Top 20 spirits in Magic

Top 20 Spirits in Magic: The Gathering

Kristen GregoryCommander, Modern, Standard

Spirits are undoubtedly one of the coolest tribes in Magic. Popular in Modern, Spirits are a tribe with some truly fantastic cards. And as we’re entering the Halloween season, it’s only right to get in the “spirit” of things.

20. Kodama of the East Tree

Kodama of the East Tree kicks things off our list today, and despite me not wanting to include too many newer cards, it’s now two years old. This card is a force to be reckoned with, whether you’re comboing by messing around with landfall nonsense or just effectively getting free spells. 

An honorable mention to East Tree’s little sibling, Kodama of the West Tree here, too. It’s a stellar inclusion in any auras/equipment/counters style decks. Though most spirits are in blue and white, there are some in other colors worth checking out. 

19. Topplegeist

Literally a ghost that pushes over candles, it’s safe to say we all fell in love with this cute spirit back in Shadows Over Innistrad. Topplegeist is a powerful low drop that’s still relevant as the game goes on, and it was a high pick in Shadows draft. 

Spirits are one of the best kinds of creatures in Limited

When it comes to spirits in draft environments, there are countless iconic creatures that could be included here. This includes Dauntless Cathar in the same set to Basilica Bell-Haunt in the excellent Ravnica Allegiance, and Watcher in the Mist from Guilds of Ravnica. Spirits are generally great in draft sets because they’re often flyers that slot into tempo-based beats decks, which are always going to be good. 

18. Yargle, Glutton of Urborg

Next up, we have a rather iconic card. Yargle, Glutton of Urborg became a bit of a meme back in Dominaria draft, and has since been responsible for great stories, spawned multiple Commander decks and has even had an entire Secret Lair dedicated to his frogginess. 

The Yargle Secret Lair

There’s something brilliant about such a wild creature going on adventures across Dominaria, and that whimsy was captured perfectly in these cards. You gotta love Yargle.

17. Crypt Ghast

If nothing else, Crypt Ghast earns a spot on this list for its infamous ability to prompt questions about color identity in Commander. Crypt Ghast is black, and that’s because the hybrid mana symbol on the card is in reminder text — not rules text. It’s peculiar, but that’s how it is.

Crypt Ghast itself is a kill-on-sight creature in Commander. Paired with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, it can skyrocket your potential available mana, leading to big splashy turns. 

16. Simian Spirit Guide

Simian Spirit Guide has been at the heart of many decks in Modern and Legacy, and it finally bit the dust when it hit the ban list in February 2021. One of the last remaining pieces of “fast” mana in the format, it had been enabling combo decks and those using Tibalt’s Trickery, creating an unhealthy environment. 

15. Hyalopterous Lemure

A bit of a strange one from Magic’s rich past next: Hyalopterous Lemure. When Richard Thomas initially received the art direction, he incorrectly assumed a lemure was the same thing as a lemur and not an old D&D creature, the lemure — a ghost with glassy wings. 

Wizards was more bemused than anything else, though, and our unsettling and quite lethal lemur friend found itself on a Magic card. 

14. Ranar the Ever-Watchful

Ranar the Ever-Watchful is at the helm of one of the best modern precons so far: a blue-white, exile-matters deck with a light spirit tribal sub theme. I love it when tribes like Azorious — known primarily for taxing or staxing Commanders that slow games down — get a more interesting design. 

Ranar stole this spot from one of my pet cards, Spectral Shepherd. He’s a little more monumental.

13. Kokusho, the Evening Star

Kokoshu, aside from putting this earworm into people’s brains, has a storied history in the Commander format. Initially banned in 2008 alongside Recurring Nightmare, Kokoshu stayed off the radar until 2012, when the “Banned as Commander” ruling took it off of the ban list but kept it banned in the Command Zone. 

It wasn’t long until Banned as Commander went away, and the format switched back to one ban list. Kokusho survived the cull that saw Braids, Erayo and Rofellos banned for good, and it has been a popular card ever since. 

12. Rattlechains

It was really hard to pick between the various spirits that have made waves in Standard and Modern, as there are a bunch that are either now or at one time have been played in multiple formats. Rattlechains took the spot here, as its utility is unparalleled. 

A two drop that gives the rest of your creatures flash? This was good even before Skyclave Apparition was printed. 

Some of the most stalwart spirits that made waves in Standard and Modern.

As mentioned, Shacklegeist and Supreme Phantom were hot contestants for this spot, and I even considered Nebelgast Herald. It’s just cool

11. Selfless Spirit

Selfless Spirit had to be on this list, and it could easily have been higher. I don’t tend to think too hard on the ordering, but I might move this one higher if I wrote it again. 

What can I say? This two drop single handedly made Spirits a viable archetype in Modern, and it’s a Commander staple. I managed to survive back to back board wipes this weekend with Selfless Spirit. You should absolutely play it. 

Guardian of Faith can be nice,  but it’s simply not as good. I like to play Spirit alongside Remorseful Cleric as a terrible twosome. 

10. Spirit of the Labyrinth

Death and Taxes is an archetype that just doesn’t want to die, and Spirit of the Labyrinth has been a staple in the Legacy version of the deck for quite some time. Spirit featured in the GP Vegas 2017 winning D&T list, and it’s also a competitive EDH and cube all star.

9. Spell Queller

I promise I didn’t just scout out the recent Spirit deck list for this article, but would you blame me if I had? Spell Queller features heavily in 60-card Spirits decks, and it made a name for itself in both Modern and Standard upon release. 

Spell Queller found a home in decks as varied as Mardu Vehicles and Azorius Aggro in 2016/17 Standard, and it slotted nicely into Bant Collected Company, winning the Modern GP in Sao Paulo that year too. Facing down this and Reflector Mage was brutal. 

8. Ghostly Pilferer 

Want a cheaper Mystic Remora that can trigger attacking/combat damage triggers and doesn’t have a cumulative upkeep cost? Consider Ghostly Pilferer. While it might not ever get you quite as many cards, it’s a lot more flexible. It will at least net you two to three cards for players just casting their Commander. But against a deck like Prosper, Tome Bound? Draw all the cards.

7. Deadeye Navigator

Though Deadeye Navigator enjoyed a brief stint in Standard with Bant Pod, it’s more famous — or perhaps more infamous — for Commander combo potential. With Peregrine Drake, Palinchron and, more recently, Dockside Extortionist, it’s possible to generate all the mana you’d ever need. 

This was a huge boogeyman of the format for a long time, until… it wasn’t. People barely play this combo these days, so when it does come down, it tends to take pods by surprise. 

6. Ao, the Dawn Sky

Is Ao really blue? I don’t know, but that’s what that word means in Japanese. I guess he could be? 

Where do I start with Ao? Well, it’s a powerhouse in Esper Raffine in Standard right now, but Ao is seeing a lot of play in Commander, too. I’ve enjoyed running it in Commander a lot; the death triggers are huge card advantage in mono white, and there are ways to get more for your money if you can double up on them. 

In a fair way, this looks like a Duke Ulder Ravengard deck giving Ao Myriad. Pushed to the limits, there’s even an Ao cEDH list. Wild. 

It was very hard to pick a Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty dragon here, as they’re all really quite good. Junji and Atsushi in particular have stood out to me. 

5. Soulherder

Spirit tribal isn’t the only deck featuring powerful Spirits in Modern. Soulherder is at the core of Bant Blink, Bant Ephemerate, Bant Coco and more. It’s a free end step flicker for your best EtB, and it grows as the game goes on, putting your opponent on a clock. 

4. Eidolon of the Great Revel

While I could easily have dedicated a slot to Bloodghast on this list, he already got a look in on my Top 20 Vampires list, so go check that out. Instead, let’s revel around an iconic burn card: Eidolon of the Great Revel

Eidolon is such an iconic part of the burn DNA. Whether in Modern, Pioneer or Legacy; whether in Mono Red Prison, Burn, Red Deck Wins or Gruul Aggo. Eidolon is a fantastic design, and it stands the test of time. 

3. Lingering Souls

There was a time when Lingering Souls dominated Magic. Flashback cards have always been good, but when you can play them alongside Tarmogoyf… well, they do a lot of work. 

2013 Standard was Lingering Souls’ heyday, but it has persisted even now in more fringe decks like Modern Tokens, and sometimes in Esper Reanimator decks. It’s still pretty popular in Cube, too, and is bound to be reprinted in more Masters sets as a great card in Limited. 

2. Skyclave Apparition

Skyclave Apparition was very nearly my number one, because it’s such a brilliant white card. It also has this fabulous Game Day promo. 

Honestly, Skyclave Apparition marks a turning point in white card design, and it’s a design we’ve been crying out for for years. It’s played in countless decks, whether 60 or 100 card, and it’s usually an auto-include for me when I play non-tribal white decks in Commander. It’s just that good. 

1. Geist of Saint Traft

No list of top spirits could be complete without Geist of Saint Traft. An iconic Commander in its own right, Geist blazed a trail in Standard way back in 2012/13. 

Alongside Dungeon Geists, it spearheaded the UW Delver list. It wasn’t long before a change in the rules changed the format forever, though — up until July 2013, the Legend rule had been that only one Legend of the same name could be controlled by one of the two players at once. If another player summoned a Geist, both would go to the graveyard. 

End step

And that’s that: 20 of the top Spirits to grace Magic. There were a bunch more Spirits or Spirit-adjacent cards I could have included here; both Hofri and Quintorius from STX breathed new life into RW decks. Brago is a strong Commander, but ultimately boring and staxy to most on the receiving end of it.

Kykar, Hinata and Karador? Eh. They’re all spirits or make Spirit tokens, but they’re very rarely ever about spirits. I guess we could have slotted in Drumbellower and Seedborn Muse, though. What would you swap out for them in your Top 20?