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Equip in MTG – Rules, Best Cards + Decks!

Equip is an evergreen keyword ability in Magic: The Gathering. Cards with equip can be attached to a creature you control. This article delves into how equip works in MTG, lists the best equip cards, strategies to play against equip heavy decks, common equip questions and shares an awesome equip based deck for you try out!

Champion's Helm equipment MTG card. Image: Wizards of the Coast. Artist: Alan Pollack.
Champion’s Helm equipment MTG card. Image: Wizards of the Coast. Artist: Alan Pollack.

MTG Equip rules

What do the Magic rules say about equip?

Attach this permanent to target creature you control. Activate this ability only any time you could cast a sorcery.

Magic: The Gathering Comprehensive Rules, 301 “Artifacts” and 702.6 “Equip”.

If an artifact has equip, you can attach it to a creature you control. The creature will then get the bonuses listed on the artifact card as long as it’s attached.

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The equip mechanic was introduced in Mirrodin, an artifact-themed set. It immediately proved to be a beloved and powerful ability and so was made evergreen. Ninth Edition marked equip’s first core set appearance. Equip has appeared in every set since.

Equip only appears on artifacts with the Equipment subtype, most of which are colourless. However, specific colours have additional artifact synergies. White and red have cards that synergize specifically with equipment and care about the equip keyword.

MTG Equip Examples

MTG card Alpine Watchdog, Cultist's Staff, Crystal Slipper and Disenchant. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG card Alpine Watchdog, Cultist’s Staff, Crystal Slipper and Disenchant. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

To understand equip, let’s use an example. Suppose I cast Alpine Watchdog, a 2/2 creature with vigilance. Because that’s actually pretty underwhelming, I decide to power up Alpine Watchdog with some equipment. For instance, Cultist’s Staff and Crystal Slipper.

To get an equipment onto the battlefield, I pay the card’s mana cost to play it just like any other card.

During my main phase, while I control Alpine Watchdog, I can then pay for an equipment’s equip cost to attach that card to it. Cultist’s Staff has an equip cost of 3 generic mana, while Crystal Slipper costs 1 generic mana to equip. 

I start with Crystal Slipper. I pay 1 mana and attach it to Alpine Watchdog, giving it +1/+0 and haste. Alpine Watchdog now has 3 power (2/2 + 1/0) and haste so it can attack this turn even though it entered the battlefield this turn.

But I can do more. Now I pay 3 more mana and equip Cultist’s Staff to Alpine Watchdog too. This boosts its states to a respectable 5/4 (3/2 + 2/2). Now my dog is all kitted out and ready to attack.

Suppose my opponent casts Disenchant, though, to destroy one of my equipment. They target Crystal Slipper and successfully destroy it. Because it’s no longer attached to Alpine Watchdog, my creature loses its buffs.

Now Alpine Watchdog’s power and toughness are down to 4/4 and, because it no longer has haste, it can’t attack the turn it entered the battlefield either. When equipment becomes unattached from a creature, so do its effects.

When Can You Equip?

MTG card Giant's Skewer, Faerie Guidemother, Hypersonic Dragon and Teferi, Time Raveler. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG card Giant’s Skewer, Faerie Guidemother, Hypersonic Dragon and Teferi, Time Raveler. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

You can equip whenever you could cast a sorcery. This means you can only equip during your main phases, one main phase before combat and one after. You can equip as many times per turn as you have mana.

For instance, I control the equipment Giant’s Skewer and I want to attach it to a creature I control, Faerie Guidemother. During either main phase, I can pay 3 mana to equip it. However, I cannot equip at any other point during my turn or during another player’s turn.

Unfortunately, cards that let you cast sorceries as though they had flash will not let you equip at instant speed. Examples of these cards are Hypersonic Dragon and Teferi, Time Raveler. They don’t help here.

What Happens When the Equipped Creature Dies?

MTG card Giant's Skewer, Faerie Guidemother and Colossification. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG card Giant’s Skewer, Faerie Guidemother and Colossification. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

When the equipped creature dies, all equipment attached to it remains on the battlefield, unattached to any creature. Unlike auras, equipment do not go to the graveyard when the creature they’re attached to leaves the battlefield.

So, suppose somebody destroys my Faerie Guidemother while it has an equipment, Giant’s Skewer, and an aura, Colossification, attached to it, this is what happens: Colossification goes to the graveyard. Giant’s Skewer remains on the battlefield. During my next main phase, I can equip it again.

 

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Equip vs Attach

Equip is a keyword that attaches one permanent to another permanent – an artifact to a creature. In this way, it is one of a few different abilities that can attach.

All equipment attaches, but you can attach in other ways. Both auras and fortifications also attach permanents to other permanents or players. However, auras go to the graveyard when they become detached. 

Attach simply means to move one permanent onto another permanent or player. However, there will be other effects depending on what the attached card’s abilities are. Check out Rule 701.3 if you want more information on attach.

Best MTG Equip Cards

Embercleave (Equip – Red Artifact)

MTG card Embercleave. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG card Embercleave. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

What do you get if you combine a combat trick with some truly brutal equipment? Throne of Eldraine has the answer, and it is Embercleave. This artifact enters with instant speed at a low cost and immediately boosts one of your attackers with both double strike and trample.

Embercleave naturally benefits an aggressive playstyle and its ability to be played at instant speed, after blockers have been assigned, is one of its best features. Give it to an unblocked attacker and the double strike can easily carve up your opponent’s life total.

Umezawa’s Jitte (Equip – Artifact)

MTG card Umezawa's Jitte. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG card Umezawa’s Jitte. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

Versatility is why Umewaza’s Jitte is banned in Modern, and why it sees heavy play in both Legacy and Commander. Whenever the equipped creature deals combat damage, this equipment gets two charge counters.

You can spend a charge counter to give the equipped creature +2/+2, gain 2 life, or give another target creature -1/-1. You can do this at instant speed, and you get two whenever the equipped creature hits. Enjoy frustrating absolutely everyone else when Umezawa’s Jitte is in play!

Kaldra Compleat (Equip – Artifact)

MTG card Kaldra Compleat. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG card Kaldra Compleat. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

Combining all the Kaldra pieces, the phenomenal Kaldra Compleat gives your equipped creature +5/+5 as well as first strike, trample, indestructible, and haste! Not only that, when the equipped creatures deals combat damage to another creature, exile that creature. 

What truly distinguishes Kaldra Compleat from other endgame equipment, however, is that it has living weapon. This obscure keyword means that Kaldra Compleat enters the game already attached to a 0/0 token. Effectively, you pay 7 mana for a giant beater and when it dies, you can pay another 7 to add its stats to something else.

Halvar, God of Battle // Sword of the Realms (Equip – White Creature // White Artifact)

MTG card Halvar, God of Battle and Sword of the Realms. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

Do you need an equipment lord? Halvar, God of Battle has you covered. With Halvar in play, all your equipped or enchanted creatures gain double strike. Furthermore, you can also shuffle around your auras and equipment before combat, which is highly versatile.

On the other card face, you have Sword of the Realms, a low-cost equipment that gives your equipped creature +2/+0 and vigilance. Better yet, when it dies, it returns to your hand.

Colour-Pair Swords

The best equipment cycle, however, is the Colour-Pair Swords. Dating all the way back to Darksteel, these artifacts all do similar things, and can all end games by doing so.

Each Sword of Something and Something Else gives your equipped creature +2/+2, as well as protection from two colours. Whenever it deals combat damage to a player, you then get two effects. 

This combination of buffs allows each of the Swords to consistently see heavy play, often as win conditions in of themselves. They’re great in Voltron strategies too, since their protection often makes a creature unblockable and immune to removal.

Sword of Fire and Ice (Equip – Artifact)

MTG card Sword of Fire and Ice. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG card Sword of Fire and Ice. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

Play Sword of Fire and Ice if you like winning. Specifically, play this equipment if you like your creature getting +2/+2 and having protection from both blue and red.

Additionally, play Sword of Fire and Ice because whenever your equipped creature deals with combat damage to a player, you can do two things. Draw a card, and then hit any target for 2 damage. Add in protection’s evasion capability, and this sword is a great draw and damage engine.

Sword of Feast and Famine (Equip – Artifact)

MTG card Sword of Feast and Famine. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG card Sword of Feast and Famine. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

Another of the strongest Swords, Feast and Famine gives your creature protection from black and green, in addition to the standard +2/+2. Given that black is a major removal source, this makes your equipped creature very difficult to kill.

Additionally, Sword of Feast and Famine’s combat damage effects are incredible. When the equipped creature connects, untap all lands you control. And your opponent discards a card. This combination of hand attack plus mana doubling is never to be underestimated.

MTG Equip Decks 

While equip is a colourless ability, equip synergy cards are most common in white and red. Kaldheim, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms and Throne of Eldraine all have good equipment and equip synergy cards. They’re Standard-legal at time of writing too.

Balan, Wandering Knight Voltron – Commander

MTG card Balan, Wadering Knight. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG card Balan, Wadering Knight. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

Most Voltron decks play equipment, as powering up the commander as much as possible is their main strategy. Remember, if a commander deals 21 combat damage to an opponent, that player loses the game. 

Balan, Wandering Knight is one of the few commanders specifically built for equipment Voltron. It’s the best at it, too. Balan’s inherent double strike and ability to attach all equipment to itself are powerful, and let you play high-cost equipment with ease.

Although mono-white decks typically aren’t the best in Commander, Balan Voltron defies expectations. There are more than enough equip synergy cards in white to make this deck viable and, indeed, remarkably strong.

Playing Balan Voltron is simple. Survive and ramp until you can play Balan, Wandering Knight. Then play Balan. Then play equipment. Use Balan’s ability to attach the equipment. Attack for lethal. Win.

Cards commonly played in Balan, Wandering Knight Voltron include:

How to play against Equip

The best way to play against equip is to run artifact removal. Because equipment are artifacts, destroying them or removing them will cancel the buffs they give to your opponent’s creatures. 

If you don’t have any artifact hate, things get harder. Although you can target the equipped creature, this isn’t a perfect solution. Even if the equipped creature is removed, the equipment itself stays around.

You can try playing fogs, which prevent all combat damage being dealt in a turn. Not only with this save you and your creatures from a beatdown, it’ll also prevent any equipment from having their combat damage abilities being triggered.

Another way to play against equip is to interfere with activated abilities. Cards like Pithing Needle, Damping Matrix, Collector Ouphe, Stony Silence and Karn, the Great Creator can all prevent your opponents activating equip by stopping them using their artifact’s activated abilities entirely.

MTG Equip FAQs 

Is Equip an Activated Ability?

Equip is an activated ability, so anything that cares about activated abilities will also apply to equip. As such, watch out for cards that prevent you from activating abilities because these will neuter your equipment.

Can You Equip the Opponent’s Creatures?

You cannot equip your opponent’s creatures. Paying the equip cost will only attach the equipment to one of your creatures. Most of the time, your equip cards can only benefit your opponent’s creatures when attached.

If you do want to attach stuff to your opponent’s creatures, play auras instead. These enchantments can generally be attached to any target creature, but you can’t change their target once they’re on the battlefield.

How Do You Equip at Instant Speed?

Leonin Shikari costs only 2 mana and lets you equip at instant speed, which is a great deal. Otherwise, look out for cards that have abilities that attach equipment, such as Auriok Windwalker and Stonehewer Giant.

How Do You Reduce the Equip Cost?

White cards like Puresteel Paladin, Bruennor Battlehammer and Sigarda’s Aid allow you to equip for free under certain conditions. Similarly, the Nahiri planeswalkers so far have excellent equipment synergies. Hammer of Nazahn is an equipment itself that allows you to equip for free as well.

Anything that reduces the cost of an artifact’s activated abilities will reduced equip cost. Zirda, the Dawnwaker and Auriok Steelshaper are excellent choices here, as they’re in white, the equipment synergy colour.

Other cards can automatically attach equipment to target creatures, which gets around paying for the equip cost., Armored Skyhunter and Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist are all examples of these cards.

Do You Have to Pay to Unequip?

You have to pay the equip cost to attach the equipment to a different creature, which unequips it from the creature it was originally attached to. You don’t get a discount because the equipment is already attached.

You can’t pay to unequip equipment from a creature and leave it unattached. That’s not something equip lets you do. You can only transfer equipment between creatures. If the equipped creature dies, though, then its equipment will be unequipped for free.

Do Equipment Stack?

All equipment stack. In fact, this is a cornerstone of equipment-based strategies. You can give one creature, usually with an evasion ability like flying, a load of equipment and then directly attack your opponent for massive amounts of damage.

A note: Equip MTG 

In summary, equip is keyword ability that lets you attach an artifact (equipment) to a creature you control. That creature then gets a boost to its power and toughness, as well as gaining additional abilities.

As such, it’s no wonder equip cards are so popular. Not only are they versatile and impactful, but they’re reliable, just like this article! So, add some equip to your deck today. Your opponent won’t know what hit them!

More Magic: The Gathering Keywords Explained

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Emily
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