MTG Flash: How It Works and What It Does

In Magic, one of the best things you can do is wait. When you wait as long as you can to make a decision, you give yourself more options and limit how long your opponents have to react. The ability to strike at just the right time is crucial in MTG, and flash gives you that power.

Flash is an ability keyword in MTG that can appear on just about any card type. If a card has flash, you’re able to cast it whenever you have priority, just like an instant. Since most card types have specific timing restrictions, flash gives you a lot of flexibility. You could play a card with flash on your opponent’s turn, or in response to another spell. Some of the most iconic cards in MTG have flash, in no small part because of this keyword’s power level.

Flash bends the typical rules of MTG, so it’s common for players to have questions about it. There are also plenty of powerful cards with flash that you should be considering when deckbuilding. Whatever you’re looking for, this article will teach you all about flash in an instant!

Table Of Contents:

  1. What Is Flash In MTG?
    1. Is Flash An Evergreen Keyword?
    2. When Did Flash First Appear in MTG?
  2. How Does Flash Work In MTG?
    1. When Can I Use Flash In MTG?
    2. Does Flash Count As An Instant?
    3. Does An MTG Creature With Flash have Summoning Sickness?
  3. Are Any MTG Cards With Flash Banned?
  4. Top 10 Flash Cards In MTG
    1. Dictate of Erebos
    2. Spellstutter Sprite
    3. Deep Gnome Terramancer
    4. Archivist Of Oghma
    5. Opposition Agent
    6. Embercleave
    7. Snapcaster Mage
    8. Brazen Borrower
    9. Endurance
    10. Solitude
  5. End Step

What Is Flash in MTG?

At face value, flash isn’t too difficult to understand. It essentially lets you play cards at “instant speed.”

702.8a Flash is a static ability that functions in any zone from which you could play the card it’s on. “Flash” means “You may play this card any time you could an instant.”

MTG Wiki

Is Flash An Evergreen Keyword?

Yes! Flash isn’t as common as flying or trample, but it appears in just about every set.

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When Did Flash First Appear In MTG?

Flash first appeared as a keyword in Time Spiral, but its roots go even further back. In Mirage, multiple cards that weren’t instants could be cast as though they were, and they’ve since been updated to include flash in their oracle text.

How Does Flash Work in MTG?

Now that you’re more familiar with flash, you might have some questions about how exactly it works. Below are some of the most common questions about this keyword, as well as how to get the most out of it.

When Can I Use Flash in MTG?

Normally, you have to cast any card that isn’t an instant at “sorcery speed.” This refers to either of your main phases as long as you have priority and the stack is empty.

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If that card has flash, though, you can cast it whenever you have priority. You could cast them during your opponent’s turn or in response to other spells and abilities (including your own!). As a result, flash gives your creatures and other noninstant spells an element of surprise they otherwise wouldn’t have.

RELATED: What Is the Stack in MTG and How Does It Work?

Does Flash Count As An Instant?

No. Even though cards with flash can be cast as though they’re instants, they’re still different. If you controlled a Young Pyromancer, for example, its ability wouldn’t trigger if you cast an Ambush Viper. Flash doesn’t change the Ambush Viper‘s card types; it’s still just a creature.

Does An MTG Creature With Flash have Summoning Sickness?

Yes. Your creature has to meet at least one of following conditions to attack or use its tap abilities.

  • It was under your control at the beginning of your turn.
  • It has haste.

Playing a creature at instant speed doesn’t meet either of those conditions. It doesn’t matter if you play it in response to another spell or during your opponent’s turn; it will still have summoning sickness.

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However, flash lets you play around summoning sickness. If you cast a creature with flash during your opponent’s end step, they’ll have almost no time to remove it. Unless they have the answer right away, you’ll immediately begin your turn with the flash creature in play. This trick lets you give your creatures “psuedo-haste” because your opponent still has very little time to react.

Are Any MTG Cards with Flash Banned?

Yes! Casting spells at instant speed is inherently powerful, so it’s no surprise that flash appears on some busted cards. Currently, there are only two cards with flash that are banned.

lutri the spellchaser
Card NameFormatStatus
HullbreacherCommanderBanned
Lutri, the SpellchaserCommanderBanned

Hullbreacher‘s flash is definitely a big part of why it’s banned. While it was still legal, you could often play a Hullbreacher on the end step before your turn, then immediately cast a wheel effect. Your opponents would have a small window to react, and it’s hard to predict and plan around cards with flash.

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If nobody had the answer at that exact moment, your opponents would just be locked out of the game. Hullbreacher would still be amazing at sorcery speed, but flash makes it too difficult to interact with.

On the other hand, Lutri, the Spellchaser isn’t banned because it has flash. The only broken text on Lutri is its companion requirement: If every nonland card in your deck has a different name, you can use Lutri, the Spellchaser as your companion.

RELATED: MTG Companion: How It Works and What It Does

However, almost every Commander deck meets that requirement. As a result, any deck that runs red and blue should play Lutri just to start with an extra card. That’s an unfair advantage regardless of the card’s power level, so Lutri is also banned.

Top 10 Flash Cards in MTG

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We’ve gone over the ins and outs of flash, so let’s look at the best cards with this keyword. As I’ve already mentioned, many powerful cards feature flash, so all of these entries can have a big impact in your games.

Honorable Mentions

vedalken orrery

Before we get started, I want to mention a type of effect that’s powerful, but not featured on this list.

Some cards, like Vedalken Orrery, let you cast spells as though they had flash. Giving your cards flash is fantastic, and some cards with this effect have flash themselves!

However, the strength of these cards comes from using the rest of your deck at instant speed. For this list, I’ve focused on cards that have more strength individually. You should still rate cards like Vedalkan Orrery very highly, but this list won’t be discussing them.

10. Dictate of Erebos

dictate of erebos

Dictate of Erebos is an excellent example of why flash is such a strong keyword. If you had to play this at sorcery speed, your opponents could play around it more easily. They could cast more creatures to sacrifice instead of their key pieces, or dig for removal before you get much value from it.

With flash, though, you can put your opponents in a tough spot right away. If they try to remove any of your creatures, you can cast Dictate of Erebos in response. You could also cast it during combat to turn a couple of trades into a board wipe. Timing is always key with flash cards, and Dictate of Erebos really rewards patience.

ProsCons
Repeatable removalExpensive
Does nothing on its own

Recommended Formats: Commander

9. Spellstutter Sprite

spellstutter sprite

Spellstutter Sprite once terrorized standard alongside Vendilion Clique. Both cards have flash, but the sprite is the only one that still sees regular play. In Pauper, Spellstutter Sprite is a key piece to blue-based control decks.

Pauper rewards efficient plays even more than most formats. Most decks have very low mana curves, and there are plenty of dangerous one and two mana spells.

Spellstutter Sprite works perfectly in this format. You can likely find a good spell to counter even with no other faeries out. It also serves as a surprise blocker or evasive attacker, so you get value from it even after countering your opponent’s spell.

ProsCons
CheapNeeds other faeries
Counterspell

Recommended Formats: Commander, Pauper

8. Deep Gnome Terramancer

deep gnome terramancer

It’s no secret that white has some big weaknesses in Commander. It’s the worst color for ramp and card advantage, and those effects are crucial in EDH. Luckily, WOTC is working on some interesting designs to let white catch up.

Deep Gnome Terramancer is a repeateable source of ramp, but it only triggers when your opponents play extra lands. That’s a pretty common occurance in modern EDH, but it is unfortunate that you don’t have much control over it. Still, flash lets you get one trigger before your opponents can try to play around it.

ProsCons
CheapDepends on your opponents
RampOnly triggers once per turn

Recommended Formats: Commander

7. Archivist of Oghma

archivist of oghma

Archivist of Oghma is very similar to Deep Gnome Terramancer, but it draws you cards instead of finding lands. It helps you catch up when your opponents search their library, which will happen even more frequently than getting extra lands.

Not only does it trigger for land ramp cards like Rampant Growth, but it also triggers off of tutor effects. These are two of most common effects in a game of Commander, so you’re sure to get plenty of value from the archivist.

RELATED: The Best MTG Black Tutors

ProsCons
CheapDepends on your opponents
Card draw

Recommended Formats: Commander

6. Opposition Agent

opposition agent

Now that Hullbreacher is banned, Opposition Agent is the best flash creature for Commander. High-power decks will often run lots of tutor effects, and Opposition Agent punishes them dearly for it. Stopping your opponents from finding what they need and getting a card for yourself is a ridiculous blowout.

Your opponents won’t search their libraries once this hits the table, but that’s another advantage. If your opponents can’t search for what they want, any tutor effect they draw is a dead card. Even land ramp becomes useless for them. Opposition Agent is mean, but there’s no doubt that it’s effective.

ProsCons
CheapDepends on your opponents
Leads to blowouts

Recommended Formats: Commander

5. Embercleave

embercleave

Embercleave packs a serious punch, and it’s made all the more deadly thanks to flash. Trample and double strike is a nasty combo, so much so that this card will often win the game on the spot.

What really makes Embercleave such a potent finisher is that you can play it after your opponent assigns blockers. If you attack with multiple creatures, it’s nearly impossible for your opponent to over-block all of them. You’ll likely be able to push through a ton of damage with a surprise Embercleave, if not close out the game.

ProsCons
Could be cheapCould be expensive
Lots of surprise damageDoes nothing on its own

Recommended Formats: Commander, Historic, Pioneer

4. Snapcaster Mage

snapcaster mage

Snapcaster Mage is one of Magic’s most iconic cards, and for good reason. Casting any spell in your graveyard is a great effect, and it gets better as the game goes long.

Once your graveyard is stacked, Snapcaster Mage can give you card advantage, removal, or whatever else you need. It’s a flexible card that has utility in many situations, and spell-based decks get a ton of value from this two-drop.

ProsCons
CheapDepends on your graveyard
Lets you play an extra spell

Recommended Formats: Commander, Legacy, Modern

3. Brazen Borrower

brazen borrower

Casting a spell at instant speed once is nice, so why not cast it twice? Brazen Borrower‘s adventure is a great tempo play, and getting a three-power flier later in the game is excellent value.

This creature won’t surprise your opponents if you cast its adventure first, but that’s fine! You can pass the turn with mana open, and your opponents won’t know if you have other spells or just want to cast the borrower. Brazen Borrower is solid on its own, but it really shines in decks that can leverage instant speed tricks.

ProsCons
CheapPoor defensively
Two spells in one card

Recommended Formats: Commander, Historic, Legacy, Modern, Pioneer

2. Endurance

endurance

Modern Horizons 2 is full of format-defining bombs. Among the strongest are the new incarnations, two of which will be rounding out this list.

It was a tough call to put Endurance at #2 on the list. It sees play in more formats than Solitude, and it can shut down graveyard synergies for free. Some of the strongest things you can do in Magic revolve around the graveyard, so it’s a great answer card. Ultimately, I put this at #2 because graveyard hate is more situational than creature removal.

ProsCons
FlexibleEvoke costs a card
Graveyard hate

Recommended Formats: Commander, Legacy, Modern, Vintage

1. Solitude

solitude

Swords to Plowshares is one of the best removal spells ever printed, and Solitude can give you the same effect for free. It might cost you a card, but the tempo you gain by saving mana is huge. Combining this card with blink effects, such as Yorion, Sky Nomad turns this powerful card into a busted one. It’s my pick for the strongest flash creature of all time due to its strength, synergies, and flexibility.

ProsCons
FlexibleEvoke costs a card
Removal

Recommended Formats: Commander, Legacy, Modern

End Step

By now, you should have a better understanding of how flash works and why it’s so strong. No matter what format you’re playing, there’s bound to be cards with flash that can win you a game in the blink of an eye.

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Ashley Briggs

I’ve been playing Magic for about five years, and my favorite formats are EDH and limited. Ever since I played my first game of Magic, it has been a major part of my life. Magic has given me an outlet for my creativity, a chance to be competitive, and strengthened many of my closet friendships.