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Flickering Light


Ghostly Flicker
For the past year or so, Pauper has seen a constant presence of decks powered by Ghostly Flicker. The Avacyn Restored instant is not strong on its own but rather synergizes with one of the key components of Pauper: creatures with enter-the-battlefield abilities. These cards are the backbone of the format and understanding their value can lead to an increased knowledge of so called Flicker decks. But first let’s lay the groundwork.

Pauper is, in some ways, defined by constrained resources. Confined to commons the format largely revolves around staple effects. The ability to reuse these effects has been the backbone of multiple decks for years. When the power level of the format was largely flat any extra use could turn into a significant advantage. Mono-Black Control was based around this concept as it would chain creatures together to build incremental advantage. Unearth was used to cheat mana but also create an extra threat. Black decks might have been best at this early, but White and Blue decks picked up the standard soon after.

This started with Momentary Blink. Combined with cards like Mulldrifter and Chittering Rats, Esper Blink was a common sight in days before Pauper became a sanctioned format. The deck tried to leverage the value of enter-the-battlefield triggers with Momentary Blink and get some extra uses out of Chittering Rats or Blind Hunter. When targeting an Evoked Mulldrifter, the result was four cards and a flying fish for 3wu (to say nothing of protecting your creatures with Flashback in the latter stages of a game). The strategy remained popular even if it never put up top of the line results.

Momentary Blink
Slowly Momentary Blink was supplanted and supplemented by Kor Skyfisher and Dream Stalker. These decks would play for a longer game and try to eke out value while contributing to the board. Reality Acid based decks featuring these creatures and Momentary Blink could cast a very slow virtual Vindicate every turn. And until Avacyn Restored these decks existed but never dominated. The ability to get an extra use out of creatures was nice but hardly game breaking.

Ghostly Flicker changed the math. Whereas Momentary Blink would generate an additional effect, Ghostly Flicker did this twice for the low price of 3 mana. Alone this is fine but when combined with Mnemonic Wall or Archaeomancer this creates a loop that can be repeated as often as three mana is available. This engine was the backbone of Pauper’s dominant combo decks when used in conjunction with Cloud of Faeries and later on Peregrine Drake. The loop was able to generate an unbound amount of mana which had multiple spouts throughout the history of Pauper. First it was Temporal Fissure (until it was banned), Sage's Row Denizen (until Cloud was banned) and then Rolling Thunder (until Peregrine Drake was banned). Ghostly Flicker has been part of some of the best combo decks in Pauper but it is has never been the best card. Rather it is a strong enabler but is only as good as the cards whose effects it is replicating.

Where does that leave Ghostly Flicker today? It remains a key component of two top decks. The first, Dimir Flicker, has replaced Mono-Black Control as the deck that best uses creatures with enter the battlefield triggers to take control of the game.

Dinrova Horror
Unlike previous iterations on Pauper Ghostly Flicker decks, Dimir Flicker does not use the eponymous instant to generate an arbitrarily large amount of mana. Rather it cycles the card through Archaeomancer and Chittering Rats to lock an opponent out of new draws. At this point an army of 2/2 creatures takes over and whittles down life totals in small chunks. Dimir Flicker rose to prominence after Peregrine Drake was banned as it a natural home for the Flicker-’Mancer engine. Between Chittering Rats, Sea Gate Oracle, and Mulldrifter, the deck full of Islands and Swamps was a perfect fit for the ability to re-buy these 187 abilities.

Dimir Flicker has been present in the format but has hardly been a dominant force. This is in part because it has to play a very fair game until the point it tries to win. While it is packed to the brim with high quality cards, it still tries to cast them in a relatively fair manner. Until Modern Masters 2017 the ability to lock an opponent out of new draws was the best use of Ghostly Flicker.

Dinrova Horror changed all of that. The downshift provided Flicker combo another spout. Very shortly after the last reprint set hit, a deck emerged that sought to leverage the UrzaTron with Dinrova Horror, Mnemonic Wall, and Ghostly Flicker to slowly remove every permanent on an opponent’s board. Dinrova Tron eschews most interaction in favor of cards like Forbidden Alchemy and Pulse of Murasa, which stitch the combo together, and Moment's Peace, which helps you stay alive. The deck has undergone some evolution from the original version, which featured Fierce Empath as additional copies of Dinrova Horror. Kungfutrees took an updated version of the deck to first place in the June 11th Pauper Challenge.

Crop Rotation
I think this is the best version of the Dinrova Tron deck,but I would still try to find space for a second copy of the namesake card as graveyard removal is a common feature of Pauper. That being said, the deck is a compact combo package that sees a ton of cards. Alchemy, Mystical Teachings, and Impulse can find key components while Crop Rotation and Expedition Map make it easy to assemble the UrzaTron. The deck does seem weak to aggressive starts and counters from a deck like Izzet Delver, so the copies of Circle of Protection: Blue in the sideboard while odd, make sense to survive against the ever present Blue deck.

Moving forwar,d I would see if it is possible to fit additional copies of Prohibit. Prohibit is a flexible counter that not only allows you to fight against other counterspells but has utility against a wide variety of threats in the format. Given the abundance of mana I would also see if Condescend could find a home in the deck.

The June 11th Challenge also featured an interesting deck in the Top 16. Not powered by Ghostly Flicker, Tireless Tribe combo instead uses Gush as an engine to fuel one shot kills. With a copy of Inside Out, a single Gush represents 16 points of damage. Tireless Tribe combo has been on the fringes of the format for years but is only now putting up any appreciable results.

In many ways, the deck resembles Psychatog decks of old (only without Upheaval). The goal is to load up your hand before making an evasive Tireless Tribe and flipping its stats to turn the defensive stalwart into a Doran-esque powerhouse. The deck is incredibly resilient to Lightning Bolt and other Red removal and can thrive in a metagame where targeted Black removal is at a nadir. Pauper is currently experiencing a dearth of Doom Blade effects which in turn allow decks based around singular threats, like Dinrova Tron and Tribe combo, to excel. Yet this Gush deck may have legs (as of this writing, allegedly two more copies made the Top 16 of the June 18th Pauper Challenge) and helps to showcase the weird diversity of the format.

We are still in the early stages of seeing how the Challenges are affecting the Pauper metagame. Despite this, over the first four weeks, four different decks have emerged victorious. With Hour of Devastation only a few weeks away, Pauper may have another major shift on its hands sooner rather than later.

Hour of Devastation is now available for preorder at!