Epic Experiment – Lathril Voltron

(Lathril, Blade of the Elves | Art by Caroline Gariba)

Epic Preparation

Hello, EDHREC fans! I’m Bernardo Melibeu, and this is Epic Experiment, a series where we throw all common sense aside and experiment with some unusual strategies, changing how we normally build our deck. Is it going to work? Who knows?! We’re making science here. When you’re an Izzet mage, blowing things up is half the fun.

For this article, we’ll be taking a look at one of the two commanders from the Kaldheim Commander product: Lathril, Blade of the Elves.

Menace

Whenever Lathril, Blade of the Elves deals combat damage to a player, create that many 1/1 green Elf Warrior creature tokens.

{T}, Tap ten untapped Elves you control: Each opponent loses 10 life and you gain 10 life.

Observation 1

Lathril is a powerful Elf commander. It has a bunch of powerful synergies that get out of hand fast if left unchecked.

Observation 2

Lathril has two strong abilities. The first is a powerful token-making ability that can go completely crazy with cards like Alpha Status or Coat of Arms. The second is a big life drain effect that is a great source of reach for the archetype as a whole.

Observation 3

The first ability, while strong, offers a bit of a challenge. In order for it to be effective, we need to build around it, which makes the Elfball-style list a bit less consistent.

Observation 4

The second ability is easier to integrate into standard Elfball strategies. It’s very easy to turn Lathril’s activated ability into a combo finisher; cards like Seedborn Muse and Quest for Renewal can single-handedly finish a table.


The Old Formula

It’s no surprise that most lists out there are tribal-focused. Lathril is an exciting commander with plenty of room to work with.


The Epic Ingredients

Both Lathril’s kit and the Elf archetype want the same thing: to swarm our board with cheap creatures and to eventually use them to leverage a win, either by play big haymakers like Craterhoof Behemoth or by using effects like Shaman of The Pack. While this gameplan usually involves playing creatures cards, Lathril provides an alternative: beating our opponents to make our army. By investing in this beatdown path, not only do we get the obvious Voltron win condition, we also get two secondary win conditions: token beatdown and life drain. Usually in Voltron, there are three key elements that we need to balance: Power, Evasion, and Protection. We lack all those elements, which means that our Voltron suite needs to be as versatile as possible in order to cover more ground as quick as possible.

Most of our cards grant power since it’s the stat that our commander most cares about, but there are a few that are specifically here for it. Grafted Wargear and Rosethorn Halberd work pretty similarly, they’re both cheap spikes in power that can be Equipped for free. Fireshrieker and Inquisitor’s Flail are some of the most effective ways to pump our commander, while in most cases they work the same way, there are a few instances where having first strike damage makes all the difference, such as with cards like Alpha Status and Coat of Arms. Fallen Ideal is a great top deck later on when it can act as a combo finisher or even as a source of grind.

Evasion is also crucial for our commander; after all we need to connect to get our Elves. Haunted Cloak and Sword of Vengeance give us a bunch of keywords, but most importantly they give Lathril trample. Demonic Embrace is a powerful Aura that not only is very cost-effective, granting three power and flying for three mana, but it can be played from the graveyard. Rune of Might is a cool new addition: two mana for one extra power and trample that even cantrips; it’s also a bit safer than the average Aura because it can target a Equipment piece instead of Lathril

Since we plan on having our commander stick around, protection is a must-have. One thing to note is that, out of those three elements, this one scales the best in multiples. Sure, we need a lot of Power to knock people out and make our tokens, but there are a few damage threshold (like 7/11/21 power) that limit our clock. But when we get to mix indestructible, hexproof, Totem Armor, and Regenerate, it gets exponentially harder to remove our commander. Champion’s Helm, Swiftfoot Boots, Alpha Authority, and Canopy Cover all give hexproof, which is usually step one into getting our commander to stick around. Commander’s Plate, Sword of Fire and Ice, and Sword of Truth and Justice give us protection against white, blue, and red (having protection from either of our colors is a bit dangerous because we risk losing our Auras).


The Mixture

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We have an array of silver bullets (and a tutor suite to fetch them) that can support us in all sorts of board states. Craterhoof Behemoth is great at finishing off one or two players in a single attack, and the extra tokens that we get are also pretty nice if the game goes on longer. Ezuri, Renegade Leader is a great grinding finisher, providing a solid source of protection and a constant anthem effect that, if left unchecked, can take over the game. Seedborn Muse is really powerful; in fact, once we get enough creatures to activate Lathril, it’s basically one kill per turn cycle! Finally, there’s Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon, a secondary Voltron threat that’s always nice to have, and the fact that it has built-in haste helps out a lot.

We are packing an Elfball mana package for two reasons: we need the extra mana to play our commander, which is quite expensive for a Voltron commander, and our Equipment; and the fact that our commander appreciates the extra Elves in play. Most of our one-mana dorks are the usual Llanowar Elves variant, with the exception of Birchlore Rangers and Heritage Druid, which are, quite frankly, crazy mid-game mana sources that, unlike Elvish Archdruid and Priest of Titania, don’t need to wait a full turn cycle for us to get their value’s worth.


Methodology

For opening hands, we’re mostly looking for an early mana piece and a few Voltron pieces; we should prioritize either evasion or protection.

In the early game, our priorities are to develop our mana and prepare our board for our commander. Having a four-mana commander is a bit awkward with all of our one-mana acceleration, but we can use downtime to put some Equipment into play. Once Lathril is in play, we need to look for a target to focus on. That choice might be one of convenience, like choosing the player that’s open, but we need to make sure that we find the right target.

By the mid-game, we should have our gameplan going. Our tokens can put a lot of work at this point in the game, and they help us mitigate some of that classic Voltron problem of being only able to deal with one opponent at a time. While they probably won’t eliminate someone from the game, if we lower their life low enough we might not even need to do the full 21 points of commander damage later on.

Our late game isn’t all that exciting, to be honest. However, we do have a few aces in our sleeves, like Toski, Bearer of Secrets, that can help us grind out the last part of the game. Hopefully, by this point we should have eliminated a player or two, so we only need to care about one opponent.


Epic Results

Card draw is a bit lacking so going for a more enchantress-focused build might be something worth looking into. We also get the benefit of having some dedicated pay-off cards like Ancestral Mask.

Investing a bit more on the tap ability might be a way to cover some of our deck’s weakness, but it might also make it a bit less consistent. Cards like Quest for Renewal or even common token-doublers like Parallel Lives can make our Plan B that much more efficient.

That’s it for this Epic Experiment! What do you think about this list? Do you have any questions about the deck? Which cards did you like? Which did you not? Was this Epic Experiment a success? Please let me know in the comments below!

Bernardo has been playing(on and off) since portal and somehow manage to survive mirrodin block while being a total casual(beast tribal ftw?). He loves all the shades of blue and being the one saying "nope", while holding a full grip of cards in hand.