Mono-Blue Spirits Explorer Deck Guide
Explorer Anthology's gift of Mausoleum Wanderer has propelled Explorer's best tempo deck to new heights. Deck tech and sideboard guide inside.
Ever since Mythic Championship I in 2019, which was won by Autumn Burchett, people started paying more attention to their weapon of choice – Mono Blue Tempo. The people’s interest peaked in the lower-bracket semifinals match where Autumn played no other than Reid Duke in a Mono Blue Tempo mirror match. The combination of flash creatures, evasion, cheap counter magic, sneaky ways of generating card advantage, and a seamless mana base has immediately got people hooked.
Fast forward to 2022 pioneer, Mono Blue Tempo aka Spirits, wins the MTGO Pioneer Showcase Challenge. It has all the same main characteristics as its 2019 predecessor; however, it’s more creature-dense. It’s worth mentioning though that they are also pretty disruptive – Brazen Borrower and its Petty Theft, Rattlechains has a Dive Down attached and Mausoleum Wanderer is a Force Spike on a stick.
Post-Anthology Mono-Blue Spirits
Slip Out the Back
Otawara, Soaring City
While the deck used to be called Mono Blue Tempo, now it leans to the Spirits tribal a bit more. The deck now plays 26 Spirits, which is quite a bit. The first thing worth mentioning is that cards like Spectral Sailor, Mausoleum Wanderer and Ascendant Spirit are really good one-drops on their own and they happen to be Spirits. However, there are plenty of Spirit interactions that we can take advantage of once we focus on this creature type.
As one of the strongest Spirits, Rattlechains comes immediately to mind. It being a flash/flying threat is already exactly what this type of deck wants. In addition, it protects our creatures so we can both expand our board presence AND save a creature – both tempo and card advantage here. Last, but not least, it allows us to cast any Spirit at instant speed which, considering the nature of the deck, helps us get even more flexible and tricksy.
Another Spirit pay-off is a relatively new addition in Geistlight Snare. Three-mana Mana Leak is not something we’d like in this super low-to-the-ground deck, but any Spirit discounts it to 1U, at which point we’re happy that we can play Mana Leak and the control decks can’t. Furthermore, there is a way to make it cost a single blue and that is Curious Obsession.
This innocuous enchantment can singlehandedly swing the game. You pass the turn on turn one, they play a creature or a tapland, you can now end step your flash Spectral Sailor, untap, slap Obsession onto it, smack them for two whilst drawing a card. At this point, they feel the pressure to remove it as fast as they can and they can’t really block it as it flies. In those cases where they do have a removal spell, it’s either a clean exchange of cards, but you untap with them tapped out or you catch them with a Mausoleum Wanderer sacrifice counter, Dive Down, or Geistlight Snare – a whopping seven one-mana answers to fully bury them as soon as turn two.
While yes, it’s not a literal end-of-the-game, you’d be untapping with a card-drawing flying threat which keeps drawing you into more answers and threats against an opponent who is already behind. This is the reason to play this deck.
You’re not going to get such a hand too often, so you have to know how to navigate those more likely hands – and those will most frequently include two or three lands, two or three creatures and one or two spells.
In this case, you’re most likely to end-step flash Rattlechains, enchant it with Obsession and hold up Snare. That’s a strong proactive plan.
Bear in mind that this deck is not good at blocking. You really want to stay ahead and push the advantage as hard as possible. If you cannot contain the board, try to race. You can use your key interaction pieces such as Petty Theft to remove one key attacker so that the opponent’s clock decreases by a turn.
Another aspect worth bringing up is the fact that this deck will rarely run out of things to do. You’re more likely to lose when you’ve drawn one or two lands than if you’ve drawn five. Why?
- You draw cards with Curious Obsession
- You can play Petty Theft and immediately cast Brazen Borrower
- You can activate Faceless Haven
- You can draw cards with Spectral Sailor
- You can pump up Ascendant Spirit
Matchups and Sideboard Guide
(Updated to reflect Explorer Anthology 1 by rose-emoji)
Mono-Blue Spirits Mirror
-1 Lofty Denial
I typically like to play more of a control game in the mirror. Mystical Dispute is clearly excellent as it counters every card that we (they) play; in addition, it’s nigh-impossible to play around as the deck will probably have 4-5 lands in total in play. However, don’t hold on to it for too long as the game might prolong if both players have assumed control roles.
I side out two Slip out the Back as the removal is lacking in the mirror, but I leave one in to deal with a Shacklegeist tap down or Petty Theft/Fading Hope target. Bringing in four Mystical Disputes would bring us to ten counterspells ( a bit much), so I board out two Lofty Denials.
+2 Aether Gust
-1 Lofty Denial
This is quite a tough matchup, as you want to be racing but their removal is deadly efficient. However, post board we get access to Cerulean Drake, which can block easily and cannot be killed (barring Bonecrusher Giant turning off protection with Stomp, but that will require two spells or you to block). It’s the best target for our Curious Obsessions if we want to get on the offensive. We also get access to Aether Gust for a cast or resolved Torbran, Embercleave or Hazoret.
We side out a couple Shacklegeist due to its inability to block, but we leave two in in case they do resolve an Embercleave and attach it to something.
+1 Dive Down
-2 Lofty Denial
Mausoleum Wanderer gave Spirits players a boost in this matchup, and I find it to be 50/50 or even slightly favored at this point. Of course, Rakdos now has access to Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, which is a fine target for a Witness Protection, as are most other creatures in the deck. We bring in one extra protection spell and bring out our Lofty Denial.
Tip: you can use Shacklegeist to tap down Bloodtithe Harvester on your opponent’s upkeep, as Harvester’s sacrifice removal ability can only be used at sorcery speed.
-1 Lofty Denial
This is a favored matchup, even with the recent printing of Supreme Verdict. I bring in Unsubstantiate to deal with Verdict, Brazen Borrower/Petty Theft for Teferi, a problematic Shark Token or Dream Trawler, plus an aggressively-slanted flash flyer.
Shacklegeist comes out, as I like to race them down before anything tap-worthy is on the battlefield. Ascendant Spirit is to much of a mana sink to be forever locked under a Portable Hole or two-mana March of Otherwordly Light, plus it doesn’t immediately fly over Wandering Emporer’s Samurai Tokens.
This is a pretty good matchup. While a resolved Greasefang with Parhelion II is lights out, it’s lights out for most decks. However, their creatures cannot block ours and we can get set up nicely by their turn three. Thanks to our evasion, we won’t trigger Stitcher’s Supplier in the versions that run it, as it won’t have anything to chump block. That also works in our favor – if they don’t force us to play countermagic, we can end step flash more threats.
Hearse just keeps them off their combo, if they even manage to resolve everything they need for it. Plus, Shacklegeist can already tap down a crewed Parhelion.
Tip: It is usually best to wait to trigger Hearse until your opponent has moved to combat and selected a Parhelion to return – then exile it in response. If you do it before then, they could have another way to get one into the graveyard.
- If your opponent blanks the target of Petty Theft, Brazen Borrower will not end up in the Adventure zone.
- Keep in mind that Supreme Phantom buffs ‘other’ Spirits – not itself – but when there are two Phantoms, they buff each other.
- I mentioned this before, but when you have a creature enchanted by Curious Obsession, Geistlight Snare costs a single blue mana.
- When you play your second Faceless Haven, make sure you animate the old one, not the newly played one as you won’t be able to attack.
- Activating the Shacklegeist ability to tap down an opposing creature does not care if your creatures have summoning sickness. You can play your creature and immediately tap it to Geist’s ability.
- You can use Otawara, Soaring City to save your own creatures.
- Activating the level-up abilties on Ascendant Spirit ought to be used sequentially. However, you can legally use any of them at any point. Remember it so that you don’t accidentally use the third one and just waste mana if your Spirit is not yet an Angel.
- Brazen Borrower is not a Spirit! So don’t expect any buffs from your Supreme Phantom or cost reduction with Geistlight Snare.