Bo1 + Bo3 Standard Azorius Spirits Deck Guide: Call the Ghostbusters!
Zombies here, Vampires there… Humans everywhere. In the past two weeks since Crimson Vow release, each one of the other Innistrad tribes had their moment to shine, but now, dear friends, it’s time to tell you the truth. The strongest one hasn’t been in the spotlight yet, and let me tell you one thing; It’s time to call the Ghostbusters! The best tribe in Standard is here, period.
Remember when we talked about Stonebinder's Familiar having a new best friend in Fleeting Spirit? Well, Mono White Aggro is not the only archetype that can take that dog for a walk. If we add Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr and Dorothea, Vengeful Victim to the equation, Mythic is just around the corner.
Dorothea, is one of my Innistrad: Crimson Vow favorites. Maybe some of you don’t know Geist of Saint Traft, an amazing old Innistrad card. Well, Dorothea is a double faced card. First, it’s a 4/4 flyer, and even if she goes to the graveyard after attacking or blocking, a 4/4 is something that most of the time could give us enough time against aggro decks like Mono White and Mono Green. Then the fun part begins.
There’s a few different approaches to this archetype now and every one of them have valid ideas, but many of them don’t play one mana creatures. Taking Dorothea in consideration, having creatures on the battlefield on turn one are mandatory for maximizing the power of the card.
On the other hand, Katilda is powerful enough to crush other decks in the metagame if our opponents don’t take care of her immediately. Even taking its Vampires protection out of the way (that could be really good), being a creature with lifelink and evasion could let us win damage races single handily. Now, with the help of Clarion Spirit and our many one mana spells (one of the reasons behind Fading Hope and Portable Hole), you can imagine how big Katilda can be.
From this point, our deck guides are going to present two decklists one of each for BO1 and BO3! Some will be more focused towards one than the other depending on their state in the metagame. Here, I’m going to explain a the differences between them a little bit and the reasoning behind it. After also commenting on the other new cards roles in our deck and how the deck works, we are going to tackle our usual sideboard guide for our BO3 list and finally we’ll mention some cards that can be taken in consideration as possible inclusions depending on how the metagame evolves. Let’s go!
BO1 and BO3 Comparison + General Notes
I have a strong opinion about BO1 and not having “dead cards”. That means that when I play BO1 (I play BO3 on a regular basis) I like to build the deck around a solid all rounder configuration, trying to maximize the functionality of every card and avoiding situations where one draw could be just “blank” against certain decks or incredibly good against others.
Good examples of this are Portable Hole and Fading Hope. Both cards are amazing and incredibly good in certain situations (Mono White or Mono Green games for example), but just a death card in hand against others (like Izzet Epiphany). It’s true that BO1 meta could tend to be more aggro most of the time, but even then, having a solid configuration and avoiding blank draws is a good choice.
So what we do in this cases is take out 2 Portable Hole, 2 Fading Hope, and 1 Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr and we change them for 3 Geistlight Snare and 2 Lantern Bearer. The reasons behind it are simple. Geistlight Snare is an amazing card overall, I was even considering playing 4 in our maindeck in our BO3 version, but it’s because we can use our sideboard that I do a meta call and go for Portable Hole and Fading Hope instead. Izzet Epiphany (Izzet Turns) has in some ways been a little bit less popular in the last few days, and Mono Green and Mono White (this last one in particular) are taking all the attention. Even if both archetypes are really popular in BO1, having 4 Geistlight Snare is a very solid option.
This counterspell deserves its own paragraph. On an empty board it’s a 3 mana Mana Leak, but in 90% of the cases, with only one creature on the battlefield it’s identical to Mana Leak. When we realize how often we can cast it for one, playing more copies in our 75 starts looking great. Depending on the metagame, shifting the copies between our maindeck and sideboard is going to be doable. The efficiency of the card and being good against everything (shining against control and midrange strategies) made me use it in our BO1 version.
The reason behind Lantern Bearer is simple. One of our biggest strengths is Clarion Spirit. Cutting 2 Portable Hole and 2 Fading Hope weakens our plan of playing two spells per turn. The best way of maintaining the strategy without adding blank cards for BO1 is with this one drop blue spirit. It solidifies our turn 1, something very important in BO1, helps Clarion Spirit to keep doing its work and lets us give Flying to other creatures (surprisingly many spirits don’t fly).
Now, the only two new cards that we haven’t said anything about (besides Deserted Beach) are Patrician Geist and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben (new and old acquaintance of many). Patrician Geist was one of the missing parts of the puzzle for playing Spirits Tribal in Standard. Finally a Lord (named after Lord of Atlantis, are creatures that give +1/+1 to a type of creature) for 3 mana, with evasion and not only that. It only costs 2U, not 1UU or 1UW or another more complicated mana value + it lets us cast out graveyard shenanigans for 1 less colorless mana. That means
It also seems as though Wizards of the Coast knew how strong Izzet was going to be and thought about a “contention plan” in case it was too much. Without a doubt Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is one of the best two drops in the history of the game. Playing against Thalia is extremely complicated, even against Mono Green, taxing the likes of Ranger Class and Blizzard Brawl is extremely useful. In this case we play the full set in our sideboard, because we need to maximize our spirits count, but we are happy to use the 4 copies against the correct matchup.
The general plan of the deck is fairly simple. Regardless of if we are using the BO1 or the BO3 version, we have a powerful curve of synergistic creatures that can outrace even Mono White or Mono Green. Stonebinder's Familiar + Fleeting Spirit are an amazing couple. Usher of the Fallen works pretty well solidifying our hands, letting us have something to do on turn two even if we miss any of our 14 two drops, and put pressure like a
Without a doubt we have a strong deck here, but learning how to adapt it against the metagame for competitive environment is essential. Let’s check the sideboard guide!
Mono White is one of the biggest winners in the last weeks, but we have a very solid match against it. With 4 Portable Hole + 2 Fading Hope + 4 Skyclave Apparition it should be enough to get rid of the more important creatures on our opponents side of the field while our spirits win the race out-trading and outracing them. Dorothea, Vengeful Victim gives us enough time by being a 4/4 on turn 2 and then we can establish our position in different ways. Either getting many bodies with Clarion Spirit or trying to race them with Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr. Fleeting Spirit is amazing here letting us block long amounts of time, and Patrician Geist +1/+1 gives us incredibly good trades.
Winning both matches against the aggro archetypes of the metagame requires us to understand that we are not the aggressors. Even if we can have explosive starts and put any deck under pressure really fast, we cut Usher of the Fallen because drawing one while on the draw tends to be not desirable, and on the play most of the time we are going to prefer playing Stonebinder's Familiar on turn one and then being reactive with Portable Hole, Fading Hope and Fleeting Spirit.
Don’t hesitate to take good trades with Dorothea, Vengeful Victim and let
|+2 Wash Away||-2 Portable Hole|
|+2 Fateful Absence||-2 Fading Hope|
|+4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben||-4 Skyclave Apparition|
|+2 Guardian of Faith||-4 Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr|
|+3 Geistlight Snare||-1 Patrician Geist|
Even if the popularity of the deck is going under these last days, Izzet Turns is still incredibly strong, and many are choosing the deck again thanks to the innovation of playing Hullbreaker Horror. The card is insanely strong, and that’s why we side in our pair of Fateful Absence. The rest of our side ins are clear. Wash Away for Alrund's Epiphany, Thalia for slowing their game in general, Guardian of Faith against Burn Down the House / Battle of Frost and Fire / Cinderclasm, and Geistlight Snare for giving us enough tempo while establishing pressure with 2 or 3 creatures.
We take out Portable Hole Fading Hope and Skyclave Apparition because they don’t usually have targets, but be careful. From time to time they could side in Smoldering Egg, and you can keep Portable Hole there. Katilda and Patrician Geist are taken out because we are not going to play with many creatures on the battlefield most of the time. Put down solid board presence with 2 or 3 creatures and then maintain control with our flashy answers like Spectral Adversary, Guardian of Faith and our counters.
|+2 Portable Hole||-2 Fading Hope|
|+2 Fateful Absence||-4 Usher of the Fallen|
|+2 Guardian of Faith||-3 Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr|
|+3 Geistlight Snare|
We have to take this archetype in consideration. If we are going to play any BO3 competitive environment match, Orzhov is surely going to be there. It’s now some kind of “solution deck” for the format and is having amazing results lately. Lucky for us, we are prepared. They have a lot of targets for Portable Hole in form of Shambling Ghast, Eyetwitch, and Professor of Symbology whileFateful Absence is good against heavy finishers like Lolth, Spider Queen.
With many wrath effects like Blood on the Snow and The Meathook Massacre, Guardian of Faith is mandatory while Geistlight Snare lets us out tempo them without problems. Usher goes out just because they have many good trades for it and Katilda goes out for the same reason as Izzet. Our plan is not to swarm the board but exert pressure with 2 or 3 creatures while we out tempo them with instant speed spells in key moments (we have just 9 instant speed cards, but any of them can be a game changer).
The meta could shift, your game style could be different and you could feel comfortable playing the lists a little bit different, or maybe we still have room to explore the archetype. For that reason, let me share with you some cards that were taken into consideration for this article even if they didn’t reach the lists.
- Dreamshackle Geist: A tempo machine. When unanswered can win a combat relevant matchup by itself.
- Cemetery Illuminator: If graveyard strategies start getting popular, this is our “guy”.
- Faithbound Judge: Was one of my main ideas for the BO1 list. Without a sideboard, many opponents can lose against Sinner’s Judgment.
- Valorous Stance: Amazing card overall. If aggro goes taller this is a must, and also excellent against Izzet Dragons.
- Circle of Confinement: A bigger Portable Hole with two upsides (being an Enchantment and giving us life against vampires).
- Kabira Takedown: Could be played if we lower the curve a little bit (we have many three mana spells).
- Faceless Haven: Our deck is has two colors and 8 double colored three mana spells. On the other hand, it’s a Spirit, so it’s not impossible to play this manland.
- Rally the Ranks: A more aggro focused build with more one drops could use this. In combination with Patrician Geist and Clarion Spirit could be amazing.
Tips and Tricks
- Stonebinder's Familiar could trigger with Fleeting Spirit, Dorothea’s Retribution, Katilda’s Rising Dawn (when these auras leave the battlefield they get exiled), Skyclave Apparition and Portable Hole.
- Usher of the Fallen is preferred on turn one in any situation when we don’t have a second drop in our opening hand.
- Don’t hesitate attacking or trading with Dorothea, Vengeful Victim.
- Fleeting Spirit is a key part of our unexpected plays that can turn the game in our favor, especially when it can make Stonebinder's Familiar really big. One of the best ways is by discarding Dorothea or Katilda and then we have the auras available in our graveyard. Stonebinder's Familiar + Fleeting Spirit +
Dorothea's Retribution= 10 damage.
- Spectral Adversary can phase out creatures, artifacts or enchantments, but not only ours for saving them, it can phase out potential blockers and clear the path for us.
- Remember, we play 2 Cave of the Frost Dragon, remembering that can make you win many games.
Well, everybody, another column has ended, and with it, a new deck is here to show everyone that the Tier 1 decks are not just “The Big Three”. Since Standard 2022 many people thought that only 3 decks are in a position to compete for the glory, but let me tell you something. Spirits are here, and it’s time to call the Ghostbusters or else more than one is going to get a big Boo!
Many players have taken this archetype to Mythic now, and trust me – the strongest Innistrad tribe wasn’t part of the show and weren’t invited to the wedding… Until now. 👻
I had an amazing time writing this article. Thank you so much for all your support to MTG Arena Zone on YouTube and let me know in the comments anything we can do to make this a better place for you (any deck related comments are welcome too, haha). Until next time, remember to smile! 🙂