What’s Good, Spirit Squad!

Recently I’ve been championing the cause of Azorius Spirits in Pioneer, mostly due to the release of Seachrome Coast. And the deck has certainly performed! In the past week alone, the archetype has come up with a Top 4 finish in a Preliminary event, a second-place finish in the Pioneer Super Qualifier, a first-place finish in this weekend’s Pioneer Challenge, a second-place finish in another Pioneer Challenge, and even a Top 16 finish at Pro Tour: Phyrexia! Another sweet W for the list is that content creator Nikachu (also on The Mana Base!) took it to the two Secret Lair tournaments at MagicCon: Philly, and came back with some sweet 5-2 results in each of the two events despite not playing much Pioneer beforehand!

So What Makes Azorius So Good Right Now?

Spirits has a few very good matchups at the upper end of the Pioneer metagame, specifically against Mono-Green Devotion and Lotus Field Combo. This has been historically true across all of the different builds of Spirits that have been in Pioneer, but each version of Spirits has previously wrestled with one huge weakness or another. Mono-Blue deals with having a subpar sideboard, Bant deals with a restriction on the number of non-creature spells it’s allowed to play, and Azorius has had terrible mana, even for a deck with only two colors. Adarkar Wastes certainly helped, but Seachrome Coast has *actually* solved that problem for Azorius, so you end up with the good parts of Mono-Blue, great White sideboard cards, and a real mana base!

The value of Seachrome Coast can’t really be overstated, as far as Spirits pilots are concerned. People have previously played cards like Mana Confluence, Unclaimed Territory, and even Port Town have all seen play. But having a reprint of this Scars of Mirrodin all-star available in Pioneer means that you’re allowed to approach your sideboarded games very differently from even six months ago. Playing Portable Hole, for example, was a lot to ask for in a deck with up to 9 lands in your 22-land deck that couldn’t make White! Now, 17 of your 22 lands can cast the same Portable Hole on Turn 1 instead! This matters a ton as the Pioneer format becomes more focused and low-to-the-ground.

OK, So Seachrome Coast Is Good. Is There a List I Can Copy Yet?

The best part of Spirits in Pioneer has always been the fact that the archetype is pretty customizable, and to some degree unpredictable. Bant Spirits with its Collected Company and Mono-Blue Spirits with Curious Obsession have pretty much always looked the same from start to present, but Azorius Spirits has always been a bit all-over-the-place. Curious Obsession is the build that’s currently seeing the most success, so we can default to assuming that’s the best version of Azorius Spirits. Most lists look like the following:

4 Mausoleum Wanderer
4 Spectral Sailor
0-2 Lantern Bearer

You actively want to try to guarantee that your opening hand contains at least one 1-drop, so that you can draw cards with a Curious Obsession as soon as possible. The default build is 8, but lists have popped up with as many as ten 1-drops for consistency.

4 Supreme Phantom
4 Shacklegeist
4 Rattlechains
4 Spell Queller
0-2 Selfless Spirit

The remainder of the creatures in the list make for a pretty amazing supporting cast. Lord effects, protection, controlling combat via Shacklegeist’s ability, this is where Spirits really shines as an archetype.

However! Daniel Kristoff, in his Pro Tour list that made the Top 16, decided to forego the Spell Quellers in favor of Skyclave Apparition. If your play environment contains a lot of decks like Mono-White Humans, Angels, or Gruul Vehicles, this may be a thing for you to take into consideration.

4 Curious Obsession
0-2 Combat Research

Not only do these enchantments turn every one of your combat steps into extra cards, they also empower Geistlight Snare. These are the reasons Spirits is so successful as an archetype!

4 Geistlight Snare
0-4 Lofty Denial
0-4 Slip Out the Back
0-3 Shore Up
0-3 Spell Pierce

This is where the deck tends to be the most customizable. Geistlight Snare is an automatic 4-of, as it’s easily the best counterspell available to the Pioneer. The other spots can be used to either counter opposing spells or to protect your own creatures. Slip Out the Back is especially good against decks like Azorius Control, as it gets around Supreme Verdict. Shore Up is especially good against Rakdos Midrange, as it is the best option for protecting a creature you’re putting Curious Obsession on, on Turn 2. Lofty Denial and Spell Pierce are the best catch-all options, so if you don’t know what you’re looking to beat, one of these are what I’d go with.

The last part, and my personal favorite, is the mana. That’s been discussed at length in our Addressing the Mana Base article, but here’s a short-and-sweet:

4 Seachrome Coast
4 Adarkar Wastes
4 Hallowed Fountain
3 Hengegate Pathway // Mistgate Pathway
2 Island
2 Hall of Storm Giants
1 Plains
1 Otawara, Soaring City
1 Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire

Is This Deck Gonna Be Good Next Month?

Very! Spirits is one of those decks that always has some very good matchups at the top of the meta, making it a bit of a meta-breaker. The Mono-Blue version of this deck has always had great matchups against decks like Azorius Control, Lotus Field Combo, and other top-tier decks that use spells rather than creatures. Azorius gets to compliment these naturally great matchups with White sideboard cards to help with the creature-based matchups that Mono-Blue struggles with, so you keep the same good matchups and improve some negative ones. Great news all-around for fans of fliers!

Hopefully this primer helps to understand the Azorius Spirits lists that have been seeing so much success lately! Make sure to get all of your Spirits cards at FusionGamingOnline.com, and I’ll see y’all on the next one!

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