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Four Levels of Voltron: Budget

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Happy new year, everyone! After a break, I feel refreshed and excited to get back into a routine and jump back into some Commander. The world is changing fast right now, and since we finished going around the wheel, it was time to look for something new. Here's the plan (and let me know what you think in the comments!).

We're going to do mini-series. We will pick some sort of thread (a color combination, an archetype, a win condition, or whatever else we want) and do four articles on that thread. We're going to go for variance within the thread, looking at multiple angles and discovering different choices.

Additionally, we're going to use budget as a way to divide our weeks. Every mini-series, the first article will always be some version of a "budget" brew, and the decks will increase in budget as we go along, ending with the last one, which will always be the most expensive deck. However, rather than lock us into a specific amount, it will change based on the theme. So, if we're doing Aggro decks, for example, it might make sense to have a $50 budget deck; we can do Mono-Green or Mono-Red Aggro pretty easily for that price point. However, if we're looking at Control, it might be more reasonable to start with a $125 budget (still a pretty small amount for a fully-built Commander deck), because the pieces are simply more expensive. Additionally, the most expensive limit will change. It might be $500, it might be $1000, it might have no budget! I'll do my best to lay out what the budget for the series of four will look like in the first one.

(Keep in mind I do my best to get budgets correct. I will use CSI's website whenever I can, and will always use the cheapest price for a mint card. However, some variation between building and print should be expected, and I'd rather not have to say it every article!)

With that out of the way, let's jump in. I read an article last week on why Voltron isn't a viable strategy at casual tables. Kristin Gregory is a great writer and lays out some really good points. The gist of it is this: casual tables are focused on fun, and Voltron decks are inherently not-fun. Piloting a Voltron deck is an exercise in threat-assessment, because you can't kill the table all at once, and you can't prevent anyone from doing what they're doing. Your job is to pick an opponent and kill them, then do it again and again. With leisure time at a premium all the time, and with specific limitations like Zoom and Discord currently, getting knocked out early just because you happened to have an early Sol Ring is a real bummer, because now you're just hanging out in your room waiting for your buddies to lose so you can actually play again.

This is all true. Know what? I still love a good Voltron deck. I know they are weak to spot removal. I know they're going to make it so someone doesn't get to play for a while. I've been on the receiving end of that, and it can be pretty terrible. But reading that made me want to do our first series on Voltron decks. Let's start with a bang and make a $50 deck to start. (We'll keep two under $125, three under $250, and four under $500.) And who better to lead a budget Voltron brew than this guy?

Godo, Bandit Warlord

I've actually written about this guy before, though a long time ago! But when we think about the nature of Voltron, which is a deck that looks to power up a commander and win with commander damage, Godo is a great choice. He's not super powerful alone, but getting a single piece of equipment out of our deck and avoiding the casting cost allows us to avoid a number of problems. We can use really expensive equipment, for one, without worrying about the cost, and we don't have to worry about digging for it.

We do, however, need a fair amount of mana. Godo himself is six mana, which isn't nothing, and equip costs are still an issue we need to deal with. I've spoken in my columns at length about why we run 40 lands, and this is no exception. Additionally, we're running 15 mana rocks, which is a lot, but we'd much rather draw those than our Voltron pieces, and we will have plenty of use for all that mana.

We're also going to run as many of the "discard then draw" cards as we can fit, at least below a certain CMC. We can safely throw away lands and rocks to do that, which dig us to more action or answers nicely. We're going to rely on Godo to be our primary source of card advantage; what he gets when he enters should be worth a fair amount in terms of board presence!

The goal is going to be to suit up Godo and smash some face. We have a few pieces to do this, and I encourage choosing differently based on the game you're playing and what you've gotten before. It'd be easy to just always get Argentum Armor, but have some fun with it! Try some other options. Here's the list of Godo targets:

A couple of notes. In terms of raw power, the Armor is the clear winner. It's a massive power/toughness boost, and the opportunity to blow up someone's permanent is very strong. However, Blackblade Reforged will often be a bigger boost, so if Godo already has evasion of some kind (more on that in a bit), it might be worth going for that (or Strata Scythe). Fireshrieker and Grappling Hook both give Double Strike, which is great if he's already boosted with something else. It can also be fun to get one of those early if you know Godo is likely to die soon. Get the Double Strike-enabler, then when you recast go get Grafted Exoskeleton. Suddenly your friends are dying to Poison counters! Tatsumasa is a great way to use excess mana if an evasive flyer is needed. That Dragon token can carry Equipment, too.

You'll notice we've got some other Equipment, like Tenza, Godo's Maul and Loxodon Warhammer. Feel free to grab those (frankly, grabbing Colossus Hammer off a Godo trigger is a cool move), but mostly those are there because they're cheaper and will be useful if they're drawn. We can search for our game-winner, but there's no harm in getting some help along the way! Similarly, we have some Auras which will help. A few ways to give Menace and Haste make Godo a more serious threat. Note we have Rogue's Passage in our mana base; this is an excellent way to use some of that mana.

Most of our answers come in the form of Pyroclasm-style effects. Blasphemous Act is a great board wipe. And the old school Fissure is too useful (and color-pie breaking) to not include.

Wild Ricochet is a fun effect which will surprise the heck out of an opponent. I highly recommend it against someone who likes to do things like take extra turns. Kazuul's Toll Collector is a cheap dude who can gather up all the Equipment laying around the battlefield after a wipe and be pretty formidable. Brass Squire is a good target for Haste, if we can; equipping that Colossus Hammer for free is worth its weight in gold. And Trash for Treasure and Buried Ruin give us a chance to buy back an important piece of Equipment which may have been rudely destroyed by an opponent. Jerks.


It'd be really easy to say "this deck wants Sword of X and Y", and it's true. If you have any of the Swords of X and Y just kicking around without homes, by all means, put them in a deck. But this deck will play without it, and will play pretty well. You'll kill some opponents for sure, and will definitely win some games. It's not cEDH, but most of my decks aren't. As a casual deck, it'll do its fair share of winning. And it'll do it for less than $50, which is pretty great.

That said, Kristin's warning is valid: if you play this deck to win, you will knock some people out of the game much earlier than others. They will have to do some waiting. Keep that in mind, and don't be a jerk to your friends.

Also, if you're going to insist on blowing the budget, this deck desperately wants Helm of the Host. That'd be the first thing I'd add. Getting to get Equipment after Equipment, turn after turn, would be very, very strong, and would make killing the whole table much faster. Combine it with Brass Squire for absolute absurdity, because then you can Equip at instant speed.

Now's your chance to respond. What would you do differently? Any great budget items that got missed? And let me know what you think of the series - I'd love to hear suggestions on how to work with it.

All told, the deck came in at $49.05. I'll see you all in a couple of weeks for another look at Voltron!

Thanks for reading, and stay safe.

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