Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
What Is Flickering in Magic?
Usually seen in blue or white, some Magic spells can "flicker" or "blink," exiling some of your permanents and returning them to the field. But what does this gain you? Well, flickering can remove -1/-1 counters, reactivate entrance effects, dodge removals, untap tapped units, and reset the loyalty of planeswalkers.
Some effects return your cards immediately after flickering, while others wait until the end of the turn. Either way, blinking's a powerful and often underestimated trait, but which of its spells reign supreme? These are the ten best flickering cards in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Kaya, Ghost Assassin
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 4
Unlike most planeswalkers, Kaya has no loyalty-gaining effects. However, she arrives with an impressive five loyalty, and her +0 lets you blink her or a creature you control by paying two life, returning them to the field at your next upkeep.
This works great for flicker-supported creatures, and it can also reset Kaya's loyalty (and she won't be able to be attacked until she returns). Activate it to replenish her after using -1, which drains two life from opponents, or -2, which draws you a card while opponents discard one.
9. Ghostly Flicker
Unlike Kaya, Ghostly Flicker resolves at instant speed, helping your cards dodge targeting removals. It exiles two creatures, artifacts, and/or lands you control, immediately returning them to the field.
You only get two targets ("and/or" doesn't mean you can have six total, just that you can mix and match the two), but it's still an adaptable defense that also supports landfall abilities.
Cloudshift can only impact one target, but it's a speedy flicker that only requires a single mana. You simply exile a creature, then return it to the field under your control, avoiding removals, discarding counters, and returning to an untapped position (unless the creature naturally enters tapped).
7. Eerie Interlude
Eerie Interlude works similarly to Ghostly Flicker, but it can only blink your creatures. However, it targets any number of them and retrieves them at the next end step instead of immediately.
Not only can this save your entire army, it'll dodge even non-targeting board wipes since your units won't phase back in until the turn's end. Conveniently, this blinks just long enough to escape destruction while returning in time to block attackers on the following turn.
6. Essence Flux
Flux essentially offers a color-swapped Cloudshift, exiling and recovering one of your creatures at instant speed. However, this time you get the added benefit of giving it a +1/+1 counter when it returns if it has the spirit subtype.
Admittedly, +1/+1 counters don't synergize with blink strategies since they'll leave with your next flicker, but it's still an appreciated bonus, especially since many blinkers are spirits (we'll see two in our upcoming entries).
5. Venser, the Sojourner
For his cost, Venser only arrives with three loyalty, but he can quickly gain more with his +2, which flickers any single permanent you own (possibly Venser himself), returning it to your control at the next end step.
Like other planeswalker abilities, you can only activate this on your main phase, limiting its defensive applications, but it's still an easy and reusable flicker. Venser's other effects also impress, with -1 making creatures unblockable that turn and -8 giving an emblem that exiles a permanent whenever you cast a spell.
4. Deadeye Navigator
A 5/5 with the spirit subtype isn't bad for six mana, especially with Navigator's soulbond trait. When he or another unpaired creature enters the field, you can pair them for as long as they both remain fielded, letting either of them spend two mana to flicker in and out.
This offers a useful and instant-speed defense for two of your minions; bond with creatures like "Mystic Snake" to essentially gain a reusable two-cost counterspell.
Despite only being of common rarity, Ephermate packs a powerful punch. It's basically Cloudshift, blinking and immediately returning one of your creatures for one mana. But it also has rebound, exiling itself (how's that for flavor?) until your next upkeep, where you can cast it again for free.
Basically, you've got two Cloudshifts for one, and on the off chance you'd prefer not to utilize Ephemerate's second trigger, you can decline. Competitive enough to see usage even in my non-flickering decks, Ephermate's a bargain deal that costs less than a single dollar!
2. Restoration Angel
Restoration Angel has both flash and flying, meaning you can cast her at instant speed. This blends beautifully with her flicker effect, which exiles a non-angel creature you control and return it to the field.
Interestingly, while Restoration herself has angel synergy, her effect can save anyone whose not an angel, making her an excellent response to a removal targeting one of your creatures. Throw in sturdy 3/4 stats and a lenient color cost and you've got a powerful ace up your sleeve.
1. Brago, King Eternal
Whether spearheading a blue/white commander deck or supporting another general, Brago offers an amazing flickering effect. Whenever he deals combat damage to a player, you can exile any number of non-lands you control (including Brago himself), then return them to the field.
With this, you've got as many resets as you need, conveniently untapping Brago along the way. Brago's stats are only a mediocre 2/4, but his flying helps bypass most blockers. Still, to guarantee his combat damage, try rendering him unblockable with blue spells like "Distortion Strike."
Supporting Flicker Magic Decks
As useful as flickering is, remember that creatures you blink during your first main phase won't be able to attack that turn (unless they have haste). To avoid this, either blink them after combat, which helpfully untaps them and lets them serve as blockers.
Useful as flickering is, remember that it can also remove positive +1/+1 counters and auras/equipments, so time your plays to match the field state. But for now, as we await Wizards of the Coast's next set of blink spells, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill
Rex H on November 20, 2019:
These cards would be so much more useful if you could flicker your opponents’ creatures to remove +1/+1 counters from them. They all say “creature you control”, making them very conditional. Can’t say these are my favorite cards.