Modern: Bant Spirits

It’s Tuesday O’Clock! Time for a Deck Tech!

Bant Spirits Decklist

Ever since I first started writing Magic articles on my blog, I have always wanted to cover Bant Spirits. Spirits are my favorite tribe in MtG (in case that isn’t obvious), and this is the first competitive Modern deck that I have ever owned. Now, a year later with a lot more articles under my belt, I finally feel ready to deliver this article. Without further ado, here is Bant Spirits.

This is intended as an in-depth guide to Bant Spirits. I will be covering each card and explain it’s significance to the rest of the deck. Bant Spirits is a very synergistic list that aims to put down an evasive clock and then disrupt the opponent just long enough to secure the win. Bant Spirits is one of the few true tempo decks left in Modern and many games often come down to the wire. If you love keeping your opponent off balance, while smashing in each turn, and playing on your opponents turn, this is the deck for you. If you would like to see this deck in action, be sure to check to follow this link to see me streaming the deck. And if you happen to be at Grand Prix Vegas, and see someone with a Spell Queller playmat playing Bant Spirits, feel free to stop by and say hello.

Main Deck

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Mausoleum Wanderer x4

The one drop that can do it all. Mausoleum Wanderer is one of the most disruptive tools of the deck, and is why this deck can play the tempo game so well. A Judge’s Familiar already goes well with the gameplan of this deck, and this is that but with a severe upside. Mausoleum Wanderer makes it so our opponent has to play off curve in order to not lose any important spells, and these precious few turns are vital to allow the deck get in one or more combat steps. Mausoleum Wanderer can also be a very aggressive card given the right draw, which fits in with the gameplan of using aggressive flyers to control the pace of the match. When playing with this card, keep it on the battlefield as long as possible until they go to remove one of your key spirits. Using your spirits at instant speed can boost this cards power, giving you just enough to mana leak their spell. Mausoleum Wanderer effectively constricts their mana, which is exactly what this deck wants to do.

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Noble Hierarch x4

While Mausoleum Wanderer may be the sweetest 1 drop in this deck, the card I want to play turn 1 every single game is Noble Hierarch. Most of our heavy hitters come in at 3 mana, and dropping a Geist of Saint Traft or Spell Queller on turn 2 is a brutal play that often wins the game. The exalted trigger is no joke either. When playing the budget version of this deck that played 4 Birds of Paradise over Noble Hierarch, casting Collected Company into two birds felt terrible. With Noble Hierarch this situation is a little easier to stomach and allows our lone flyer to put a serious clock on our opponent. If you intend to play this deck at any serious event, Noble Hierarch is a must have as everything it provides to the deck is irreplaceable.

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Birds of Paradise x2

As much as I love Noble Hierarch, I’m only allowed to play 4 of them. Some lists I have seen have no problem playing only 4, but I value a turn 2 Geist of Saint Traft or a Spell Queller so highly that I play an additional 2 dorks to power out my haymakers as soon as possible. Birds of Paradise may be the weakest card in the deck, but it isn’t always a dead card in the late game. Using other cards such as Gavony Township or Moorland Haunt, we can make use of any late-game birds by turning them into additional threats that our opponents have to deal with. Birds of Paradise isn’t a must include, but for what I want to do, the 2 copies here are great to have.

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Path to Exile x3

For a long time, I had Path to Exile as a 4 of. This card is never a dead draw and can often mean the difference between a victory and a Wurmcoil Engine. However, I recently saw a list running only 3 Paths in order to run more spells and the more I thought about it, the more I agreed. Thanks to the plethora of flyers in this deck, removal spells aren’t as vital thanks to the ability to go right over them. Seeing one Path a game is often a very good draw, but once you draw the second Path in place of more gas, it prolongs the game just long enough that your opponents can recover from the tempo disadvantage. It providing mana is also not as effective with Mausoleum Wanderer. Despite all of these things against it, Path is still the best removal spell in Modern and I believe having 3 is the correct choice for this deck. I might try out Vapor Snag in the future, however, and see how it compares.

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Rattlechains x4

I’ve often said that Spell Queller is one of my favorite cards ever printed. While this is true, nothing feels more satisfying then flashing in Rattlechains at a vital moment to protect your best creature. Rattlechains is the glue behind this deck and is another reason why the tempo gameplan is a viable strategy. Playing Rattlechains correctly is the key to this deck, and is what makes spirits competitive in Modern. There are 3 modes to Rattlechains that are all very important to discuss.

  1. Protection: Rattlechains is the best way to protect any creature in this deck. It is cheap, creates a 2 for 1, and adds another body to the board that speeds up the clock putting even more pressure on the opponent. Against a removal heavy deck, do your best to hold onto Rattlechains for as long as possible, as it is your single best answer against anything they throw at you. The main cards you want to protect with Rattlechains are in this order: Drogskol Captain, Spell Queller, Selfless Spirit, and Mausoleum Wanderer.
  2. Flash: Rattlechains itself having flash, and giving all other spirits flash is huge. Being able to flash in Rattlechains and then a Mausoleum Wanderer or a Selfless Spirit is key to the disruptive nature of this deck and keeps your opponents on their toes. Having a Rattlechains on the board gives you the chance to draw, attack, and pass the turn with all of your mana open, ready to answer anything they might do. And if they choose to do nothing, flash in a Geist of Saint Traft on their end step to keep up the pressure.
  3. Ambush Viper: Rattlechains can also serve as an impromptu removal spell, or clock when needed. If your opponent decides to swing in with their Dark Confidant on an empty field you can flash in Rattlechains and block it, keeping Bob the hand builder off the battlefield. In some matchups, such as Tron, it is also correct to flash in a Rattlechains on turn 2 in order to apply pressure as soon as possible.

Rattlechains is one of the most fascinating cards in this deck and is the single card that would hurt the list most if removed. While you can’t deny the power of cards such as Spell Queller of Geist of Saint Traft, Rattlechains is really the card that gives the deck a fighting chance.

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Selfless Spirit x2

Selfless Spirit is a card that I have had as a 4 of in my list since I first started playing this deck. It’s a good card that is a magnet for removal and can give your opponents a massive headache if they leave it unchecked. However, the more I played the list, the more I realized that Selfless Spirit might be a liability to the deck. Sorcery speed is not what this deck wants to be doing, and while it’s sacrifice ability is great, it’s ultimately not enough to warrant more than 2 inclusions in the main deck. Selfless Spirit, however, is our key card against any deck with a board wipe, and creates a must answer permanent. Fortunately, our deck excels at protecting individual creatures, and if your opponent is in a bind that requires them to deal with Selfless Spirit in order to win, this deck is well poised to protect her. 2 more Selfless Spirits in the sideboard help to shore up against any matchup with Wraths or Lightning Bolts.

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Phantasmal Image x2

Phantasmal Image is a card that more and more people are including in their lists, and I only got to try out the card recently. At first, I was very underwhelmed with the card. Looking through the main deck of the list, there are only 2 creatures that I am excited to copy; Mausoleum Wanderer, and Drogskol Captain. These cards are awesome to have in multiples and Phantasmal Image is great to provide copies 5-6. Creating another Mausoleum Wanderer produces a fast, disruptive clock while copying Drogskol Captain creates a softlock that can only be answered by a board wipe. Looking through the rest of the list, however, Selfless Spirit is the only other creature I would want to copy, and not having flash seriously hurts its effectiveness. Another problem with the card is using Collected Company on an empty board. It enters the battlefield at the same time as the other creature, which means it does not see any other target and enters the battlefield as a 0/0. Spirits are lacking a good 2 drop, however, so I guess this isn’t the worst one to play. It also isn’t terrible as a Tarmogoyf either. In the future, I may consider cards such as Metallic Mimic in its place as I think this card could be greatly improved upon.

 

 

 

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Drogskol Captain x4

The 3 drop slot. This is where the list gets exciting. Drogskol Captain is the only competitive spirit lord available to our tribe and I’m glad we have it. One of the main draws to this card is the ability to have 2 out at the same time, creating a lock that makes our board nearly impossible to scratch. Collected Company into two of these wins the game almost every time. A fun interaction with this and Rattlechains allows you to flash Drogskol Captain in at instant speed to effectively have another copy of Rattlechains for your whole board. Drogskol Captain gives this deck a lot of power and top deck potential and creates another layer of creatures that must be removed before you can kill the important ones.

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Spell Queller x4

Ah, Spell Queller. Everything about you is just simply amazing. For anyone who has been playing Modern since this card was released, you probably know a lot about Spell Queller. It is the quintessential tempo card, disrupting your opponent and creating a clock at the same time. In most lists, Queller is often just used to get in 2-4 points of damage before it is finally removed, and your opponent can cast their spell again. This deck, on the other hand, is what I would consider the best deck available for Spell Queller, as the suite of protective creatures often means your opponent is never getting to cast their spell again.

Just like with Rattlechains, knowing when to cast Spell Queller is key to the strength of this deck, as it very often rides this card to victory. Casting a turn 2 Spell Queller to counter anything, with Rattlechains backup, is often enough to seal the victory on its own. Be wary with your Spell Queller on later turns, however. Spell Queller represents a near counterspell in this deck but your counterspell can be bolted. You must evaluate every single card that is played by your opponent, and try to play Queller into a position where you can protect it. Queller should be saved for 2 moments: 1. They try to kill a fellow spirit, and 2. They cast a spell that will win them the game. In a recent match against Jund, my opponent cast a Bloodbraid Elf that cascaded into a Dark Confidant. Not wanting my opponent to get any value off of the Dark Confidant I immediately cast Spell Queller. As soon as it landed, my opponent Bolted Queller, and got their Bob back. Had I realized that Bob did not pose a threat to me because I was going to end the game soon, I could have waited until they cast a spell that would slow down my clock.

Another thing to know about Spell Queller is that sometimes the correct play is simply to run it out as a threat, even if you aren’t getting any “value” off of it. While exiling a spell and then protecting Spell Queller is often the key to victory, sometimes it’s value can come from providing pressure without anything exiled underneath it. This pressure makes it so your opponent must answer it, playing into our gameplan of reacting to whatever they try to do. Spell Queller can be a hard card to play and can be even more difficult if your opponent knows how to play against it. But Spell Queller is well worth the slot and gives this deck a powerful edge against the entire field.

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Geist of Saint Traft x4

This is one house of a card. Effective 6 power swinging in as early as turn 3 immediately puts your opponent on the backfoot, and is one of the most powerful things this deck can do. Landing this, and then leaving mana open for the rest of the game is how I like to play a game of Magic. Built-in Hexproof is insanely powerful and makes it so that one of the only ways this card can be dealt with is on the ground. But in some cases, not even that is enough, as cards such as Noble Hierarch and Drogskol Captain give it a boost, making it very difficult to deal with. Running 4 Geist of Saint Trafts may seem excessive, given its legendary clause, but I believe that a turn 2 Geist is the most powerful thing this deck can be doing, and I want it as often as possible. While holding a second Geist of Saint Traft in hand may suck, your opponent is often going to be doing everything in their power to remove this card, giving you free reign to play out the next one from your hand.

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Steel of the Godhead x1

In most decks, auras are a liability. They open up potential 2 for 1’s for your opponent, severely setting you behind. Spirits, on the other hand, are uniquely positioned to abuse auras in a way that other decks can’t, and that is due to the protection that each spirit can provide each other. Steel of the Godhead is a powerful enchantment in this deck, and can often steal you games that you had no business of winning. Turn 2 Geist of Saint Traft into turn 3 Steel of the Godhead is lights out for most decks, as the unblockable 4/4 lifelink hexproof is impossible to deal with and impossible to race. While Geist is the obvious target all of the time, other cards in this deck are good to enchant as well. Putting this on a Spell Queller or a Drogskol Captain puts them out of Bolt range, and makes racing significantly easier. Out of the sideboard, Rhox War Monk is another fantastic target for this, and this combo has won me a game against a burn deck when I mulled to 4 and was on one life. It’s not always great however and is sided out in removal heavy matchups.

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Collected Company x4

While Noble Hierarch and Birds of Paradise are powerful options we can and do run, the true reason for running green is Collected Company. As I once heard the creator of this deck, Caleb Durward say, you can’t lose a game where you resolve 2 Collected Companies. This card gives this tribe much-needed card advantage and is an instant board after any wrath effect. If your opponent is at 10 life and you have 1 or 2 creatures on board, you can often threaten lethal with a single Collected Company. This deck is well known for turning Collected Company into an effective counterspell, and that is certainly true. If any removal is aimed at your guys you have 5 main deck answers to whatever they might be trying to do. CoCoing into a Spell Queller and another threat is often enough to seal a game.

However, there are some things to be aware of with this card. As powerful as it is, a lot of the time, the correct play is to not cast it. In my first days of owning the card, one thing that I would do is play it out as quickly as possible. If my opponent cast a spell I didn’t want to resolve, I would fire off the CoCo even if I had the answer to that spell already in my hand. Collected Company is a great value engine in this deck, but it guarantees nothing. When you do cast it, keep in mind how many creatures are in your deck. If 2 Spell Quellers are in your graveyard, it is very unlikely that you will see that card when you spin the wheel. Be patient with your Collected Company, and save casting it for when the time is right.

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Cavern of Souls x1

Control decks are one of the worst matchups for this deck, as they can stop your aggression and Cryptic Command your key spells. Cavern of Souls is vital for this matchup and gives you late game potential you would otherwise not have. Something else you can do is if you are in a pinch, you can name Humans with the Cavern and play a Noble Hierarch. This may lead to your opponent believing that you are playing the Humans deck, and will cause them to play differently, allowing you to spring the trap of Spell Queller. However, this bluff isn’t always worth it, and you lose more in the long run not naming Spirits. Only do this if you have no other choice for your turn 1 dork, and you are confident it won’t get bolted.

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Gavony Township x1

This land has performed quite well for me ever since I added it to the list. This card can often represent lethal when your opponents least expect it and comes in one of the most difficult permanent types to deal with. A single Gavony activation also puts key spirits such as Spell Queller out of Bolt range and can give creatures such as Geist of Saint Traft a fighting chance on the ground. Great land, and a great choice for the flex slot in this deck.

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Moorland Haunt x1

This in tandem with Cavern of Souls, is the bane of any control deck, giving you a constant board presence, and vital chumps when you need it. Combined with other cards such as Drogskol Captain and Gavony Township, you can quickly turn your army of tokens into threats that must be dealt with. As a 1 of, this is a nice card to have in any grindy matchup.

 

Sideboard

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Negate x2

Negate is a great counterspell and a powerful tool to side in against specific decks. The cheap mana cost allows us to gain a huge tempo advantage if our opponent tries to cast a more expensive spell such as Cryptic Command. I used to run 2 Unified Will in this slot as opposed to Negate, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that in any situation Unified Will is good Negate is better. The only thing Negate can’t counter is creature spells, and in most cases, we don’t care about any creatures thanks to a significant portion of them having flying. We care about non-creature spells such as Wrath of God or Scapeshift, cards that will win the game on the spot. Sometimes Unified Will can even be a dead card in matchups where it should be at it’s best if the opponent manages to make a ton of tokens. For our purposes and our deck, Negate is simply the best option.

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Qasali Pridemage x1

Stacking Exalted triggers is a powerful option to have, and keeping a versatile answer to many decks that can be CoCoed into is a great tool in our arsenal. Qasali Pridemage hasn’t always impressed me, as a 3 mana sorcery speed way to deal with permanents isn’t what this deck wants to be doing, but it’s versatile enough that I’ll keep it in for now.

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Rest In Peace x2

This card simply shuts down so many decks that any sideboard that can have it, should have it. This deck is also uniquely positioned in being able to protect it and provide a clock at the same time, putting the opponent under a lot of pressure as to what they should answer. Solid card, and a great option to have in the sideboard.

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Stony Silence x2

Everything that can be said about Rest In Peace can also be said about this card. Shuts down degenerate strategies, and hardly affects this deck in the slightest. There is an argument to be made for Kataki, War’s Wage over this card, however, the effect this card has on the game is so much more impactful across a wide range of decks that makes Stony Silence the better card.

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Selfless Spirit x2

I don’t always want this card, but when I want it, I need as many copies as I can get. Wraths are one of the most effective ways to shut down this deck, and Selfless Spirit provides a great on theme answer against that. Is also a good option to have against all of the Bolt decks running around these days.

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Reflector Mage x1

Against creature based matchups, Reflector Mage can really do work at pissing off the opponent. This simple card got banned from Standard for a reason and is very effective at helping the tempo gameplan.

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Rhox War Monk x2

Burn is one of our worst matchups, as that deck can race faster than we can, and completely ignores our creatures in favor of bolting our face. Rhox War Monk is a powerful option against this deck and is just outside of Bolt range. Every attack step with it nullifies one more bolt and increases the burn clock just long enough for our spirits to close out the game.

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Settle the Wreckage x2

Another tough matchup for this deck is go wide creature strategies such as Humans or Affinity. Being able to hold up Settle the Wreckage or Collected Company puts your opponent in an awkward spot and can blow out your opponent if they don’t play around it.

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Worship x1

Against some decks, you land this and you just can’t lose. Creature based aggro strategies typically won’t board in enchantment hate against you, allowing you to resolve a card that can’t interact with while facing down a board of hexproof flyers. Worship is slow, however, and I have died many games with this stuck in my hand. But if you can resolve this spell, you are very well poised to win most games.

Conclusion

When playing this deck your main avenue to victory is landing a threat and riding it to victory. 2 for 1’s are the name of the game with Rattlechains and Collected Company giving you pseudo-card advantage that will let you overwhelm your opponent. In most games, you are trying to race, as once they stabilize from the tempo disadvantage they can often cast powerful spells that will wreck you. When you are in the lead, play conservatively. Be happy chipping in 2-3 damage a turn, as eventually, you will be able to just end step CoCo and finish them off out of nowhere. If you decide to pick up this deck, best of luck to you! It is a very satisfying deck to play and will reward mastery with it.

Here is a link to my current game percentage with the deck. https://1drv.ms/x/s!AlcjBeDbeRYchhba1cDoDzbwkrd2

If you guys would like me to discuss the deck again in the future let me know! I love this deck and love talking about it. If you disagree with anything I said above I would also like to hear. I am not a professional player by any means, so what I have said above is simply my own experience with the deck, take it or leave it. If you would like to watch the deck in action check out this video of me streaming the deck.  If you happen to be at Grand Prix Vegas and see someone with a Spell Queller playmat playing Bant Spirits, feel free to stop by and say hello! And as always, have a great week and an amazing Tuesday!

Bant Spirits Decklist

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Raymond Swanland

12 thoughts on “Modern: Bant Spirits

  1. When I saw the two drop spirit lord spoiled in M19 the first thing I thought of was where you mentioned here about spirits not having enough good two drops, how do you think that shakes up the list? Spirits is such an interesting deck and I’m a big fan of how you broke it down here, I’d love to read an update from you about how the new spirits from M19 fit or don’t fit into your list!

    1. Getting this lord is actually huge for the deck, and will significantly change deck building everywhere. For starters, getting to 3 mana isn’t as vital anymore, so it’s easy to cut Birds of Paradise. Other cards such as Phantasmal Image aren’t as important either. The main reason we played Image was to have lords 5-8. With Supreme Phantom, we have those extra lords now. Granted, it doesn’t create that hexproof lock anymore, but it’s much more consistent overall. Personally, I feel that this addition makes Aether Vial lists much stronger, and is making me reconsider what deck I want to play. I’m really excited to play with this card, and I am curious as to where it will take the Spirits archetype in the future.

    1. If you are replacing Hierach with Vial you might have to make more changes to the deck. For one your creature count is going to be lower meaning your CoCos won’t hit as consistently. Also Vial is a slower play, but lends the deck to having more interactive plays in the mid game. With the vial deck that I play, I run four Phantasmal Image, because you can run out a turn 3 Drogskol Captain and vial in Image in response to removal. I haven’t had time to test CoCo and Vial in the same deck, but I think it’s worth exploring. You also might want to cut some 3 drops because you aren’t going to have the explosive turn 2 Geist of Saint Traft anymore.

  2. Hi Jacob,

    Great article, I’m happy to see I’m not alone in the Bant Spirit train theses days!

    Quick question about the sideboard :

    1. Considering we can hit Kataki with CoCo, even if it’s weaker than Stony Silence, would it be reasonable bring it in anyway? Same question apply for the new Remorseful Cleric vs RIP. I know the enchantment is far stronger, but can we really hope to draw it when we play CoCo, that dig 6 cards deeper for hate/side?

    2. Rhox War Monk VS Kitchen finks? Monk is better but Finks heals when he ETB, which might help us survive quicker while we tilt the game to our favors?

    Best! 🙂

    1. In my experience, I have preferred having the stronger answers to more decks. Modern is a very wide format, and narrow answers aren’t what I’m looking for. I like having sideboard cards I can bring in against multiple decks. Take Mardu Pyromancer. RiP does a great job shutting that deck down, whereas Remorseful Cleric can be targeted with removal before you want to fire it off and blow up their graveyard. Having broader answers that are stronger is important to me.

      I’ve personally never tested with Kitchen Finks but I agree that it might be a good choice. I’ve played games where I play Rhox War Monk, move to attacks and then get Skull Cracked. Finks could be a good call.

  3. Hey man,

    This write-up is tight, thank you for all your work on the subject!

    What are you’re updated thoughts after the recent metamorphosis the deck has been through? Still on Bant, or did you switch to UW?

    Pretty new to the deck, but I love Bant Spirits, and I’d really love to nail the list down to make a top tier deck.

    Any suggestions on resources to follow up for research? Twitch and YouTube have been massive in my quest for knowledge, but always open to new sources.

    Thanks for everything, my dude!

    1. Ever since the release of M19 I have switched over to UW. I believe that spirits as an archetype have all the power they need, and no longer have to rely on Collected Company. Aether Vial allows us to deploy our threats much quicker, and makes for a much more consistent mana base. I write about that a lot here https://onlyontuesdays27.com/2018/07/13/modern-uw-vial-spirits/

      As for Bant Spirits, I haven’t really played the archetype much since Supreme Phantom came out, as I always opted to play UW instead. However, tomorrow I will be playing this version (https://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/1257324#paper) of the deck on my Twitch channel if you are interested in checking that out. https://www.twitch.tv/tuesdaytastic. I think that Bant is still a good deck, I just happen to prefer UW at the moment.

      Finally if you want good places to check out for more Spooky content, you can check out the subreddit r/mtgspirits, the discord channel https://discord.gg/qP6jgqy, and finally the facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/1039632472861487/. I’m glad you have chosen spirits as your next deck, good luck to you in all of your tournaments!

      1. What do you think about the last pro tour results with 6 copies of Bant Spirit and no UW (that I’m aware of)? Any idea why bant is more represented? 🙂

      2. I am super excited that people are playing spirits on the pro tour! I have been playing spirits for over a year and a half now, and seeing them break out on the big stage is super gratifying. There were actually 2 UW players, one was running a list with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and another was running Kira, Great-Glass Spinner. I believe more people played Bant because it is an easier deck to pilot. Vial is a harder deck to play with games that come a lot closer, and it isn’t a deck that can dig 6 cards deep to find an answer. The raw power of Collected Company can also win games on the spot. It is also down to playstyle preference, and for me Vial plays much more to what I like to do. Bant Spirits is also more popular because it is well known. Hopefully more people give UW a try and see that it is just as competitive of a deck. Thank you for asking!

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