Released in Avacyn Restored, this card allows you to exile two permanents you control (excluding Enchantments and Planeswalkers), then immediately return them to the battlefield under your control. As an Instant for , this seemed decent but not certainly not broken. With it, you could dodge an incoming removal spell, break free of a crippling Aura, or get additional value out of any 'enters-the-battlefield' type effects. Of course, at least in Standard Pauper, there was a dearth of strong permanents with these sorts of effects, and so the card was not deemed particularly powerful.
Then, with the release of Magic 2013, this card suddenly became part of a powerful combo, thanks to another seemingly insignificant card - Archaeomancer. Back in August, I dedicated an entire article to this particular combo, which you can read here. But essentially, when you cast Ghostly Flicker with Archaeomancer as one of the targets, you not only get to bounce Ghostly Flicker into your hand, you get any 'enters-the-battlefield' type effect of the other target.
Of course, this still wasn't enough to make anyone think Ghostly Flicker was worth banning. After all, while there were certainly some strong scenarios that made us of this combo, it was hardly game-breaking. And, although this archetype saw plenty of play in Standard Pauper, it never really became one of the dominant decks in the metagame.
But now, a new cycle of Commons has entered the metagame and changed everything:
an entire article to the Gatekeeper cycle, and discussed the pros and cons of these interesting creatures. But consider, for a moment, the type of effects one can produce at Instant speed by using Ghostly Flicker with one of these creatures:
* Draw a card.
* Gain 7 Life.
* Create a 2/2 Knight token.
* Give a target creature -2/-2 until end of turn.
* Gain control of target creature an opponent controls.
Think about that. Those last three are particularly potent, and something that has rarely ever been available at Instant speed.
Needless to say, it didn't take long for some players to call for the immediate banning of Ghostly Flicker. In fact, you can read the resulting discussion over on the Standard forums of PDCMagic.com. Now at this point my plan is to write a feature-length article discussing this exact issue. But, in short, I think banning Ghostly Flicker is a poor idea, and here's why:
- The Flicker Combo has been around quite a while, and certainly has not proven itself broken in the past.
- There are multiple ways to interact with the combo, including graveyard removal, counterspells, and creature removal.
- It is too early in the new metagame to even know whether it's even an issue; on a related note, banning it now would prevent all sorts of exploration in the new metagame.