Spirit Monsters are characterized by having effects that return them to their owner's hand during the End Phase of turns they are Normal Summoned or flipped face-up (whether by Flip Summon, surviving battle, or any other method). This would seem to symbolize the monster being "spiritual," in that its physical body on the field is temporary (barring player interventions).
Spirit monsters are designated by having "Spirit" in the place where "Effect" would be ([Spellcaster/Spirit] instead of [Spellcaster/Effect]). They are the second subset of Effect Monsters to have this indicator, the first being Toon Monsters. (The Flip Effect Monsters, which were the first subset of Effect Monsters, had "FLIP:" at the beginning of their effects rather than an indicator).
The original run of Spirit monsters could not be Special Summoned. However, some new Spirit monsters starting with The Duelist Genesis have been released that can be Special Summoned for a cost.
Spirit monsters often have effects that would be used when they were Summoned, or had combat-based effects but would be vulnerable due to low ATK, making the returning to hand ability a boon. Examples of the former include "Tsukuyomi" and "Maharaghi", and examples of the latter include "Yata-Garasu" and "Inaba White Rabbit".
Spirit monsters can only remain on the field temporarily (unless they are face-down during the End Phase they would be returned or removed from the field temporarily during the the same time), and thus their controllers run into a major problem of maintaining field presence, but many Spirit monsters have devastating special effects to make up for this deficiency. "Mirror of Yata" and "Izanagi" keep the spirits on the field permanently or until they are removed, making these cards a must for any Spirit deck. "Spiritual Energy Settle Machine" also does this, but it costs a discard per turn. Other ways to make up for the returning to hand is to make your opponent's monsters return to their hand whenever a Spirit does, such as with "Spirit's Invitation", or to gain Life Points whenever this happens, such as with "Spring of Rebirth".
In addition, there is a loophole with Spirit monsters that lets them stay on the field regardless of their self-bounce effect. The exact text on Spirit monster cards states they must return to their owner's hand "during the End Phase of the turn [they are] Normal Summoned or flipped face-up". Therefore, if you can get them to stay on the field past the End Phase, you don't have to worry about them returning to your hand. For instance, a "Hino-Kagu-Tsuchi" monster equipped with "Mirror of Yata" who then had its Mirror destroyed (e.g. by "Heavy Storm" or "Mystical Space Typhoon") would stay on the field the subsequent turns. Another card that can help bypass the common effect of Spirit monsters that returns them to the hand is "Future Visions". When Spirit monsters are Normal Summoned, and afterward banished by the card, the End Phase would have already passed when they return so they can no longer return to the hand.
A considerable feature on a Spirit Deck is its ability of increase its owner's Life Points, by using cards like "Orb of Yasaka", "Fushi No Tori" and "Spring of Rebirth", which partly compensates the lack of Field presence caused by the Spirit monsters' bounce.
Two of the strongest Spirit monsters ("Hino-Kagu-Tsuchi" and "Yamata Dragon") focus on maintaining a significant hand advantage over the opponent, and when combined with "Spiritual Energy Settle Machine" or other effects like "Dimensionhole" that allow them to remain on the field, they can easily turn the tide of any duel in their owner's favor. Though it wasn't an option in the past, there is currently enough support for decks entirely themed around Spirit monsters to be viable. Because Spirit monsters return to the player's hand, the player runs the risk of having too many cards during the End Phase, forcing a discard, so "Infinite Cards" is an effective way to counter this problem. Cards like "Exchange", "Creature Swap", and "Mystic Box" are staples.
A commonly used card with Spirits is "Mausoleum of the Emperor", which allows users to pay a Life Point cost to get high-level Spirit monsters out without tribute. Trap Monsters are also often used either as tributes or as a method of maintaining a field defense when the Spirits leave the field. "Kaiser Colosseum" is another decent card to maintain field advantage when "Izanagi" or a Spirit Monster equipped with "Mirror of Yata" is on the field. Another way of easing the Normal Summon of a high-level Spirit monster is by using "Star Blast" or monsters like "Totem Dragon" and "Flame Ruler".
Another Field Spell Card that may help this Deck is "Summon Breaker"; since Spirit monsters do not have good swarming capabilities without "Nigitama", this card will not harm the player using Spirit monsters much, but it will stall many Decks that do swarm, like "Six Samurai", "Madolche" and "Mermail". If your opponent doesn't want to miss a chance to attack, he/she will have to change his/her strategy and perform the Summons during the Main Phase 2.
Another way to make Level 5 and higher Spirit monsters more usable is "Level Eater". After Normal Summoning the Spirit, Special Summon a many "Level Eaters" as possible; because the Spirit monster returns to the hand, its Level will be reset, meaning next turn it can be Tribute Summoned with the "Level Eaters", which can then be Special Summoned again. Furthermore, this makes Xyz Summoning possible. This combo is particularly useful with "Dark Dust Spirit" and "Light of Intervention".
Another good combo is to activate "Legacy of Yata-Garasu" after giving control of a Spirit monster to your opponent, with "Creature Swap" or "Mystic Box".
"Forbidden Chalice" can be very useful, as it can negate the Bounce effect of the Spirit Monsters and keep them on the field. Use this card after you used their main effect, like after attacking with "Hino-Kagu-Tsuchi" or after destroying a Spell/Trap Card with "Yamato-no-Kami". The usage of this card is more compensative with high-level Monsters, such as "Great Long Nose", "Yamata Dragon", etc, or with that ones whose effects don't activate upon their Normal/Flip Summon, such as "Asura Priest" or "Fushi No Tori".
Another card that can have the Spirit Monsters keeping on the Field is "D.D. Sprite" and once it is a Tuner Monster, it can give the Deck more flexibility, allowing you to perform Synchro Summons. Some remarkable Synchro Monsters are
- "Ancient Sacred Wyvern"
- "Black Rose Dragon" ("D.D. Sprite" + "Izanagi" or "Yamato-no-Kami")
- "Giganticastle" (+ "Hino-Kagu-Tsuchi" or 2 Level 4).
"Ancient Sacred Wyvern" is specially interesting, since most of the times the Deck has cards that increase your Life Points ("Spring of Rebirth", "Orb of Yasaka", "Fushi No Tori", etc), allowing you to use this Synchro Monster at its maximum potential.
Some other Extra Deck options to mention include
- "Slacker Magician"/"Number 39: Utopia Roots" (that can be Summoned by the effect of "Kinka-Byo", if you had used a monster like "Effect Veiler", "Kuriboh" or "D.D. Sprite")
- "Daigusto Emeral" (to recycle Spirit Monsters, once they are virtually useless in the Graveyard)
- "Lavalval Chain" (to send "Nigitama" from the Deck the Graveyard to draw a card, or to put a desired Spirit on the top of the Deck)
- "Evilswarm Ouroboros"
- "Constellar Ptolemy M7"
- "Photon Strike Bounzer"
- "Gauntlet Launcher"
- "Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack", that is a little unlikely to Xyz Summon, being "Tragoedia" the most capable Monster to do it, due to its effects.
Some non-Spirit Monsters that may help a Spirit Deck include "Kuriboh", "Neo-Spacian Grand Mole" or "Gorz the Emissary of Darkness", "Tragoedia" and "Battle Fader", once, due to the Spirit Monsters returning to the hand, the player might be open for a Direct Attack. You can use the "Battle Fader" or the "Emissary of Darkness Token" to Tribute Summon a Spirit Monster and use "Tragoedia" to take control of a opponent's Monster by discarding a Spirit Monster that can be later retrieved by "Izanami" or that can be banished to Special Summon "Yamato-no-Kami". "Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning" can be a great beatstick, and can be Summoned by banishing, for example, "Nigitama", "Otohime", "Asura Priest" or "Effect Veiler" and "Yamato-no-Kami", "Aratama", "Kuriboh", etc, giving the fallen Spirit monsters a last utility.
Their effects range from Beatdown, Direct Attack, hand control, and even field control, making a dedicated Spirit deck very flexible regardless of what the opponent has. However, due to their habit of returning to the hand, cards that make you discard will be a serious hamper, as Spirit monsters in general are rather useless in the Graveyard. Cards that recover discarded cards are thus suggested, but not recommended as Spirit monsters do not have much in the way of deck thinning (except for "Aratama"). Once the problem of field presence is resolved, Spirit Monsters can be quite annoying as well as devastating, since it is hard for the opponent to destroy them, and even with cards that forces discards, it is hard to target a particular Spirit Monster (unless something like "Card Destruction" is used). This is particularly true for "Inaba White Rabbit", as it can attack directly while avoiding opponents' counter-attacks.
The main weaknesses of the Spirit Monster are the fact that they can't stay on the Field for long and can't be Special Summoned (except "Yamato-No-Kami"), which make them have no swarming capabilities. Once most of the times the player cannot maintain Field Advantage, this Deck is susceptible to Direct Attacks, so Beatdown and Aggro Decks, like "Six Samurai", "Dark World", "Madolche", "Dragon Ruler", "Spellbook", etc are good against this deck.
Note: avoid using "Hino-Kagu-Tsuchi" against a "Dark World" or "Infernity" deck, once discarding your opponent's entire hand will highly probably help him/her rather than harming.
Stall Decks are the main threat to this deck, since it is already slow due to the inability of swarming the Field and to the Spirits return to the hand during the End Phase, therefore summoning and attacking with monsters like "Hino-Kagu-Tsuchi" or "Yamata Dragon" are actions that cannot be wasted; cards like "Vengeful Bog Spirit", "Level Limit - Area B", "Threatening Roar", "Gravity Bind", "Chain Energy" and "Skill Drain" can mean trouble.
Another cards that can damage this deck include cards like "D.D. Designator" and "Mind Crush", since the player's hand will be exposed due to the bouncing effects of the Spirit Monsters.
"Rivalry of Warlords" and "Gozen Match" can slow this deck down, since there are Spirit Monsters of different Types and all Attributes.
Beware of "Legacy of Yata-Garasu".
- See also Card Rulings:Spirit monster
- Many of the Spirit monsters' designs are based on icons from Japanese mythology and they all have very similar backgrounds, supposedly of the Spirit World. Their OCG names are given in kanji, but the furigana would be given in katakana which normally would indicate a foreign-language word. These themes would also tie into the anime and manga's story; Maximillion Pegasus, the creator of Duel Monsters, would not only have lifted specific cards of his game from Egyptian legends and his love of American cartoons, but would have drawn inspiration from the religions of Eastern Asia to create the Spirit monster type, after having extensively traveled in the continent.
- The two most powerful Spirit monsters are "Hino-Kagu-Tsuchi" and "Yamata Dragon". They are counterparts of each other. They are both high-level monsters with high ATK and DEF, and have hand-based effects. The first empties your opponent's hand when it deals damage, and the second fills yours when it do the same. The primary weakness is their returning to your hand, due to the requirement for tributes. The fact that they are counterparts is emphasized on "Last Turn", where a battle between them is depicted.
- One Spirit monster in particular, "Yata-Garasu", is infamous for its complete lockdown of the opponent's hand when combined with "Chaos Emperor Dragon - Envoy of the End", however both of these monsters are Forbidden as of the latest banlist, and likely will continue to be Forbidden forever.
- "Izanagi" is the only non-Spirit monster that have Spirit World on its background and the only non-Spirit monster that supports directly the Spirit monsters.
- "Yamato-no-Kami" is the only Spirit monster that cannot be Normal Summoned and must be Special Summoned.