Saviors of Kamigawa is almost upon us and so I was browsing gatherer to see what kind of spirit related cards have been printed before Kamigawa block. Gatherer gives you the option to look up cards with a certain card characteristic, but you canít exclude a block. You can do a block specific search. So I looked up what spirits have been printed the last 10 years. I realized my summary might be helpful to others and itís interesting to see how this tribe was handled before they invaded a whole block. So I decided to let the Scrivener return with a more constructive approach. My previous column was a rant against listing cards. Today I will do just that.
One note before I kick off. As usual my article focuses on casual play. If you think some ideas are not very good, you may be right. This list is to fuel your creativity for casual deckbuilding, not to help you achieve a top 8 at the next Legacy tournament. With that said, letís start!
Emissary of Hope
Emissary of Despair
Emissaries indeed. The developers of Darksteel probably knew that spirits would be a huge tribe in Kamigawa (translated spiritriver) and might have printed these as a early signal. The Emissaries are great against an opponent who has a deck chockfull of artifacts. These days itís not just Kamigawa at our game table, the artifact-block remains popular. Not all play groups follow the ban & restricted list during casual play, and someone using artifact lands can make the Emissaries very effective. If you regularly see a lot of artifacts at the other side of the table, consider these.
Not a very spectacular spirit. When I stretch my imagination I can see this being used to protect Baku Altar, Jade Idol, Neko-Te or some other artifact. But as I said, thatís stretching it.
The muses all have a respectable body for their cost and a nice ability to boot. Graveborn Muse can be your Phyrexian Arena in a spirit deck, one that can be returned by Soulless Revival or Scuttling Death. The ghostly Windborn Muse can imprison an opponentís army and can also be returned by soulshift 5 or higher. Seedborn Muse might be a good replacement of Patron of the Orochi or maybe you feel like using both. Dreamborn Muse makes me think of a lot of arcane spells, some spiritcraft creatures (Earthshaker, Teller of Tales) and Ire of Kaminari (for the win, that is).
Land fixing, recursion and a 5/5 beater in one. The dragon is still good, and now it also triggers spiritcraft effects. Nasty!
Letís not forget the Ultimus. It has a very decent body for its cost, something that is rare in blue, especially in Kamigawa. This creature can be offered to Patron of the Moon, yield a Shuriken effectively and trigger Sire of the Storm. Give it some love, people.
Secret graveyard removal tech or just a very bad card? I like it that you can remove one of your own cards to create a surprise blocker. Lantern Kami beware the competition!
Mass removal that can give you 2 flying 1/1 spirits after the dust settles (read: spell resolves). Iíve seen it used together with Cryptic Gateway to power out another spirit after the Wrath.
The Cairn can complement He Who Hungers well and it could fuel an enormous Devouring Greed. I had my ideas, but havenít made a successful deck yet. Hmm, if only a (dragon) spirit with cycling existedÖ
Judgement certainly supported the spirit tribe in green and white. These guys are great and I believe that Ernham Djinn and Iwamori of the Open Fist pale in comparison with Phantom Centaur. To make an even bolder statement: green doesnít have a better 4 drop. I plan to use some of these together with Earthshaker. That way Iíll have some early drops that have a chance to survive Earthshakerís spiritcraft trigger.
March of Souls
Another mass removal card that leaves some spirit tokens in its wake. Unfortunately everyone will get spirit tokens. Still, Iíve seen a player get instant-killed by player who casts March of Souls with a bunch of zuberaís in play and followed up with a Devouring Greed. Ouch.
Alas, Invasion hasnít got anything else to offer spirit-wise.
This card certainly has its flavor right. You destroy a creature and its controller gets a spirit in return. Nine-Ringed Bo could help out with that, but that sounds like overkill. On the other hand, I packed the Bo in an Unnatural Selection deck and often I didnít need the enchantment to make the Bo useful. Engineered Plague set to spirits is a massacre too, these days.
A 4/4 flier with an easier upkeep than Chisei, Heart of Oceans. This could find a place in aggressive spirit beatdown decks.
A spirit that is a bit too expensive with a bit too expensive ability. Losing 2 lands is nothing to sneer at. Kami of the Painted Road isnít cheaper and requires arcane spells instead of lands. The big difference is that Jeweled Spirit can also get protection from artifacts and flies. But for that kind of mana I rather play Hikari, Twilight Guardian . Side note: why is Hikari so underappreciated?! Or isnít it?
Nether Spirit seems at odds with the soulshift mechanic. It woul be hard (but not impossible) to include this in a spirit deck. However, an arcane deck could use it, together with Baku Altar, to good effect Soulless Revival could make sure that only one Nether Spirit and no other creature is in your graveyard.
This one has nice stats for its cost, but the drawback can be very frustrating. This would result in a troubled spirit indeed.
Still having problems against Mr. Artifact? Want to lay down Caltrops and still fly over for some damage? This is your guy.
This ability has been vastly updated and improved with the printing of Kabuto Moth. Angelic Page is cute, but the Moth is far more interesting.
Now this is an interesting spirit. No Kamigawa spirit has a Ďcomes into playí trigger. Karmic Guide has a very good one. For 5 mana you get a 2/2 flyer with protection from black and you can recur any one creature from your graveyard into play. Granted, it has echo, so to keep the spirit you need to pay itís mana cost again. Or you donít and you can soulshift the Guide to play it once again. Thatís a good way to reuse the Guide anyway, because you can only use its animation ability when it comes into play from your hand, due to its errata.
This suicidal fiend might fit a suicide black spirit themed deck. It would not make a quick kill as with Hatred, but I can see this happening. You start a damage race with various spirits and ďcheatĒ with cards like Thief of Hope, Swallowing Plague and Devouring Greed.
A 3/1 flyer for 3 mana is respectable. When you plan to attack with it each turn, you can pretty much neglect the drawback. Another contender for blue spirit beatdown.
This may be a nice replacement for Genju of the Fens or Cursed Ronin in your mono black decks. True story: I have this big box of self-made crap-boosters comprised of commons, uncommons and some nice rares. During a crap-sealed emperor game I was able to soulshift a killed Dungeon Shade with my Scuttling Death. The opposing general lasted only a few more turns. May his spirit find eternal rest.
During a multiplayer game the odds are good enough that someone has a full hand when you play this Specter. During a multiplayer game you will also have enough other players to attack, so you wonít shrink this bad boy, uhm, spirit.
Expensive, but the haste ability can make this hot blooded creature a nasty surprise. Mono-red spirit beatdown could use this. It fuels Cunning Bandit and Blademane Baku, two excellent creatures for such a deck.
The discarding is a bit expensive to use, but as other spirits, it can be returned by Scuttling Deathís soulshift. The card could have a use versus control players.
Deadly with Iname, Death Aspect. Fill your graveyard and swing for 20. Then finish another opponent off with Haunting Misery for style points. Or cast Twilightís Call and hope for the best.
Very respectable for what it does, but not very spectacular.
Unspeakable Symbol wasnít very good, but Iíve seen it used in decks packed with lifegain. Souldrinker is less versatile. You could fuel your Genju of the Fields each turn just to pump the spirit, but that doesnít look very effective to me. It does sound like fun, though.
A flying spirit that can redirect damage, thatís nice. Kami of the Honored Dead come to mind.
Yes itís a spirit! It is still a popular creature, but I havenít seen it used in a spirit-deck yet. May be nice to use together with Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens. Playing this after you used Kirtarís Wrath, with threshold, is probably very effective.
I still want to play this card together with Sire of the Storm. That way you can trigger all the spiritcraft effects you have in play and still draw a card for only 5 mana! Ok, that sounds really casual.
Boy, do I have fond memories of this card. Must be the flavor text and how the Firefiend can be a deterrent in multiplayer. I liked this during Weatherlight and I canít wait to use this one in a spirit deck. No I havenít already. I usually build block constructed decks when a new block comes out. It makes the deckbuilding more challenging and gives you a good feel of the new mechanics. I make some exceptions however, like putting Hasran Ogress in my Demon/Ogre deck.
This card has a Dirty Harry feeling to it: ďDo you feel lucky punk? Go ahead, make my day. Do me some damage and this bad boy will punch you in the face even harder.Ē I like it, especially with a Loxodon Warhammer equipped to it. Dirty Harry likes big guns, after all.
This spirit can manipulate not only your own draws, but also those of an opponent or ally. Sounds like fun! Anyone has a good idea to abuse this creature?
Harbinger of Night
This spirit can clear the board fast. Smaller creatures donít stand a chance when the Harbinger remains in play. Great with bouncing and Scuttling Death (getting bored already with me mentioning that one?).
Liege of the Hollows
This one is probably best used in squirrel decks. Uh, I mean this card is best not used at all.
Just kidding, itís an angel. Moving on.
If you really really want to work out an anti-black themed deck, this could make your deck. I donít recommend that, however.
A hill spirit that can become colorless. Yay! Once again moving on.
I discussed this card already, see Merquadian Masques. One remark: I have a playset of Swords to Plowshares, but I often play Afterlife instead. Why? Because I like to play with different cards. That may sound stupid, but really, I rather go for style and play Afterlife in a spirit deck, than once again play the best pinpoint creature removal in white. If Darksteel Colossus is popular in your playgroup, however, I strongly advice you not to do the same (or maindeck Altarís Light).
Ice Age block
Play Blinking Spirit, trigger spiritcraft abilities, chump block or attack with it next turn, return it to your hand and repeat. Sounds good to me. Blink. Blink.
Elvish Spirit Guide
The guide to free mana. While a green weenie deck uses this card, I doubt that there will be a spirit-stompy deck that can abuse the spirit type of this creature.
Two expensive creatures with firebreathing (and waterbreathing?).
Another spirit that could be used to continually trigger spiritcraft abilities. A Thief of Hope in play would compensate the life loss.
A big flyer with a harmless drawback if you choose not to attack. But who would want that with a 5/6 flyer?
This one has a kind of evasion now found in green.
This spirit has a very surprising ability if you look at its color. Blue, green, white and direct damage? Six mana for a 3/3 flyer is a bit too much, though.
Near unblockable (unless your opponent is playing with a Bird deck), but expensive.
An interesting ability and a decent body for its mana cost. Radjan Spirit is a lot more interesting solution against flyers than Venerable Kumo or Orbweaver Kumo.
See Sky Spirit (Tempest). The difference: Thunder Spirit is white instead of blue/white.
See Stronghold. Side note: how many portal cards will be reprinted in the next sets now that Portal is tournament legal? I sure hope that Fire Imp will see the light in 9th edition.
3/2 flying for only 2B. Oh, and you need to sacrifice a land. Thatís pretty hefty. That makes this befouling spirit harder to use.
One less power instead of sacrificing a land compared to Foul Spirit. And a lot more boring.
Losing 4 life isnít cheap, but a 4/3 flyer for 4 mana is. Another contender for a suicide black spirit deck. By the way, Vampiric Spirit is reprinted in 8th edition, so itís even Type 2 legal.
Basic Editions (not mentioned before)
Up until 5th Edition this spirit was in the basic set. Its ability hasnít got much synergy with soulshift and spiritcraft. It could be promising with Iname, Death Aspect. Just drop four Nether Shadows in your graveyard and a bunch of spirits on top of it and youíll always have one in play.
Even before Kamigawa all colors had their share of spirits. Green and red not as much, white received the most. Itís interesting to see how spirits were mostly black in Tempest block, while Judgement underlined the green side of spirits. White has the most spirits before Kamigawa, by far. Iím curious how many spirits weíll see printed in the years after Kamigawa block and which colors they will be. I hope that the tribe will get even more creatures to work with.
If you have some brilliant decks that incorporate these ancient spirits together with Kamigawa cards, please reply or make yourself heard at the forums!
See you next time, Arjan van Houwelingen (Jorael).