I Like Swords

In a previous article, found here, I discussed the differences between constructed format and casual format archetypes, and found–unsurprisingly–that they typical archetypes found in the Commander format are essentially all Hybrid Archetypes. No single deck will be entirely Aggro, Control or Combo. Most will contain aspects of at least two of these types, if not all three.

In that article, I covered Reanimator decks, Token decks, and your typical Commander Lockout Control. However, there’s one deck type that is specific to Commander that wasn’t discussed. In Commander, because there is often a single creature around which our deck is built, we often want to net as much value off of that creature as we can. We include pump spells, equipment, and auras in order to semi-permanently make our Commander’s better in an attempt to win off of that format specific win condition: Commander Damage. This means of victory wouldn’t have been included if it wasn’t intended to become a strategy in and of itself. That’s just how alternate win conditions have always worked. Whether it was Poison in the days of old, or its more recent upgrade Infect, or Mill, players always want a new way to win the game, and Commander damage gives us just that.

Now, just about any Commander can win off of commander damage, given the correct situation, but some are just infinitely better at doing so. Creatures like Rafiq of the ManyKresh, the BloodbraidedKemba, Kha Regent, and Geist of Saint Traft, among others, have become infamous for these strategies, and for good reason.

Rafiq of the Many  Kresh the Bloodbraided  Kemba, Kha Regent  Geist of Saint Traft  Thraximundar  Uril, the Miststalker

When choosing a Voltron General, you want to look for a number of qualifications:

1. Does the Creature have natural evasion in the form of Flying, Unblockability, Trample, or similar abilities?

2. Does the Creature protect itself through Indestructibility, Shroud, Hexproof, or Protection? If not, can I build a deck around this creature capable of protecting it?

3. How aggressive is the creature? Can I push it out of my opponents control quickly? 

When we refer to this kind of strategy, we often call it Voltron, as through the use of different equipment and auras, you are “assembling Voltron”. A clever pop culture referrence to say the least, but this is a term that has become commonplace among Commander players. This strategy is reminiscent of the Modern Slippery Bogle deck or the Bant Auras lists from Innistrad/Return to Ravnica Standard, however, in Commander, the diversity of your aura and equipment choices makes the strategy much more potent. However, there are certain cards that have become staples of this gameplan specifically.

  • SWORDS OF WHAT?! AND WHY?!

When people think of Voltron Commander decks these days, there are a handful of cards that immediately come to mind as necessities for the list. The most common of these are what are simply referred to as The SwordsThese five Swords are undeniably some of the most overpowered equipment in the game. When equipment first became a subtype back in the original Mirrodin block, Wizards of the Coast was afraid the idea might become too powerful. The Swords are probably as close as you can get to game-breaking, without actually breaking the game. These babies give protection from two colors a piece, +2/+2, and provide some sort of ridiculous effect upon dealing combat damage. For the low casting cost of three colorless mana, and equipping for only two mana each, it’s not unheard of to have a single creature wielding multiple Swords, giving it protection from all colors, and buffing it’s power and toughness through the roof. These are a must have in any Voltron Deck, and despite their price, are worth having at least one of each.
Sword of Body and Mind  Sword of Feast and Famine  Sword of Fire and Ice  Sword of Light and Shadow  Sword of War and Peace

 

  • BUILDING A ROBOT

While the Swords are fantastic equipments, they are not the only equipment worth running in your list. There are a multitude of others to consider, since Voltron can’t just be a bunch of swords. Equipment are an undeniably strong card type, and when they’re good, they’re GOOD. Whether it’s Argentum Armor or Batterskull, the three pieces of Kaldra (Sword of KaldraHelm of KaldraShield of Kaldra) or Konda’s Banner, your Voltron general will need something other than just the five Swords at some point. Building a robot is a process, and it takes a lot of parts.
Argentum Armor  Batterskull  Konda's Banner  Sword of Kaldra  Helm of Kaldra  Shield of Kaldra

 

  • THERE’S AN AURA ABOUT YOU…

When building a Voltron Commander, you can’t always rely solely on your equipment. Sure with Commanders like Kemba, you can, but everyone else will be looking for a little something else. The equipment can go into any deck due to their lack of color identity, but within each and every color, there are different auras that are just as effective. While they’re single use cards for the most part, auras can still be game changers, and every Voltron deck should have at least a few.

Eldrazi Conscription

Despite what I just said, there is at least one colorless aura that should be in pretty much every Voltron deck. Eldrazi Conscription gives you the ability to turn your Commander into one of the Eldrazi titans. This Tribal Enchantment isn’t just a game changer, it simply ends games if it goes unchecked. An additional ten power and toughness paired with both Trample and the Eldrazi’s signature ability, Annihilator, makes your Commander a threat that can’t go unanswered. Some may see it’s high mana cost and think it an option not worth running, but the slow nature of the commander format makes this card all too accessible.

Take into consideration some of the more mana light options. Bear Umbra works as a functional Sword of Feast and Famine in the most important way and works to facilitate an infinite combo with cards like Hellkite Charger and Aggravated Assault. Cards like Angelic Destiny and Rancor get around the “single use” hindrance of most auras while pushing some extra damage through. Celestial Mantle, while only slightly less expensive than Eldrazi Conscription, gives you an extra level of endurance, and when paired with a creature with natural evasion, can easily push you out of your opponent’s reach.

Steel of the Godhead  Fists of the Demigod  Helm of the Ghastlord  Runes of the Deus  Shield of the Oversoul  Clout of the Dominus  Edge of the Divinity  Favor of the Overbeing  Gift of the Deity  Scourge of the Nobilis

 

The ten aura’s shown above are often overlooked, Shield of the Oversoul and Steel of the Godhead being the only two exceptions. However, despite this fact, if you are playing at least a two-color Commander, they’re  phenomenal. Take Kresh, the Bloodbraided for example. Enchanted with all three auras he could be enchanted with–Gift of the Deity, Runes of the Deus, and Fist of the Demigod–Kresh gains +6/+6, Deathtouch, Trample, Double Strike, Wither, and all creatures capable of blocking him must do so. This means that when you swing at an opponent, all of their creatures must block, you can assign one damage from first strike to each of them in order to kill them, the rest of the damage tramples over, and THEN you deal normal combat damage.

Take another good Voltron Commander into consideration: Thraximundar. Enchanted with Clout of the Dominus, Helm of the Ghastlord, and Fist of the Demigod, Thraximundar gains +6/+6, First Strike, Wither, Shroud, allows you to draw a card upon dealing combat damage, and makes the opponent you hit discard a card in the process. All of this on top of his normal ability.

How about a third example? Rafiq of the Many. He would get +6/+6, Indestructible, Flying, Lifelink, Unblockability, and Vigilance. Upon gaining Double Strike from attacking alone, and triggering Exalted, this is a near one-shot kill.

 

Voltron is a fun, fast, and competitive style of play that appeals to a multitude of players. Everybody likes playing big, value creatures, but this way, you get to make your own. These are some of the most aggressive builds in the format, and are highly recommended to play at least once. I’ve built my fair share of Voltron Commanders, but what version of Voltron will you assemble?

 

Feel free to leave you comments, questions, and ideas in the comment section below. Make sure to keep an eye out for more content in the coming days, and check out the CMDTower Playmat by clicking the tab at the top of the page. And as always, thank you for reading.

 


Evan Erickson

 

Author: Evan Erickson

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