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Budget Magic: Eldrazi Spirits (Modern)


Assalomu alaykum, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! It's been a while since we've had a Modern Budget Magic deck, which means we're overdue for some sweet (and cheap) Modern jank...like Eldrazi Spirits! While Spirits is a pretty well-known tribe in Modern, our deck today is focused mostly on some of the most underappreciated Spirits in the format, especially Tallowisp but also Geist of Saint Traft and Sovereigns of Lost Alara. Our primary plan? Use Tallowisp to tutor up Arcanum Wings and Eldrazi Conscription to turn one of our relatively harmless Spirits into an extremely harmful, massive, annihilating Eldrazi Spirit! Can the plan work? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Eldrazi Spirits

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The Deck

Eldrazi Spirits is a weird deck to define. Probably the best description is tribal combo. While we can theoretically win by beating down with Spirits with the help of Supreme Phantom, our real plan is to turn a single Spirit into a massive Eldrazi Spirit with the help of Eldrazi Conscription and use it to win the game with just one or two massive annihilating attacks!

The "Combo"

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By far the most important Spirit in our deck is Tallowisp, an oft-forgotten but extremely powerful Kamigawa Spirit that allows us to tutor up an aura whenever we cast a Spirit (or arcane spell, but we don't have any of those). Because we have 22 Spirits in our deck, once Tallowisp hits the battlefield, we're likely to be tutoring up an aura every turn. While we do have some utility auras, our main goal is to use Tallowisp to tutor up our Eldrazi Spirit combo. Meanwhile, Sovereigns of Lost Alara is basically a really expensive backup version of Tallowisp. Its downside is that it costs six mana, which is a ton for our deck, but the upside is that if we can get it on the battlefield and attack with any one creature, we can immediately tutor up Eldrazi Conscription to make that creature into a massive, game-ending threat.

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By far the most spectacular thing our deck can do is to use Tallowisp to find Arcanum Wings and Eldrazi Conscription, get Arcanum Wings on one of our Spirits, and then swap it for Eldrazi Conscription, giving us a massive annihilating Eldrazi Spirit that should be able to close out the game in just one or two attacks. In theory, we can have Eldrazi Conscription on one of our creatures as early as Turn 3, although this requires naturally drawing both combo auras, which isn't all that likely since we only have one Arcanum Wings and two Eldrazi Conscriptions. Turn 4 or 5, with Tallowisp tutoring our the pieces, is much more common and still usually enough to win the game, especially because our opponents don't expect to suddenly be facing down a massive annihilating Eldrazi Spirit, so they aren't all that likely to leave up removal to play around it. 

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While we can put Eldrazi Conscription on any of our Spirits, the best target is Geist of Saint Traft, thanks to its hexproofness. While turning Geist of Saint Traft into a 12/12 annihilating Eldrazi is obviously powerful, the other reason that Geist of Saint Traft is important to our deck is our backup plan: using Tallowisp to find Steel of the Godhead and putting it on Geist of Saint Traft, which gives us a 4/4 unblockable, lifelinking Geist of Saint Traft. With the help of its Angelic friend, this gives us a Geist of Saint Traft that can attack for eight evasive damage each turn, which should be enough to win the game in two or, at worse, three attacks, while also gaining us some life to swing the race against aggro.

Other Spirits

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For Tallowisp to work, we need a bunch of Spirits in our deck to cast so we can tutor up auras. While Geist of Saint Traft and Sovereigns of Lost Alara are nice, they aren't enough by themselves. As such, rounding out our Spirits package are Mausoleum Wanderer, Rattlechains, and Supreme Phantom. Mausoleum Wanderer and Rattlechains both help to protect our Spirits, which is especially important if we end up getting Eldrazi Conscription on a non–Geist of Saint Traft creature. Mausoleum Wanderer is also a key part of our unlikely nut draw. If we have the god hand, we can play Mausoleum Wanderer on Turn 1, play Arcanum Wings on Turn 2, and aura swap in Eldrazi Conscription on Turn 3, which should annihilate almost all of our opponent's board and give us a free win. Meanwhile, Supreme Phantom is an important part of our backup plan if we don't manage to find Tallowisp or our combo auras: we can just play some random Spirits, pump them with Supreme Phantom, and maybe pick up the win as a weird Spirit Tribal deck. 

Other Spells

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One of the upsides of Tallowisp is that we can play auras as one-ofs and still find them consistently. As a result, we have three utility auras in our deck that we can find when the situation calls for them. Curious Obsession gives us a bit of card advantage if we can stick it on one of our evasive Spirits. Hyena Umbra offers protection from wraths and other non-exile removal. Finally, Sky Tether joins Path to Exile in our removal suite. While it isn't great, the combination of defender and losing flying means it a fairly good way to neutralize a threat on offense and get a blocker out of the way on defense since most of our creatures have flying. The drawbacks are that cards like Giver of Runes or Flickerwisp can get rid of it and that it doesn't stop abilities, which can be relevant against things like Eidolon of the Great Revel or Dark Confidant. Still, it's a fine one-of that can be very strong against the right deck and on the right board state. 

The Mana

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Mana-wise, we're playing all of the cheapest Azorius dual lands that have at least some reasonable chance of coming into play untapped. In general, the combination of Prairie Stream, Port Town, and Nimbus Maze, backed by basic lands, is functional enough, although we do sometimes have hands where we can't play Mausoleum Wanderer on Turn 1, either because we have tapped lands or thanks to Nimbus Maze not making colored mana until we have additional lands on the battlefield. 

Playing the Deck

The main challenge of playing Eldrazi Spirits is figuring out when to go all-in on putting Eldrazi Conscription on a creature. It's easy if we have Geist of Saint Traft since hexproof offers a strong form of protection. But if we are thinking about enchanting another creature, we need to weigh the possibility of getting blown out by an instant-speed removal spell against the reward for getting in a massive Eldrazi Spirit attack. Thankfully, as I mentioned before, no one expects a deck full of Spirits to randomly end up with Eldrazi Conscription on the battlefield, which means most opponents don't play around our combo, which makes it much easier to pick up free wins. 

Also, don't undervalue the combo of Geist of Saint Traft with Steel of the Godhead. While not nearly as flashy as Eldrazi Conscription, playing a Turn 3 Geist of Saint Traft into a Turn 4 Steel of the Godhead is almost as effective, as far as winning games. Gaining four life a turn and hitting for eight evasive damage with a hexproof creature are really tough for some decks to beat. 

Wrap-Up

Technically, we finished our video matches 3-3, counting our win against Soulherder, where we picked up the win in game one and our opponent gave up and didn't finish the match. I played a bunch of additional matches with the deck while testing and tuning, and overall, I'd say that it's average to maybe a bit below, in terms of level of competition. While the combo is solid and the deck felt good against fair decks, it struggles against combo and other unfair decks, where our combo kill is just a bit too slow to race decks like Storm or, apparently, Elves. Unlike more traditional Spirit decks, we aren't especially disruptive since we don't have Spell Queller or Skyclave Apparition (in part for budget purposes and in part to make room for our Eldrazi Spirit / Tallowisp combo package). 

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck now that we've played some matches with it, the big one is probably dropping Sovereigns of Lost Alara. While the six-drop seems perfect for the deck and is very much on theme, six mana is so much that we never really managed to do anything with it during our matches. The problem is that the best replacements—Spell Queller and Skyclave Apparition—are somewhat expensive (in the $6 / copy range) and would increase the deck's cost by a bit. Another possibility would be adding Spectral Sailor as another cheap, evasive Spirit to trigger Tallowisp and maybe even generate some extra card advantage in the late game with its activated ability.

So, should you play Eldrazi Spirits? The deck is fun and funny, and it can win some games, but I think it's more of a fun, semi-competitive deck than a build that is a real threat to win a MagicFest or 5-0 a league. It is good at janking people out, and Tallowisp is extremely underrated, but it also struggles against unfair decks and can be inconsistent if we don't find Tallowisp since we run the risk of drawing our situational auras at the wrong time. Basically, build Eldrazi Spirits for fun; then, if you decide you want to try to win a tournament with the deck, you can use many of the pieces to upgrade toward a tier build of Spirit Tribal.

Ultra-Budget Eldrazi Spirits

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Eldrazi Spirits is a really difficult and perhaps impossible deck to get down into the $50 price range, mostly because it doesn't play any super-expensive cards (Eldrazi Conscription is the most expensive card in the deck, at about $8 a copy, but we can't cut it since it's the entire point of the deck) but instead has a bunch of cards that cost a couple of dollars, which means there isn't anything obvious to cut to reduce the deck's cost. In theory, you could save about $20 by replacing the rare dual lands with things like Evolving Wilds or Tranquil Cove, but it would make the deck even less consistent. Path to Exile could become Oust, Condemn, or something like Pacifism to work with Tallowisp, but Path to Exile is down to $11 a playset, so this doesn't even save all that much money, especially compared to how much worse it would make the deck. 

Probably the best direction to go with a $50 build of Eldrazi Spirits is to focus more on Curious Obsession by adding more copies of the aura along with more one-drops like Spectral Sailor and hope to snowball card advantage into an eventual Eldrazi Conscription kill. I included a list above. Just be warned: the version of Eldrazi Spirits we played for the video was already middling in terms of how competitive it was, and the ultra-budget version is likely even worse, so I wouldn't recommend going this direction unless you are really desperate to save every penny possible. Eldrazi Spirits just isn't a great deck to build in the $50 price range. 

Non-Budget Bant Spirits

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For our non-budget build this week, have more traditional Bant Spirits. If you're looking to take Eldrazi Spirits and upgrade it into a top-tier deck, this is the end goal. Thankfully, many of the cards we have in the budget deck—Mausoleum Wanderer, Rattlechains, and Supreme Phantom—have a home in the non-budget build, and you could play a copy of Geist of Saint Traft or two if you wanted (even though it probably isn't optimal). 

If you're looking to upgrade the budget build without going full-on top-tier Bant Spirits, probably the easiest place to start is improving the mana with cards like Hallowed Fountain, Seachrome Coast, and Flooded Strand. As far as Spirits, the two big ones we are missing are Skyclave Apparition and Spell Queller, which could replace some of the lesser auras (Sky Tether and Hyena Umbra) and a copy or two of Steel of the Godhead and Sovereigns of Lost Alara, which is probably just too expensive and slow to really be good in the deck, especially when budget isn't a concern.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com



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