Last week, we introduced the suspend mechanic: an ability that lets you trade mana for time. When you suspend a spell, you exile it with a number of time counters on it and cast the card once all the time counters are removed.
But suspend isn’t the only ability that uses time counters. There are some permanents in Magic that only get to stick around until their time is up. Let’s learn about two similar abilities that do this: Fading and Vanishing!
What are Fading and Vanishing?
First, let’s cover fading, which first appeared way back in Nemesis. A card with fading enters the battlefield with a number of fade counters on it equal to the number specified on the card. At the beginning of your upkeep, you then remove one fade counter from that card. If you can’t (there are no more fade counters when it comes time to remove one), the card gets sacrificed.
Vanishing, introduced in Planar Chaos, uses the same basic principle: cards with vanishing enters the battlefield with some number of counters, you remove one on each upkeep, and you sacrifice the card when no counters are left. The only difference is that cards with vanishing use time counters, not fade counters. This is somewhat meaningful because there are cards that can affect time counters out there; not as many affect fade counters specifically. When you remove the last time counter from a permanent with vanishing, you sacrifice it immediately — no waiting until your next upkeep.
Aside from making these triggers easier to remember, vanishing also gives you the benefit of Stifling the ability to keep your permanent around. If you Stifle a fading trigger, fading will just trigger again on the next upkeep; you’ll have merely bought yourself a turn. If you Stifle the vanishing trigger that makes you sacrifice a creature, you instead get to keep it forever, as the sacrifice part only triggers when you remove the last time counter.
Fading and vanishing only appear on permanents, not on instants and sorceries. Both are ways for you to get a mana cost discount on what a card would normally cost, with the trade-off being that you only get the card for so long. While fading has faded into Magic history, vanishing made a comeback in Modern Horizons, and perhaps we’ll see it again in the near future!
Check out the rest of our keyword ability primers:
First Strike & Double Strike
Flying & Reach