Orvar - The Single Life

Orvar, the All-Form | Art by Chase Stone

Single Blue Shapeshifter

Hey gurl, U up? I got this new Power Sink article; the article series where we look at the most powerful commanders in the format and update their profile so your playgroup won't swipe left on you bringing them to the table. This time we're looking for a casual encounter with Orvar, the All-Form.

With over 7,670 decks on EDHREC, Orvar brings all the mono-blue players to the yard. He's the second most popular commander in his color identity and it's easy to see why. Orvar makes a copy of any of your permanents you target with an instant or sorcery spell, meaning you get more of the hot singles in your commander deck. If you're deep enough into the format to be reading an article, you already know getting free permanents is powerful, and it says a lot about his strength that he's in 55 combos on Commander Spellbook. The fact that you can copy lands and mana rocks means Orvar is likely to have the mana to do whatever he wants, and thanks to being in blue, he has access to the best ways to draw cards to spend that mana on, as well as the countermagic to protect his plans. He's even powerful enough to have Orvar Twitch Control as an entry on the cEDH Decklist Database. Orvar makes use of some unique cards to enact his powerful strategy, so we want to take a look at his average deck data.


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At the top of Orvar's high synergy cards is Mind Games, with an 82% synergy rating. It can target multiple permanent types and most importantly, it has Buyback, so it can be used repeatedly to make tokens of just about anything you would care to, or it can tap down a problem creature in a pinch. This is why we also see things like Clockspinning and Whim of Volrath in the list. The average Orvar deck also features a ton of cards with minor effects that also draw a card, often referred to as cantrips. Thermal Flux, Shimmering Mirage, and Leap don't normally add much to a combo deck, but with Orvar these are getting you another copy of one of your permanents in addition to replacing itself. Untap effects like Twiddle and Dream's Grip can refund their cost or even provide mana depending on what you target.

Using these spells on something like Sapphire Medallion, Gilded Lotus, or even just a land can reduce the cost of casting those Buyback spells or refund some of all of the mana used to cast them, leading to an infinite mana combo. Coveted Jewel is especially good as it adds card draw on top of extra mana production.

Spellseeker can search up any instant and sorcery in the deck. Agent of Treachery can steal permanents from opponents, or Venser, Shaper Savant and Aether Channeler can bounce them back to hand. Scourge of Fleets can bounce all opposing creatures at once. Making multiple copies of Hullbreaker Horror means you'll be bouncing multiple permanents every time you cast a spell, effectively locking down opponents.

Orvar is especially well-positioned to make use of creatures like Shipwreck Dowser and Archaeomancer which get the instants and sorceries you cast back in hand. This can set up a potential infinite combo with Ghostly Flicker if you can copy something that generates three blue mana. Things really get out of hand if you manage to clone Orvar and start getting multiple copies from targeting your permanents. One copy from Irenicus's Vile Duplication is powerful, but Sakashima of a Thousand Faces is kill on sight in this list as it lets you use the entirety of the deck's cloning engine on the commander.

This all leads to a powerful deck, but what if you want something more relaxed, that's more suited to long walks on the beach?

Living (Not So) Single

For this deck, we're taking a page out of Mistform Ultimus's playbook. If you've never seen this commander or its EDHREC page, it's filled with what seem like unconnected typal synergy cards which Mistform can benefit from as every creature type. We're going to do the same with Orvar, since he also has all creature types. We'll let him live the single life as a Voltron commander. A Voltron deck seeks to win games by having a commander deal 21 combat damage to one or more opponents. As a 3/3 with no innate evasive abilities, Orvar seems a far cry from a good option for this kind of strategy, but his abilities allow us to power him up in unusual ways.

Orvar - The Single Life

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Just like the average deck, we'll be using spells that can target our permanents like Mind Games and Whim of Volrath to make use of Orvar's ability to copy permanents. Having the option to target our own stuff is also why we're running some unusual removal options like Aether Tradewinds and Run Away Together, as well as draw effects like Mystic Confluence and Inscription of Insight. This capability is going to be very important going forward, as a lot of the cards we're using look a lot better if we can make multiples of them.

The various typal "Lords" are creatures that power up other creatures of a certain type, typically the same as theirs. Lord of the Unreal protects our commander by making him hexproof. Vodalian Hexcatcher adds more damage to our commander that can be sacrificed for an on board Mana Tithe effect. Merfolk Sovereign provides a way to get through in addition to that power boost.

While Equipment and Auras are a mainstay of many Voltron decks, having a commander with every creature type makes some unorthodox options much more compelling. Multiclass Baldric will give the commander deathtouch, lifelink, flying, and haste for an incredibly low mana investment. Orvar can use the lower equip cost for Lothlórien Blade, Bilbo's Ring, and Robe of the Archmagi. Stoneforge Masterwork will give Orvar +1/+1 for each creature we control since it's going to share a type with everything. Obsidian Battle-Axe and Smoke Shroud will attach themselves when our commander hits the field, while Oathkeeper, Takeno's Daisho will help keep him on the field.

Since Orvar is an army, Amass cards will put their counters on him as opposed to making a 0/0 token. This means we can protect our game plan with Lazotep Plating and Saruman's Trickery, draw cards with Commence the Endgame, and deal with problems temporarily with Callous Dismissal all while buffing our commander. Corsairs of Umbar provides evasion and if we can connect with them, those three +1/+1 counters are going to add up. Finally Saruman the White will Amass for us every time we cast our second spell in a turn.

If anything should happen to Orvar, we have a few ways to recreate his effect. Having all creature types is primarily what we're after, so we have Amorphous Axe and Runed Stalactite to give any of our other creatures all types. These are also good for adding some extra damage to Orvar if we have him available. We can also just give his effect to all of our creatures at once with Maskwood Nexus. Shapesharer is a stand-in for Orvar that we can also change into a better creature if the opportunity presents itself. We kept Vesuvan Duplimancy from the average list as a treat. This card mimics Orvar's ability to copy things, and gives us our only way in the deck to copy Orvar. Things will get out of hand if this one sticks.

Finally, we have some cards that deviate from the main strategy, but I couldn't resist including them. If we can land a big hit with our commander or any suited-up creature, we can make an army of fliers with Notorious Throng. Of course Throng a Rogue, so paying that Prowl cost and getting an extra turn is certainly an option. That extra turn is great for taking out players who thought they were going to have one more turn. Spawning Kraken will give us a 9/9 every time we connect with our commander, and if we decide to copy the Kraken, we'll have an army of sea monsters instantly. Since Orvar is a Cleric, we can turn this into an Aristocrats deck and drain the table by sacrificing creatures to Relic Vial.


No Fast Mana, No Free Spells, No Combos

As you can see, Orvar can be a pretty interesting guy once you get to know him. I think he's a fascinating competitive commander with unusual lines of play, but I think this version where he puts himself out there and into combat is also pretty cool. It certainly runs quite a few cards you don't see too often. If this deck interests you, I'm not the only one who's landed on this idea. Ryan from Commander Cookout Podcast had a Mistform Ultimus deck and made the switch over to Orvar. You can check out his list here. That's all I've got for this time. Let me know what you think in the comments. Which direction would you swipe if someone brought this to your game?

Lenny has been in an on again off again relationship with Magic since Fallen Empires. He fell in love with Commander in 2010 when his friends forced him to build Niv Mizzet, the Firemind and has been with the game ever since. When he's not turning cardboard sideways or trying to justify using bad draft commons in EDH decks you can find him playing something from his massive board game collection or practicing the Brazilian martial art Capoeira. Follow Lenny on twitter @LennyWooley

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