The Toolbox - Ethereal Investigator

(Ethereal Investigator | Art by Sean Murray)

Investigating Spirits

Welcome back to The Toolbox, where we take a look at underutilized cards and evaluate new ways to play them. Today, we’re discussing a somewhat new card that I think has been very overlooked: Ethereal Investigator!

Ethereal Investigator is a little Spirit from Crimson Vow that's already been out for months, believe it or not. Typically I like to give cards some more time before I say that they're overlooked, but the past two years have convinced me that time is a lie, so I think Ethereal Investigator is fair game.

The Investigator is an interesting creature for a number of reasons, primarily its enter-the-battlefield trigger that allows you to Investigate for each opponent, which can be heavily leveraged in the EDH format. Then there's the ability to create a Spirit token each time you draw for the second time in a turn, similar to that of Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse. While Ethereal Investigator may be a relatively new card compared to some of the cards we've covered in the past, the simple fact of the matter is that I didn't even know it existed until a few days ago, and that means other folks may have missed it as well, so let's fix that today!

First, let's see which commanders are currently making the most use out of Ethereal Investigator:

As a quick disclaimer, some of the Secret Lair x Stranger Things commanders are using the Investigator in roughly 19% of their decklists, but I'll be excluding them from this breakdown since they do not currently have non-Secret Lair versions readily available.

The most obvious commander making use of Ethereal Investigator is, of course, Millicent, Restless Revenant, since it came in her original precon decklist. Eloise, Nephalia Sleuth from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt currently plays Ethereal Investigator at a rate of about 22%, which says a lot here. Eloise also features a return of Investigate with a healthy dose of death triggers, plus some card selection when sacrificing tokens. Eloise is the perfect commander for a card like Ethereal Investigator, for flavor and synergy.

Next is another Clue fanatic, Lonis, Cryptozoologist, who also plays Ethereal Investigator at a similar rate of 22%. This is another pretty obvious inclusion; simply playing Ethereal Investigator gives Lonis four Clues to immediately sacrifice. Straightforward and effective.

I'll also quickly shout out Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer, who uses the Investigator about 5% of the time. This deck wants nothing but the most efficient token-producers, vomiting out a board of random tokens and then turning them into an army of, for instance, Eldrazi. The Investigator can give Brudiclad a burst of tokens from the Clues, and sacrificing them often leaves Spirits behind that Brudiclad can use as well!

This is just the start, though. Let's find a few other decks where Ethereal Investigator should see more play!

Nest of Adorableness

Starting off, we have Gavi, Nest Warden. She's one of my favorite commanders that I've never actually played. I mean come on, she makes Dinosaur Cats! Gavi offers a lot as a Cycling commander and gives a good payoff for repeatedly drawing a bunch of extra cards.

For a Gavi deck, being able to draw one additional card on your turn (or two on an opponent's turn) is much more valuable than just getting a quick influx of cards. A few extra draws over several turns is better than a Stroke of Genius that happens all at once. Gavi gets more overall equity from our cards if we're able to control the timing of those draws to trigger her effect more consistently, and Ethereal Invetigator does exactly that, and it generates even more tokens for us while we're at it!

Not only that, but Gavi, Nest Warden often uses cards such as Astral Drift and Astral Slide to continually Blink creatures, which she can do to her own Ethereal Investigator for even more Clues. I highly recommend using Teferi's Ageless Insight to make sure all the Clues and Cycling effects trigger Gavi and the Investogator all on their own!

Here's a sample decklist:

Commander (1)
Creatures (21)
Instants (11)
Sorceries (7)
Artifacts (11)
Enchantments (13)
Planeswalkers (1)
Lands (35)

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

Willy Illusions

Next up, we have a commander that I would love to see more of: Minn, Wily Illusionist! She's one of the more unique Polymorph commanders, but she's also able to build a formidable board even if her second ability never triggers.

Extra Clues from Ethereal Investigator allow us to trigger Minn, Wily Illusionist in a similar fashion to Gavi, Nest Warden, and in my opinion, this alone makes Ethereal Investigator worth playing in a Minn deck. But wait - there's more! This is Commander, after all!

Ethereal Investigator also plays well with other cards Minn usually runs in the 99. Hullbreaker Horror can repeatedly bounce it for more value, and since Minn can cheat things into play, we don't even have to hard-cast it all that often. This is why the deck often plays Ashnod's Altar after all, which is conveniently exactly enough mana to crack a Clue. Even a Drowned Rusalka helps the Investigator make more tokens while we're sacrificing Illusions and cheating things into play. Clues are even a great place to put unused mana after we kept our Counterspells at the ready all round. At worst, Investigator is able to replace itself and then some.

This isn't the flashiest inclusion, but I think there definitely is some consideration here, so let's get to the decklist:

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

Too Many Twos

Finally, we have the commander with way too many twin jokes: Adrix and Nev, Twincasters. I love the flavor here, as well as how powerful a Token commander the Twins are overall.

This commander can go in a lot of directions, and I love leaning into some of the more obscure token strategies, rather than just the classic Beasts and Plant tokens. With just Adrix and Nev, Twincasters on the field, the Investigator makes six Clues, and that's before we consider the effects of cards like Erdwal Illuminator, Parallel Lives, and Doubling Season! Then there are cards like Tireless Provisioner and Academy Manufactor, which really leverage these Clues. The amount of powerful token-producers that this deck has access to is simply baffling.

It's clear that this deck can produce an absolutely insane amount of tokens, but what are the payoffs for all these Clues? Well, there's the aforementioned Lonis, Cryptozoologist, as well as cards like Ulvenwald Mysteries and Tamiyo's Journal. Then there are cards in the vein of Shimmer Dragon and Nettlecyst, which leverage the number of Clues we have in play, along with Urza, Lord High Artificer, who not only wants a giant Construct from having a ton of Clues in play, but he also lets them tap for mana, which they can use to sacrifice themselves when we need a bunch of card draw. This deck also uses Rise and Shine and Rampage of the Clans profitably! Out of nowhere, turn a board of Clue tokens into creatures? It's just too good.

This takes a little brewing, but I really like the new direction for Adrix and Nev here. Now let’s get to the decklist!

Commander (1)
Creatures (25)
Instants (11)
Sorceries (11)
Artifacts (10)
Enchantments (7)
Planeswalkers (1)
Lands (34)

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

Finishing the Investigation

I hope you’ve enjoyed this installment of The Toolbox and that Ethereal Investigator has found a place in your toolbox. What other ways would you use Ethereal Investigator? Do you think that I’m overvaluing this card, or do you agree that it’s highly underrated? What other cards do you think are missing from players’ toolboxes? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.

If you have any suggestions for the series or things you’d like to see in the future, I would love to hear them as well. Thank you all once again, and please stay safe!

Elijah is a mildly obsessive EDH player from Georgia. He started playing during Battle for Zendikar with Green/Black Eldrazi Aristocrats and still pays tribute to the plane with his Omnath, Locus of Rage storm brew. He is always excited to innovate and try new things in Magic and Life. Elijah is currently a full time student looking to go into Computer Engineering but also has a bit of an artistic streak.

EDHREC Code of Conduct

Your opinions are welcome. We love hearing what you think about Magic! We ask that you are always respectful when commenting. Please keep in mind how your comments could be interpreted by others. Personal attacks on our writers or other commenters will not be tolerated. Your comments may be removed if your language could be interpreted as aggressive or disrespectful. You may also be banned from writing further comments.