Hello Everyone, I start today my first article for this site. As the title suggest this column main focus is to bring you, on a daily basis, the hottest deck at the moment. So what is better than start with the first deck which have won and dominated the first major tournament since kaladesh release? Let’s start!
As I said this was the first major tournament featuring brand new Kaladesh cards, and, perhaps more important, no Collected Company. Kaladesh is an artifact set, and the biggest news since the first days of spoiler were Vehicles. This brand new card type requires other creatures to operate them (crew), meaning they can’t quite go into every deck and so they look a little like equipment. But they also offer some incredible advantages over equipment. They completely change how the game of Magic is played.
The best Vehicle to come out of Kaladesh, and what many have pegged as the best card in the entire set, is Smuggler’s Copter. For just 2 mana, you’ve got a 3/3 flying creature that allows you to loot whenever it attacks or blocks. It requires you to have another creature in play, but it will accept just about any driver. Crew 1 means that any creature you resolve, or any token you produce, will be enough to fly the Copter. Once you have the Copter active, you can run away with the game. This card is really lot of things just encased into one. It reminds me of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, because being able to filter your hand is amazing, and will give you the opportunity to cast powerful spells on curve with greater consistency, and it reminds me also of Mantis Rider, because it’s extremely hard to block and deals damage in massive chunks. It’s incredible how fast 3 points of flying damage can close out a game. Also the crew mechanic is awesome, being able to turn any of your small creatures into 3/3 flying looters is completely overpowered.
So what’s the best way to utilize the Smuggler’s Copter?
Toolcraft Exemplar is basically a 3-power creature for a single mana and that’s a great start. Toolcraft Exemplar is the new Wild Nacatl, but actually much more easy to power out. You are already playing the Copter so you just need to play a just little more artifact. Now, of course, there are downsides. If you’re not aggressive, even if you have an artifact, the Exemplar isn’t going to block well. This is an attack trigger, so it will only get the bonus at the beginning of your combat. But the fact that the card has even more upside is kind of amazing, as having some additional artifacts floating around means that your Exemplar is going to be a real pain to block. A 3/2 first strike for 1 is no joke, and there really aren’t great ways to block this thing in the early stages of a game.
Finding more spells that interact favorably with your new Kaladesh tools, like Smuggler’s Copter and Toolcraft Exemplar, is the next piece of the puzzle. Is there anything that could possibly fit that bill better than Thraben Inspector? It has 1 power, so it can crew up a Copter. It only costs a single mana, so you can get in for a point while your Copter is summoning sick and then get ready to go looting to continue curving out on turn 3. And it also provides a Clue, which happens to be an artifact, which will turn on your Exemplar. The pieces to an aggressive deck are all there, so you just need to put them together.
Then we have Veteran Motorist. This cards simply fits so well in what we are doing. You like Vehicles? You like aggressive creatures? You like insane value? This is the card for you. A 3 power creature for 2 mana is quite nice to fit the curve. The fact that this pumps your Vehicles up is a pretty nice bonus. When you play a turn 2 Copter and their play is Liliana, tick it up, despite being on the draw, your Motorist can come down, crew up the Thopter, and eat the Liliana. And that’s really sick. The fact that this aggressive creature, that you would consider playing just for being a 3 power Dwarf that pumps your Vehicles, also scrys when it enters the battlefield is just silly. Not only does it scry, but it has scry 2. This is very similar to just fully drawing a card as a scry 2 has incredible benefits both early and late, in fact you can hit land drops or find spells when you need to makes this a valuable creature.
So you have a couple really aggressive Dwarves and a completely overpowered Vehicle. Sounds like a Dwarf and Vehicle lord would be incredibly useful for this deck we’re putting together. Depala, Pilot Exemplar does everything. A 3/3 for 3 is not that great, but that’s the worst aspect of this card, and it really isn’t even too far below par. All of your Dwarves get +1/+1, no questions asked. That means both your Motorists and your Toolcraft Exemplars are getting boosted up to 4 power. You also get a +1/+1 bonus for all of your Vehicles, Copters, I’m looking at you. This gives you even more ways to crew up a Copter on turn 3 and start swinging for 4, which happens to be just the right amount of damage to finish off a planeswalker like, for example, Liliana. But somehow, we haven’t gotten to the super busted part of Depala yet. This is the ideal mana sink for the deck. Whenever Depala becomes tapped, you get to pay X mana, look at the top X cards, and you get every Dwarf and Vehicle into your hand. All of them. Not just one. This would already be pretty great in a deck where you were forced to attack with your 3/3 to get the bonus, even though in many of these situations your Depala would be at risk of dying. That’s not the case in this deck with lots of Vehicles. You may never have to attack with Depala and yet you can draw card after extra card. The fact that Depala pumps your team and crews your Vehicles for extra value makes it an awesome weapon in these decks. It’s important to remember that whenever you have extra mana available, if you didn’t attack with all of your Vehicles or Depala herself, Depala can be activated on your opponent’s turn. You can crew a Vehicle during their end step and draw some extra cards.
Selfless Spirit is the other 2 drop creature in the deck. It’s a solid creature, 2-power flying creature with upside is nice, and the main function of the Spirit is to protect your team from sweepers like Kozilek’s Return.
The final creature is a bit more exciting. Pia Nalaar doesn’t add a ton of power for 3 mana, but provides 3 power spread among 2 bodies and 1 of them has evasion. That is a pretty nice bonus. The abilities for Pia are probably going to be underrated for some time. The first one can potentially deal more damage by pumping up your Thopters or Vehicles and is quite useful. Also, being able to sacrifice a Thopter or Vehicle to prevent a block can finish off a game. In the end, Pia or her Thopter can crew up a Copter, which is great. Combined, they can crew all of the playable Vehicles in Standard. That’s a pretty useful card for 3 mana.
This wouldn’t be much of a “Vehicles” deck if it only played Copters. The next Vehicle is Fleetwheel Cruiser. The Cruiser can come down and just start crunching. You probably don’t want to get flooded with too many 4 mana cards, especially those that won’t do anything after their first turn in play without help, but this thing is a race swinger. It can come down and take huge chunks out of the opponent’s life total, trample through blockers, absorb bonuses from a Motorist or Depala, and eat up just about any planeswalker in Standard. This thing does a lot of work. The last Vehicle is Skysovereign, Consul Flagship and it’s a beast. It comes down and and does some work killing a reasonably sized creature or planeswalker. From there, it can start to take over. It does require you to have a reasonable board state, but Motorist, Depala, or Pia can take care of that. Once it’s active, this thing will resemble Inferno Titan. Killing a creature to help clear the way before connecting for 6 or more damage is a massive swing.
From there, you just need to make sure you can clear the way a little bit. This isn’t an energy deck, but Harnessed Lightning is still an excellent tool. Instant speed and up to 3 damage is perfect for the format. If you want to deal with a smaller, early threat, you can stockpile energy to deal with something else later. If they play a Tireless Tracker that you kill, then you can pick off Archangel Avacyn or Verdurous Gearhulk later.
In case creatures get too big, tokens too prevalent, or you just want to live the dream and take out multiple blockers, Declaration in Stone is still one of the most efficient removal spells we’ve seen. Fleetwheel Cruisers and Smuggler’s Copters aren’t giving your opponents too much time to crack those Clues, so they’d better find some other answers.
The Mana Base is as simple as it gets, we have Inspiring Vantage which is the best choice when it comes to decks that want to remain aggressive while having your lands enter the battlefield untapped in the early turns. Needle Spires complete the deck. It is a valuable weapon that can even crew up a Copter when needed. This is a very aggressive land and another reason why opponents need to be cautious when playing against you.
Here’s the list that Chris VanMeter used to win the first Standard Open in Indianapolis:
4 Thraben Inspector
4 Toolcraft Exemplar
4 Selfless Spirit
4 Veteran Motorist
3 Depala, Pilot Exemplar
2 Pia Nalaar
4 Declaration in Stone
2 Harnessed Lightning
4 Smuggler’s Copter
3 Fleetwheel Cruiser
2 Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
4 Inspiring Vantage
4 Needle Spires
4 Galvanic Bombardment
4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
2 Skywhaler’s Shot
3 Weaver of Lightning
Looking at the sideboard, you can see that this deck is capable of completely shifting gears. This looks like a deck that can go in two directions once game 1 is complete. On the one hand, when matchups call for it, you can shave removal spells and add more threats. There will be matchups where Harnessed Lightning isn’t getting the job done. When that happens, you’re going to want a more resilient threat in Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. You also have the big-boy removal spell, Skywhaler’s Shot. Getting to scry is always nice, but this is killing so many of the format’s most important creatures. With cards like Toolcraft Exemplar in the format, it can even kill 1 mana creatures. I’d strongly consider playing more copies going forward. Fragmentize is a really important card out of the new set. There are so many Vehicles around and a lot of powerful enchantments and this card is an excellent answer to all of them. In matchups where the aforementioned Shot isn’t useful, it’s likely that Galvanic Bombardment will be excellent. This ability to transform into more of a control deck is what puts R/W Vehicles over the top. By removing cards that are extra aggressive, such as Toolcraft Exemplar and Fleetwheel Cruiser, you can reposition yourself perfectly. The next sideboard card is Weaver of Lightning which is going to be a big player in Standard going forward. It’s a 1/4 reach creature, which is already good enough to start considerating him. If you’re going to be playing a format where 3/2s for 1 and 3/3 flying looters for 2 are big, you’re going to want 1/4 reach creatures. The fact that Weaver can take over the midgame is an awesome addition. Much of your removal will only deal smaller increments of damage. A Skywhaler’s Shot can take down a medium creature, but you will need to team up Harnessed Lightning with the Weaver’s triggers to kill a lot of the Avacyns and Gearhulk sized creatures in the format.
Remember, this is the early stage of Standard, and aggression is the name of the game. Smuggler’s Copter is the card to beat, but if you’re not beating them, you can always join them. In regards of Copter mirrors, those who can crew the big ships and sideboard in 1 mana removal spells should have a pretty big edge.
Thanks Everybody for reading,