Ascendant Spirit – Kaldheim
Date Reviewed: February 15, 2021
Commander [EDH]: 3.13
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Ascendant Spirit is a new version one of my favorite recurring archetypes in Magic (a couple of generations evolved from Figure of Destiny). I think the archetype is great – the idea of a character who transforms and evolves as they walk the glory-road has a long history in fantasy, from Aslan and Gandalf to Sparrowhawk, Luke Skywalker, and Paksenarrion; a universe of Magic’s style can always use its own equivalent.
Like many similar cards, Ascendant Spirit is at its most effective on turn 1, and its best use in constructed might well be the highly focused style of tempo deck that crops up in various formats. And like many similar cards, it makes for a decent surprise draw in a game’s twilight turns when you can level it up multiple times right away. It also gains particularly relevant creature types in its environments, and particularly in casual – it should never lack for shield-brethren anywhere, though I’d suggest taking care to grab as much snow mana as you can in draft.
The latest riff on the now-classic Figure of Destiny archetype, Ascendant Spirit is interesting overall. If you can put mana into it, it gets stronger and stronger, and it’s fun to watch it develop.
Let’s look at what you get, in order. A total of three mana makes Ascendant Spirit a 2/3. Which is…not good. That said, three mana can be split over two turns, and a snow-heavy mana base doesn’t particularly care about the colors, so this can be splashed as long as you have one blue mana. Six mana, split over as many as three turns, gives you a 4/4 with flying; this is slightly worse than the usual rate of return for a flier in today’s game…but, again, you’re splitting the cost. 10 mana makes this a 6/6 with a “Curiosity” effect…and this is where things get fun, because the effect can stack an indefinite number of times if you’ve the mana to spare, and it gets bigger. As far as mana sinks go, Ascendant Spirit is one that can win you the game in short order.
That said, this card shines if you can pay the costs over many turns, not if you’re forced into upfront payments of it. It can, on curve, become quite the threat, and that’s something to be wary of. But this is one of those where you almost need to play it early to get the most out of it. It’s a solid sink, but it’s also susceptible to a lot of removal and can easily fall flat if your opponent is prepared for it.
Constructed: 3.25 (this almost definitely needs to be a turn 1 play to be good)
Limited: 4.75 (unbeatable early, decent late; still, you do need the snow mana to make this work)
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