Exploring Spirits In Modern

Jennifer Long isn’t a stranger to conquering with tribal archetypes, but she thinks there may be a new one in Modern once Eldritch Moon is unleashed! Join Mrs. Mulligan as she hammers out colors, card choices, and decklists!

Anybody who watches my stream or looks for a pattern in the decklists I register on the SCG Tour® knows that I love synergy. Whether it’s Hardened Scales last Standard season, G/W Tokens this season, or Merfolk in Modern, I love playing with cards that are greater as a whole than the sum of their parts. With new support for Spirit tribal in Eldritch Moon, I think there might be a new synergy deck in Modern.

One of the important things Modern Spirits decks have lacked is a good turn 1 play. Some tried Figure of Destiny, which is very mana-intensive, or Serum Visions, which doesn’t develop your battlefield.

Then Eldritch Moon came along and gave Spirits its own Cursecatcher! This is a turn 1 play that develops your arsenal of spooky threats while slowing down your opponent’s answers by a turn.

But Mausoleum Wanderer has more tricks! It gets a stat boost whenever a Spirit enters the battlefield, which allows you to choose between pushing damage by playing Spirits in a main phase or taxing your opponent even more by threatening to flash in more Sprits and counter their spells. For example, if you’re on the play, a Cursecatcher can stop a turn 1 Thoughtseize but does nothing for the turn 2 Thoughtseize. However, a Mausoleum Wanderer can stop the turn 1 Thoughtseize or, by flashing in a Rattlechains, it can stop the turn 2 Thoughtseize as well.

Selfless Spirit is a new addition from Eldritch Moon, a quick flying clock that offers a bit of protection for your other creatures. Aggro-control decks like Merfolk and Delver tend to deploy a threat or three and then hold up countermagic to protect them.

Holding a card in your hand just in case the opponent casts an Anger of the Gods or Supreme Verdict doesn’t advance your gameplan; it’s like insurance. You’re paying something you don’t want to pay (holding a card in your hand) to reduce the risk of something you don’t want even more (losing your battlefield). Selfless Spirit flips that on its head, allowing you to get what you want while mitigating the risk.

If you’re a Standard player, you can compare this card to Archangel Avacyn or the recently rotated Whisperwood Elemental. Like Avacyn, this can be cast with flash if you have a Rattlechains on the battlefield, and like Whisperwood Elemental, the opponent must use a kill spell on Selfless Spirit the turn before casting a Wrath. Selfless Spirit acts as a rattlesnake, forcing your opponent to play around it and take a longer path. And that extra time is often enough for you to close the game thanks to your early flying pressure!

Plenty of people are excited for Spell Queller in Eldritch Moon Standard, but I can’t wait to use it on Abrupt Decay and Supreme Verdict! Most spells in Modern have a converted mana cost of four or less, so this card’s ability will be “live” most of the time. If you can protect it from removal, Spell Queller looks more like a Mystic Snake than a Tidehollow Sculler. Some of the best cards to Quell include counterspells, which won’t have good value without well-timed follow-up removal, and X-cost and converge spells, will always count X or the number of colors as zero.

A 2/3 creature with flash and flying for three mana isn’t a bad rate, and stapling such a powerful effect to it makes it an awesome deal. Because the rest of the Spirits package is centered around protecting the team, the Spirits deck is particularly well-equipped to protect Spell Queller. The combination of Selfless Spirit and Spell Queller even allows the Spirits deck to overextend into Wrath of God effects more than most aggro decks.

Old Spirit Synergies

Rattlechains is why I was looking forward to Spirit cards during preview week for Eldritch Moon. It steers the deck toward playing on your opponent’s turn, provides an early evasive clock, and protects your other creatures. Even though it doesn’t give a stat boost, I consider this to be one of the “lords” of this deck.

Bygone Bishop got a lot of excitement when Shadows over Innistrad was released, but it failed to find a home in Standard or Modern. It fails the “Lightning Bolt test,” because it dies to Bolt without providing any value and costs triple the mana. However, in a deck where targeted removal is worse thanks to hexproof, it’s worth a second look. If your Spirits deck makes enough mana to take advantage of the Clues or to cast a second Spirit right after Bygone Bishop, consider including this risky source of card advantage.

Drogskol Captain is our primary lord, giving all of our spirits a stat boost and hexproof. When your Spell Queller has hexproof, targeted removal simply won’t work to give the opponent their spell back. I love the idea of playing a three-mana counterspell that leaves behind a 3/4 flying, hexproof creature! Phantasmal Image is another copy of your best creature, usually Drogskol Captain. In fact, if you have a Phantasmal Drogskol Captain alongside a real one, it can’t be targeted, nullifying its Illusion downside.

Geist of Saint Traft has always been a fringe-playable threat in Modern, and giving it flash via Rattlechains and a stat boost from Drogskol Captain means it will provide a quick clock without dying in combat as often. And unlike many Geist decks, Liliana of the Veil’s sacrifice ability isn’t a huge threat in Spirit tribal since we’ve got a high density of creatures.

Lingering Souls is a great card in Modern, but it doesn’t slot in naturally to the Spirit package provided by the Shadows over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon Spirits. It’s a sorcery that can’t be made flexible with Rattlechains, it fights for the three-mana slot, and without Thought Scour or Liliana of the Veil, we’re likely never getting additional value from it. And even though it makes hard-to-block fliers, much of the rest of our threat suite already has flying. However, it’s hard to argue with four tribal fliers from one card for five mana, so it can still earn a place.

This nearly-forgotten Spirit is a good answer to the aggressive metagame that currently rules Modern, buying time against Zoo and Burn. Like Lone Missionary, it gains life and trades with aggressive creatures when necessary. However, Azorius Herald is also an unblockable Spirit, making it a great candidate for carrying equipment like Sword of Fire and Ice while receiving the tribal benefits provided by Rattlechains and Drogskol Captain.

U/W Spirits

U/W Spirits, like Merfolk and Delver, is an aggro-control deck that looks to gain tempo on the opponent, deploying and protecting early threats while stopping the opponent’s best plays. Because many Spirits have flying, its threats are hard to block and provide a quick clock. The ultimate goal of the deck is to deploy a few threats in the early game and then begin holding up mana to play counterspells or flash in threats on the opponent’s turn.

Because we have so many evasive threats, I couldn’t resist throwing in Sword of Fire and Ice and Sword of Feast and Famine. Fire and Ice refills your hand while you clock your opponent, and gives us a way to remove smaller creatures or additional reach to finish off our opponent. Feast and Famine helps against combo decks, and since we have so many instants and flash threats, it allows us to use our mana twice on most turns. Finally, Moorland Haunt is the utility land we can afford as a two-color deck, providing us one more thing to do if we haven’t used our mana by the opponent’s end step.

Out of the sideboard, Path to Exile provides us with additional removal, and Lingering Souls does a great job blocking most of Affinity’s threats. Chalice of the Void can hate out huge parts of a number of Modern decks, which shores up our weaker aggro matchup. Cavern of Souls ensures we can cast Mausoleum Wanderer through a Chalice on one. To round out the sideboard, Rest in Peace and Kataki, War’s Wage provide some much-needed hate against decks like Dredge, Affinity, and Lantern Control.

Jeskai Spirits

Jeskai Spirits is a more aggressive version of the deck which attacks along three axes: pressure, planeswalkers, and Blood Moon. It ignores the fact that it’s mostly a blue deck, eliminating maindeck countermagic and adding Nahiri, the Harbinger. Negate and Dispel are in the sideboard for when you really need them, but this version of Spirits is much more of a tap-out deck.

Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile provide more removal than U/W Spirits has, as well as opening up the option of burning the opponent for the last few points of damage. The Nahiri / Emrakul combo provides a great distraction while our Spirits beat down in the air, filters your draws, and relieves some of the pressure from faster aggro decks.

Best of all, Blood Moon will just steal a non-zero number of games. Much like Chalice of the Void, it’s a hard-to-remove hate card that can swallow entire archetypes whole! As long as you’re providing decent pressure, the time it buys you is well worth the early turn you took off to cast it.

Bant Spirits

Bant Spirits is another direction you can take the deck, opting to curve mana creatures into a bigger game with a bit more card advantage. Even though this version also passes on the countermagic, it still stays true to the instant-speed plan with Collected Company and Gavony Township.

The core of the Spirits deck has a wealth of creatures at three mana, so I thought it’d be interesting to try to get maximum value from Collected Company. Adding Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch allows you to curve to three mana on turn 2, so we’ve stuffed even more three-mana Spirits into this version.

The addition of Collected Company and Bygone Bishop means the deck can generate card advantage while developing your battlefield. Dipping into green also allows you to pump your team with Gavony Township, a potent plan with such a large army of creatures. And like Jeskai Spirits, this version can bring in countermagic from the sideboard to help the control and combo matchups.


When you’re just designing new archetypes, the key is to keep an open mind and try things you may not have thought at first glance. I’m really excited for the new decks that Eldritch Moon will inspire in Standard and Modern, and its tribal synergies align with my style.

But don’t let me take all the fun! Do you have any ideas for sweet Standard or Modern brews with new Eldritch Moon cards? Who knows, maybe tribal Zombies, Wolves, or Vampires decks are just waiting in the wings, ready to be discovered. Happy brewing and, as always, happy gaming!