Do Your Worst - Mono-Black Blink

Prowling Geistcatcher | Art by Lie Setiawan

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t

Hello, everyone! Welcome to another installment of Do Your Worst, where we take a popular archetype and find the most unusual home for it! I'm your host, Philomène, and in this column, we look at decks that shouldn't be... or should they?

One of the most useful things a creature can do is replace itself by drawing a card. But what if somehow this creature could re-enter the battlefield without being cast? The result? Pure, sweet value. Welcome to the world of Flicker (or Blink) decks!

Blink decks try to use the EtB effects of permanents as much as possible to generate advantages, be it resources, creatures or even damage. While some versions of the archetype can be notorious for dragging games on without assembling any win conditions, there are a lot of ways to finish the game either with a big board of creatures or with a combo using cards like Altar of the Brood.

But what are the most played colors for Blink decks?

list of most played mtg blink deck colors

Blue and white are all over this list, as expected. The commanders representing these color combinations are Brago, King Eternal, Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines, Roon of the Hidden Realm, Aminatou, the Fateshifter and Garth One-Eye. I'm surprised to see so little red in this top five. As an Abdel Adrian, Gorion's Ward and Inspiring Leader enthusiast, the only thing that is really missing from my deck is a Witty Roastmaster to close out those games where I can't really connect with my Soldiers.

Anyway, let's take those five commanders, put all the cards from their average decks together and see what color distribution we get, after taking out irrelevant cards (like Swords to Plowshares).

pie chart showing primarily Jund color identityWe know for sure that white or blue are out of the question. That leaves us with Jund. Honestly, I'm not even sure how we can blink permanents in these colors. Let's find out!

The Research

Colorless ways to flicker include Conjurer's Closet and Sword of Hearth and Home, which are both excellent. In a less efficient but still acceptable tier, we've got Golden Argosy, Voyager Staff and Synod Sanctum. That's a good start... I think?

As I started wondering about what colors I should choose, my mind immediately went to black's Undying Malice effects. They function a lot like Flicker spells, but there is a lot of them, so I abandoned the idea as being too easy. Black does have some ways to exile and bring back creatures, though! Faceless Butcher and Faceless Devourer have similar text to Fiend Hunter. Faceless Devourer has to target a creature with Shadow, but we'll get to that later. One of my favorite cards in this search was Prowling Geistcatcher. It still asks us to sacrifice creatures, but at least it exiles them, which I consider to be legal for our purposes. If that sounds arbitrary, it is. It's my column, I can do what I want!

When thinking about red, my mind went back to a game I played with my friend Robyn. She had an Etali, Primal Conqueror deck in which she put all the spells that can make copies of creatures, like Twinflame. That deck functioned a lot like a Flicker deck! The thing is, there are a lot of those effects in red and I still feel like that would be cheating. Red does have an actual blink effect in Worldgorger Dragon. I wasn't really interested to win with an Animate Dead combo, I just wanted to use the Dragon for value! I was glad to find Zirilan of the Claw, who can tutor Worldgorger Dragon to the battlefield and get rid of it in one fell swoop.

My first version of the deck was Jund. It was interesting, but I realized that what I needed the most in the command zone was a way sacrifice creatures and artifacts. You see, I had to reliably get rid of Faceless Butcher and Helvault, plus Prowling Geistcatcher triggers when you sacrifice a creature. The deck was a pile of good stuff that eventually casted Craterhoof Behemoth. Overall it didn't feel unique, and my commanders Keskit, the Flesh Sculptor and Tana, the Bloodsower were clunky. I decided to take out green to make the deck a little worse.

Rakdos was an interesting build with Ayara, Widow of the Realm on the throne. She can sacrifice artifacts or creatures: Perfect! I could even transform her in a pinch to reanimate stuff from the graveyard and flicker them to keep them around. The thing is, Witty Roastmaster, Impact Tremors, Purphoros, God of the Forge, Terror of the Peaks and especially Dockside Extortionist made things really easy. I wondered what would happen if I took out red. The deck was mostly black anyway.

I went back in time before Ayara, Widow of the Realm was compleated and chose her mono-black version, Ayara, First of Locthwain. Now, I know she's a popular commander, but she seemed like the most logical choice for a Flicker deck. No Blood Artist, Zulaport Cutthroat or Aristocrats, though! Just pure, unadulterated blink shenanigans.

Let's see what's in the deck!

Blink and You’ll Miss It

So, what are some of black's best enter-the-battlefield effects (EtBs)?

Gonti, Lord of Luxury immediately stands out. They were on the short list to helm this deck, but Ayara's utility and payoff for creatures entering the battlefield was ultimately more useful in the command zone. Abhorrent Overlord is basically black's Avenger of Zendikar. Grave Titan, Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Plaguecrafter are all well known and need no further introduction. Orcish Bowmasters is fairly new but is already a banger. I really like to introduce The Initiative in a game and I'm always happy to see Ravenloft Adventurer. I've come across a lot of folks who don't agree with me though, so if you really don't want to bring this mechanic in your game, you can always swap it for Custodi Lich and The Monarch.

Is it bad to include a card in the 99 just to make another card in the 99 work? Yes. Am I above it? Certainly not! I found Faceless Devourer so neat that I just had to play Dauthi Trapper. Plus, giving creatures Shadow can make them virtually unblockable, which is a nice upside! You can also prevent an opponent's scary creature from blocking. See, it's not totally useless!

All the Small Things

A cool deck idea is nothing if we can't execute it well. Let's go over our essentials!


Black has a ton of options to generate mana. I really like Manascape Refractor in a mono-black deck, because it can copy a Cabal Coffers' ability. You might even see an Ancient Tomb across the table! Solemn Simulacrum is obviously great in Blink decks, as is Skullport Merchant! Sword of Hearth and Home is such a great card, probably the best in our deck. It's also probably my favorite of the Swords!

Card Advantage and Velocity

Clattering Augur, Dusk Legion Zealot and Circuit Mender are repeatable card draw on a body. Callous Bloodmage can do the same, but can also create a blocker or exile a problematic graveyard. Sweet! Intellect Devourer also belongs here, and can give us access to effects not otherwise found in our color, like artifact removal.


Plaguecrafter is the only edict creature in the deck. You can obviously put a lot more, but that's not the play experience I'm going for. I prefer targeted removal like Ravenous Chupacabra, Shriekmaw, Noxious Gearhulk and Meteor Golem. For board wipes, we have the Massacre duo, Massacre Girl and Massacre Wurm! Fun times.

For stack interaction, Imp's Mischief is really great in mono-black, and it just got a reprint in Commander Masters! If you're feeling adventurous, try out Withering Boon as well. You would think that black doesn't need an Essence Scatter, but some creatures have powerful EtBs that you want to avoid, or have indestructible. I personally like it! And the art is awesome.

And there we go. Now for the decklist!

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Massacre Girl (Secret Lair) | Art by Tsubonari

Gone in the Blink of an Eye

Let's talk about some notable exclusions.

  • I tried Tawnos's Coffin and Cold Storage, but they cost way too much mana to activate, making them virtually unplayable. Mechtitan Core was also a consideration, because it can bring back what it previously exiled. We would have had to lean heavier into an artifact build, and even play Mycosynth Lattice, but I didn't want to go there. One day I'll find a deck for you, Mechtitan Core, one day.
  • Mirror of Life Trapping and Portcullis are two pretty efficient ways to blink creatures, but they also do it for our opponents. Every other creature comes with an EtB effect nowadays, so we would be giving too much value to our enemies. Pass.
  • In the Jund version, I experimented with Horned Kavu and creatures that bounce other creatures back to hand to replay them and reuse their EtB. In mono-black, I tried Skull Collector, Cloudstone Curio and Dragon Mask, but I had enough blink effects without them so I found these cards unnecessary.

The deck plays surprisingly well, and feels very similar to my Abdel deck. We play only two reanimation spells, Puppeteer Clique and Sepulchral Primordial, so the vast majority of our EtBs are triggered by blinking our creatures. Success!

Now for the sad part of my article, which I kept for last.

No Pun for This Title, Just My Heartfelt Thanks

Folks, I am sorry to announce that this will be my last article for the foreseeable future. These take a lot of time to write, but a lot more time to brew, and I have other projects that I want to pursue. Also, I feel like I have covered the majority of the most popular archetypes over the course of a year and a half. It's getting harder and harder to find interesting topics as the strategies get more niche.

I do hope that this series has encouraged you to be curious and adventurous in your deckbuilding. If you've missed any of my other articles, you can find all of them here.

Thank you very much for reading! This has been a blast.

As always, let me know if you would have approached this non-Azorius blink deck differently! Are there any sweet cards or synergies that I missed? Let me know in the comments! I'm Philomène, and this has been Do Your Worst. Keep brewing, friends, and remember, always do your best to do your worst.

Farewell (Alternate Art) | Art by Fuzichoco

Philomène is a film composer from Montréal, Canada. Her love of card games started in the late 90's with Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Dragon Ball Z and of course, Magic: The Gathering. Preferring a more casual kind of game in commander (art and lore being very high on her list of reasons to play cards), she satiates her competitive urges through Limited formats.

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