Blink

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'Blink', also called 'Flicker', is a Commander deck archetype that temporarily exiles its own permanents and brings them back into play for the purposes of re-triggering their enters-the-battlefield abilities. The terms 'blink' and 'flicker' originate from the cards Momentary Blink and Flicker, which feature this ability.

Blink decks commonly include white and/or blue.

Popular Cards & Commanders

Common blink spells include:

Popular blink commanders include:

Strategy

Blink decks commonly use small creatures with relatively minor abilities that, when flickered in and out of play, provide the player with a significant degree of resource advantage. Examples of this include Coiling Oracle, Wood Elves, and Mulldrifter. By repeatedly blinking such creatures, they are able to accumulate a significant degree of card and mana advantage over other players.

This allows blink players to easily find and deploy much larger cards with more impactful abilities, such as Avenger of Zendikar, Meteor Golem, or Agent of Treachery. Repeating the abilities of these larger cards either provides the blink player with an ever-growing board state, or significantly dwindles the board state of their opponents, clearing the way for them to win the game unopposed.

Blink decks use a mix of one-time instants and sorceries to blink their permanents and more consistent, repeatable blink abilities, especially their commanders. Cards like Panharmonicon are common in blink strategies to help supplement these effects.

Timing Distinctions

Many blink effects return a permanent to the battlefield immediately, such as Brago, King Eternal and Ghostly Flicker. However, a large number of blink effects operate instead at a delay, bringing the permanent back at the beginning of the next end step. This is seen on abilities like Roon of the Hidden Realm.
Each of these abilities presents different opportunities and obstacles to a player. For example, a card like Eerie Interlude may be used to help a blink deck exile all of its creatures in response to a Mass Removal spell such as Wrath of God, bringing them back unharmed at end of turn. Spells that return the creatures right away would not be able to avoid this type of scenario.
On the other hand, blink effects that return permanents right away can often help a player have a bigger impact on the game. For example, exiling and immediately returning a Mulldrifter would allow a blink player to make use of the cards they draw during their main phase, especially sorcery-speed spells. Returning the Mulldrifter at the end step would not afford them this opportunity.
Some players have attempted to make a distinction between the two terms, for example by referring to 'blink' as the ability that returns the permanent at the beginning of the end step, and referring to 'flicker' as the ability that returns the permanent right away. However, both types of this effect have appeared on cards with 'flicker' in their name: Flicker returns a permanent right away, but Flickerwisp returns at the end step. This has made codifying the small difference in the two abilities difficult, so most players use the terms interchangeably.
Navigating the pros and cons of both styles of blink effects is a necessity for blink players to play their decks most effectively.

Propensity for Combo

Blink effects, particularly those that bring a permanent back into play right away, have a significant potential to create an infinite Combo, sometimes even when a player does not intend for that combo to occur.
A classic example of an infinite blink combo is Deadeye Navigator + Peregrine Drake, a combination that provides a player with infinite mana by repeatedly untapping their lands. Some infinite combos directly involve the blink commander, such as Brago, King Eternal's interaction with Strionic Resonator, which will allow him to copy his own triggered ability over and over again by blinking the Resonator and any mana-producing artifacts, or the ability for Aminatou, the Fateshifter and Felidar Guardian to repeatedly blink each other, which is even more powerful when used in tandem with cards like Panharmonicon or Oath of Teferi.
These combos are notable because they may appear even by accident, as the component parts are often quite useful effects on their own merits when used in a blink deck. Players who enjoy the blink strategy, but who do not wish to resort to infinite combos to achieve victory, may even remove useful cards from their decks so that they may avoid stumbling onto these combos during the course of gameplay. Other players who enjoy combos may find a number of them in the blink strategy, particularly when blink effects are used on other cards with blink effects.

Typical Categories

Most decks want certain effects and Blink is no different, but the specific cards it chooses may be different based on it's ability to blink them to recur their effect

Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths

  • A blink player's permanents tend to be very difficult to remove. Blink effects may often be used at instant speed, which allows them to dodge both pinpoint Removal and Mass Removal. For example, targeting a creature with a Terminate to destroy it can be thwarted by a blink spell, even one that immediately returns the creature to the battlefield, because that creature will be considered a new object within the rules of the game, and will fizzle the removal spell. Similarly, a board wipe effect like Wrath of God can be evaded by blink spells that return creatures to play at the end of the turn, such as Eerie Interlude, giving the blink player a major advantage against their opponents. This resistance to removal makes blink decks particularly difficult to meaningfully disrupt.
  • Many expensive creatures have powerful enters-the-battlefield effects that most other decks only ever get to use once. Blink decks are able to access very powerful abilities multiple times for very little additional mana, which may provide them with an amount of resources that other decks will struggle to catch up with.
  • Blink strategies often accumulate a diverse number of useful enters-the-battlefield abilities that they may re-trigger at any time. This ubiquity of abilities allows them to access a wide swath of effects to help them respond to any gameplay scenarios. Blink spells will mimic the effects of a Toolbox strategy in this way.

Weaknesses

  • Blink decks can be fairly Commander-Centric, often relying upon their commander for a large chunk of the deck's primary gameplan. Losing their commander can be a major setback to these decks and disrupt their strategy, particularly if it occurs before they are able to pick up momentum.
  • Blink decks require both a blink target and a blink effect, so an imbalance in either direction will make the deck much less effective. Drawing a lot of blink targets with no way to blink them, or drawing a large number of blink spells with no targets to use them on, reduces the strength of this strategy. This effect may be compounded if their blink targets are successfully removed by an opponent, which effectively sets a blink player back to square one.
  • Cards like Torpor Orb and Hushbringer, which negate all enter-the-battlefield abilities, are silver bullets against blink players, shutting down almost all of their strategy. To make matters worse, in order to maintain a high density of blinkable permanents, the majority of Removal options a blink player uses tends to appear on creatures with enters-the-battlefield abilities, and leaves very little room in the deck for spell-based removal, which makes Torpor Orb effects even more difficult to deal with. (For work-arounds see: Compatible Sub-themes: Spellslinger )

Blink in non-standard colors

EDH is known for unusual deckbrewing, for instance taking a mechanic and using magic's long history to demonstrate ways of doing it in a highly unusual color combination. Below are details on replicating Blink style decks without White or Blue

For Black, see Compatible Sub-themes Sacrifice + Reanimator and also: Skull Collector
For Red, see Compatible Sub-themes Temporary Clones and also: Oni of Wild Places
For Green, see Compatible Sub-themes Return to Hand and also: Bramble Sovereign, Guardian Project
For Colorless cards see: Panharmonicon, Conjurer’s Closet, Sword of Hearth and Home, Minion Reflector, Voyager Staff, Solemn Simulacrum, Meteor Golem

Some unusual commanders to consider for this purpose: Kardur, Doomscourge, Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire, Carth the Lion, Phylath, World Sculptor or the following Partners: Alena, Kessig Trapper, Ich-Tekik, Salvage Splicer, Kodama of the East Tree, Tormod, the Desecrator, Halana, Kessig Ranger, Nadier, Agent of the Duskenel

Compatible Sub-themes

Blink decks aim to reproduce enter-the-battlefield effects. Colors other than White and Blue have ways to reproduce these effects but without actually exiling the permanent. These do what a blink deck aims to do anyway, but via a different means

Sacrifice + Reanimator

Black cannot blink creatures, but it excels at switching creatures between the graveyard and the battlefield for much the same net result
Example Cards:Hell's Caretaker, Whisper, Blood Liturgist, Coffin Queen, Victimize, Rescue from Underworld

Temporary Clones

Red cannot blink creatures, but it create clones that go away at the end of the turn for a similar result
Example Cards:Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, Splinter Twin, Flameshadow Conjuring

Return to Hand

While not the same, returning permanents to your hand can let you recast them to get the enter-the-battlefield effect, or avoid removal in much the same way as end-of-turn blinking does. Blue, Green and White have the most effects that do this.
Example Cards:Temur Sabertooth, Crystal Shard, Invasive Species, Whitemane Lion

Clones

While not the same, creating a copy of a permanent can get the same enter-the-battlefield effect. This effect is mostly limited to blue, but green and white provide access to Populate which can produce further copies of token copies.
Example Cards:Rite of Replication, Progenitor Mimic, Clone, Growing Ranks

Polymorph

While not the same, Polymorph can pull creatures out of your deck to give you their enter-the-battlefield effect that you can duplicate latter with blinking. This is normally found in Blue and Red
Example Cards:Polymorph, Jalira, Master Polymorphist, Transmogrify

Spellslinger

Spells can't be blinked, but with green cards like Timeless Witness, Skullwinder or Eternal Witness or Blue cards like Archaeomancer, Salvager of Secrets or Mnemonic Wall you can use blinking to recur your spells, and better yet, you can use your spells (Primal Command, Long Term Plans, Bring to Light) to FIND those creatures... then use them to recur that spell.


Related EDHREC Resources