We have a lot to go over this week, so let’s just jump right in.
- 1 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 2 Phantasmal Image
- 4 Drogskol Captain
- 4 Rattlechains
- 4 Spell Queller
- 3 Selfless Spirit
- 4 Mausoleum Wanderer
- 4 Supreme Phantom
From what I’ve been told, Zan Syed only had two losses at SCG Worcester,
which leads me to believe that Bant Spirits could be the next evolution of
the disruptive-tribal archetypes we’ve seen in recent times. Humans, and
Merfolk before it, prey on combo archetypes by applying pressure and using
their interactive threats to disrupt the opponent just long enough for
their smaller threats to get the job done. But one thing has changed with
the release of Core Set 2019:
Bant Spirits has been “a deck” in Modern for a while now, gaining a pretty
significant boost via Collected Company. It’s rare that we see new cards
break into Modern, but it seems pretty clear already that Supreme Phantom
is a welcome addition to the archetype. Like any tribal deck in Modern,
Bant Spirits utilizes the synergy between its creatures to produce
troublesome threats, and when too many of them enter the battlefield,
things tend to get dicey.
One problem that Bant Spirits had before Supreme Phantom was that many of
your threats just weren’t big enough and didn’t apply enough pressure in
the early turns to force your opponent to walk into your disruptive
elements. Cards like Spell Queller and Mausoleum Wanderer are only good
when your opponent is forced to play into them and being unable to put up a
significant clock was often the downfall of Bant Spirits. Now, everything
Like Humans, Bant Spirits offers a bunch of threats that are both solid on
offense while producing some sort of interactive effect. Cards like
Mausoleum Wanderer are significantly better than they look on paper, if
only because they force the opponent into some awkward situations. If
you’ve ever played with Judge’s Familiar before, you’ll know that the card
doesn’t actually seem like it’s doing much of anything, but in
actuality, you’ll never understand just how good it is from your side. If
you never pop it, that’s because your opponent is playing around it,
effectively negating one mana from their side every single turn. Mausoleum
Wanderer does the same thing but gets a bit of a boost whenever you play a
Spirit pre-combat, but can also get bigger at instant speed thanks to so
many Spirits with flash.
But aside from Mausoleum Wanderer, Spell Queller does a great job at
disrupting the opponent while you put pressure on them. And uniquely, Spell
Queller can also interact with the un-counterable Supreme Verdict, which is
traditionally a big hoser for tribal decks. Spell Queller also gives you
some solid play against various combo strategies, since most of your
important threats can be played at flash speed. That lets you leave up
Spell Queller on important turns where your opponent could threaten to
combo off, while you use all your mana on your opponent’s turn. While Spell
Queller isn’t exactly game-over against fair decks playing a ton of
removal, you can assemble some pretty annoying disruption when you start to
pair it with Drogskol Captain, Rattlechains, and Selfless Spirit.
Like any deck featuring Collected Company, this is the best card in the
deck. It gives you two threats for four mana, often finding just the right
type of interaction for the situation at hand. Your opponent is trying to
kill your creatures? Let’s get a Rattlechains. Need to apply some more
pressure? Let’s fine a Supreme Phantom or Drogskol Captain. Opponent is
trying to combo off? You get six looks at a Spell Queller or Mausoleum
What’s great about building a deck like this is that most of the best
Spirits you could be playing already cost three or less mana. There’s
virtually no downside to playing Collected Company because:
You already want Noble Hiearch to help ramp your mana.
Splashing a third color in Modern is virtually free.
Finding two creatures in one spell is exactly the type of thing
this deck wants to be doing.
Reflector Mage isn’t a Spirit, but it was one of the best cards in the
archetype. Like any Collected Company deck, having ways to gain tempo is
important. And when you start to combine Reflector Mage with Phantasmal
Image, you start putting your opponent into some really bad spots. Without
Reflector Mage, this deck might be a bit soft to things like Hollow One,
Humans, or other creature-based decks that have slightly more aggressive
There’s been quite a bit of discussion recently on the merits of playing
Geist of Saint Traft in the maindeck, and I’m inclined to agree that it
deserves a slot. If anything, not playing Geist of Saint Traft in your
maindeck is likely due to older versions that didn’t have eight lord
effects from other creatures. When you’re just attacking with a 2/2 body,
have no removal to clear blockers, and have no cheap ways to pump it in
preparation for combat, Geist of Saint Traft doesn’t look all that good.
But like I said earlier, Supreme Phantom helps a ton with that now. I’m not
advocating moving all-in on Geist of Saint Traft, but let’s just say that
I’ve never beaten Bant Spirits when they cast one on the second turn. And
if the format ends up being a lot more combo-heavy than creature-heavy,
Geist of Saint Traft definitely deserves some consideration. I know that
Zan had three copies in his sideboard for this scenario, but if you’re not
playing Reflector Mage, I’m inclined to think that Geist of Saint Traft is
better than Phantasmal Image.
Next week on the Versus Series, I’ll be taking Bant Spirits across a Modern
journey, where Todd Stevens will battle me with five different Modern
staple archetypes. Below, I’ll go over those and show you how to sideboard
against them to give yourself the best chance at success. If you’re
thinking about picking up Bant Spirits for your next Modern event, this
type of information could be invaluable. And if you want to see some
real-time action, make sure to watch the Versus Series every day next week!
This matchup is all about attrition. If you flood out, you lose. If your
opponent sticks a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and you can’t kill it
immediately, you lose. However, all the other scenarios, you’re likely to
win. You have a ton of cheap threats that pose major problems for the
Jeskai Control opponent, including some sweet two-for-ones with
Rattlechains and Spell Queller.
Your lords are not exactly important here, as they’re the most likely
creatures to die, but protecting them with things like Selfless Spirit and
Spell Queller could cut the clock long enough for you to squeeze out a
This is one of the matchups where your creatures having flash is important,
because it means they’ll almost never be able to tap out for anything
relevant. You’re both going to be playing some tricky Magic, so just try to
keep in mind just how badly they can “get you,” and try to play around the
worst case scenario as much as possible (or as much as is reasonable).
Your main removal spell is mostly useless here, only targeting Celestial
Colonnade. But let’s be real, if your Jeskai Control opponent is attacking
with Celestial Colonnade, you’ve most likely already lost the game. And
getting stuck with a Path to Exile in your hand during the first few turns
of the game means you’re likely down a threat that could be the difference
in losing and winning the game.
Don’t sweat your early creatures getting hit with removal. After all,
that’s what their deck is designed to do. Just keep pumping out creatures
as best you can and hope you get a tricky two-for-one with Rattlechains or
Spell Queller. Use your Selfless Spirit, Rattlechains, and Spell Queller to
protect your other threats, but make sure you’re not walking into a Supreme
Verdict. Sweeper effects are the easiest way for them to catch back up when
Phantasmal Image comes out here because you need something on the
battlefield to copy, which isn’t always possible. On top of that, getting
hit with the splash damage from Electrolyze is pretty gross. Phantasmal
Image is only good in matchups where you need to overwhelm your opponent
with “lord” effects, or just want to copy some big baddie they might play.
Geist of Saint Traft is pretty good here, because they will have a very
tough time killing it once it hits the battlefield. With exalted from Noble
Hierarch, you won’t get blindsided from Snapcaster Mage. And if you have
another way to keep it around or pump it, most of their removal spells
become useless. Unfortunately, the mana is a bit wonky, but I wouldn’t mind
trying to find room for one or two copies of Cavern of Souls, if only to
help stick Geist of Saint Traft in this matchup. Unfortunately, that would
likely mean cutting Moorland Haunt, which is also stellar in this matchup.
- 4 Meddling Mage
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Phantasmal Image
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
- 4 Mantis Rider
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
- 2 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
- 4 Kitesail Freebooter
This matchup is all about racing, and that gets a lot easier now that you
have access to Supreme Phantom. When I played Humans a few months ago, one
of my easier matchups seemed to be Bant Spirits, as their disruption didn’t
hurt you very much and your clock was just a bit better. Your creatures got
very large in a hurry, and you could stifle their aggression in the early
turns with Reflector Mage. With that said, my opponents didn’t have an
extra “lord” effect via Supreme Phantom and didn’t seem to draw Collected
Company all that often.
A good draw from Humans will almost always beat a good draw from Bant
Spirits. That’s just the nature of the Modern format. There are similar
decks functioning along similar wavelengths, but one is much better at
putting pressure on the opponent in a hurry. The downside is having a much
more linear gameplan, and less explosive late-game draws. Humans not
playing Collected Company always baffled me, but only because it seemed
like such a no-brainer. However, if you want to play Mantis Rider, Kitesail
Freebooter, and Noble Hierarch in the same deck, some concessions need to
be made to make the mana work.
Bant Spirits can still beat Humans. A great draw from Bant Spirits will
just fly over Humans while they stumble on useless copies of Kitesail
Freebooter and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. If they don’t draw the
hyper-aggressive part of their deck, you can smoosh them pretty easily.
Selfless Spirit isn’t a bad card in this matchup. For two mana, you get a
two-power flier that can force your opponent to re-think their next alpha
strike, but that’s not how you’re going to win this matchup. Playing
defense is a mistake in most scenarios, because they’re going to outclass
you with their creature size. Champion of the Parish and Thalia’s
Lieutenant will bury you if you give them enough time.
Your best bet is using your trickier cards like Rattlechains and Spell
Queller to keep them from destroying you with Reflector Mage and Phantasmal
Image. After sideboard, they’re going to get access to some hard-hitting
effects. Izzet Staticaster, for one, is a huge sideboard card that will
give them a ton of mileage.
But the card you’re bringing in should end the game on the spot! Aside from
two copies of Reclamation Sage (which are dead otherwise), your Humans
opponents won’t have ways to interact with Worship. If you can keep a
creature on the battlefield, which isn’t that tough to do, Worship should
buy you enough time to find the fliers necessary to get the job done, no
matter how big their Champion of the Parish gets.
While you won’t run into this deck too often, as it’s insanely difficult to
play and pushes many off the archetype, it’s still one of the better decks
in Modern that you need to know how to play against. They can fight through
hate, kill you on the third turn, and leave you with the terrible feeling
of “what just happened?” While I don’t like the fact that Ironworks exists,
I will help you beat it as best I can.
First off, the only card that really “kills you” is Krark-Clan Ironworks.
Without this card on the battlefield, their deck doesn’t do a lot. It draws
some cards, cycles a bit, and can kill a creature here or there. Myr
Retriever and Scrap Trawler may look scary, but don’t be fooled. Ironworks
is the only card you need to worry about.
Because you’re bringing in a ton of non-creature spells, Collected Company
can go. Your opponent isn’t trying to kill your creatures very often, so
you don’t need a big “refuel” spell afterwards. And since you’re cutting
your most expensive spell, feel free to trim a land. I like keeping Birds
of Paradise here, if only because it allows you to start playing two or
more spells in a single turn, where Moorland Haunt is effectively a spell
that is there to help you win longer games.
While Path to Exile can temporarily break up the combo by exiling Myr
Retriever or Scrap Trawler, just remember what I said earlier: Krark-Clan
Ironworks is the only card that matters. If you have Path to Exile in hand,
that means you aren’t attacking, which ultimately makes all your sideboard
cards worse. And if we’re cutting some creatures and Collected Company, we
need to keep in as many creatures as we can, even at the expense of cutting
one of our “interactive” cards.
Our sideboard is full of spells that can, in some way, disrupt the
Ironworks combo. Stony Silence shuts down their mana production. Damping
Sphere keeps them from combo-ing in a single turn. Unified Will can counter
their Krark-Clan Ironworks. Even Rest in Peace stops recursion with their
creatures. Any one of these cards will slow them down significantly, but
any two should shut them out completely. Even if they’re able to draw an
answer for one of them, they still must fight through disruption via
Mausoleum Wanderer and Spell Queller.
It’s important to keep your “lord” effects in here, if only because they
speed up your clock, but also because they can help you out against an
active Ghirapur Aether Grid. While the list above doesn’t have one, most
people tend to play two copies, and a card like that is devastating to all
your one-toughness creatures without a Supreme Phantom or Drogskol Captain
on the battlefield.
There’s an argument to be made about “oversideboarding,” where you take out
too many integral pieces of your deck and become some mish-mash of threats
plus weirdo disruptive pieces. You will have quite a few post-sideboard
games against Krark-Clan Ironworks where you will draw “too many” hate
pieces. However, these hate pieces will almost certainly buy you enough
time to put some pressure on the battlefield. Their deck doesn’t do much of
anything outside of combo-killing you with the Ironworks combo. So don’t
worry! You should get there eventually.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it; this matchup might be a little difficult.
Even with all your disruptive elements, I still occasionally find myself on
the bad end of a Past in Flames. But of all the decks in Modern, you have a
clock and disruption, which is traditionally very good against combo decks
Your goal here, like any combo-based matchup, is to apply as much pressure
as possible while holding up some semblance of disruption. This is where a
deck like Humans can shine, because their clock is strong and their
disruption is proactive. Cards like Kitesail Freebooter apply pressure
while hitting the opponent’s hand, where your cards might get bottlenecked
on mana if they decide to wait for one big turn.
Even though Path to Exile isn’t usually great against an opposing combo
deck, I like to think of Storm the same way I think of Infect: the
creatures are integral to their overall gameplan. If they can’t stick one
of their mana-reducing creatures, the odds of them combo-ing off is very
Much like the Ironworks matchup, we aren’t playing an attrition game. We’re
trying to kill our opponent as quickly as possible, and we need stuff like
Geist of Saint Traft and our lord creatures to do exactly that. Phantasmal
Image comes out once again, as we don’t have anything juicy from our
opponents to copy, and there’s a chance we draw it without having a
creature on the battlefield (or one worthy of being copied).
We’re also getting close to the danger point of oversideboarding again, as
we’re cutting some of our early aggressive creatures in favor of sideboard
cards that have a chance to do very little. In fact, Rest in Peace is more
of a coin flip for me on whether I sideboard it in, strictly because they
can Grapeshot or Empty the Warrens you without using a Past in Flames.
Granted, it’s significantly harder to do without Past in Flames, but it can
still be done with a Baral, Chief of Compliance or Goblin Electromancer on
Damping Sphere shines here, as it seems specifically designed to interact
with Storm in a positive way. Unlike Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Damping
Sphere can overwhelm a Storm opponent even if they have one of their
mana-reducing creatures on the battlefield. Geist of Saint Traft is also
very good in this matchup, if only because it will end the game as your
only threat if your opponent doesn’t kill you quickly. Of course, it can be
blocked by a Goblin Electromancer, but I’m sure you can find one of your
pump effects or Path to Exile before it gets to that point.
This matchup is all about speed. They will outclass your deck in a hurry,
and much of your disruption is a bit slow. Cards like Oblivion Stone or
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon can blink your entire side of the battlefield out
of existence, so your job is to make sure they don’t have the time to do
any of that.
Mono-Green Tron, as opposed to older versions of G/R Tron, don’t have
access to a sweeper effect like Pyroclasm, which is great for Bant Spirits.
However, they do have some number of Walking Ballista and Dismember, which
could be problematic in the right circumstances.
Like in any fair-based matchup versus Tron, if you don’t close the door
before they hit their three Tron pieces, you’re likely in for a world of
hurt. But our sideboard can help with that quite a bit.
Again, Phantasmal Image comes out (starting to see a pattern?) in favor of
Geist of Saint Traft. Path to Exile, while solid against Wurmcoil Engine,
is not the type of spell you want in this matchup. And since the opponent
won’t have much spot removal, Rattlechains is coming out instead of
This is one matchup where I do want Collected Company, if only to apply
pressure at instant speed against stuff like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon or
Oblivion Stone. Your Drogskol Captains are pretty weak, if only because
they force you to overextend while also tapping out, and the hexproof
ability isn’t all that great. I like cutting them in favor of Thalia and
other sideboard effects that can interact with them. If you’re on the play
against Tron, a single Thalia, Guardian of Thraben can throw some gum in
Stony Silence is a big one, but I would expect them to be bringing in
Nature’s Claim in the dark, if only because it kills Damping Sphere and
virtually any other sideboard card that hoses their mana. It’s not like
we’re coming at them with Bramblecrush. There are only so many options for
a Bant deck that are feasible to bring in against Tron.
With any new deck, I encourage you to try out different sideboard plans for
yourself. If what I’m suggesting isn’t working for you, experiment with
different configurations. Sideboarding is a science and requires much trial
and error. Heck, half the time I get a sideboard guide from Brad friggin’
Nelson, I end up doing something completely different on the fly
mid-tournament once I have a better understanding of the matchup, my role,
and how my cards are supposed to interact with theirs.
Regardless, Bant Spirits is very likely to become a new Modern staple, and
knowing how the deck sideboards, interacts with popular matchups, and how
to play with/against it will be important in the coming months. And when
most of your deck is being played at flash speed, knowing exactly what or
how to play around something is not a skill you pick up at first glance. It
takes time actually playing the games and getting a feel for it yourself.
So, if you’re a fan of Collected Company, flash-based strategies, or just
like tribal decks, give Bant Spirits a try!
And if you want to see how Bant Spirits plays out against the five decks I
listed above, be sure to check out the Versus Series all next week, where
I’ll be taking Bant Spirits through the ringer against Todd Stevens
piloting all five of those decks!