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The Voltron Archetype

by scantrell24
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Hi everyone, today I’d like to take you all on a tour of my favorite deck archetype, known colloquially as Voltron. The term originates with Magic the Gathering but translates easily to Thrones. A Voltron deck’s primary strategy is focused around winning multiple high-leverage challenges with a single character. Usually this involves beefing up a specific character with attachments and/or other abilities. To accomplish this goal, the Voltron decks needs to meet several criteria:

  1. Find the chosen character quickly. There are several neutral search effects (most notably The Prince That Was Promised, The Prince Who Came Too Late, Heir to the Iron Throne, The Hollow Hill, and Summons) as well as a few faction-specific methods (Oathkeeper, Margaery Tyrell AMAF and Fresh Recruits) that help immensely. Regular old draw is also good. 
  2. Win challenges with the character. Stealth and strength buffs are important here.
  3. Leverage those challenge wins with keywords (renown, intimidate, insight) and/or punishing abilities that trigger from winning challenges.
  4. Have a way for the character to participate in multiple challenges, whether via stand, non-kneeling, or other abilities that allow additional participation.
  5. Protect the character from negative attachments, removal, resets, and other counters. It needs to be resilient and stick to the board. Bodyguard and duplicates are the most common protection, but some characters like Victarion Greyjoy LoCR or Beric Dondarrion can save themselves. You also need enough military claim soak and cheap characters to prevent an unfortunate Marched to the Wall or Ramsay Snow
  6. Have a backup plan if things go awry: either a second potential Voltron character, or an alternate win condition. When you put all of your eggs in one basket, metaphorically, things can and will go wrong sometimes! It can be difficult to invest card slots in a deck geared towards the backup plan without detracting from or impeding the primary goal. Ideally you can pair two win conditions that synergize together. A good example is the Night’s Watch deck that can Voltron Jon Snow WoTW and also defend The Wall

Now let’s take a look, faction by faction, at both historic Voltrons and more recent developments. Hopefully this overview sparks discussion and leads a few more players to experiment with Voltron decks. There’s nothing quite like winning with 10 power and 7 attachments on your favorite character!

Neutral

Nearly any neutral character becomes a potential Voltron when paired with The Brotherhood Without Banners agenda, which adds a choice keyword for the entire challenges phase. Walder Frey has native renown and a means to participate in multiple challenges. Varamyr Sixskins can flex to meet your needs depending on the board state. Tormund Giantsbane comes with native intimidate and pseudo-renown. Rattleshirt becomes unblockable similar to Core Balon if you can clear any opposing attachments. Beric Dondarrion comes with excellent traits, renown, and protects himself from kill effects. Finally, Anguy the Archer is a cheap non-kneeler and a decent backup plan should your primary target fail. 

There are plenty of neutral stand effects to help your voltron attack multiple times, including Seal of the Hand, Statue of Baelor, and The Prince that Was Promised. For protection, The Hand’s Judgment and Begging Brother are a good idea. Close Call offers a contingency plan in case of an untimely death. Attachment control is harder to come by, but there are a few options: old school Rattleshirt’s Raiders and Confiscation, or more recently Law Waste or Nothing Burns Like the Cold. In a sideboard/Rookery world, Beyond Reproach could even be worth a look. 

It’s also worth mentioning several Voltron-friendly agendas. The Prince That Was Promised is tailor-made for building around a single character, with search to find the character, stand to re-use it in a second challenge, and even a contingency should the character die. There have been a few tier 1 or tier 1.5 Prince decks during the game’s later years, but it also allows for all kinds of wacky tier 2 builds, much like The House with the Red Door

Trading with Qohor and Valyrian Steel are also excellent choices for Voltron builds, which naturally want to run a higher than average number of attachments anyways. Trading can make sure you have the right piece at the right time, whether that’s protection such as Bodyguard, stand such as Seal of the Hand, a strength buff to win the challenge, or an ability that punishes your opponent for losing. Valyrian Steel on the other hand takes more of a quantity over quality approach. Even marginal or incremental attachments become a lot better when they replace themselves, so it’s easy to load up your Voltron character with 5+ attachments that together create something stronger than the sum of its parts. 

Baratheon

Baratheon isn’t the most prolific Voltron faction, but they have one monster of a target in good old Robert Baratheon. Intimidate, renown and a built-in strength buff make Robert a force to be reckoned with if he isn’t answered quickly. More recently, a cheaper and faster version of Robert Baratheon LMHR emerged and nearly landed on the restricted list (Selyse Baratheon took that hit instead). Both Bobs have the benefit of the King trait so they pair well with King in the North, Ser Davos Seaworth FotS, and Ser Justin Massey. Stannis Baratheon FotS, Ser Cortnay Penrose and the Bastard of Nightsong are decent backup targets should Robert be neutralized. There’s also Melisandre FotS who makes a fun Voltron when you’re trying to abuse A Pinch of Powder

For positive attachments, Baratheon has a good mix of options that together meet most of our Voltron criteria: Lightbringer (stand), Disputed Claim (strength buff and renown), Warhammer (intimidate) and Red God’s Blessing (strength buff). At the higher end of the cost curve, Azor Ahai Reborn allows your Voltron character to participate in multiple challenges without kneeling, provided you can surround him or her with enough R’hllor characters. 

Greyjoy

What first comes to mind when you think of second edition House Greyjoy themes? Is it the pillage keyword? The Drowned God trait? For me, it’s the obscene number of quality bomb characters that Greyjoy can field together. Right from the Core set, Asha Greyjoy, Balon Greyjoy and Euron Greyjoy rivaled Lannister for the best top-end lineup. Nowadays you could make an argument for almost any Greyjoy 6-drop or 7-drop as a voltron target. In some ways, the flexibility means they aren’t a true voltron faction. Even with the Prince agenda, if Greyjoy’s top option fails there’s little to no drop off in quality between the primary voltron target and the next bomb character. 

After the Greyjoy deluxe expansion, Victarion Greyjoy MoD and Euron Crow’s Eye KotI paired well together; both rely on Warships rather than attachments for support. There’s also a pillage module with Asha Greyjoy Km, Balon Greyjoy KotI, Euron Greyjoy and Gorold Goodbrother that can ride any of the bigs to victory. These decks aren’t necessarily voltron (maybe more goodstuff), but they can have elements of it, especially if you include Maiden’s Bane, Black Wind, Iron Victory, Silence, Great Kraken, Iron Fleet Scout, Support of Harlaw, Corsair’s Dirk