Voltron

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Voltron is a deck archetype dedicated to gathering a large number of power-enhancing cards (usually Auras and Equipment) onto a single creature, usually a player's commander. If enhanced enough, the creature becomes impossible for opponents to stop, and quickly deals lethal damage in a small number of attack steps, often winning the game by dealing 21 commander damage to each opponent. Since this archetype focuses entirely upon a single creature, effects that provide protection (such as hexproof and indestructible) and evasion (such as unblockability) are extremely common.

The term 'Voltron' itself originates from the animated TV series in which many individual robots merge into a single unit to increase their power.

Voltron commanders can exist in any color combination, though many usually include the color white.

Popular Voltron Cards

Popular Voltron Commanders

Key Components

There are three main components to a Voltron deck: Power, Evasion, and Protection.

Voltron decks often acquire these components by using either Auras or Equipment. It is uncommon for a Voltron commander to utilize both Auras and Equipment at once, as these strategies tend to offer additional benefits to players who dedicate to just one of these types.

Power

To become a proper threat to enemy players, Voltrons require enough power to deal lethal damage to those players. This can be achieved by attaching a high density of Auras or Equipment to the Voltron, especially those that provide a large boost for a low mana investment. Aura-based Voltrons may use cards like Ethereal Armor or Ancestral Mask to acquire this power. Equipment-based Voltrons may use cards like Loxodon Warhammer or Blackblade Reforged.
Power is also gained by granting Voltron creatures additional combat keywords, such as trample. The most sought-after combat keyword for a Voltron is double strike, as it scales with other power-boosting effects. This is often found on cards like Battle Mastery and Fireshrieker.
Cards that boost power are very numerous, and are often the most flexible category for Voltron decks. Notably, some Voltron commanders, such as Tuvasa the Sunlit, Uril the Miststalker, and Balan, Wandering Knight provide their own power boosts, which may allow the Voltron deck to devote fewer cards in their deck to explicit power-boosting cards, and replace them with other effects they may require.

Evasion

Voltrons rely upon the ability to reliably deal damage to their opponents. As a result, they must find ways to avoid being 'chump blocked' by any creatures that may get in the way and prevent them from damaging other players. Classic examples of evasion include the keywords flying, menace, and trample. Though trample does not prevent creatures from blocking the Voltron, it does make those blockers less meaningful, as the Voltron is still able to push damage through to their enemy.
Some Voltron decks will also use simple unblockability to successfully attack their opponents. Cards like Aqueous Form or Trailblazer's Boots can make it difficult for opponents to block.
Protection, as found on cards like Unquestioned Authority or Sword of Feast and Famine can also help a Voltron avoid other creatures, since creatures with protection from a specific quality cannot be blocked by creatures of that quality.

Protection

Voltron decks are very reliant upon a single creature, so Voltron players take extra precautions to make their creature resistant to removal. Voltrons tend to become the most powerful creatures on the battlefield, so they are at minimal risk of losing to enemy creatures in combat. This places extra importance on abilities such as hexproof or indestructible. Hexproof is useful to avoid pinpoint removal spells such as Path to Exile, and can be found on cards such as Lightning Greaves and Alpha Authority. Indestructible helps a Voltron avoid being destroyed by mass removal spells such as Wrath of God, and is found on cards like Hammer of Nazahn and Indestructibility
There are also variations of these effects that provide similar degrees of protection. Auras that provide Totem Armor (as seen on cards like Bear Umbra) offer a one-time shield to a Voltron, which can make it less vulnerable even without classic indestructibility.
Shroud offers many of the same benefits as hexproof by rendering the creature untargetable by opponents. However, some Voltron decks will elect to avoid shroud, as it also prevents the Voltron player themself from being able to target their creature, which would restrict them from providing that creature with more enhancements.
Auras and Equipment cannot stop all forms of removal on their own, so Voltron players may also arm themselves with instant-speed effects to deflect unfriendly spells, including counterspells.

Strategy

Voltron decks will accumulate their key components in a variety of different ways, but each involve the same core strategy of dealing lethal damage to opponents with one enormous, unstoppable creature. Whether using Auras, Equipment, or neither, Voltrons share many of the same decision trees and play patterns.

Power Thresholds

Voltron commanders that defeat opponents using commander damage have three favorite numbers: 7, 11, and 21. Since their strategy relies upon the combat step, they have to make every attack step count. This makes certain power thresholds very desirable to a Voltron deck, as they signify the number of attacks it will take to defeat an opponent.
For instance, a commander with 7 power will be able to eliminate an opponent in three attack steps. A commander with 11 power can defeat an opponent in two attack steps. A commander with 21 power can defeat an opponent in just one attack step. Any numbers between these thresholds are not always desirable to the Voltron commander; a commander with 10 power will also require three attack steps to deal at least 21 damage to an opponent, so there is not as much difference between a Voltron with 7 power and a Voltron with 10 power.
By contrast, the difference between 10 power and 11 power is much more meaningful to a Voltron, as it represents a significant change in their 'clock', or how quickly they can defeat other players. Voltron players should examine ways their decks can reach these thresholds, and adjust the expectations of their damage output by using these thresholds to determine how quickly they can eliminate their opponents.

Choosing a Target

Because Voltron decks usually involve commander damage, which can sometimes take a few turns to accumulate, Voltron players are usually advised to select one specific opponent at a time, and dedicating themselves to attacking that player until they are eliminated, rather than attacking different opponents and spreading damage around more equitably. Voltron decks are particularly susceptible to removal spells, so fewer opponents represents a smaller window of opportunity for an opponent to find a spell that can remove the enhanced creature.
This makes the act of choosing the first opponent to attack one of the most important game decisions for the Voltron player. Devoting resources to quickly pick off an opponent that would not be able to stop the Voltron creature could give other players time to find and prepare answers for when the Voltron eventually begins to target them. Voltron players should evaluate which of their opponents may be best able to disrupt their strategy and/or determine how quickly they are able to defeat each opponent when deciding how they will attack.

Offense as Defense

Because Voltrons attack frequently, and their strategy often involves having just one important creature on the battlefield, Voltron players may leave themselves vulnerable to retaliation from enemy opponents when they tap their creature in combat.
This does not necessarily have to take the form of traditional defensive measures, such as Fog or Sphere of Safety effects. Effective Voltron players can turn their offensive strategy into their own best defense. For example, creating a very dangerous creature that ends the game quickly is a method of protecting that creature, because it minimizes the amount of time opponents are able to remove it. Voltrons also have access to important combat keywords, namely lifelink and vigilance, which can help them keep their defenses up with an insurmountable attacker and blocker, as well as bolstering their own life total whenever they attack, reducing the risk of dying during enemy attack steps.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths

  • Voltron decks can be very speedy. Because commander damage allows a Voltron to deal only 21 damage instead of a full 40, they can reduce the amount to time that is traditionally required to defeat an opponent. Separate from just life totals, Voltrons themselves can also be quite quick to gather power-ups, and an aggressive start can eliminate opponents before they have had the chance to properly react.
  • Voltron decks rarely care how much life their opponents have. 21 commander damage will eliminate a player whether they have 40 life or 400. Some aggressive strategies are outpaced by heavy lifegain decks, unable to deal more damage than the opponent is gaining, but a Voltron deck will always be able to ignore lifegain and focus simply on dealing 21 points of commander damage.
  • When played optimally, the Voltron strategy 'snowballs' out of control. Though it starts small, if left to its own devices, it picks up speed and becomes nearly impossible to disrupt. Once a commander has its key components, such as protection and evasion, it is incredibly difficult for enemies to deal with. This invulnerability is one of the aspects to Voltron decks that make it most appealing.

Weaknesses

  • More than many other strategies, Voltrons are particularly vulnerable to removal spells. Since they tend to put all of their eggs into one basket, such as putting four or five enchantments onto a single creature, a single pinpoint removal spell doesn't just remove the creature, but also removes the attached enchantments, resulting in a net loss of card advantage. Rebuilding from that point is far more difficult for a Voltron than for other deck archetypes. Voltrons get stronger over time, which means they are vulnerable and even a minor speed bump can result in an enormous setback.
  • Like most aggressive strategies, Voltron decks rely almost entirely upon the combat step. This means their play patterns tend to be predictable, which allows other players to predict their actions more easily and take steps to prepare for them ahead of time. Voltron decks are also almost always restricted to focusing on one player at a time, and are not able to eliminate multiple enemies at once. Reliance upon combat can also make it difficult to circumvent hyper-defensive decks such as Pillowfort strategies, especially those that use Fog effects.
  • Voltron decks create an intentionally large threat on the battlefield, which can have the unintended consequence of turning that creature's controller into the 'archenemy', or Public Enemy Number 1. Other players, even those that the Voltron does not intend to attack, may strongly fear the Voltron player and decide to eliminate the threat before it becomes impossible to deal with. The general lack of hidden information, combined with the large threat they put onto the battlefield, can invite removal from all other players at the table, and removal from multiple players is particularly tough for a Voltron to overcome.


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