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By: olaw, Oliver Law
Mar 27 2019 1:00pm
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Hello!

Welcome to another Becoming A Modern Man!  I have returned to the format with fresh eyes and wanted to check out the various decks that have cropped up while I was away.  Bant Spirits is one of the decks that really started flourishing when I took a break from the game so I wanted to check it out.

Here's the list I am running with:

 

My interest in this deck really came from Kat Light, who is a major proponent for the deck.  Check the link for her take on the deck and sideboard guide.  My list is only one card different as I am running one more Phantasmal Image in the main (just due to the cards in my collection rather than any metagame call).  A sideboard guide is always a nice thing to have when trying to run a new deck, as it can take a lot of learning to see what is good in each matchup.  The list is a bit dated but things have not changed massively since January for the deck.

DECK TECH

Mausoleum Wanderer
Mausoleum Wanderer

Wanderer is a powerful one-drop.  It increases in power when Spirits enter the battlefield and is also an increasing powerful counterspell for sorceries and instants as it grows in size.  Having a creature that is also a counterspell that can protect your team from removal, board wipes or combo pieces is very useful.  Also, having it in the main deck means that we have a better matchup against combo decks than we might otherwise have.

There are some awkward aspects to the card.  It pumps when Spirits comes into play but often we want to be doing this at instant-speed where possible.  As such, sometimes you have to make a decision about whether to cast Spirits or Collected Company on your own turn to get the pumps off Wanderer for your attack or to wait.

Noble HierarchBirds of Paradise
Noble Hierarch/Birds of Paradise
Hierarch and BOP are not in-keeping with our tribal theme but they provide an important mana advantage that helps push our tempo game.  A mana dork or Vial in our opening hand is a very good start for the deck.

Selfless Spirit
Selfless Spirit

Another powerful Spirit that works to protect the team.  Selfless Spirit is a counter to most mass removal spells and can protect a key creature from a targeted removal spell.  It can also allow your creatures to survive unfavourable blocks or be a response to combat tricks.

Supreme Phantom
Supreme Phantom

Supreme Phantom has rather strange stats for a Lord as a 1/3 flyer.  However, this makes it a solid blocker and one that rapidly gets out of Lightning Bolt range with the support of the decks other Lords.  Phantom isn't the best aggressive threat but provides a very effective boost to the other Spirits in the deck.

Rattlechains
Rattlechains

Rattlechains is a solid aggressive threat while also being an answer to a removal spell targeting a Spirit you control.  It also gives all of your Spirits flash which means you can drop Spirits at instant speed without the help of AEther Vial.

Phantasmal Image
Phantasmal Image
Phantasmal Image is technically not a Spirit but most of the time it will be copying one.  It works nicely with Drogskol Captain as a way of giving your team Hexproof and protecting itself from its sacrifice condition.  Image is very versatile and can copy opposing creatures too when the time is right.  Doubling up on our creatures effects is very powerful, particularly at instant speed with Vial.

Drogskol Captain
Drogskol Captain
Drogskol Captain is a powerful lord for the deck and also one that protects our other creatures.  You can drop Drogskol Captain into play with AEther Vial or Collected Company in response to a removal spell to give that creature Hexproof.  Also, with two Drogskol Captains on the board all of your creatures have Hexproof which can be very tough to deal with.  There is also the old combo from the Captain's days in Standard or copying Captain with Phantasmal Image, which protects the Image from being targeted and sacrificed and giving the whole team Hexproof.

Geist of Saint Traft
Geist of Saint Traft
Perhaps the most powerful Spirit in a vacuum.  Geist is an extremely fast clock all on its own if the board is clear for it to get through.  Hitting for 6 damage in a single swing can be a real game changer.  It's also Hexproof which means that decks relying too heavily on removal will fall prey to Geist all too easily.  How good Geist is can be very matchup dependent but it's very strong in its good matchups and closes out a game rapidly.

Spell Queller
Spell Queller
Spell Queller is a big card for the deck and one that helps a lot with the tempo game the deck is trying to play.  A 2/3 Flying Spirit that counters a large number of the spells in the format, due to the low mana curve, is a great tempo play.  The deck has lots of ways to protect Spell Queller to prevent your opponent ever getting back the countered spell.

Reflector Mage
Reflector Mage

Reflector Mage is not on theme in that it isn't a Spirit but it is a powerful tempo creature, which is very in-keeping with our style of deck.  Clearing the way of a blocker and preventing it being recast is very powerful and can be just the tempo swing that can win you a game.  It is a shame that the Mage isn't more compatible with our Spirit synergies but it does enough to secure its place here.

Deputy of Detention seems to be seeing increasing play in this slot which is understandable.  Deputy is a more versatile card in that it can remove any non-land permanent, not  just a creature, and provided you can protect the Deputy those cards won't be coming back.  Deputy is a nice answer to multiple copies of Arclight Phoenix, Bloodghast or Prized Amalgam from Izzet Phoenix and Dredge (the top decks of the format right now).  Deputy also provides an answer to Ensnaring Bridge, planeswalkers and various other problematic permanents you might run into.  The other side of the coin is that obviously Deputy is a lot worse than Reflector Mage if it gets removed and also rarely a body you want to attack or block with.  It dies to Lightning Bolt and Fatal Push and it's more difficult to protect that its Spirit counterparts.  Also, a board wipe with a Spell Queller and Deputy on the board is a huge boon for your opponent.  

Spells

Path to Exile
Path to Exile
The deck is very light on removal as it is so tempo focused and Path is a card that costs us tempo by ramping our opponent.  Path is a necessary evil though as there are some creatures that just need to be removed.

Collected Company
Collected Company

Collected Company is a very powerful tool for the deck.  It also works slightly differently in this deck than in other decks.  You will often want to respond to your opponent casting a spell with Collected Company in the hope of hitting a Spell Queller off of it or pumping a Mausoleum Wanderer to the point where it can sacrificed to counter that spell.

Artifacts

Æther Vial
AEther Vial

Vial is a staple of Humans and Bant Spirit decks.  It allows you to drop creatures past countermagic and other disruption and more importantly at instant-speed.  It's perhaps not as important in Bant Spirits because there are already a number of creatures in the deck with flash and Rattlechains can grant all of your spirits flash, which explains the cut down to 3 copies.

There are a lot of great interactions with Vial that allow you to protect your creatures and boost your board position.

Lands

Horizon Canopy
Horizon Canopy
With the mana creatures and Vial allowing us to function with few lands in play, Canopy fixes our mana while also allowing us to get an extra draw when the time is right.  The only slight tension is that we do want four-mana for casting Company so you need to be careful how you use this.

Moorland Haunt
Moorland Haunt
Moorland Haunt is a nice tribal additional to the deck.  It allows you to turn creatures in your graveyard into additional spirits, which get the buffs from your lord, pump your Mausoleum Wanderers and can be put into play at instant speed.  A strong on-theme card for the deck.

Cavern of Souls
Cavern of Souls
With Control not making up much of the metagame these days Cavern isn't as important as it once was and we don't need the mana fixing all that much.  As such there is only 1-copy here and it isn't strictly necessary.

SIDEBOARD

Be sure to check out Kat Light's sideboard guide for the deck for advice on taking on different matchups.  However, I will run through the uses of the various cards.

Rest in PeaceThalia, Guardian of ThrabenStony Silence

  • Rest in Peace is very powerful graveyard hate which is very good in the current metagame.  It is a strong answer to Dredge and also helps against Arclight Phoenix shenanigans.
  • Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is also a powerful tool in the current format.  Phoenix has a much harder time casting three spells in a turn with Thalia on the battlefield and Dredge finds it harder to cast its enablers.  Thalia also slows down Tron, Storm and Burn decks and is a useful tool in plenty of matchups.  The slight tension here is that taxing Collected Company is pretty rough so you need to keep that in mind when bringing Thalia in.
  • Geist of Saint Traft supplements the copy in the main deck for when we need to get out opponent dead as fast as possible.  Obviously best against decks that will put up little resistance, such as Tron.
  • Stony Silence is very powerful artifact hate and very good against the various artifacts focused decks in the format such as Tron and Affinity.
  • Disdainful Stroke is a strong counterspell that covers the blindspots of Spell Queller.  It's useful against Scapeshift, Amulet Titan and Tron. 
  • Knight of Autumn is a nice addition to the sideboard which can work as life gain or artifact/enchantment destruction as required.  Burn can be a tough matchup so it's useful to have some lifegain in the sideboard.
  • Eidolon of Rhetoric is a fairly narrow sideboard card but it is targeted at Phoenix decks and also works well against Storm.  Eidolon makes life very difficult for these decks and can't be removed with Lightning Bolt.
  • Path to Exile is for the matches where removal is at a premium.   With only two Paths main deck we are very light on removal and I feel in the current environment we might need more copies main deck, particularly against the Phoenix decks.

GAMEPLAY

Let's get into some gameplay:


Our first matchup is against a deck that is very similar in style to our own.  Humans is another Vial deck but one that is more aggro focused than the more tempo-based approach of our deck.  I think our disruptive elements are slightly better than theirs and our evasion means our attacks are that much easier to make.  Thalia's Lieutenant is a problem that we don't want to see too often as a full team pump can be pretty devastating.


Our second matchup is against the current scourge of the format, Izzet Phoenix.  Bant Spirits decks have dropped in popularity in recent times and I think this is one of the main reasons.  This matchup does not seem very favourable, which is a conclusion that is statistically supported from recent GP data, with Thing in the Ice proving to be a particularly tricky foe to navigate.  Being a dog to the best deck in the format is a rough position to be in and probably leaves Bant Spirits pretty poorly positioned in the current metagame.


Our third matchup is against Dredge.  This matchup seems difficult; if they get their gameplan going they can go much wider than we can handle.  We do have disruption though and some powerful sideboard cards against them in the post-sideboard games.  This matchup seems a lot better than the Phoenix matchup but we need to disrupt them early to make sure we don't end up outgunned.


Our fourth matchup is against Storm.  Storm always tends to be a rough matchup as there is always a chance they can kill you out of nowhere.  That said I think Bant Spirits is probably better positioned than most decks to deal with it.  Mausoleum Wanderer and Spell Queller allow us to answer key spells and post-board we get access to Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Eidolon of Rhetoric and Rest in Peace.  As such, I would say this matchup is pretty favourable.


Our fifth matchup is against Jund.  Their deck is full of removal which makes cards like Spell Queller a potential liability.  We do, however, have lots of answers to removal so if we are conscious of what we need to play around this match seems fairly good.  They have limited ways to deal with flyers so the evasive nature of our creatures is very effective and there is a good chance we can tempo them out.

CONCLUSIONS
Although Bant Spirits looks like a variation of Five-Colour Humans it's actually a very different deck.  Bant Spirits is a tempo deck at heart, using its evasive creatures and tempo winning cards to work a speedy advantage and see out the game.  There are a number of disruptive aspects of the deck that buy you the time to push through a win.

While it was once one of the top decks in the format the current metagame is not very friendly to the deck.  Izzet Phoenix is the top deck in the format and is only looking to become more popular and Spirits just doesn't have a good matchup against it.  Dredge also doesn't seem like a terribly good matchup as our disruption is not nearly as effective against a deck that doesn't care much about resolving spells.

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)