What’s good, Spirit Squad! Today we’re gonna talk about something we haven’t had a direct focus on in a little bit: Spirits, and the state of the Pioneer format!

Dude. You always talk about Spirits. What are you even on about?

Tangentially, sure. But today we’re gonna be a bit more focused on the deck, what’s changed in Pioneer since the last time I’ve highlighted the deck itself, and what I think is going to happen by the time the American Regional Championship comes around, since that’s the tournament I’m currently prepping for.

First, as always, let’s take a look at what’s happening within the Pioneer format itself:

As always, there’s some good, bad, and in-between amongst the matchup spread for us. That’s always gonna be the case. The biggest thing we should take note of is the fact that Rakdos decks, Izzet Phoenix, and Boros Convoke are all near the top of the meta, and this wasn’t the case with either Phoenix or Convoke just a couple of months ago.

This means that Spirits pilots should be preparing for a harder-than-before metagame to try and tackle, but there’s still a ton of good matchups near the top of the meta as well. Mono-Green Devotion, Humans, Gruul Aggro, and Azorius Control are all reasonable-to-good matchups, and you still have near-byes against Lotus Field Combo and Greasefang decks.

I’ve already spoken at-length as to why I think this type of matchup spread is pretty good for Spirits pilots who are trying to win a tournament (check out “The Belcher Threory” here), but even with an obnoxious top end of the meta, Spirits has also received some nifty tools with the release of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan (LCI).

You wrote a whole article about Cavern already. We know.

Yes, Cavern of Souls exists in Pioneer now. However, I think that’s actually the *least* exciting of the upgrades that Spirits has received this set. It’s certainly an upgrade, and you can read about that one more here (Pioneer’s Snatching Cavern of Souls), but today let’s talk a little about the other cards that you might see finding homes in Spirits decks in the near future.

OK, this one’s a meme. Sorry. (I’m not.)

Granddad is super-interesting in a space like Commander where him being a Legendary Creature and having a pretty cool interactive ability is awesome, but the truth is that Abuelo, Ancestral Echo won’t be seeing any real play in Pioneer.

Abuelo, Ancestral Echo: Meme/10

Alaska mentioned! (Trivia: the city of Anchorage, Alaska gets roughly 20 hours of sunlight a day during the summer, so it’s truly restless!)

Cool tidbits aside, I think Restless Anchorage is a card that’s got some potential in Spirits, even if there are some real tradeoffs.

  • Unlike Mutavault, Restless Anchorage makes Blue and White mana, which is pretty huge if we’re also going to be playing Cavern of Souls.
  • Also unlike Mutavault, Anchorage flies. This is obviously important in a deck that has Flying as its main strength.
  • Map tokens are a pretty sweet resource. Activating at Sorcery speed isn’t necessarily the best, but giving yourself even a little control over the top of your deck is awesome in a deck that can rely pretty heavily on topdecks in the late game.
  • All of these upsides come with a major tradeoff: Anchorage always comes into play tapped. One of the main reasons I included Hall of Storm Giants is because it doesn’t mess up your early mana, but Anchorage can.
Overall, I think this is a minor, but still mention-worthy, inclusion for Spirits decks and I’ll probably start experimenting with some number of this card to see if it ends up actually being playable.
Restless Anchorage: AK/47

The first thing I noticed when this card was spoiled is that it’s got a lot of similarities to a card Spirits would absolutely play if we were allowed:

Of course, it’s not quite THAT good, but being able to provide a somewhat-consistent source of card filtering is an amazing ability. Never mind the “level four” ability, that’s basically flavor text.

Hear me out. It costs 2. It has Flash and Flying, the two most important keywords for us. And card filtering is an ability that Spirits absolutely wants to get our hands on. There are real downsides, though. Not being a Spirit itself is a HUGE one, since our deck relies pretty heavily on the Kindred synergy that comes from playing a giant pile of Spirits cards, but I’m certainly gonna try Malcolm, Alluring Scoundrel to see if I like it. I do think it’ll be pretty easy to slot 2 copies into Mono-Blue lists, but finding room for it in Azorius is going to be more of a challenge.

Malcolm, Alluring Scoundrel: in the middle/10

Now here’s the card I’m most excited about from this set. Get Lost is already a good removal spell in general… decks like Azorius Control, Mono-White Humans, and maybe even Greasefang should consider playing it in the 75.

But Get Lost solves some very specific problems that Spirits has, and I’ll be glad to make some opponents miserable as a result. Being able to remove things like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, Ledger Shredder, Shark Typhoon tokens, Temporary Lockdown, and Enigmatic Incarnation using the same card is a game-changer for us. The Map token it makes isn’t even that big of a deal against us, seeing as even one mana spent activating a Map token means that our copies of cards like Geistlight Snare, Lofty Denial, and Spell Pierce have more opportunity to have text in the mid-game turns than we would without the temptation of Exploring before casting a spell.

I’ll be very glad to start playing with 2 of these in my main deck, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that I actually want a third copy.

Get Lost: Zoro/10

That’s about the extent to which I think LCI is gonna have a direct impact on Spirits decks. Of course, there’s an ever-shifting meta for us to play around, and we don’t know how much (if any) impact things like an Abzan Explore combo deck are going to be yet, so there’s a lot still to-be-determined. With that said, this is what I think I’m going to be doing with my main deck for at least the first week or two of LCI Pioneer/Explorer:

This list has some real high points, at the expense of two of my favorite cards: Shacklegeist and Mutavault. Shacklegeist may not be *as* missed in this list since we have access to Get Lost and are playing all four copies of Brazen Borrower here, but that’s nowhere near a “final answer”. As for Mutavault, that one will be pretty sorely missed, but Cavern of Souls is a higher power-level card. Since we’re still playing a pile of White sideboard cards, I’m also OK with putting a singleton copy of Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire back into the deck as an untapped source of White mana (double White is gonna be important for any lists playing Settle the Wreckage!).

As y’all can probably guess, I’m pretty excited about the different directions Spirits can go in the next few weeks, with all the new toys we have access to. I’m also looking forward to seeing just how many of the LCI cards truly make an impact on Pioneer or even any of the other eternal formats! We have roughly a month to figure these things out by the time the American regional championship comes around, but I plan on having a lot of fun playing games of Magic, talking with everyone about how the game’s progressing, and if you’re an American reading this I hope to see you at Atlanta!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.