Flashback returns in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt! Traditionally speaking, this has been a reasonably powerful mechanic that has had a fair bit of Constructed application over the years, as flashback cards so often represent a two-for-one at a minimum. Any card that offers you extra value without asking all that much – in this case, flashback asks you to have a graveyard – is bound to do some work, and flashback certainly has lived up to its potential over the years.
There are some sweet new flashback cards in Midnight Hunt, but today we’re going to have a look at some of the older flashback cards from years gone by. Flashback isn’t a new mechanic – it’s been around since 2001 when Odyssey was released – and since then, plenty of all-start flashback cards have been printed. Here are five of the best of them!
Storm decks have long-relied on Past in Flames in order to “go off”, by giving all the rituals and cantrips they’ve already cast flashback so as to cast them again and get the storm count to lethal levels. Often, when playing against Storm in Modern, it would be the Past in Flames that people would concede to, as from that point with a stocked graveyard, your opponent would essentially never fizzle and Grapeshot you for 20.
Today, Storm isn’t the deck it once was in Modern – it’s something of a fringe player – but with Past in Flames working in conjunction with Gifts Ungiven, Storm decks can still get it done here and there. The fact that it doesn’t matter where they put the Past in Flames with Gifts Ungiven is huge – either in the hand or the graveyard, the card is just as castable.
Past in Flames doesn’t really have all that much potential outside of combo decks like Storm, however. Occasionally it’ll see some play in EDH as a “value” card, but it’s overwhelmingly used to do unfair, broken things – aided, of course, by the fact that it can be cast from the ‘yard to get that storm count higher and higher.
Chainer’s Edict is an old, old card and on the surface doesn’t look all that impressive – but between Chainer’s Edict and Cruel Edict, it’s obvious that a two-mana sacrifice effect like this was, at one point, powerful enough to have an entire mechanic nicknamed after these cards. “Edicting” someone in Magic is still commonly used to describe forcing them to sacrifice a creature, and the nickname originated with cards like Chainer’s Edict.
In Pauper, Chainer’s Edict is one of the few workable and reliable ways to get a two-for-one. When you’re restricted to just commons, it’s hard to kill multiple creatures with a single card, or otherwise pull ahead on card advantage through other means, but when given enough time and space, Chainer’s Edict will get you up on cards, even if it does take a long time.
Ancient Grudge is a card that Modern players used to splash for so as to have access to it in sideboarded games. So potent was it against decks like Modern Affinity (before the ban of Mox Opal) that Izzet and Simic decks would use Stomping Ground or Steam Vents so they could cast this card in Game 2 to snipe Cranial Platings and Arcbound Ravagers.
It might not look like much – just a Shatter with minor upside – but using just three mana to destroy two critical artifacts in a deck like Affinity could be the difference between winning and losing. On top of that, it could be used to fight through other random post-board hate cards – graveyard decks could mill over it and blow up Grafdigger’s Cage, for instance.
On a slightly different note, this card took on a life of its own when reprinted in Dark Ascension/original Innistrad, due to its flavor text. The tautological syntax and clumsy phrasing ascended Ancient Grudge to memehood, and if there’s one thing Magic Reddit loves, it’s memes – especially memes about Ancient Grudge, the famous flavor text meme.
Lingering Souls is one of the more powerful and iconic flashback cards, not only winning a Pro Tour in the hands of Tom Martell, not only being banned in Block Constructed back when that was a thing, but also warping the entire Modern format around it to the point that Jund decks were abandoning red to instead play white.
Lingering Souls is one of those cards that is good at more or less any point in the game. When you’re ahead, it applies pressure in the air that is resilient in the face of removal – even if it’s not the quickest clock, it will win games if uncontested as it offers four power for five mana. When behind, Lingering Souls will buffer your life total enormously with a long string flying chump blockers, buying you time to get to the cards you need.
Unfortunately, Lingering Souls doesn’t see too much play any more. It’s a great shame, as the card feels so fundamentally fair and operates on so many axes – I know I’m not alone in wishing more cards “felt” like Lingering Souls. You’re never doing anything disgustingly broken with Lingering Souls, but it’s always so sweet to mill over a Souls and flash it back for value – this card is so sweet.
While there are all sorts of powerful flashback cards that were printed to be flashy and splashy, they’re all put to shame by the simple, straightforward Faithless Looting. Faithless Looting was so good it had to be banned in Modern, and in Historic it’s a key card in archetypes like Izzet Phoenix and any other deck looking to fill the ‘yard quickly and efficiently.
It doesn’t offer card advantage in the traditional sense, but the deck that plays it can so often play out of the graveyard that the “draw two, discard two” is a lot closer to “draw two, discard two cards you can play from the bin anyway so it doesn’t feel like discarding.” You can even discard extra copies of Looting to itself, so as to flash them back later!
Around the time it was banned, Faithless Looting was a divisive card, and its departure from Modern caused both much rejoicing and much sadness. It now has a home in Historic, however, and with a new batch of flashback cards coming with Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, the card is only going to get better and better as time goes on.
I’m a big fan of the flashback mechanic and I’m looking forward to new cards from Midnight Hunt that will let me play from the graveyard. At time of writing, not all the cards have been previewed, so I’ve still got my fingers crossed for a Lingering Souls reprint!