The MTG metagame in Magic’s various competitive formats is very defined. Generally, after some research, players should, more or less, be ready to walk into a format and expect to see a certain variety of powerful cards. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you will make all the right decisions in your games, but you can at least identify the type of strategy you’re playing against. That said, every once in a while, you end up playing against something completely different.
Not every card is created equal, and there are definitely some cards out there created with little-to-no intention for it to be competitively viable. These silly cards instead will show up in casual Commander, a place meant for players to explore bizarre game spaces, create incredibly wonky interactions and play with your favorite cards, regardless of whether they’re competitively viable or not.
Occasionally, some brilliant mind manages to close the gap between these spaces and takes a card that players would never imagine to be competitive and turn it into something terrifying. Here’s why Flumph is now a competitively viable MTG card.
Why Play Flumph?
Flumph is a two mana creature that flies, has zero power and four toughness. As such, the card seems like a fine blocker, but doesn’t really get much accomplished past that point. The added effect is symmetrical in two-player games, allowing both players to draw a card whenever Flumph takes damage. Unless there’s serious consistent upside to doing this when combined with other cards in your deck, Flumph may not be the best competitive card.
The same is not true for Commander. Flumph is not the best card out there, but it can be an interesting political effect that acts as a draw engine for you and can garner favors from the rest of the table. Flumph only allows one opponent to draw a card on its activation, after all. This may also make players less enthusiastic about removing a card that is also a value engine when built around since there’s a potential carrot for your opponents to grab.
Despite this, players are beginning to speculate heavily on Flumph after one silly combo was revealed to potentially be good enough to see play in the Modern metagame. There are multiple orders for the card on TCGplayer for multiple copies of the card on the day this article was written.
Thanks to a new competitive superstar, Flumph has been turned into an infinite combo piece. Now players need to seriously think about whether a resolved Flumph means that they will be decking out at instant speed.
Yet Another Appearance
As mentioned earlier, Flumph should only become viable if you can somehow break the parity of this card to be heavily in your favor. Drawing both players a card and otherwise just being a blocker is not a great way of providing value.
Fortunately for Flumph, one of Modern’s best cards synergizes with it incredibly well. When combined with Orcish Bowmasters, we can create a loop. When the Bowmasters enters, it can ping a target and Amass Orcs 1. As many players should know at this point, the more powerful portion of this card is the text that states Orcish Bowmasters’ ability triggers whenever your opponent draws an extra card, as well as when it enters.
This means that the Bowmasters can ping your Flumph, past which point Flumph will force both players to draw a card. This will trigger Orcish Bowmasters again, which can target Flumph. This creates an infinite loop that will deck out whoever has the least amount of cards in their library. At least, it would if Flumph had infinite toughness. Unfortunately, it only has four, meaning that the most Bowmasters can do is Amass Orcs Five, ping a non-Flumph target once and force both players to draw four cards.
The Last Piece of the Puzzle
As you may imagine, in order for Flumph to become competitively viable, this simply is not good enough. The card isn’t doing any heavy lifting on its own, so the payoff needs to be immense when you get your cards lined up.
Fortunately, there’s a very easy fix to this: Just make Flumph Indestructible! The player who decided to make this combo into a reality in Modern chose two cards that can fulfill this role: Blacksmith’s Skill and Ephemeral Shields. Both of these cards are capable of giving a creature Indestructible while allowing your Bowmasters to target it, and both cards are incredibly cheap.
Blacksmith’s Skill only costs one white mana and has the bonus of giving your targeted permanent Hexproof. This allows Flumph to dodge exile-based removal from your opponent like Prismatic Ending and Leyline Binding that see a ton of play in the Modern format.
Otherwise, Ephemeral Shields has Convoke. This allows the Flumph combo to go off incredibly quick, able to kill your opponent on turn three. All you need to do is tap your two creatures to cast Ephemeral Shields for free!
Modern Flumph combo, as shown off by MTG personality Saffron Olive on Twitter, is a bizarre deck that is all-in on creating the combo explained above. Once you have an Indestructible Flumph, flash in an Orcish Bowmasters and deck your opponent out!
Of course, if you have less cards than your opponent left in library, this combo won’t work. MTG player annndwhammy got around this by… simply playing more cards in their deck. The maindeck actually has 63 cards!
Aside from Flumph and Bowmasters, the entire deck is dedicated to finding your combo pieces, cheating them out and protecting them. Thoughtseize and Teferi, Time Raveler are the only cards doing other things here, turning off counterspells and taking cards out of your opponent’s hands that would either have them pick your combo apart or present a faster win condition.
The sideboard takes care of some common strategies you may face. Leyline of Sanctity is a great card against Burn and helps take some pressure off your combos getting discarded out of your hand. Damping Sphere acts as a colorless Blood Moon, turning Tron lands into cards that just tap for one mana. Lavinia and Teferi can help turn off zero mana Cascaded spells live Living End, and Boseiju as well as Solitude are good removal pieces.
An Important Secondary Game Plan
Notably, the Flumph combo deck can have a problematic mini sidegame where the opponent decides to dump cards from their sideboard into your deck to make it bigger. If they make their deck bigger than yours, then the Flumph combo will deck you out before they deck themselves out. Fortunately, there is a way to get around this… just play a second Orcish Bowmasters.
This requires more mana, but is easier to do than you think. Having a Bowmasters and an Indestructible Flumph with an Aether Vial at two makes the whole process instant speed, and changes the win condition from decking your opponent out to just finding your second Bowmasters and pinging your opponent for 20. One Bowmasters can ping Flumph and the other your opponent.
The deck doesn’t really have much for results right now, simply placing 5-0 in a Modern league, but it does appear as though Flumph is now a competitively viable MTG card. Is this deck the best thing to do in Modern right now? Probably not. It sure looks fun to beat up an opponent with a Flumph and a 63 card deck though!