Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Returning Cards to Hand in Magic
Returning cards to hand, or "bouncing," is one Magic's best ways to stall opponents, forcing opponents to expend extra mana recasting their cards. Often seen in blue, many bounce effects work against creatures, forcing them to deal with summoning sickness again and eliminating tokens, which can't exist outside the field.
Bouncing also removes +1/+1 counters and circumvents defenses like indestructible, and it's usually cheaper than other removal types—which of its members reign supreme? These are the 30 best bounce spells in Magic: The Gathering!
30. Stern Dismissal
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 1
Dismissal is similar to the classic "Unsummon," instantly returning a creature to hand for one mana. The downside is that you have to target an opponent's creature (normally you'd want to anyway, unless you're trying to reactivate an entrance effect), but in exchange, you can also bounce enchantments.
In the vast majority of games, this makes Dismissal much better than Unsummon, giving you a cheap and instant bounce against two popular card types.
Unsummon instantly bounces a creature for one, but for just two, Boomerang will bounce any permanent. Not only can this handle artifacts, enchantments, and planeswalkers, but it's also one of few blue spells to affect lands, which can really set your opponent back in resource production.
For a sorcery-speed arcane version of the card, consider "Eye of Nowhere."
28. Repulse/Leadership Vacuum
Many spells try to mimic Repulse, bouncing a creature for three and drawing a card, but lack its instant speed, giving it a clear advantage over cards like "Arrester's Admonition" and "Crashing Tide."
For an interesting alternative that only affects commanders, consider Leadership Vacuum, which works especially well against partner commanders or when opponents have stolen yours.
27. Waterfront Bouncer
Bouncer is a weak 1/1, but he has the useful merfolk subtype, and by tapping, spending a mana, and discarding a card, he lets you bounce a creature. Not only is this reusable, but it can also affect any creature, even yours, so it can shift between delaying opposing cards and saving your own (letting you recast them).
26. Blink of an Eye/Into the Roil
Like "Disperse," these identical spells can instantly bounce any non-land for two, more expensive than Unsummon but able to affect more card types. But unlike Disperse, Blink and Roil both offer an optional kicker effect, letting you spend two extra mana to get a draw.
So you've got a cantrip when you can afford it with no downsides, making these strictly better than their base form.
25. Expel from Orazca
Orazca acts like Disperse, returning any non-land to its owner's hand. However, its ascend trait gives you the city's blessing if you control 10 or more permanents as you cast it, and with the city's blessing, you can instead place that permanent on top of its owner's deck.
This means not only are you forcing them to recast the card, you're also killing their next draw.
24. Devastation Tide
CMC: 5 (2 with miracle)
Tide bounces all non-lands back to hand, useful in multiplayer and against losing board states. This includes your own cards, so watch the timing, but it's excellent when you're behind or running a deck that mostly uses instants and sorceries.
Best of all, you can cast Tide for just two with miracle if it's the first card you drew that turn, granting an astoundingly cheap board wipe.
23. Harbinger of the Tides
Harbinger has several advantages over bounce creatures like "Exclusion Mage," at the price of only being able to bounce an opposing tapped creature. However, he only costs two mana, has useful wizard and merfolk subtypes, and can be cast with flash (at instant speed) if you spend two extra mana, letting you delay your bounce when you have extra resources.
22. Reflector Mage
By mixing white with blue, you get another nice upgrade over Exclusion Mage. Reflector similarly returns an opposing creature to hand, but he also prevents that card's owner from casting spells with the same name until your next turn.
This works great on enemy commanders, denying opponents access to them for a whole round.
21. Tidespout Tyrant
Tyrant's enormous cost means you probably want to gimmick him into play with some other effect. But he rewards you with a fierce 5/5 flyer, and whenever you cast another spell, he lets you bounce any permanent, even a land! Plus, since Tyrant isn't legendary, you can clone him for even more bounced cards per spell.
20. Temporal Adept
Adept takes three mana to cast and three for his tap effect, but it bounces any permanent to hand. You can even use it on your own cards or against lands, locking your opponent into their current mana supply, and Adept's wizard subtype fits well in blue tribal themes.
Multi-color decks or ones favoring elementals should consider the similar "Time Elemental."
19. Seal of Removal
Seal of Removal is like an Unsummon you can set ahead of time, offering an enchantment that you instantly sacrifice to bounce a creature. Not only does this let you prepare it in advance, but it also triggers enchantment-rewarding effects like constellation.
While a bit more expensive than most bounce spells and needing two colors, Recoil otherwise gets everything right. It instantly bounces anything, even a land, then forces the card's owner to discard. And since you just bounced something, you know they'll have at least one card in hand, so the bonus effect should always trigger (unless you bounce a token against an empty hand).
17. Compelling Deterrence
Another upgrade on Disperse, Deterrence instantly bounces a non-land. But if you control a zombie, it also forces that player to discard, giving a cheaper and single-color version of Recoil (albeit one that can't target lands).
Capsize is like Boomerang but costs one extra mana, instantly returning any permanent to hand. However, it also has buyback, giving you the option to spend three extra mana (six total) to return Capsize to your hand.
Not only does this mean you'll have a play every turn, but it's also brutal if you can get infinite mana, effectively wiping opposing boards (including lands) and practically guaranteeing your win.
For five, Evacuation bounces all creatures back to hand, including yours. Compared to board wipes like "Wrath of God," Evacuation is a bit more expensive and doesn't destroy creatures, just puts them back into hand. However, it has something few other nukes have: instant speed, letting you bounce additional creatures opponents cast on their turn.
14. Venser, Shaper Savant
For one extra mana, Venser offers a much stronger Exclusion Mage, now able to bounce any permanent or spell on entry instead of just a creature! This means he works against any card type, able to thwart lands, creatures, planeswalkers, sorceries, and basically anything else.
Plus, while Venser acts similar to a counterspell, he doesn't actually counter, so he can't be stopped by cards like "Rhythm of the Wild."
13. Mystic Confluence
Confluence is great because it's whatever you need it to be, letting you pick any three of its options (and you can repeat):
- Counter a spell unless its controller spends three mana
- Return target creature to hand
- Draw a card
You've got whatever combination you need for a brutal and instant removal, possibly countering a spell and bouncing two units in one fell swoop.
12. Baral's Expertise
Though it only works at sorcery speed, Expertise has nice versatility, bouncing up to three creatures/artifacts to hand. Heck, you can even pick your own cards, letting you reuse spells like "Grim Monolith" without paying to untap them.
Afterwards, Expertise lets you cast a spell of cost four or less from your hand for free, so in ideal situations, you've effectively bounced three cards for one mana.
11. Wash Out
Wash Out returns all permanents of a color of your choice to hand, absolutely wrecking mono-color decks, and it hits every permanent type, not just creatures.
Of course, your cards can be bounced too if they contain the named color, but if you have a weak board or run a colorless artifact deck, you won't have much to lose.
10. Brazen Borrower/Petty Theft
Borrower lets you cast Theft into exile, from which you may later cast Borrower. And Theft is effectively Disperse, returning a non-land to hand (with the negligible restriction of only being able to target an opposing card). From there, you can cast Borrower, who can only block flying creatures, but has flash, flying, and surprisingly decent 3/1 stats.
This makes Borrower a staple for any blue deck in the Throne of Eldraine block, combining an instant removal with a surprisingly aggressive creature.
Here's arguably the best land nuke in the entire game, instantly bouncing all lands back to hand. Yours are affected too, but this usually cements your position if you're ahead, as it'll take time for anyone to build back up.
Plus, if you wait until the end of your opponent's turn to play Sunder, they won't have a chance to play the lands you bounce, and likely have to discard excess cards. But speaking of sundering...
8. Karn's Temporal Sundering
One of few legendary sorceries, you can only cast Sundering while you control at least one legendary creature or planeswalker—use it in commander format to ensure you always have some on hand.
You also have to shell out six mana, but in exchange, not only do you bounce a non-land, you take an extra turn! In other words, you've got "Void Snare" and "Temporal Manipulation" thrown together into one convenient package, just note Sundering is exiled on resolution, so you can't recover it with "Snapcaster Mage" or the like.
7. Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Unlike most planeswalkers, Jace has not three but four possible loyalty abilities, with -1 offering a cheap and reusable creature bounce. +2 is lackluster, simply scrying 1 on anyone's deck, but +0 is great, drawing three cards and placing two on top of deck (just like "Brainstorm").
In the rare cases you build up enough loyalty, deadly -12 exiles all cards from a player's deck, then makes their hand become their new library.
6. Teferi, Time Raveler
Teferi's great simply for his passive effect, making opponents only able to play spells at sorcery speed. His +1 offers the reverse effect to you, letting you cast sorceries at instant speed until your next turn, but -3 is most relevant today, bouncing a creature, artifact, or enchantment and drawing a card.
Not only can this bounce nearly any permanent type, but you can also safely use the turn Teferi arrives (he'll survive with one loyalty).
Equilibrium lets you pay one extra mana whenever you cast a creature spell, and if you do, you can bounce a creature to hand. Cheap and reusable, this should get you ahead quickly, and since the effect triggers by casting, it works even if your creature gets countered.
4. Hurkyl's Recall
Recall might start in the sideboard since it only affects one card type, but you'll find few better anti-artifact plays; Recall instantly bounces all artifacts to hand!
That's a bargain for just two, it'll hit artifact creatures, and it can eliminate (or force opponents to immediately expend) common artifact tokens like treasures and food.
3. Cyclonic Rift
CMC: 2 (7 with overload)
Cast Rift normally and it's Disperse, instantly bouncing a non-land for two. But overload it for seven, and you instead return every non-land you don't control! This is easily one of the best board wipes in commander format, affecting all opponents, triggering at instant speed, and bypassing basically all creature defenses (indestructible, hexproof, and protection from blue all fail to block it).
2. Cryptic Command
Command lets you pick two of its four effects, but unlike Mystic Confluence, you can't pick the same one twice:
- Counter target spell
- Bounce target permanent
- Tap all opposing creatures
- Draw a card
Often, the first two options are your best bet, countering a spell while bouncing a threat (and you can even bounce a land). But the cantrip and mass-freeze can also be useful, making this a versatile yet daunting spell.
Snap costs more mana than Unsummon for the same effect, bouncing a creature back to hand. However, it goes above and beyond by also untapping two lands, meaning you basically cast it for free!
Heck, you can even gain mana if you untap lands like "Simic Growth Chamber" and the like, making this a must-have for any blue deck.
Other Removals in Magic
Bouncing works great against +1/+1 counters, tokens, or bulky creatures that require lots of mana to recast, but it's admittedly less useful against small, aggressive threats; to deal with those, you might want to mix in some black or white for mass board wipes.
Still, in the right deck, blue can bounce threats while drawing cards and gaining control for an easy long-term win. But for now, vote for your favorite bounce card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2020 Jeremy Gill