mtg

3. Stifle

Counters: Only abilities

Pretty much the simplest ability-counter you'll find, Stifle blocks an activated or triggered ability. There's no bonus effect, but at just one mana, it's a steal for control decks that can quickly regain card advantage and won't mind trading to block a crucial play.

Tale's End

Tale's End

2. Tale's End

Counters: Any ability or legendary spell

One of the best counterspells from recent years, Tale's End stops a legendary spell or either ability type. Pretty generous considering it allows a colorless symbol, making it easy splashable and excellent in commander and brawl formats (where each deck is led by a legendary vulnerable to Tale's End).

Sublime Epiphany

Sublime Epiphany

1. Sublime Epiphany

Counters: Anything

True, six mana is far more expensive that most counterspells, but Epiphany compensates with some of the best effects you'll find. You pick one or more of:

  • Counter a spell
  • Counter an activated/triggered ability
  • Return a non-land to its owner's hand
  • Create a token copy of a creature you control
  • Target player draws a card

The sheer advantage here is ridiculous. You have an instant-speed omni-counter that also acts as removal by bouncing, increases your own field with a token copy, and replaces itself in hand with a draw. It's not even exiled on resolution, so you can recast it from graveyard with cards like Torrential Gearhulk.

Other Ways to Stop Abilities

In addition to outright countering abilities, many enchantments do the job for you. From the feared field-wide Humility (which makes creatures lose abilities) to single-target cards like Kenrith's Transformation, multiple colors can shut down threats.

Of course, you can stop most cards with traditional counterspells, or simply destroy them, but for now, share your thoughts on ability counters and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!

© 2022 Jeremy Gill

Related Articles