Ascendant Spirit – A Magic the Gathering Card Review

As a big fan of Figure of Destiny from my early days of playing Magic the Gathering, I was quite excited to learn about Ascendant Spirit from Kaldheim. Both Figure of Destiny and its cousin Warden of the First Tree from Dragons of Tarkir were quite playable in Standard during their respective heydays. In some ways, Ascendant Spirit stands apart and may actually be more playable than its similar predecessors.

Both Figure of Destiny and Warden of the First Tree gave you the ability to dump mana into them in order to “grow” them. It’s similar to the level up mechanic from Rise of the Eldrazi, but without the keyworded ability. Over the course of a game, the one-mana creature could rapidly grow into a massive flying or trampling threat. Ascendant Spirit can do this, too, but with a couple of very important differences. First off, it’s a Snow creature, and requires Snow mana to activate its abilities. Secondly, in the late game, Ascendant Spirit can become a serious source of card advantage.

One plus with Ascendant Spirit is that while the activated abilities have to be paid with mana from Snow sources, the color doesn’t matter. This makes it much easier to play in multi-color decks. Figure of Destiny needed either red or white mana, while Warden of the First Tree was Green, but needed white or black mana to activate its abilities.

Let’s break down Ascendant Spirit’s abilities. It begins as a 1/1 vanilla Spirit, but things escalate quickly.

(Snow)(Snow): Ascendant Spirit becomes a Spirit Warrior with base power and toughness 2/3.

This is a bit less efficient than Figure of Destiny’s single-mana ability to become a 2/2 Kithkin Warrior, and Warden of the First Tree’s 3/3 Human Warrior for 1 and a Black or White mana. It’s still reasonable for a permanent buff, especially in Blue, though.

(Snow)(Snow)(Snow): If Ascendant Spirit is a Warrior, put a flying counter on it and it becomes a Spirit Warrior Angel with base power and toughness 4/4.

This second ability is better than Figure’s 3 mana ability to become a vanilla 4/4 and comparable to Warden’s 4 mana ability (2 and {W/B}{W/B}) to gain trample and lifelink. Flying is obviously a big deal, as long as you don’t run into anything that can remove the flying counter – such as Heartless Act.

(Snow)(Snow)(Snow)(Snow): If Ascendant Spirit is an Angel, put two +1/+1 counters on it and it gains “Whenever this creature deals combat damage to a player, draw a card.”

The best part about this ability is that it’s repeatable. Not only can you pay four Snow mana to get two +1/+1 counters, but the ability to draw a card when it deals combat damage stacks. It’s not impossible for this to be drawing more than one card per turn in the late game. Again, though, Heartless Act can easily strip two of the plus one counters and the flying counter and make swinging with the Spirit rather awkward.

Figure of Destiny could become an 8/8 with flying and first strike for five mana if it was already a Spirit Warrior. While that’s better in some ways, it lacks the repeatable card advantage of the Spirit. Warden had a similar ability to put five +1/+1 counters on it for 6 mana (3 generic and  {W/B}{W/B}{W/B}). That ability was also repeatable, and it can be argued that having the trample and lifelink makes it a superior threat.

Heartless Act aside, there’s also Bloodchief’s Thirst, as well as any other removal that destroys smaller creatures. Despite getting bigger, it remains a one-mana creature. However, that’s a benefit as much as it is a drawback. It’s a one-mana creature that’s still relevant in the late-game, especially if you’re in top-deck mode. Yes, the mana investment can be huge, but so can the payoff.

One of the decks that could benefit the most from Ascendant Spirit is Mono-Blue. While the deck is already pretty good in Historic on Magic Arena, the Spirit would give the deck a bigger threat to contend with, as well as give the deck a mana sink when it’s not playing bounce spells or counter spells. It could give mono-Blue decks in Modern and Pioneer a new weapon, too. 

Spirits in Modern were a very good deck at one point and Ascendant Spirit could certainly find a home in those decks, too, especially since its activated abilities aren’t tied to any one color. It’s a perfect target for Collected Company being a one-drop and it’s happy to take Snow mana of any color. That could even be colorless mana from Snow lands such as Faceless Haven.

While it’s not entirely clear exactly what deck Ascendant Spirit fits into right away, this is a good creature in a vein that we’ve seen have success before. With how pushed Snow is now in Standard, and already is in Modern, the opportunity cost of playing this creature is quite low. It may not be the best Snow creature in the set, but it’s certainly the one that could pop up in the most places. Heck, it may even give the fledgling Blue/Green Shapeshifters deck a consistent early-game threat.

What do you think of Ascendant Spirit?

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