The past 18 months of Magic have seen an enormous paradigm shift, specifically in the Legacy format. Due in large part to parties like StarCityGames, as well as an aging fanbase and resurgence of once-retired players coming back into the game, Legacy has become the second-most-popular official format in Magic.
This growing popularity has, however, brought with it two major repercussions: the first, and most notable, is the rising cost of major, staple cards in Legacy; the second, as a response to these rising costs, is the communal innovation of older deck designs and the development of entirely new designs as a way to remain competitive without needing to conform to traditional staples. And of all the innovations that we have been witness to, perhaps none more has been more prominent than the rise – or, for older players, the return – of the rivalry of Discard vs. Counterspell.
Counter magic is near and dear to many MTG players, especially those who are familiar with Legacy. But for the better part of Magic’s history, Control has been all but synonymous with Blue. For many, many years, the formula for a successful control deck has been common knowledge to players: 4x Force of Will
, 4x Counterspell
, 4x Brainstorm
, 3x Daze
, 3x Spell Snare
, and now 3/4x Mental Misstep
are pretty much the core of every primarily-Blue deck. While time has shown that this is a tried and true strategy, there is one major flaw – and it’s not even a gameplay flaw. The
necessary card in this strategy, Force of Will
, while an uncommon and thus not on the Reserved list, is almost 20 years old, and has not been reprinted since its creation, and has been growing in price (as of the writing of this article, it averages $65-80, and even when reprinted, an Alliances version will still likely fetch over $40 for a mint version).
This is a disheartening thought to thousands of Spikes everywhere; how can you play Control when you can’t even afford it? The simple answer: don’t - play either strong aggro or fast combo if you want to win. The better answer: find an alternative form of control. The schadenfreude answer: find an alternative form of control that eats counterspells alive, and makes the bastards who spent $250 on a playset of their precious Forces cry. Thus has been born the perfection of Discard.
Once an odd and somewhat amusing strategy in Magic, often considered a “bad but passable” form of Control, Discard has, in the last two years, become as prominent in major tournaments as Counterspells, and just as feared. If one were to characterize the two, Counterspells are the Superman to Discard’s Batman. The likeness isn’t inaccurate, either – Counterspells are often seen as overpowered, entirely reactive, and can smash pretty much any obstacle set before them; Discard, on the other hand, is proactive, has to be extremely calculating, can shut down pretty much any obstacle before it even becomes an obstacle, and, most importantly, can easily curb-stomp is “vastly more powerful” buddy.
The prominence of decks like Junk (aka Rock, aka Dark Horizons – it has some identity issues), which has consistently hit the Top 8 at Tournaments everywhere, has brought to light the potential of Discard for players everywhere, and the formula for a strong Discard deck has become as common knowledge as the formula for Counterspells: 4x Thoughtseize
, 4x Hymn to Tourach (1)
, 4x Swords to Plowshares
, 3/4x Vindicate
, and 3/4x Dark Confidant
There are two major things you may notice about the above list: firstly, that, although it is called “Discard,” it has 2 Field Control cards in it; secondly, that it is not purely black, as you would expect. There is a reason for this.