Forgotten Harvest – Mono-Red Voltron
Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick
Hey everyone! Welcome back to another edition of Forgotten Harvest, the article series that features cards used in 300 decks or less on EDHREC. This time, I'll be stepping a little out of my comfort zone to talk about a Voltron deck, and with a commander that doesn't exactly seem like Voltron to boot! I'm talking about Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient.
Now, I know what you may be thinking: "Kyle, why on Earth would you do something like this?" In fact, some in my playgroup have called this idea downright idiotic. But I'm telling you, this concept has been so very surprising! It's not the most tuned deck in the world, but it can hold its own at the table. It allows for political plays, it has alternate win conditions, and it has versatile removal to help knock down any threats. Better than any of that, it features some great red and colorless cards that aren't seeing nearly enough play. Let's get into them first.
Armaments of Old
When one thinks of mono-red Voltron, Equipment is naturally the first thing that comes to mind. Kurkesh doesn't benefit from Equipment all that much, though. "I'll pay 2 to equip this Sword of Fire and Ice, and then pay an extra red to do it again." Yeah, not so effective. However, if you delve into the annuls of artifacts before Mirrodin, you can open up all kinds of new opportunities.
The old 'equip' ability, featured on cards like Tawnos's Weaponry (2 decks on EDHREC) and Zelyon Sword (7 decks) doesn't seem all that powerful. It costs way too much for the buff your creature gets, even if the effect is "indefinite." With Kurkesh, you can make those buffs a little better. Yes, the cards are still on the weaker side, and the low deck counts for these cards are justified. But that permanent boost is a needed option in a deck like this.
Other artifacts offer a better (but less permanent) pump. An all-star artifact from Stronghold, Sword of the Chosen sees play in 257 decks, and can get our Kurkesh +4/+4 for a turn. Tooth of Chiss-Goria (210 decks) also hands us a small power bump on what's ideally a free artifact.
Additionally, from Mirrodin's Tower cycle (well, one of them waited to show up in Scars of Mirrodin, but better late than never), Tower of Champions provides a big spender a whopping +12/+12 for their Ogre spirit, and it sees play in only 34 decks on EDHREC. From that same cycle, Tower of Fortunes can offer some excellent card draw, but sadly was cut from my final list. I'd still encourage you to try it out and let me know if it works for you.
We'll also want to grant some abilities to Kurkesh to help in combat. This was somewhat tricky, as many abilities, like first strike, don't do much when they're copied. Flanking, however, does trigger separately for each instance on the creature, so Jabari's Banner feels like a good choice which sees play in only 46 decks.
Counters are also a great thing to double, as anyone playing Vorel of the Hull Clade knows. So Dragon Blood is another great addition. I'm honestly surprised this card is in only 220 decks, as +1/+1 counters seem to be more and more relevant with each passing year.
I feel like Golem Artisan fits into our 'weaponry' category as well, though it's obvious that it can't buff our commander. In only 235 decks, it's another card I'm shocked doesn't see more play. The abilities can be used on itself, or hopefully Geode Golem, offering us an alternate attacker should things start going sideways for our ogre. Or maybe we just start making things into artifacts....
I am Ironman!
It's good in a Voltron deck to have a couple of beatsticky options, in case your commander ends up listening to a Song of the Dryads. Hellkite Tyrant is an obvious pick. Another card in need of more play is Megatog. In 218 decks on EDHREC, this beasty Atog is a fantastic finisher late in the game when resources are used up, and you're flush with artifacts. He can be particularly mean when accompanied by Pia's Revolution and a free artifact like the aforementioned Tooth of Chiss-Goria. This is especially true when you and an opponent lock eyes across the table and decide it's time to take out Player #3.
Offering support instead of fangs, we have another great creature to use: Aladdin. This somehow-not-legendary creature (162 decks) can offer some great removal, but really thrives with a card like Liquimetal Coating to open up the available targets to anything your Golem's Heart desires. If only we could make Aladdin an artifact so its ability was Kurkesh-friendly.
These two beauties may be able to help with that! Ashnod's Transmogrant (136 decks) and Transmogrifying Licid (36 decks) are both fascinating cards capable of steel-plating the creature of your choice. Maybe you're making Aladdin or Viashino Heretic into androids so Kurkesh can copy their abilities. Or maybe you're just giving them more targets over in other corners of the battlefield. Either way, these cards give you extra iterations of Liquimetal Coating to help control the board.
While we're on the topic of removal, there are a few other artifacts with copy-able abilities to help with that control. Edifice of Authority (271 decks) is a great card for locking down would-be attackers and/or blockers. The second ability lasts until your next turn, and gets even better when duplicated using Kurkesh. From Nemesis, Belbe's Armor sees play in 287 decks, and can be a great way to fog an attacker or two, as well as an emergency buff for Kurkesh, should the need arise.
Based on the curve, I opted to use Ring of Gix over the wildly popular Icy Manipulator. Yes, the Echo cost may be a problem in some cases, but it's a card I've been wanting to try for a while. It only sees play in 57 decks right now, so give it a break!
Lastly, Amber Prison (67 decks) normally looks a little over-costed, but when combined with Kurkesh's ability, the artifact can pull off a lockdown 2-for-1. It can definitely help wrangle a nasty commander that just keeps coming back, tapping it down instead of allowing your opponent to simply recast it. I'm sure I could keep going, but how about I show how all these pieces come together in the deck already?
Kurkesh VoltronView on Archidekt
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With Our Powers Combined...
Well, now can all see why my playgroup was so concerned about my well-being. But I don't care! It think it's a terribly interesting concept, and makes for a far more plausible deck than first assumed. Please tell me your questions, comments, and snide remarks below. I'll be lurking there to laugh when someone finds the "hidden" wincon I snuck into the deck. Oh, and please let me know if there are any severely underplayed cards or commanders you'd like to see highlighted in this series. Until next time!