What’s good, Spirit Squad! Today we’re gonna talk about one of the most exciting spoilers we’ve seen in awhile: Cavern of Souls!

This is a card we don’t have to guess at the power of, as it’s a reprint from Avacyn Restored. Cavern has seen play in every format, from the Standard format it was printed to, all the way down to Vintage where I enjoy it in Merfolk (to the surprise of probably no one)!

OK, so Cavern of Souls is good for Typal decks. This isn’t news.

Typal decks, while the most obvious, aren’t the only place where Caverns has flourished. We see it all the time in decks like Merfolk and Humans, sure, but it’s also quite the all-star in decks like Modern Amulet Titan, where an uncounterable Primeval Titan is a nightmare to deal with, Initiative lists in both Legacy and Vintage, and even Thassa’s Oracle combo decks in Legacy, Vintage, and Commander!

Spirits, as always, has a unique perspective on Cavern of Souls, as it feels like a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, we certainly benefit from it for a few reasons:

  • It’s a painless land that mostly taps for both of our relevant colors, something Adarkar Wastes can’t boast.
  • It allows for more reliable/smoother splashing for often-sideboarded Spirits like Skyclave Apparition or Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr.
  • Mystical Dispute is EVERYWHERE, and as it’s a card that basically reads “1 mana: counter this entire deck”, so we’d like to not have that happen to us. (So is Rending Volley, but that’s a whole other story.)

OK, so just buy four and put them into your deck. Why’s this a whole article?

While the card’s absurdly powerful, Cavern of Souls isn’t exactly a free inclusion into your deck. There’s a lot of things to know about how the deck currently runs, and each of those is important if you wanna nail down the right number of Caverns to play.

  • We play a good amount of counter spells, and Cavern doesn’t help to cast any of Geistlight Snare, Lofty Denial, or Spell Pierce.
  • We also want Blue very early so that we can reliably cast Curious Obsession or any of the protective spells we like to use to make sure a Curious’d creature will stick around.
  • Most of our Sideboard cards are both White and not Creatures, so casting cards like Rest in Peace against an Izzet Phoenix or a Greasefang opponent isn’t as reliable with Cavern in your deck.
  • Finally, the current version of the list plays 2 copies of Mutavault. If we’re playing Cavern of Souls, playing Mutavault at the same time is extra-risky, even if you do get to enjoy a deck that operates at a slightly higher power level. Not having Mutavault in your deck also decreases the value of cards like Invasion of Gobakhan slightly, so be prepared to be able to attack into that less often.

Noted. So Cavern is gonna be pretty good for you… but aren’t you also the annoying counterspell deck?

Spirits is definitely not going to be the only beneficiary of Cavern of Souls. In fact, we’re not even the biggest benefactor. I expect a few people to appreciate Cavern more than we do.

Mono-White Humans is easily the biggest benefactor of Cavern of Souls. The deck plays almost nothing but Creatures (outside of either Ossification or Brave the Elements), and actively appreciates the uncounterable effect against decks like us. Spirits pilots can out-race them in combat and we have counterspells that keep their key Turn-3 plays off of the stack. They also appreciate not having their key cards countered when playing against decks like Azorius Control, which plays Absorb, or even Izzet Creativity since resolving a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is huge in those matchups.

I think the other deck that super-appreciates Cavern is going to be Abzan Greasefang. Greasefang is a deck that’s pretty good into a large portion of the Pioneer meta, but decks like Azorius Control and Izzet Creativity can disrupt their combo with a mixture of counter spells and some very light removal suites. Cavern of Souls being in the deck reduces those matchups to “do you have it” against 4-6 targeted removal spells, rather than the opponent being able to have any of removal or counter magic, which usually increases the number of available outs to something like 12-15. The Spirits matchup technically improves as well, but by “improves” I mean Spirits is “only” gonna be 65% in our favor instead of like 80%.

OK, that makes sense. So what’s the verdict? We playing it?

I think the answer is yes: we absolutely want to start our deck lists with some number of Cavern of Souls, as it’s got value that certainly can’t be denied. How much value ends up being the ultimate question, but for now here’s what I’m starting the thought process with:

This mana base allows us to keep a respectable number of truly-Blue sources in our deck, so that the main plan of “cast cards, Curious-at some-point, and use counter spells to be annoying” is still pretty reliable, as EVERY SINGLE land we play that isn’t a Cavern of Souls still makes an untapped Blue on either Turn 1 or Turn 2.

This mana base also doesn’t ignore the fact that we have multiple 1WW cards that we like to play/consider (unintentional) for our sideboards. Katilda and Skyclave Apparition are both castable quite easily on Turn 3, as only 4 of our 22 lands don’t help make WW.

Lastly, we have cards like Invasion of Gobakhan and Wedding Announcement that we like to play against the grindier decks of the format. 15 of our 22 lands make W without having to consider Cavern for those, so most reasonable draws should very easily allow for a Turn-3 Wedding Announcement. Exactly a Turn-2 Invasion is a bit harder to rely on, but it’s still nowhere near impossible to cast on time. This does mean that I’m gonna be a little more likely to want to lean on Blue or even colorless Sideboard cards in lists that contain Cavern of Souls, though. For example, Unlicensed Hearse is much easier to cast than a Rest in Peace, or a card like Reckoner Bankbuster might take its place back from Invasion of Gobakhan.

All in all, Cavern of Souls is a pretty exciting addition to Pioneer (and Standard) that at very least requires people to pay attention to it. I’m excited to build with it, even if I’m not as excited to play against it. Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing even more success out of Spirits decks in the future, and I’ll see y’all on the next one!

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