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Precon Upgrades for Spirit Squadron | $50 | Millicent | Spirit Tribal | Innistrad: Crimson Vow


Crimson Vow preconstructed decks have been revealed and with it comes another round of my precon upgrades. We're going to do a thorough analysis of each deck, highlighting its goals and how well it accomplishes them, check out its deckbuilding fundamentals, identify its strongest and weakest cards, then use all that information to create a high-impact list of upgrades for under $50.

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Spirit Squadron is a Azorius precon focused heavily on Spirit Tribal: the deck is filled with powerful spirit creatures like Ghostly Pilferer or cards that make spirits like Haunting Imitation, along with cards that support spirits like buffing them with Drogskol Captain or letting you cast them at instant speed with Rattlechains. The deck also supports two minor subthemes: the first is a Tap theme, tapping down opposing creatures with cards like Shacklegeist and Breath of the Sleepless, letting you get around potential blockers but also draw cards off Verity Circle or pump up Rhoda, Geist Avenger. The second subtheme is Blink, running creatures with powerful ETB triggers like Knight of the White Orchid and Karmic Guide, then getting extra triggers off them with cards like Disorder in the Court and Flood of Tears.

If you're looking for a Spirit Tribal deck that dabbles in Tapping, Blinking, and leans towards a more Control style, then Spirit Squadron is the deck for you!

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The Precon List

Before we talk upgrades, let's take a look at the stock list to see what we're working with:

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Right out of the box, Spirit Squadron is hyper-focused on its main theme of Spirit Tribal: I count a whopping 40 Spirit cards (25 spirit creatures plus 15 cards that makes spirits or buff spirits). For the subtehemes, I count Tap cards (5 cards that tap creatures and 2 cards that reward you for tapping them) and 13 Blink cards (10 creatures with ETB/LTB triggers and 3 ways to bounce/blink them). So while the main theme of Sprit Tribal is strong, the subthemes are pretty minor. The deck would need significant changes to make either subtheme more prominent.

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Choosing Our Commander

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Spirit Squadron provides two options to lead the stock list: the face card, Millicent, Restless Revenant, and the partners Rhoda, Geist Avenger & Timin, Youthful Geist. Which is better to lead the upgraded version of the deck?

This time there's not really a debate: Millicent, Restless Revenant is objectively the correct choice for this precon. The deck is entirely focused on Spirit Tribal and only Millicent provides good support for that. Rhoda & Timin are focused on Tap Tribal, which is only a minor theme in the deck, and while Timin, Youthful Geist pops off with Verity Circle we'd have to replace so much of the deck to make these commanders work that we'd be better off building the deck from scratch rather than upgrade this precon to suit them.

So we're sticking with Millicent for the upgrade!

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Analyzing the Precon

Now that we've glanced at the stock list and settled on our commander, let's take a closer look at the deck itself to identify what parts benefit the most from upgrades.

As I often explain in my Budget Commander articles, every time I build a rough draft of a deck, I make sure I have a certain ratio of mana, interaction, card advantage, etc. This gives me a reference point to compare to the deck and see which areas may need improvement. My general ratio is:

  • 50 mana; lands and ramp, usually a 37–13 split
  • 10 card draw; cards that net you 2+ cards in hand
  • 8 targeted removal; split between creature / artifact / enchantment removal and countermagic
  • 3 board wipes; creature-light decks might want one more, creature-heavy decks might want one less
  • 2 graveyard recursion
  • 2 flexible tutors; higher budgets I recommend more tutors
  • 1 graveyard hate; since you need to keep Graveyard decks honest 
  • 1 finisher; something that can win games the turn you cast it without too much setup

That's always my starting point, which is then tweaked to suit the individual deck's strategy and further tweaked with playtesting. I always find it immensely useful to figure out some quick ways to improve the deck in question.

Let's see what the rough ratios are for Spirit Squadron and how it compares. I count:

Just looking at the numbers, the biggest I problem I see with the deck is the low mana count. The deck is certainly capable of having fast starts hitting all their lands and ramp early, but we can make fast starts far more consistent if we increase the mana by a bit in the upgrades section. The rest of the ratios seem fine.

Now that we've taken a look at the ratios, let's take a deeper dive into the individual cards.

35 Lands. 35 lands is on the low end but it's not terrible. This precon is pretty slow and grindy, with 11 cards that cost 5+ mana and has plenty of cards that require mana to activate, like Ethereal Investigator, Twilight Drover, Mentor of the Meek, and so on, so hitting our lands is important. I think adding two extra lands could help with consistency.

The lands themselves are quite good. I love seeing untapped duals like Port Town and Prairie Stream. We also have some clutch tribal lands like Path of Ancestry and Moorland Haunt. The only real stinker is Temple of the False God, which isn't terrible but will only tap for mana turn 5 like 80% of the time in this deck, not good enough for me.

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10 Ramp. The ramp here is solid: we've got plenty of 2-drop ramp that you love to see like Knight of the White Orchid and Azorius Signet. Even the subpar stuff like Sky Diamond still works fine. I'm actually not a fan of Midnight Clock here though since our recursion is so powerful and Clock will reset our graveyard. My biggest complaint is that Talisman of Progress isn't here; the card hasn't been reprinted in 10 years and is already over $10! Why hasn't WOTC reprinted it already?

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12 Card Draw. The card draw here is a mixed bag: we have really good options like Ghostly Pilferer which randomly draws oodles of cards in Commander, and since this is a Go Wide deck it will draw crazy amounts off Distant Melody and Reconnaissance Mission. But others, while thematic, just cost too much mana, like Sire of the Storm and the investigate draw like Bygone Bishop. I'm a diehard Clue fan but I have to admit paying 2 mana to draw a card just is too slow these days.

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6 Targeted Removal. Only six cards is a bit on the light side but the options we've got are sweet: staples like Swords to Plowshares and the casual-friendly Arcane Denial. I'm surprised Wizards included Darksteel Mutation and Imprisoned in the Moon, which are some of the nastiest removal spells you can use against commanders, something I didn't expect they'd want in their introductory products.

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3 Board Wipes. Kirtar's Wrath is a nice thematic board wipe that works better here than anywhere else.  Fell the Mighty is nice since our Spirits will generally have the lowest power at the table, and Flood of Tears mildly supports our Blink subtheme. Not great, but they work.

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6 Graveyard Recursion. The graveyard recursion is definitely a highlight in this precon. The new Spectral Arcanist is a wonderful way to "flashback" a spell from anyone's yard and Storm of Souls is one of the coolest new cards from this year, a unique mass reanimation spell in White that isn't a generic staple but rather reeeeally good in Spirit Tribal or Blink decks where the nerfed P/T isn't a noticeable drawback. Love this design.

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0 Flexible Tutors. Tutors are super helpful for any Commander deck to help you find the right card for any situation, but I'm fine with them not showing up in precons. These are decks that are meant to pick up and play without being intimately aware of the deck's contents so tutors would only serve to confuse new pilots.

1 Graveyard Hate. Remorseful Cleric is the perfect inclusion here: cheap, efficient, and a Spirit. Winner.

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2 Finisher. This precon's win condition is entirely just "beat your opponent to death with tiny flying spirits." Now a bunch of 1/1 flyers aren't going to get the job done by themselves but they are prime candidates to anthem effects, and the precon gives two good ones: Mirror Entity and Drogskol Reinforcements. Both can turn your 1/1's into lethal attackers and both are Spirits (Entity counts as a Spirit).

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The Verdict. Overall this precon looks solid. It could use a bit more mana, some of the draw could be more mana-efficient, but there's a lot to like here.

Upgrade Goals

I have some specific goals when upgrading Spirit Squadron:

  • Add more mana sources
  • Enhance the Spirit Tribal theme
  • Upgrade the card draw
  • Upgrade the removal
  • Upgrade the finishers

This precon has a lot of great cards in it but could hugely benefit from a handful of upgrades.

$50 Upgrades

Disclaimer: Card prices are volatile and may be different at the time you read this article.

Here's how I'd swap in $50 worth of upgrades. If you want to upgrade on a smaller budget then just makes less swaps:

In Out Reason
Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr Geist of Saint Traft Excellent threat and finisher.
Cathars' Crusade Rhoda, Geist Avenger

One of th best Go Wide anthems in the game.

Mirrorhall Mimic Timin, Youthful Geist

Flexible and can get out of control.

Selfless Spirit Sudden Salvation

Spirit protection.

Guardian of Faith Disorder in the Court

Amazing board protection.

Cemetery Illuminator Occult Epiphany

Efficient GY hate and draw.

Curiosity Crafter Spectral Sailor Great draw engine in Go Wide.
Bident of Thassa Kami of the Crescent Moon Great draw engine in Go Wide.

Ribbons of the Reikai

Sire of the Storm

Big burst draw in Spirits.

Skyclave Apparition

Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens

Flexible removal.
Mausoleum Wanderer Custodi Squire

Cheap tax on opposing spells.

Nikko-Onna Hallowed Spiritkeeper

Repeat enchantment removal.

Spell Queller Dovin, Grand Arbiter

Great soft counter on a spirit.

Kabira Takedown Custodi Soulbinders

Flexible Go Wide removal/land.

March of Souls Fell the Mighty

Better wipe.

Perplexing Test Flood of Tears Asymmetrical wipe in Tokens.
Hour of Reckoning Ghostly Prison

Asymmetrical wipe in Tokens.

Ondu Inversion

Darksteel Mutation

Flexible wipe / land.

Mind Stone Midnight Clock

More efficient ramp that doesn't reset our GY.

Makindi Stampede Bygone Bishop

Flexible buff / land.

Island Temple of the False God

Better land.

Here's how the swaps look in lists.

Additions:

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Cuts:

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And here's the deck with the upgrades installed:

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Further Upgrades

Here are even more cards you can use to upgrade your Spirit Tribal beyond the sample $50 budget:

Under $10: Glasspool Mimic, Wayfarer's Bauble, Talisman of Progress, Deserted Beach, Glacial Fortress

Pricey stuff: Kindred Discovery, Hallowed Fountain, Sea of Clouds, Tundra, Flooded Strand

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Coming Soon: Werewolf Tribal Update!

Crimson Vow brings some new staples to Werewolf Tribal so I'll be back soon with a quick update to my Budget Werewolf Tribal article. Thanks for reading!

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