There was a similar conversation in the Thought Erasure thread. There I argued that I didn't think there was much of relationship between the playability of Duress and Mental Misstep. I stand by that, but I think this thread raises some other interesting topics.

I think I tend to take the opposite approach to running cards/building decks and I wonder if there wouldn't be some benefit to trying that here.

Basically, a question is posed in the form "Discard effects are bad. [conjecture as to why]. How can we make them good?" While I think we'll find that discard effects are still pretty reasonable, it's a problematic question to ask, because there might not be an answer. If you had asked "Vizzerdrix is bad because it's strictly worse than many other creatures. How can we make it good?" ... you sort of can't, short of changing the rules of the format so much to be unrecognizable. I think there are a few questions you could be asking instead, which may lead to more actionable answers.

What do I want [discard] to accomplish, and what is the best card or strategy for accomplishing that?

While Duress was classically a storm-deck staple for punching through combo-control decks, if you're specifically trying to beat a slower deck with Pyroblasts and Flusterstorms then Defense Grid just does that better. On the other hand if you're looking for action on turn one, in a deck that primarily cares about the stack, maybe the first Duress does that better than the 6th cantrip ... or maybe it doesn't, but at least you know what to measure now.

In what situations is [discard] already good, and what sorts of things make those situations more likely to happen?

There's a reason you're asking about discard in the first place, right? There must be some game state where you really like it ... a Thoughtseize can punish greedy keeps, or provide information on a critical turn, and it's a cheaper way to help your cards resolve than playing multiple threats ... so making Thoughtseize better could involve playing cards that make those things more common, or more important ... Decks with Wasteland are more likely to be able to capitalize on punishing a one Mox//one Land keep. A control deck with a weak combo matchup may benefit more than usual from the information advantage. Considering the broader metagame, if the decks that discard is good against just aren't being played, it's possible the only thing you can do is wait until they are.

What's the best possible deck I could run, if I accept running/building around [discard] as a handicap?

Recognize that when you see a card you like from a spoiler, or you have a pet card you've been shoving into every deck for years, this is the question you're really asking while deckbuilding. There's nothing wrong with doing this, I've done this many times myself, and sometimes it's the best way to discover something truly broken before anyone else ... but if you don't recognize this is what you're doing, you're sure to get a lot of "why haven't you cut Kess, Dissident Mage?" sort of advice from everyone you talk to your deck about. Many people don't want to believe they're running a particular card just because they enjoy it, but if they don't have a good answer to one of the other two questions, that's what's happening.

So ... why do you want to run more discard in vintage right now? Do you think it fills some useful role in an existing deck? Do you think it's undervalued in a particular matchup? Do you miss playing with discard spells and you want to maximize your chance of winning while getting to cast them?

@brass-man Thank you for the very thoughtful write up.

WHAT DO I WANT [DISCARD] TO ACCOMPLISH, AND WHAT IS THE BEST CARD OR STRATEGY FOR ACCOMPLISHING THAT? Discard is first and foremost, disruption. Dredge plays discard very well with Cabal Therapy and it does exactly what they want it to do, disrupt you and slow you down. The next best play is Thoughtknot Seer and Kitesail Freebooter, which play discard engines with legs and those not only remove a card that you get to pick but they put a presence on the board serving as disruption in much the same way that Dredge does it by creating zombies when they flashback Therapy.

IN WHAT SITUATIONS IS [DISCARD] ALREADY GOOD, AND WHAT SORTS OF THINGS MAKE THOSE SITUATIONS MORE LIKELY TO HAPPEN? It is currently working well with aggressive decks that want to disrupt the hand of the opponent while still adding threats to the board.


I want to take this in a slightly different direction. Our format does not ban cards we restrict them. This has 2 possible outcomes:

  1. The card is not strong enough to play as a one of and slowly fades away similar to Thirst for Knowledge and it can be unrestricted when the metagame has shifted from whatever broke the card in the first place.

  2. The card works so well with other cards in the metagame that it is worth playing even as a one of see - Gush, Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time, Thorn of Amethyst, Lodestone Golem, Chalice of the Void and Monastery Mentor.

This is relevant to examining discard for a very special reason. Discard works in lower formats because there is less variance and less explosive cards. In a high variance format, the cards that are restricted are extremely explosive.

I wanted to discuss this because I have reached a point with the metagame where counterspells are starting to stifle the metagame into a cantrip, flashback, and brute force format.

There are a few methods to fight this and discard was a tool in the toolbox from 2010 but I feared and I was proved right that this tool is no longer good.

last edited by moorebrother1

Cabal Therapy is pretty clearly to me a Vintage Staple. It has always been great in Dredge and will probably continue to be great in Dredge. It also saw some crossover into the Xerox archetype prior to Gitaxian Probe's restriction. It does require some way of cheaply creating creatures, which we see in Dredge and token makers.

I think following a close 2nd right now is actually Unmask thanks to its ability to be cast for 0 mana, and thus functions as a better than Force of Will on the play since you can gauge your opponents hand before even playing your land for turn. You, of course, need to be playing a deck that can overcome the 2 for 1ing yourself problem (which again Dredge does well).

Both of these cards solve the tempo loss problem, and cabal therapy additionally solves the 1 for 1 problem.

That's why I stand by that the problem with discard is tempo. You're spending mana to deal with threats your opponent spent 0 mana on. That's the main issue with discard. Cabal Therapy is played because it can get rid of hate/counters for 0 mana (actually netting you a few zombies on the way).

This is the reason Gitaxian Probe was much more prominent than any discard spell. You got the information and the same 0 CA for 0 mana instead of B. Think of this: what would happen if we had a Phyrexian mana Duress? Would you play it? It probably would be played in similar numbers Probe was before restriction.


Phyrexian Duress would get restricted, for sure.

@vaughnbros Exactly. It's helpful to understand why discard effects are not played. It's not only the effect that's not that good (Phyrexian Duress would be worse than Probe because it's a worse topdeck), it's tempo.

@fsecco That's a good question. Would it be "worse" because you do not draw a card when it resolves?

You still see their hand and you get a card but you do not replace it. So is the issue replacement with a card or a permanent?

last edited by moorebrother1

@moorebrother1 because it's not blue and it's way worse in a topdeck war. The CA is the same (Probe +0 for you, Phyrexian Duress -1 for you -1 for opponent = 0). That's basically it. There are other things that make discard not that great, but those are covered above and in Reid's article. 🙂

last edited by fsecco

Even though +1 card for self > -1 card for opponent, I'm pretty sure that: -1 card that you select from opponent > Random +1 card for self

There is a strong assumption with some the replies that the deck would be blue based. What if the deck were only black without any blue cards.

Black is strong enough and broken enough to work without the blue cards. It is missing the counter magic. Looking at all of the removal available to black and the broken draw spells I think there should be more black in the metagame.

I know Dredge is basically a black deck, but what about something else?

last edited by moorebrother1

Unfortunately until Black gets something to destroy Oath, unless your talking Suicide Tendrils, you need a secondary color. I do love the new Black stp for Artifacts and Eldrazi tho. On the right path.

@serracollector I agree that Black plays best with a second color like Green or White.

Blue is great but it takes over a deck. Looking at the Survival list they worked hard to splash blue and not like it take over. That is very hard to do.

I think the issue is that if you have duress and thoughtseize in your deck your probably playing a fair game, possibly without reactive counter magic. You will have a hard time dealing with the really broken fast decks. A good example of a duress deck done right is DPS. You can duress against the slow decks and your deck is fast enough to not worry about other fast decks so you don't care that you don't have FoW ~ect.
If I was building a deck today to primarily use Duress effects I would wan't either a really fast deck, or a deck that could cast 2+ Durres effects from turn one on and had Sensei Tops and cards to keep me out of top deck mode.

I use discard a lot in my decks. I'll have to say, I loathe blue, so my decks tend to be GBW or some variant thereof. In my oath deck, I run 8 duress. In my Depths deck I run 5 or 6 depending on the day (and sadly, 2 missteps as a necessary evil vs swords to plowshares). I think I know why duress effects have fallen out of flavor.
Counterspells obviously are a replacement blue utilizes, but as pointed out, blue decks once used discard. But now decks have become incredibly cantripy and redundant so that if a spell can't resolve, it is no big deal because the next card cast is similar in power, In earlier days, or in certain decks, punching through a key spell required duressing to remove the counterspell or see the coast is clear. I think many decks now are not looking to punch through a key spell, but rather resolve several incremental advantage spells so that by the time they are ready to win, you've been buried in CA. Even non-blue decks like dredge and shops are just a bundle of redundancy that don't care about a particular spell resolving. There are fewer "combo" decks or decks hinging on a single spell breaking the game as there once was. Even PO decks don't need to resolve PO - everything they cast is en route to drawing far more cards than the opponent can handle before winning. Oath is probably the closest thing we have to a key spell...but these decks now run S&T, planeswalkers, and castable creatures to ditch the need to push through the oath.
My decks tend to be more combo-centric and bomb related. I run 4-6 tutors in any deck because I prefer to find THE card I need rather than draw 2-3 random cards off the top. As such, I need 5-8 discard spells in these decks. If decks in the meta ever return to more key-card decks, we might see more discard. However the variety of cantrip/draw spells are so vast now and redundancy so ubiquitous, I doubt we'll ever go back.

@moorebrother1 this would be in the realm of a Dark Depths deck.
Also, I stopped running discard in any deck I played that didn't have a quick combo finish, like AdNauseam tendrils, or heavy disruption like Humans.dec to make up for/maintain tempo.
Take Thought-knot seer as an example. I can turn one TKS and I'm way better off than if I turn one Thoughtseize. Simply because of the threat it provides. Even if the opponent deals with my TKS, the opponent is playing into my game now.

my two cents.

@serracollector said in Discard spells:

I do love the new Black stp for Artifacts and Eldrazi tho.

To what do you refer?

Here's a cute data point, for what it's worth. I spent most of the day today testing some Battlebond tech @Aelien . We weren't explicitly trying to react to this thread, but our results are probably relevant to the discussion

I was playing a controlly Grixis deck with 4 Mental Misstep and a Mind Twist

Aelien was playing a stormy deck with 7 Duress/Thoughtseize effects.

The Mind Twist was very good for me, and the Duress effects were very good for Aelien. At no point were either of us sad to be running those cards. I think these cards are still quite good against Combo, reasonably good against Slow Control, fine against Tempo Control, and bad against Workshops and Dredge. I think what one does with a Duress is so different than what one does with a Mind Twist that you have very different requirements for wanting them, and I think what one does with Hymn to Tourach is just something no Vintage deck wants.

Ultimately I think if you're just looking at playing one of Ravager Shops/Jeskai Mentor/Esper Outcome/Inferno Oath/Dredge, in a field that consists mostly of Ravager Shops/Jeskai Mentor/Esper Outcome/Inferno Oath/Dredge, discard effects just aren't the best option over alternatives (with the exception of Cabal Therapy, possibly Unmask out of Dredge decks). That's going to include most players in most metagames ... but I do think there are reasonable decks outside that list, and reasonable metagames that diverge from that list, in which Duress/Thoughtseize/Mind Twist are good choices. Hymn to Tourach, I think, won't make the cut in anything reasonable, and I can't think of any other discard effects that are particularly notable.

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