Browse > Home / Strategy / Articles / Pauper Spellbook: Ghostly Flicker

Pauper Spellbook: Ghostly Flicker


Hey everyone, welcome to the first edition of Pauper Spellbook! I’m trying something a little different this week but don’t worry, Deep Tracks isn’t going away! I'm just taking a little break to explore a different facet of Magic: the Gathering. In this new series I’ll be searching every nook and cranny of the Pauper universe to unveil the secrets of specific format-defining cards. You know… those staple cards that are unique to Pauper; the stuff you won’t commonly find in other constructed formats. I find Pauper to be very enjoyable for a lot of reasons. One cool aspect of getting involved with the format is that you may very well have a stockpile of Pauper-playables stashed away with your bulk cards that rarely see the light of day, like these fine gems:
 
$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00
$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

If you don’t have a large collection of random Magic cards sitting around to pick through, don’t fret… you can easily acquire these cards for next to nothing online or at your LGS! I’m sure a lot of you already have some knowledge of Pauper or at the very least have seen or heard about it here on the MTGGoldfish website. But for those of you who haven’t had a basic introduction to the format, I’ll break it down nice and easy…
 
For the most part, Pauper follows a lot of the same deck building and gameplay rules as constructed formats like Legacy, Modern, and Standard. However, I would say that the two most glaring points that make Pauper unique are:
 
  • A Pauper deck may only include cards that have been printed at Common rarity at least once. That’s correct: no Uncommons, Rares, or Mythic rares allowed! For reference purposes I’ve added a link at the end of this article that will take you to the official Wizards of the Coast rules page and banned & restricted list for Pauper.

 

  • The Pauper card pool is vast. You’re allowed to use cards from the most current Magic set all the way back to old sets from the 90s (note: you should follow the Magic Online legality restrictions for Pauper when building your deck). Even cards from supplemental sets such as Commander, Conspiracy, Battlebond, and the like are legal in the format but remember… only the Commons!
 
There are some other general things that are important to consider, however, the two points I’ve made here should give you a broad enough outlook that we can hit the ground running! Without further delay, let’s take a look at my first selection for Pauper Spellbook:
 
$ 0.00 $ 0.00
 
Ghostly Flicker… the flavor text says it all.
 
Yes, the focal point of this article is a twenty-five cent common from Avacyn Restored. But rest assured, Ghostly Flicker is an absolute powerhouse in Pauper and sees regular play in multiple archetypes! The first thing I’ll point out is that Ghostly Flicker can (and will) save your permanents from targeted removal. When you "flicker" (aka "blink") a permanent card with Ghostly Flicker, it becomes exiled and then returns to the battlefield as a new object, thus negating any spell or ability that was trying to target it prior to the resolution of Ghostly Flicker. Nothing feels quite as good as casting Ghostly Flicker in response to a Disfigure or Ancient Grudge! And in many instances, a well-timed Ghostly Flicker can be enough to completely steer the momentum of a game in your favor.
 
In the realm of Pauper there are a lot of Magic cards available that mimic Ghostly Flicker. Some examples would be Siren's Ruse, Cloudshift, and Displace. But what makes Ghostly Flicker superior to these “knockoffs”? In one word: diversity. Most of these close approximations only target the creature card type with their effect(s). On the contrary, Ghostly Flicker can target creatures, artifacts, and / or lands! And for this reason, Ghostly Flicker has more possible applications when compared to the competition. Let’s get into some decklists…
 
When it comes to well-established Pauper archetypes that make use of Ghostly Flicker, the most prevalent deck that comes to mind starts with a notoriously “busted” trio of land cards that you may already be familiar with:
 
 
Yup, Urza Tron is a thing in Pauper and currently holds the title of being the most ubiquitous control deck in the format. Piloting the deck is actually quite complex. But it plays relatively smooth once you’ve learned the nuances, like knowing what all of your possible targets are for tutor spells Crop Rotation and Mystical Teachings, and making sure you have enough mana-fixing elements to produce all of the colors you need. And it’s the kind of deck that rewards you for mastering it. When I play games with Dinrova Tron, I almost never feel like there’s a situation I can’t work my way out of.
 
Ghostly Flicker plays a subtle role in the Dinrova Tron game plan, but has several worthy targets in the deck. To start, we have a couple artifacts that mesh well with flicker / blink effects:
 
  $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00
 
Prophetic Prism is all over the place in Pauper, and for good reason. One of the golden rules of Pauper deck building is to make sure you incorporate resilience into your strategy, and in general, any card that replaces itself by drawing you a card is worth consideration. Add to this the fact that mana-fixing is a critical part of color intensive decks like Dinrova Tron and you have a very valuable asset in Prophetic Prism. Furthermore, being able to blink Prophetic Prism with Ghostly Flicker gives us an avenue to build some card advantage. Consider this: having two Prisms on the battlefield simultaneously basically turns Ghostly Flicker into an instant speed Divination. Not bad! On the flipside, Izzet Signet and Simic Signet play well with Ghostly Flicker by providing an extra layer of mana acceleration for the deck; it can sometimes be profitable to target a Signet with Ghostly Flicker, in turn enabling a second Signet activation.
 
Things start to really get out of control when we consider how Ghostly Flicker interacts with our creatures. Actually, every single creature in our main deck (with the excption of Ulamog's Crusher) boasts a strong ETB effect:
 
$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00
 
Sea Gate Oracle strengthens our card filtering. Mnemonic Wall enables card selection once our graveyard is stocked with spells. Mulldrifter provides a relevant flying body and leads to potent card advantage. Remember the example I made of blinking two Prophetic Prisms? How about we target two Mulldrifters with a lone Ghostly Flicker... 3 CMC Opportunity anyone!? Our namesake creature Dinrova Horror is a solid finisher for the deck, and is yet another piece that supports card advantage while also removing the most pesky permanent our opponent happens to have in play. If you think that all sounds good... imagine how far ahead we get by stacking these effects with Ghostly Flicker! With Ghostly Flicker, we can even take advantage of recycling the triggered abilities of certain land cards:
 
$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00
 
In this version of Dinrova Tron I like to have a copy of Bojuka Bog in the main deck to keep opposing graveyard strats in check. Also, blinking Swiftwater Cliffs or Thornwood Falls adds some marginal (but sometimes relevant) value versus aggressive decks.

... Dinrova Tron is a well-established deck in the Pauper metagame, but uses Ghostly Flicker as (what I would call) an understated utility piece. Lately, I’ve been really high on a more under-the-radar strategy that aims to fully maximize the power of flicker effects:
 
 
I’ve been wielding this decklist a good bit on Magic Online, and it has been surprisingly impressive. UW Blink is a deck that's all-in on flicker effects. For my build I decided to include a diverse package of blink spells to compliment Ghostly Flicker:
 
$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00
 
Cloudshift, Momentary Blink, and Acrobatic Maneuver all have something different to offer. Although Cloudshift is only capable of blinking one creature, it is the most efficient of our blink spells in terms of casting cost. Momentary Blink also blinks a single creature, but has the upside of being replayable from our graveyard via its flashback ability, and as it were, flashback is an exceptionally powerful mechanic in Pauper due to the “grindy” nature of the format. I've chosen to spend a little time testing Acrobatic Maneuver because I like the fact that it replaces itself which is an important feature as I alluded to earlier.
 
So, we’ve crammed all these blink effects into our deck, but what are we doing with them? Well…
 
$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00
 
Thraben Inspector, Coral Barrier, and Eldrazi Skyspawner together allow us to build a stable board state early in the game. And, you'll notice they all have useful ETB effects and make for fine flicker targets if we're low on more powerful options. Speaking of "more powerful" options, things start to get really spicy on the top-end:
 
$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00
 
Note: you can play a creature card for it's morph cost then target it with Ghostly Flicker, resulting in a creature that is "turned face-up" when it returns to the battlefield as a new object!
 
Ponyback Brigade is the most versatile of our flicker targets and is currently my favorite toy in UW Blink. It’s a card that can either enable us to be more aggressive by “going wide” and putting the opponent under intense pressure, or it can be a solid defensive piece that "gums up" the board and allows us to chump-block for days. And my favorite thing about Ponyback Brigade is that if our opponent doesn’t have a way to remove it from play, we can simply blink it over and over and over again, producing a steady stream of Goblin tokens! So, Ponyback Brigade is nuts. But we have some other tricks up our sleeve. For example, Gurmag Angler doesn’t seem so scary when we have Woolly Loxodon waiting in the wings ready to gobble up the Zombie Fish in a moment’s notice! And then of course we once again have the heralded Pauper staple, Mulldrifter. Combined with Prophetic Prism, Ichor Wellspring, and Perilous Research, we have that crucial element that can really make or break the success of a Pauper Deck: card advantage. Again, Pauper is a grindy format, and sometimes all it takes is a reliable card-draw engine to really take over a game.
 
One thing to note about Prophetic Prism in UW Blink: It not only facilitates much needed card advantage but can also fix our mana, and you may have noticed... we’re a UW deck... that plays Ponyback Brigade, Woolly Loxodon, and Abzan Guide! Since we usually have a flicker effect at our disposal, we can typically bypass the need to hardcast these creatures, however, there will be rare occurences where we may need to use Prophetic Prism to fix our mana and simply cast our oddly colored threats.
 
You'll notice that the deck has a select few non-flicker interactive spells to work with. I like to at least have a few reliable answers to keep our opponents on their toes. Our one-of Mana Leak is really great at catching the opposition off-guard. Journey to Nowhere is one of the most potent creature removal spells in Pauper, and I like having access to a couple copies as a safety valve. And then there's one more interactive piece which was printed more recently in Dominaria:
 
$ 0.00 $ 0.00
 
Now, don't get confused; this isn't another "blink" spell. It's a "bounce" spell! Blink of an Eye has been rapidly becoming a pet card of mine. I even think the card has some reasonable applications in Modern. It's a flexible removal / tempo piece that can also save one of our nonland permanents in a pinch. And Blink of an Eye is especially handy if we can cast it for its kicker cost.
 
Rounding out the maindeck, I wanted to add a little flicker value to our manabase:
 
$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00
 
Mhm, thats a Sunscorched Desert! Once again, we have a hint of potential flicker value to milk from our life-gaining land, Tranquil Cove. But who out there saw Sunscorched Desert coming? Marinate on this: If we somehow get two Sunscorched Deserts onto the battlefield at the same time, we can use our Ghostly Flicker as a... blue Shock that hits our opponents face!? Indeed.
 
Wrapping things up, we have a few more "flicker friendly" spells in the sideboard that are worth highlighting:
 
$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00
 
First of all, Skyline Cascade, Navigator's Compass, Abzan Guide, and Stonehorn Dignitary all strengthen our matchup against aggressive decks. We can bring in Skyline Cascade against any fast creature deck to try and slow down the assault. In UW Blink, Navigator's Compass is like a reusable Healing Salve and also contribute's to mana-fixing if and when we need it. Abzan Guide adds to our threat diversity and is especially good against Burn decks. And Stonehorn Dignitary equates to a strange version of Ghostly Prison. With access to this group of cards after game one, we can enjoy a very solid win percentage against any deck that can't survive the grind!
 
If you're interested in getting into but Pauper, but want to play a deck that's off the beaten path, give UW Blink a shot. It's incredibly fun to pilot, and you may be surprised at how well it can hang with opposing top-tier strategies. Just sit back and watch the opponent desperately try to work around your Ponyback Brigade! :) 

Conclusion

When I first got into Pauper a few years back, I remember writing off Ghostly Flicker as a so-so card that poeple included in their decks to gain some incremental value. But as time passed and I grew more familiar with the card I began to realize, it's totally a legit build-around card that deserves to be hoisted onto the pedestal of Pauper greatness! I've been playing with Dinrova Tron for a while and have enjoyed the complexities of the deck. But ever since I started tinkering with UW Blink, I knew there was something special about Ghostly Flicker that people may be overlooking. I hope this article has sparked your interest in Pauper, and I plan to continue piecing together this "Pauper Spellbook" with the goal of accumulating a resource of knowledge that brings together the cornerstones of this great format. Pauper is a ton of fun, and the price barrier to entry is super digestible. So round up those commons, and I'll see you on the battlefield!
 
Well, that’s it for now. Let me know what you think! What cards would be in your Pauper Spellbook? do you know of any sweet offbeat Ghostly Flicker interactions? As always, all comments are welcome, thank you so much for reading, and have a great one!
 
Twitter - @WallofOmens
 
-John
 
Sources:
 
 
 

More on MTGGoldfish ...

deep tracks

Deep Tracks: Nicol Bolas

opinion

Disorganized Play and The Magic Pro League

much abrew about nothing

Much Abrew: NeoBrand (Modern, Magic Online)

weekly update

Weekly Update (May 19): Modern Horizons Snow-Covered Full-Arts


Next Article

Keep in Touch

Sign up to receive email updates from us!

All emails include an unsubscribe link. You may opt-out at any time. See our privacy policy.

Follow Us

  • S
  • S
  • S
  • S
  • S
  • S
  • S

Welcome to MTGGoldfish. We display prices for both ONLINE and PAPER magic. By default, what prices would you like to see?   

Paper Magic Online Magic Arena