Ranking Magic’s Sword Equipment Cycle in Commander

Kristen GregoryCommander

Equipment decks are one of my favorite types of deck to build. There are a bunch of great swords, staffs, boots, and spears that can augment your creatures and increase your consistency. And, it’s fun from a flavor perspective–granting exciting weaponry to your seasoned warriors. 

Swords of X&Y

One of the most famous equipment cycles in Magic is the Swords of X&Y cycle. Rather than an equipment that proliferates copies of a 3DS Pokemon game, the Swords of X&Y all have color protection, a +2/+2 buff, and cost three to play and two to equip. It’s an as-yet unfinished cycle, but one that has captured the hearts of many. Whether they’re all worth running or not, many casual players like to jam each sword into their equipment deck for completion’s sake.

While these swords are at their best with equipment synergies, you shouldn’t dismiss equipment if you’re not playing a strict equipment deck – some of their effects are too good to pass up. 

Today, I’m ranking the Swords of X&Y cycle. They’re not all as good as you’d think… and some of them are better. These evaluations are considering the swords at a baseline, without a cornucopia of equipment synergies. The rankings may change depending on what your deck needs, what decks are in your local meta, and any minor sub-synergies you might have. 

9. Sword of Body and Mind

Down at the bottom of the list is Sword of Body and Mind. While a 2/2 Wolf creature token isn’t the worst, it’s not quite the card or tempo advantage some of the other swords offer. Protection from green was always the biggest draw to this sword, but now we have two other fantastic options that grant pro-green, it’s fallen further down the list.

That’s not to mention how milling opponents incidentally is never a good plan. There’s so much recursion and graveyard strategy in the format that you’ll be a filthy enabler a good proportion of the time. Unless you’re in a dedicated mill deck, or wanting to make Wolf token in particular? It’s a hard pass from me. You could be playing Sword of the Animist or Shadowspear instead. 

8. Sword of War and Peace

Sword of War and Peace isn’t the greatest sword on the list, and while it doesn’t change things up on the board, it does have relevant protection. Red and White are amazing colors to have protection from: this thing stops both Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile, but also Blasphemous Act. These are the most played removal spells and wrath in the format, so you’re always going to be happy about protection from them. 

Dealing damage to a player for each card in their hand is occasionally quite good – and decks that want this effect, like Neheb, the Eternal or any deck wanting to double damage – will benefit from this way more than a Mill deck benefits from Sword of Body and Mind

The lifegain mode is, again, niche, but slotting in a repeatable lifegain trigger into a deck like Lathiel or Krav & Regna is really not the worst, especially given the kinds of spells you’ll have protection from. It’s not the best sword, but it has a few more applications than Body and Mind

7. Sword of Dungeons & Dragons

You might feel like this one is cheating a little, but many Commander players are quite happy to use Rule 0 discussions to augment their experience. Sword of Dungeons & Dragons is a flavor win in many Adventures in the Forgotten Realms decks, and is far from the wildest silver-border card in existence. In fact, it’s pretty tame.

Creating a 4/4 flying Dragon is way better than making a 2/2 Wolf, and the chance that you can get more from a nat-20? Pretty great. The dice roll is also relevant for decks that care about rolling dice, and the protection from Rogues and Clerics will come up more than you think, even if it’s not as universal as color protection. 

6. Sword of Truth and Justice

The next entry on the list is a sword that I feel is a little overrated. Sword of Truth and Justice is certainly strong within a counters or planeswalker-based deck, but even then I question if I want to be paying the five mana to achieve the effect. In a deck like Atraxa, for instance, I value the ability to keep my mana open for interaction, and I value cheap ways to protect Atraxa. Though this sword can give some good protection colors, let’s face it – people are going to remove the creature in response to the equip anyways. 

That isn’t to say that this card can’t work in a relevant build, but when it comes down to it? +1/+1 counters aren’t sustained value, and they don’t shift the tempo that far. 

5. Sword of Fire and Ice

Sword of Fire and Ice has long been considered one of the most powerful swords, and it’s clear to see why: drawing a card and potentially removing a small utility creature is a very strong effect. A few years ago, this sword would have ranked far higher on the list, but a few things have changed within the EDH landscape that means I have “Sophie” ranked a little lower than it might have been historically.

Drawing cards has become a lot easier for all colors, and even white is managing to draw cards more effectively than it has done in the past. In fact – mono white aside – I don’t have Fire & Ice in my shortlists for decks very often these days. Mask of Memory is usually the first card draw option I go for, equipment wise. 

While protection from red is pretty good for dodging wraths, blue and red aren’t the most important colors for protection. Games have gotten faster these days, and so investing five whole mana to draw a singular card – not even guaranteed – is a big ask. 

4. Sword of Light and Shadow

Speaking of swords that have changed around in rankings a little, Sword of Light and Shadow is a sword that I think has risen a little in my estimations with the way the format has changed. 

Often, it’s less about drawing into more threats and answers, but about keeping them in play. Redirection spells, Hexproof spells, and interaction are paramount, but sometimes you won’t have them in hand. Light and Shadow is a way to recur your more important creatures from the graveyard. It comes bundled with protection from the two most important removal colors in the format, and it also gains you some life on the side. That life can trigger token production, card draw, counters… but more than that, can help you buy an extra turn

3. Sword of Sinew and Steel

If we look purely at the price difference between Sword of Truth and Justice and Sword of Sinew and Steel, you’d be forgiven for thinking I have them in the wrong spots on the list. Sword of Sinew and Steel remains highly accessible, pricewise, and I think it’s sorely underplayed. 

Protection from black and red gives protection from two of the more key removal colors, and when you consider a lot of the best removal spells in the format are Orzhov, not having pro-white isn’t the end of the world. It still protects from Blasphemous Act, afterall, and I see 1.5 of those every game on average. 

Destroying an artifact owned by any player on hit is a great repeatable trigger to have. At worst, you can play the tempo game by removing mana rocks, but at best? It’ll snipe problem engine pieces. 

While destroying Planeswalkers comes up far less often, when it is relevant, it’s relevant. Damage wasted on killing walkers is damage that could go to face, and oftentimes, players with walkers tend to plonk down flying blockers anyways.

Play more of this card. 

2. Sword of Hearth and Home

One of the most exciting cards from Modern Horizons 2, Sword of Hearth and Home is an extremely powerful magic card. Ramping is always good, and it’s why Sword of the Animist is such an auto-include. While this sword requires you to connect, it does bring the basic land in untapped which is pretty neat indeed.

The other effect exiles a creature you own before returning it to play under your control. For the most part, this’ll be a way to get incremental value from flickering your ETB creatures. There’s also a great niche use case here too, though. 

You can flicker a creature you own that’s been stolen or cast in another way by an opponent, in order to bring it back to play on your side of the field. Definitely explains the “Home” part of the card.

1. Sword of Feast and Famine

I think anyone who knows their swords could have guessed which sword would be number one: Sword of Feast and Famine. Getting to untap your lands is truly powerful, and sets this card apart from the others on the list.

Getting to untap your lands can give you the explosiveness you need to have a decisive turn, something I talked about last week in my editorial about White’s current hurdles in the format. It can also be made better with card draw lands like Arch of Orazca and Bonder’s Enclave which can help you to make use of the extra untap if you don’t have anything better to do with your mana. 

The other part of the card is of course that the player you damage discards a card. While this isn’t always amazing, it can be great in the mid-late game when players are running out of cards. It’s also bonkers good with doublestrike. 

The Swords of X&Y are all intriguing choices when it comes to brewing Commander decks. While Sword of Feast and Famine and Sword of Hearth and Home are far and away the most useful and powerful options with the most universal appeal, you might find uses for the others on the list too. 

If you’re in the market for some budget equipment for your Commander brew, then we have an article on the best budget equipment here