Brewed Up: Celestial Spirits

Brew week is coming to a close and we are wrapping it up with our wackiest one. Bant Spirits was once on top of the format but now sits at Tier 3. Today we are trying to bring it back with a direct injection of combo fuel. War of the Spark brought a Spirit tribal combo that sidesteps removal and allows us to wipe out all lands as early as Turn 3. That’s right folks you can pull out Armageddon in Modern and we are here to show you the way.

Decklist
Lands (20)
4 Botanical Sanctum
1 Breeding Pool
4 Flooded Strand
1 Forest
1 Hallowed Fountain
2 Horizon Canopy
1 Island
1 Plains
1 Temple Garden
4 Windswept Heath
Creatures (28)
4 Celestial Kirin
4 Drogskol Captain
4 Mausoleum Wanderer
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Spell Queller
4 Supreme Phantom
4 Ugin’s Conjurant
Spells (12)
4 Aether Vial
4 Eladamri’s Call
4 Path to Exile
Sideboard (15)
1 Collector Ouphe
2 Damping Sphere
1 Deputy of Detention
1 Knight of Autumn
2 Oko, Thief of Crowns
1 Phyrexian Revoker
2 Rest in Peace
1 Scavenging Ooze
2 Unified Will
2 Veil of Summer
75 Cards Total

The Build
This deck is not that different from traditional Bant Spirits so much of this may be review for those with experience. The manabase is a little less wild than other lists and I am not sure why. Bant Spirits players cannot seem to agree on a manabase and often have a smattering of unfetchable one-ofs. For this list I wanted to keep it simple. Our fastland of choice is Botanical Sanctum as our turn one plays are a green spell and a blue spell; simple as that. Our deck’s only early restrictive costs are GW and UW so any white land with Sanctum will cast everything in your deck. So we have chosen eight fetchlands that can grab the basic Plains. The basic Island and Forest are present but can only be fetched with Flooded Stand and Windswept Heath respectively. If you are particularly concerned about Blood Moon you could trim one of each fetch for two Misty Rainforest. For those fetches we have one of each shockland available to the Bant colors. Then finally we have a couple Horizon Canopy to mitigate flooding; for the games in which we do not Armageddon the board.

I am going to dive right in and discuss the combo bits. The idea is to play out Celestial Kirin and then immediately cast a Ugin’s Conjurant for 0. This will trigger Kirin’s ability and destroy all lands. The hope is that you have an Aether Vial in play or are ahead on board; which is very likely in an aggressive creature deck. This cannot be interrupted by removal either. Priority is passed when you cast a spell, change phase, activate an ability, etc. If the Kirin resolves you can immediately slam the Conjurant. They can destroy the Kirin in response or counter the Conjurant, but it will not help them; the ability is already on the stack and those lands are getting binned. If you happen to have another Conjurant in hand, you will be able to do it again if the opponent gets lucky and starts drawing into lands.

These are not exceptional spirits but they are reasonable. We have spirits at one, two, and three mana so this can act as a situational removal spell. A four mana 3/3 on-tribe flyer is a fine rate as well because our lords keep it out of Bolt range. Conjurant is not too shabby either but it is a strange card. It is a spirit take on Endless One but rather than receiving damage, it shrinks; which is almost always a drawback. Basically creatures your opponent’s control have wither in regards to it. The interaction with our lords is an upside though so it is not all bad. If Conjurant would be dealt lethal damage, it will survive as a 1/1 or larger depending on how many lords you have in play. This is a one time shield though. Where it really shines is against controlling decks as it scales up as the game drags on and combat is rare.

From there we are just running the best creatures from the stock list. Our one drops are Noble Hierarch and Mausoleum Wanderer. Noble is maximized in here as it produces any color we need and exalted is especially effective on evasive threats. The only thing better than Armageddon is Turn 3 Armageddon right? Mausoleum Wanderer is a dumb card in a tribal spirit deck. 60% of the spells in the deck are Spirits so this will easily be swinging as a 2/2 flyer each turn and can pop into a mana-free Spell Pierce. Better yet we have lords so this often is a better version of Insectile Aberration. This is easy to achieve by curving it into Supreme Phantom, our only two drop creature. A 1/3 flyer is a surprisingly nice body and a second lord take it out of Bolt range. Two mana lords are an exceptionally rare breed and before this card, Spirits garnered little respect. This will often be providing four or more damage each turn in the midgame.

The best spells in the deck though are at the three drop spot. Spell Queller is a ridiculous card. It has a solid body and effectively counters the vast majority of spells in the format upon entry. It is one lord away from being Bolt-proof and the flash gives us something to hold up mana for alongside Eladamri’s Call. I wish I had more to say but it simply one of the best disruptive creatures ever printed. We also have the traditional three mana lord but ours is much better than the norm as well. Hexproof is a powerful, divisive mechanic that they use very sparingly anymore and for good reason. This limits your opponent’s removal options to just one and if you can get two into play, removal is locked out entirely as they grant hexproof to one another.

Finally we come to the noncreature spells that support the strategy. The most boring one is Path but obviously it is dumb good. It is the format’s best strict removal spell and the most played white card. No matter the size of the threat, you can beat it for a single mana. I’m always surprised to see a white deck with less than four in the seventy-five.

Aether Vial is a stock inclusion for aggressive tribal decks and Spirits is no different, but you could argue that it at its best here. It can allow you to grow Mausoleum Wanderer at instant speed or sneak it in as a Force Spike. It makes Supreme Phantom a terrifying combat trick. It lets you tap out while maintaining Spell Queller pressure. It even lets you counter removal via Drogskol Captain. It also helps us to play out threats under Kirin without wiping out chunks of our board. Most importantly though, when the Armageddon goes off it keeps us ahead. Nobody will be casting spells anymore but we will continue to put threats into the play and just win thanks to Vial. There are tons of tricks to it and we should probably do a full article on the card at some point.

This deck idea was simply not viable before Eladamri’s Call became Modern legal. Cheating a Conjurant into play with something like Chord would not trigger Kirin and would be very mana intensive anyways. We need a Demonic Tutor and we got damn close with this. It represents either half of the combo and does not telegraph it. You jam it on the opponent’s endstep, untap, and slam your Armageddon. It gives us whatever we need, whenever we need it. Even holding it up with a Vial on three provides nice options. You grab Queller and then Vial it in if they play something relevant or you grab Drogskol and pump the squad if they swing in. The card is super versatile and we absolutely needed it.

My favorite aspect of Call is the toolbox of creatures we can board in and tutor up. Collector Ouphe is a Stony that we can dig up for the artifact decks. Scavenging Ooze performs a similar role against Burn decks and graveyard decks. We also have Phyrexian Revoker to help out with the rise in planeswalkers and to shut off Urza; yes it hits mana abilities. To blow up specific artifacts, gain life against aggro, or go on the aggressive we have Knight of Autumn as a Swiss army knife. Then if we need a blanket answer to any other non-land permanent we have Deputy of Detention to fall back on. Call ends up with so many options.

We do have plenty of noncreature spells in the side though and they are among the best in the format. Let’s get Veil of Summer out of the way. I have raved about this several times now, “This is the best color hate spell we have seen since Pyro/Hydroblast. It is an absolute blowout against blue and black decks for a single mana. I am not being even a bit hyperbolic when I say that every deck that can reliably cast this should have it in their sideboard.” We also have Damping Sphere to combat the recent rise of Amulet Titan and Tron; it is also good against Paradoxical Urza until they turn it into an Elk. Unified Will is a pet card of mine and in these creature-heavy decks it is just counterspell when you board it in correctly. It is spectacular against control, Tron, and most combo decks. I was not so sure about Rest in Peace but it is actually pretty swell right now. Graveyard decks, such as Crabvine, are picking back up and it is better than it once was against Jund; Goyf, W6, and Scooze.

Then last but most broken we have Oko, Thief of Crowns. He makes a reasonable argument for being the best planeswalker ever printed. He is dominating Standard, Pioneer, and Modern right now. He gains back a Bolt’s worth of life every turn against aggro. He downgrades any creature or artifact into a 3/3. He trades in 1/1 Ugin’s Conjurants for opposing permanents. Even against one of the rare decks without creatures and artifacts, he just wins by spawning an Elk every other turn. There is nothing special about him in here apart from being in our colors. He is just too damn good for us not to run.

The Verdict
Well it definitely works. We still have the classic Bant combo of Drogskol + Drogskol to lock out opposing removal. Now we have an Armageddon as well to lock the game up entirely. Unfortunately, I do not think this fixes any of the issues that sunk the deck’s dominance. This build does feel somewhat nice right now because Armageddon is so good against ramp decks. But we are not any better against the aggressive decks and we are significantly worse against interactive decks.

When the opponent interacts heavily, our combo pieces are weaker than the flex slots that we cut for them. Collected Company was also the key to winning these matchups and we had to cut it to make the combo consistent. This is definitely a fun and novel experience but hurt the deck just as much as we helped it. If you own Bant Spirits and want to liven up your FNM, pick up these bits because they are quite cheap. But if you want to be competitive and play the best build of Spirits, you ought to look elsewhere.

Wrap-Up
That concludes our week of Brews. We are always working on more but we felt that now was the perfect time for these four. The other three have a ton of merit but I see this one as more interesting than competitive. Being able to play Armageddon on Turn 3 or 4 is a ton of fun but it does come with some deckbuilding concessions. Is it possible I am underrating it though? What was your favorite brew from this week? Have you tried out Spirits in Pioneer yet? Please come and share your ideas with us in our discussion group. Or if you would like to take a swing at writing content for the site you can contact us directly here. We will be back soon with another article for you to enjoy. Until then my friends.

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