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Commander Top 10: Halvar, God Of Battle

Bennie Smith kicks off Commander on Kaldheim with Halvar, God of Battle. Check out his Equipment-themed 100-card creation.

Halvar, God of Battle, illustrated by Lie Setiawan
Halvar, God of Battle, illustrated by Lie Setiawan

It’s a new year, and as I write this the official preview season for Kaldheim begins tomorrow!  Thankfully for us content creators, Wizards gave us some sneak peeks into the new set during the holiday season, including one really cool modal DFC: Halvar, God of Battle!

A legendary creature on one side, or a legendary artifact on the other side, this suggests a cool new cycle of cards we can use as our commander, and the deckbuilding implications are really interesting. As Sheldon explained in his article First Looks: Kaldheim’s Impact On Commander, if “Halvar is your commander, you can cast either side from the command zone.  It’s the same card, so regardless of which face you’re using, you pay the appropriate tax.”

So, is Halvar worth building a deck around?  Let’s walk through it.

On its face, Halvar is a 4/4 for four mana with a static ability where creatures you control that are enchanted or equipped have double strike. Effectively doubling the power of some of your creatures is certainly decent, but let’s keep looking.

There’s also a triggered ability: at the beginning of each combat, you may attach target Aura or Equipment attached to a creature you control to target creature you control. On the one hand, this is a little clunky because you have to already have an Equipment attached to a creature you control before this ability kicks in, so it’s not a good way to get around a high equip cost the first time.

But what’s cool is this ability triggers each combat, so if you get multiple combats, you could move an Equipment each time, and it also triggers during combat on your opponents’ turns, so if you’ve attacked with an equipped creature on your turn, during an opponent’s turn you can move that equipment to another creature for blocking.

Taken together, the abilities plus a relatively decent sized body make it an okay card, even if it’s really weird that this God creature doesn’t have any way to be “immortal” like previous God cards. Interestingly, the back side Sword of the Realms provides a form of immortality of sorts for its equipped creature.

Creatures with enters-the-battlefield triggers are fantastic in Commander, so having one die and return to its owner’s hand to cast again is some great value. So, on its surface, the rate on its abilities are decent enough. 

But I think what’s really interesting is building an Equipment-matters deck, given that we always have a piece of Equipment sitting in the command zone when we need an Equipment, one which also happens to be a creature if what we need is a body to pick up Equipment, or to give double strike to a creature that we’ve already equipped.

The hidden superpower of this card is having that choice always available to you.  There are many great Equipment support cards available for Commander these days, but there are always going to be times when you draw too many Equipment and not enough creatures, or vice versa.  Choosing Halvar as your Equipment-matters commander means you’ll always have the card type you need to pull the synergy together, which totally sounds worth giving up having a second color.

Okay, let’s get brewing!

1. Puresteel Paladin

There are quite a few cards we can add to the deck that will help us draw extra cards, but the best of the bunch is Puresteel Paladin.  This will draw us a card each time we cast the Sword of the Realms side of our commander, and once we have metalcraft, we’ll be able to attach Equipment to our creatures for zero mana.

I’m including a bunch of other good ways to draw extra cards:

What’s fun with Tome of Legends is we’ll get the page counter regardless of which side of Halvar we cast – though we’ll only get the extra card from attacking if Halvar is a creature.  Protector of the Crown is a fun creature to equip with Sword of the Realms; if someone attacks you with enough damage to kill it, you can return it to your hand to recast later and get the monarch back.

2. Armored Skyhunter

There are a ton of great Equipment-matters cards available in white, but my favorite right now is a new card from Commander Legends, Armored Skyhunter.  It’s an evasive creature that with an attack trigger that digs pretty deep for an Equipment (or Aura), puts it on the battlefield, and attaches it to a creature you control. If you have Halvar on the battlefield, that could be a ton of damage coming at one or more of your opponents.

Since we can count on always having Sword of the Realms handy, I’m including a bunch of other cards with nice Equipment synergies:

3. Sword of Fire and Ice

Sword of the Realms is nice, but more Equipment is even nicer, so I’m finding room for a fair number of other Equipment cards.  I rarely slot Sword of Fire and Ice into my Equipment decks these days because I generally feel that the single trigger of two points and a card drawn is too small-potatoes for multiplayer, but since Halvar can potentially provide double strike and double the triggers, it jumps to the front of the line.

Blackblade Reforged only costs three mana to equip to a legendary creature – for instance, Halvar – and then you can use Halvar’s triggered ability to move it to another creature to give it the ability to crash in for double strike and an extra +1/+1 for each land you control. Then move it back to Halvar on your next opponent’s combat step for blocks.

4. Felidar Guardian

One angle I’d like to add to the deck is a way to turn Sword of the Realms into Halvar if you’ve got a fair number of equipped creatures and you want to take advantage of the double strike ability. Felidar Guardian is a nice way to do that, plus it has a pretty sturdy body to equip later, and you can always use it to blink a creature with a good enters-the-battlefield effect and effectively untap it.

I’m including some other ways to reset the Sword so you can cast it as Halvar:

Ingenuity Engine is something I’d like to try out here.  Seven mana is a lot, but hopefully the cascade trigger will generate good value, and then later you can sacrifice an artifact to return an artifact to your hand, perhaps Sword of the Realms. In a pinch you could sacrifice Sword of the Realms, move it to the command zone, and return Ingenuity Engine to recast it and get another cascade trigger.

5. Commander’s Plate

Since Halvar is a God with no way to protect itself, I’m going to include some ways to help protect it, and one of the best ways to do that is the new Commander’s Plate from Commander Legends. Equip this to Halvar and he’ll have protection from all colors but white, while also getting +3/+3 and double strike—that’s fourteen points of commander damage each hit! 

Plus, remember the trick we talked about with Blackblade Reforged?  You can equip your commander for three mana and then use Halvar’s trigger to move it to a creature you want to attack with (probably can’t be blocked by your opponents’ creatures), and then move it back to Halvar on your next opponent’s combat step.

I’ve got some other ways to protect our commander too:

Leonin Abunas can protect the Sword of the Realms version of our commander, as well as our other artifacts.

6. Sanctum of Eternity

What’s kind of neat about Sword of the Realms is that it still counts as having our commander on the battlefield even though it’s not a creature, so I’ve added some cards that synergize with that.  Sanctum of Eternity is nice way to reset our commander to the other side if we need to, since it doesn’t care whether it’s a creature or Equipment.

How fun is it that you can equip Angelic Field Marshal with Sword of the Realms and it becomes a 7/5 creature with vigilance that you can return to your hand if it dies?

7. Bladegriff Prototype

When looking for some good creatures that you’d like to attach Equipment to, one that popped out to me was Bladegriff Prototype. This political card is a little low on the power scale, but if it’s equipped while Halvar is on the battlefield, you get two combat damage triggers due to double strike.

Serra Ascendant is an amazing Turn 1 play and equipping it with Sword of the Realms on Turn 3 or 4 can quickly take over the game. I also really like running Grand Abolisher in an Equipment-themed deck since it shuts down instant-speed interaction from your opponents.

8. Cavalier of Dawn

White has a lot of great removal options and I’ve got a lot of them here, but I really like Cavalier of Dawn in this deck since it’s a nice body to pick up a piece of Equipment, and if it dies you get to bring an artifact or enchantment card in your graveyard back to your hand. Equipping it with Sword of the Realms seems like a sweet, sweet pairing!

9. Sword of the Animist

For mana ramp, Sword of the Animist is already a great card for nongreen decks, but it really shines in an Equipment matters deck. Its attack trigger won’t care about the double strike that Halvar gives, but that’s okay. We’ll take that extra Plains each turn.

Sol Ring and Solemn Simulacrum won’t surprise anyone, but I’ve got a few other interesting choices:

I went with Gold Myr since it’s a two-mana artifact creature that can potentially cast Sword of Realms on Turn 3 and equip something the same turn or cast Halvar itself. It’s also a body that can gear up and charge into the red zone. 

Inspiring Statuary is a must for any Equipment deck since tapping Equipment to help cast nonartifact spells with improvise doesn’t keep you from equipping them, and how sweet would it be to use the Equipment that’s attached to several creatures to help you cast Halvar right before your attack? 

10. Shadowspear

Lastly, I’ve included some ways to interact with opponents, and one of the best in nearly any deck is Shadowspear, which of course is even better with all the Equipment synergies.  Seriously, I see this in way too few decks out there. It’s truly an amazing Commander card.  I know it’s a little pricey, but save up or trade some extra cards away to pick up one. Your deck won’t regret it!

Okay, so here’s how the deck ended up:


Here’s how the deck looks graphically, thanks to our friends at Archidekt:

What do you think?  Are there any cards I’ve overlooked?  Keep your eyes peeled for Kaldheim previews and if you see any new cards that should find a home here, let me know! 

Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter!  I run polls and get conversations started about Commander all the time, so get in on the fun!  I’d also love it if you followed my Twitch channel TheCompleteCommander, where I do Commander, Brawl, and sometimes other Magic-related streams when I can.  If you can’t join me live, the videos are available on demand for a few weeks on Twitch, but I also upload them to my YouTube channel.

And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy. 

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