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Four Levels of Voltron: Third Tier Kemba


When we think about Voltron decks, the generally accepted thought is to suit up the commander with a bunch of power-and-ability boosting things (generally Equipment and Auras, though I suppose there are other options like Soulbond and the like) and swing in, winning with Commander damage. This is a fine idea. But I'd like to argue there are other ways to do this. We can build a Voltron deck and plan on winning another way. Take a look at this champion from back when Mirrodin fell to the Phyrexians.

Kemba, Kha Regent

A quick bit of lore before we get going. Kemba was a relative of Raksha Golden Cub, who was the "Kha" (leader) of the Leonin on Mirrodin, despite having come from a different plane (it's never made clear how he got to Mirrodin). He was attacked by Memnarch, who was seeking planeswalker sparks, and during the battle he lost his partner. He was then returned to his home plane, which left the Leonin leaderless. Kemba stepped in but refused to take the title "Kha," preferring the term "Kha Regent." When the Phyrexians invaded, she attempted to unite all the non-human clans against them.

For our purposes, she's a three-mana 2/4 that likes to spit out Cat tokens. So, here's what we're going to do. We're going to use a traditional Voltron method of Equipping our Commander, but instead of attacking with her, we're going to go wide with the tokens she creates. This means we need to balance our deck a little differently, so we're going to go through building it a bit differently. We will start, though, with the mana.

We have 40 lands. That's it. We don't have any real need to jump ahead, we just need to hit our drops fairly consistently. Eventually we probably want six mana or so, just so we can play an Equipment and Equip one on the same turn, but Kemba does her thing without our doing anything other than Equipping, so we don't have to waste a ton of space on, or worry about, ramping.

We've also got some Wrath effects. We're going for ones that leave us with something, whether it's Kemba still on the battlefield (Single Combat) or keeping our army of Cats around (Hour of Reckoning): any of them should leave us in an advantageous position. We're also running Dispatch since it's almost always going to be a downside-less Path to Exile in our deck, but mostly we're going to attempt to go wider than the rest of the field and Wrath away any problems.

Here's where it gets tricky. Normally in a Voltron deck, we can load up our deck with pieces to support the Voltron plan. However, our 2/2 Cats aren't going to go infinite or anything, so we can't count on them being enough on their own, which means we're going to need to beef them up a bit. This means we're going to run two sets of cards: Voltron pieces and anthems/Overruns.

Kemba wants Equipment, of course, and we may as well use this opportunity to protect her. While we don't mind if she winds up being able to kill an opponent all by herself, it's not the goal, so we can eschew the traditional power-boosting options for more protective ones. Commander's Plate and Darksteel Plate, for example, do great jobs of protecting Kemba from lots of different threats. Mask of Avacyn on top of those two makes Kemba virtually unkillable. We can't be all protecting, though, so we're also running Mace of the Valiant and Strata Scythe, both of which make Kemba rather large, and Maul of the Skyclaves, which makes her difficult to defeat in combat. All in all, we have 26 Equipment, which means roughly one in every four cards we see, or two cards in our opening hand, should be things that, when attached to Kemba, start spitting out Kitties.

The other cards help make those Kitties more viable as game winners. A couple of the best are the ones which pull double-duty: Konda's Banner and Dragon Throne of Tarkir. Both of these give impressive power boosts to our pride. The Dragon Throne, in particular, can be quite game-breaking. It's not unusual for Kemba to have 12 or 15 power with this deck. +15/+15 and Trample going to 10 2/2 Cats means 170 damage that needs to be blocked. That's a lot. Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite is a mean card to play, but a good way for us to balance the scales of power. Heavenly Blademaster is kind of a funny combat trick; we can play her down and auto-Equip everything on the 'field, so suddenly our Cats are much larger. Cathars' Crusade can get out of hand really quickly, so make sure you watch your triggers, and Raksha Golden Cub quadruples the power of every Cat on the 'field just by existing. Meanwhile, Jazal Goldmane (the brother of Ajani!) boosts based on how many creatures are attacking, and doesn't tap to do it, so if we have 10 mana we can do the boost twice. True Conviction may not give a power boost, but Double Strike and Lifelink are nothing to sneeze at. Odric, Master Tactician may not boost our Cats at all, but allowing us to choose for our opponents to have no blockers should make it pretty easy to get our Cats through.

The goal will be simple. Play Equipment. Play Kemba. Equip Kemba. Make Cats. Play an anthem or two, attack like crazy.

The rest of the cards in the deck all help us achieve that goal in various ways. We have ways to Equip for a reduced cost or free. We have ways to draw cards. We have ways to return Equipment from the Graveyard. And we have a couple of ways to search out specific pieces of Equipment, in the event we need to find a way to protect Kemba or really need Argentum Armor. All of these things allow us to achieve our goal of making a bunch of Cats and attacking like crazy.

Kemba Voltron | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

At the time of this writing, this deck squeaks just under our budget of $250 at $248.17. That's a pretty reasonable price, and many of the pieces are useable in multiple decks. Most of the Equipment is good quality and doesn't have White abnywhere, so those can go anywhere. The Cat-specific anthems are less broadly applicable, but Cathars' Crusade has a home in every creature deck with White in the color identity. So, it will be a good investment, and still is cheaper than many decks' mana bases.

However, there are a few cards we're missing the deck really wants. The first is Stoneforge Mystic. In terms of searching for Equipment and cheating it out, nothing is better. If you have one, or want to spend the money, it's an excellent card to have in a collection, since it will always have value in Commander.

The second is all the Swords of X and Y. Every one of them would be great in this deck, and would happily replace seven of the other pieces of Equipment. The abilities on them are so strong, and the chance to protect Kemba from any combination of colors, makes them very powerful. They are, however, expensive, and including them put us way above budget. (I actually considered doing Kemba for the final, $500 article, just to slide all seven in. Decided not to, but they really are that good.)

Have you ever built or played against an unusual Voltron deck? What piece of Equipment do you want in this deck that isn't there? Let us know in the comments!

I've had a version of this deck since Kemba, Kha Regent was printed, and I can tell you it's a blast to play. People don't know whether to focus on Kemba or the Cats, which is fun to watch, and it can pull of some surprisingly fast and brutal wins. You'll need a bunch of Cat tokens, that's for sure, and plenty of dice to use as counters.

Thanks for reading, and stay safe.

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