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Budget Magic: $98 (45 tix) Modern UW Spirits

大家好, Budget Magic lovers! It's that time again. Since we are still waiting for Kaladesh to release and Standard is in this weird dead period with rotation just a few days away, this week, we are heading to Modern to check out a deck that is not only fun and powerful but does two things I really, really like in a budget Modern deck. First, it gives you a place to make use of some of the cards that you may have from playing Standard or even from drafting. Second, it has a ton of interesting possibilities for upgrades: UW Spirits! Even better, with a few slight changes, you can transform the deck into a powerful, post-rotation Standard build, so in some sense, this week's Budget Magic deck is two decks for the price of one!

We'll break everything down after the videos, but first a quick reminder: if you enjoy the Budget Magic series and the other video content on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube Channel to keep up on all the latest and greatest.

UW Spirits: Deck Tech

UW Spirits vs. Nahiri Mardu

UW Spirits vs. Grixis Control

UW Spirits vs. Abzan Evolution

UW Spirits vs. Merfolk

UW Spirits vs. Jeskai Nahiri


The Deck

UW Spirits is a tribal-based tempo / control deck, and it occupies a really interesting place in the hierarchy of tribal decks in Modern. It's not as aggressive as Merfolk, lacking the ability to just randomly play a lord every turn, but it's much more disruptive and has the ability to play on the opponent's turn. On the other hand, it's not as disruptive as Faeries, but in general, it has a faster (and still evasive) clock, and with a few exceptions, its creatures are more powerful in a vacuum. As such, the basic idea of the deck is to meld our game plan to the specific game or matchup. There are times when we are the aggro deck, hoping to kill our opponent quickly and disrupt them just enough to stay alive until we do. In other games, we are a straight-up control deck, looking to chip in for a little bit of damage here and there and win the long game. Because of this, playing UW Spirits is a lot of fun—there are a ton of decisions, and each matchup plays out differently. 


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It might be strange to start off a discussion of a Spirits deck by talking about a Kithkin, but technically Figure of Destiny is a Spirit in hiding. While it doesn't benefit from Spirit synergies when it enters the battlefield (or trigger our Mausoleum Wanderer or gain flash from Rattlechains), as soon as we level it up one time, it becomes a Spirit and stays a Spirit for the rest of the game. The main benefit of Figure of Destiny, apart from being an above-the-curve one-drop that gets better as the game goes along, is that it gives us an instant-speed mana sink. We can leave up a counter or the ability to flash in a Spirit, and if we don't need to play anything, we can level up at the end of our opponent's turn. 

Mausoleum Wanderer is one of the key Spirits in our deck. It gives us an additional one-drop, it's evasive, and the ability to sacrifice it to counter an instant or sorcery spell has a huge impact on the game. While we can occasionally use it to protect our other creatures from a removal spell, the real power of Mausoleum Wanderer isn't so much the actual countering of the spell but the threat that we might counter a spell. When we have a Mausoleum Wanderer on the battlefield, decisions that are often second nature for our opponent suddenly become difficult, and it's not all that uncommon for an opponent to spend several turns playing off curve in an attempt to play around Mausoleum Wanderer


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Rattlechains and Selfless Spirit make our opponent's life miserable. While they are both aggressive fliers that can help facilitate our aggro plan when they need to, they also make dealing with our other creatures a nightmare for our opponents. Rattlechains allows for all kinds of tricks, either by flashing it in to save one of our Spirits from a Lightning Bolt or Path to Exile by giving it hexproof, or just by sitting on the battlefield and allowing us to flash in Mausoleum Wanderer to counter a spell or Selfless Spirit to save our team from a sweeper. 

Speaking of Selfless Spirit, the most important thing it does it shore up what would be a major weakness of our deck: sweepers. Since most of our creatures are small and have low converted mana costs, everything from Engineered Explosives to Pyroclasm to Supreme Verdict has the potential to clear our board. Simply having a Selfless Spirit sitting on the battlefield takes that option off the table and makes it much, much harder for our opponent to deal with our threats. I've definitely had games where Selfless Spirit, all by itself, was the reason we won what would otherwise have been an unwinnable game by making it impossible for our opponent to use their Oblivion Stone or Engineered Explosives to wrath our board. 


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Drogskol Captain is one of my all-time favorite lords. As a 2/2 flier, it's already a reasonable threat, and giving the rest of our Spirits not only +1/+1 but also hexproof is extremely powerful. While setting up the Drogskol Captain lock isn't really the focus of our deck, one of the most powerful things we can do is get two copies of Drogskol Captain on the battlefield at the same time. With two Drogskol Captains on the battlefield, they give each other hexproof and our team suddenly becomes impossible to deal with, especially when we throw in a Selfless Spirit to protect against sweepers. Basically, Drogskol Captain does everything we want: it pump our team's power when we want to be aggressive and helps protect our team when we are playing for the long game. As a result, it's one of the better cards in our deck. 

Finally, we have Standard staple Spell Queller, which is our most disruptive Spirit. In Modern, nearly all of the important cards in the format cost four mana or less, which means Spell Queller can exile just about anything that matters. Typically, the downside would be that our opponent could just Lightning Bolt our Spell Queller, get back whatever we exiled, and cast it for free, but since our deck has layer upon layer of protection, this is actually much more difficult than it would seem. Mausoleum Wanderer can counter an instant or sorcery, Rattlechains and Drogskol Captain give our Spell Quellers hexproof, and Selfless Spirit protects against wraths and targeted removal. As such, once we exile something with Spell Queller, there's a pretty good chance that the spell will stay exiled for the rest of the game, making Spell Queller essentially a three-mana counterspell (that can "counter" uncounterable spells like Abrupt Decay and Loxodon Smiter) that just happens to come along with a 2/3 flying body. 


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One of the interesting things about this build of UW Spirits is that we don't really have any hard removal in the main deck, instead relying on Vapor Snag and Unsubstantiate to keep us alive just long enough to win with our fliers. One thing I realized while playing our matches is that this deck plays a ton of extremely close games. Apart from getting islandwalked into oblivion against Merfolk, win or lose, none of our other matches were blowouts. As a result, getting one extra damage from Vapor Snag was sometimes extremely relevant. In fact, it actually won us at least one game as a one-damage burn spell bouncing a Wall of Omens

Meanwhile, Unsubstantiate is very good in this deck. As I was building UW Spirits, my first thought was to play Remand, and while I still think Remand is probably better, since it keeps us cycling through out deck, it's not strictly better. Being able to use Unsubstantiate as an overcosted Unsummon is sometimes really important, and having a spell that can deal with both spells on the stack and creatures on the battlefield—all for an efficient cost—makes it a good addition to the deck. 

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One of the appeals of UW Spirits is that we get to play on our opponent's turn quite a bit. While we do have some main-phase creatures, a full third of the creatures in our deck have flash, and when we have a Rattlechains on the battlefield, we can play just about our entire deck at instant speed. As a result, having access to some counters is really important, allowing us to leave up mana, counter something if necessary, and then play something on our opponent's turn if we don't need to use a counter. This flexibility is key to the deck's success. Instead of having to choose between playing a creature to develop our board or leaving up a counter, we can often do both with UW Spirits, which makes it really difficult for our opponent to play around our deck. Do we have a counter, or are we just leaving up mana to flash in a Rattlechains or even bluffing? Our opponent never knows for sure!

The Mana

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Most of the mana base is fairly straightforward, with a bunch of budget-friendly UW dual lands and some basics, but I did want to take a minute to talk about Moorland Haunt because it's an all-star in some matchups. The beauty of Moorland Haunt is that the opportunity cost of putting it in our deck is extremely low. Basically, we lose a source of colored mana, and that's all. The upside is that in long, grindy matchups, Moorland Haunt can become nearly unbeatable. Against Jund, Jeskai, Mardu, and the like, our creatures are going to die quite often, despite all of the protection we have built into the deck, because these decks have an overwhelming amount of removal. In these matchups, Moorland Haunt gives us a steady stream of 1/1 Spirit tokens (which happen to pump our Mausoleum Wanderers when they enter the battlefield and benefit from Drogskol Captain), which makes our opponent's removal much, much worse. Instead of putting us down a threat, when our opponent Lightning Bolts our Rattlechains, all they are really doing is slightly downgrading our creature from a 2/1 flier to a 1/1 flier. Over the course of several turns, this stream of evasive threats or chump blockers will often shift the game in our favor. 

Ultra-Budget UW Spirits

I should start by saying that it's not really possible to build ultra-budget UW Spirits for Modern. Key cards like Spell Queller and Selfless Spirit cost just a bit too much to get the deck's price tag down into the $50 range. That said, there is one huge reason why UW Spirits is actually way cheaper than it looks. Let's say you decide to take the plunge and buy the budget deck from the videos. Not only are you getting a sweet (and very upgradable) Modern deck, but if you're willing to toss in a few more dollars, you can have a tier Standard deck as well! Here's an example of a fully powered, post-rotation UW Spirits build for Standard:

Assuming you start off with the deck from our videos, the only expensive cards you really need to add to have a fully powered UW Spirits deck for Standard are two copies of Archangel Avacyn ($39), a couple of Gideon, Ally of Zendikars for the sideboard ($35), a couple more Prairie Streams ($6), and a handful of commons and uncommons. Better yet, you don't even need these cards to start. If you build the deck in the videos, all you really need to do is trade out the Vapor Snags for Revolutionary Rebuff and maybe cut some number of Unsubstantiates for Stasis Snare. Make sure the mana base is Standard legal with Prairie Stream and Meandering River instead of Glacial Fortress and Sejiri Refuge, and you are ready to play a post-rotation Standard FNM. Eventually, you can trade / buy into Archangel Avacyn and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar if you want to, but the deck should play fine without them. As such, if you start with the deck in the videos, just $15 of upgrades will give you a fully functional Modern budget deck and a nearly optimal tier Standard deck, all for just over $100!

Non-Budget Modern Spirits

Choosing the right non-budget build of Spirits in Modern is actually tricky because there are a ton of different options. The list above is the straight UW build that I've been playing, basically upgrading the removal to include Path to Exile and Remand, throwing in a few Snapcaster Mages for value, getting powerful white sideboard cards like Leyline of Sanctity and Stony Silence, and upgrading the mana base. Otherwise, the deck is the direct descendent of the budget build and should play almost exactly the same. 

On the other hand, if you are willing to stray a bit from the path, there are several options. CalebD from ChannelFireball has a sweet Bant Spirits build that takes advantage of Collected Company, and an Esper build recently managed to Top 8 a SCG IQ, using the same foundation as our deck but running Aether Vial and splashing black for Lingering Souls and Zealous Persecution. While I haven't seen it yet, I also expect there's a Jeskai build floating around somewhere that could take advantage of Lightning Helix, Lightning Bolt, and Electrolyze. As a result, if you decide to start off with the deck in the videos, there are a ton of directions to go as far as upgrades, and many of the possibilities seem quite powerful!


Anyway, that's all for today. All in all, we went 3-2 in our video matches and 4-3 overall (not featured: a loss against a budget Mono-Blue Delver deck and a win against budget Norin Sisters), and the deck was a blast to play. If you enjoy flexible, tempo-focused tribal decks, you'll have a ton of fun with Spirits in Modern! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at!

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