When people talk about Spirits in Modern, they are usually just talking about Bant Spirits. It’s the deck that sees the most success, and as a result, there isn’t much discussion of the other archetypes. One reason that I love the spirits tribe so much is its versatility and I think that a lot of people don’t realize that spirits decks can play more cards than just Noble Hierarch and Collected Company. Today I want to talk about the pros and cons of different configurations of spirits and show what kinds of strategies are available to the spirits tribe.
Let’s start by talking about the core package of spirits, the cards that make the deck tribal.
There are other cards that often see play in the spirits strategy such as Selfless Spirit and Rattlechains but none are important as these 4 cards. Spirits basic strategy is disruptive flyers that use lord effects to be aggressive. These core cards facilitate that strategy by providing aggression in the form of the lords, and disruption in Spell Queller and Mausoleum Wanderer. Add other spirits and cards as you see fit and you can create a ton of different strategies with just these few cards.
Link to Decklist: https://www.mtggoldfish.com/archetype/modern-bant-spirits-52507#paper
Bant Spirits is the first breakout deck that Spirits ever had with Caleb Durward playing the deck all the way back in January 2018. Since then, tons of cards have been printed that have completely revolutionized the archetype, chief among them being Supreme Phantom. A lot of people believe that Collected Company is the reason to play this deck, and while CoCo is a very powerful card, I believe the real reason to play this deck is to play Noble Hierarch. Exalted is an extremely powerful ability and allows you to maintain offense and defense when you swing in with only one creature. Noble Hierarch also allows for powerful turn 2 plays such as Spell Queller or even Geist of Saint. Splashing green also allows Bant to play cards such as Horizon Canopy and Knight of Autumn, both of which are great new innovations for the deck.
Where Bant struggles the most is being consistent. A 3 color manabase prevents it from playing too many utility lands, and it is heavily dependent on Noble Hierarch surviving. In a meta filled with Gutshot, Hierarch starts to become a liability. This deck can have extremely explosive starts such as turn 2 Queller, turn 3 Coco, but it can just as often flail around with 2 lands and 3 Cocos in hand. Out of all of the spirits decks, Bant has the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Sometimes you’ll cast a Collected Company and hit a single Hierarch, other times you’ll hit 2 Drogskol Captains.
- Noble Hierarch is really good
- On average it has a very fast clock
- Green lets the deck play Knight of Autumn and Horizon Canopy
- It can be inconsistent
- The mana base is painful
- Weak to spot removal
Link to Decklist: https://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/1746568#paper
With the printing of Supreme Phantom, many more people could play whatever Spirits decks they wanted to. Now that we weren’t locked into playing Noble Hierarch and Collected Company, the deck could branch out into different archetypes. This version of spirits aims to be the most consistent version of spirits. With a 2 color manabase, the deck hurts itself the least out of any version of spirits and can play more utility lands such as Mutavault. And now that the deck no longer plays Collected Company, it is free to play Thalia main deck which is an extremely powerful card in modern at the moment. UW’s most recent innovation has been to play Chalice of the Void in its sideboard, and the combination of Chalice, Thalia, and Deputy of Detention turns the deck into a very potent prison deck after sideboard.
Where UW struggles the most is catching up from behind. With the exception of Aether Vial, UW puts out its threats without any acceleration which means some decks can get ahead early and keep the lead. UW is also less proactive as a deck which in Modern can be a bad thing. With main deck Thalia and only 2 colors, UW Spirits doesn’t get access to as many sideboard cards. Overall though, in this meta with Arclight Pheonix as the top of the metagame, I believe that UW Spirits is a great choice.
- More consistent then Bant
- Thalia and Chalice are very good against the metagame
- Can play more utility lands
- Plays it’s creatures very fairly
- Reactive instead of proactive
- Less cards to choose from when deckbuilding
Link to Decklist: https://www.mtggoldfish.com/archetype/modern-esper-spirits-67443#paper
Lingering Souls is a card that has seen Modern play since it was first printed but has never had a chance to shine in a dedicated tribal deck. When all of your spirit tokens get +1/+1 they turn from a nuisance into a threat. Black also gives access to discard spells, one of the most potent being Collective Brutality. Discarding a Lingering Souls and a late game Aether Vial is incredible value. Some spirits players have also opted to run more discard such as Thoughtsieze, which then lets them use Surgical Extraction to take out some of the key decks in the format. Fatal Push is also an excellent removal spell, and is much better when paired with cards like Mausoleum Wanderer. Esper Spirits plays more akin to a midrange deck, it uses its discard and removal to stop the opponent’s gameplan and then flies over the top to finish the opponent off.
Esper Spirits can struggle from having a lot of tempo negative plays. Discarding cards that your opponent never spent any mana on can set you behind and make it more difficult to catch back up. The deck also plays a lot of cards at sorcery speed, which is really difficult when you also want to play Spell Queller or Rattlechains. This necessitates playing Aether Vial in a deck filled with more spells than average, which can make Aether Vial a dead draw more often.
- Lingering Souls
- Discard spells
- Can grind the best out of all Spirits decks
- Tempo negative
- Plays at sorcery speed
- Aether Vial in a deck filled with spells
Link to Decklist: https://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/1747458#paper
Jeskai Spirits plays a very similar gameplan to UW Spirits, except that both players take more damage in the process. Eidolon of the Great Revel is actually a spirit and can make the opponent’s life difficult if they aren’t able to remove it. Backing up Eidolon with protection such as Spell Queller and Drogskol Captain can make it a real pain in the neck. Combine that with Lightning Bolts and Boros Charms, and you have a much more aggressive version of spirits that aims to close the game out as fast as possible. Remand is probably at it’s best in this deck as oftentimes you only need to buy yourself 1 turn for the damage from Eidolon to prove to be unbearable. Jeskai Spirits also gets to run a one-sided board wipe in the form of Firespout, a card that deals 3 damage to all non-flying creatures.
This much aggression comes at a cost, however, and that is in the form of a very painful manabase. Turn 2 Eidolon is very difficult to pull off, and you will be shocking in a lot of lands to cast all of your spells. This deck also plays a lot of spells and Aether Vial, which makes the card less effective than it could be. Eidolon is also a double-edged sword, and feels awful when facing a deck faster than you.
- Is the fastest spirits deck
- Excellent removal in Lighting Bolt and variants
- Firespout is a one-sided board wipe
- The deck hurts itself like a shadow deck
- Aether Vial and spells nonbo
- Eidolon of the Great Revel is a double-edged sword
The decks I talked about today are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the spirits archetype. Try ditching the vials and play Celestial Colonades instead. Splash a little black in Bant Spirits and play your second copy of Coco in Lingering Souls. Play Simian Spirit Guide (it is a spirit!) and turn 1 Chalice people. Get a humans manabase and play 5C Spirits with all-stars such as Bloodghast and Strangleroot Geist. Spirits is an incredibly deep and diverse tribe that can easily adjust their playstyle to best suit you. If you are interested in more Spirits discussion, be sure to check out our discord and subreddit. Thank you all for reading, I hope you have a great week and an amazing Tuesday!