This entry is part 6 of 10 in the series Strategy

By Aaron D. AKA Uncle Landdrops

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Whaddup Ib/Wrexial/Shark Nation! Today I’m looking to talk shop about an off-beat, rogue Voltron variant called “Trick” Voltron, my flashy name for casting combat spells to pump your General and deliver that sweet 21 Commander damage.

I call it an idea, because this isn’t anything new to Magic players anywhere–just a strategy that’s been left generally “unfinished” in our format if you don’t count the Emperor Palpatines letting the Hatred flow through them.

Good, Good. I’ve inserted a relevant reference.

 

While it’s undeniable that traditional Voltron archetypes have always been better options because of the level of card advantage demanded by the format, I think the landscape has changed and will be changing over the next few sets. With Bloodrush, Prowess, and a handful of new, hearty, and removal-resistant legends, “Trick” Voltron could be a fast emerging archetype.

 

WHAT DOES TRICK VOLTRON LOOK LIKE?

For me, Trick Voltron is the eccentric “Johnny” in the Voltron triumvirate. We’re attacking, looking to chain together pump spells to get 21 damage with our Commander in 3 turns or less (2-3 Combat Steps).

 

We’re going to win by C-C-C-Combo Breaking! It is our a Plan A, and our only plan, which is three parts gimmick and 2 parts difficult, but that’s what makes this fun and challenging.

Truly, this is the “All-In” player’s ultimate “All-In” strategy. With very little recursion and a very small window, it’s a deck that will test your ability to play with great tempo and precision.  In terms of Voltron decks, it’s the complete economic declaration of intention and dedication to the number 21, as well as a test in your ability to read your opponents, think strategically, and do just enough to grab a victory out of nowhere.

If you’ve rocked either the Blistercoil Weird or Infect decks which have floated in and out of Modern, or piloted the Kiln Fiend deck which evolved from Zendikar Standard in the not-too-distant past, you’ll have a good understanding of how to play the deck. Ideally, “Trick” Voltron wants to be a deck that uses spells and Instant speed stuff to pump our General. This might be the point where most people have ventured, seen what this archetype needs, and headed back for safer Voltron strategies. Although it will get easier as Wizards prints more stuff, it’s still impossible to pit the perfect spell against the perfect answer every time.

However, we can still be realistic, and break our own rules without becoming another Voltron deck. To do this, we have to evaluate and examine our card ratios, fortifying weaknesses where necessary, without becoming more Auras than Instants. In order to accomplish this, we have to know what our Commander does. So let’s look at what a good “Trick” Voltron General looks like.

 

WHO’S TRICKY ENOUGH?

The best Trick Voltron candidates can be found by examining three typical areas of criteria we use when we look to evaluate Commanders: Protection, Size, and other Abilities.

These are always points of decision-making, but it’s even more relevant when our Commander is our win-condition, and we need it to stick around.

 

Protection

The question of protection has two facets- either the creature innately has Hexproof, Indestructibility, Regenerate, or it has the capacity to be protected by the deck via counterspell or some awesome combination, like Veilstone Amulet and your hand full of Instants. Looking big picture at the deck, we can more effectively plan our resources when we know just how much of our deck we have to use to protect our “Generalissimo.”

The most protectible creatures, in my mind, are Thrun, the Last Troll and Sigarda, Host of Herons, and not Kira, Great Glass-Spinner or Kodama of the North Tree. Hexproof in conjunction with other conventional play-around removal spells like sacrifice effects or regenerate ensure that your opponents can do very little to answer these cards innately, short of counterspell, leaving some extra room for other answers, backup plans, or even just more Giant Growth spells.

Green is definitely one of the better colors for this purpose, and I’d definitely recommend a creature in green over any other, but it isn’t the only way to be successful. Having the capacity of blue or white to protect a big blanker like Ruhan of the Fomori or the Dimir shroud like renowned Galaxy Pooper and representative of the Night-Clad, Vela, provide enough pumps/evasion can replicate the same effects of these other, sturdier creatures.

 

Size

As a rule, I would not recommend Trick Voltron with any creature that has power 4 or less. I’m not looking to stop anyone from continuing to play Wydwen + Hatred, New Narset, or the impending Blue Shu Yun, because I think they are all cards that are going to be successful in this strategy too. That rule is as much of a challenge as the deck itself, and creatures that can get big, like Jenara, would obviously break this rule.

I put this restriction out there to avoid early frustrations for players new to the strategy. A lot of times we forget about the growing pains that happen when we put together something new, or we try to adapt, and we immediately take it apart.

Smaller creatures in this archetype, like Isamaru or Tajic, tend to force your own hand by having to play extra tricks almost every turn. With a 4+ power creature, you can afford to turn your Commander sideways with no tricks while also getting a chunk of damage. The 4-6 power range is really ripe for Trick Voltron design because the creature’s big enough to swing, but not so big that your opponent will throw everything in its way. Everyone has intentions, and Voltron is one of the biggest offenders in design because it shortens the damage clock. Trick Voltron doesn’t remove the intentions, but it does give you a decent disguise, which is the advantage this variant has over the others. It’s a lot easier to sneak a 4 power guy by with no blocks, do it again the next turn, and empty your hand for the final 17 before damage, than it might be to attack for 11 two times in a row. Like the butler in Mr. Deeds, we’re trying to get people to underestimate our sneakiness, and overthink what we’re going to do.

You’re looking for creatures that are more Silvos, Rogue Elemental or Eron the Relentless, and less Melek, Izzet Paragon or Eight-and-a-Half-Tails.

 

Other Abilities

Converted Mana Cost is going to be a factor when you examine potential Generals for their other abilities. The larger the cost, the more you’ll want your Commander to stick, and be able to swing past the creatures that are already on the battlefield.

One of the most successful Trick decks I’ve helped design was a Lu Bu, Master-at-Arms deck for a friend of mine. He dubbed it “The Gamblin’ Man.” With low red in his CMC, Haste, Horsemanship, and a 4/3 body, we were able to design a nice 1v1 deck that accelerates out into Lu Bu and smashes for 21 very quickly, and generally unblocked because of the scarcity of Horsemanship in this hemisphere.

Trample, Flying, Horsemanship or Intimidate are obviously solid options. When examining the Commanders, those with Protection or Landwalk are going to be very metagame-dependent, but not altogether useless. That said, Lavinia and Glamerdye combo can help chunk damage nicely.

Other abilities like Vigilance, Deathtouch, etc., are going to help you play defense whilst playing offense (or with Vigilance, actually playing defense), so don’t discount them, but definitely don’t value them as much individually as you might in combination with other abilities or card support. They might be timely and relevant at some point like on Kid’s TV Rhino extraordinaire, Roon of the Hidden Realm, but the power is in combining cards. We’re trying to be more Captain Planet and less Defender of the Universe.

Just remember that your support spells are going to be just as important as your Commander. Gisela, for example, could do a good Lu Bu impression with access to Haste in color and some big damage swings. Being a tempo-based ability, Haste and other Ability-granting Instants are well worth the investment if your creature is big enough.

 

The Spell Support

Our last stop on this Trick Voltron Express is something we’ve been chipping away at throughout the article- what kinds of spells we need to play to win- but let’s talk about some of my favorites.

Obviously, our Instants want us to get big. What better, bigger card to use as an example than the card I call “Get BIG!”- Become Immense!

Might of Oaks (only with Squirrel art) is also a good example, but I wanted to be hip, not hipster, so you could get a good idea of how to pull out your pimp hand and smack like a boss. Unlike Beserk, which is crazy good too, Get BIG is a nice budget card, and not a Giant Growth, which is what we want to play in concept, but not in practice. It’s just too small for our game. Aspect of Hydra or Dragonscale Boon proved to be a lot more effective when I was trickin’ it up with Silvos.

Of course, there’s plenty of other ways to do this. Outside of Red and Green, there’s not a whole lot of pump effects, so evasion cantrips are going to be your bread and butter. Something like Shelter or Shadow Rift (which brings us to an obligatory “This is a deck that likes Isochron Scepter” announcement), have been very good too.
Breaking the Rules

While I am mostly a deckbuilder that adheres to design discipline, I’m also a guy who keeps it real by finding that line and re-modeling or re-shaping my deck to ensure it can be consistent and successful.

With Trick Voltron, it’s especially important if you want to keep your deck from falling into another category. For example, my Silvos deck was more of what I called a “By Any Means Necessary” Voltron deck, where I used a combination of Auras, Equipment, and Tricks to deal 21 damage. Knowing that I would be playing it in four player pods meant that I had to make a few compromises. While the other cards supported what I was doing, the Tricks, like Get BIG, Might of Oaks, and Aspect of Hydra, were the cards that paid the bills, not Strata Scythe, or Grafted Exoskeleton, which were both in the deck.

Well, I think that about wraps her up. If you’ve got questions, ideas, etc., hit me up here in the comments, find me on The General Zone, or email me at unclelanddrops@gmail.com.

Pass.

 

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