Top 10 Opponent-Discard Cards in Magic: The Gathering

Updated on January 6, 2019
Jeremy Gill profile image

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

What Are the Best Discard Spells in Magic: The Gathering?

In Magic, discarding may seem simple, and it really is: players who discard have to send a card from their hand to the graveyard. However, not all discards are created equally. How many cards does a discard unit make an opponent lose? Do they get to choose what they toss, do you, or is it random? Does your spell target them, or can it bypass even hexproofed and shrouded foes?

All these are good factors to keep in mind when searching for the ideal discard troops. You'll find most hand-diminishers within the malicious tricks of the black faction, so pack in some swamp lands as we examine the ten best forced discard spells in Magic: The Gathering!

Angrath, the Flame-Chained
Angrath, the Flame-Chained

10. Angrath, the Flame-Chained

CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 5

Red/black planeswalker Angrath costs a fair chunk of five mana, and his starting loyalty is only four, but he offers continuous discards with a sweet bonus effect. His +1 loyalty ability not only forces each opponent (helpfully hitting all foes in multiplayer and circumventing the hexproof defense) to discard a card, but also makes them lose two life, letting you build loyalty as you assault enemy hands and health.

Angrath also bears a helpful -3 that temporarily steals control of a creature and sacrifices it at the end of your turn if its CMC is three or less, and his ultimate -8 forces opponents to lose a life for every card in their graveyard (which Angrath's +1 helpfully builds towards).

Burglar Rat
Burglar Rat

9. Burglar Rat

CMC: 2

Burglar Rat only bears 1/1 stats (one power and one toughness), but when he enters the field, he forces each opponent to discard a card. From there, you've simply got a puny 1/1 unit ready to block an incoming strike; not a bad trade for just two mana.

The cards "Ravenous Rats", "Dirty Rat", and "Corrupt Court Official" are all very similar to Burglar, but their effect only works on a target opponent, making them less useful in multiplayer and defendable by opponents who have hexproof or shroud.

Nath of the Gilt-Leaf
Nath of the Gilt-Leaf

8. Nath of the Gilt-Leaf

CMC: 5

Blending black with green yields this legendary creature capable of serving as commander in EDH format. Nath demands a substantial five mana, but enters as a respectable 4/4 and bears the useful elf and warrior subtypes. Additionally, at the start of your upkeep, you can make a target opponent discard a random card, a rare trait that doesn't let them select what they lose.

This stacks beautifully with Nath's next effect, letting you create a 1/1 elf warrior token whenever an opponent discards. Nath's first effect will grant you several creature tokens; combo him with today's other entries to rapidly swarm your troops and win through sheer numbers!

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Nicol Bolas, the RavagerNicol Bolas, the Arisen
Nicol Bolas, the Ravager
Nicol Bolas, the Ravager
Nicol Bolas, the Arisen
Nicol Bolas, the Arisen

7. Nicol Bolas, the Ravager/Nicol Bolas, the Arisen

CMC: 4

A bit of a cheat since he's only partially related to discards, but Nicol Bolas enters as a legendary creature with 4/4 and flying (letting him avoid ground blockers) for just four mana! He's one of the best dragons in the game, as he forces each opponent to discard when he arrives.

Then, if you can later afford to spend seven mana (including a red, blue, and black), you can transform Nicol into his Arisen planeswalker form, which enters with a fierce seven loyalty and four different planeswalker effects! His +2 draws you two cards, -3 deals a whopping 10 damage to a creature or planeswalker, -4 places a creature or planeswalker from any graveyard onto the field under your control, and -12 exiles all but the bottom card of a target player's deck.


6. Ostracize

CMC: 1

Ostracize is our first of several inexpensive black sorcery discard spells. For a single mana, you force an opponent to reveal their hand, then you get to mill a creature card from it. Creatures are common, so you'll rarely find a situation where you can't discard anything, and it's nice that you have some power over what they lose.

Plus, you get to peek at their hand, gaining knowledge of their upcoming plays, and even after Ostracize heads to the graveyard, it helps you meet the graveyard-fill conditions of cards with "spell mastery", "threshold", or "delirium" traits.

Rakdos's Return
Rakdos's Return

5. Rakdos's Return


Rakdos's Return offers a nice black/red duo that scales in strength to fit your current mana production capabilities. You need one red mana, one black, and an X value of your choice (of any hues). A target opponent then discards X cards and loses X life. If you have only a single mana to spare, that's still one discard and one life loss for three mana, but as your pool increases, you can soon inflict sizable amounts of hand depletion and life loss with one fell swoop.

Accessible in the mid-game, deadly in the late, Return excellently adapts to your current situation.


4. Duress

CMC: 1

Similarly to Ostracize, Duress forces an opponent to reveal their hand, but now you get to pick and choose any noncreature, nonland card to discard. Thus, anything from artifacts to enchantments to sagas are fair game, ensuring you have plenty of options to select from.


3. Despise

CMC: 1

Another single-cost black sorcercy, Despise once again forces an opponent to reveal their hand. This time around, you select a creature or planeswalker to discard; the abundance of creatures should give plenty of options, with the ability to toss planeswalkers adding some extra insurance. For one swamp's mana, that's an excellent boost that not only diminishes an enemy's hand but also grants a tactical advantage of predicting their future moves.

Harsh Scrutiny
Harsh Scrutiny

2. Harsh Scrutiny

CMC: 1

Yet another simple black sorcery, Scrutiny operates similarly to Despise, but now you have to discard a revealed creature, and can no longer throw out a planeswalker. Still, that leaves you the most common nonland permanent and several options. Additionally, you then get to scry one, peeking at the top card of your library and either placing it back or sending it to the bottom of your deck.

Thus, you've simultaneously learned an opponent's hand, discarded a creature from it, and gained knowledge of your own upcoming draws, potentially replacing an unneeded unit and hopefully letting you draw something better.

Vicious Rumors
Vicious Rumors

1. Vicious Rumors

CMC: 1

Vicious Rumors combines several brutal effects in a package that targets each opponent, excelling in multiplayer and bypassing hexproofed foes. Rumors deals one damage to each opponent, makes them discard a card, and gains you one life. Each opponent also places the top card of their deck into the graveyard.

While they get to stock their graveyard and you don't get to see their hand, this can assist with mill strategies, inflicts minor damage, and gains you health as you force every rival to discard, making it a ruthless hex for just one mana. I use Rumors in just about every black deck I craft thanks to its multitude of amazing powers; fortunately, it's as cheap in real life as it is in the game, costing less than a single dollar!

Which card do you prefer?

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How to Support Discards in Magic: The Gathering

Forcing discards on adversaries is useful in itself, as it diminishes their hand, but you can maximize your advantage by comboing with cards that trigger upon discards. For instance, the black creature "Abyssal Nocturnus" receives +2/+2 and menace whenever an opponent discards, while the blue/black instant "Dream Salvage" draws you as many cards as an opponent discarded that turn. Units like "Archfiend of Ifnir" actually reward your own discards, in his case placing a -1/-1 counter on enemy troops whenever you discard or cycle.

Still, be careful as some spells activate effects when discarded by opposing abilities, like "Ajani's Last Stand" and "Loxodon Smiter". Nevertheless, emptying your opponent's hand greatly diminishes their plays and stalls their strategy (bonus points if you can exile their stocked graveyard with cards like "Bojuka Bog"). But for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of discard units, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!

Questions & Answers

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