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Exile is a zone in the game.

Whenever a permanent is to be exiled, that means to put it in the exile zone.

There are two main reasons that a card would be exiled. The first is usually in the context of removal; if there is no instruction to take the exiled card out of exile by the effect that exiled it in the first place, then it is almost impossible to use it again. Various removal spells will exile permanents. Some spells will exile themselves, usually as a drawback to prevent players from reusing their effects, something that would be much easier if the spell just went to the graveyard. The second reason for a card to go into exile is when exile is used as a temporary holding area for the card to allow some other effect to take place: for example the flip planeswalkers exile themselves when certain criteria is met then return to the battlefield transformed.

'Blinking' is a shorthand term that refers exiling a permanent, then immediately returning it to the battlefield.

Game zones

LibraryHandBattlefieldGraveyardExile

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