Tribal decks are always fun if you can pull them off and there are always a few that hang on the fringe of playable in nearly every non-rotating format. The most iconic ones are Goblin, Merfolk, Zombie, Elf, and Soldier. Modern has seen the rise of a very powerful Human deck, a Cat deck was popular back in Amonkhet Standard, and now it seems that they may be coming back with Core Set 2021. Today’s tribe, Spirits, isn’t one of the first types that come to mind as good nor that popular. Spirits have been around since the earlier days of Magic. Kamigawa block had a lot of synergy with Spirits, but it was far from the tribal synergies that we expect to see today which typically accompany types like Goblins and Merfolk. It was often in the form of casting Spirits or playing Arcane spells that you would get your payoff. Long-Forgotten Gohei did give Spirits +1/+1, but it also decreased the cost of Arcane spells so it was more of an enabler/payoff for playing into those synergies rather than a purely Spirit tribal card. It would be many years later before we finally saw tribal support specifically for Spirits and this was in the original Innistrad block with Battleground Geist, Gallows Warden, and Drogskol Captain. Now these cards are too old to be in today’s deck, but I though it was worth taking a look back at the tribe to get a little feel for its history and see how far it has come. On another note, tribal decks typically follow an aggro strategy no matter what colors they happen to be. Spirit tribal decks break this mold. Even though it has all the elements of a the typical aggro strategy, the abilities of the Spirit creatures are those commonly associated with tempo strategies which makes this more of a midrange deck.
Let’s start at the bottom of the curve and work up. Mausoleum Wanderer and Spectral Sailor are both 1/1 creatures with flying for 1 mana. These are already perfectly acceptable for aggro at the bottom of the curve. Mausoleum Wanderer is the wordier card so let’s start with that one. When another Spirit comes into play it gets +1/+1 until end of turn, great. This means that if you play it on turn one and then play another spirit on turn two this can get through for 2 damage or if you play two 1 drops on that turn, it can deal 3 damage instead. Other tribes have cards like this that get better and better the more cards of that tribe you play. The second ability allows you to sacrifice the wanderer and counter an instant or sorcery spell unless its controller pays an amount of mana equal to its power. Early on, this may not seem that good, but this is tribal so you will have some power/toughness boosts coming. That also means that this probably won’t be a 1/1 for too long. Activating this at the right time can hinder an opponent, but the fact that this creature can scale with the game means that they could have to pay an additional 3 or 4 mana or even more sometimes if they want their spell. Going past 3 additional mana, the spell might as well be considered countered. The sailor comes with flash so he can help the wanderer’s power on the opponent’s turn. Other than that, flashing in a 1/1 is nothing special. Late in the game, you can pay 4 mana to draw a card. That is a little on the expensive side for card draw, but it is better than nothing and it does keep the gas going.
Moving into the 2 mana slot on the creature curve you find Rattlechains, Selfless Spirit, and Supreme Phantom. Each of these cards cost 2 mana and they all have flying. Rattlechains also has flash and lets you play Spirits as though they had flash. This really helps the Mausoleum Wanderer with its counter spell ability. Rattlechains can also give a Spirit hexproof until end of turn, which makes single target removal spells ineffective. Selfless Spirit can sacrifice itself to give all of your creatures indestructible until end of turn, so board wipes are also ineffective. Supreme Phantom gives your Spirits +1/+1. Sounds kind of underwhelming when 3 of the 5 creatures discussed so far deny the opponent interaction, but let’s not forget that this is a tribal deck after all.
The creature curve of the deck tops at 3 mana with Empyrean Eagle, Nebelgast Herald, and Spell Queller. Again each of these creatures has flying. The eagle simply gives +1/+1 like the Supreme Phantom above, but not to Spirits, to creatures with flying. Coincidentally, that includes all of the creatures in this deck so this is still an acceptable lord, plus it’s a Spirit itself. Nebelgast Herald has flash and when it or another Spirit comes into play you can tap an opposing creature. Flying creatures are so good already. The only thing that can block them are other flying creatures or creatures with reach. Since reach creatures rarely see constructed play and flying creatures seldom see play, this should enable you to swing in unhindered whenever you want. Spell Queller also has flash and is capable of shuting down any interaction from the opponent. When it comes into play, you can exile a spell with cmc 4 or less and then when Spell Queller leaves play, your opponent can cast that spell without paying its mana cost. That may seem like a downside, but you already have so many effects that deny your opponent interaction. A well timed Spell Queller should lock the game in your favor.
That’s all for the creatures, now lets talk about noncreature spells. Some decks have chosen to splash green for Collected Company. This is certainly a good card for this deck. Since all of the creatures have cmc 3 or less they can all be selected with this card. There are also plenty of cards that cost 2 mana or more in this deck, so you should easily get your mana’s worth. I would say that it’s optional since it’s the only green card in the deck and your creatures are all cheap enough that you should have no problem casting them like normal. For some extra protection or damage, Rally of Wings can untap all of your creatures and give them +2/+2. Not only can this help push more damage across, but it also protects you from your opponent’s counter attack. You can attack with everything on your turn and then when your opponent declares attacks on their turn, you play this and now your creatures can also block. You could also run some counter spells just for more kicks, maybe some card draw if you want.
The shell of Spirit Tribal should look like the following:
Mausoleum Wanderer x4
Spectral Sailor x4
Selfless Spirit x3-4
Supreme Phantom x3-4
Empyrean Eagle x3-4
Nebelgast Herald x3-4
Spell Queller x3-4
Rally of Wings x2-4
Collected Company x2-4 (optional)
When combo decks start to dominate a format, it takes an aggro deck or a midrange deck to bring them back down. Control can do it too, but you don’t really see control decks in eternal formats that often because they can take just as long as combo decks to get into a good position. This midrange deck has everything needed to kick Dimir Inverter to the curb; pressure from cheap creatures and enough counter magic to stop their combo. That about does it for Spirit Tribal. Let me know what deck you want to see next in the comments down below.