Or, Why Merfolk Make the Best Pilots for Kaladesh’s Vehicles

Kaladesh prerelease weekend is almost here. This is the best time of the year for casual brewers. The full spoiler is out, but we aren’t yet at the part where all anyone can talk about are the cards dominating Standard. So while we’re still staring at the wide-open road in front of us, let’s take a peek under the hood of one of Kaladesh’s most exciting mechanics – Vehicles!

Start Your Engines

Vehicles are a new type of artifact. They work sort of like equipment in that they require a creature in order to impact the game. You see, each Vehicle has a Crew cost that you have to pay to transform the vehicle from an artifact that just sits there into a creature that can attack, block, and do all those other creature-y sort of things. To pay a Crew cost, you have to tap any number of creatures you control with total power equal to or greater than the Crew cost.

Tapping a creature is a pretty steep cost to pay, but luckily most Vehicles hit pretty hard when they are being piloted. If we are going to build a vehicle deck, there are a handful of things we need to consider:

  • What vehicles make sense to play? We need to be getting more than we pay to make playing them worthwhile.
  • How to we keep the deck from durdling? If all you do on the first four turns is play vehicles, you’re going to get run over before your deck starts firing on all cylinders.
  • Can we turn the cost into a benefit? What can we do with a bunch of tapped creatures?

Fresh Off the Showroom Floor

So what vehicles do we choose to drive our deck? You could try to go large. Build up your creatures as normal, then drop one of the massive vehicles like Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. My issue with that strategy though, is it only works if you’ve managed to build up a regular board of creatures. If you’re doing that, why aren’t you just winning with them?

The other option is to go small. Play early vehicles that make a difference when they are played. Get an early advantage, then build to your late game. Luckily Kaladesh provides us with two great vehicles to anchor this strategy.

 

  
 

Smuggler’s Copter is amazing. A 3/3 flier for 2 is definitely in consideration for constructed. It flat out eats most opposing 2 and 3 drops. Those it doesn’t it flies over. We’d play this card if all it did was become a beefy flier.

It’s secondary ability is what puts it way over the top. For no mana, you get to loot whenever it attacks OR blocks. That means if you play a 1-drop into a 2-drop Smuggler’s Copter, you threaten to kill an attacker and shape your hand into a stronger one.

In comparison, Sky Skiff is nowhere near as strong. But don’t let it fool you, the Skiff is going to be an essential piston in our engine. A 2/3 flier is completely respectable. The fact that’s it’s costs line up so well with Smuggler’s Copter also means we’ll be able to leverage synergies with all of our other card.

Is it the Car or the Driver?

With our core vehicles chosen, it’s time to look for some pilots. For this deck to be successful, we need to find creatures that give us some benefit for piloting a vehicle. So what are we looking for?

  • 1 and 3 CMC creatures are ideal. We want to make sure our vehicles can be driven on turn three. If our second turn is used up playing the vehicle, then we need to play a creature on turn one, or get pseudo haste on turn three.
  • Can we get a benefit when a creature is tapped or untapped? I’m looking at you creatures with Inspired (Theros block) or with the Untap Symbol (Llorwyn Block)
  • Can we untap creatures? They can be used to pilot multiple vehicles and still attack and block.

With these conditions in mind, there are two cards that immediately come to mind: Stonybrook Schoolmaster and Order of Whiteclay.

 

  
 

So let’s see how these guys stack up. Do they cost 1 or 3? Yep. Do they give us additional benefit for being tapped? You better believe it. Play a Stonybrook Schoolmaster with one of your vehicles in play, tap it and get a free 1/1 (which can pilot it’s own vehicle). It doesn’t take too long to create an overwhelming army of 1/1 Merfolk Wizards.

Order of Whiteclay might be even more powerful. Think about what happens when you use the Order to pilot a Smuggler’s Copter. The Copter let’s you discard a card (maybe a Schoolmaster), and the Order will put it right into play.

Pimp My Ride

These four cards make up the core interactions of the deck, but you still need an additional 34 cards. Below are the places I’d start looking. Your mileage may vary, but keep the three principles discussed earlier in mind, and you’ll be successful. I’m starting with the following:

 

  
 

Consider these Schoolmasters 8-12. Patrol Signaler is interesting because it can be activated multiple times per turn. But God-Favored General packs a little more bang for the buck. But what are we going to do with all of these token?

 

 

How about we swing for a billion! Remember, you can pay the Crew cost for a vehicle multiple times in the same turn, so the Captain here turn every spare two mana you have into exponential damage. Is there anything other than killing the opponent we can do with a bunch of tokens? You better believe it.

 

    
 

I guess if you’re feeling like it, you could trade a token for a real creature (Daring Thief), counter anything your opponent tries to cast (Patron Wizard – why yes, those are merfolk wizards), or bounce the opposite board (Tradewind Rider).

 

    
 

This isn’t your run of the mill fragile combo. There is plenty of built-in card advantage, ways to protect your stuff, and plenty of ways to regrow any combo pieces that get killed or discarded.

 

Driving School

Creatures (24)
Mothdust Changeling
God-Favored General
Stonybrook Schoolmaster
Order of Whiteclay
Duergar Mine-Captain
Daring Thief
Patron Wizard
Tradewind Rider
Azami, Lady of Scrolls

Artifacts (9)
Smuggler's Copter
Sky Skiff
Skysovereign, Consul Flagship

Spells (3)
Mine Excavation
Prismatic Strands

Lands (24)
Port Town
Prairie Stream
10 Plains
Island

This list doesn’t even put a deep scratch on the paint job of Kaladesh’s vehicles. Your options only expand when you look at other colors and synergies. What are your favorite ways to abuse vehicles? Sound off in the comments.