It’s that time of year that seems now to be all times of year: precon upgrade season! Every time there are new preconstructed Commander decks, I take each one and upgrade it on a $50 budget. Since Innistrad: Crimson Vow brought two decks to the table, we’ll be doing this process with both, and today we’re starting with the Spirit Squadron list! As always, I’d like to remind you of a couple of things regarding my budget EDH articles:
- $50 has a different impact on different people, but given that it’s less than the price of a triple-A console game release, I think it’s a price many will be willing to pay for hours of entertainment, which a Commander deck should provide.
- I’ll be using prices from the ChannelFireball Marketplace to track our costs, specifically the lowest available Near Mint price at the time of this writing. I apologize if listings have changed since then, but that’s just part and parcel of a budget article.
Here’s the Spirit Squadron deck, helmed by Millicent, Restless Revenant, as it exists in the box:
1 Angel of Flight Alabaster 1 Arcane Denial 1 Arcane Signet 1 Azorius Chancery 1 Azorius Locket 1 Azorius Signet 1 Benevolent Offering 1 Boreas Charger 1 Breath of the Sleepless 1 Bygone Bishop 1 Command Tower 1 Commander's Sphere 1 Crush Contraband 1 Custodi Soulbinders 1 Custodi Squire 1 Darksteel Mutation 1 Disorder in the Court 1 Distant Melody 1 Donal, Herald of Wings 1 Dovin, Grand Arbiter 1 Drogskol Captain 1 Drogskol Reinforcements 1 Ethereal Investigator 1 Exotic Orchard 1 Fell the Mighty 1 Field of Souls 1 Flood of Tears 1 Geist of Saint Traft 1 Ghostly Pilferer 1 Ghostly Prison 1 Hallowed Spiritkeeper 1 Hanged Executioner 1 Haunted Library 1 Haunting Imitation 1 Imprisoned in the Moon 11 Island 1 Kami of the Crescent Moon 1 Karmic Guide 1 Kirtar's Wrath 1 Knight of the White Orchid 1 Marble Diamond 1 Mentor of the Meek 1 Midnight Clock 1 Mirror Entity 1 Moorland Haunt 1 Myriad Landscape 1 Nebelgast Herald 1 Occult Epiphany 1 Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens 1 Path of Ancestry 12 Plains 1 Port Town 1 Prairie Stream 1 Priest of the Blessed Graf 1 Promise of Bunrei 1 Rattlechains 1 Reconnaissance Mission 1 Remorseful Cleric 1 Rhoda, Geist Avenger 1 Shacklegeist 1 Sire of the Storm 1 Sky Diamond 1 Skycloud Expanse 1 Sol Ring 1 Spectral Arcanist 1 Spectral Sailor 1 Spectral Shepherd 1 Storm of Souls 1 Sudden Salvation 1 Supreme Phantom 1 Swords to Plowshares 1 Temple of Enlightenment 1 Temple of the False God 1 Timin, Youthful Geist 1 Twilight Drover 1 Unclaimed Territory 1 Verity Circle 1 Windborn Muse
I love these new tribal decks that are coming out as preconstructed decks. They’re great starting points, tie in well to the main set and tend to play in a way that feels broadly satisfying. I also like the low average mana value – 3.27 ignoring lands is nice and low-to-the-ground, with a significant focus on three-drops.
However, I can’t get over the low land count. 35 seems quite low, even in a deck with eight mana rocks, and I’d like to get that up by two. With 35 land, we’re very likely to have two or more lands by turn two (89.5 percent) but not too likely to have one or more of our two-mana rocks or Sol Ring by turn two (38.6 percent). Let’s take a look at some more data on our 35-land deck and compare it to the 37-land version:
|Turn #||% to hit all land drops (35 land)||% to hit all land drops (37 land)||% to have at least one playable mana rock|
I like to think a lot about the first few turns. This isn’t just because I want to make sure I make them count – it’s because I want to have fun, and missing land drops before turn three isn’t much fun. The difference between 35 and 37 land is pretty significant even on turns three and four. Meanwhile, we’re over 50% to have a playable mana rock (defined as “costs less than or equal to current turn number” here), so making sure we hit those early land drops is what makes the large number of mana rocks work – it means we have a better chance to play them early and move on to some strong multiple spell turns or play high-drops faster than normal.
Now that I’ve justified that particular decision, let’s move on to the cuts. Today I’ll be making 16 total swaps – let’s talk about the four creatures that are leaving the deck!
I’m happy to have a few more copies of this card going around since I like Howling Mine effects, but I don’t see how it fits terribly well in this deck outside of its type line. We can do better!
I couldn’t make the “tap other peoples’ things” theme shine as bright as I wanted to (which is bad news for Verity Circle, more info on that soon) so I decided to cut these two. Better to have them helm their own deck, I think.
I’d rather be aggressively focused. We’re going to have plenty of tokens to chump with anyway (this is also bad news for Ghostly Prison. Film at 11, I guess).
I’m adding eight creatures to replace these four. Millicent really rewards a high creature count – her ability is most interested in letting us bash in with our creatures and secondarily fine with them dying, so let’s go wide!
Adding another lord to go with all the tokens we’ll have seems like the responsible choice. Casting from the yard is not this deck’s strong suit with just two disturb cards and no other effects that would be discounted by this Geist, but again, give me that lord!
With this and Patrician Geist, we go from two lords to four – the deck already had Supreme Phantom and Drogskol Captain. The Eagle may not hit our few grounded Spirits, but it helps odd non-Spirit flyers like Angel of Flight Alabaster and Boreas Charger, so no harm done.
Spoiler alert: I’m removing an anti-Wrath countermeasure, so I figured I’d add one back that is low on mana value and high on Spirit synergy.
As above, but this one is an on-board trick rather than a from-hand surprise!
This is one of my favorite cards from the new set, and it’s so perfect in any Spirits deck since it still gets to have all the good Spirit synergies! The back half – well, you could say it’s just icing on the cake, but that’s deeply untrue because it’s quite powerful.
I wanted to add a high-end threat to this deck, and while there’s not much more life gain in this deck, Drogskol Reaver is plenty good on its own while synergizing well with lords and Millicent alike.
Aside from being our preview card, Katilda has obvious synergy with our Spirits on both sides. This is likely to be one of our larger threats stat-wise across the whole deck.
We’re so creature-focused, I wanted to protect us even more against point removal, so I threw in Kira. I thought this would be a costly move, but it turns out that a few reprints have pushed the value to a more reasonable place. Sweet!
So far we’ve spent $22.11, which is a good spot to be in after eight cards. Let’s see what noncreature swaps we can make – we’re cutting nine and re-adding just three.
Adding the wrath protection and the Kira means we don’t need Arcane Denial quite as much, and since “just above precon” power level doesn’t usually include infinite combos, I’m fine putting this away and not giving up so many cards.
It’s a wrath, albeit a mediocre one, and while I understand wanting to be the only one with creatures left, it’s hard to really achieve that. Plus, it targets, making it easy to counter. We can do better!
I don’t find this kind of effect terribly fun, and since we’re not playing too many huge permanents, we can’t even break the symmetry very well.
We discussed this with Windborn Muse – let’s be proactive!
This effect has such wide and variable possibilities, but it’s hard to make it worth the card without significant effort. It’s a fun one, but since we’re optimizing today, I’m cutting it. If you prefer to de-optimize, as I’ve discussed before, this card is sweet.
We have little enough type diversity (so many creatures) that our spells are super valuable most of the time, and with not much ability to play out of the graveyard, this loses most of its punch.
Again, with the upgraded wrath defenses, we can leave these less efficient cards on the sidelines. I know it plays well with ETB effects, and while we have some, it’s not a huge theme.
Since we cut Timin and Rhoda, Verity Circle was the final bit of that subtheme that I don’t think really fits anymore. The remaining cards involved turn out to be efficient Spirits, so I’m keeping them.
Here are our three replacements:
This is a much stronger board wipe than Fell the Mighty – doesn’t target, gets very inexpensive and will absolutely be a player for years to come.
It makes Spirit tokens. Love it!
I wanted to add a card draw effect, and since we’re going up on lands, I thought it would be good to add something with a high ceiling.
We’ve now spent $29.29, leaving a healthy $20ish for lands. Speaking of lands, as I mentioned earlier, we’re going up two on the count – adding five, cutting three. We’re cutting:
We’ve talked before about my dislike for the Odyssey filters – they do nothing on their own and just add awkwardness to mana bases, so out they go. Temple of the False God is not good at 37 lands, let alone 35 – while there was a solid defense of Temple by Tomer Abramovici of MTGGoldfish late last year that involved math by Frank Karsten, that analysis accounted for a 42-land deck, which these preconstructed decks almost never play. Since we’re not that high-curve, high-land count deck, Temple is out.
We’re also cutting an Island. I just want to add another sweet nonbasic. Sorry, Island.
What comes in?
Four sweet dual lands that will help us cast our spells early, especially the color-heavy cards I added, as well as something that lets us hold up our flash creatures longer and benefit more heavily from Distant Melody and Sphinx’s Revelation? Yeah, I’m sold.
We’ve now spent $49.92, and I call that a good upgrade. We’re now up to a 3.39 average mana value ignoring lands, which, while a decent bump from 3.27, is totally fine with our upgraded land count. Here’s the list – see you next time for a more Vampire-focused experience!
Commander: Milicent, Restless Revenant 1 Angel of Flight Alabaster 1 Arcane Signet 1 Azorius Chancery 1 Azorius Locket 1 Azorius Signet 1 Benevolent Offering 1 Boreas Charger 1 Breath of the Sleepless 1 Bygone Bishop 1 Command Tower 1 Commander's Sphere 1 Crush Contraband 1 Custodi Soulbinders 1 Custodi Squire 1 Darksteel Mutation 1 Deserted Beach 1 Distant Melody 1 Donal, Herald of Wings 1 Dovin, Grand Arbiter 1 Drogskol Captain 1 Drogskol Reaver 1 Drogskol Reinforcements 1 Empyrean Eagle 1 Ethereal Investigator 1 Exotic Orchard 1 Field of Souls 1 Geist of Saint Traft 1 Ghostly Pilferer 1 Glacial Fortress 1 Guardian of Faith 1 Hallowed Fountain 1 Hallowed Spiritkeeper 1 Hanged Executioner 1 Haunted Library 1 Hengegate Pathway 1 Imprisoned in the Moon 10 Island 1 Karmic Guide 1 Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr 1 Kira, Great Glass-Spinner 1 Kirtar's Wrath 1 Knight of the White Orchid 1 Marble Diamond 1 Mentor of the Meek 1 Midnight Clock 1 Mirror Entity 1 Mirrorhall Mimic 1 Moorland Haunt 1 Myriad Landscape 1 Nebelgast Herald 1 Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens 1 Path of Ancestry 1 Patrician Geist 12 Plains 1 Port Town 1 Prairie Stream 1 Priest of the Blessed Graf 1 Promise of Bunrei 1 Rattlechains 1 Reconnaissance Mission 1 Reliquary Tower 1 Remorseful Cleric 1 Selfless Spirit 1 Shacklegeist 1 Sire of the Storm 1 Sky Diamond 1 Sol Ring 1 Spectral Arcanist 1 Spectral Procession 1 Spectral Sailor 1 Spectral Shepherd 1 Sphinx's Revelation 1 Storm of Souls 1 Supreme Phantom 1 Swords to Plowshares 1 Temple of Enlightenment 1 Twilight Drover 1 Unclaimed Territory 1 Vanquish the Horde