Hi! My name’s Dre, and I’m your friendly neighborhood Spirit Master. You may have seen me as “SpiritSquadMTG” at some point or another browsing the Internet or any recent discussion involving Spirits-themed decks, especially in Pioneer or MTG Arena’s Explorer (I’ll be using these interchangeably, as they’re *almost* the same format). To celebrate this being our first article on The Mana Base, that’s what we’ll talk about today: Spirits’ mana bases within Pioneer and Explorer, and how understanding them will help to make your Spirits deck more stable and more successful.

Pioneer, of course, is the format where Spirits shines the brightest, and it’s where our focus will live today. Within Pioneer, each of the aggressive and powerful Bant Spirits with Collected Company, the punishing Mono-Blue Spirits with Curious Obsession and Geistlight Snare, and the explosive Azorius Spirits with Watcher of the Spheres have all seen their time in the limelight. With the addition of Seachrome Coast in Phyrexia: All Will be One, the biggest problem with the multicolored versions of Spirits has been all but answered: the clunkiness of the mana.

In the past, pilots like myself have preferred the Mono-Blue Spirits build for two main reasons: the combo of Curious Obsession and Geistlight Snare, which we will certainly cover at another time, and its incredibly smooth mana, our focus for today. This preference for simple and painless mana even led to several well-known pilots trusting Mono-Blue Spirits in the highest stage of professional gameplay Magic: the Gathering has to offer: the 2022 World Championships! Pro players and content creators Jim Davis and Reid Duke, along with the eventual runner-up Eli Kassis all chose to trust a “pile of basic Islands” over known top-tier decks like Rakdos Midrange, Abzan Greasefang, or Gruul Midrange. However, Mono-Blue Spirits being “a pile of basic Islands” is exactly what leads to the deck’s wild consistency.

When building any deck, you ideally want to win all of your games in the same way. A large part of doing this is ensuring that you can have the correct colors of mana to cast your spells when you need to cast them. The problem with this is that many of Magic’s most powerful cards either cost a bunch of mana or require you to be able to produce multiple colors of mana. For example, let’s take a look at a sample mana base for Pioneer Bant Spirits:

Bant Spirits Mana Base

While Bant Spirits can be a powerful archetype, it’s true that the mana for Bant is incredibly clunky in a format that doesn’t include fetch lands or Modern-level multicolored lands like Cavern of Souls. The mana presents multiple problems for the deck: out of the 23 lands in the deck, 10 of them are dedicated to casting the deck’s only Green card, Collected Company. This leads to a few problems the deck can have, primarily the inclusion of “shock lands” like Temple Garden that deal you damage in a format that has plenty of hyper-aggressive decks, and the fact that a “fast land” like Botanical Sanctum can come into play tapped on a crucial Turn 4, in which you’re probably trying to cast a Collected Company or double-spell with things like Rattlechains + Lofty Denial. This can quickly lead to a “Congratulations, you played yourself” moment in your games, and pilots have endeavored for years to fix the mana to resolve these issues.

Azorius Spirits has also encountered the same issues, some of which persist to this day. A two-color mana base allows you to potentially play Creature lands like Mutavault, but without a good number of untapped multicolored sources of mana coming in early, Azorius has almost as many mana-related problems as Bant does. Here’s what the Azorius Spirits mana base looks like right now:

Azorius Spirits Mana Base

This mana base is a lot less clunky for sure, but it still presents its share of problems for a deck that needs to cast all of its cards on time. Having white cards like Spell Queller or Selfless Spirit in a deck that has 6 basic Islands and 2 Mutavaults can still give a player room for disaster, even if it’s not often enough to turn pilots off of playing the deck. For example, if your hand is three Creatures, one counter spell, 2 basic Islands, and one Mutavault, that’s generally a hand to keep all day. But if your first two draw steps are white cards, your keepable hand is now a disaster. The same is true for any matchups in which you need to slow your opponent down with a removal spell like Portable Hole. In those same matchups, the 2 (or more) life that cards like Hallowed Fountain or Adarkar Wastes cost can be a real liability. These are problems we’ve been endeavoring to solve for years, with inclusions like Secluded Courtyard/Unclaimed Territory, Mana Confluence, and even (shudder) Port Town. Do yourself a favor and don’t play that last one, though.

Quite a few players have chosen to solve this problem by adapting Pioneer’s most simple mana base: that of Mono-Blue Spirits. While there is some discussion about the number of lands one should play, or whether Otawara, Soaring City is a necessary inclusion, a stock Mono-Blue Spirits mana base will always look something like this, with a range between 21 and 23 lands in total:

Mono-Blue Spirits Mana Base

This incredibly simple, painless manabase is the backbone of the Mono-Blue Spirits deck, and has served quite a few pilots well. The fact that you can almost never “miss” on your mana appeals to a lot of players, and the fact that Faceless Haven gives you a powerful, on-theme Creature land makes the mana even more appealing. However, the addition of Seachrome Coast grants Azorius fans a near-perfect solution that allows Spirits fans to continue playing the Curious Obsession/Geistlight Snare package that all but ruins combo and ramp decks, but without having a mana base that prohibits you from playing your White cards early. Here’s what I’m proposing we play in Azorius decks once Phyrexia: All Will be One releases:

NEW Azorius Spirits Mana Base

This mana base attempts to fix most of the problems Azorius Spirits has had with its mana: all of your lands come into play untapped on Turns 1 and 2, which are usually your most crucial turns when you’re playing Curious Obession. Of these 22 lands, you now have 20 untapped Blue sources on Turn 1 and 18 untapped White sources on Turn 1. This makes for an incredible amount of stability that allows you to play your early threats on Turn 1 reliably in the matchups where you want to be aggressive, while also allowing yourself to play defensively with White cards like Portable Hole or Deafening Silence on Turn 1 as well. The Hall of Storm Giants certainly isn’t necessary, but I wanted to give our mana a little late-game utility while not sacrificing the early-game stability, and Hall of Storm Giants does exactly that.

The addition of Seachrome Coast is an exciting one for Spirits pilots, and one I certainly look forward to talking about much more in the future!

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