SCG Daily -The Golden Age #8: It’s Just a Phase She’s Going Through

As I’ve said before, I love Mirage Block. In terms of flavor and game play, nothing beats the African-themed sets. Mirage introduced two keywords to Magic, Flanking and Phasing, the latter of which is known as the most confusing mechanic in the game. Just like anything else though, once you understand the mechanic, there has to be a way to break it. Right?

As I’ve said before, I love Mirage Block. In terms of flavor and game play, nothing beats the African-themed sets. Mirage introduced two keywords to Magic, Flanking and Phasing, the latter of which is known as the most confusing mechanic in the game. For my part, I believe that Trample is the most difficult mechanic to explain, but because I’m not the sort to go against public opinion, I’ll quote directly from the Comprehensive Rules:

“502.15b During each player’s untap step, before the active player untaps his or her permanents, all permanents with phasing the player controls phase out. Simultaneously, all objects that had phased out under that player’s control phase in.”

In most respects, a phased out permanent can be viewed in the same way as a creature removed from the game with Astral Slide. All damage dealt to the creature is removed, but counters and enchantments on the creature remain. Also, although “leaves play” effects trigger when a permanent phases out, “comes into play” effects don’t trigger when it phases back in.

One interesting thing about Phasing is the mechanic’s versatility. Depending on the situation, it can be either advantageous or disadvantageous. Although it bled into other colors, Phasing was primarily a Blue ability. On many spells, Phasing was a disadvantage used to make up for high power: Breezekeeper, Taniwha, Merfolk Raiders, Sandbar Crocodile, Teferi’s Drake, and Tolarian Drake would all be significantly underpriced if not for their Phasing. As it is, Breezekeeper may be a 4/4 flyer for four mana, but it can’t attack until turn 6. Even here, on its simplest level, Phasing is not necessarily a disadvantage. Consider, for example, a deck that plays mass removal spells while its large creatures are phased out. Katabatic Winds (with beautiful Gary Gianni art) and Cloak of Invisibility are both enchantments which, like the creatures above use Phasing as a penalty for cheapness.

Sometimes, however, the importance of Phasing is simply mysterious. Ertai’s Familiar is one of those maddening cards that appears like it must exist to some greater end. If not for the existence of the superior Merfolk Raiders, one might be tempted to think of Ertai’s Familiar as the price to be paid for a two mana Blue 2/2. A number creatures have intriguing effects that trigger as a result of Phasing. Teferi’s Imp isn’t the best card drawer in the game, but it has real possibility, and Shimmering Efreet is perfectly priced as a creature that can remove an opponent’s best blocker every other turn.

Still another use for Phasing is a defensive one. Assuming enough mana, Rainbow Efreet, Teferi’s Honor Guard, and Mist Dragon (note the odd Flying/non-Flying abilities) are practically unkillable, and the former, in particular, is a terrific tool for Control. Dream Fighter may look wimpy, but it will never take combat damage. Rather more usefully, Crystal Golem can serve much the same purpose as Viashino Sandstalker by avoiding opposing sorcery-speed removal. Vanishing, meanwhile, can either be used as pseudo-removal against an opposing attacker or can defend a creature of your own.

It’s when Phasing leaves the realm of creatures, however, that it gets truly fascinating. Equipoise plays a one-sided Balance (even the artwork is similar) game on each of your turns. It’s important to realise that the enchantment is really only effectual every other turn for each individual permanent, but it still gives Control decks a lot less to worry about. One of my favourite cards for a mono-Blue deck is Shimmer. Even in an Equipoise deck, if your opponent is playing either Islands or Plains, Shimmer could be used to reduce her land count on your own turn (Remember, Phasing triggers during the Untap Step whereas Equipoise triggers later, at the beginning of your Upkeep Step.). I gave building an Equipose/Shimmer deck a try, and here’s what I came up with:

U/W Reality-B-Gone

4 Enlightened Tutor

4 Serum Visions

4 Peace Talks

3 Mana Leak

4 Reality Ripple

1 Bosium Strip

4 Equipoise

4 Shimmer

4 Sands of Time

4 Avizoa

13 Island

11 Plains

Sands of Time prevents permanents phased out with Shimmer and Equipoise from phasing back in, but once in play, it prevents Shimmer from doing further work even though Equipoise continues to crank along. If you’d like to have another go with Shimmer, however, you could simply play Reality Ripple on your own Sands of Time at the end of your opponent’s turn. Used otherwise while Sands of Time is in play and Reality Ripple becomes permanent permanent removal. Of all the decks listed so far in this series, this already contains the most rares, but if you felt like shelling over more money, you could replace some Peace Talks and/or Mana Leaks with Abeyance. Although Avizoa isn’t that great, it has thematic value. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t blame you for replacing it with some Angel or Dragon or other.

Working with Teferi’s Veil is harder, but it can also be rewarding. When making a deck, a must-include is Fog Elemental (after attacking with it, you get to stack Teferi’s Veil’s Phasing effect over the creature’s sacrifice effect). Teferi’s Veil is also evil alongside Sneak Attack. So long as you attack with them every turn, whatever creatures you cheat into play with the one enchantment will be saved for later by the other. There are players who try the trick of casting Threaten or Blind with Anger in hopes of gaining permanent control of a creature; this doesn’t work. While cards like Sneak Attack and Ball Lightning have sacrifice effects that trigger “at end of turn”, the “until end of turn” triggers on the stealing spells will have been fulfilled by the creatures in absentio, and they’ll phase back in under their owner’s control. The trouble with Sneak Attack decks in general are that, if you’re playing the kind of creatures that appreciate Sneak Attack to begin with, you really don’t need any extra combo cards. It’s all well and good holding onto that Darksteel Colossus of yours, but you’re likely to already have some other monster in hand anyway. But don’t let me stop you. If you’re extra-hyped about the idea, try out Wormfang Manta (Possibility of infinite turns. Not that you’ll need them.) and Thalakos Seer.

Until next time, when we’ll examine some other intricacies of Phasing, do the best you can to avoid Teferi’s Realm.


-Adam Grydehøj

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