Spirits In Block Constructed

AJ Kerrigan takes a break from Standard to talk about Innistrad Block Constructed, the consensus best way to go infinite on Magic Online. He talks about a deck he thinks will make a huge impact: Spirits.

The Pro Tour was unraveled right before us, and Standard is on everyone’s mind. While I find Standard to be better than it has been in a while, I’ve been hard at work brewing for post-Dark Ascension Block Constructed. It’s been repeated within StarCityGames.com articles many times, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to play Block Constructed on Magic Online if you are trying to build your bankroll. The format is easy to access with a wide range of cheap decks, and you can very quickly begin 3-1’ing and 4-0’ing Daily Events.

I’ve been coming up with lots of wacky ideas from Curse of Misfortunes Control to a few simple updates to self-mill. One idea that I’ve come to like is Esper Spirits. I’ve come up with a few different builds of this deck, and I’d like to share them with you.

Before I get into the decklists, I want to answer the question: why Spirits? In my opinion, it comes down to one simple card: Lingering Souls. Without this card, the deck might still be playable, but you pretty much need it to get ahead of removal. It is very easy to sit on a Drogskol Captain and one half of a Lingering Souls and take chunks out of your opponent’s life total. If they find a way to deal with what you have out, you can just flashback Lingering Souls, cast another creature, and kill your opponent. Lingering Souls fills a similar role to Doomed Traveler in the R/W aggro deck in that it makes spot removal a lot worse and can be very aggressive.

Drogskol Captain is the other reason I think this deck can come out on top. B/W and B/W/G Tokens are probably going to be big players in the format, and they can easily make more tokens than you can. You need to find a way to turn their 1/1 blockers into simple chump blockers, as they should be. If their Spirits trade with yours, they will grind you out much easier than you can grind them out. Drogskol Captain puts you over the top. These two reasons are also why I think the new Esper Spirits deck piloted by “Team Hall of Famers” will be a big player in new Standard.

Without further ado, here are the decklists. I’ve chosen not to include sideboards for a few reasons.

This deck is more akin to the Delver of Secrets deck floating around in Standard right now. You try to pull ahead with cheap creatures and tempo-based spells. Runechanter’s Pike and Moorland Haunt are cards that make every late game threat even deadlier, and you have 17 spells to help Delver of Secrets and Runechanter’s Pike. Thought Scour is especially interesting here for its interaction with Runechanter’s Pike and also the sweet play with Delver. For those who don’t know, you can look at the top card with Delver of Secrets, and if you don’t want to draw it, you can play Thought Scour on your upkeep to mill it away.

One interesting card I’m trying out in this decklist is the single Urgent Exorcism. It seems like a strong card leading into the format. I predict that there will be lots of Drogskol Captains, Intangible Virtues, Curse of Death’s Holds, Burning Vengeances, and many more targets running around.

The second interesting card that I want to try out is Evil Twin. I feel like it has a place for its interaction with copying Drogskol Captain, and it can also copy things like Dungeon Geists and Snapcaster Mage. It is also a good removal spell for opposing creatures and legends.

This is the version of the deck I like most so far, but I haven’t actually gotten much testing in yet, so that might change. Also of note, I’m not 100% happy with how the mana base looks, but only testing will tell if it works out.

This deck is skimping on blue, only playing it for Drogskol Captain. It might not be worth splashing blue; instead it might be beneficial to splash green for Gavony Township and Garruk Relentless. Either way, I wanted to give this build a try. As you can see, the deck wants to push out a lot of tokens and then use a few different anthems like Intangible Virtue to make them bigger. The thing I like about this deck is that you can clock your opponents very quickly with a few small creatures, but you also have a very good late game with cards like Lingering Souls, Increasing Devotion, Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, and Geist-Honored Monk. You may notice that I chose to leave out Moorland Haunt, which is because there are not many actual creature spells in this deck.

Overall, I like the first decklist better by the looks of it. The tokens deck seems like it can be too fragile and clunky, whereas the more Spirit-oriented version doesn’t. I plan to try out both versions if I can get my hands on some Sorins, but that might not happen, so I’ll just stick to the first one. It is also important to note that there are many other builds of Spirits. The two I posted are only prototypes of two of the possible solutions. If any of you have any ideas for decklists, even ones that aren’t based around Spirits, I’d love to see them. Feel free to post them in the comments section, and I will gladly take a look.

Cards to Look Out For

When a new set is released, you Block Constructed gets shaken up. With such small card pools, you sometimes have to scrounge for cards to play in your deck. Here is a list of cards that I feel are under that radar that you should be prepared to fight and why.

Gather the Townsfolk – This card seems very strong in the R/W aggro deck. Turn-one Champion of the Parish into turn-two Gather the Townsfolk can put your opponent very far behind in the game. This card has a lot of potential to be strong in a wide range of archetypes.

Bone to Ash – I’m not sure if this card will be good, but it might have a place along Dissipate in the slow blue control decks. If big creatures like Geist-Honored Monk become popular, this card may be strong.

Mystic Retrieval – This card seems strong in the Burning Vengeance deck, as it can get back your burn spells or just give you a small discount on some of your more expensive flashback spells as well as an extra go. This is one that I’m least sure about, but it could be exploitable.

Thought Scour – This card makes both Delver of Secrets and Snapcaster Mage a lot better. Being able to have an extra spell for Delver and mill away unwanted, revealed cards is strong. Also, being able to Snapcaster Mage end-of-turn and cantrip with it makes Thought Scour even better.

Gravecrawler – Early after the release of DKA, I experimented with a few different Zombie lists. All of them were missing something, but someone might be able to make it come together. Gravecrawler seems like it would be the core of such a deck.

Tragic Slip – Simply an incredible removal spell for the black decks. Works well with sacrifice effects like Liliana of the Veil and Tribute to Hunger.

Faithless Looting – This card seems to make the Burning Vengeance deck a lot more consistent. Because of this card, a pure Burning Vengeance U/R deck might be possible. This card also fits nicely in the Three-Color Control decks. It makes their draws and mana bases much more consistent.

Tracker’s Instincts – This card seems to be the only reason to play self-mill anymore. In my opinion, this is the only new card to put in the deck, but it is a very strong one. Mulch sometimes had the problem of filling your graveyard but not getting you any action. Tracker’s Instincts very successfully fills both roles, with consistency as well.

Drogskol Captain – See the bulk of the article above.

Huntmaster of the Fells – I wouldn’t necessarily call this guy a sleeper card, since most know about him. This guy seems to make R/G Werewolves an actually playable archetype now. The deck lacked powerhouse cards, but thanks to Huntmaster, it has the power it needs.

Grafdigger’s Cage – This card seems like a strong sideboard answer to the self-mill and Burning Vengeance decks that will be running around. Don’t leave home without a Cage.

In conclusion, I think Spirits has a lot of potential to crush Block Constructed. It also seems that Dark Ascension left us with a lot of cards that were undervalued at first but are not to be ignored when constructing your deck. As I said above, I’d love to see what you’ve been brewing in the comments.

Thanks for reading and come back next time,

AJ Kerrigan

@AJKerrigan55 on Twitter