This entry is part 6 of 23 in the series Savor That Commander Flavor

 

 

 

By William aka BlueRam

I love playing commander-centric decks, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that voltron is one of my favorite strategies. At this moment though, I only have one deck that I actually COULD call a “voltron build”, that being my budget Kemba deck (of no relation to the one done by Brionne).

The primary turn-off I have about playing voltron is that as soon as the general is tucked with a Hinder, a Bant Charm, or a Terminus, the deck comes to a screeching halt.

The over commitment of resources leaves a bad taste in my mouth, especially considering that most groups that play against voltron strategies can save their spot removal to keep you proverbially locked out of the game with increasing general tax, or by casting Nevermore and calling out your general (which I use in a lot of my white decks for that exact purpose).

I also have a tendency to try and stuff as many legendary creatures as I can into my decks, even if they happen to be some of the first cards I have to cut. There’s just something about an unused legend sitting in my binder that makes me uneasy.

This has lead me to deviate from the traditional voltron strategy to playing something I call “The Thunder Megazord” strategy

Ah ya, kickin’ it old school. Optimus Prime ain’t got NOTHIN’ on me.



As Linkara would say, “TIME FOR BACKSTORY”.

If you didn’t know already, Power Rangers was a kids show released in 1993, back when Fox still had the “Fox Kids” portions of their network on after school let out. Every season the rangers got new mecha as part of their power up, and Bandai released new toys based on them. For the second season, the “Thunder Megazord” toy line was released, and it’s easily one of my favorites.

The first toy for this series was the red dragon zord. It could transform on its own, had its own weapon and everything. The other parts were toys that turned into armor for its human mode, and that was it. They weren’t really fun to play with by themselves, and you couldn’t do anything interesting with them like you could with the red dragon zord. So when you wanted to use the other four, it was just to equip your primary toy. I would’ve been content with just the red dragon zord if that was all there was, just because he could be fun on his own.

In this particular toy line though, there was also a mecha called the white tigerzord. You could attach the armor pieces to him too, and it was just as awesome. But again, you didn’t need to. He could transform on his own, had a sword, and was set to go as soon as you figured out where the batteries went. Even if you didn’t have the red dragon zord to play with, if you had the white tigerzord then you were still set to go.

Getting back to what we were talking about before, when I think of voltron I think of separate but equal pieces coming together to form something greater than they could ever be. While the voltron strategy has separate pieces coming together, those pieces aren’t equal. Rancor is useless without a creature to target; a pair of Lightning Greaves without a monster to equip to does nothing to help you win, as it just sits around until someone decides to destroy it; and soulbond creatures can’t use their abilities when they’re all alone. Even if they’re sitting on the field naked, your general can still do SOMETHING by themselves. The only exception I can see is if you used a “living weapons” theme for your voltron (which I actually want to do now).


I’m thinking something like this, as seen here.

So when you have a couple of potential targets to equip on hand, much like our beloved megazord, the momentum loss from having your general tucked is far less crippling. Uril, the Miststalker is unspeakably good, but you’ll have a better chance at surviving if you’ve got Sigarda, Host of Herons, or Krond the Dawn-Clad waiting in the wings in case Uril gets tucked (and you know he will).

I usually refer to my Jor Kadeen deck when making a comparison to the aforementioned Thunder Megazord.

Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer is perfectly playable by himself. He has a 5/4 body with first strike, in addition to beautiful, flowing locks. While that’s not going to stop any of the titans, it’s not that hard to build a deck that activates his Metalcraft ability so that he can slay a Primeval Titan, no problem. So if we look at Jor Kadeen strictly by himself, he is the quintessential red dragon zord of the deck.

So what about the supporting zords? Well, I do happen to run a little thing called Batterskull, which has been known get the job done from time to time. Although it’s the only Living weapon that I run at the moment, I’ve been seriously considering including Skinwing to provide Jor Kadeen with some evasion, and Strandwalker for defensive purposes. Mortarpod might also be worth consideration as an additional sac outlet to prevent our main man from getting tucked.

With the exception of the Batterskull, each of these picks are pretty bad on their own, especially if you’re looking at it from a creature model where Skinwing basically gives you a 2/2 vanilla flyer for four mana. But being able to equip themselves to Jor Kadeen makes him that much stronger, and makes him better than he originally was. They also have the bonus of filling out that Living weapon voltron deck I wanted to try. I’m getting chills just thinking about it.

But these aren’t the only weapons I have that can combine on their own. I’m sure you’re familiar with someone known as “Kaldra”?*


*Official art, not an official token

By having the Sword of Kaldra, the Shield of Kaldra, and the Helm of Kaldra  on the battlefield at the same time, you could activate the Helm’s ability to call out a  legendary token named, wait for it-, Kaldra. With the equipment on him, he becomes a 9/9 with first strike, trample, haste, that is indestructible and can exile any creature he damages. I DARE you to tell me that this isn’t one of the sweetest things you’ve ever heard of.

Of course, it COULD be sweeter. I have yet to actually play the avatar (a result of too little games played with Jor Kadeen and not enough tutors in my current build), but when I do, I’m going to do everything I can to get him an Argentum Armor and a pair of Lightning Greaves.

I fully expect him to be exiled at some point before I have a chance to do anything with him, but I can dream, right? Kaldra’s equipment is just as effective on Jor Kadeen, and serves the double purpose of reminding mirrodians everywhere about their world’s legacy before the phyrexians took over.

Okay, so we’ve covered all of the fun accessories. But wasn’t I talking about having additional cards that can serve as ‘back-up generals’, not just equipment that could do things on their own? Well with all of this talk about using equipment, it shouldn’t be a surprise that one of my picks to be our ‘white tiger zord’ is the leonin, Kemba, Kha Regent. By coincidence, her name happens to be similar to another well known feline.

As I noted at the top of the article, I already run a Kemba voltron deck and it’s what she’s best known for. As it were, I have a full set of her from my days of trying to run a 60/4 deck with that exact same theme, so I usually have one handy.

She loses a lot of power by virtue of not being able to inflict general damage for the win, but she still produces cat tokens which will gum up anybody who tries to swing our way, and the equipment we run still make her a force to be reckoned with.

Kemba’s also a great secondary target for equipment when you want to avoid having redundant abilities on Jor Kadeen (like from our Skinwing and Strandwalker), and the tokens she produces will get the +3/0 boost Jor’s Metalcraft gives.

I wouldn’t want to mess with a growing army of 5/2 cat people, would you? Especially if they somehow had double strike…

Occasionally, looking for secondary generals will be your chance to use cards that would make a great generals if they weren’t restricted by their color and/or mana cost. Raksha Golden Cub is one such card. His tribal support is strong enough that you could build a deck around him if you wanted, and since he gives himself the bonus as well, you could easily go voltron. But costing seven mana in a mono-white deck is just too costly to be practical.


By playing him in a different deck, he gains the ability to use other colors and becomes much more playable. If necessary, playing red allows us to cheat him into play with Wheel of Fortune and Resurrection effects.

Of course, part of the charm of Power Rangers was that all of their megazords ended up combining together to form a 3-4 megazord combo to unleash its ultimate form. Short of using a convulated combo involving Soul Sculptor, Mycosynth Lattice, and Bludgeon Brawl, there aren’t a lot of ways we can get that “combined” feeling from our generals (although the idea of Jor Kadeen wearing Kemba armor sounds pretty awesome, if not just as disturbing).

 

*No talking cat people were harmed in the making of this article.

The closest thing we have are creatures like Gisela, Blade of the Goldnight who provide a blanket/anthem effect on our cards. Her ability to double our damage while halving everyone elses means that Jor Kadeen’s going to hit for at least 10 whenever he attacks, 16 if he has Metalcraft active.

The last ‘general’ I run in my deck is probably my least thematic. Brion Stoutarm is almost always a solid card to have, and his lifelink ability means that our aggressive game state will be supported for the marathon that is EDH. He’s still a win condition with Grafted Exoskeleton but his role is diminished by not being the primary focus of the deck.

Of course, no one says you have to restrict yourself to legendary cards when choosing alternative generals. Loxodon Punisher isn’t legendary, but he still loves swinging around that Loxodon Warhammer, and if Markov Blademaster hits fast enough, she’ll be the bane of some unlucky player’s existence.

I love playing with legendary creatures, and doing something like the megazord build is one of the most satisfying experiences I have with them.

But I don’t do it just with the megazord build. I make sure I have other legends that do cool things in other decks too. I use Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter and Ghost Council of Orzhova in my Teysa token control deck. The Sen Triplets, Memnarch, and Thada Adel, Acquisitor show up in in my Sharuum artifact deck; and my Olivia Voldaren deck is joined by the likes of Lyzolda, the Blood Witch, and Kaervek the Merciless.

All of these legends make sense thematically, and it really has the feeling that everything comes together to become something greater when they combine their might. I guess when it comes things that remind me of fond childhood memories, I can’t help but want to do it.

Do you have stories about builds like this, or names for variations you’ve thought of? Thoughts, general comments, or ideas for future articles? Feel free to leave a comment below the article, email me at Wiehernandez(at)gmail(dot)com, or follow me on twitter @BlueRam1409. I look forward to hearing from you!

Join me next week, as we go through the joys and sorrows of pre-releases and how I met someone I wasn’t expecting to.

Until then, I’ll still be dreaming of an army of 5/3, double striking, double damage cat tokens.

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