Everything To Know About Spirits In Modern

Join the newest craze in Modern: Spirits! This new tribal deck is being tested in gauntlets everywhere, and it is certainly the real deal! So how do you sideboard and pilot it? One of the youngest pros in the world joins us from the Czech Republic to explain!

Those of you who follow me on social media know that I’m a huge fan of
Humans in Modern. Humans is fast, resilient, and disruptive, three
qualities every aggro deck is looking for. I’ve played Humans at every
event since the deck burst onto the scene, yet I chose to play a different
deck at Grand Prix Prague last weekend. Why did I choose to let go of my
favorite deck and pick up a new toy?

I liked the new toy better.

Coming back from Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, I was bit down on Humans, given
my 4-10 record. For GP Prague, I considered three decks – U/W Control,
Ironworks, and Bant Spirits. The first two are simply very strong decks
that are better against less experienced players. Bant Spirits was the big
unknown to me as it’s still the new kid on the block in Modern. Two of my
best friends, Ivan Floch and Stanislav Cifka, chose to audible to Spirits
mere hours before the Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, and they were happy with
that decision. This is what they played.

I got some feedback from the boys and started playing the deck myself
online. I won seventeen out my first twenty matches so I was immediately
hooked. A couple of things became clear rather quickly.

Bant Spirts Isn’t More Powerful Than Humans

It is, however, much better positioned in the current Modern format. Spell
Queller is amazing against most of the tier 1 decks, and no one is actively
preparing to beat you as all the anti-creature cards are aimed to beat

People Don’t Know How To Play Against You

With Modern being such a vast format, it’s hard to learn how to play
against Bant Spirits because so few people play it. I expect this to change
in the future with Bant Spirits doing well at GP Prague and U/W Spirits
winning SCG Baltimore.

You Get To Play A Great Sideboard

This is the biggest reason to play Bant Spirits over Humans, as having
access to Rest in Peace and Stony Silence is great in Modern right now.

As for my specific decklist, there were things I liked and disliked. With
the exception of Supreme Phantom, the two-drops didn’t impress me all that
much. Selfless Spirit is strong versus Humans, but medium to bad against
everything else. Phantasmal Image is good only at copying lords and it’s
hard to set that up, and Rattlechains is incredibly overrated.

I’ve seen people praising the card, calling it the engine of the deck, but
I just don’t get it. At the end of the day, it’s just a 2/1 for two mana
with medium abilities. Giving your creatures flash is nice, but ultimately
not a big deal, and the hexproof ability is only against decks that play a
lot of spot removal. If you save your creature from a removal spell, it’s
obviously an amazing feeling, but it happens way less often than people
think. Still, you need to play creatures to feed Collected Company, so the
two-drops are simply a necessary evil.

As for cards that overperformed, Birds of Paradise was a pleasant surprise
as the hands with one-drops are just so much better than hands without one,
a lesson learned from playing Humans for such a long time. Geist of Saint
Traft also impressed as it’s a beating against U/W Control, a great turn 2
play, and an acceptable turn 3 play in the current Modern format.

Ivan, Thomas Hendriks, and I were interested in the deck, so we kept
playing and tinkering with the numbers a little, but I started losing. A
lot. I had problems with either flooding or getting mana screwed and wasn’t
sure how to fix it. I started hating on Birds of Paradise as it’s just so
much worse than Noble Hierarch, but Thomas came to the rescue with the
strange idea of adding Aether Vial. I was skeptical at first. So skeptical,
in fact, that I played a league on Magic Online with his list, went 0-2,
dropped immediately, and called him crazy.

I was getting desperate.

Luckily, I was forced to take a break. My sister had a wedding, and
afterwards I stayed with my girlfriend for a week and didn’t play any
Magic. I spent only a little time thinking about what I was going to play
and came to the conclusion that I’d just play whatever decklist Ivan and
Thomas wanted to submit. I got back to Prague on Friday to meet up with
them for lunch to find out they both jumped the ship.

Thomas kept destroying everyone with Death’s Shadow and it was no surprise
to anyone that Ivan wanted to play U/W Control. I was tempted to audible to
Ironworks with no practice, but was equipped with Matthew Nass’ original
sideboard guide. Luckily, I got talked out of that, so I was stuck with
Bant Spirits. I went back to the idea of Aether Vial and after talking to
Thomas, it made a lot of sense to me.

Aether Vial plays a different role in this deck than it does in Humans. In
Humans, it’s the best card in your deck. Here, it plays more of a
supportive role as it’s just another one-drop that helps smooth out your
draw. Like Birds of Paradise, it’s a terrible topdeck, but it’s so much
better on turn 1 that anything else in your deck. There’s always a concern
of playing too many spells in Collected Company deck, but you still have 28
hits, and it’s not like Birds of Paradise is a great hit anyway.

A hidden upside of Aether Vial is that you can not only cut down on
Rattlechains, but your copies of Phantasmal Image become much better. I had
a game during the Grand Prix where I had an Aether Vial with two counters
and Drogskol Captain on the battlefield. My Mardu Pyromancer opponent chose
to tap out to cast Terminate on the Drogskol Captain at the end of turn. I
responded by Vialing in Phantasmal Image, and the game more or less ended
on the spot.

Another great thing about Vial is that now you can effectively copy Spell
Queller with Phantasmal Image, which is huge, and came up multiple times
during the Grand Prix. With Vial, the need to give your Spirits flash goes
way down so I chose to play only the miser’s copy of Rattlechains.

Lastly, incorporating Aether Vial allows you to play at least one less
land. With 21 lands and the addition of the third Horizon Canopy I flooded
way less at the tournament than I was when testing online. Playing only
three copies of Horizon Canopy seems a bit weird, but you’re not all-in on
Vial in this deck like you are in Humans.

We talked a bit more, smoothed out the decklist, and 4-1’d three leagues in
a row before going to bed. This was the final product.

On the morning of the tournament I still had to collect some cards from a
couple people who promised to lend them out to me. After I did that and
went to sleeve up my deck, I pulled up the decklist I submitted the night
before only to find out that I made a mistake. On my decklist, there was
the number three next to Phantasmal Image instead of number two. I went to a head judge to find out what I could do, willing
to accept that I may have to play with 61 cards. The head judge, however,
told me that I could take a game loss in the first round and get rid of the
third Phantasmal Image. I must admit I didn’t even think of it and accepted
the penalty, but looking back I think I should have just played with 61.
Phantasmal Image was amazing the whole weekend, and the difference between
60 and 61 isn’t very big.

Luckily, I didn’t get punished and I won my first match.

The tournament then continued in a similar fashion, with me getting
extremely strong draws and winning most of my matches with ease. Soon I
found myself signing the results slip to draw into the top 8, and I needed
to win the tournament to secure a Gold level status in the Pro Players
Club. I came up a bit a short with a loss in top 4, where I made a hasty
decision that may have cost me the game, but I believe I would have still
lost had my opponent played well. It always sucks to end a tournament with
a loss-since that’s how it often goes–but you can’t be terribly unhappy
with top 4 finish at a GP.

Moving forward, I think Bant Spirits should be regarded as a tier 1 deck in
Modern. U/W Spirits won SCG Baltimore, and I had bunch of people asking me
what I think about that version, I must admit that I haven’t played with
the U/W version just yet. That said, my experience with Bant leads me to
believe that the green cards are worth it. Not playing Mutavault sucks, but
I’ve already highlighted how important I think it is to have a one-drop on
turn 1, and green provides those. Collected Company is also an amazing card
that shines in many matchups, especially against Humans. Simply put,
Collected Company and Noble Hierarch were the two best cards in my deck, a
deck that’s already sometimes struggling with being underpowered, so I’ll
definitely be sticking with Bant in the future.

As for the post GP updates to my decklist, I would swap the number of
Phantasmal Images and Selfless Spirits. I think I underestimated how much
better Image gets once you add Aether Vial into the mix, so I want to
remedy that. There’s a chance this backfires, because it makes Company
slightly worse, but I’m willing to take the risk.

I liked every card in my sideboard except for Worship. Even before the GP,
Thomas warned me that it might be a bit too clunky and almost all the decks
have some sort of an out to it. Even Humans, the deck it’s mostly known for
beating, is incentivized to bring in Reclamation Sage against most versions
of Spirits because it also answers Aether Vial. To replace Worship, I’d
like to have some extra removal spells, like Dismember, Dromoka’s Command,
Engineered Explosives, or Reflector Mage. Of these, I like Command and the
Mage the most, so I’d recommend a 1:1 split to start.

Sideboard Guide




I thought this matchup was very close, but out of the four times I faced it
at the GP, I didn’t drop a single game. It’s still mostly about the die
roll, but I think Bant Spirits has the advantage because the battlefield
tends to clog up, and eventually, you set up an alpha strike with fliers.
Therefore, your main concern should be surviving, but some games are also
just a pure race. Champion of the Parish is their best card, so one neat
trick is to use Phantasmal Image to copy their Reflector Mage to neutralize
that threat.

VS U/W Control and Jeskai Control



I like to keep Paths in because Celestial Colonnade is a problem, and most
versions of U/W Control also have Baneslayer Angel and/or Lyra Dawnbringer,
both of which are a must-answer. One Rest in Peace comes in, but I don’t
think you want multiples as drawing two is horrible and the card isn’t that
great anyway. I believe U/W to be the more problematic of the two, as a
miracled Terminus is a huge beating.

This is the matchup where I missing Rattlechains the most, but at least I’m
compensating by having access to three Geist of Saint Traft, far and away
the best card in the matchup. Still I think you’re a slight favorite, but
the games are quite tough to play so I’d recommend getting some practice
in. U/W Control was my only loss in the Swiss after I made a poor judgment
call that cost me a very close game 3.

VS Mono-Green Tron



This is a tough matchup in game 1, but after sideboard you bring in a lot
of heat. Cutting Collected Company sucks, but you have to because you
sideboard in mostly spells and it’s also a bit slow. The non-bo of Stony
Silence and Aether Vial also sucks, but if your Stony Silence survives,
you’re in a good spot most of the time anyway.

VS Ironworks



In game 1, you sometimes steal a game with Spell Queller all by itself, but
after sideboard, this matchup turns into a massacre. Just look at all the
fabulous cards you get to bring in. I faced this matchup only once in my
testing, but it was the easiest one I’ve played in a long time.

VS Hollow One

Out (on the draw):

In (on the draw):

Out (on the play):

In (on the play):

I haven’t got much experience in this matchup as Hollow One seems to be
losing on popularity lately, but I do think it’s a fine matchup. Compared
to Humans, you have Path to Exile which is a big deal when you want to
interact with the namesake card of the deck. You still have a lot of tempo
elements like Humans does, and Collected Company is a nice one.

VS R/B Vengevine



I think this matchup should also be good for us. You will die to the random
fast draws that R/B Vengevine can present, just like every other deck in
Modern will, but you can interact with Vengevine. Thanks to Path to Exile,
flying is great against their deck, and Rest in Peace can win games
singlehandedly. This is a deck that also seems to be on a decline, and
people are starting to figure out that it might just be a fluke.

VS Infect



I played against Infect twice at the GP, winning a close three-game match
each time. I hate to see this deck come back because I just always feel
awful playing against it because every decision I make seems to always
backfire. However, I think Spirits does have a pretty decent matchup here.
Spell Queller is godlike in this matchup; you have flying blockers to
manage Inkmoth Nexus, and having two good cards instead of two unplayable
Worships should help. Just have an answer for Blighted Agent and you’re
good to go.

VS Storm



Sideboarding here is tough, because you never know what exact sideboard
plan they will come up with. If they go into the full grind mode trying to
answer all your creatures, you can just cut all the Paths and keep in
Companies. I would, however, start with this and adjust on the fly.

VS Mardu Pyromancer



Unified Will is no good here, but I think Path is also awful because you
don’t really care about Young Pyromancer or Bedlam Reveler. I like keeping
two Vials as an answer to Blood Moon, which you should also play around
with your fetchlands if possible.

I had a blast playing Bant Spirits at Grand Prix Prague, and I’m very
likely running it back at Grand Prix Stockholm. Hopefully you enjoy playing
the deck as much as I do!