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Manipulating the Opponent's Deck

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A shortstack that makes the opponent's stack even shorter.

"Cheater? It's not my fault that Joey didn't think to examine his deck before challenging me to a duel!"
Weevil Underwood, Yu-Gi-Oh!

In Collectible Card Games and Deckbuilding Games, the most important factors in whether you win or lose are what cards are in your deck, and which ones you draw. Being able to predict and manipulate what you'll draw is a key component to strategy in most of these games, whether that be through things like planting cards that allow you to search for and retrieve other cards that you need or by simply putting as many copies of a certain card as you can into your deck in hopes of increasing your odds of drawing it.

However, all the strategy in the world can't save you if your opponent decides to make you shuffle your hand into your deck and draw all new cards.

Some games allow or even encourage the direct manipulation of an opponent's deck during play. Common forms that this takes include:

  • Discarding cards from your hand or deck
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  • Forcing you to reshuffle your deck
  • Adding useless (or even harmful) cards to your deck

In card games where not having another card to draw at the start of your turn is a loss condition, the strategy of trying to make your opponent run out of cards before you do is known as milling, originating from the Millstone card in Magic: The Gathering (and later being added as a proper gameplay term).

When it's your own deck that you're manipulating, that's Luck Manipulation Mechanic.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Cardfight!! Vanguard G: During the climax of the Stride Gate arc, Chrono is fighting Ryuzu, who both are Gear Chronicle users. Ryuzu attempts to win the fight with an instant win condition that took advantage of Gear Chronicle's ability to manipulate one's own deck to get out twelve different Zodiac Beasts and Binding them. Chrono responds by forcing him to shuffle the deck, destroying the entire strategy as it was heavily reliant on top-decking.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • During the Battle City arc, before Joey Wheeler is set to duel Weevil Underwood, the latter pays off a random kid to steal Joey's deck and add the "Parasite Paracide" card to it mid-run. This card makes all of Joey's monsters become Insect-type once he draws it, which Weevil uses in tandem with "Insect Barrier" to ensure Joey cannot attack him. Both cards are in the official TCG with these effects (albeit Parasite Paracide has to be activated from the owner's side of the field first before it goes into the opponent's deck).
    • In one episode, Yugi faces a duelist known as the Rare Hunternote  whose deck relies on the Exodia combonote  as an Instant-Win Condition, and has cards that help in that effect (such as Pot of Greed, which draws two cards, and Swords of Revealing Light, which prevents monsters from attacking). At one point, Rare Hunter is forced to summon Exodia by itself in order to bolster his defences, but gloats that it doesn't matter as he has multiple copies of the same card in his deck and can just draw another one later - only for Yugi to counter it with Chain Destruction, destroying all cards in Rare Hunter's deck with the same name and rendering his win condition moot.
    • In Duelist Kingdom, when dueling Bakura, Bakura used several copies of Morphing Jar, a card that forces both players to discard their hands and draw five new cards from their deck.
    • When Yugi and Kaiba duel in Battle City, Kaiba uses Lullaby of Obedience to steal Slifer from Yugi's deck. Yugi then activates Exchange, allowing both players to steal a card from each other's hands and allowing Yugi to steal back Slifer.
    • When Yugi duels Leon, the latter uses a card called Golden Castle of Stromberg. It allows the user to summon monsters from their deck and it destroys the opponent's monsters when they attack you, but comes at the steep cost of milling half the user's deck each turn. Leon's brother cheats by hacking the system and forcing Yugi to pay the card's cost each turn by discarding his cards.
    • When Yugi duels Strings, the latter initially sets up a powerful combo of Slifer the Sky Dragon, a card which gets stronger the more cards the user has in their hand, and Revival Jam, which automatically revives itself when destroyed and causes the user to draw three new cards due to Strings' Card of Safe Return. Yugi wins by destroying Revival Jam and activating Brain Control to steal control of it. As Slifer automatically attacks whatever enemy is on the field and Revival Jam keeps reforming, Strings ultimately decks out due to his own Card of Safe Return.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Jaden at one point duels the pro-duelist Howard X Miller, whose name is even a pun on 'mill'. As his name suggests, his deck revolves around using Monster Register to force his opponent to discard cards each turn while stalling with spell and trap cards.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's:
    • Armstrong plays Iron Chains, using them in a strategy that focus on a mixture of damage and mill.
    • Team Unicorn uses a general Beast-based strategy which starts with beatdown and resorts to deck destruction as an alternate win condition.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! R: Reiko Kitamori has a deck that centers around the use of Battlefield Tragedy, which forces her opponent to send five cards from the top of their deck to the Graveyard when they attack. By using it multiple times, she's able to quickly force her opponents to deplete their decks.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • One of the general Blue specializations is deck destruction, through use of cards depicting Mind Rape actions such as Thought Scour and Traumatize. Sometimes it's combined with Black's ability to control the board and the opponent's hand to make for a devious blue-black mill strategy — Glimpse the Unthinkable, for instance, is one of the most efficient single-use mill cards.
    • A specialty of Black is its knack for stealing cards right out of the opponent's Deck, usually placing them in exile face-down so your opponent won't immediately know what they lost and allowing you to use mana of any color to cast that card. See cards like Gonti, for instance.
    • The rarely-seen fateseal mechanic lets you look at the top few cards of an opponent's deck and decide if you want any of them placed on the bottom, thereby affecting their next draw(s).
    • Lantern of Insight forces all players to play with the top card of their deck revealed. It also has an ability to force all players to shuffle. There exists a "Lantern Control" deck focused on knowing and manipulating the opponent's next draws.
    • Joke card Letter Bomb sets a trap in target player's deck that, when drawn, deals 19½ damage.
  • Pokémon: The Durant card released in the 2011 Noble Victories expansion has a move, Devour, which forces the opponent to discard a card for every Durant in play. The infamous Durant Mill focuses on fielding a whole field of Durants to devour the opponent's deck.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Parasite Paracide, when flipped, shuffles itself into the opponent's Deck face-up. If they draw it, it forcibly Summons itself, damaging them, and then turns all their monsters into Insects.
    • The "Empty Jar" Deck describes a strategy that repeatedly reuses multiple Flip monsters including both variants of Morphing Jar and Needle Worms to deplete the opponent's Deck.
    • The Iron Chain archetype, small as it is, has a general focus on beatdown and uses deck destruction as a secondary stall strategy.
    • The Lightsworn archetype inverts this trope with several of their own members sending cards from your own Deck to the Graveyard. However, they also have many effects designed to synergize with this, usually with effects that trigger by being sent to the Graveyard or effects that activate from the Graveyard.
    • Inverted with a lot of archetypes in the modern day, as a lot of Decks — not just Zombie or Lightsworn ones — have so much recursion and recovery that they use their Graveyard as a second hand. Thus, milling the opponent in Yu-Gi-Oh essentially works against you.

    Live Action Films 
  • In the Stephen Chow sequels to the Chow Yun-fat classic God of Gamblers, the ludicrous skill and luck of the epynomous protagonist at cards is parodied by the fact that the hands can literally be changed by psychic-powers, either by the player himself or by a psychic in the audience specifically hired to help him cheat. Of course, in the latter case, said unscrupulous psycker can also be potentially bribed by the opposing team to help them get the literal upper hand.

    Tabletop Games 
  • All the no. 3 card from Citadels and its expansion packs. The first edition has the Magician, who can force to trade a card trade with any other player, or discard any number of cards from their hand and replace them with new cards from the main deck. The additional set gives the Wizard, who can see another player's hand and steal a card. The 2016 adds the Seer, who can take one random card from every other player, then give one card of their choice from their own hand to each player.
  • Dominion: Most attacks do this, by (for example) making other players gain a Curse (a useless card with negative victory points), discard cards from their hands, put cards back on top of their decks, or even trash cards (removing them permanently from their decks).
  • Gloomhaven: Some attacks have the Curse effect, shuffling a Curse card into the target's modifier deck. When drawn, the Curse card nullifies all damage from the attack modified by it, and is then removed until the next time a Curse is applied. As all monsters share one modifier deck, even a monster that wasn't hit by the attack that applied the curse can have their attack nullified, including bosses who cannot be hit by Curse directly.
  • In Undaunted each faction deck contains a number of useless Fog of War cards and more are added as the battlefield is scouted. The Scout's Recon ability allows you to get rid of Fog of War cards you draw, improving your future turns. Alternatively, you can use its Conceal ability to add an extra Fog of War card to your opponent's deck, making their future turns weaker.

    Video Games 
  • Card City Nights has a few milling cards; optional opponent Cool Chick makes heavy use of them. Running out of cards in your deck deals damage that ramps up each turn until (if you lived that long) your hand runs out as well, causing a loss.
  • Card Shark features this as a centralized element of gameplay as you are trying to cheat your way to the top of every game.
  • Guild of Dungeoneering: Both the player and the enemies can cause the other to discard a card from their hand during battles. The Mime class in particular has a desk focused on causing this with their "Stage-Presence" cards.
  • Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft has several cards designed to mess with the opponent's hand and deck, or make them reluctant to draw more cards:
    • Cards such as Coldlight Oracle and Naturalize make the opponent draw cards. This can be utilized as part of a 'mill' strategy to force the opponent to discard cards because they've hit the hand size limit, and make them take fatigue damage by having them draw from an empty deck.
    • The Rogue spell Beneath the Grounds shuffles three Nerubian Ambushes into the opponent's deck. When drawn, they each summon a 4/4 Nerubian for the player that cast the spell. This is a bit of Early Installment Weirdness - there have been many similar Rogue cards released since, but with the caveat that they shuffle beneficial cards into their own deck.
    • Iron Juggernaut, Clockwork Goblin, Seaforium Bomber, and Wrenchcalibur shuffle bombs into the opponent's deck that explode and do damage when drawn. Similarly, Hakkar the Soulflayer shuffles a Corrupted Blood into both player's decks - when drawn, it does 3 damage to the player and shuffles another two Corrupted Bloods into their deck.
    • Weasel Tunneler and Bad Luck Albatross add weak 1/1 minions to the opponent's deck, leading to wasted draws.
    • Excavated Evil deals 3 damage to all minions and shuffles itself into the opponent's deck. Not only does this slow down aggro players, it also puts a completely dead draw into their deck. Likewise, another Priest spell, Psychic Scream, shuffles all minions on the board into the opponent's deck, which can include useless tokens.
    • Prior to her rework, Mindrender Illucia forced you and the opponent to swap hands and decks for one turn, giving you a chance to take waste or even make use of key cards from their deck. Thanks to some unforeseen usage, the card was heavily nerfed in patch 21.3 to just give the user a copy of the opponent's hand rather than actually swapping them.
    • Glide causes you to shuffle your hand into your deck and draw four new cards. If you can cast it from either of the outermost positions in the hand, it forces your opponent to do the same. Potentially this lets you go +4 while they go as much as -6.
    • Flik Skyshiv destroys a targeted minion and all cards with the same name as it, regardless of whether they're in play, in players' hands, or in their decks.
    • Skulking Geist destroys all 1-mana spells in both player's hands and decks.
    • King Togwaggle swaps you and your opponent's decks around, but gives the opponent a 5-mana card that switches the decks back. If you can find a way to burn that card or get a copy of that card yourself, you can make the switch permanent.
    • Warlocks have a number of cards that can destroy cards in their opponents deck, including Gnomeferatu (destroy the top card), Altar of Fire (destroy three cards from both decks), Tickatus (remove five cards from the opponent's deck if corrupted), Void Contract (destroy half the cards in both decks), and Azari the Devourer (destroy all remaining cards in the opponent's deck).
    • The Darkness summons a dormant 20/20 minion, then shuffles three candles into the opponent's deck. If all three are drawn, The Darkness awakens.
  • The Horus Hersey: Legions: The unique mechanic of the Alpha Legion is adding traps into the opponents deck, which trigger when drawn by the opponent, and have effects that can either damage, or stun the opponents units. They also have many card abilities that gets both players to draw cards from their decks making it quicker for the opponent to draw traps, but may also get them some cards that they want. Also they have cards such as The Harrowing which do damage depending on how much cards the opponent has on their hand.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel: In the "Blade" card minigame that you can play against your party members, one of the cards you can use is called "Mirror", which swaps both you and your opponent's decks around to each other. This can be a double-edged sword, however, because while you gain your opponent's deck, they gain yours as well, with the potential of them using whatever cards you had in your previous deck against you and vice versa.
  • In Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, breaking a boss's card with a higher card or a 0 permanently removes it from their deck. In the Player Versus Player mode in the Game Boy Advance version, you can also do this to your opponent with the Zantetsuken Sleight (which is still present in the remakes but is pretty redundant due to lacking the Versus Mode).
  • Plants vs. Zombies: Heroes: Played with by the cards Haunted Pumpking and Exploding Fruitcake, which are respectively a powerful fighter and damaging trick, but give a potentially useful Fruit or Monster card to your opponent when used.
  • Rogue Adventure:
    • The Myconid miniboss can place a Healing Mushroom in your deck whenever you harm it, which heals the monster when you play the card.
    • The Demon Tree places Evil Berries in your deck, which harm you if you don't play them. It also has a Status effect that locks down the first and fourth cards in your hand.
  • The Seven Deadly Sins: Grand Cross:
    • Attack Disable, Buff Disable, Debuff Disable, Stance Disable, Recovery Disable, and Ultimate Move Disable cards prohibit opponents from using the respective card types for a set number of turns, limiting what can be done on their turn.
    • Select bosses, such as Dahaaka, can remove cards from the player's deck upon successful attacks, regardless of the cards' ranks.
  • Slay the Spire:
    • The Book of Stabbing miniboss adds a useless Wound card into your deck each time you take damage from it... which is an issue, since it attacks with a Blade Spam of at least six individually weak attacks each turn, and all of them can potentially add a Wound to your deck.
    • The mooks that the Bronze Automaton spawns steal the cards with the highest rarity from your drawpile, refusing you access to them until you either win the battle or kill the mooks.
    • The Chosen inflicts the Hex status on you, which adds a useless Dazed card to your deck each time you play a card that isn't an attack. This starts off harmless, especially since any in your hand are removed at the end of your turn, but if you don't end the fight quickly you'll find it almost impossible to get the cards you need to block her attacks or deal enough damage to get rid of her.
    • Sentries alternate between regular attacks and adding two useless Dazed cards to your deck.
    • The Hexaghost adds Burn cards to your deck when it attacks, which deal take up space and deal Scratch Damage if you end your turn with them in your hand.
  • An extremely overbearing strategy in 100% Orange Juice!, as most characters are card-reliant on some level. This makes characters who can take advantage of cards that manipulate the deck like Gift Exchange by virtue of their strong base stats Tier Induced Scrappies among players who are familiar with this style of play.
  • Touhou Hisouten ~ Scarlet Weather Rhapsody: In battle, Reisen can "inflict madness" on her opponents through a mix of bending light/sound to create illusions, and psychically disrupting their rhythm. This is represented both by attacks with confusing properties, and by some of her Spell Cards (plus her associated System Card) having the unique ability to destroy cards in the opponent's hand. One of these attacks is a Status Infliction Attack, Desolation "Discarder", which inflicts a status effect which renders the opponent unable to play cards for a short time.