Perhaps it’s just a hobby of mine to over-analyze mythic rare Magic the Gathering cards destined for the local game store bulk bins, but Hallowed Haunting is one of those interesting niche Enchantments that may prove to be better than some people realize. While it seems like a card better suited for a block of sets set in the enchantment-happy plane of Theros, Hallowed Haunting also requires a slew of Spirits in play under your control to take full advantage of its potentially game-breaking effect.
The four-mana Enchantment, interestingly enough, isn’t even Legendary, which could be relevant when you consider the second half of this card’s text. While it’s a pretty modest casting cost, this four mana enchantment needs a very particular deck build to work well. The first effect doesn’t do anything until you control seven or more enchantments – it does include itself – which gives creatures you control flying and vigilance. That’s a pretty solid ability in itself, but requires a ton of set-up.
However, Hallowed Haunting does have a second half that helps you get more creatures in play, although those creature tokens aren’t even Enchantments themselves. Whenever you cast an enchantment spell, you create a white Spirit Cleric token with “This creature’s power and toughness are each equal to the number of Spirits you control.” At first glance, this looks like a much worse version of Sigil of the Empty Throne, which is a five-mana Enchantment that gives you a 4/4 Angel creature token with flying each time you cast an Enchantment spell.
The problem with Hallowed Haunting is that it requires you to both build around both enchantments and Spirits. Of course, the Innistrad: Crimson Vow set includes Spirits that can become Enchantments, thanks to the Disturb mechanic. Chief among these is a Legendary Creature called Dorothea, Vengeful Victim, a two-mana Spirit who returns as an Aura Enchantment for three mana. She certainly deserves her own treatment, as she makes for a very awkward Commander due to her Disturb ability, but could be quite relevant in some Spirit tribal decks moving forward. She could easily contribute towards Hallowed Haunting, and the support that follows her will dictate her place in the metagame moving forward.
There was also a chance that Hallowed Haunting could be a plant for future upcoming Magic sets, including the return to Kamigawa with the Neon Dynasty set. Will there be tons of solid Enchantments in the set? It certainly would, which makes sense, as Kamigawa is a Spirit-heavy plane. Whereas there were certainly powerful artifacts in the original three Kamigawa sets, there were also solid enchantments. Of course, Neon Dynasty had much more ridiculous Enchantments than even Theros block, the most Enchantment-heavy trio of Magic the Gathering sets ever.
Obviously, with Enchantment heavy sets coming soon in Standard, Hallowed Haunting suddenly became a much more relevant card. There were good Spirits already in Standard, including Guardian of Faith, Spectral Adversary, and Skyclave Apparition. There’s also other decent Spirits like Ascendant Spirit and Clarion Spirit to clog up the board. Innistrad: Midnight Hunt also has recurring Spirits with Disturb such as Lunarch Veteran, Dennick, Pious Apprentice, and Malevolent Hermit, plus a solid Spirit Lord in Patrician Geist that makes it easier to pay Disturb costs.
Topping out the mana curve of an Enchantment happy deck with a couple copies of Hallowed Haunting seems worth it. After all, many of these Spirits don’t fly on their own, and not having to tap to attack makes the idea of the Spirits taking over the board an intriguing one. But, needing seven Enchantments in play for that boost seems very unlikely, severely limiting what one can do with it. Standard would need Kamigawa to literally provide the shell for a combination Spirit and Enchantment deck, never mind one that could actually prove competitive. It has been pointed out that planeswalker Niko Aris and their Shard tokens are enchantments, so perhaps Niko will play a major role in getting Hallowed Haunting to reach its potential.
In Modern, Spirits are already a good tribe, but on the strength of splashing Green mana to play Collected Company. It doesn’t seem worth building around an Enchantment that’s probably worse than Sigil of the Empty Throne in creating creature tokens. Most playable Spirits also already fly, and while vigilance is nice, allowing you to stay back on defense even after attacking, it’s probably not worth it. Still, there are many more Enchantments in Modern, so this is a card people will certainly brew with and try to make work. The payoff just doesn’t seem worth the building up to it. There are also fairly competitive Enchantress decks that could play it, but Sigil has proven that it’s not even quite good enough for those decks, which makes Hallowed Haunting a bit too clunky for those decks to play.
Of course, not every card printed in Magic the Gathering is meant for competitive play. In fact, many cards are designed with an eye on the Commander format (aka EDH), the most popular way to play Magic in the world. In Commander, plenty of Spirit tribal decks exist, as do many Enchantment themed decks with Spirit payoffs. Ranar, the Ever-Watchful, Hofri Ghostforge, Kykar, Wind’s Fury, Quintorius, Field Historian, and even Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens all create Spirit creature tokens. Enchantments such as Promise of Bunrei, Field of Souls, and Spirit Bonds all create Spirit tokens, too. So, plenty of homes exist for Hallowed Haunting. There’s also Starfield of Nyx, which helps you to recur Enchantments from your graveyard and once you have five or more enchantments in play, all of your non-Aura Enchantments become creatures. Swinging with a 4/4 Hallowed Haunting seems legit.
Still, with so much Spirit support already in Commander, does that make Hallowed Haunting a “win-more” card in these kinds of decks? Honestly, it’s still relevant, as many created Spirit tokens don’t fly. Then, gaining vigilance can actually matter, although Intangible Virtue exists to pump creature tokens by +1/+1 and gives them vigilance already. Having a Levitation – which makes all your creatures fly – and Brave the Sands – which gives your creatures vigilance – on a single card is good, but the payoff requires such a huge amount of investment in casting Enchantment spells. If any deck could use this best outside of a purely Spirit tribal strategy, it would be Tuvasa the Sunlit, who is all about casting every enchantment that you possibly can. That deck also includes Green, which gives you access to the excellent draw engine in Eidolon of Blossoms and plenty of other excellent Green enchantment cards.
Of course, in a singleton format like Commander, Hallowed Haunting’s redundancy could be welcome. Then, being able to snowball bigger and bigger Spirit tokens through just playing your various Enchantments feels really good. The Spirits certainly can get big enough to swing and win the game. The problem is, this is a card that requires a lot of set-up and while the payoff is nice, it’s something that you have to build up to all game, and the plan can easily be disrupted by opponents, especially in a multiplayer setting.
Also, keep in mind that Spirits, while very popular in Commander, have rarely been a top-tier competitive deck, outside of Kykar, Wind’s Fury and Brago, King Eternal, who have many other more relevant builds. It’s doubtful that Hallowed Haunting will be the piece that turns Spirits into a more competitive tribe in Commander, but it certainly can’t hurt. Of course, the most obvious place for Hallowed haunting would seem to be Zur, the Enchanter, but as Zur cheats most of his Enchantments into play with his attack trigger, it doesn’t combo with Hallowed Haunting. That being said, because Zur plays so many cheap Enchantments, it’s not impossible that Hallowed Haunting could be worth playing, although it’s not mana value 3 or less.
It so happens that Hallowed Haunting would indeed find a permanent home in Commander with the release of Kamigawa Neon Dynasty bringing back Curses and Shrines. Curses are Enchantments which enchant a player and offer negative effects, but Shrines are Enchantments which give the controller positive benefits which stack for each Shrine they control. Hallowed Haunting is a key to a Curses / Shrine deck thanks to being able to turn both the Curses and Shrines into creatures. If your opponent wasn’t already crippled by the Curses already, now they are literally coming in for damage, too!
Where Hallowed Haunting can be really good is if we get a huge amount of Enchantment Creatures that are also Spirits in an upcoming set. Plenty of Enchantment Spirit Creatures exist in the sets coming from both times we’ve visited Theros, some of them excellent cards that see regular play in Zur, the Enchanter decks. The trouble is that these Spirits fit into specific strategies, whether they hate on certain things like drawing cards or playing multiple spells in a turn, or they require an Aura strategy. So, for there to be a Standard deck where this enchantment is actually playable, we will need another set or two to make it truly a powerful strategy to build around. That being said, it’s certainly very possible, and Kamigawa would be the place to do so.
One more thought I have on Hallowed Haunting is one thing I think it’s easy to overlook. The Spirit tokens that this Enchantment creates also have the Cleric subtype. While it may not appear relevant, keep in mind a card like Coat of Arms, which boosts all creatures in play based on how many creature types they share with each other creature, does come into effect here. The additional points of power and toughness that the Spirit Cleric tokens would share could actually be relevant. It’s a minor detail, but knowing that there’s the slight possibility to work Hallowed Haunting into Cleric tribal decks, who already deal a lot in the realm of Spirits, is in fact helpful, if extraordinarily niche.
Besides the obvious applications in Commander, it would be a lot of fun to build an “Against the Odds” type Hallowed Haunting deck in 60-card Constructed. After all, enough Spirits and cheap Enchantments exist to make it possible. But, it’s never fun to be forced to play potentially “bad” cards in order to make the strategy work. Still, Wizards loves to print cards that force you to really make them work. Will this Enchantment be one that’s better than it looks on paper, or will it just be another neat card you can play in a variety of Spirit tribal decks?
Fortunately, Kamigawa Neon Dynasty laid the groundwork for a solid Hallowed Haunting deck in Standard. This Selesnya Enchantments deck (Green / White) was able to 5-0 a Standard League on Magic the Gathering Online on November 21, 2022. Granted, part of this deck’s sudden success was due to the rotation of Zendikar Rising, Kaldheim, Strixhaven, and Adventures in the Forgotten Realms vastly reducing the card pool. So, it wouldn’t be a shock to see a Modern or Pioneer variation of this deck take off with the pedigree that this Standard Hallowed Haunting deck has gained in the Brothers War Standard format.
What do you think of Hallowed Haunting?