Review and Upgrade Guide
“You stare around at the darkened trees as the wind whips through the boughs above and around you. Not sure whether the noise you’re hearing is the sound of the air as it rushes through the bending branches or the breath of some other-worldly entity intent on your demise, you break out in goosebumps as your blood runs cold.
Then you see it! Rising from the mulched ground like a slow-building wave on an open sea. The figure floats towards you as it takes on the form of some long-dead soldier, brittle blade raised over its spectral head as it’s mouth gapes in a scream that matches the intensity of the gusting gale that threatens to lift you off your feet.
You try to draw your own weapon in a vain attempt to fend off the oncoming attack, but the souls of the departed fill your vision now and everything is so slow. So cold. So numb…”
Spirit Squadron is a preconstructed Commander deck from the Magic: the Gathering Innistrad: Crimson Vow set released by Wizards of the Coast.
A huge shout out to our partners, Unplug Yourself, for supplying the team with these decks for review. Check them out at www.unplugyourself.co.za for all your tabletop gaming news and other goodies.
Spirit Squadron is an Azorius (blue/white) deck that focusses on the “spirits” archetype and is led by Millicent, Restless Revenant who’s casting cost is reduced by the number of spirits you control, which means that she can often be cast (even from the Command Zone) for as little as a blue and a white mana. She also helps to make this happen by creating 1/1 flying spirit tokens when she or any other nontoken spirit creature you control dies or deals combat damage to a player.
The deck also features three other potential commanders – one of whom Donal, Herald of Wings could not be run straight out of the box as the deck commander. The other two, however, are partners and together they can create some serious mayhem for your opponents. Timin, Youthful Geist taps down an opponent’s creature at the beginning of each combat (yes, that’s “each” combat, including your opponents combat rounds), while their partner, Rhoda, Geist Avenger uses this ability to add +1/+1 counters to itself for each creature an opponent controls that gets tapped and not declared as an attacker. If unchecked these two legendaries can quickly run away with the board.
A notable reprinted commander is Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens, who harkens back to the earlier mono white spirits and arcane themes from Betrayers of Kamigawa.
Oyobi helps to widen your board by saying whenever you cast a spirit or arcane spell create a 3/3 flying spirit token – better than the regular 1/1s for sure. Donal, on the other hand looks for fliers and when you cast one you can copy it and make it a 1/1 flying spirit in addition to its other types, but you can only do this once per turn, or it might just be too broken.
Overall, straight out of the box, the deck ticks over beautifully, filling the air over the battlefield with little flying ghosties and allowing you to pressurise your opponents right from the off while also enabling cool reprints like Mentor of the Meek to help you draw more cards. Cards like Drogskol Captain – first seen in Dark Ascension – and Supreme Phantom from Core Set 2019 which are great spirit lords that help make your 1/1s a bit bigger and more dangerous.
Another exceptional reprint is Windborn Muse, a simple way to tax any enemy who has the gall to try and attack you and your army of ethereal entities while Geist of Saint Traft, from the original Innistrad set, is a serious early threat with it’s ability to create 4/4 flying angels on attack – could also be a commander for this deck, but not sure if the synergy is right for it.
Some great new cards include Drogskol Reinforcements which protects all your spirits from noncombat damage and gives them all the melee mechanic allowing each spirit to gain +1/+1 until end of turn for each opponent you attacked this turn. Can easily make a little swing into a very big oof!
Ethereal Investigator allows for conditional card draw in the form of clue tokens from it’s investigate enter the battlefield (ETB) ability as well as widens your board with it’s second ability to create a 1/1 flying spirit when you draw your second card each turn. Speaking of card draw, here are the deck stats:
- Ramp 10
- Card Draw 10
- Targeted Removal 5
- Board Wipes 4
- Spirit and Spirit Enablers 36
So, a well structured spirits tribal deck. Having said that there are a few ways to improve this brew depending on which way you want to go with it. As part of our Command This! Top Deck R350 budget upgrade I chose to make my deck a more blink and flicker focussed deck, playing off of the ETBs of a number of cards already in the deck and adding a few more bombs to assist in over-running the battlefield. A special thanks to our WPN Premium store, Top Deck for the sponsorship of the R350 vouchers to each of the players to purchase their upgrades. You can check out their amazing singles and sealed selections at www.store.topdecksa.co.za.
These are the cards I chose to slot into the deck to try and achieve my now-you-see-me-and-now-you-see-me-again strategy:
Long Road Home is a cheap (2 mana value) blink instant that also adds a buff counter to the targeted creature, while for one mana extra Acrobatic Maneuver flickers a creature and allows us to draw a card. Semester’s End from Strixhaven is a great protect all, allowing you blink all your creatures and planeswalkers out of harm’s way and then return them with a +1/+1 counter or an additional loyalty counter added. Value.
Keeping in the spirit of the deck (see what I did there), Essence Flux is a one drop flicker effect for a creature you control and if that creature is a spirit it returns with an additional +1/+1 counter on it, while Geistlight Snare reduces its own cost to counter an opponents spell if you control a spirit with a further reduction if you also control an enchantment – not a difficult thing to do with this deck.
Speaking of enchantments, I threw in a copy of Spirit Bonds which makes spirit tokens at a cost of 1 white mana whenever a nontoken creature enters the battlefield and can then for an additional cost and a small sacrifice give a target non-spirit creature indestructible until the end of turn.
Not too many targets for this but the one’s we do have in the deck are important, so I thought it would be a good idea to try and protect them as much as possible. One of these is a new legendary creature from Crimson Vow, Jacob Hauken, Inspector. This card brings a ton of value to this deck, once transformed allowing you to cast expensive spells for free and gratis. You just have to keep him alive long enough to get there, but it can be done!
Niko-Onna is a great inclusion in this deck, not only is her ETB highly effective, she makes bounces herself whenever you play a spirit or arcane spell, so you can just keep blowing things up without using your spells on her directly.
Spell Queller is a must include in any spirits deck, just ask any Pioneer player and Mirrorhall Mimic from Crimson Vow is token utility even if it gets removed as it’s disturbed side generates spirit tokens every upkeep. Another no-brainer when thinking of blink or flicker in blue and white is Mistmeadow Witch which is simply blink a thing on a 1/1 body and the final two additions are both new cards from Crimson Vow.
Cemetery Illuminator is the blue card in the “cemetery” cycle from the set and it’s ETB says we can exile a card from any graveyard, then we can look at the top card of our library at any time and once each turn we may cast a spell from the top of our library if it shares a card type with the card we exiled. Blink. Rinse. Repeat. Value.
And finally we have Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr whose power and toughness are each equal to the number of spirits and enchantments we control so, in this deck, Katilda is a house. She also has flying, lifelink and protection from Vampires. Not bad at all. Katilda can also be disturbed as an enchantment aura which gives the enchanted creature all of her abilities, so even killing her is a bad idea.
These are the cards I dropped in favour of the ones mentioned above, I’ll not go into much details here, just a list of what didn’t make my final cut:
[[Promise of Bunrei]], [[Knight of the White Orchid]] – say it isn’t so, [[Angel of Flight Alabaster]], [[Arcane Denial], [[Custodi Squire]], [[Dovin, Grand Arbiter]], [[Verity Circle]], [[Shacklegeist]], [[Oyobi, who Split the Heavens]], [[Hallowed Spiritkeeper]], [[Custodi Soulbinders]], [[Benevolent Offering]], [[Rhoda, Geist Avenger]] and [[Timin, Youthful Geist]].
None of these are bad cards and notably the partnership of Rhoda and TImin and the inclusion of cards like Verity Circle in that build could also be powerful, but it’s not the way I chose to go with the deck with my R350 upgrade.
I would also recommend – should budget not be an issue – that you look at including cards like Drogskol Reaver, Drogskol Cavalry, Phantom General, Thassa, Deep-Dwelling and Deadeye Navigator just to name a few that would seriously optimise not only the highly spirited theme of the deck (I did it again) but would also increase the blink-and-you-miss-it effect that I was going for with my upgrades.
In any case, these are my thoughts on which way the deck should go, your ideas may be totally different so I would so that, out of the box, the deck runs very well and as a baseline it provides a number of lines you could follow to upgrade and optimise it. Which way you go to get the most fun out of it is your call.
One last shout out to our partners at Unplug Yourself for the opportunity to play with these decks and to our supporters at Top Deck for their continued support of the R350 upgrade.
See you on the battlefield. Don’t blink…