Looking at a Random Card: Blinking Spirit

(What am I doing here? Read here!)

Thrull Token: Will Thrulls come back? Will they again use absurd counters like +1/+2? Okay, let’s get to a real card…

Blinking Sprit: Ah, an old favorite of mine! Those of you really new to the game might not immediately understand why this card once was cool enough to even see some fringe constructed play. Yes, young guns, combat damage once went on the stack and could be responded to. Those were the days… (edit: But then again, the card is so old that combat damage did not use the stack yet when it came out! I mixed these things up in my memory.)

Under current rules, however, the Spirit is somehow lackluster. True, it can still dodge creature removal like no other creature (even Progenitus can be made to feel the Wrath of God, and even Darksteel Colossus can fall to a Diabolic Edict), but then again – why would your opponent even care about a 2/2 creature for 4 mana with no evasion ability which can not even kill other 2/2s in combat and survive anymore? You tap 4 mana to play a nearly unkillable, yet inconsequent creature; I tap 4 mana to cast my favorite planeswalker. Fine!

Don’t misunderstand me, Blinking Spirit never was a tier-anything-card in the first place. Even in the days when Savannah Lions were considered too powerful a 1-drop to stay in the core set, and Kird Ape & Juggernaut got banned in Extended, while Swords to Plowshares, Lightning Bolt, Wrath of God and Nevinyrral’s Disk were everywhere, Blinky was little more than a gimmick some probably not really perfectly tuned decks used, but at least it didn’t embarrass its players, as it would do today. I’d like to think that in a perfect Magic world, where constructed decks have a reasonable power level (and where combat damage, of course, still goes on the stack!), Blinking Spirit might rightly find its way into a few constructed decks, but when I’m honest about it, it still wouldn’t happen – it would still be overcosted by at least 1 mana.

I like the concept, though. There is no other card in Magic you can bounce at will, without paying any mana or otherwise using a resource. Also, I find it really cute that it is a spirit – whenever I design a cube with an element of spiritcraft in it, Blinky is very likely to show up in it. You don’t need to use that Kamigawa block mechanic, though, to find nice synergies for this card: It can trigger all kinds of “Whenever you cast…” or “Whenever a creature enters the battlefield…” abilities repeatedly, but not too cheaply (I’m not saying Shrieking Drake plus Glimpse of Nature is a major problem in a cube, but it is the kind of interaction you want to watch out for). Oh, and in the context of the current set, Innistrad, it is probably really helpful against werewolves. There’s just so much you can do with this card in addition to stop a big groundbound creature for effectively 4 mana!

I’m really not sure what the “perfect” cost for this effect would be if combat damage still went on the stack. It would probably have to be in the ballpark of 1W, since most 2-drops and even several 1-drops are strong enough that they would survive combat with it. That, however, would make it incredibly annoying in limited. And without combat damage on the stack? It might have to become a 1-drop to be of real use in constructed! Then, however, it would be completely over the top as a blocker in control decks. I guess I must admit that the perceived constructed applications of that card I thought to see date back to a time where creature decks were almost unplayable due to the availability of plentiful and powerful removal and the weakness of creatures in general. In such an environment, it would be useful at 3 mana – but then again, such an environment would be horrible! So I’ll concede that this concept does not lend itself well to constructed play and get back to talking about limited.

Here, Blinking Spirit is a fine, but sadly a little underwhelming card. While it is perfectly usable as is, the sweet spot for its mana cost is probably 2W, so that it would be a bit more useful in aggressive decks. However, the uniqueness of its concept, and its excellent flavor (stemming mainly from the mechanic itself), as well as its unexpected and intriguing synergies with an evergrowing variety of mechanics from all eras of Magic, convince me to upgrade it significantly, all the way up from a D for a useful, but not quite satisfyingly playing card to a C- for a card you actively want in some environments, although always with a bit of disappointment for its slightly flawed execution.

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3 Comments on “Looking at a Random Card: Blinking Spirit”

  1. I vaguely recall the Spirit being rather popular, back when Ice Age came out. That might have just been my area, but for some reason I always thought people liked the card back in day.

    And combat damage didn’t even go on the stack back then! ;)

    • That’s true, I mixed these things up a bit in my memory. Blinking Spirit was played (still not very often) due to its resilience to all kinds of creature removal; especially in decks which used Jokulhaups with Thawing Glaciers (maybe these were even strictly Ice Age / Alliances decks – I honestly cannot remember if that concept worked in then “type 2”).

      It became attractive again in my mind with the Classic rules, which put combat damage on the stack, but I failed to realize when I wrote this entry that there was never a time when Blinky was standard-legal under these rules until 9th edition came out (when it was already way too unattractive). My memory playing tricks on me!

  2. jashinc Says:

    Compared to the new Lantern Spirit this card just needs flying to be a totally reasonable card imo…

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