Ephemerate | Illustration by Bastien L. Deharme
Have you ever resolved a creature’s really cool enter the battlefield effect and thought to yourself, “I really wish I could do that again”? Maybe your opponent targeted your creature with a removal spell, and you want to save it. Maybe they have stacked a dice bag’s worth of +1/+1 counters on a creature and you’re looking for a way to reset it.
These all sound like wildly different scenarios, but what if I told you there’s a mechanic in Magic that can solve all those problems for you? Enter flicker. Let’s talk about it!
What Are Flicker Cards in MTG?
Eerie Interlude | Illustration by Svetlin Velinov
Flicker. Blink. Slide. These are all terms historically used by Magic players to describe the act of exiling a creature and putting it right back into play. To a new player, it might seem like wasting time to move cardboard back and forth, but there are plenty of benefits to doing this.
“Flickering” is the best way to reuse an ETB effect by just having a creature enter the battlefield again. You can also use flicker effects to permanently remove tokens from the battlefield, save a creature from a removal spell, reset +1/+1 or -1/-1 counters… the list goes on. Odds are that if you have a flicker effect in hand, there’s some use for it on the battlefield.
The terms “flicker” and “blink” technically mean different things, but I’ll be using the terms interchangeably (more on that below).
Best White Flicker Cards
#17. Ruin Ghost
White gets the lion’s share of flicker effects and serves as the base color for most blink decks. Ruin Ghost isn’t a staple for these decks, but it’s a unique, repeatable way to blink lands. Ruin Ghost gives you extra milage out of your lands with ETB effects, like Sejiri Steppe or Halimar Depths.
Enchantment-heavy decks can use the constellation ability on Skybind to blink anyone’s permanents. To prevent accidental infinite loops, Skybind can’t target other enchantments. It’s best for decks with a healthy mix of enchantments and non-enchantment permanents.
Flickerform is an aura that doesn’t enhance the creature it’s enchanting. Instead, it allows you to pay four mana and exile the enchanted creature and all auras attached to it for a turn. That ability includes Flickerform itself, so it serves as a repeatable way to protect a creature. It works well in aura-themed decks.
#14. Acrobatic Maneuver
I’ll use Acrobatic Maneuver as a stand-in card for all the white instants that provide a one-shot flicker effect with marginal upside. You get to draw a card with Acrobatic Maneuver, but cards like Flicker of Fate and Pegasus Guardian have their own spin on the effect without warranting another slot on this list.
#13. Far Traveler
Far Traveler has a useful effect, but it asks you to jump through a few hoops to get it. First, the creature you intend to blink needs to be tapped on your end-step, which might not always be possible. Second, this background does nothing if you don’t have a commander on board. Get past those hurdles and you get a cheap repeatable blink engine.
#12. Astral Slide + Astral Drift
Astral Drift was designed as a callback to Astral Slide. In a Commander deck focused on the cycling mechanic, they both fill the role of turning your cycling effects into on-demand blinks. Astral Drift can cycle itself to trigger your other cycling payoffs, whereas Astral Slide can occasionally trigger if your opponents have any cycling cards of their own.
#11. Touch the Spirit Realm
Touch the Spirit Realm is essentially a split card: half Cloudshift, half Oblivion Ring. The ability to use your blink effect as removal when needed is some meaningful upside. You can only target creatures and artifacts, but those are the permanent types you typically target with blink effects anyway.
#10. Charming Prince
Versatility goes a long way with Charming Prince, even if the individual effects are a bit medium. Scrying and gaining life are nice modes to have, but you’ll use the flicker mode most often. Keep in mind that this mode targets a permanent you own, so it’s a great way to steal back a permanent that an opponent took from you.
#9. Felidar Guardian
Felidar Guardian is easily the best since it returns the exiled card immediately, making it part of numerous infinite combos. Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian were the crux of the infamous “Saheeli Cat” deck in Constructed, a combo that also works in Commander.
A personal favorite of mine, Flickerwisp doesn’t have the same infinite combo potential as Felidar Guardian, but it’s an excellent blink enabler with a threatening body. This one can mess with an opponent’s permanents, wiping tokens off the board or punishing their bouncelands like Azorius Chancery, all while hitting for three in the air.
#7. Semester’s End
Mass blink effects like Semester’s End serve two main purposes. They can protect your board from a wrath, and they can retrigger all your ETB effects at once. This is one of the more costly versions of this effect, but it brings your creatures and planeswalkers back a bit stronger.
#6. Teleportation Circle
Today’s ranking includes several permanents that simply blink a creature on your end step. Teleportation Circle does just that, with the added text of being able to blink an artifact if that provides something useful for your deck.
#5. Restoration Angel
If you’re looking for a one-time blink effect, Restoration Angel should be your top pick. Putting this effect on a burly 3/4 flash creature gives you the added ambush potential in combat on top of the benefits you’re already looking for.
#4. Eerie Interlude
The effect on Eerie Interlude is technically a worse version of Semester’s End, but I feel it’s important for effects like this to be as cheap as possible. The more expensive your wrath protection is, the less likely you’ll have the mana available when it comes time to use it.
#3. Lae’zel’s Acrobatics
Lae’zel’s Acrobatics can be a bit of a headache to resolve if you’ve got a lot going on. If you roll a 1-9, it’s about on par with Eerie Interlude. Rolling a 10-20 lets you essentially double-blink your creatures, which can be a more chaotic if you’ve got multiple ETB creatures on board.
#2. Eldrazi Displacer
Activated abilities like the one on Eldrazi Displacer are just oozing with combo potential. You need some colorless sources of mana, but Eldrazi Displacer’s ability gives you as many blinks as you can pay for. You can use it to disrupt your opponent’s board, or to blink a Brood Monitor over and over again by using the Eldrazi Scions it creates to pay for the ability.
You shouldn’t leave home without an Ephemerate in your blink deck. Whether you use it to blank an opposing removal spell or just get a second use out of your ETB creature, rebound lets you do it again on your next upkeep. It’s completely possible to get three or more card’s worth of value out of this single 1-mana spell.
Best Blue Flicker Cards
As the secondary blink color, blue provides a lot of effects that mirror white cards. Blur is the same card as Acrobatic Maneuver. It also serves as a stand-in for all the generic blink effects that aren’t worth talking about individually.
#7. Escape Protocol
Blue’s take on Astral Slide is noticeably worse, but it’s still worth considering in your cycling decks. It can’t mess with your opponents’ creatures, and it taxes you a mana each time you use it. Gavi, Nest Warden is the most popular cycling commander, but if you happen to be running a non-white cycling deck, Escape Protocol can fill in for the Astral twins.
#6. Estrid’s Invocation
Estrid’s Invocation is more of an enchantment payoff than a blink enabler, so it’s a bit narrow. This card works well alongside constellation cards like Eidolon of Blossoms or cantripping enchantments like Confounding Conundrum to draw extra cards.
#5. Nezahal, Primal Tide
Nezahal, Primal Tide is another card that can only blink itself, but it does so to protect itself. Nezahal passively draws you cards when your opponents cast non-creature spells. You can then discard those cards to blink Nezahal out should someone try to destroy it. It’s not really a “blink card” in the traditional sense, more of just an individually powerful threat.
#4. Thassa, Deep-Dwelling
Thassa, Deep-Dwelling should look a bit familiar since Teleportation Circle was covered in the white section. It’s another 4-mana enchantment with an end-of-turn flicker effect, and your blink decks are happy to play as many of these as possible. You usually want to avoid having enough devotion to make Thassa a creature since that makes the card vulnerable to creature-exile effects.
#3. Ghostly Flicker
The appropriately named Ghostly Flicker gives you two blinks in one card, and it can even target artifacts and lands along with creatures. This opens the card up to plenty of infinite combos like targeting a Gilded Lotus and Archaeomancer and reusing Ghostly Flicker to your heart’s content.
#2. Displacer Kitten
A common complaint about Battle for Baldur’s Gate is the weaker overall power level of the set, but that’s the set that brought the inherently broken Displacer Kitten. Its avoidance ability protects itself while stapling free flickers to all your non-creature spells.
Don’t let the 2/2 body fool you: it’s an incredibly powerful card!
#1. Deadeye Navigator
There used to be a bit of chatter among Commander players about the potential for a Deadeye Navigator banning. Hated by some, this is one of those cards that can be difficult to interact with once it’s established a board presence. It can easily outvalue your opponents and even threatens some easy infinites with cards like Peregrine Drake.
Best Red Flicker Card
#1. Norin the Wary
Norin the Wary looks like a meme on paper. Norin is a character who’s scared of everything. Whenever something important happens, they disappear for a bit. In terms of gameplay, this means Norin the Wary is constantly flickering in and out, which can be turned into an advantage with cards like Impact Tremors or Purphoros, God of the Forge.
Best Multicolored Flicker Cards
#15. Frenetic Sliver
You probably didn’t come here for coin-flipping combos, but Frenetic Sliver makes the list because it technically flickers when you win the coin flip. The real reason to use it is to have access to infinite coin flips or activated abilities, which can make lethal attackers out of cards like Crackdown Construct or Okaun, Eye of Chaos.
#14. Hallowed Respite
Hallowed Respite isn’t embarrassing by any stretch. It’s just a step behind the competition. Despite being a two-for-one thanks to flashback, it can’t target legendary creatures and it suffers from being a sorcery. You really want your blink effects to be instants so that you can interact with your opponents more freely.
#13. Legion’s Initiative
I bet you weren’t expecting to see a Boros () card on this list. Legion’s Initiative provides a small anthem effect to your red and white creatures and sits back to save your team if someone casts a board wipe. You’ll lose the stat boost when you sacrifice it, but you’ll probably protect your board of creatures when you do.
#12. Oath of Teferi
If all you plan on doing with Oath of Teferi is to blink a permanent once, you’re probably better off with any other card. This card gains a huge power bump when you add planeswalkers into the mix, letting you activate loyalty abilities an more time per turn.
#11. Roon of the Hidden Realm
Roon of the Hidden Realm was once the premier commander for Bant () blink decks, but it doesn’t hold up quite as well in modern Magic. Commander has become a much faster and more powerful format, one that’s not conducive to 5-mana creatures with tap abilities.
Roon is a much more casual blink engine than it used to be, but it still gets the job done in non-competitive games.
#10. Venser, the Sojourner
The +2 ability on Venser, the Sojourner lets you blink a permanent once per turn, including permanents that have been stolen by other players. The -1 is situationally useful, and the -8 is one of the most threatening planeswalker ultimates in all of Magic.
Venser is a 5-mana planeswalker that doesn’t do a fantastic job at protecting itself so it’s not my first choice for a flicker enabler.
#9. Momentary Blink
Momentary Blink has everything that a card like Hallowed Respite misses out on. The flashback cost is purposefully expensive, but this gives you two instant-speed flickers in one card and lets you spread out when you use them.
#8. Disorder in the Court
Disorder in the Court is one of the more overlooked and underplayed cards on this list. It’s a mass blink effect that scales to the amount of mana you want to spend on it and leaves behind a bunch of Clue tokens.
It can also remove a bunch of creatures from an opponent’s battlefield for a little while, leaving that player open to attacks even after their creatures return tapped.
#7. Kaya, Ghost Assassin
Turns out Kaya’s not just great at killing ghosts, they’re good at blinking too! The 0 ability on Kaya, Ghost Assassin lets you blink a creature of your choice, or Kaya itself if you need to reset its loyalty. Kaya, Ghost Assassin provides a few other useful loyalty abilities, making it a well-rounded value planeswalker.
#6. Oji, the Exquisite Blade
Oji, the Exquisite Blade is a rare instance of a creature that has a solid ETB effect of its own and an ability to blink itself. You’ll ideally be targeting more powerful creatures with Oji, but the fallback of targeting itself for another two life and scry 2 is nice to have.
#5. Aminatou, the Fateshifter
Spearheading Commander 2018’s Subjective Reality deck, Aminatou, the Fateshifter was originally billed as a “top of library matters” commander. You can certainly take this planeswalker in that direction, but it works equally well as a blink-themed commander.
Aminatou’s -1 is functionally the same as the +2 on Venser, the Sojourner, except it returns the targeted card to the battlefield immediately. This produces the same types of combos mentioned with Felidar Guardian all while being a useful planeswalker on its own.
#4. Yorion, Sky Nomad
You can’t companion Yorion, Sky Nomad in Commander, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put the bird serpent in your deck. It offers a mass blink effect stapled to a creature and generates interesting end-of-turn loops with other blink creatures.
#3. Emiel the Blessed
Some people love the simple life and just want to play Emiel the Blessed in their unicorn tribal decks. Others want to blink Peregrine Drake ad infinitum and win the game on the spot. I’m not here to judge, just present you with options.
#2. Brago, King Eternal
In Magic lore, Brago, King Eternal was assassinated by Kaya, Ghost Assassin. Brago needs to deal combat damage to trigger its ability, but doing so lets you flicker as many of your nonland permanents as you want.
Soulherder is incredible in just about every way. It does precisely the thing you want out of clunkier cards like Teleportation Circle or Thassa, Deep-Dwelling, and it grows as you do it. Soulherder is a fantastic mix of enabler and payoff, and it becomes a surprisingly large threat as the value train keeps rolling.
Best Colorless Flicker Cards
#4. Tawnos’s Coffin
You’d have to read an entire novel to figure out what Tawnos’s Coffin does, but I’ll spare you the trouble. You can activate it to exile a creature, keep it tapped down for as long as you want, and return that creature to play when the Tawnos’s Coffin becomes untapped. It’s not super-efficient, but it provides a blink effect to colors that don’t normally get them.
#3. Mirror of Life Trapping
Mirror of Life Trapping gives you a round-about way to trigger all your ETB creatures an extra time. Creatures come into play and trigger their ETBs and then get captured in the Mirror. Doing so returns previously exiled creatures to play, allowing them to trigger their ETBs again.
It’s a bit silly when all is said and done, and you can achieve the same kind of effect with a simple Panharmonicon. Mirror also has a chance to backfire, since it also affects your opponents’ creatures.
#2. Golden Argosy
Golden Argosy is a finnicky way to flicker your creatures that involves casting it, waiting a turn, crewing it, then having a good opportunity to attack with it to get the desired effect. That’s a lot of hoops to jump through but the outcome might still be worth it.
#1. Conjurer’s Closet
As far as colorless blink effects are concerned, nothing comes close to Conjurer’s Closet. It’s a slightly more expensive version of previously mentioned effects, but it’s colorless so there are no restrictions on the types of decks you can put it in.
Best Flicker Payoffs
ETBs are easily the best and most obvious reasons to play flicker effects. A lot of creatures lose their usefulness once their ETB has resolved, and flicker effects give you another crack at that effect.
Flicker cards are also often much less expensive to cast than creatures with powerful ETBs, which allows you to reproduce their effects for a much more efficient cost. You’ll normally pay 7+ mana for a card like Sepulchral Primordial or Woodfall Primus, but a simple blink effect like Ephemerate lets you double-dip and get that same effect again for just one mana.
A few of the mass flicker effects listed above do a great job of protecting your board of creatures from opposing board wipes. You can respond to a wrath with a card like Semester’s End or Eerie Interlude and scoop up your creatures before they die, putting them back into play when the dust has settled.
You could also be more proactive by building an entire deck around the idea of combining mass blink effects with your own sweepers. If you’re feeling especially destructive, you can blink all your creatures for a turn and completely wipe the board with something like Worldpurge or Jokulhaups, leaving yourself with the only remaining permanents.
Blink effects lend themselves to infinite combos quite easily. In this ranking alone, I’ve mentioned the “Saheeli Cat” combo, the combo of Deadeye Navigator and Peregrine Drake, and Eldrazi Displacer plus Brood Monitor.
Two cards flickering each other doesn’t usually produce a win. You need to find a third piece of the puzzle to tie it all together. Sometimes, claiming victory is as easy as resolving Restoration Angel with a Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker on board.
Is There a Difference Between Blink and Flicker?
The terms “blink” and “flicker” are almost always used interchangeably. There might be a slight difference between the two, but it seems most people can’t agree on what that difference is.
It seems that “flicker” originated with, well, Flicker and was used to refer to effects that immediately returned a creature to play. “Blink” seems to have come from the card Blinking Spirit and refers to a “flicker-adjacent” ability that has some sort of delay on when the creature returns to play (usually at the next end step).
Cards like Momentary Blink and Flickerwisp reverse the terminology and the effects associated with those words, so that muddies the waters a bit. You’ll find that most players use the words synonymously, even if there might be a slight difference in their origins.
Can You Flicker Tokens?
Tokens can be the target of a flicker effect, just like any other card or permanent, but they won’t return to the battlefield. When a token moves to another zone (exile, in this case), it ceases to exist and therefore can’t return to play.
Does a Flickered Creature Have Summoning Sickness?
Flickering a creature causes it to re-enter the battlefield as a new object, which means it has summoning sickness. If you plan on flickering a creature that you intend to attack with, you should do so during another player’s turn or after you’ve already attacked.
What Happens if You Flicker a Mutated Creature?
If you flicker a mutated creature, that creature and all its mutations leave play, and they all re-enter the battlefield as individual permanents. In other words, flickering a “mutate stack” breaks up that pile and separates them into their individual cards.
Do Creatures Lose Counters When Blinked?
Blinking a creature with counters on it causes it to re-enter the battlefield with no counters on it because it’s treated as a new object with no “memory” of what it was before it left play.
If you’re looking for ways to protect your creatures without losing counters, try playing some phasing effects like Slip Out the Back. Counters stay with creatures as they phase in and out.
Can You Blink a Planeswalker?
Planeswalkers can be blinked by any effect that doesn’t specifically exclude them. Most blink effects like Momentary Blink can only target creatures, but some effects don’t have this restriction. If you want to use your Oath of Teferi to blink a planeswalker, go ahead.
Blink and You Might Miss it
Restoration Angel | Illustration by Johannes Voss[
Whether you call it blinking or flickering, it’s a deep mechanic with a lot of support in Magic. Sets like Modern Horizons 2 and Battle for Baldur’s Gate even make blink decks a central theme of their Draft environments. You can expect this strategy to get more love as new Magic sets are developed and released. I personally hope they’ll expand blink options in other colors besides white and blue.
Did I get your favorite blink effect in Magic? Have you played any flicker-based decks? Let me know in the comments! As always, make sure to follow Draftsim on Discord and Twitter. Come let us know what cards you like to flicker.
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