“Of course I’m sure I’ve gone mad. The little man who crawled out of my eye was quite clear on this.”

For as long as cards like Thoughtseize and Distress have existed in Magic, players have always asked:

“Which card is best to take from my opponent’s hand in this scenario?”

I see these types of posts on Reddit and MTGSalvation fairly often, so today I’m going to go over which card or cards might be the best to take in some different scenarios. I’ll also talk about what the general rules for taking cards are, as well as some “must-take” cards.

Which Card to Take?

This can be a tough question and there is rarely a “perfect pick” for each situation. It largely depends on your hand and what you need to do to win.

Maybe you’re on Grixis and your Jund opponent has Unravel the Aether in hand which just happens to answer that Keranos, God of Storms that you sided in.

Perhaps you’re on Lantern Control and your opponent has a Shatterstorm in hand.

But other times, it’s much more difficult. Let’s dive right into it with some real-life scenarios. I’ll present them and down below I’ll reveal what I feel are the best plays.

Scenarios

School’s in session.

Scenario 1

It’s turn one, you’re up against Jeskai Control playing Jund, you’re on the play and this is your hand:

You Thoughtseize and this is the hand your opponent reveals:

What’s the best play here?

Scenario 2

You’re playing Jund (The most common archetype for Hand-Rip spells) and you’re against Scapeshift. It’s turn 3 and you’re on the draw. Here is what the board looks like:

Your side -

Opponent’s Side-

This is your current hand:

You Duress and see that your opponent has as follows:

What’s the Correct Play?

Scenario 3

It’s turn one, you’re on 8Rack, up against Grixis Control. You’re on the draw, and they just played a turn 1 Ancestral Vision. This is your hand:

You play the Swamp, Inquisition, and this is what you see:

What’s the Play?

Scenario 4

You’re on Grixis Midrange versus Infect. You kept a bad hand and they drew a better hand than you hoped. You’re at 5 poison counters and you need to do something if you want to stay in the game.

You finally topdeck Thoughtseize so you go for it. This is your hand, not counting the Thoughtseize you just played:

Your Opponent reveals his hand.

He has an Inkmoth Nexus on the field and can kill you next turn. How do you survive?

Scenario 5

You’re playing Abzan Company versus Kiki-Chord, it’s game 2, and you’ve sided in Thoughtseize to take care of the opposing combo.

The field as is follows:

Your side -

Opponent’s Side -

It’s been a long back-and-forth and a this point, either of you could combo off for the win if you draw the right card. You rip a Thoughtseize off the top. You’re afraid he has the means to wreck your combo so you cast it.

You hand is as follows:

Your opponent reveals his hand:

Looks like you could’ve comboed safely, but you weren’t sure. Now you’re 1 mana short. How can you survive until next turn?

The Answers

Scenario 1

In this matchup, Thrun, the Last Troll is one your best cards and you want to get it on to the field as soon as possible and proceed to ride it to victory.

You also know that if Dark Confidant stays on the field, you might win, and your opponent will do whatever they can to answer him as soon as possible.

If you take bolt, and play Bob, then they are left with Path to remove him.

Then you can take advantage of that extra land from Path to play Thrun, the Last Troll ahead of curve and put an unstoppable clock on your opponent before they have a chance to mount their own offensive.

Scenario 2

You can safely ignore the bolt, since your Goyfs are bolt-proof.

When it comes between Search and Scapeshift, it depends on how close they are to going off.

In this scenario, they have three lands in play, two in hand and a Search for Tomorrow so they’ll have six lands (at least) in two turns. If they draw another ramp spell or another land they’ll be able to combo.

You’d want to take the Scapeshift and hope to kill them with your two Tarmogoyfs before they can find another.

If this was a turn earlier and there were fewer lands in play, I’d say it might be better to take the Search for Tomorrow to keep them from getting to their goal of seven lands.

Scenario 3

This is a tough choice. K Command can be devastating, destroying your Racks, but Snapcaster Mage is obviously one of the most powerful cards in the deck.

The correct answer here is to get Snapcaster Mage.

Snapcaster vs K Command can be a tough call.

First, a Snapcaster represents a binned Kolaghan’s Command and everything else in their graveyard.

Second, if they play Kolaghan’s Command, then Snapcaster targeting K Command, That’s even more Shocks, Shatters, Raven’s Crimes, or Disentombs.

If you take the Snapcaster Mage, at least they’re only left with the one K Command.

Even though both of these cards can be very bad for you, at least in this scenario you denied them as much card advantage as you could.

Scenario 4

Here’s how you can survive:

Take Vines of Vastwood

Here’s why:

If you had taken Become Immense, they could use Vines to protect their Inkmoth Nexus from Terminate and kill you, whereas Become Immense doesn’t keep you from targeting their creature. They are almost certain to go for the kill next turn, so you will be able to kill the nexus after they pump it and leave them with nothing.

Scenario 5

You want to take Restoration Angel, this will keep them from comboing and winning the game.

Now, they’ll be forced to use Anger of the Gods to try and stop your combo and in response, Chord for Murderous Redcap and win the game.

General Rules

The vast majority of the time, Snapcaster Mage is the correct target to discard against blue decks. Even when your opponent has Snappy plus other power cards like Cryptic Command or Scapeshift, remember that Snapcaster still represents whatever you choose to discard, in addition to every other spell in their graveyard.

Against combo, picking apart the combo is correct the majority of the time. Obviously, keeping them from winning takes priority over any of the other general rules. If the opponent has ways to recur the aforementioned combo, you will need additional discard or graveyard hate.

If there is no clear answer, take the card that hurts your immediate gameplan the most. If I see that my opponent has Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile, and I want to stick a Tarmogoyf, I’m going to take the Path to Exile and let that bolt rot in their hand.

When playing versus control, it’s often best to hold a discard spell until you need to clear the way for a threat. Along with the above point, if my opponent had Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile and Snapcaster Mage, I would take the Snapcaster, but I know if I play Tarmogoyf, he’ll walk down the Path to Exile. In this case, you’d want a second threat to play after you play your Path-Bait, or you’d wait on a second discard spell to clear the way.

Try to force your opponent into doing things that put them in a bad position such as seen in Scenario 1, or ignoring that Mirran Crusader in their hand because you have a Lightning Bolt.

Having a detailed knowledge of the format (be it Modern or otherwise) is very important for choosing the correct card to take from your opponent’s hand. When you cast the first Thoughtseize, you should know what you’re up against and what your plan is to beat them. The best way to learn to recognize other decks and what they’re doing is to research as many decks as you can.

I hope I provided some great insight into playing Thoughtseize effects. There’s a lot to learn about how to properly use these cards. In the end, experience and knowledge of other decks will serve you best.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you again next week!

A photo of Cody Revels Cody Revels

Cody Revels is an IT Professional who enjoys playing Magic in his spare time. He’s a competitive player who has enjoyed relative success at a local level and hopes to attend a Pro Tour one day. His favorite thing about Magic is the Modern Format and the friends he’s made.