Fishermen At Sea by JMW Turner (1796). Brainstorm by Chris Rahn.
After weeks of Dominara spoilers, both intentional and unintentional, I've spent a lot of time exploring the various legendary creatures that we'll be soon able to build around. I'm not alone in my excitement about Dominaria and this site has seen our talented writers explore builds around Jodah, Archmage Eternal, Slimefoot, the Stowaway, Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar, and even a 75% Slimefoot build. New Dominaria deck articles are everywhere these days and you can't spit without hitting a Muldrotha decklist. I'm as excited about Muldrotha and Slimefoot as anyone, but today I'm going to try to explore a Dominaria commander that you may not have read much about.
Today I'm going to show you why I get a kick out of Hallar, the Firefletcher.
Hallar, the FIrefletcher is a 3/3 elf warrior with trample who costs . They have a really interesting ability. Whenever you cast a spell, if that spell was kicked, you put a +1/+1 counter on Hallar and then Hallar deals damage equal to the number of +1/+1 counters on it to each opponent.
These are powerful words. They are what make Purphoros, God of the Forge such a powerhouse in midrange Commander. Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord also has those three magic words and they are what make him such a potential threat. Any commander with abilities that affect all of your opponents at once has to be paid attention to.
Our goal today is to make Hallar, the Firefletcher a viable midrange deck with the ability to compete for wins and even occasionally surprise a table with an overwhelming victory. Hallar isn't ever going to be a top tier deck, but with the ability to hit all of our opponents we've got something to work with.
The Game Plan
Hallar cares about having +1/+1 counters and Hallar cares about when we play spells with kicker. This includes spells with multikicker, which are spells that you can kick more than once when you cast them. The +1/+1 counter trigger and the damage trigger care about us just casting spells with kicker, not how many times the spell was kicked, so we won't be getting any extra advantage from kicking a spell more than once.
Our basic game plan is going to be to try to get lots of +1/+1 counters on Hallar and to try to cast lots of spells with kicker. While that might not seem viable, those counters stay on Hallar so each kicker trigger will do one more damage than the last.
If we imagine a game in which we can cast consecutive kicked spells with no interference from our opponents it would take nine spells to get over 40 damage on all of our opponents. It's clearly unrealistic to think we would ever be able to pull that off so we're going to need to run as many ways to put +1/+1 counters on Hallar as possible.
Because we don't want to burn through our kicker spells when Hallar isn't very big, we'll keep our powder dry in the early game and try to wait until Hallar is big enough for the damage to really make a difference. If we can get Hallar up to 5 or more +1/+1 counters, that's when a series of kicked spells will start taking respectable chunks of damage out of our opponents' life totals.
Since we'll be trying to make our commander big using +1/+1 counters, we might as well have a backup plan of being able to win through commander damage. If we can do 21 points of combat damage using our commander that will eliminate one opponent just as easily as reducing their life total from forty to zero. Hallar is only starting at 3 power so we'll have our work cut out for us, but they does have trample so we should be able to get some damage through on somebody.
It should be noted that the kicker cost can only be paid when you cast a spell. A permanent with kicker would have to be returned to your hand and re-cast if you wanted to be able to kick it again.
Eight By Eight
I'm going to be building this deck by planning out eight sets of eight cards. Building this way helps me focus my thoughts, make sure I don't forget anything important, and provides structure when putting together a first draft.
When looking at cards with kicker, we are going to care about the total cost of the spell when cast with the minimal amount that it could be kicked. A card that costs three mana to both cast and kick won't pump up Hallas any more than a spell that costs twice as much to cast and kick. This deck is going to be somewhat mana-hungry so we need to be as efficient as possible in our choices.
These are three example of kicker cards that won't make it into our list.
Paying a combined 8, 9 or 12 mana to get another kicker trigger for Hallar isn't going to work for us unless we're riding the wave of a Mana Geyser, and even then we should have better spells to cast.
One worthwhile note about kicker spells is that much like morph spells, many of them will slot right into important roles in our deck. We're going to have ramp, removal, pump and draw spells but as many of those as possible will have the kicker keyword.
This deck is going to be mana hungry. We'll be running two "slots" worth of ramp spells, so that means sixteen spells devoted to getting out lands or producing additional mana.
There are only three spells in this section that have kicker costs.
Everflowing Chalice can give us a kicker trigger for the low cost of two mana. If we're in the late game and have tons of counters on Hallar keeping this in our hand to get an extra damage trigger might be worth it, but if we are more interested in ramping it's also a fine play to just drop it with as many charge counters as we can put on it.
Primal Growth and Hunting Wilds are sorceries that will ramp us. The former will give us an extra land if we pay the kicker cost of sacrificing a creature. The latter will untap two of our forests and make them 3/3 Green creatures with haste if we pay the kicker cost of .
This first draft of the deck will have many of the usual ramp spells for a Gruul deck. I'm including Rampant Growth, Kodama's Reach, and Cultivate along with four artifacts: Sol Ring, Gruul Signet, Gruul Cluestone, and Gruul Keyrune. We'll run a variety of mana dorks as well to round our sixteen ramp-oriented spells.
Draw & Protection
This is where my clever plan to run sets of eight cards always falls apart. If I'm not in Blue I rarely find eight great card draw spells to include, but it's worth mentioning that if we're spending lots of mana on kicker costs that will help to slow down the rate at which we play out our hand.
We'll be running two spells with kicker in this section. The first gives us some card draw and the second qualifies as protection.
Citanul Woodreaders will cost us six mana to play and kick but it will let us draw two cards and of course, it will trigger Hallar, putting a +1/+1 counter on them and sending a little damage out to our opponents. Vines of Vastwood will protect Hallar in a pinch and is one of the cheaper options we have available to use for kicking a spell.
Other Green card draw staples will find their way into our deck, including Harmonize, Soul's Majesty, and Shamanic Revelation. An upgraded draw package might include Sylvan Library and Sensei's Divining Top but I'm aiming for a more budget-oriented list today. For protection Swiftfoot Boots and Lightning Greaves will keep Hallar relatively safe from being removed and Heroic Intervention will help us deal with a board wipe.
Casting spells with kicker while Hallar is on the field will give them a +1/+1 counter and let them deal damage to all of our opponents equal to the number of +1/+1 counters on them so we have every reason in the world to run additional ways to give them +1/+1 counters.
We'll only be running a single kicker spell in this section, but there are some key pieces here that are worth mentioning.
Our kicker spell, Strength of the Tajuru, has multikicker and will allow us to put X +1/+1 counters onto one target creature. For each time it is kicked, we can put X counters onto an additional creature. If we have Hallar and one other creature out and we kick the spell to include our commander we'll be doing X points of additional damage to each of our opponents when Hallar's ability goes off.
Blessings of Nature is much more modest in its impact, but if we draw it as our first draw for our turn we can cast it for its "Miracle" cost of . Much like Verdurous Gearhulk, which will also see play in this deck, Blessings will let us put four +1/+1 counters on Hallar.
Increasing Savagery is one of our biggest impact sorceries, letting us put five +1/+1 counters on target creature for . We can then cast it out of our graveyard for and place another ten +1/+1 counters. Fifteen +1/+1 counters and a few kicker spells should finish off most tables.
Equipment that can put +1/+1 counters on Hallar are also going to put in some work, though they will be much slower in their counter production. Blade of the Bloodchief will give the equipped creature a +1/+1 counter for each creature that goes to the graveyard. Armory of Iroas will give them counters when they attack. Ring of Kalonia and Ring of Valkas are from a cycle of five rings and will put counters on Hallar on our upkeep based on their colors.
This is where we'll start seeing lots of kicker spells. A good deck would play stuff like Krosan Grip, Nature's Claim and maybe even a Lightning Bolt. Because we're doubling down on kicker we'll be leaning on spells that keyword for our removal package.
Removing artifacts is often necessary in Commander and we've got a few kicker options to help with that. Overload costs and lets us destroy an artifact that costs two converted mana cost or less, but if we pay its kicker cost of we can destroy an artifact that costs five cmc or less. Some of our removal is attached to creatures, which helps build our boardstate. Verduran Emissary costs and if it is kicked for we get to destroy target artifact. If we need to destroy other noncreature permanents, Mold Shambler is has kicker option for that. For and a kicker cost of this 3/3 fungus beast will let us destroy target noncreature permanent.
Destroying key lands is often as important as destroying artifacts. Goblin Ruinblaster will cost us and if kicked for an extra will let us destroy target nonbasic land. Dwarven Landslide will cost to destroy one land and for an extra will let us destroy another land. Sometimes keeping a powerful deck off of one of its colors or destroying a Maze of Ith or Gaea's Cradle is key to staying in or even winning a game.
We'll be running a number of creature removal options in this section as well. Breath of Darigaaz and Canopy Surge cost and respectively. They each will do 1 damage to each player and either each creature without flying (Breath) or each creature with flying (Surge). If kicked for mana, they will do 4 damage instead of 1 damage. If we need to just target a single flyer, Oran-Rief Recluse will cost , and when kicked for will destroy target creature with flying.
Feel the Burn
In this first draft I've got a handful of burn spells but no damage doublers. This might wind up being an oversight, as a flashed-in Dictate of the Twin Gods might sometimes be the difference between winning a game and coming up short.
The first two spells included here are Commander staples in Red decks and the third is flexible enough to work pretty well with Hallar, the Firefletcher.
Anyone who has played with or against Red decks in this format knows what a Mana Geyser into a Comet Storm looks like. These spells go together like peanut butter and jelly, but the kind of mana we can get from Mana Geyser may also go a long way towards a big turn when we want to play a bunch of our kicker spells. Molten Disaster will hurt us as well as our opponents, but if we're at a higher life total or just want to pay a mere three Red mana for a Hallar kicker trigger it might be just what we need. Chaining together two or three cheaper kicker spells when we've already got counters on Hallar is one of our main strategies to try to win with this deck.
We've got two creatures that will let us kick them to do a little direct damage. Torch Slinger will cost and when kicked for will let us do 2 damage to target creature. Deathforge Shaman costs a heftier and has multikicker for. When it enters the battlefield it deals damage to target player equal to twice the number of times it was kicked. We'll often just pay for that, but every once in a while we should be able to fuel that multikicker ability with a Mana Geyser to finish a single opponent off.
We'll also run a few old-fashioned burn spells. Scorching Lava will do 2 damage to target creature and if kicked for and the creature would have been killed, the creature can't be regenerated and gets exiled instead. Burst Lightning is a worse Lightning Bolt, doing 2 damage, but if the kicker cost of is paid, it does 4 damage to target creature or player instead. Unstable Footing costs to stop anyone from preventing damage this turn, and for you get to do 5 damage to target player. None of these are game-enders but having a wealth of options for kicker spells will help make sure that when we need to kick a spell we should have one available to us.
A Few Kicker Creatures
The kicker keyword is found on a wide variety old cards, including plenty of creatures. There are lots of creatures that just get +1/+1 counters when they are kicked. We'll be running Skitter of Lizards and Gnarlid Pack, but we're going to try to reach beyond these most basic of kicker creatures for this deck.
Wolfbriar Elemental costs and probably isn't going to be multi-kicked for very much, as it requires to kick and you're playing a 2-color deck. When kicked it will give you 2/2 wolf tokens equal to the number of times you kicked it. Ghitu Chronicler costs and is from the upcoming Dominaria set. When kicked for you can return target instant or sorcery from your graveyard to your hand, making a second casting of Mana Geyser possible if you play things right. Verix Bladewing is another Dominaria legendary creature. He's a 4/4 flying dragon who costs and, if kicked for , his brother Karox will come to the party.
Goblin Bushwhacker is a little underwhelming. He's a 1/1 goblin warrior who costs and for a kicker of another creatures you control get +1/+0 and haste. Joraga Warcaller on the other hand, is far from underwhelming. He's a 1/1 elf warrior who costs and has a multikicker of . He enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter for each time he was kicked and other elf creatures you control +1/+1 for each of those counters. Hallar, the Firefletcher is an elf so they'll get pumped up by Joraga Warcaller.
My last kicker card in this section, Savage Offensive, isn't a creature, but it is one of our cheaper options for triggering Hallar. For Savage Offensive will let creatures we control get first strike until end of turn and for a kicker of they will get +1/+1 until end of turn. 3 mana to push out more Hallar damage is a pretty good deal. My "slots" of cards always seem to fall apart in the deck-building process, but they're still an essential tool for deck-building to me.
Goodstuff & Wincons
Now that we have a long list of kicker spells it's time to look at how we try to turn our strategy into a winning one by making it more efficient and more deadly.
Forgotten Ancient is a 0/3 Elemental who gets +1/+1 counters for every spell our opponents cast. At the beginning of our upkeep we can shift as many counters as we like onto other creatures. This ability doesn't target, so we can even move them onto Hallar if they're wearing Lightning Greaves.
Temur Sabertooth might seem like an odd choice, but for this 4/3 cat will let us return a creature like Goblin Bushwhacker to our hand to be re-cast and re-kicked again. Kalonian Hydra will double the number of +1/+1 counters on each creature it controls every time it attacks. It costs , starts with four +1/+1 counters and it has trample, so its first attack will be as an 8/8.
Hardened Scales is an enchantment that costs and will add an extra +1/+1 counter every time you put one or more +1/+1 counters on a creature you control. Death's Presence will let you add X +1/+1 counters to target creature you control when another creature you control dies, where X is the power of the creature that died. All those burn spells with kicker might well get aimed at your own creatures if you've got Death's Presence on the field.
Strionic Resonator is an artifact that for can tap and copy target triggered ability you control. For Hallar that means you put a +1/+1 counter on them, do damage to all of your opponents equal to the number of +1/+1 counters on them and then you do it again.
I'm pretty sure that with a little determination, a little patience and a maybe a little luck, Hallar could absolutely lead a decent midrange deck and clear the occasional table. Of course, if doing 40 damage is too much against a table of opponents you can always deal your damage in the form of poison counters. Triumph of the Hordes and Grafted Exoskeleton will both give Hallar infect, making your job much easier.
There are a lot of kicker spells that I didn't include in this list. There's a bunch of Kavu and a few other creatures that get +1/+1 counters when they are kicked, making them flexible early or late game drops. I didn't include them, as they didn't really bring enough to the party. I also left out anything with a kicker that involved sacrificing lands. You generally don't want to be sacrificing your own lands.
I also didn't dig too deep into the new Dominaria kicker spells. I included two, but it's likely there will be more that are worth looking at, like Keldon Overseer, shown above. For Hallar, the Firefletcher, we do need to be efficient in our mana costs so many spells may just not be worth including if their combined casting and kicker costs are too expensive.
There are a number of creatures with the Graft keyword that might be worth including in a Hallar build. Cytoplast Root-Kin will put another +1/+1 counter on each creature you control with a +1/+1 counter and any creature with graft will let you move a +1/+1 counter from itself to a creature (Hallar) entering the battlefield.
One last creature type that didn't make it into my list but is worth looking at are Spikes. As a way to set yourself up to move counters over onto Hallar, they're not half bad. The cost of moving one counter is a fraction the cost of casting and kicking a spell with kicker, so if that kind of incremental advantage appeals to you or if you have a pile of old Spikes lying around or just like the way they look, they might be worth a try.
These lists aren't meant to be a final deck but more of a starting point for you to work from. You might have a bunch of old Spike creatures or a bunch of creatures with graft that you want to experiment with. You might want to throw in a Mana Crypt and a Sylvan Library or a Doubling Season and Primal Vigor if you want to try to make the deck even faster and more powerful.
Your meta may also dictate how you tweak this list. For example, you might run a few creatures with deathtouch and reach because you have to deal with a lot of flying threats in your meta. You might run Archetype of Endurance if you have a lot of targeted removal or Bonds of Mortality if you have to deal with hexproof commanders coming at you. Hopefully I've given you a lot to work with here, and you'll be able to make a viable Hallar deck that you can see success with.
I Get a Kick Out of Hallar -- Commander | Stephen Johnson
- Commander (1)
- 1 Hallar, the Firefletcher
- Creatures (24)
- 1 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Citanul Woodreaders
- 1 Deathforge Shaman
- 1 Drumhunter
- 1 Elvish Mystic
- 1 Forgotten Ancient
- 1 Ghitu Chronicler
- 1 Gnarlid Pack
- 1 Goblin Bushwhacker
- 1 Goblin Ruinblaster
- 1 Grinning Ignus
- 1 Joraga Warcaller
- 1 Kalonian Hydra
- 1 Karametra's Acolyte
- 1 Mold Shambler
- 1 Oran-Rief Recluse
- 1 Skitter of Lizards
- 1 Temur Sabertooth
- 1 Torch Slinger
- 1 Verduran Emissary
- 1 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 1 Verix Bladewing
- 1 Wolfbriar Elemental
- 1 Zhur-Taa Druid
- Instants (8)
- 1 Burst Lightning
- 1 Comet Storm
- 1 Heroic Intervention
- 1 Overload
- 1 Scorching Lava
- 1 Strength of the Tajuru
- 1 Unstable Footing
- 1 Vines of Vastwood
- Sorceries (17)
- 1 Blessings of Nature
- 1 Breath of Darigaaz
- 1 Canopy Surge
- 1 Cultivate
- 1 Dwarven Landslide
- 1 Harmonize
- 1 Hunting Wilds
- 1 Increasing Savagery
- 1 Kodama's Reach
- 1 Mana Geyser
- 1 Molten Disaster
- 1 Primal Growth
- 1 Rampant Growth
- 1 Savage Offensive
- 1 Shamanic Revelation
- 1 Soul's Majesty
- 1 Triumph of the Hordes
- Artifacts (13)
- 1 Armory of Iroas
- 1 Blade of the Bloodchief
- 1 Everflowing Chalice
- 1 Grafted Exoskeleton
- 1 Gruul Cluestone
- 1 Gruul Keyrune
- 1 Gruul Signet
- 1 Lightning Greaves
- 1 Ring of Kalonia
- 1 Ring of Valkas
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Strionic Resonator
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
It's been a while since I've served up a full decklist, but I hope to make it a habit for the next few weeks. I don't expect Hallar to become the next Purphoros or Jarad, but I do think in a midrange Commander meta there should be no reason it can't be a fun, semi-competitive deck. If you're the kind of player who prefers to build your board and not target any opponent specifically, having a commander who will deal damage to all of your opponents at once can be just the thing.
I had been thinking about building Slimefoot, the Stowaway but he's already gotten excellent write-ups by Jason Alt and "Vorthos Mike" on this very site, so I'm going to have to look for inspiration from some of the many other legendary creatures Dominaria is giving us.
If YOU have a Dominaria Legendary creature you'd like to see me write about, please comment below. I love to hear from you guys, and I've even gone so far as to make header artwork based upon reader comments. In a few weeks you'll see a mashup of artwork from Pillage and a classic painting of Haarlem by Jacob Van Ruisdael gracing the top of one of my articles.
If you want to know how my Commander games have been going, you can follow my casual and Commander League play at http://dantesdad.wixsite.com/commanderruminations. I'm playing Oona, Queen of the Fae this month and have already managed to check of a "bucket list" item in my very first game. Join me over there for a weekly rundown of how things have been going.
Thanks for reading and I'll see you next Monday!