Commander or EDH is one of the top ways to play Magic the Gathering. Wizards of the Coast has been capitalizing on it by releasing commander decks with all their new standard sets for the past year. This is a great entry point into the format. The preconstructed decks are playable out of the box in casual formats and can sometimes hold their own with other decks. These decks rank a seven or an eight in power level. (Editor’s Note: Read here for how we rank decks on Commander Clinic). Take Ten is an article series that removes then adds ten cards from the deck in order to power it up. This series is meant to be budget friendly for those entering the commander format. It’s goal tries to keep the cost of the upgrades to about $50 to $100
Deconstructing Spirit Squadron
This deck is a tribal deck. This is a good thing as these decks are quite fun to play and Spirit Squadron does not disappoint. As usual Wizards did not include the spirits from the current set. They want you to buy packs. They will force you to do it by not including them here. Still, this deck is packed with lots of spirits, cards that make spirits and spirit matters cards. The deck contains 38 of these cards and is above and beyond the target of 30 to 33 cards to fit a tribe. This is great because it means we should draw into them a little bit more than the average tribal deck. Spirits normally have flying so there’s some built in evasion to help fuel our commander.
Our Commander is Millicent, Restless Revenent or Millie. While her casting cost is high at seven mana value, she gets a discount for each spirit you have on the battlefield. For this reason, the deck wants to swarm spirits so that you can play Millie cheap and continue to build your board. Millicent also creates spirit tokens with flying when spirits die and deal combat damage. The limitation is that only nontokens trigger this ability. Death triggers are nice and help us rebuild against board wipes. However, that token generation is the fallback plan. Millicent really wants to attack and deal lots of combat damage in order to explode the board. Commander Clinic likes explosive turns and this deck gives it to us in the form of combat. When you play this deck you expect to swing out.
Ideally the deck would prefer to just be a combat deck. Make spirits, swing with spirits, kill your opponents.However, there seems to be two trends in the deck that diverge from that path. The first is tapping down your opponent’s creatures. This is useful to help get damage through so that we can make more spirits. It also is a sort of pseudo-removal. However the tap ability is not strong enough to handle decks that swarm the battlefield. So we will not lean into it all that strongly. The deck does contain Verity Circle. Spoiler Alert, with just ten cards to add and remove, Verity Circle was not cut in this build. We will want to keep these tap abilities so that we can utilize The Circle to draw cards.
The second trend is that there are several enter the battlefield (ETB) effects to the deck. This is something that can be built around but it still would require an overhaul to add the blink effects. This creates a value engine that can be used to supplement your attack strategy. We can add a few cards here but it will not be nearly as effective as it should be. Wizards included one blink spell and card draw is tied to it. It’s a wonderful card. Let’s look at it for the blink strategy.
Disorder in the Court is an instant that provides some value. It allows you to blink ETB creatures to get some additional value where normally they are one and done. It also can clear the way for an alpha strike that can take out an opponent. All of a sudden their creatures are gone. Then you get some card draw for the future. Both are excellent ways to utilize this card. These are not the best way…
What the card does best is protect your board from mass removal. When someone casts a Wrath of God this will allow you to remove your noncreature tokens to save them from removal while creating clues that will refill your hand. Your tokens are going to die either way so blink them for extra clues and card draw as long as you have the mana. The rate for drawing a card will be three mana (one to blink the spirit plus two to activate the clue) which is quite inefficient but if you have the mana lying around it is a good mana sink for the deck.
As alluded to before, the deck is pretty well constructed. It hosts all the card packages for what a commander deck wants to do and then includes a plethora of cards to round out spirit tribal so that you can smack down your opponent. There are few wasted cards. Some cards overlap and can fit into multiple categories but as a general breakdown the deck contains the following packages.
- 14 Card Draw / Quality
- 10 Mana Ramp / Fixing
- 9 Removal
- 38 Spirits / Spirits Matter
- 3 Misc. Effects
- 1 Win Condition
Cards to Remove
A couple of cards stand out immediately to remove. Kami of the Crescent Moon, while a spirit, is a group hug card draw effect. We do not want our opponents to dig deeper into their decks and find a board wipe for our creatures. We can do much better! Arcane Denial is the only counterspell in the deck. One counterspell will never… ever be enough to have it when you need it. If you are using counterspells you need to dedicate a package to it specifically. (Editor’s Note: If you want to build a counterspell package check out our article Eight Counterspells to Rule Them All) Not all blue decks need counterspells so rather than build a package we will remove it entirely.
Oyobii, Who Splits the Heavens is the high end mana card of this deck. Tokens that are 3/3 are nice but it comes too late in the game to be able to swarm with them. The card is quite inefficient and needs to be cut. Custodi Squire is inefficient as well. It is a 3/3 body that will bring a card to hand and not the battlefield. There’s too much mana tied up into this card to keep it. Finally, Dovin, Grand Arbiter doesn’t do anything the deck wants to do and is an easy cut as well.
Getting Down to the Nitty Gritty
Rhoda, Geist Avenger is a tap payoff but it is a human and grows big with absolutely no evasion. We could at least use a spirit that does the same thing and synergize with the deck. The only good Rhoda does is let you pull Timin, Youthful Geist, also affectionately known as Timothy. This is not enough value so Rhoda should be removed. With it we will remove Timothy as well. The tap ability is OK but it is poor design. It was a made for commander card that bypassed standard. It wouldn’t have been too broken if the card tapped didn’t untap during the next untap step.
The final cuts were a little more difficult. Kirtar’s Wrath while creating a couple of spirits is six mana and you need to achieve threshold with your graveyard n order to get those spirits. We will find a better board wipe. Custodi Soulbinders is a win more card and we can find something that can do more than just help you maintain a lead. Finally, Haunting Imitation looks like a fun card to play, but it lacks consistency. There will be times you will waste your mana because there are no creatures on top of any deck. There will be other times you will hit creatures that will not benefit you. Yes there will be times you will hit cards like Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger that will be an absolute home run. Unfortunately, it will not happen often enough to justify a card slot in this deck.
Cards to Add
We would like to bring our card draw package up to 15 cards. We are close and this will give us games where we will have two card draw cards in our opening hand. Bident of Thassa fits into the attack theme and we can draw a lot of cards off of it as the deck’s spirit engine gets rolling. It’s goad ability is not great unless you can couple it with some tap down abilities from the deck. The bottom line is. This card is not exactly goad and your opponent can attack you. However, there are some limited uses to force some pesky cards that want to just sit on the battlefield and give your opponents value to make a bad attack.
Drogskol Reaver is a spirit to help replace some of the spirits that were cut. Even with minimal lifegain this card will draw cards. It has evasion in flying. Lifelink adds value so that whenever it hits it will draw you cards. Double strike means you will be drawing two cards per attack and is an excellent high end card for this deck.
The deck only needs two removal cards to bring the package up to ten. Commander Clinic actually allocates four cards to removal. One of the ways to overcome a bad start or improve a pre constructed deck is by adding removal. If you can remove the bigger threats of your opponents, then it evens the playing field. This deck does not want to be an answer deck, but it does want answers so that you can like Merrill in Signs and “swing away.” Path to Exile is a must in white. Winds of Abandon is flexible, but is best used as an alpha strike card so that your opponent does not get to use all the lands he just got to search his deck for. While not spirits, Amphin Mutineer and Dawnbringer Cleric have ETB effects that can be abused.
The deck would like more blink cards to abuse the ETB triggers. Unfortunately there isn’t enough card slots to do so. Still we will add two and when we can use them we will have some additional value. Both Brago, King Eternal and Soulherder are spirits, so they help with the deck’s main strategy while fleshing out a minimal blink package. Brago has evasion and Soulherder will grow large. Despite being big and dumb he can provide a deterrent for people attacking you. We also add a blink payoff with Cathars’ Crusade to buff up our spirits. It does more than just payoff our blink abilities. The Crusade also synergizes with all the creature tokens we will be making to create quite a scary board.
The deck is short on win conditions with only Mirror Entity. Still we can pump five or six mana into it and have some rather large flyers deal some significant damage. Cathar’s Crusade is another win condition that pumps up your team. It also pairs well with Mirror Entity as it adds counters where The Entity messes with the power and toughness of each creature. If you can pair both together your spirits can knock out players rapidly.
If you want an alternate win condition consider Approach of the Second Sun. There is enough card draw to make the card worthwhile. Instead, we are doubling down on the attack theme with Archetype of Imagination. Yes, most of our creatures already are flyers so it doesn’t really buff our team that much. It does; however, remove flying from all your opponents creatures. This will ground some tough combat matchups such as dragons to allow you to fly over them and take your opponent out. In short it breaks parity and worth including in the deck.
Take Ten looks to keep the cost of upgrades from about $50 to $100. With precon decks costing roughly $40 this gives you a playable deck for well under $200. This build overperforms with a total cost of $32.36 at the time of this writing from Card Kingdom. Drogskol Reaver is the most expensive card coming in at $8.99 and actually has been trending down in price. Path to Exile, Winds of Abandon and Cathar’s Crusade are all staples in white and worth owning in a collection. The cards combine for almost half the cost of the upgrades and can be useful as you brew more decks.
It Doesn’t Have to Stop Here.
There are more cards you can add if you want to rebuild the deck. For example, you can remove the tap down theme and add some more staples or even additional blink and ETB effects. Deadeye Navigator can give multiple blinks in a turn. Aven Fogbringer, Gulf Squid and Wu Spy become amazing cards that have your opponents say what does that card do? Priest of Ancient Lore will draw lots of cards as well. With Karmic Guide already in the deck you can also add some sacrifice outlets and Reveilark and create some combo loops. The deck has ETB triggers so you can gain some significant value by doing this.
What are some of the cards you would add for your Take Ten? Are there any cards you would have removed instead of the ten chosen? Commander Clinic would like to know. If you like this Take Ten do us a favor and give us a shout out on twitter and instagram so that more people can join the clinical nation. This is a free site and our desire is to get our thoughts out there to as many people as we can.