Archetune-Up - Spirited Away

(Ravos, Soultender and Sakashima of a Thousand Faces | Art by Zezhou Chen and Jason Engle)

Raise Your Spirits!

Hello, and welcome back to Archetune-Up, an article series devoted to tweaking a deck with the help of the EDHREC Theme Pages!

Alright y'all, before I get into this, I'm going to level with you. The Monster Month deck this week was an arduous journey. It quite literally (and ironically) haunted me for the past week.

While Spirits are known for being one of the major tribes of Innistrad, they've never had a cohesive identity despite our multiple visits to the plane. On top of that, they've never gotten a tribal-specific commander either. While we know there's an upcoming Spirits deck in Crimson Vow, that doesn't help me write about Spirits right now, and as such, I struggled a bit.

At first, I thought this would be a good time to splash a bit of red and throw in some Lorehold goodies from Strixhaven. Lorehold has a handful of Spirit-y graveyard cards, and with Kykar, Wind's Fury at the head of the deck, that would make it a proper Spirit tribal deck! In fact, I started on two different versions of the deck!

However, it just didn't feel right. It wasn't spoopy enough.

I then tried to go with just blue-back Spirits, with Ranar, the Ever-Watchful at the helm, but the deck just felt like a subpar Spirits deck while also being a bad Blink list, so I scrapped it before I finished it.

THEN I said to myself. "Well, Angelo, maybe you don't need to do Spirit tribal, you can just do an article around THE most well-known Spirit on Innistrad, Geist of Saint Traft!" Well, spoiler alert, I tried that too, but it just didn't jive with me either. I had to deliver on Spirit Tribal, not some Voltron knock-off.

I then thought about Ravos Soultender and Sakashima of a Thousand Faces. While they aren't on the Spirit Tribal page, nor is there even an Esper Spirit page, I was sure I could work something out! I spent an hour in GIMP figuring out the image for the banner above (because graphic design is my passion), and then discovered that to write about them, I would need to swap almost triple the number of cards I usually do for one of my articles... so once again, I scrapped it.

THEN I said, "You know what? Last week, I said that I was going to always include the Innistrad tribe's two colors in the deck, but forget that! Karador, Ghost Chieftain it is!" There it was. I was sold. I put the list together. It was graveyard-focused, it was themed, and most of all, it was SPOOPY.

Quite chuffed with myself, I took a shower. Then, like any other normal person, the shower thoughts crept in. You know, the ones where you doubt everything you just did? Yeah, those ones. Thus, Karador was also scrapped.

For those unaware, and in case it wasn't obvious, I have ADHD, and that day was a particularly bad one for trying to focus, BUT, thanks to that entire song and dance, I finally settled on a list I was happy with.

When I thought about it more, Ravos, Soultender and Sakashima of a Thousand Faces were actually perfect for Spirits. A person who tends to the souls of the departed, along with a duplicitous doppelgänger who can disguise themselves as Ravos or any of his charges? It nails the somber-yet-creepy flavor of Spirits! Since we're in Esper colors and have Ravos as one (or technically both) of our commanders, this even means we get to keep a graveyard component in the deck as well. Not only do we get recursion, but a lot of Spirits are fairly diminutive in stature, so Ravos's anthem goes a long way to make them more formidable fliers, especially if doubled by Sakashima.

Yeah, I'm going to have to swap out more cards than I usually do, but that's a small price to pay to end up with a deck that pleases me. It took going around the entire block to get next door, but I am much happier with the list I came up with due to my journey.

That said, I had to start somewhere. I needed a foundation to work off of, so I sought out an average Spirit tribal decklist from a famous Spirits commander:

Average Ranar

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Out of all the Spirit decks I went through, Ranar had the most "Spirit-y" Spirit tribal one out there, and so I used his as a base. There are lots of Blink and Foretell cards in this list, thanks to Ranar's precon, so those were easy cuts. I also snipped the less useful Spirits, as well as pieces that lacked direct synergy, like Ghostly Prison or Patrician Geist.

I then took the land base from the average Ravos and Sakashima list on the site, and was absolutely aghast at the fact that there were only 32 lands. To fix up the mana base easily, I brought the land count up to 37 and added both Orzhov Signet and Dimir Signet. With that out of the way, I was ready to make my changes! When the dust had settled, I had cut 28 cards, which I will link to at the end of the article.

I've detailed the process for brewing the deck up until this point, and I don't plan on stopping now, so I'm going to go over every single card I included, but I'll be much more abbreviated than normal. Without wasting anymore time, let's get into the Halloween Spirit!

Let's Keep it Incorpo-Real!

Since I knew I'd be adding black to the deck, the Mono-Black Spirit page is the first one I checked to look for upgrades.

I added four Spirits from here: Kokusho, the Evening Star, Iname, Death Aspect, Graveshifter, and He Who Hungers. All four of these are great Spirits to recur with Ravos or copy with Sakashima. Kokusho will drain an impressive amount of life and give us a secondary win condition. Iname can tutor any number of Spirits into our graveyard, and once they're there, Graveshifter is an extra way to recur creatures from the bin. He Who Hungers is a sac outlet, hand disruption, and a way to buyback smaller Spirits all in a single card! Perfect!

The non-Spirit spells on this page are no joke either. Predictably, Malakir Rebirth, Hagra Mauling, and Agadeem's Awakening made the cut, but the big standout here is a card I mentioned last week: Haunting Voyage. In the Azorius, Boros, and Jeskai versions of Spirits I brewed, it felt like the deck was simply a bad version of a Flyers deck, since it was just a bunch of small dorky Spirits that didn't have a whole lot of synergy. Now that we've added black, we have additional graveyard tools we can lean into with Soulshift and reanimation spells like this one. This gives us a real reason to be Spirit Tribal, as well as rewarding us for doing so!

Phantasm? More like Fun-tasm!

The next spot I hit was the Abzan Spirits page. While I wasn't in green anymore, there were still plenty of black and gold goodies that were hiding here.

First up: more tribal synergies! Etchings of the Chosen and Kindred Dominance were both shoo-ins. While Ravos's effect is powerful, he's still just a five-mana 2/2. Etchings gives us another anthem effect for our Spirits while also being protection for any of our creatures, including Ravos himself. Keeping him alive means we can also buy back the creature that saves him, giving us a nice little potential loop! Kindred Dominance, on the other hand, can wreak utter destruction while also leaving our board intact! Interaction is always important, and Kindred Dominance is a great piece to add.

Next, Ethereal Absolution is a mini Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite that can also double as graveyard hate and a token-producer, which is a lot of utility on one card. Kaya the Inexorable is another multi-faceted permanent that can protect a creature from removal, create tokens, remove meddlesome nonland permanents, and can cast legendary spells for free if we can ult her. Great! Finally, Anguished Unmaking isn't as flashy as the aforementioned cards, but it is one of the slickest removal spells available in Orzhov, and we could always use more of those.

Feeling Fab-boo-lous

After I felt the black part of this Esper deck had gotten properly fleshed out, I turned my sights to the Azorius Spirits page to see if there was anything obvious that this deck was lacking.

First up were two more Spirits: Kami of False Hope and Spectral Shepherd. While Ravos + Kami isn't nearly as scary as Meren + Spore Frog, it is still a solid combination that will prevent plenty of combat damage! Spectral Shepherd is another way to protect Spirits (including itself) from board wipes, recur ETB abilities, and even bounce Sakashima to our hand if he's copying a Spirit!

The next thing I wanted to hammer down was some card flow. For the third week in a row, Kindred Discovery makes the cut in one of these decks. We're playing lots of Spirits and attacking often, so a card like this ensures we can keep up with the rest of the table. Faithful Mending is a neat little looting spell that we can take advantage of thanks to our multiple graveyard synergies. We can pitch irrelevant cards or Spirits that we can get back with Ravos in exchange for two new cards and a couple life! Finally, Ugin, the Ineffable not only doubles as removal, but more importantly produces Spirit tokens that give us more cards when they die. This expands our board presence while also providing much-needed card advantage.

Honey, if You’ve Got it, Haunt It

If you've been counting along with the cards I've included in the list, there are still three of them missing. Since the Spirits page didn't have an Esper theme, I wanted to do a search on Scryfall for all the Spirits in these colors to make sure I didn't overlook anything.

Obzedat is one of my favorite creatures. Not only was it the first commander I ever built, it's also a pain in the butt for your opponents to deal with. Draining life every turn will quickly add up, and a hasty 5/5 that can't be hit by sorcery-speed removal is really solid, especially when Ravos can buy it back from our 'yard!

Speaking of the graveyard, don't forget that it's a resource! Cloudhoof Kirin is here to help. Sure, we can mill out our opponents if the game goes on long enough, but what I'm most interested in is milling ourselves. This deck has a respectable amount of recursion now, so with this Kirin we can quickly churn through our deck and amass quite the advantage, or we can keep it coming back to mill our opponents out!

Finally, our last Spirit to add is Moonlit Strider. Not only is Strider another way to recur smaller Spirits to our hand with Soulshift, it's yet another way to protect Ravos or Sakashima! It isn't flashy, but it is a great value piece for this specific style of deck.

I’m in Good Spirits Now, How About You?

There we have it! A spectacularly spooptastic Spirit Tribal list! This is the part where I would normally give my afterthoughts on the deck, but I got all those out of the way at the beginning. 😅 Needless to say, I'm quite pleased with where it ended up. It's about where I want it to be (though it could perhaps use a couple more Counterspells), and the addition of black feels natural as opposed to a tacked-on splash that I was worried about. If you'd like to take a peek at the full list and the cards I cut from it, the link for it is here!

What about you, though? Did you find any of my initial ideas appealing? Would you have gone about this a different way? Do you have a Spirit tribal deck and would like to share? Make sure to let me know down below!

As always, you can reach me on Twitter (@thejesguy), where you can always hit me up for Magic- or Jeskai-related shenanigans 24/7. Do you have any comments, questions, or concerns? Please don’t hesitate to leave them below or get in touch! Stay safe, get vaccinated, wear your mask, and keep fighting the good fight. I support you. No justice, no peace.

Archetune-Up Ravos and his Shadow

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Commander (2)
Creatures (30)
Enchantments (6)
Sorceries (6)
Instants (8)
Artifacts (9)
Planeswalkers (2)
Lands (37)

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Angelo is a Connecticut resident who started playing Magic during Return to Ravnica, and has made it his mission to play Jeskai in every format possible. Along with Commander, he loves Limited, Cube, and Modern, and will always put his trust in counterspells over creatures. He is still hurt by Sphinx's Revelation's rotation out of Standard.

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