Underdog’s Corner – Hallar, the Firefletcher

(Hallar, the Firefletcher | Art by Bram Sells)

Seasons Past and Future

Hello everyone, and welcome back to another installment of the Underdog’s Corner! I’ve spent nearly every article since September talking about the various legends from the plane of Ravnica, and it’s about time to take a breather from that particular theme. We will return once War of the Spark previews begin to roll around, I’m sure, but for the next few articles, we’re going to transition to a new ‘theme’ of sorts.

For the foreseeable future, I’m going to go back in time. No, I’m not going to rewrite the past or anything. The plan is to go back and review legends I’ve covered in the past. This includes every legend that has been a member of the Underdog’s Corner, but it also includes legends covered in review articles.

Let’s go back in time to April, where I overlooked Hallar, the Firefletcher.


Back in Time, Pt. 1

Back in April, I wrote an review article for the uncommon, multicolored legends of Dominaria. During that review, I ranked each legend by what I thought would be their quality as a commander, as a part of the 99, and their general expected popularity. Months after that article, I went back to review it to see how close I got. However, after reviewing it, I realized it was easier to measure how far off I was, rather than how close.

Like everyone else, I noted that Slimefoot and Tatyova would be the top two commanders from this ten-card cycle. I mixed up which would be the #1 top dog, since I let my personal biases affect my rankings (never bet against Simic value, people) but I’m glad I got those two correct.

What I didn’t expect was the popularity of Hallar, the Firefletcher. Below is my summarized table from that previous article.

And here they are ranked in order of current popularity:

I put Hallar as the seventh-highest legend (or fourth-lowest, if we’re being critical) among this cycle. This puts Hallar below the aforementioned Tatyova and Slimefoot, as well as Raff, Garna, Tiana, and Arvad. How wrong was that? Not only is Hallar the third-most popular commander from this cycle, but out of 44 legends, they’re the 9th most popular commander from Dominaria. That’s in the top 20%!

Let’s dig into what has made people gravitate toward this legend.


Hallar, It’s Me

At face value, Hallar has some crazy stats. They’re a three-mana 3/3 with trample with one of the strongest tribal types in the game: Elf. I love a commander that has weight to throw around, but typically we don’t see a combination of aggressive stats and a low cost. This isn’t enough to play a legend in my mind, but it does get bonus points.

Whenever you cast a spell, if that spell was kicked, put a +1/+1 counter on Hallar, the Firefletcher, then Hallar deals damage equal to the number of +1/+1 counters on it to each opponent.

Hallar presents a brand new strategy to Commander by offering support to a beloved older ability: Kicker. This is the jack-of-all-trades mechanic, and as Mark Rosewater and others at Wizards have said, almost every mechanic could be technically boiled down to Kicker. Some, like Escalate and Strive, are especially poignant parallels. However, Hallar only cares about Kicker, and by extension, Multikicker.

For an uncommon, Hallar actually has a few rules to keep in mind. Let’s briefly cover a few of those. First, the ability is binary; either a spell is kicked or it is unkicked. It doesn’t matter how many times we kick a Comet Storm or Wolfbriar Elemental, we only get one Hallar trigger.

Second, if an opponent removes Hallar in response to their triggered ability, they will still take damage equal to the number of +1/+1 counters on Hallar. The ability checks the last known information available. This is a rule that makes Hallar very dangerous and should prompt removal early from players in the danger zone.


Hallar, Can You Kick Me?

The name of the game is Kicker spells, and in Gruul colors, there are currently only 60 spells with the mechanic. (To give you an idea of how few that is, there are 86 creatures with the Dinosaur subtype.) We don’t have much to work with. However, unlike a smaller creature tribe, Kicker has a lot more flexibility. The nature of the mechanic plays into our format’s strengths, as these spells tend to play well as the game goes longer.

With that said, we will have to make some concessions to power level and versatility, because we will need to reach a certain density of these effects. How many? I think the upper limit is debatable, but the floor should be no fewer than 20 spells with Kicker. This number comes from my own personal experience with several of my decks, including a few tribal decks. For example, my Emmara, Soul of the Accord deck has 22 ways of generating tokens, while my Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca and Edgar Markov decks have 33 and 31 tribal creatures, respectively, so they can draw into their themes often enough in gameplay. For this build, I’m aiming for 25 Kicker spells at minimum.

With that many spells predetermined, we need to consider the effect that Kicker will have on our curve and how our deck will look if we need to play some of these spells un-kicked. Let’s look at how this mechanic might influence our deckbuilding.

For our un-kicked spells, we actually have a decent amount to work with. The majority of our spells fall between converted mana costs of 2 and 4. This leads to an average CMC of 2.8 across the board.

The “Kicked CMC” graph displays the minimum amount of mana that is needed for a spell to be kicked; spells with Multikicker like Everflowing Chalice are assumed to be kicked once.

As should be expected, the breadth of costs is much wider on the kicked graph, with the average CMC being 5.9. This shouldn’t be a deterrent, though; it just means we have to consider including a lot of ramp. We’re going to want to kick as many spells as possible in succession with Hallar to burn out our opponents. So how can we make the best of what we have?


Hallar, It’s Nice to Meet You

To start off, we need to figure out the focus of our deck. Kicker is a versatile mechanic with varying effects across the board. We want to determine what the majority of these effects are, to determine what kind of support cards we’re going to center the deck around. Before we even look at spells with Kicker, lets look for any cards that benefit from casting kicked spells using my favorite search engine, Scryfall.

[id<=gr o:kick -fo:”you may pay an additional]

From this, we can see we only have four additional options.

Saproling Infestation is by far the best of these with Elfhame Druid being a close second. I think Rumbling Aftershocks is too low-impact for a spell with a CMC of 5, and Bloodstone Goblin doesn’t add a meaningful board presence, especially once you consider the majority of creatures with Kicker. Including Hallar, we have spells that make tokens, add counters, and ramp. That isn’t very cohesive, so let’s turn our attention to the centerpiece of this deck.


I Must’ve Kicked a Thousand Times

If we break down our mix of Kicker spells by type, we’ll find that 32 of the 60 are creatures. Among the 28 noncreatures, only two are permanents (Everflowing Chalice and Gigantiform). There isn’t an extreme skew to either side, so we should look for this to be a balanced build.

Let’s start with the creatures, since they have a slight edge. When Dominaria released, I remember many of the lower rarity cards with Kicker adding +1/+1 counters as the upgrade. Since Hallar also cares about +1/+1 counters, let’s see how deep into this theme we can go.

According to Scryfall, 14 of the 32 creatures deal with +1/+1 counters. This is good, as it gives us a bit more leeway. The only problem is that many of these are french vanilla creatures. That doesn’t give us much to work with, but there still should be a few that make it worth it. Joraga Warcaller is one of the best options that we have overall. It is easy to kick for cheap, so we can trigger Hallar, and it powers up our commander to boot. Among the other options we also have Grunn, the Lonely King who can put immense pressure on opponents to block.

Let’s look at the other options for creatures before we make a decision. We have a lot more variety in this category.

We have access to a few powerful token makers, which is very promising. While Verix and Karox Bladewing may just be legendary vanilla flyers, making a couple of Dragons can still be problematic for players. Wolfbriar Elemental plays into the strengths of this deck, playing the long game with a lot of mana to sink into a huge spell. Verdeloth the Ancient plays a similar role. Remember though, with Multikicker, we still only get one Hallar trigger.

One of the most interesting things about this selection of cards is that we basically upgrade fairly vanilla creatures into spells. We have a draw spell with Citanul Woodreaders, we have removal with Goblin Ruinblaster and Mold Shambler, and we have other utility effects like Ghitu Chronicler and Goblin Bushwhacker.

With so many enters-the-battlefield effects on our creatures, we could possibly even add Panharmonicon. That type of decision is something I’ll leave to personal preference and if there’s enough effects to justify it. However, with the concept of these ETB effects being present, let’s introduce an effect that will play to this deck’s strength.

While we don’t have the array of options that other colors may have, we do have a few options to reset our creatures. As mentioned before, Kicker spells are fairly mana-intensive if we’re planning to trigger Hallar. That undercuts about a third of our spells for the early game unless we’re sandbagging our creatures. With Temur Sabertooth and Erratic Portal in our deck, we have the opportunity to play out those creatures early if we need to, then bounce them to our hand and recast them to trigger our commander. This type of value is something that I try building into all of my decks.


Kick it to The Limit

Let’s talk about our noncreature options. While it offers a strong effect, I don’t think Gigantiform makes the cut, since we’d be paying extra mana to do basically nothing. On the other hand, Everflowing Chalice is a blessing. Modular mana is going to be very useful in this deck. I wouldn’t pay two mana for a utility-less Mind Stone or four mana for a utility-less Hedron Archive, but combining those possibilities along with even higher potential payoffs is golden. This is a slam-dunk, and 84% of Hallar decks agree.

Let’s talk about the instants and sorceries now. We already have a small payoff for spells with Ghitu Chronicler, so what can we do with our options? Let’s try to break these into categories.

Since we’ve talked a bit about needing to ramp into our kick-able spells, what better way to address this need than with spells we can kick? Primal Growth is a body-less Wood Elves. Getting a mana or two back after casting this is great, because the lands come into play untapped. The same can be said for the new Grow from the Ashes. A slightly more expensive Explosive Vegetation that scales better with the late game? I’m okay with that. We even have a third option with Hunting Wilds, albeit it’s more expensive that the other options.

After that, we have one more token option with Saproling Migration, which works well with the aforementioned Verdeloth. It’s not a dedicated synergy, but it’ll be fun when it comes up.

One aspect of this deck that seems really interesting is the existence of several kick-able combat tricks, which have some of the highest synergy percentages on Hallar’s page. Vines of Vastwood, a well-known and much-feared combat trick in Modern. For a single green, we can give Hallar (or another important creature) a keyword-less form of hexproof, one that technically dodges Arcane Lighthouse or Glaring Spotlight. Situational, but incredible. Not only that, but kicking it for a single green mana gives us a massive +4/+4 buff. While Hallar’s gameplan is going to revolve around whittling down our opponent’s life totals, I think it is safe to say there will be a few games where Hallar will surprise-kill someone with commander damage.

Next is Gift of the Tajuru. This was the first card that immediately came to mind when I started to build Hallar, and I’m glad to see that 87% of people are running it. It gives creatures counters? It has Multikicker? It’s an instant? Is this the perfect card? It’s about as close as you can get. Unfortunately for us (and fortunately for our opponents), Hallar doesn’t get to benefit from Strength’s counters until the next spell with Kicker. Regardless, it’ll put a short clock on our opponents.

Let’s talk about damage. I couldn’t think of a more elegant way to say that, but who needs elegance?

Since green’s creature removal is mostly lacking, we’ll need to lean on red’s to get the job done. With that said, this is an area where our kick-able spells get to shine. Breath of Darigaaz is a four-mana sweeper that we’ll be glad to have around. While four damage won’t enough to completely clear the board, it will still rid us of a lot of utility creatures that like to hang around. Also, if Hallar has a single counter of them already, they will end up surviving the blast, so this is a solid pick. In the same vein, we have Molten Disaster. We trade mana efficiency for versatility and the potential to add Split Second. At worst, this is a spell we can cast for {R}{R}{R} to add a counter onto Hallar for un-interactive damage.

Lastly, we have the ubiquitous Comet Storm. While this card has received a bad rep from finding its home at mythic rare in Masters sets, the card’s power level warrants its inclusion. Removal, finisher, sharpshooter. This card is a damage-dealers Swiss Army knife. While this deck’s primary focus isn’t creating big mana, Hallar’s damage adds up fast enough that Comet Storm can end up being a finisher.

Just like with the creatures, the noncreature spells have a bit of flexible removal as well. While we don’t want to skimp on certain staples, we can make room for a few cards that, while narrower, have a higher ceiling in this deck. While it’s no Vandalblast, Overload lets us snipe a mana rock early or have an answer ready for a Paradox Engine. Canopy Surge gets to hose decks that rely on flyers, and Burst Lightning gets to confound people who aren’t expecting a Shock in Commander. I think the looks you get when you cast any of these will be worth their inclusion more often than not.


Kicking You to the Curb

Before we wrap up, let’s take a final look at some other key cards.

Neheb, the Eternal and Hallar is a match made in the apocalyptic planes of Magic. Hallar deals damage to each opponent and Neheb converts that damage into more mana to deal even more damage.

Extra mana is going to be a big selling point for this deck, and Treasonous Ogre gets to contribute as well. Sure, there’s a price, but if that means ending the game, then it’s worth paying.

With damage-based sweepers like Chandra’s Ignition floating around in this deck, wouldn’t it be nice if our board dodged that? What if it got stronger? Say hello to one of my favorite cards in Magic, Vigor. Vigor converts all damage that would be dealt to other creatures into +1/+1 counters. That means any damage done to Hallar turns them into a raging inferno of damage. If we cast the aforementioned Chandra’s Ingition targeting Vigor, Hallar would get six +1/+1 counters for their troubles. That’s a ton of damage just waiting to be dealt.

Now let’s check out my first draft of a Hallar, the Firefletcher below. I’m sure it needs a lot of work, but it also looks like a lot of fun.

Hallar and the Phenomenal Firefletchers

Commander (1)
Creature (26)
Artifact (5)
Instant (10)
Enchantment (9)
Sorcery (12)
Land (37)

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I hope you enjoyed taking a look at the Kicker extraordinaire! I’m very glad I gave this commander another chance. They turned out to be incredibly fun to brew, and they can only go up in power when we inevitably see Kicker make a return in a future set. I also recommend checking out the links on Hallar’s commander page to the fantastic MTGMuddstah for some videos of the commander in action! I hope you enjoyed the ride, and once again, thanks for joining me in the Underdog’s Corner!

Mason is an EDH player from Georgia, who is a self-proclaimed Johnny and Vorthos. His MTG career started with a casual lifegain deck with only a single win-condition. When not consuming MTG, he spends his time being a full-time student, an avid sports fan, and a dabbling musician. Mason can be found on twitter @K_Mason64