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MTG Flash Explained + Rules, Best Cards & Decks!

Flash is an evasion ability keyword in Magic: The Gathering. A card with flash can be cast at any time you would use an instant. This article delves into how flash works in MTG, lists the best flash cards, strategies to play against flash, common flash questions and incredible flash decks guaranteed to give your opponents a challenge!

MTG Oblivion Crown with flash card illustration. Image: Wizards of the Coast. Artist: Kev Walker.
MTG Oblivion Crown with flash card illustration. Image: Wizards of the Coast. Artist: Kev Walker.

MTG Flash rules

What does the MTG reminder text say for Flash?

You may cast this spell any time you could cast an instant.

See Magic: The Gathering Comprehensive Rules, 702.8. “Flash” for more information.

If a card has flash, you can cast it whenever you want. Normally you can only cast non-sorcery spells during your main phases. With flash, you can cast them at any time.

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The flash mechanic was introduced in Time Spiral and appeared for the first time in a core set in Tenth Edition. Due to its versatility, flash is currently an evergreen mechanic and will appear in every set.

However, certain cards had abilities that let you cast them as instants before this, beginning with King Cheetah, in Visions. Since then, those older cards have been erattaed to have flash.

Flash is currently a primary ability in blue. It is a secondary ability in white, green, and black. Originally, flash was only tertiary in white, alongside red. This was changed in Kaldheim to make white more competitive in Commander.

MTG Flash Examples

MtG cards Crystcean and Alpine Dog. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG cards Crystcean and Alpine Dog. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

With flash, I can cast any spell whenever I could cast an instant. So, suppose I have the flash creature Crystacean in hand, alongside a normal creature, like Alpine Watchdog.

Because Alpine Watchdog doesn’t have flash, I can only cast it during my main phases, the only times I can cast sorceries. However, Crystacean does have flash. I can cast it whenever I want, such as during my upkeep or during my opponent’s combat.

Imagine it is my opponent’s combat. They declare attackers, thinking I can’t block. But I cast Crystacean and block immediately! This can take a player totally by surprise and ruin their play for the turn.

Noncreature cards can have flash too. Often, these are artifacts or enchantments that have an immediate effect when they enter the battlefield. In this way, they’re like instants. Unlike instants though, they stick around afterwards and provide continuous effects.

MTG card Indomitable Will. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG card Indomitable Will. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

Indomitable Will is an example of an aura with flash. It gives an enchanted creature +1/+2. You can play it like you would any combat trick, except the buff remains afterwards. This way you can surprise your opponent with it, and then keep the effect to use later on as well.

Flash vs Summoning Sickness

MtG card Adaptive Shimmerer. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG card Adaptive Shimmerer. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

Flash also lets you get around summoning sickness. By casting your flash creatures at the end of your opponent’s turn, they will not have summoning sickness during your next turn, when you’d cast them otherwise! You can use them normally then.

For example, I cast Adaptive Shimmerer during my opponent’s end step. For the rest of that turn, it has summoning sickness. It just entered the battlefield that turn, so it can’t attack or tap for abilities. Luckily, it doesn’t have to.

At the start of my turn, it’s a new turn so Adaptive Shimmerer loses its summoning sickness! Now I have a 3/3 beater to attack with. If I’d cast it during my turn, it’d still have summoning sickness.

Casting flash creatures during your opponent’s end step is also a good way to avoid getting countered. Often, if your opponent isn’t wary of you playing threats, they’ll spend all their mana during their turn. This way, you get the best of both worlds. Your creature lands and is effective immediately!

Flash vs Haste

MtG card Niambi, Esteemed Speaker. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG card Niambi, Esteemed Speaker. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

Although they are similar, flash and haste are different abilities. Creatures with flash will still have summoning sickness the turn they enter the battlefield. Because of this, if I cast a flash creature like Niambi, Esteemed Speaker during my draw step, I can’t activate its tap ability on the same turn.

On the other hand, haste allows me to ignore summoning sickness, so I can attack with a creature or tap it the turn it enters the battlefield. However, I can only cast it whenever I could a sorcery, during my main phases.

 

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Best MTG Flash Cards 

Snapcaster Mage (Blue Flash Creature)

MtG card Snapcaster Mage. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG card Snapcaster Mage. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

The infamous Snapcaster Mage is a great example of a powerful flash creature. Although its stats are underwhelming, its abilities certainly aren’t! Snapcaster Mage gives an instant or sorcery card in your graveyard flashback until end of turn.

Although the two abilities aren’t really related, flashback at instant speed is definitely powerful. Snapcaster Mage allows you to get twice the value out of your spells and it allows you to get out of trouble when you normally couldn’t, exactly by salvaging your used spells.

Teferi, Time Raveler (White/Blue Flash Planeswalker)

MtG card Teferi, Time Raveler. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG card Teferi, Time Raveler. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

This iteration of Teferi prevents your opponent using all instant-speed casting entirely, including flash! Plus, Teferi, Time Raveler gives your sorcery spells flash as his +1 ability.

Obviously, this is brutally strong and Teferi, Time Raveler is banned in multiple formats as a result. However, where he is legal, Teferi is a strong counter to control. His ultimate also bounces permanents and draws you cards, further improving your own control abilities.

Dictate of Erebos (Black Flash Enchantment)

MtG card Dictate of Erebos. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG card Dictate of Erebos. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

Dictate of Erebos is simple, but incredibly strong. “Whenever a creature you control dies, each opponent has to sacrifice a creature.” And flash takes this enchantment to the next level, allowing you to play it in response to removal spells or in combat.

Played this way, Dictate of Erebos can absolutely shred through your opponents’ creatures! This is especially the case since you’re prepared to use it. You can sacrifice your own creatures to trigger it.

Scout’s Warning (White Flash Instant)

MtG card Scout's Warning. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG card Scout’s Warning. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

Instants don’t normally have anything to do with flash, since you can cast them whenever you want anyway. This is what makes Scout’s Warning so strong, since for 1 mana you can cast a creature spell as though it had flash. 

This allows you to get out huge creatures at exactly the right time, or leverage enter the battlefield abilities to best effect. Plus, Scout’s Warning draws you a card too, so it basically pays for itself.

Vedalken Orrery (Flash Artifact)

MtG card Vedalken Orrery. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG card Vedalken Orrery. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

With Vedalken Orrery, all your spells have flash. Yes, that’s right, all of them. For only 4 mana, you can cast whatever you want at instant speed. Needless to say, this immediately enables some fantastic plays! So all your creatures effectively have haste!

Vedalken Orrery also saves you mana because you can now run low-cost sorceries instead of instants, which are more expensive due to their versatility.

Samut, Voice of Dissent (Green/Red Flash Creature)

MtG card Samut, Voice of Dissent. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG card Samut, Voice of Dissent. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

Samut, Voice of Dissent is an excellent flash creature, which also has double strike and haste. This combination of abilities allows for great versatility and, as long as you have the mana, you can play Samut to answer any threat or become a threat yourself.

Not only that, but Samut also gives all creatures you control haste and can untap them. With these abilities, you can instantly go on the aggressive no matter the state of your creatures.

MTG Flash Decks 

Flash is most common in blue, black, and white. As such, if you want Standard-legal flash, buy the appropriate Core Set 2021 theme boosters. Throne of Eldraine, Kaldheim and Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths both have good flash cards too.

Simic Flash – Historic

A powerful and unpredictable deck, Simic Flash was the terror of 2019 Standard. However, it’s now also great in Historic. Simic Flash combines powerful flash creatures with low-cost counterspells for a unique and versatile playstyle.

Simic Flash relies heavily on the flash creature Nightpack Ambusher as a win condition. Not only is it a wolf lord, but Nightpack Ambusher gives you a 2/2 (buffed to 3/3) wolf token if you end your turn without casting a spell.

Of course, these wolf tokens quickly add up, especially if you have multiple Nightpack Ambushers in play. Given that this deck can play entirely in your opponent’s turn, these wolves are guaranteed, as is easy disruption.

This main package is then supported by other powerful flash creatures, such as Frilled Mystic, which counters a spell on entry. Simic Flash also runs Brazen Borrower for additional damage and removal. 

Brineborn Cutthroat, Spectral Sailor and Cunning Nightbonder round out the curve as cheap creatures with their own flash synergies.

Finally, Simic Flash also makes good use of Nissa, Who Shakes the World and Hydroid Krasis as alternate win conditions. Although they don’t have flash themselves, these powerful cards more than make up for it.

Flash Hulk – Legacy (Now Banned)

Flash Hulk was a combo deck in Legacy and Vintage that didn’t actually use the flash keyword mechanic. Instead, Flash Hulk exploited in the interactions between Flash and Protean Hulk to cheat creatures into play directly from the library.

The card Flash allows you to cheat a creature into play, but you have to either sacrifice it or play its mana cost. Due to its low cost, Flash could easily be played on turn one, allowing the combo to go off immediately.

Conversely, when Protean Hulk dies, you can search your library for creatures with total mana value 6 or less and put them directly onto the battlefield.

The cards typically searched by Protean Hulk include Karmic Guide, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, and Carrion Feeder, which could collectively one-shot the opponent by comboing together.

However, Flash has since been banned in every constructed format apart from Vintage, where it is restricted instead. Despite remaining a notable deck in that format, Flash Hulk’s reign of terror is officially over. 

How to play against Flash 

Counter Flash Cards

You can counter flash cards like you would any other instant-speed card. In fact, one of the easiest ways to play against flash is to counter their cards. Although this isn’t always possible, a well-timed counterspell can kill a flash deck’s momentum.

Countering flash cards is extremely effective because much of a flash deck’s strength lies in its unpredictability. If you counter their creatures, not only will they be unable to attack with them, but your opponent will lose the element of surprised and be forced to play more cautiously.

Remember that a cunning opponent will try bait out your counterspells, though. Don’t waste a counterspell on the first flash card you see, especially if it isn’t actually a threat. Look out for game-ending cards and counter those.

Cast Multiple Spells Per Turn Against Flash

Flash decks often rely on countering your spells, but this means they can be overwhelmed. Referred to as mana taxing, by casting a bunch of spells in a single turn, you force the flash player to pick and choose what they can counter. 

Similarly, they might have to forgo countering anything so that they can play their creatures. This typically happens when your opponent misses a land drop, so they’re behind on the curve.

Get Ahead on the Board

Because they’re primarily in blue and green, flash decks struggle with removal. The best they can generally do is flash in a blocker or bounce your cards to counter them later. Both are subpar methods.

If you have an advantage on the battlefield, force it. Flash creatures have lower than average stats to make up for their powerful abilities. They’ll typically lose in an out and out fight, so look for those where possible.

This strategy works best when combined with the others. Playing aggressively against flash decks works well, as they get easily overwhelmed by hordes of cheap spells or small creatures. Make sure to focus down any planeswalkers your opponents might have while you can, though.

MTG Flash FAQs 

Does Flash Stack?

Multiple instances of flash on the same creature do not stack, So, if you give a card flash twice, you can still cast it whenever you could cast an instant. There’s no additional benefit.

Can I Cast Flash During My Main Phases?

You can cast flash cards during your main phases, sure. This is because you can cast them at any time you could an instant, and instants can be cast whenever you want. Obviously, this includes your main phases.

The reason most players don’t cast flash cards during their main phases is because that defeats the whole point of the ability. Flash cards are typically weaker than the equivalent normal cards for the same mana value, apart from their versatility. So, flash is at its best when you cast it at unpredictable times.

Are Flash and Instant the Same?

Flash and instant are not the same, but they function the same way. As I’ve shown in this article, flash is a keyword ability. However, instant is a card type. Instants are cards you can cast at any time, and instants go to the graveyard after they resolve.

Flash doesn’t go the graveyard after it resolves. Rather, flash cards are permanents that remain on the battlefield for a continual effect. Often, this is because they’re creatures. As such, you can think of flash as instant, but for your permanents instead.

A note: Flash MTG 

In summary, flash is keyword ability that lets you cast a spell whenever you could cast an instant. This is remarkably strong as it lets you play unpredictably. Flash cards can be disruptive and sudden, and are typically best played during your opponent’s turn.

Flash is most common in blue, although all colours except red have a quite a few powerful flash cards. Some of those cards are used in the infamous Simic Flash deck, which dominated Standard and maintains a powerful position in the current Historic meta.

Because of all this, it’s no wonder that flash cards are so good! Not only are they sudden and unpredictable, but they’re helpful just like this article is. So, add some flash to your deck today. Your opponent won’t see it coming!

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Emily
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