Bant Spirits Deck Guide

Join Darthjacen as he breaks down the best tempo deck in Pioneer: Bant Spirits. Can this tempo deck take down the likes of Rakdos Midrange and Karn Devotion or will it simply ghost the metagame and fall back into the middle tiers?

Intro

Much like humans, we’ve seen a variety of different spirits decks in Pioneer. We’ve seen Azorius Spirits, Mono Blue Spirits, and Bant Spirits, all with different matchup spreads and means to attack the format. All the spirits decks are tempo Aggro decks that look to punish decks with clunky curves and ending the game before control or combo decks can get off the ground. Paired with the deck’s all-flying threats, many Aggro decks struggle to race spirits as you have better interactive tools while maintaining your ability to curve out.

While the deck can struggle against the various removal heavy decks, specifically Rakdos Midrange and Izzet Phoenix, the Bant shell looks to leverage Collected Company and some of the archetype’s more grindy elements to fight through these decks. Spirits is one of the best choices into Green Karn and can use some powerful sideboard tools to find wins against the other top decks of the format.

If you expect the format to remain dominated by Rakdos and Karn, you have a great matchup into Green and can leverage cards like Extraction Specialist and Toski, Bearer of Secrets to fight against Rakdos. Through these tools, we’ve seen Bant Spirits continue to rise in popularity and put up quality finishes in the past few weeks.

So, let’s dive right into what makes Bant Spirits one of the best contenders to dethrone Karn and Rakdos!

Decklist

Bant Spirits
Pioneer
Buy on TCGplayer $257.58
1 mythic
53 rare
5 uncommon
1 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Instants (4)
60 Cards
$406.58
15 Cards
$78.43

Deck Breakdown

One-Drops

The one-drops in Bant Spirits are the same as Mono Blue Spirits, at least regarding the creature suite. Mausoleum Wanderer is the first line of defense against non-creature spells while also acting as a fast clock that can chip in for plenty of damage early, especially when paired with a lord. This Cursecatcher manages to keep decks like Green Karn in tough positions as their catch-up spells are things like Storm the Festival. While it can’t catch everything Spirits wants to deal with, often Wanderer is a chunk of damage and counters a relevant spell.

While less impactful, Spectral Sailor gives the deck an additional one-drop with flash to ensure you can still develop your board, even while holding up potential interaction. While Sailor does more work in Mono Blue Spirits alongside Curious Obsession, the late-game benefit of having a mana sink helps against control and midrange decks that must target your other threats first, leaving you time to draw extra cards.

Two-Drops

While the base of two-drop slots continue to mirror Mono Blue Spirits, the two-drop creatures are the first instance of multicolor threats that give Bant Spirits more access to attack decks on an axis other than just counterspells out of Mono Blue. The deck still plays the core twelve blue spirits in Rattlechains, Supreme Phantom, and Shacklegeist. Rattlechains allows you to operate at instant speed and protect your key threats. One of the best ways for this deck to beat up on midrange decks is to get two-for-ones through invalidating removal with Rattlechains.

One of your key targets to protect is your two-mana spirit lord in Supreme Phantom. There isn’t much to say about a two-mana lord. We’ve seen this slot be a major level up for any synergy deck and being a 1/3 naturally does allow for some early blocking to stunt opposing Aggro decks. Especially if you can block and hold up a Spell Queller or Rattlechains, you can start pressuring the opponent quickly with +1/+1 for the whole team.

Lastly of the main creatures we have Shacklegeist. This card picked up a lot of value against other Aggro decks and especially Green Karn. When you can tap an opposing Elf on turn two, you are suddenly way up in tempo and are able to usually Time Walk or tempo out Green, leaving them on the backfoot from the word go. When facing down cards like Skysovereign, Consul Flagship, Cavalier of Thorns, or Ledger Shredder, Shacklegeist can easily clear a path and kill off single-blocker decks trying to stabilize.

If you are looking to beat up Karn, Control, and Combo, be sure to start sleeving up your spirits – just in time for Halloween!

Next up we have the flex slots in the two-drop slot in Remorseful Cleric and Selfless Spirit. You can shift these numbers based on the metagame. Remorseful Cleric makes a main deck appearance to help deal with Izzet Phoenix and Greasefang while Selfless Spirit is a nice way to stop a Supreme Verdict or Anger of the Gods, especially when you have a Rattlechains to flash in your indestructible, it can be backbreaking.

Three Drops

The three-drops are the main difference between Mono Blue and Bant Spirits. Mono Blue focuses on one and two-drop creatures, leveraging these slots alongside counterspells and protection spells. Bant on the other hand leverages the power of Collected Company and plays a glut of three-drops. The first three-drop is Empyrean Eagle. This flying lord is a great backup lord for the deck, even if it doesn’t pump everything like Supreme Phantom, the extra boost of offense can help you cross the finish line.

Next up we have the interaction suite in Skyclave Apparition and Spell Queller. While one deals with permanents on the stack and the other on the battlefield, these two spirits work as the deck’s main means to stall opponents and stop their ability to take over the midgame before your tempo threats can deal lethal. In a format where many of the best cards cost four or less, this means that you can eat opposing threats, Planeswalkers, or wraths and then protect these interactive threats with cards like Rattlechains and Mausoleum Wanderer.

While these creatures are more fragile than the counterspells out of Mono Blue, they do a better job of working on both offense and defense, giving you additional bodies to attack with while also interacting. The major weakness of these cards is if they are killed, often it can be a bigger blowout than if you had just countered the original spell without getting a creature.

Lastly, we have the three-drop flex slots in Cemetery Illuminator and Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr. Cemetery Illuminator is a great tool against control and midrange to rush out a glut of spirits without dumping your hand. Much like other Future Sight effects, being able to cast creatures off the top of your deck if you exile a creature with the Illuminator can help push through the midgame. The card’s awkwardness stems from it coming down without anything to exile, so sometimes it is just an uninspiring 2/3, Katilda is a nice top end that you can play as a threat and then use to suit up a different threat later in the game. The lifelink is a great tool for winning races or beating Aggro decks, so having access to this effect can majorly swing certain matchups.

Collected Company

One of the hallmarks of creature decks since its printing in Khans of Tarkir, Collected Company allows creature decks to overload on creatures, especially three-drops while not falling behind as your four-drop can be worth up to six mana in creatures and stats. Especially good against one-for-one decks and control, Collected Company is a major factor in why this deck plays green. While there is inherent variance in this card, it can elevate your draws and allow you to win some of the harder matchups for the deck.

Sideboard Guide

Rakdos Midrange

InOut
+3 Extraction Specialist-1 Remorseful Cleric
+1 Toski, Bearer of Secrets-4 Shacklegeist
+1 Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr

Matchup Feel: Rough, though additional sideboard cards give you a better chance.

Matchup Approach: They are going to overwhelm you with two-for-ones and cheap removal, so you need to fight back by leveraging your Extraction Specialists and other sideboard cards to recoup that card and mana disadvantage. This is a matchup where you will need to find every point of damage and your creatures are likely to trade off for spells, meaning if you can find more threats than they have removal, you can grind them out. This is easier said than done but Collected Company and your protection spells can help you fight through their onslaught of removal.

Play around Extinction Event when you can as it has been picking up slots in the sideboard and it can undo all your good work if you overload on odd mana value creatures. Understand that cards like Rending Volley will always trade up in efficiency against you, so try to use cards like Rattlechains to counter them and not Spell Queller as removal under Queller becomes a liability in this matchup.

Heroic

InOut
+3 Portable Hole-1 Cemetery Illuminator
+3 Portable Hole-1 Remorseful Cleric
+1 Skyclave Apparition-3 Spectral Sailor
+1 Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr

Matchup Feel: It’s a race, but they can’t block you and you can block them.

Matchup Approach: Fliers win the day here, especially when you can back them up with removal. If you find your Skyclave Apparitions and Portable Holes, it is hard for Heroic to keep up with your value. Leverage your Collected Companies around what tricks they could have and watch out for Rending Volley and Reckless Rage as means to kill your creatures at inconvenient times. You should be able to force their hand on when to play protection spells and cards like Spell Queller or Mausoleum Wanderer can keep them off-balance while you steal the game in the air.

Azorius Control

InOut
+3 Lofty Denial-3 Skyclave Apparition
+3 Extraction Specialist-4 Shacklegeist
+1 Toski, Bearer of Secrets-1 Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr
+1 Reidane, God of the Worthy

Matchup Feel: Good, though their removal is impactful and requires finesse to dodge.

Matchup Approach: If you can get onto the board early, you can apply enough pressure that your Spell Queller, Rattlechains, and Lofty Denials can act as knock-out punches. If you can’t get on the board earl and apply pressure, you will quickly fall behind as they play over the top threats and find enough removal for your board. You must contend with Portable Hole, March of Otherworldly Light, Supreme Verdict, The Wandering Emperor, and Fateful Absence and that’s just in game one. It is very tricky to find the right lines against the removal of Azorius but are inherently favored as their early to mid-game is clunky and one or two timely interactive spells can bury Azorius.

Abzan Greasefang

InOut
+2 Unlicensed Hearse-1 Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr
+3 Lofty Denial-3 Spectral Sailor
-1 Skyclave Apparition

Matchup Feel: Close, but Shacklegeist is a massive beating for Greasefang

Matchup Approach: You can generally go around their backup plan thanks to having only fliers, so if you can shut down their main gameplan, it should be a solid matchup. Cards like Remorseful Cleric, Unlicensed Hearse, Cemetery Illuminator, Spell Queller, and Shacklegeist all work to keep their main plan from working, especially Shacklegeist. If you can get a Shacklegeist or two into play with protection, Parhelion II will never be a threat, and that means you should easily fly over for the win.

Arclight Phoenix

InOut
+3 Portable Hole-4 Shacklegeist
+3 Lofty Denial-4 Spell Queller
+2 Unlicensed Hearse-1 Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr
+3 Extraction Specialist-3 Spectral Sailor
+1 Toski, Bearer of Secrets

Matchup Feel: Rough, too much removal and Ledger Shredder is a roadblock

Matchup Approach: You need to answer all their two-drops and you need to do it without exposing yourself to too many removal spells. Cards like Shacklegeist and Spell Queller are at their worst here and you’ll need to rely on your various sideboard cards to contain their threats and card advantage engines. While this is a tough matchup, it is winnable if you can keep Ledger Shredder and Thing in the Ice off the table while flying over with whatever creatures don’t get killed with removal.

This is a matchup where a single meaningful Collected Company or Extraction Specialist can undo a lot of their removal and put you firmly in the driver’s seat, especially since your best sideboard cards aren’t blue, it makes their Mystical Disputes much worse against you than against Mono Blue Spirits.

Mono Red

InOut
+3 Portable Hole-4 Spell Queller
+3 Extraction Specialist-1 Cemetery Illuminator
+1 Skyclave Apparition-3 Spectral Sailor
+1 Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr-1 Remorseful Cleric
+1 Reidane, God of the Worthy

Matchup Feel: Tough, though winnable, especially post board.

Matchup Approach: This is a matchup where you become the control deck leveraging your removal spells, throwing away creatures early to maximize your specialist value, and leaning on your three-drops to outmuscle their one and two drop creatures. If you can get Valkmira, Protector’s Shield down, often Red can’t kill your creatures anymore and you immediately pull ahead in the matchup. This matchup is much better for Bant than it is for Mono Blue and the addition of your white cards and Collected Company really help you fight through what would otherwise be a difficult matchup for Spirits.

Mono Green Devotion

InOut
+3 Portable Hole-1 Remorseful Cleric
+3 Lofty Denial-1 Cemetery Illuminator
+1 Skyclave Apparition-1 Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr
+1 Reidane, God of the Worthy-2 Selfless Spirit
-3 Spectral Sailor

Matchup Feel: Great, therefore you play this deck.

Matchup Approach: Get on the board early, counter key threats or remove them with Skyclave, and leverage your Shacklegeist to disrupt their early mana and midgame blockers. This is one of the best matchups for Spirits and is a major reason this deck sees so much play. While there are sequences where Mono Green can beat Spirits, it is often a failure of the spirits deck to capitalize on their early advantage. You want to go as fast as possible and use one to two pieces of interaction to stop them from ever getting off the ground. If you can do that, this matchup feels like a bye.

Mono White Humans

InOut
+3 Portable Hole-1 Remorseful Cleric
+1 Skyclave Apparition-3 Spectral Sailor
+1 Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr-1 Cemetery Illuminator

Matchup Feel: It’s a close fight, but you get the advantage of flying, but they outsize you, so it’s a true race.

Matchup Approach: You get to fly over top of them, so ensure that you don’t end up getting run over by countering key three-drops and protecting your cards from Brutal Cathar. If you can keep the board mostly clear, you should be safe from a late game Brave the Elements, especially since it is so effective against spirits. All your interactive spells are at their best here and if you can layer them on top of one or two early threats, you should be able to run away with the game. Current builds leverage Declaration in Stone, so be careful about running out too many copies of the same card, but otherwise all their removal should be Portable Hole and Brutal Cathar and you can easily fight through those with some of your more powerful three-drop spirits.

This matchup does get trickier if you are on the draw, so winning game one is a big advantage as you’ll often find that whomever is on the play has a huge leg up in getting onto the board first and being able to better leverage non-creature interaction on time.

Mono Blue Spirits

InOut
+3 Portable Hole-1 Remorseful Cleric
+1 Skyclave Apparition-3 Spectral Sailor
+1 Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr-1 Mausoleum Wanderer

Matchup Feel: You have the better creatures, but they have more spell-based interaction. Close, but favorable post board.

Matchup Approach: You want to turn into the controlling deck as your creatures are generally more effective and can outpace the Blue Spirits. While they have more stack-based interaction, as you start to leverage your creature-based interaction, you begin to pull ahead on the board and can race their plays. This is also a situation where your shock lands will hurt you, but your access to cards like Portable Hole and Katilda more than make up for it in the matchup.

Tips and Tricks

·         Against powerful threats that tap out the opponent that cost four or less, be sure to consider casting Collected Company to find a Spell Queller. Obviously don’t do this in response to something like a Supreme Verdict, but it works great into cards like Karn, the Great Creator.

·         Sometimes you need to play out creatures on end step for no value, especially Spell Queller. Knowing when to forgo value and getting an additional threat into play is a tricky skill you’ll need to learn in each matchup.

·         Mausoleum Wanderer can’t stop spells that can’t be countered. And no, you can’t sacrifice it and let your opponent put it into the graveyard. That’s cheating. Don’t do that.

·         With cards like Remorseful Cleric and Selfless Spirit, leverage their sacrifice abilities in tandem with Shacklegeist as they can tap for Shacklegeist and still sacrifice.

·         Toski draws a card for each creature that hits an opponent, so don’t be afraid to suicide in some creatures to refill your hand in grindy matchups.

·         The backside of Reidane is a great tool against Mayhem Devil and red-based decks. While it costs four, it can lock out some opponents by itself.

Wrapping Up

There you have it, how to play the best tempo Aggro deck in Pioneer. While this deck requires some getting used to, we continue to see it putting up plenty of results and the best pilots put up consistent top 16 finishes regularly. While there is still a ways to go on making the Rakdos Matchup better, being able to regularly beat one of the top decks in Green Karn is a big draw to these spirits decks and right now, I’d much rather be playing Bant than Mono Blue or Azorius.

If you are looking to beat up Karn, Control, and Combo, be sure to start sleeving up your spirits, just in time for Halloween! But beware, these spirits take a lot of practice and the floor for this deck is quite low, especially in the removal heavy matchups, so don’t get discouraged as you find yourself learning and making sequencing or tempo mistakes at the beginning of playing this deck, the reps pay off!

Thanks for reading and be sure to stay safe out there!

  • Competitive Guide

    Darthjacen has been playing Magic since Dark Ascension and plays Standard, Modern, Pioneer, and Limited. With a Grand Prix win in 2015 and an SCG Team Top 4 in 2019, he continues to pursue competitive Magic at every turn.

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3 Comments

  1. This article is awesome!!
    I will definitely use this SB guid in the next time i play bant spirits.

    Whats is the sideboard against the mirror match?

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