This past weekend I heard about a PPTQ going on at my local game store. Having never participated in a PPTQ before I thought it would be a really fun opportunity to play some more competitive Magic than what I usually get to do. In the days leading up to the tournament, I began to search for the cards I needed for the deck. I was playing UW Spirits which made Seachrome Coast and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben my number 1 priorities. I visited several different game stores and could not find anything. Without these cards I had to settle for less and ended up bringing a much more inefficient list, missing a lot of its powerful options. Regardless, it was the best I could do, so here was the deck I presented for the 32 person PPTQ.
Link to Decklist: https://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/1293823#paper
Main things to note about the deck:
- Because of the lack of Seachrome Coasts, I had to settle for Prarie Stream and a lot more basics than I was comfortable playing. Fetching basics were my number one priority if I had a hand that could reliably get 2 basics out by turn 2 or 3. Because of this, my Prarie Streams did not enter the battlefield tapped once during the entire tournament. I was pleasantly surprised with their performance, and won’t be nearly as ashamed of playing them again. Although in the future, I would much rather play Seachrome Coast.
- Lack of good sideboard cards made me have to try out a few new cards that I was very unsure of. Azorius Charm, Bygone Bishop, a second Settle the Wreckage and Negate are deviations from my MTGO sideboard. Preferably these slots would be another Blessed Alliance, another Thalia, and 2 Echoing Truth. I’ll go over more how well these cards performed later in the section.
- Contrary to popular belief, that Vapor Snag is not a budget Path to Exile. Vapor Snag is a fantastic tempo card, which our deck excels at taking advantage, and Vapor Snag also happens to be really good against Humans. Bouncing a Champion of the Parish, or a Meddling Mage naming Path has never felt so good. I would honestly rather play a split of Snag/Path because sometimes lines will come up where bouncing your own creature, such as against control, is more relevant than what the Path will be doing in that matchup. If I decided to play 2/2 though I would play 1 Path in the side.
Onto the matches!
Match One: 2-1 Humans
Game 1: I kept a hand with a single Mutavault and Aether Vial. I didn’t draw a land for the next 3 turns, but Aether Vial helped to keep me in the game. I ticked it up to 3 on my 4th turn to allow me to play a Spell Queller even though most of my hand was 2 drops. My opponent played a Militia Bugler on his turn which I promptly Quelled, but then was stuck with a useless Aether Vial the next few turns while I waited to draw more lands. Eventually, I drew into my lands and was able to cast my Rattlechains and lords for victory.
Sideboard: +1 Azorius Charm, +1 Blessed Alliance, 1 Nebelgast Herald, +1 Settle the Wreckage, +1 Worship. -2 Mausoleum Wanderers, -1 Mana Leak, -2 Remands.
Game 2: My opponent got to see my hand with an early Kitesail Freebooter which took nothing, but gave him the information he needed to lock the Rattlechains out of my hand with a Meddling Mage. Drew no interaction or good blockers and died to Tarmohumans.
Game 3: This game lasted for a very long time due to me having 2 Supreme Phantoms in play which he couldn’t attack through. (Seriously, that card singlehandedly made Humans a winnable matchup). I flash in a Drogksol Captain, which my opponent then vials in a Phantasmal Image in response to copy my Spell Queller and steal it. Next, turn I top deck a Nebelgast Herald and wait until I double block a Mantis Rider with my Mausoleum Wanderers. My opponent vials in a Reflector Mage targeting my Supreme Phantom which I respond with by flashing in Nebelgast Herald targeting the Phantasmal Image, popping it, getting my Drogskol Captain back both blanking the Reflector Mage’s etb and pumping my Wanderers to the point where they can then eat the Mantis Rider. 1-0 for me.
Match Two: 2-1 Jeskai Control
Game 1: We played an extremely long game 1 which involved a lot of Moorland Haunt triggers, a lot of draw spells from my opponent, and general trickiness on my end, such as Vapor Snagging my own Drogskol Captain to save it for another turn and using Phantasmal Image to copy their Celestial Colonnade. Eventually, my opponent was at one life and I still had a Moorland Haunt on the battlefield. Each turn I activated it, and they would have to respond to it. They drew a lot of answers and had a draw engine out on the battlefield with Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin and eventually were able to get rid of my Haunt and all of my creatures, ending the game with 4 life, and 5 cards left in their deck.
Sideboard: +2 Negate, +1 Thalia +1 Bygone Bishop, -1 Aether Vial, -2 Nebelgast Herald, -1 Path to Exile
Game 2: I had a very good opener with a lot of disruption and an Aether Vial. I have my opponent dead to my board and they tap out to play a Lyra Dawnbringer. I looked at my hand and basically, the only line available was to hope I could draw enough lords to get bigger than the Lyra to kill it. (Which is risky because if they Supreme Verdict once I’m toast.) All my thinking didn’t matter, however, because I topdecked a Path.
Sideboard: -1 Bygone Bishop, +1 Path to Exile
Notes: I ultimately decided that Bygone Bishop was far too cute of a card, and wouldn’t actually net me all that much card advantage as they are usually drawing more cards than me, and I am vialing in creatures anyways. Bygone Bishop was not touched for the rest of the day and was the worst card in my deck by far.
Game 3: This game I got to play a bunch of Rattlechains, a bunch of lords, and hold up Negate, Spell Queller, Rattlechains, and Path to Exile. There was very little my opponent could do and I promptly killed him. 2-0.
Match Three: 2-0 Affinity
Game 1: My opponent had a slow start with their deck which I was able to capitalize on very quickly. Affinity is not used to playing against flyers that can trade with their Cranial Plating Ornithopters. Nebelgast Herald also proved to be invaluable, as I would wait for my opponent to equip it up and I would just tap it down with a spirit. Hardly lost any life this game.
Sideboard: +2 Stony Silence, +1 Blessed Alliance, +1 Azorious Charm, +1 Nebelgast Herald, +2 Settle the Wreckage, +1 Worship, -4 Aether Vial, -1 Selfless Spirit, -2 Remand, -1 Mana Leak.
Game 2: Had a quick Stony Silence, followed by a bunch of Spirits. My opponent couldn’t draw their third land and was unable to play Etched Champion. 3-0
Draw into Top 8
I sit down for my next match starting to feel the jitters set in, but as I’m pulling out my deck for my next opponent he tells me that we don’t need to play. He tells me we can just draw into Top 8 for the next 2 rounds and be guaranteed to play. He has to explain this to me in a little more detail, as I have never done this well at any tournament larger than FNM. After he explains it to me, I agree and the top 4 seed all decide to draw into Top 8 for the next 2 rounds. I calm my nerves, go get some food, and pump myself up!
Quarterfinals: 2-1 vs UW Control
Game 1: The first matches of top 8 begins, and I am coming in at 4th seed. I lead with a very fast opener of 3 Mausoleum Wanderers followed by a few lords. My opponent can’t cast anything past my army of Mana Leaks and quickly dies.
Sideboard: +2 Negate, +1 Thalia, -1 Aether Vial, -2 Nebelgast Herald
Game 2: We play a long game of Magic where he eventually gets to land a Teferi. I do my best to outmaneuver him but eventually run out of gas. Funnily enough, in this game, I had 5 basic lands in play before I played a non-basic.
Game 3: Very similar to my game vs my Jeskai opponent, I play out a very aggressive opener that leads to my opponent tapping out for the turn 5 Lyra. Assessing my options I move to my draw step and get a Path to Exile. Better lucky than good I guess haha! 4-0-2
Semifinals: Affinity 2-1
Game 1: Same opponent who was playing Affinity earlier ended up making it into the Top 8. I’m happy to be facing him instead of the Mardu Pyromancer player, as I personally hate that matchup. He leads with a decent start, but turn 3 I slam a Nebelgast Herald and continue to tap his Cranial Plated dudes for the rest of the game.
Sideboard: +2 Stony Silence, +1 Blessed Alliance, +1 Azorious Charm, +1 Nebelgast Herald, +1 Settle the Wreckage, +1 Worship, -4 Aether Vial, -2 Remand, -1 Mana Leak.
Game 2: He leads with a very fast Affinity opener which my hand was particularly weak to. I do my best to flash in blockers and trade, but an Arcbound Ravager makes that pretty difficult. He dumps everything onto an Ornithopter and I have lethal in 2 turns. He has no cards in hand and I swing with all except for Supreme Phantom. He swings in with the huge Ornithopter and I create a spirit token using Moorland Haunt to chump with. He then casts Galvanic Blast, no Metalcraft to kill me at 2 life. I had the Queller in hand but only 5 lands. I’m not the only lucky one today haha.
Game 3: We very slowly trade life totals with each other, and I eventually use an Azorious Charm to gain 6 life from my attacking creatures. We continue to plink away at each other and I am at 6 life while he is at 1. He keeps on animating lands to block my flyers and stay in the game. I draw a Moorland Haunt with 2 Nebelgasts on the battlefield and activate it before he animates his lands. I get 2 triggers from Nebelgast, but can only target 1 creature. He animates his land, lives, and gets another draw step and knocks me down to 4. He did not have the Galvanic Blast, fortunately, and I move into the finals! 5-0-2.
Grandfinals: 1-2 Bant Spirits
Game 1: I move into the finals not expecting myself to get this far, and laughing at the fact that my opponent is on Bant Spirits. Had you told me 3 months ago that Spirits would be one of the best decks in Modern, and I’d be in a pseudo mirror match for a PPTQ grand finals I wouldn’t have believed you. Yet here I was. Bant I feel is favored in the mirror, because while UW gets to play out their spirits faster, Bant can still block, and eventually cast a Coco to come out ahead. Game 1 my opponent draws more lords than me, and I flood out. I feel a little better post-sideboard, however.
Sideboard: +1 Azorius Charm, +1 Blessed Alliance, +2 Settle the Wreckage, +1 Worship, -1 Aether Vial, -1 Mausoleum Wanderer, -3 Rattlechains.
Notes: While I knew what I wanted to bring in, cutting cards was much harder. I ultimately decided on cutting Rattlechains as I feel he does the least in this matchup. Aether Vial also might be a good cut, just to ensure that I continue to draw gas throughout the matchup.
Game 2: Just like last round, I drew more lords and Phantasmal Images, while my opponent flooded out. One neat trick with Phantasmal Image is that it can ignore Hexproof. If your opponent has double Drogskol Captain on the battlefield you can still copy one of their creatures.
Game 3: I had a hand with a few lords and 2 Spell Quellers and felt really good about my chances. He leads on a few lords and I respond with Spell Queller which he Paths. Next turn he casts another lord which I Queller, and he then proceeds to Path again. He ends up with 4 lords and I have nothing big enough to contest with it. He eventually kills me and we shake hands for the spookiest matchup of the tournament. Final record 5-1-2
This was the first PPTQ I have ever entered, so placing second was very exciting for me! With the deck, I had brought for the day, and all of the concessions I had to make to have a playable 75 made me feel like I had no chance at the tournament. Playing that many basics in Modern felt like I was hurting myself for no reason, and that sideboard was absolutely atrocious. No answer to an Ensnaring Bridge is particularly terrifying. (Worship isn’t as big of a problem thanks to the Vapor Snag).
Individual Card Evaluation:
Prairie Stream: Like I said earlier, this card did not enter tapped once during this entire tournament which was a big surprise to me. This card performed extremely well and ended up playing like a Tundra which was very nice to have. If you can’t afford (or find) the Seachrome Coasts you need, Stream will do the job provided you have enough fetchlands. (7 is highly recommended).
Nebelgast Herald: Like I’ve been saying in the Spirits discord for the past 3 months, this card is an absolute house against creature decks. Tapping down guys, and effectively fogging while developing the board is essential to have. I will happily continue to play 2 main, 1 side.
Phantasmal Image: This is one of the cards I would have played 3 of if given the chance. I did not have a 3rd Image and had to settle for 2. Image and vial allow this deck to do really wonky things such as copy manlands, Queller, Rattlechains, turn 3 Hexproof lock with Vial and Drogskol Captain. Hell, I’ve copied Pithing Needle with this card thanks to an activation from Tezzeret! Phantasmal Image gives this deck so many more options, and will often target your opponent’s cards. I’m less of a fan of it in Bant, but for UW Vial I believe it’s almost essential. I’d cut a Selfless Spirit to make room for the third.
Vapor Snag: I liked the 1 of today. Getting underneath Worship is really important, and I bounced my own creatures more than once. Vapor Snag is nice to have, and can also deal with that turn 1 Birds in a way that Path to Exile can’t. 2/2 split is still on the table, but for now, a 3/1 split still feels good. Will continue to keep it this way to keep that sideboard slot open for something that isn’t the third Path.
Mutavault: I only activated this card once today, and it was against an opponent I already had sufficient lethal against. I do not understand why some decks are choosing to play as many as 4 of these, where I would often need it to be a colored land more than anything else. I’ll go back to playing Field of Ruin, as I feel that dealing with troublesome lands is far more important. Other flex lands include Horizon Canopy, Celestial Colonnade (really good in a slower control version), Cavern of Souls, maybe even Eiganjo Castle if you are playing Geist of Saint Traft.
Azorius Charm: While all of the individual modes on this card are more powerful than anything on Blessed Alliance, I like Blessed Alliance more because it is guaranteed. If they attack with a creature, and you are stuck on chump duty, escalating this once to gain 4, and make them sacrifice is almost enough to single-handedly win the game. Will play 2 Blessed Alliance moving forward.
Bygone Bishop: This card was hilariously bad. Will not register again if I can help it. The only time it might have been good is against something like GW value town? And even though, they are probably generating more card advantage than you anyways. Will play another Thalia instead moving forward.
Settle the Wreckage (And Worship): These are extremely powerful effects that come at the downside of costing 4 mana. While Bant will very happily play these cards, our deck struggles to do so with 1 less land, and 5 fewer dorks. In the future, I might put a land into my sideboard and play a 1/1 split of Settle and Worship to help guarantee I get them on time. Although, Nebelgast Herald combined with Blessed Alliance might be enough on their own allowing us to free up even more sideboard slots. At the very least, 1 Worship seems right.
Geist of Saint Traft: My clock felt plenty fast without the help of this card, and having a 3 mana do nothing when it enters the battlefield makes it feel much worse to me. In a field where control and combo are the only decks to be seen I like it in the sideboard, but it’s so awful against our worst matchup (creature based aggro) that I’d rather shore up that matchup instead of our already good matchup vs combo and control.
Echoing Truth: I need this card. A catchall answer to everything is very nice to have, and can also save your creatures from removal and wraths. Also bouncing a bunch of key permanents such as Vials, Ensnaring Bridges, Lingering Souls tokens, make this card almost mandatory to me at this point. Will definitely get some in the future.
This weekend has been fantastic for spirits. Multiple top 8’s at PPTQ’s, SCG circuits, and even GP’s has really helped to put spirits on the map. (I’ll be streaming a very similar deck to Ondrej Strasky’s Bant-Vial deck this coming Tuesday at twitch.tv/tuesdaytastic 6 pm MDT). This weekend was the perfect time to play spirits thanks to Humans being on the downswing, and control and combo being on the upswing. Things are likely to change in the coming weeks, as people learn how to play against the deck, and start devoting more hate to it, but for now, life is good beyond the grave. Thank you all for reading and I hope you have a great week, and a fantastic Tuesday!