What’s good, Spirit Squad!

One thing I’ve heard about Spirits decks from other players and even content creators is that, even though they pack a punch, they don’t have any true card advantage and that too much of your gameplay is determined by your opening hand.

I’m here to dispel that theory today (or Counterspell it, if you’re into easy puns).

Recently, fellow content creator and Merfolk master Nikachu stated that all of his Merfolk are basically spells that are allowed to attack, and this is exactly how I’ve looked at Spirits for the past few years. All of our flying friends have fantastic abilities that really make the cards shine, and the fact that you get to use your spells as attackers is why Spirits is so frustrating to play against for a ton of opponents.

OK, am I really here to read that 2-for-1’s are good?

In a word: yes. But not just any 2-for-1’s. The advantages that Spirits, specifically, get you are amongst the most powerful and frustrating cards in all of Magic‘s 30-year history. Let’s take a look at some of the specific cards I mean, and maybe this’ll provide some perspective on why Spirits can feel straight-up unbeatable at times.

One of Magic‘s most frustrating and iconic cards isn’t legal in Pioneer at all, and it took all the way up until Modern Horizons II to become Modern-legal. Don’t let this trick you into thinking the card isn’t played, though. Basic, normal, everyday Counterspell is one of the most powerful answers to anything in Magic, and has seen play in every format from Vintage (albeit not so much these days) to Modern, and even Commander!

Jokes and memes have been made forever about “the Blue player holding up mana”, and Spirits takes that concept to the extreme. At the helm of this theory is, of course, Spell Queller.

Of course our favorite flier is the first card of today’s discussion. If you ask a lot of people, Spell Queller is going to be the #1 reason to play Azorius over a Mono-Blue build of Spirits in Pioneer, and for good reason.

In theory, Spell Queller has two major issues: not every spell costs 4 or less mana, and the opponent gets to re-cast the spell when Queller goes away. In practice, however, almost every spell you’d reasonably expect to see play in Pioneer/Explorer costs 4 or less mana. Normally this would be easy enough to deal with using a removal spell, if it weren’t for Queller’s best friend:

Giving your Spirits Hexproof for a turn is huge game, especially when you’re keeping something like a Spell Queller in play, and keeping your opponent’s spell kidnapped. So you already get an awesome 2-for-1 in any interaction in which Rattlechains gets to “counter” a removal spell. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

One of the most hated (or beloved) cards in casual Commander tables makes an appearance in the last paragraph of Rattlechain’s text. Having the ability to choose between holding up mana for interaction or deploying your own threats on an opponent’s turn is a major hallmark of playing Spirits, and that ability has made Spirits the premiere (and sometimes only) tempo deck in Pioneer. While a 2/1 on its own isn’t exactly impressive, attaching it to TWO good spells for just 2 mana is backbreaking in a good number of the games you’ll play with Spirits.

OK, so blue cards counter spells. Surprise. So what?

While keeping spells you don’t like off the stack is important, that’s not the only reason Spirits shines. One of the biggest sleeper cards Spirits has access to looks more like an “I win” button in the right matchups, and even some of us who play Spirits on a regular basis undervalued this card until we actually played with it!


Shacklegeist is probably the Spirit that gets slept on the most in competitive lists, but don’t get it twisted: this card is absurdly powerful in the right matchups. The most common application of Shacklegeist, of course, is shutting down the biggest and baddest monster that decks like Greasefang or Mono-Green Devotion can pull off, but in practice this looks like one of the most busted cards Magic has ever seen:

This isn’t hyperbole. Shacklegeist can be that powerful. Against decks like Greasefang or Auras/Bogles, this card reads “win the game, your opponent can resolve their combo and it doesn’t matter”. Against decks like Mono-Green that are looking to set up a Cavalier of Thorns or Polukranos Reborn, this card reads “your opponent just spent an entire turn or two to still not be able to block”. If your opponent is on anything that wants to play Llanowar Elves or Elvish Mystic, Shacklegeist might look like another card that has the same casting cost:

OK, so maybe this one is a bit of hyperbole, but not by much! Imagine this super-common scenario against a deck like Gruul Vehicles, which is supposed to be a “bad” matchup:

You win the die roll, and play a Turn 1 Mausoleum Wanderer. Your opponent plays a Stomping Ground into Llanowar Elves. You untap, play Shacklegeist, don’t attack, and instead tap the Llanowar Elves in their upkeep. Now they can’t play Reckless Stormseeker, their most threatening card, on their turn. They COULD cast a Bonecrusher Giant‘s Stomp or an Obliterating Bolt to try and kill the Shacklegeist, but you have an on-board Wanderer to protect it. So they most likely play another elf, if they even have one, and pass the turn. You now get to untap and play a third land, and your opponent is most likely not going to get to play a lot of Magic from there.

This is just the tip of the iceberg you can get out of the different and powerful abilities Spirits has available, too! We haven’t even started on the more complex Spirits, like Mausoleum Wanderer or Spectral Adversary.

Hopefully this helps to provide some insight on just how powerful some of these little fliers are, and maybe even inspire some of you to pick the deck up and try it for yourselves! If you do, remember to hit FusionGamingOnline.com for your Spirits cards and I’ll see y’all on the next one.

About The Author

SpiritSquadMTG, or just Dre, has been playing games at a high level for 25 years, 13 of that within the Magic: the Gathering space. You can find him talking about Magic, especially Spirits, on YouTube or occasionally playing in Upstate New York.

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