One of the best things about Magic: The Gathering is how interactive it can be. When you and your opponent and playing cards in response to one another, it really can feel like you’re two wizards locked in spell-casting battle. Thanks to cards like instants, you can react to anything your opponent does: counter their spells, destroy their creatures, or deal the last few points of damage necessary to win the game.
But did you know that instants aren’t the only spells you can cast on your opponent’s turn? In fact, there’s a whole class of spells that you can cast on your opponent’s turn – and if you do, the game is sure to be over in a flash.
What is Flash?
Flash is an ability that allows you to cast spells – including creatures, enchantments, and artifacts – anytime you could cast an instant. Most importantly, flash allows you to use Magic’s inherent hidden information to your advantage and surprise your opponent with a spell they weren’t expecting. You could cast a creature with flash to block your opponent’s attack, or even cast a creature on their end step that can win the game the following turn!
Flash is such a powerful mechanic that it’s been the linchpin of many successful decks. During Lorwyn block, tribal Faeries decks used creatures like Vendilion Clique and Spellstutter Sprite to keep their opponents on the back foot. More recently, decks featuring Brazen Borrower, Frilled Mystic, and Nightpack Ambusher have had an impact on Standard, and tribal Spirits decks including Spell Queller and Rattlechains have been prominent in Modern and Pioneer. All these decks share a common game plan: keep the pressure up while giving opponents a small window of time to react.
Examples of Flash
But the examples don’t stop there! There are so many powerful spells with flash that we can’t possibly name them all. Here are just a few examples of spells to watch out for in your next match.
The Omen Cycle
Theros Beyond Death featured a cycle of five enchantments with flash called Omens. These efficient spells had valuable “enter the battlefield” effects and an activated ability that allows you to scry 2. All five were flexible and powerful enough to see play in Limited, and both Omen of the Sea and Omen of the Sun have made appearances in Standard.
In current Standard, one of the scariest spells with flash is Embercleave: an artifact that grants +1/+1, double strike, and trample. We don’t see artifacts with flash very often, which makes Embercleave truly a spell of mythic proportions.
Some spells, like Embercleave, are powerful enough to win games on their own; others, like Snapcaster Mage, allow you to eke out incremental advantage. In control decks, Snapcaster Mage turns the graveyard into a toolbox of useful spells, and the fact that it can block is just icing on the cake.
Like all keyword abilities, flash doesn’t have to occur naturally on spells – it can be bestowed via artifacts and enchantments. Vedalken Orrery grants flash to all the spells in your deck, and it’s not surprising that it’s one of The Command Zone’s most recommended cards for Commander.
Check out the rest of our keyword ability primers:
First Strike & Double Strike
Flying & Reach