Last updated on November 30, 2023
Vega, the Watcher | Illustration Paul Scott Canavan
Ghost movies are, for me, the scariest subgenre of horror. At the same time, ghosts are the least scary import from horror into the fantasy genre of all the monsters. Maybe it’s because a haunting is most scary when you’re alone, and that can’t really happen in the grand scale of heroic fantasy, making the ghost army in The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King more quirky than frightening.
Perhaps that’s why I find spirits in MTG so interesting. They don’t quite fit the world, even Kaya’s parts of Ravnica or Innistrad. It often seems like the thing MTG spirits do best is durdle around.
Well, hey, that’s me! Not quite awesome enough for heroism, and loves to durdle in EDH most of all!
Let’s see if I can help you conjure up some interest in spirit commanders for EDH.
Agrus Kos, Eternal Soldier | Illustration by Victor Adame Minguez
There are 103 legendary spirits in Magic, and those are the spirit commanders. Although there are some non-spirit commanders used in some spirit tribal decks, most notably Quintorius, Loremaster and Hofri Ghostforge, those decks aren’t my focus here.
Most legendary spirits come from the various Kamigawa sets, and most of those cards are parts of cycles that aren’t quite playable, much less worth a commander slot. Take Myojin of Life's Web, Bounteous Kirin, and Patron of the Akki. Like a lot of original Kamigawa block cards, they play best with the somewhat parasitic mechanics of those sets.
But if we expand beyond that, we’re left with 24 interesting legendary spirits to build decks around.
#24. Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient
This is a stretch, I know. Most of you are thinking Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient isn’t even good enough to be in the 99 of Mishra, Eminent One. And that may be true. But having Kurkesh in the command zone to double activated abilities on cards like Realmbreaker, the Invasion Tree or Bosh, Iron Golem isn’t nothing. Eventually there’ll be enough strong effects for Kurkesh that the deck will become decent. Mark my words!
#23. Ghost of Ramirez DePietro
Although Ghost of Ramirez DePietro can partner with anyone, Tormod, the Desecrator is the most popular battle buddy. With cards like Tortured Existence and the like to animate the graveyard strategy, this deck can pop off. It seems a bit underpowered, but that’s the deal with two uncommon commanders, perhaps.
#22. Moira and Teshar
This is a touchy build around that I think has the potential to make Orzhov artifacts a decent deck. Some eggs, some powerful ETBs like Portal to Phyrexia, and some finishers like Bolas's Citadel, and I think there’s something here.
#21. O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami
Five-color spirits needs O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami as a commander, but I’m not sure it’s enough value as a commander to explore into 5-color. Are good spirits outside of Azorius colors like Lifespinner, Atsushi, the Blazing Sky, and Infernal Kirin worth it? Maybe…?
#20. Laelia, the Blade Reforged
Laelia, the Blade Reforged is a reasonable aggro card in Constructed formats like Historic, but in Commander, the idea is exile-focused with cards like Wild-Magic Sorcerer and a bunch of red impulse draw. When your payoffs are cards like Kami of Celebration and Nalfeshnee you have to wonder, but I’m hoping that Wilds of Eldraine gives us a few more good red adventure cards for this deck.
#19. Kokusho, the Evening Star
This is a mono black version of a Yargle and Multani sac your commander for profit deck. What you get in the trade is that Feign Death effects feel better because Kokusho, the Evening Star has a death trigger that hits all and can be amplified by cards like Drivnod, Carnage Dominus. The downside of losing green ramp and muting the effectiveness of spells like Essence Harvest and Disciple of Bolas is a real cost, though.
#18. Hokori, Dust Drinker
Hokori, Dust Drinker is a decent monowhite stax commander, but leaving off blue by using a commander like Grand Arbiter Augustin IV or even black with Drana and Linvala leaves some options out of the deck. If you’re gonna risk everyone hating you by bringing stax, at least this card’s Stasis vibes feel like a puzzle to solve, which maybe means a slight chance someone will have fun.
#17. Agrus Kos, Eternal Soldier
Agrus Kos, Eternal Soldier is Zada, Hedron Grinder but for abilities! There’s lots of good ones to spread around, from backup to mentor to planeswalker buffs. There are also some powerful cards in Boros to consider, including Orthion, Hero of Lavabrink, Duke Ulder Ravengard, Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder, and many others. Mother of Runes style effects are especially powerful here, as are copy effects like the combo-ready Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.
#16. Karlov of the Ghost Council
A really inexpensive commander with a removal ability, Karlov of the Ghost Council is decent Orzhov lifegain commander who lets you run your Soul Sisters with the Sanguine Bond + Exquisite Blood nonsense you love.
#15. Kami of the Crescent Moon
Kami of the Crescent Moon is a strange EDH deck. There are group hug vibes, but the endgame is usually milling folks out while also prepping your Thassa's Oracle style wincons. I’m not sure this deck counts as fun, but we’re talking mono blue here. Fun is certainly a relative concept.
#14. Obuun, Mul Daya Ancestor
Why choose Obuun, Mul Daya Ancestor over Omnath, Locus of Creation? I’m not entirely sure, but it allows you to build to your Sylvan Awakening types of payoffs without becoming archenemy out of the gate for having a broken commander? Only in comparison to Omnath does this commander seem underwhelming. There’s a good deck here.
#13. Timin, Youthful Geist
Partnered with Rhoda, Geist Avenger, Timin, Youthful Geist can create like a Shacklegeist tribal experience, with loads of other effects that tap down opponents’ creatures and payoffs like Verity Circle. This is mostly a memes build, but what other deck are you playing Borrowing 100,000 Arrows in?
#12. Horobi, Death's Wail
This is a fun deck that folds pretty hard to creatureless strategies. Horobi, Death's Wail can machine gun down creatures if your spells also draw you cards like Aphotic Wisps. Repeatable effects like Liquimetal Torque are also premium. You win with Rise of the Dark Realms or the typical mono black wincons. If you win.
#11. Kodama of the West Tree
The only decent green spirit commander, for a Hardened Scales type of deck, Kodama of the West Tree is a sleeper to the more obviously powerful Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider, but it can really take over a game with its trample ability and its ramp.
#10. Shirei, Shizo's Caretaker
I love the challenge of building around a commander like Shirei, Shizo's Caretaker. Life loss effects like Serrated Scorpion? Discard effects like Virus Beetle? Of course you want Blood Artist and cards like Cadaver Imp. Good times!
#9. Ranar the Ever-Watchful
I get that Brago, King Eternal is likely a better pure blink commander, and Vega, the Watcher is probably better if you are building around foretell cards. But I’d rather toss both into the 99 for Ranar the Ever-Watchful and play a more flexible game. This is my blink commander.
#8. Vega, the Watcher
The card draw has no limit, so Vega, the Watcher is a much more propulsive commander than Ranar, who’s a bit more of a value engine. Obviously great with foretell and adventure cards, Vega is also great with topdeck stuff like The Reality Chip and Magus of the Future. There’s some interesting ground to explore between pairing Errant and Giada and Cosmos Charger in this deck, as well.
#7. King of the Oathbreakers
King of the Oathbreakers is a very exciting spirit commander. It's a 3/3 flyer for that has itself and other spirits you control phase out whenever they become the target of a spell. It also has a triggered ability that creates a tapped 1/1 flyer whenever a spirit you control phases back in. Token generation, built-in protection, and a decent card on rate? I'm in!
Yargle and Multani wants you to throw it at opponents’ faces, then repeat. How good is that? Well, it’s more resilient to disruption than you’d think, except counterspells. It’s weaker to go wide strategies than you might hope. That feels like if opposing decks are midrangy, you’re good. And a lot of the most popular commanders in EDH are the commander version of midrange.
Meet your spirits tribal commander of choice, Millicent, Restless Revenant! It’s too much value and too easy to cast to be dethroned any time soon.
Karador, Ghost Chieftain is a really nice reanimator commander because its Abzan colors give you flexibility and it’s one of only nine commanders that can reduce its own cost. Add broken cards like Karmic Guide and entomb effects like Buried Alive, then you can even just keep recurring Spore Frog once you get a reanimation engine going, among the annoying things you can do.
Miirym, Sentinel Wyrm is so good it competes with 5-color dragon commanders like The Ur-Dragon. What do I get for ditching the Orzhov colors? Double dragons, for all your retro video game referencing needs! Also double those ETBs, which is just punishing for dragons like Scourge of Valkas, Terror of the Peaks, and a whole pile of awesome dragons.
Obviously, given how many people try to make spirits decks work in Pioneer and Modern, there are going to be spirits tribal diehards. And most of the best spirit tribal commanders are spirits themselves, with the exception of Lorehold creatures like Quintorius, Loremaster and adjacent creatures like Kykar, Wind's Fury.
Are spirits good enough for EDH? I have mixed feelings. On the whole spirits are overcosted because they fly. In 60-card formats you get around that by playing some cheap bounce spells and counters in order to catch up to faster decks. But even then, the deck is tempo control instead of aggro. In EDH that’s not really possible given the number of opponents, so leaning into the fliers aspect seems wise as you’re building the deck.
This is kind of a hot take, but I think spirits, compared to other legendary creature types, has some of the most creative, out-there commander decks. Hinata? Shirei? Kami of the Crescent Moon? I almost feel like WotC saves its weirdness that doesn’t clearly align with set mechanics with spirits. Maybe it’s unconscious? If an idea isn’t quite grounded, they take to the ghostly realm?
Whatever the truth of that, some of my favorite odd build around commanders are spirits, and I don’t see that changing any time soon given the last couple years of sets. And that’s exciting to me!
Yargle and Multani | Illustration by Slawomir Maniak
I am hoping Quintorius uncovers some ghosts in the Lost Caverns of Ixalan! And I’m hoping there are some interesting revenants left behind after the Phyrexian multiplanar invasion. A lot of favorite legends are presumed dead. Maybe it’s time for a little ghostly fun in the sets to come?
As Shaggy and Scooby would say, zoinks!
Did we leave off your favorite legendary spirit? Let us now in the comments or the Discord. I look forward to a spirited discussion!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: