There’s few things I enjoy more than copying effects in Magic. I’m always on the lookout for interesting cards that let you duplicate spells, creatures and more. With Magic design trending towards becoming more comfortable creating token copies in general, and not just of creatures, it was only a matter of time before a new legend stepped up to the plate and piqued my interest. Orvar, the All-Form is exactly what the doctor ordered, and being mono blue actually checks off another box for me. I’m weak for a good monocolored Commander deck, especially ones that do something just a bit different, so this week I brewed up a deck list that really leveraged Orvar’s potential for both incremental advantage and explosive combos.
The first thing that jumps out about Orvar (other than the sick art, but I’m weak for marine/eldritch imagery) is that he creates a token copy of any type of permanent you control, not just creatures. Tacking the copy on as a trigger whenever you target one of your permanents is both an interesting hoop to jump through and a very flexible one. Spells that can target any permanent type or a wider variety of them jump up in usefulness. Note that even if a spell targets multiple cards, you only get to make a copy of one of them, reducing the usefulness of spells that target more than one. His effect is unique, but powerful, setting him up as a part of a ton of engines.
Orvar Trickery by Lee Livingston
Orvar requires a good mix of both targets worth copying and spells that can target those permanents to start making the copies. A few large creatures with powerful persistent or ETB effects, card advantage engines and mana ramp fill the former bucket, and a slew of protective or generally tricky spells fill the latter. A premium is put on spells that can interact in different ways while also targeting something of our own, or on spells that protect Orvar. With the right pieces, you can shift gears from copying ramp and advantage engines to cycling the cheap spells while generating mana, pulling off powerful combo finishes out of nowhere.
Cheap spells that target your own permanents are both an important and relatively unique part of the deck, and reusable spells even more so.
Whim of Volrath and Clockspinning can be bought back and can copy anything from creatures to your lands.
Glamerdye can do the same, using retrace instead to give an option later in the game when you don’t need extra lands but instead a two mana copy of a Torrential Gearhulk is in order.
Dive Down and friends keep the originals safe for future copying, and can make their own as well with Orvar around.
Now, Orvar cares about you controlling the permanent that you try to copy, but not owning it. You have plenty of sweet options, but in a format of cool cards, sometimes you just want their stuff. Luckily enough, blue has a slew of ways to steal other players’ cards, either temporarily or on a more permanent basis.
Chamber of Manipulation turns a land into a repeatable Ray of Command at the cost of discarding a card, alongside the original Ray of Command. Once the creature is on your side for the turn, you can toss a few spells at it and make your own copy that sticks around longer.
Mind’s Dilation can pick up plenty of options for you, and generally is just a great card to ramp into to pick up steady advantage over the course of a game. It’s even a great card to copy, with multiples stacking up rapidly.
Not all of your spells can recur themselves, but that’s not a problem when you can stack up copies of creatures that pick the spells back up from the yard themselves.
Shipwreck Dowser is the best. The prowess on it helping you set up a pseudo-Monastery Mentor scenario, though Archaeomancer, Salvager of Secrets and Scholar of the Ages do a perfectly solid job as well. One thing to note is that the tokens enter before the spell resolves, so you’ll need two different spells to loop back and forth if you want to turn this into an engine.
Cards that flicker the original do get picked back up by said original though, which can turn Ghostly Flicker and company into the engine that ended up in a Pauper banning.
On the heavier end, Scholar of the Lost Trove, Torrential Gearhulk and Diluvian Primordial can just cast spells from graveyards, potentially that target themselves, to create more copies and make a chain until all the resources are eaten in favor of an army of beaters.
Orvar, and copies in general, appeal to me in part because they defy the singleton nature of the format. They really shine when cards that are designed to work better in multiples are copied, stacking up exponentially rather than linearly. Orvar making it easy and cheap to copy noncreature permanents tips a few seldom-includes over the edge into potentially insane plays.
Cloudpost and Powerstone Shard in particular return massive mana dividends on each spell invested in copying them. Precursor Golem copied gets… well, a bit nutty, to be honest, but when so many of the spells you use to copy also have a card draw rider on them, it’s not hard to turn a Twisted Image into a few Ancestral Recalls for the same low cost.
Now, Orvar isn’t expensive, but he’s not cheap either, and he’s the type of Commander that’s going to have a target painted on him from the moment he hits the table. The two solutions to this are either ensuring you can keep recasting him or that you have the mana to protect him or use him immediately once he’s in play. In either regard, a solid base of ramp artifacts do the trick nicely.
Sol Ring is simple and straightforward, and Prismatic Lens, Thought Vessel and the like are similarly no-frills. Mind Stone and Coveted Jewel also net you some cards, either immediately or later on, with the Jewel in particular playing a role as a combo piece as well thanks to tapping for multiple mana and drawing cards, all at once.
Now, ramp is one thing, but this deck is about getting more of what you have and really leaning into the greed, so why stop with mana rocks? With how many ways you have to pick a spell from the graveyard and cast it again and again, cranking the mana production of your islands sky high for a turn isn’t a hard sell.
Caged Sun does the same, and a few copies can land you in a constant High Tide very quickly. Once an Island taps for four mana, a Whim of Volrath generates infinite mana by making untapped copies of your lands for both an immediate and long-term mass of mana.
Ghostly Flicker also works well in these situations, since it can flicker a land alongside an Archaeomancer creature, giving the option to either make a copy of the land or the creature and setting up a chain that can lead to an easy win. Barring those, Peregrine Drake can flicker or copy over and over for the same outcome.
Once you’ve hit that breaking point though, where do you put all that mana? Once you’ve established the loops and generate the excess mana, shifting the loop to dump some of that mana to recurring cantrips or other card draw spells to dig toward sinks should end the game outright.
Triskelion works better than Walking Ballista, my usual pet card, in this shell thanks to the ability to copy it for the win rather than dump mana into it, offering more flexibility in the turns leading up to the win.
If damage can’t get you there though, milling out the table should do the trick. Blue Sun’s Zenith is a standby for it. Simply dump in gratuitous amounts of mana, target one opponent, use another card to draw back to the Zenith, rinse and repeat.
In a pinch, Reality Shift does the job too, provided each opponent has a creature to exile with it to start the chain. Then, just exile the manifested card, ad nauseam, until there’s nothing left.
Even without the combo finishes, Orvar offers a unique take on a copy-themed deck, one that I’m very excited to see in action. Every time I look him over, it seems there’s some new little trick to find and some new way to leverage his ability to make something innocuous into something absolutely silly and degenerate. So, why don’t you sleeve him up, grab a stack of Copy tokens, and start pointing Hydroblasts at your lands to ramp. You can even order everything you need from ChannelFireball.com and get a great deal while you do, and add a fun monocolored Commander deck to your rotation!