Commander Showdown - Hallar vs Verazol
(Hallar the Firefletcher by Bram Sels | Verazol, the Split Current by Daarken)
Let's Kick It!
Dominaria contained so many legendary creatures that it's practically dizzying. Though the most glamorous certainly rose to the top (Muldrotha, the Gravetide, Tatyova, Benthic Druid, Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain), it's no surprise that some genuinely terrific commanders got buried underneath such a sheer density of legends. Hallar, the Firefletcher is one such legend, the tenth most popular commander from the set, with about an eighth as many decks as Muldrotha. Don't be fooled by that uncommon symbol, however: Hallar is surprisingly powerful. They take the Kicker mechanic and turn it into pure, global damage.
Even if a somewhat sleeper hit, Hallar has long been considered the go-to deck for the Kicker mechanic... but that title is about to be challenged. Zendikar Rising has introduced another Kicker-mander, one that has no legs at all to kick with
How do these decks differ? If you're in the market to kick some things, which commander is right for you? Let's find out!
Let's begin with Hallar. I admit, I didn't give this card the time of day when it was first released in Dominaria, but having played against it, consider me a convert. Hallar deals their damage to each opponent. Each! A single Kicked spell can take an enormous chunk out of everyone's life totals. All we need are some +1/+1 counters.
Hallar gains counters whenever we cast a Kicked spell, but we needn't worry about that as the sole method of acquisition, it's far too inefficient. We instead turn to one of green's greatest strengths: giving creatures greater strength. With effects like Invigorating Surge, Hardened Scales, Hydra's Growth, Enhanced Evolution, and tons more, Hallar can turn one counter into ten, and ten into forty. As if it wasn't fearsome enough to see a 20/20 creature on the other side of the battlefield just because of how much damage it can do during combat, Hallar makes this even more of an issue... because every Gnarlid Pack is also a pseudo-Chandra's Ignition.
This forces us to turn a critical eye to the actual spells we're Kicking, and this is where I find myself advising that we diverge ever so slightly from the average data on EDHREC. Our Kicker spells are all, frankly, a little underwhelming when they aren't Kicked at all. We don't particularly want to cast Joraga Warcaller as a measly 1/1. Our Kicker spells are practically modal spells. We want to cast them for two reasons and two reasons alone. Reason 1: to put a counter onto Hallar, which we can abuse later with effects such as Solidarity of Heroes. Reason 2: as a payoff for when Hallar has a dozen or more counters.
Some cards have extra uses - Vines of Vastwood is protection, for instance, and Ghitu Chronicler doesn't feel too bad either - but the majority of our Kicker cards are for payoff purposes. It's a bit like Anje Falkenrath, because we don't care what the cards do, necessarily, just that they have the mechanic we need.
As a result, I've honed a Hallar deck to feature many low-cost Kicker spells, removing those which would cost seven or eight or even nine mana to cast with Kicker, from Fight with Fire to Territorial Allosaurus to Grunn, the Lonely King. I prefer to focus on low-cost Kicker cards, especially instant-speed ones, even if they don't do much, because what they do is cast Chandra's Ignition on our opponents' life totals. The cheaper that we can make those spells, and the more of them we can cast in one big blazing turn, the better.
In short, Hallar is a Kicker commander, but not because of what the Kicker cards do: because of what the Kicker cards let Hallar do.
Hallar You Ready?View on Archidekt
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Kick the Bucket
Next we have Verazol, the Split Current. It's easy for us to simply say, "Well, one of these commanders is Gruul and the other is Simic, so obviously they're different decks cuz they're different colors." But that's a level of disengagement that is sure to cost us dearly if we're trying to build a deck for the new Serpent. These commanders are as divergent as the fork in the stream would imply.
First, some rules notes for Verazol: the copied spells are also Kicked, so your copies will receive their Kicker effects. More importantly, copied creature spells become tokens. So, if you use Verazol's ability on a Sphinx of Lost Truths, you'd get two Sphinxes and draw a total of six cards. However, Parallel Lives effects do not duplicate these tokens. This doesn't count as 'creating' a token, because when the copy is resolving, it is entering from the stack. Rules reference can be found here.
So, to business! All in all, I'm much more impressed with blue's Kicker options than red's. Nothing against you, Comet Storm, but Rite of Replication just seems dang nasty. Compared to Hallar, where we wanted lots of low-cost Kicker spells to trigger their ability, here we prefer the big ones, so copying them gives us more bang for our buck. We can't wait to get a Myriad Construct or a Cragplate Baloth. Where Hallar just wanted to use the Kicker mechanic for the sake of the mechanic, itself, here we care much more about the specific spells we're Kicking, and build up to them appropriately.
That said, the spiciest options do run dry very quick, as does Verazol's own power. We can't just copy Kicked spells willy-nilly unless we plan on casting our commander over and over. That's a possible play pattern, technically, but we still want to make sure that we're duplicating spells that actually do something. The average data so far is showing a lot of Kicker cards that we, frankly, never really want to duplicate, such as Prohibit. Countering the same small spell twice does us little good, and triggering the effect of a Roost of Drakes doesn't seem worth the risk of playing a limited counterspell. Maddening Cacophony is another example. We don't want this. This doesn't deck everyone out, it decks everyone for three-fourths of their deck. If anything, that'll just help out the Meren of Clan Nel Toth player since none of our other win conditions attack on the library axis.
So what are we doing, then? With a pile of Saproling Migrations and Mold Shamblers, how is this deck going to carry its way to victory?
Classic green, of course! We'll end up with a lot of bodies on the field from all of our Kicked creatures and their token copies. Let's make them bigger for a lethal Overwhelming Stampede. Our commander can be as large as we want, after all; the +1/+1 counters on Verazol aren't just a method of copying spells, they're a method of victory! Hadana's Climb and Herald of Secret Streams can make these baddies quite lethal, indeed.
Let's check 'em out in a proper deck:
VerazolimitudinousView on Archidekt
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Cards to Consider
Let's finish up with some extra cards to take a second look at when building these commanders!
- Emblazoned Golem: You can apparently Kick this spell for zero additional mana. One of the cheapest options to get Hallar firing off some awesome damage.
- Primeval Bounty: This can load up lots of counters on Hallar, even before the damage trigger resolves!
- Scorching Lava: Another lesser-known but cheap and instant-speed Kicker spell that Hallar will prefer over those seven-mana Kicker creatures.
- Vigor: I'm admittedly more cautious about this one, but I like that it makes us exceptionally difficult to attack with large creatures, lest Hallar get nine more counters and dish out way more damage in return.
- Biogenic Upgrade: On the one hand, this is a lot of mana. On the other hand, it sets up Hallar for a very lethal turn.
- Vorel of the Hull Clade: This can keep our commander both fueled and deadly.
- Flux Channeler: Cast a Kicked spell, remove some counters, and then get them back? Love it!
- Pongify: Probably weird to see here, and something that I hope will correct itself over time, but at the current time of writing, very little removal appears on Verazol's page. Pongify was just reprinted, and Reality Shift and Rapid Hybridization are also excellent.
- Return of the Wildspeaker: 2019 and 2020 gave us some comically bonkers cards, and this is absolutely one among their number. Draw bunches of cards, or use it to make a seemingly innocent board of tokens more lethal? Good when we've gone tall and when we've gone wide? Amazing.
- Deepglow Skate: There are a lot of cards in this and Vorel's category, from Solidarity of Heroes to Invigorating Surge, but I'll say here that, frankly, if you copy a Kicked Rite of Replication on a Deepglow Skate, it should be a rule that you just win the game outright.
I Get a Kick Out of You
So, which of these commanders do you get a kick out of? Are you all about small Kicker spells in service of a grander plan, building up to a wave of fiery damage? Or do you want to copy some large Kicker spells that fill up the board faster than a rushing river?
Oh, and which commanders would you like to see on the next Commander Showdown?
Til next time!