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A Different Kind of Voltron

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People sure do love to build Voltron decks. And why not? Voltron decks take advantage of the unique rules of Commander after all. You have access to one creature in every game in which you get the mana to summon that creature from your command zone, and building a deck around that creature with support spells and Equipment and mana to power that creature just makes sense. It makes your gameplay a bit linear, especially if you’re milling yourself to make sure your Bruna, Light of Alabaster looks the exact same every time you serve with her, but sometimes, people like linear. Linear is predictable and comfortable and familiar.

Bruna, Light of Alabaster
If you’re not sure what Voltron means in a Commander context, it refers to running a Commander that is designed to have a ton of Auras and Equipment played on it, taking smaller pieces (like the giant Voltron robot made of the smaller lion bots in the eponymous television show) and building them into one gigantic world-ender. The commander is the focal point of the deck, and protecting and arming your commander is the deck’s job.

Here at the 75% project (you like how I called it a project and said we, implying this is a huge endeavor being labored upon by a whole creative team? Well it is as far as you know), we don’t like linear. We like things to play out differently so you don’t become bored. We like you to be subjected to variance. We like the game to be interesting. If variance can keep down your win rate, you can play as strong a deck as you want and fly under the radar, hitting that 1 ÷ X games win rate we love to see. I also have noticed that, in past articles, whenever I have made a Voltron deck, it was because the commander was one that people only like to play one certain way (Nekusar, the Mindrazer for example) and building that deck as a Voltron build was a fun way to avoid falling into the trap of building the deck the way everyone expects. That quickly started to feel like a gimmick. I want to keep my deck-building guidelines loose, and having one that says, “If a commander is good when built a certain way, make a tribal or Voltron deck with that Commander,” because it doesn’t help with the Rafiq Problem, and it doesn’t let you build your own way. I don’t want to always tell you to build an obvious Commander like Prossh, Skyraider of Kher or Maelstrom Wanderer Voltron or tribal, and my reluctance to appear I was heading that way made me stop looking at Voltron builds altogether.

Still, I like the idea of Voltron, and sometimes, a commander can be built Voltron in an interesting way. One of my favorite ways to build a deck 75% is to scale to the power level of opponents’ decks by swiping their goodies. A fun way to do that is to control them with blue cards, borrow them with red cards, or steal them out of the graveyard with black cards. However, what if we found a commander that, when built Voltron, didn’t get efficient at beating face but rather got efficient at swiping opponents’ guys? Well, I think I have found that commander: Olivia Voldaren.

Olivia Voldaren
 . . . It’s occurring to me this wasn’t the big reveal I was hoping for. You read a few paragraphs, and I didn’t hint at all who the commander was, and then BAM. I hit you with it. Except you clicked the link for this article, and it probably had a huge picture of Olivia Voldaren. Also, you read a blurb about the article that probably said something like, “Do you like Vampires? How about stealing your opponents’ creatures? Well Jason Alt has a deck for you,” or something equally catchy (this is where you agree that what I wrote there is catchy), and you knew it was Olivia the whole time. That’s a little deflating for me, I have to say. I was hoping to get you all worked up and then smack you with a big reveal, and now it’s like, why even write the rest of the article?

Nope, nope, that’s nonsense. You deserve the list. You clicked the link after all. You’re loyal readers—a lot of you, and the rest of you clicked the link because you were excited about the grabby graphics, slick ad copy, and overall aesthetic we’re going for. You weren’t reading this hoping for some silly reveal buried in a paragraph, you were onboard about Olivia from jump street. So since you’re on board with Olivia, let’s talk about why she is a 75% commander to me.

She can steal their creatures.

There is more to it than that, but in a way, there also isn’t. She steals creatures big and small, and if you can take away their hexproof, you can even take creatures they thought were safe. She steals indestructible creatures. She steals creatures that are summoning sick. Sure, we could put a ton of counters on her and hit them in the face (I mean, of course we’re doing that), but depriving them of a blocker or counterattacker and adding it to our army is a net two creature swing in our favor in the great zero-sum game known as “combat,” and that’s a big swing. She can also turn into a murder machine with her ping ability and deathtouch, and we’ll be exploring that avenue as well, loading our deck with a few nasty creatures that are no slouches when you draw that Basilisk Collar or Quietus Spike late in the game. Does it get better in life than slapping a Gorgon Flail on a Deathbringer Thoctar and pretending your Thoctar is Neo in The Matrix and opponents’ creatures are all of those guards in the lobby of that building they broke into to save Morpheus?

Deathbringer Thoctar
All of those innocent guards. Just regular guys going about their day, not knowing their entire existence was predicated on a lie. And then, BAM, two ravers in leather outfits show up and start blasting them in their delicate organs. $23 an hour plus benefits isn’t worth getting blown away just because you’re a pawn in some game between the robot overlords who are holding you captive and a team of radical terrorists living beneath the surface of the earth. And you might have even wanted to help them if you knew the truth about the Matrix, but you got capped before you ever found out. And when you die in the Matrix, you die for real. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Man, that movie is secretly really dark.

You know what else is really dark? Using black mana to swipe creatures is, and that’s exactly what the other half of Olivia is all about. She’s mana-hungry, but maybe we can make her more efficient with Equipment like Illusionist's Bracers so you get more bang for your buck. We’re going to be jamming Equipment and Auras on Olivia, but they aren’t all designed to make her better in combat—a lot of them are designed to make sure you have an efficient killing/swiping machine that will only attack once she is leading an army of your foes’ creatures against them. Plus, Blade of the Bloodchief makes her so big she is going to K.O. people in one hit. Are you ready to gaze upon the ultimate Voltron list? Look upon it and despair!

Olivia Voltrondaren ? Commander | Jason Alt

  • Commander (0)

This is a great start to the deck that you can take in any direction you want. I would take out a few Vampires and jam a few more cards like Enslave that are on flavor, but that is purely up to you. I added a lot of Vampire creatures and would probably run a lot fewer if I built this deck to play for myself, but that is not to say this isn’t a perfect 75% deck. We have a lot of flexibility as long as we stay true to the theme of suiting up our commander with Equipment and stealing opponents’ creatures. A lot of our Vampires help us do that, buffing Vampires and black creatures like Ashenmoor Liege and Ascendant Evincar, giving us mana like Nirkana Revenant and Crypt Ghast, and helping us steal opponents’ creatures like Captivating Vampire. Making opponents’ creatures into Vampires so we can steal them just happens to make Coat of Arms worth it.

Spectral Searchlight
Since we are all-in on this strategy and Voltron decks tend to run a lot of ways to protect your commander, I ran a lot of ways to protect our strategy. There are a few common cards that hose us, and I included a few ways to deal with them all. I included artifact removal for Pithing Needle, Strip Mine and Ghost Quarter for Homeward Path, and Spectral Searchlight and Arcane Lighthouse for cards like Asceticism. This is more than I normally worry about how opponents will thwart us, but with the strategy seeming more like a lot of eggs in one basket than normal, I would rather be flexible with my removal if I have to be rigid in my strategy. Voltron means less room to improvise, so I packed accordingly.

What do we think? Too many Vampires? Which ones would you cut? Is running any non-Vampires off flavor for you and jarring? Would you run more Threaten effects than I did? Do I need more ways to generate a ton of mana or is trying to do double-duty with Bracers and Rings of Brighthearth the way to be efficient with our mana? Is Braid of Fire a ton of fun or what? Is Quietus Spike a bit of a nonbo since we’re not trying to kill opponents’ dudes, we’re trying to convert them to the first church of the Lost Boys and get them to turn on their erstwhile masters? Let me know what you think in the comments section. As always, this article series is a blast to write. Thanks for sticking with me!


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