“...Focused, Non-Terminal Repeating phantasm, Or A Class-5 Full-Roaming Vapor. Real Nasty One, Too.”
The supernatural has long been a fascination of humans. The debate on whether spirits, monsters and the undead has been constant throughout the ages. What do you believe? It doesn’t matter what you believe! I am here to put the subject to rest, but it will not be peaceful. Spirits are alive and kicking in Pioneer, well kicking anyway. We saw the deck put up impressive fights against the current boogiemen of the format, Lotus Breach and Dimir Inverter. It is hard to believe that a deck that has four copies of a single non-creature spell and thirty-two creatures can combat decks such as the ones I have mentioned. Before we get into our investigation any further, let’s take a look at the list.
What makes the spirit deck so powerful is the fact that all of the disruption in the deck is tacked onto creatures. This deck has counterspells, protection spells and pump spells, they're all just part of your creature suite. The most important, as far as innovation and furthering the archetype, of these creatures is Nebelgast Herald.
When the spirits deck first burst onto the scene it was strictly blue white and had little to no interaction. Collected Company eventually found its way into the deck and back into our hearts. There was still something missing, spirits just weren't cutting it against some of the larger creatures decks that dominated the earlier weeks of Pioneer. Enter Nebelgast Herald; this little guy gave you the ability to play a tempo oriented game. It conjunction with the Flash-granting spirit Rattlechains, it gave Bant Spirits the leg up that it needed to become a competitive player in the Pioneer metagame.
“Back Off Man, I’m A Scientist.”
The fact that spirits are one the few tribes that have multiple “lords” in the format should not be overlooked. It is an integral part of the deck and a very important one at that. The first of the “lords” goes without saying, Supreme Phantom, as it gives all of your spirits +1/+1. The second however is one that was a little more surprising, Empyrean Eagle, doing the same thing as the first but for all creatures with flying. Which of course all of your spirits have. The Eagle may be the most unassuming card in the deck, because at first glance it seems out of place; yet is a spirit as well.
“There Is No Dana, Only Zuul.”
The Pioneer format has had very little room for aggressive strategies as of late. This is one of the few exceptions. Spirits can pack on a lot of damage very quickly and protects its threats and disrupts opposing game plans with ease.
This disruption starts as early as turn one with Mausoleum Wanderer that, given the Flash granting ability of the two drop Rattlechains, has the ability to counter almost anything that matters.
Speaking of Rattlechains, this creature is a linchpin in your strategy. In a scenario where your opponent is attempting to use a mass removal spell to clear your board you can respond by flashing in a Selfless Spirit and sacrificing it to make your creatures indestructible. The ability to play at instant speed also adds different dimensions to some of your creatures as well. For example, Supreme Phantasm and Empyrean Eagle become pump spells of a sort during combat.
Nebelgast Herald is possibly the most important creature in the deck. It serves the dual purpose of tapping your opponent’s creatures to prevent early aggression or profitabile attacks and then doing the same thing once you set up to remove their blockers.
The last couple of cards I want to talk about in this list are Brazen Borrower and Permeating Mass. While the Borrower is not a spirit, it is just a fantastic and very powerful creature and should probably just be in any deck that can cast it. I feel like I have written about this card more than any other since it’s release, so I may be a little biased.
Permeating Mass is a strange card indeed. First of all, it is a spirit which I didn’t know until I saw it in the sideboard of this deck. So what does it do here? If your opponent has a fully devoted Heliod, or some other difficult to deal with creature, they can’t attack with it anymore for fear of it being blocked by the Mass. On the surface, it is there to attempt to deal with difficult threats on the other side of the board. When you dig deeper though it seems to also be a way to extend the game to a state that you desire.
“Don’t Cross The Streams!”
As we continue into this season of high level Magic tournaments, we will continue to see a evolution of the Pioneer format and metagame. Currently Dimir Inverter is still the king of the format, but we’ll see if this holds fast in the near future or if WOTC will have to intervene.
There is still so much to explore in Pioneer, we have still only scratched the surface of what is possible. Keep exploring and keep enjoying this awesome format.
Good luck, I hope you lose.