Azorius in Cube: Blinking the All-Seeing Eye
- Sancho Napora
Blinking, flickering and sliding are some of the names given to the effect of removing a permanent from the battlefield only to return it to play immediately or at the end of turn. This seemingly odd effect is at the core of a tried and tested cube archetype for Blue and White. In this installment of Cubes for squares you will learn the basic tricks associated with blinking and get some inspiration for implementing blink in your own limited environment.
When it comes to choosing an archetype for the Azorius colors (Blue and White) in your cube, there are several good options. You may want to let the players drafting the color pair take to the skies and aggressively attack with fliers that others will have a hard time blocking; or you may want to give them the option to lock everything down suffocating the board within a vicelike grip of control. Whichever path you choose, you can add blink into the mix for value, flavor and perhaps frustration. Even though attempts have been made to standardize conventions for when to call the effect blinking and when to call it something else, I have chosen to stick with "blink" in the following, leaving it up to you, the reader, to read the individual cards mentioned when in doubt about which form of the effect we are talking about.
I'll Be Back – How blink Terminates the Opposition
To a new player the words "Exile target nontoken permanent, then return it to the battlefield under its owner's control" may sound like just about the most useless effect, when they read a card such as Flicker for the first time. The targeted permanent is there when the spell is cast, and it is still there after the spell has resolved. So, nothing has really changed – or has is? Well, as most of you will know, everything has changed and the permanent flickered or blinked returns as a blank slate with all that that entails.
And what exactly does this re-entering the battlefield as a tabula rasa mean? Well, first of all, the card will be untapped unless its own text or another effect specifies otherwise. On top of that, it will be removed from combat, if it was attacking or blocking, when the blinking happened; any accumulated damage will be erased; any spells that were targeting it will fizzle; and auras enchanting it will go to their owners' graveyards while equipment will become unattached. Perhaps most importantly for the deck archetype, effects that trigger when the blinked permanent enters the battlefield will trigger once again.
This is of course what the fuss is all about. An ever-growing number of Magic cards, especially creatures, have had effects stapled to their bodies which trigger when the creature enters the battlefield. Many effects that were formerly only available through sorceries or instants now come as ETB-effects (enter the battlefield) attached to a creature. And in many cases, the mere fact of getting a creature to attack or block with on top of the effect itself is so much better than just having the effect alone. The first non-punitive ETB-effects were hardly worth the extra cost. Ice Age's Pyknite was a 1/1 creature costed at 2G, which gave its caster an extra draw at the beginning of the next upkeep. Actually, it took quite a while before an interesting number of cards with usable ETB-effects worth the added cost had been printed. On top of that the only way to enjoy the benefits of a permanent's ETB-effect more than once was also restricted to using cards such as Unsummon and Boomerang to return the permanent to your hand and then re-cast it.
Contrary to what perhaps seem intuitive to some players, the ability Phasing which was introduced in Mirage does not cause ETB-effects to trigger so casting Teferi's Protection (the most recent cards that makes use of Phasing) or having creatures phasing out in another way does not do anything related to the blink archetype.
The first card offering true blinking was Flicker from Urza's Destiny in 1999. Almost 10 years later in Eventide we first saw example of flickering as an ETB of a creature in the form of Flickerwisp. But the archetype only really took even later than that when Avacyn Restored introduced cards such as Restoration Angel, Deadeye Navigator, Nephalia Smuggler, Cloudshift and Ghostly Flicker. Latecomers to the party such as Eldrazi Displacer and even more so the infamous cat, Felidar Guardian which had to be banned in Standard, have since added to the flickering fun.
Should I Stay, or Should I Go?
Of course, it is not only a creature's ETB-effects that makes it a good target for blinking. Some creatures such as Reveillark rewards their controller when leaving the battlefield instead, and others like Geist of Saint Traft may have to put themselves at risk in order to produce a desired outcome in which case blinking can remove them from harm's way before combat damage is dealt. But blinking can also affect other creatures. Your Champion of the Parish will grow every time you blink a fellow human on your side of the table, and for the Champion the value is even doubled, when the creature whom you put in time-out is Thalia's Lieutenant.
Playing blink effects can increase the grasp of control and have your opponents fight a steep uphill battle. Facing Venser, Shaper Savant in corporation with Eldrazi Displacer is a tough challenge and anyone mean enough to play that combo will probably also cackle devilishly at the prospect of making Glowing Anemone available to the blink player. If you don't want to risk your friends becoming too salty after facing the blink deck in your cube, you can also aim for the less malevolent effects such as the ones produced by Mulldrifter for some extra card draw or Palace Jailer. The jailer does make it possible to exile multiple of the opponent's creatures, but only for as long as the blink player remains the Monarch. If a king of the creatures with ETB-effects were to be crowned, Snapcaster Mage would without question be among the main contenders to the title and if that card is within the budget for your cube you should of course consider it, since it also does a good job in other archetypes.
For colorless support Strionic Resonator doubles the fun in any deck with a lot of ETBs and Conjurer's Closet gives the blink player an extra blink every turn, though it does cost five mana and does nothing on its own. In a blink deck you can even play off-color creatures with the Morph ability without having the mana to pay their morph cost. This is because blinking a face-down creature will return it face-up reducing the cost of a Krosan Colossus to three generic mana and whatever you paid for the effect. Just remember that blinking does not produce the effect from turning the card face up.
Don't blink 'Till You See the White in Their Eyes
As mentioned earlier, some blink effects only return the creatures to the battlefield at the beginning of the next end step. This delay can be abused by casting for example Eerie Interlude just before playing cards such as Fumigate and Wrath of God resulting in a one-sided wipe affecting only your opponent's side of the board. Also targeting Flickerwisp with Conjurer's Closet at the end of your turn and then having the Flickerwisp target one of your opponent's permanents will keep that permanent exiled until the next beginning of an end step, which will not occur until the end of the opponent's turn. And let's end this introduction to the blink archetype by reminding you that some cards such as Flickerwisp and Felidar Guardian can target any permanent and not just creatures, which also makes blinking a nice way to reset a planeswalker low on loyalty.
Well, that was all this time. There is so much more to discover and so many ways to use and abuse blink, and I look forward to reading about your favorite combos and synergies in the comments below – if you are up to sharing your discoveries with fellow cubers. Also feel free to share your opinions on blink as an archetype and whether you support it in your cube. Thanks for your input.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.