Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Top 14 Discard Outlets


Putrid Imp
Discard effects have always been useful enablers for this and that. Over time it seems as if the utility of discard has become more mainstream. It used to be something you would use on big fat dorks to Reanimate. It then spread out to other combo style decks abusing various forms of recursion. Now we have the graveyard as a resource for any deck that wants it to be. Aggro, control and midrange have all joined combo in their ability to utilize things in the bin. It might be delve things, cards which themselves have effects when in the bin, dorks which reanimate themselves from the bin, cards that require you to have things in the bin to do what they do and so on and so forth. When you have some cards that scale well with the graveyard any discard outlets you might have increase in value. If you play a bunch of them then other graveyard based things, even just a card with flashback, in turn become higher value. And so begins a self perpetuating synergy cycle!


The combo decks of old used to rely heavily on speed and so the cheapest options tended to be the best. As other kinds of archetype have got involved with graveyard stuff speed is no longer the most important aspect of discard outlets. These more conventional decks want either powerful or on theme cards. A Putrid Imp is the "best" discard outlet from a pure combo perspective. From all other decks perspective however the Imp is pretty unplayable. The new white discard tapper is a step in the right direction from the Putrid Imp but still too underpowered for mainstream cube use. A card of so little power is not worth playing simply to aid your synergies. Another example in this area is Cabal Therapy which can be turned on yourself for a one shot discard. This can be fine in combo decks as it is as cheap as the Imp. Therapy is also pretty good in combo decks as you know the specific things that stop you. It is essentially a backup combo piece in the Reanimate decks that doubles up as disruption. In something like a midrange deck you are basically never going to use it on yourself to enable some synergy as it is so low value. I imagine I would be playing a lot more Path to Exile on my own dorks than Therapy on my hand outside of combo!

Wild Mongrel
Zombie Infestation is another card I would group in with Putrid Imp and Cabal Therapy. The card itself in only good if you can abuse it such as with an Upheaval. While it might be a cheap, quick and ongoing source of discard the return for your discard is far from worth it. Even Wild Mongrel falls somewhat into this category now of a card that is simply not good enough as a stand alone card to want even as a support tool. The Mongrel is still an option in those decks with extreme synergies but those are not really something you encounter in cube drafts. As such Mongrel is pretty weak in cube these days and not the sort of thing you are looking for in a cube discard outlet. Something like a Lotleth Troll is a much more significant card than Wild Mongrel so despite being a more restricted discard outlet it sees a lot more action than the classic doggy.

Speed and cost of a discard outlet is still relevant outside of combo but more in the context of your curve. A discard outlet that costs five mana when your curve ends at five will not greatly enable any graveyard synergies you might have in an appropriate time scale. Pack Rat is a pretty good example of this. The card itself is cheap and also a very powerful stand alone card. The issue is that it is five mana total to play and use the Rat and as such it is not really adding or receiving much value from something like a Bloodghast. It will give some value, more than a card without a discard effect, but counting the Rat as an equal value outlet to an actually good one is misleading and will result in weaker decks.

CryptbreakerEnclave Cryptologists and Cryptbreaker are seemingly a lot cheaper than a Pack Rat at only 3 mana to play and activate for your discard. The issue with these is more speed than total cost. They both need to shake off summoning sickness before they can be used as discard. In the interim they are sitting ducks just asking to lose you a bunch of tempo. Both are good cards in their own right despite being filler cards. You don't want to rely on them as your discard outlets but they are really good tools to make up the numbers and support your other discard things.

A lot of the decks that use discard outlets also have access to a selection of other tools to get cards in the bin. Self mill and tutoring from library to the graveyard basically. Typically these are used in concert with discard effects in decks with heavy graveyard synergy as you will want specific things in the bin and wont be able to control whether you draw them or not.

Another area of fairly unsuitable discard outlets these days include Wheel of Fortune, Memory Jar, Attunement and also somewhat Zombie Infestation as well. These cards all suffer from being a bit all in. While they are very powerful discard effects they don't do other things that easily fit into normal decks. Infestation and Attunement are only efficient and effective if you can really fuel them, otherwise you would be far better off with a standard Merfolk Looter! Wheel and Jar on the other hand are just a bit too much, you need to put in too much effort in building around them to make them viable inclusions. They are deck defining cards rather than support cards.

The list below includes the discard outlets I see most commonly played and used in drafting cubes. They are all rounded or powerful enough that you can play them in a wider selection of decks than the narrower cards I have already discussed. Their value is much more a factor of the overall card strength than is normally the case with these kinds of "type of effect" list.


Nahiri, the Harbinger14. Nahiri, the Harbinger

This is very close to Pack Rat in that it is rather on the slow side to enable discard synergies in a way that will maximise them. That said you don't need maximum value all the time nor do you need to always be going full pace. Nahiri is a powerful and rounded walker. She has the potential for huge loyalty, has decent removal options and is a potent threat. She is arguably the best gold four mana planeswalker competing only really with the Orzhov offerings, but then four drops in Boros are hard to play. Nahiri is so potent herself she rather makes up for a loss in speed and potency on your discard synergies. There are many more reasons beyond the mana difference why I would rather a Nihiri than a Pack Rat as a discard outlet in most situations. After one discard the Pack Rat is a pair of 2/2s and you have invested two cards in that. In the same situation with Nahiri you have a 6 loyalty Nahiri and you have only invested one card in that. Although there are situation where a 6 loyalty walker is just dead and your pair of rats would live the Nahiri is a much better deal and a much more powerful package.

Careful Study
13. Careful Study

Cheap and direct. Study is a powerful card quality tool and a powerful discard outlet with a perfect cost. It has been the good Putrid Imp in combo decks for a very long time. The big cost with Study is the card disadvantage. Not many non-combo decks can support card quality, even card quality with synergy, when it comes at a card advantage cost. As such the Study pretty much remains the preserve of combo in current cube. Useful and powerful but on the narrow side.

Tormenting Voice

Tormenting Voice / Cathartic Reunion

Red gets the card neutral versions of Careful Study but the cost for that comes two fold. Not only do these cost twice what you pay for Study but they also get pretty ruined by countermagic. Having to pay the discard as part of the cost is a risk but it is one worth taking for these powerful little enablers. Getting some card quality on top of enabling your graveyard synergies without losing any cards total is a big win. Doubly so as red has historically lacked card quality.






Survival of the Fittest11. Survival of the Fittest

Survival is an incredibly powerful card that enables a lot of different decks. The reason it comes quite low on this list is that it is a little niche these days like Careful Study. While Survival is a powerful ongoing tutor effect it is still ultimately card disadvantage. It also costs three total mana to gain one use. Another big issue for Survival is that it is limited to creatures. Often you want to be throwing away excess lands or digging for lands and Survival does nothing to help with that. Survival is still decent in a selection of creature heavy midrange decks where you have utility creatures, late game finishers you don't want early and ramp dorks you don't want late. For constructed style decks Survival remains an incredibly over powered card. In current cube drafts it is decent at best and really on the narrow side. Evolutionary Leap is comparable in a lot of ways! Fauna Shaman often gets played over Survival in cube now as it at least does something on its own.


Borderland Explorer10. Borderlands Explorer

This is fixing, card quality and tempo all in a nice cheap direct package that also doubles up as discard outlet. This would be a whole lot higher on the list except that it is also card quality, fixing and a discard outlet for your opponent as well. It turns out this is a pretty dangerous thing to play unless you know you are getting massive value from the discard or you have to because you are land stitched. That is not a place you overly want to be in. As such this is typically only put in decks that are very graveyard focused, otherwise you are sadly just better off with a Sylvan Ranger type of thing. I have seen turn one mana dork into turn two Explorer, discard a Vengevine and get a land to play another one drop and return the Vengevine for about 10 power in play turn two, nearly half of it attacking right away! I generally don't like high risk cards for my filler and support roles but there are a lot of potential rewards the little Explorer offers.


Frantic Search9.   Frantic Search

While this card is gold dust in the powered cubes and combo focused ones the more midrange cubes find less use for this. It is pretty hard to have this out perform a Careful Study, it may technically cost a mana less but not being active for two whole turns after Careful Study is playable greatly slows down the utility of Frantic Search. Turn one Study into turn two Exhume is great, a classic Reanimator opener. Frantic Search doesn't get that online till turn three. There are two reasons I have Frantic Search that much higher on the list that Careful Study. One is just the history of abuse in concert with storm, High Tide and Tolarian Academy that Frantic Search has enjoyed. While this has little baring in an unpowered cube it still seems wrong to have the Search lower than this! The other valuable aspect of Frantic Search over something like Careful Study is the surprise factor. As a zero mana spell that is instant you can do a lot of things your opponent wasn't accounting for, perhaps it is just for fixing, they assumed you couldn't play a Cryptic Command due to lack of triple blue but the Search sorts it out etc. Ultimately this falls into the category of discard outlets that cost you card advantage making it rather niche. I see this in Reanimate decks and occasionally as filler in prowess decks, that is about it for unpowered cube. 
Heir of Falkenrath

8.   Heir of Falkenrath

A very effective and useful all rounder. A two mana card that gives you a guaranteed discard outlet for no further cost and at instant speed if you need is strong on the discard side of things. A 3/2 flier is a pretty big deal to get with all that. So much so this sees plenty of play in decks with no discard synergy. Just a dork that can be a 3/2 flier for two or a 2/1 should you not have a card to spare is powerful and versatile. A decent finisher, decent planeswalker control and a strong tempo play. Super potent for the more midrange and creature focused decks. Slightly less useful to some of the more spell and combo based decks where a dork is typically getting less done.



Looter il-Kor7.   Looter il-Kor

A bit weaker than some of the other cards here as a discard outlet for being slow and giving your opponents time to react. Another issue with Looter is that the discard is in the combat step which makes it weaker for Shallow Grave style cards. It is workable unless you are using things that don't stay in the bin like Emrakul, the Eons Torn. Looter makes up for this just by being such a great card. The evasive body is huge, it has fantastic scaling with any buff effects you might have. It offers some planeswalker control and even as just a 1/1 going face the damage adds up. Every turn it lives you will pull a little further ahead, it is like having a planeswalker in play! A loot and a ping, a lot better than going +1 on a Saheeli and for a mana and a colour less. Best in a proactive deck but good enough that it crops up in all sorts of places.



6.   Collective Brutality
Collective Brutality
Another card that is so good you are more than happy playing it with no graveyard synergies at all. This card has been a huge addition to the cube and has done loads to help black. This card is good in quite a subtle way. It is effectively card quality although in a very unusual guise. It lets you turn dead or weak cards in hand into effects you might want. So often against RDW I will use Brutatilty as removal on their one drop and then look at my hand and realize that none of my other cards in hand are as good as 2 life or plucking a burn spell out of their hand. As such I turn my two weakest cards into things that are going to help me a lot more in that matchup. Certainly it is rare to get all three things being good for you but even two is pretty huge. A card that can effectively turn any other card into a Disfigure, a Syphon Soul or partial Duress is something to take note of. You do only get one shot of discarding and it is sorcery speed but for the most part that is fine. You can dump one or two things, you will get some value and you will have increased the synergy and power of your deck by playing this great card.


Faithless Looting5.   Faithless Looting

So much better than Careful Study in so many ways. This is the one discard outlet that incurs card disadvantage that is powerful enough to still see a lot of play in the midrange cubes. Four loots is a really large number for one card. That alone is pretty much enough to offset the card disadvantage. Being able to split them up is lovely too, you can dig for lands early and then cash in lands with it late. Looting is the card quality card to have in a flood and a decent one to get you out of a screw. It is very cheap to use the first time round but still has value to offer later. This makes it a rare example of a card that helps a huge amount in the early game while still scaling well into the late game. Faithless Looting itself scales with discard effects, you can discard it for more value than a lot of other cards when you have another active looting effect and it doesn't even put you at much risk of having all your discard outlets dealt with. Lastly, the card is red! Blue has all the good cheap card quality stuff normally and so access to that kind of thing outside of blue is a big deal. It can be a big deal even in blue decks, spreading out the cost of your effects between your colours (assuming you are fairly even split already) typically makes your life a lot easier.

Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
4.   Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

The top four on this list are all insanely good cards, this is arguably the best of the lot overall. As an actual discard outlet Jace is generally worse than a Merfolk Looter! The main reason being if you actually want a discard outlet Jace might only provide one once. Should you fill up your yard sufficiently Jace will flip and cease being a discard outlet. This is often fine, one loot can be all you need and having a Jace Telepath Unbound in play afterwards is a much better deal than you get with other comparable discard outlets such as Heir of Falkenrath. You never don't play Jace in the deck with any graveyard synergy as it is such a good card. Being a decent discard outlet is just one of the many strings to his bow.



Dack Fayden3.   Dack Fayden

Arguably the best discard outlet here but let down by being gold and thus somewhat harder to play. Dack brings a fair amount to the table. Not only is he an instantly usable ongoing double loot each turn should you wish he is also a great counter to artifacts, more tempo than most other loots and more of a threat than most other loots too. Just having a Dack in play doing nothing but looting each turn generally equals a win even without any graveyard synergies on the go. Seeing so many cards just means you have the right stuff all the time. If four loots for 4 mana courtesy of Faithless Looting is a good deal then the average of what you get out of Dack for three mana is insane. His average loot count is likely five in the games where he doesn't steal an artifact and win it for you that way. Further to these five loots he gains you either five life or plucks a removal spell from their hand.



Smuggler's Copter2.   Smuggler's Copter

Copter is stupidly powerful. The card is actually one of the weaker discard outlets on the list, you will generally have to wait till turn three to do it, it happens in the combat step, you need another guy to crew the Copter and they can deny the loot with removal. When you have a live Copter you don't much care that the discard utility is less good than with Heir of Falkenrath and many of the other cards on this list. Copter doesn't cost you card advantage and it provides powerful card quality. It is playable in any colour just so long as you have some dorks to crew it with. It is pretty hard to deal with and is a potent threat on its own. Looter il-Kor is annoying, Smugglers Copter is down right painful. You can't make many planeswalkers into it, a lot of removal is weak against it. The card wins games. They will spend so long focusing on not loosing to the Copter that you have a good chance of taking the game with whatever else you have going on or managed to setup with the Copter.


Liliana of the Veil1.   Liliana of the Veil

Liliana is both very powerful and very well rounded. She can put a big dent in an aggressive players tempo and she can single handedly own the slower decks. She is a card a lot of archetypes want regardless of her discard utility and so when you do want to be putting things in the bin her value rises more than most. Liliana is powerful, cheap and versatile and this makes her a card you can play in most things. In combo she may be a slow discard outlet but she covers a lot of bases in a single card allowing you to play fewer non-combo piece cards. Liliana is weaker than a lot of the other discard outlets here as a pure discard outlet, she costs three total mana, the discard is sorcery speed and doesn't come with a free card draw. What makes her so good is her ability to control the game. This in turn makes whatever things you might have going on with your graveyard that much more likely to do their thing and get the required value. Liliana is not just the discard outlet you need but also the Duress and Edict to stop you dying and allow you to carry on doing things.




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