Modern Rules Problems – Snapcaster Mage

Who doesn’t love to get extra value out of their spells? Every time they’ve brought back flashback, it’s been a popular and powerful mechanic. Snapcaster Mage has been a hit in every format since he was printed. He lets you get an extra use out of your instants and sorceries, especially since you weren’t likely to anything with those cards in your graveyard anyways. Flashback has some weird quirks to it, so let’s take a look at what you might run in to at your next Modern tournament.


Flashback in General

Flashback is an alternate cost that lets you cast a spell from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Flashback does not change when you can cast as spell, so if you give a sorcery flashback, you can still only cast it when you could cast a sorcery. For instance, since Faithless Looting is a sorcery, you could not normally cast it on your opponent’s turn, even if you’re casting it for its flashback cost.

The spell is cast, so it uses the stack and can be responded to. This also means that it can be countered like any other spell on the stack. However, due to casting the spell for its flashback cost, if the spell would leave the stack, it goes to the exiled zone instead of whatever zone it would have normally gone to. This means that if you Remand a spell cast via flashback, the card will be exiled; it will not return to its owner’s hand.

Since you’re casting the spell, spell increasers and decreasers can apply when casting it. For instance, if I have a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben on the battlefield and you want to flash back your Ancient Grudge, Thalia will apply and you’ll have to pay 1G to flash it back. On the other hand, if you give Blasphemous Act flashback, it will cost less for each creature on the battlefield (for instance, if there’s five creatures on the battlefield, it will cost you 3R to cast it).


Snapcaster Mage and Kicker

To kick things off, let’s look at kicker. Kicker is an option when you’re casting spell. Luckily, flashback lets you cast the spell, so you can kick a spell that’s being flashbacked. For instance, if I give Vines of Vastwood flashback, I can cast it like normal for G (to give the creature the hexproof-like ability), or I can cast it kicked by paying GG (to also give that creature +4/+4).


Snapcaster Mage and Suspend

Flashback and Suspend don’t work very well together. You can only suspend a card if the card with suspend is in your hand, not if it’s in the graveyard or any other zone. While you can give the suspend card flashback, you can only cast the card, you can’t suspend it. And if the card is something like Living End, which doesn’t have a mana cost, then it will have a flashback cost of {}, and you can’t pay {}, so you won’t be able to cast the Living End via flashback.


Snapcaster Mage and Overload

What about something like overload? Can I combine overload and flashback? The answer is no. Flashback is an alternate cost, and overload is an alternate cost. When you cast a spell, you can only use one alternate cost, you can’t use two or more. So if you give something like Electrickery flashback, you can only cast it for its flashback cost. You cannot cast it for its overload cost, since overload doesn’t let you cast it from the graveyard.


Snapcaster Mage and Split Cards

Ah, here’s a fun topic: split cards. What if we give a split card flashback? Well, in that case, the split card will have two flashback costs. However, each cost only applies to that side of the split card. For instance, let’s take a look at Boom//Bust. If you give Boom//Bust flashback, it will have two flashback costs: 1R (for the Boom side) and 5R (for the Bust side). You can’t mix and match the flashback costs. If you want to flash back Boom, it will cost 1R. If you want to flash back Bust, it will cost you 5R. This is because when you cast one side of a split card, we ignore the other side that you’re not casting. Since we’re ignoring the other side of the split card, it doesn’t see the flashback cost for the other side, so you can only cast Bust for 5R, not 1R.

And fuse doesn’t work with flashback either. You can only fuse a split card if you’re casting the split card from your hand, so you can’t cast a split card fused from your graveyard, even if it has flashback.


Snapcaster Mage and Trap Cards

How about trap cards? Can I cast my Snapcaster Mage and give my Ravenous Trap flashback, then cast it for 0? Just like with overload, this doesn’t work. The ability to cast the Trap for a reduced cost is also an alternate cost, and alternate costs don’t mix with flashback. So if you want to cast Ravenous Trap, you’ll need to pay 2BB, even if they’ve had three or more cards enter their graveyard that turn.


Snapcaster Mage and Flashback

Let’s say you target a card that already has flashback, like Lingering Souls. How do you determine what you pay when you cast it? When you cast the spell, you can choose either flashback cost to pay. For example, if we give Lingering Souls flashback, it will have another flashback cost that you can pay. So you can either cast the Souls for its normal flashback cost (1B) or the flashback cost given to it by the Snapcaster (2W).




That’s all we have this time. I’d like to thank everyone who helped me out with these series of articles; especially Jason Lems and the various people who helped come up with ideas in the #mtgjudge channel. Feel free to leave me any comments, and if you have any other topics you’d like me to possibly discuss in the future, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

Written by Nathan Long

Written by Nathan Long


Nathan Long
DCI Level 2 Judge