When the card Flicker first appeared in Magic all those years ago, there was little thought that one day the idea of temporarily exiling something would become an entire deck concept, let alone a powerful series of multi-functional cards. ‘Flicker’ and ‘insta-flicker’ effects, derived from this original card, have increased in frequency in recent years, partially due to them being useful both on offense and defense. Flicker cards can wipe away Auras or counters, remove a creature from combat, save it from being targeted by something undesirable, or eradicate a token. The standard ‘end of turn’ flicker variety is also capable of even helping something survive board wipes.
The other main reason for their prolific rise – which is no coincidence – coincides with the explosion in Enter The Battlefield triggers, enabling copious deck strategies that rely strictly on that facet alone.
Hey, there’s a reason Deadeye Navigator is so incredibly dangerous (and frustrating).
Although it fits into the modern era of Magic, when you get down to it, most flicker effects combine the benefits of both protection and damage prevention – two traditional areas of the game that Wizards has been keen on whittling down in frequency in recent years. Normally I lament the diminishing longevity of these two classic mechanics, but in this case I actually find this utility-style blending of characteristics to be quite clever without actually feeling like a straight derivative of its origin.
As such, nowadays flickering is just another tool in White and Blue’s arsenal of tricks, and there are plenty of cards to choose from depending on what you’re attempting to accomplish. Many flicker cards only affect a single creature, for example, which proves handy if you’re attempting to be selective, but these are also particularly limiting if you’re in danger of losing multiple creatures or are staring down an army from the other side of the battlefield.
Similarly, a small subset of flicker cards can include all creatures under one player’s control, which are useful either to protect your own side from mass casualties (i.e. Ghostway) or to remove your opponent’s defenses while you mount an offensive (Sudden Disappearance).
But sometimes, just sometimes, you need to blink the entire board for one reason or another. To do that, you’re going to need one very specific card, which surprisingly enough, is another one on the early side of the flicker lineage. It also happens to be the card we’re looking at this week.
Today we have: Planar Guide
Name: Planar Guide
Focus: Board Control / Token Removal
Highlights: As far as flicker cards go, Planar Guide is perennially overlooked for a few reasons. For one, Planar Guide came to prominence during a block heavily focused on morph. As a result it sort of got associated with (and then forgotten about) because of that fact. For another, unlike other creature-based flicker cards, this one can only be used once. Why, then, is Planar Guide worth the look? Because it’s White’s version of Aether Snap.
Yes, while Black and White are the colors best associated with board wipes – something not uncommon to Commander games – as Aether Snap’s existence illustrates, there are instances where simply blowing up everything on the board isn’t necessarily ideal. Planar Guide gives you some wiggle room to that end.
There are times, for instance, where having your opponent’s creatures ‘die’ could actually be a negative, be it due to some triggered effect or good old fashioned table politics. Indeed, you may want to be able to deal with a subset of people’s creatures without necessarily making yourself a universal table target. Case in point: Planar Guide is one of the most efficient ways to undercut an army of token creatures while also removing counters on physical creatures that may be getting problematic. This card allows for that while stopping short of simply killing everything.
All of this is possible for with an incredibly efficient mana cost. However, therein lies the card’s one real caveat. That is, while it technically only costs one mana, Planar Guide is only effective in that Creature-As-A-Spell territory. With no other abilities and a frail 1/1 frame, it’s not a very useful early game creature. Realistically, it is far better suited for later stages of the game where you can either cast it and sit on four mana to act a minor deterrent to others on the board from getting out of hand, or simply cast it and then immediately set it off in a surprise move. Both approaches have their own advantages depending on the circumstances. Luckily whichever way you use it, the Guide will abide.
Plus, in modern flicker fashion, Planar Guide’s mass flickering effect will also trigger any and all ETB effects your creatures may have when they return, which could be quite potent if leveraged effectively. Just be aware that this also applies to all creatures, which means in this new Magic world, there occasions where setting off a Planar Guide may be foiling one enemy while benefiting another.
If you want highly efficient mass flickering with a healthy dose of strategy, though, then that is a risk you’re going to have to take.
Keep an eye out for us to be regularly featuring other more accessible-but-worth-it Commander cards going forward. In the meantime, we’ll keep the light on for you.
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