Today I bring you an old archetype that I consider to be very well positioned. Bant Spirits in Pioneer has been around since the Players Tours happened. But back then, strategies like Mono Red and Sultai were more popular, and now the format is dominated by Dimir Inverter by a wide margin, with Mono White Devotion and Mono Green Devotion growing in popularity and doing very well recently.
All of them are better matchups for the flying tribe than Mono Red and Sultai. You basically don’t want to play against decks with a lot of removal and card advantage, or decks that are very aggressive. Bant Spirits isn’t a very fast deck for a creature based one, but having some disruption and being able to play at instant speed makes it very good against decks that relay a lot on resolving a certain spell.
4 《Hallowed Fountain》
4 《Temple Garden》
3 《Breeding Pool》
4 《Botanical Sanctum》
4 《Glacial Fortress》
1 《Yavimaya Coast》
-Land (24)- 4 《Mausoleum Wanderer》
4 《Spectral Sailor》
4 《Selfless Spirit》
4 《Supreme Phantom》
4 《Empyrean Eagle》
4 《Nebelgast Herald》
4 《Spell Queller》
This decklist is a pretty stock one. The maindeck doesn’t have much room for changes, you could play less than 4 《Spectral Sailor》s, less than 4 《Nebelgast Herald》s or less than 4 《Selfless Spirit》s. The replacements that I’ve seen the most are 《Brazen Borrower》, or maindeck 《Deputy of Detention》 or maindeck 《Remorseful Cleric》. It depends on the metagame you are expecting. For an unknown field I’d go with the stock one with 4 of each.
Card Choices and Roles
《Spectral Sailor》 isn’t very impressive, but the deck really wants a turn one play, to make the Lords a lot more powerful. Otherwise 《Supreme Phantom》 on turn 2 is super weak. It also has Flash without 《Rattlechains》, so it could help us to win a race if we have the 《Nebelgast Herald》 by tapping creatures in our opponent’s turn. Drawing cards could also be very important in the grindy matchups.
Not much to say here, if they live a couple turns you are probably going to win. They are what you are almost always going to pray for when you cast 《Collected Company》, unless there is a key spell on the stack that 《Spell Queller》 needs to counter (actually it doesn’t counter, it exiles, but you got the point, notice you can “counter” 《Abrupt Decay》).
This creature is excellent both in the early turns, where you are going to be able to play all your Spirits at instant speed, and in the late game, where you can use it to protect your Lords from the opposing removal spells.
Naturally good against sweepers, in this deck it’s also very important to protect the Lords or 《Spell Queller》, so it’s super serviceable. In creature matchups like the mirror it’s good if a lot of creatures aim to trade in combat.
Alongside the 《Spectral Sailor》 it’s arguably the weakest card in the deck because of its stats for the mana cost. However it can be decisive to win a race, and it’s very good to hold both 《Spell Queller》 and Herald, and have a play if your opponent doesn’t cast any relevant spell into your Queller.
This card is so good that it has seen play in off-tribe decks. It requires to know what are the key cards of the matchup, since you will hopefully have the choice of playing it or another Spirit. If it wasn’t for this card the deck would be so much easier to pilot, since it’s the only disruption you have in the maindeck. However it also makes it a lot harder to play against. As I said before, having 《Selfless Spirit》 is very important to protect it and keep the tempo and card advantage gained. 《Mausoleum Wanderer》 also helps a lot to protect it.
Finally the only reason why we play a third color. 《Collected Company》 fits the deck perfectly since the deck doesn’t have anything that costs more than 3 mana, so all the deck are hits or lands. You also have a synergic deck, and you want to gather all those Lords in numbers and maybe abuse of Herald triggers.
Intuitively you would think that you want to cast it at the end of your opponent’s turn, but it really depends. Sometimes you want to cast it main phase, to maximize the damage that 《Mausoleum Wanderer》 can do, and to hit Lords to also increase the damage. Sometimes you want to answer spells, to try to hit 《Spell Queller》 (or 《Rattlechains》 if it’s removal). Sometimes you will want to use it to try to tap creatures, if that matters, so you do it before declare attackers. Finally, the hardest of all is when your opponent casts a sweeper, and you have to analyze if you want to try to hit 《Spell Queller》 or 《Selfless Spirit》 (or Lords if it makes the sweeper ineffective), or if you want to let the sweeper resolve and cast it afterwards to secure the creatures and prevent the potential disaster of only hitting creatures that would also die to the sweeper.
In Magic there usually isn’t a formula to figure what’s best in each scenario, so practice is your best ally to improve your intuition. After each game, try to also analyze what would have happened if you played different that key turn. A very valuable advice is to think if the line you are taking has a real potential of winning the game. A very common mistake is to take a line that avoids a potential blowout but in the end doesn’t lead you to a winning position, it’s better to take risks sometimes. This deck is perfect to learn to measure how likely are we going to win with each line that we take and improving our odd’s intuition.
I like 《Remorseful Cleric》 more than 《Rest in Peace》 because it can put pressure while also preventing the fast kill from our opponent. With 4 《Mystical Dispute》 2 《Disdainful Stroke》 and 《Mausoleum Wanderer》, 《Dig Through Time》 isn’t their best tool anyways. We take out the Eagles since they will have more removal and Disputes of their own.
Mono White Devotion
《Disdainful Stroke》 doesn’t hit a lot of cards, but 《Walking Ballista》 and 《Arcanist’s Owl》 are some of the best against us. 《Deputy of Detention》 is good to prevent an early combo attempt if they play Heliod on turn 3.
I think I don’t want Disputes in this matchup, they have a lot of cheap interaction, and the best way we have to win is to play as much threats as we can followed by 《Collected Company》. The late game is usually going to favor them.
It’s hard to take out cards in the mirror, but I think I want a mix over maxing 4 of any of those. All of them could be very good in certain spots. 《Collected Company》 can be game changer but 《Mausoleum Wanderer》 plus Lords makes it really hard to resolve. Games are usually decided by who has more Lords into the battlefield.
Mono Green Devotion
They have some very explosive starts, but they also don’t have many ways to defend themselves from flyers, we want a fast start too, so don’t be afraid to mulligan aggressively.
Here we take out a 《Collected Company》 simply because we are adding a lot of non-creature cards that are very good in the matchup. Don’t be afraid to fire the Disputes in not very relevant spells, because in the late game they are capable of generation a lot of mana, so slowing them down could be all we need after we’ve set some pressure.
Mono Red Aggro
This matchup is bad, because they are faster and have cheap interaction too, 《Collected Company》 is your best tool to revert this situation.
Mono Black Aggro
This matchup is not as bad, because they are a bit less aggressive usually and we could race them. On the draw it might be better to take out some 《Spell Queller》s since it can be a bit slow, and keep all Heralds and 《Selfless Spirit》s.
That’s all for today, I hope this guide is useful to start learning the deck. I really recommend to pick it up if you want to improve on calculating odds intuitively.
Sebastian Pozzo (Twitter)