Thursday, 5 January 2023

Top 8 Vehicles (again, but 5 Years Later)


I did one of these best vehicle lists five years ago and it has rather changed since! We have recently had three releases set in more modern worlds where the flavour of vehicles makes more sense and a lot of vehicles did indeed see print in those sets. Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, The Streets of New Capenna, and the 40K commander stuff. Five of the cards on this top 8 are from those three release. Power has crept a lot since Kaladesh and the introduction of the card type. Vehicle design has also improved resulting in more interesting and better suited options. It is no shock that the new stuff is quite spicy! I usually do a little bit on the cards that failed to make the list. There are obviously some niche ones you don't play in drafting cubes but that do have a role to play in constructed settings but beyond that there were not too many of note. Those on this list presently do represent the significant bulk of cards you should be considering. The only three I even considered beyond those on the list were Golden Argosy, Nautiliod Ship, and Heart of Kiran. The former two are fun but a bit win more. Heart however has fallen a long way from grace. Unsurprisingly the fate of Heart is rather bound with planeswalkers as it is both an amazing tool to pressure them as well as a good thing to be powered by. With less planeswalkers on both sides of the aisle the less interest there is in Heart.  

Mysterious Limousine 8th

I am likely as surprised as you are to find myself putting this here. It is one of those cards I just threw into the cube to play with because it was differerent and I wanted to see how it felt. I had no expectation that it would last in the cube however it has wildly outperformed expectations and seen fairly consistent play. The power level of the Limo is not impressive but the utility really is. It is so many different cards and effects in one depending on what you are after. As with all vehicles it is a threat you can deploy that is immune to creature removal until you allow it to be otherwise. Typically always avoiding the sorcery speed stuff. Oddly starting to take over a niche primarily occupied by planeswalkers. Walkers are now typically a bit too vulnerable to lean on and don't offer quite the punch a vehicle does on any given turn. So what is all this utility I am on about? How is this different to a big Banisher Priest? In many ways, thankfully for the Limo! It is far harder removal for one. If you need something to stay out of the game then you can simply be careful about crewing the Limo and you stand a much higher chance of it being a hard removal spell. It can also really go to town on tokens. Answer one the turn it comes down, crew and attack and take out another, primed and ready to answer more there after. This is decent against 1/1 thopters and 2/2 zombies but there are increasingly 4/4 tokens kicking around, direct copy token too, all of which stand to make this a fairly good value removal spell. Lastly there is the coolest use for this which is flickering out your own stuff. Usually this is to re-trigger EtB effects but sometimes it is just some extra protection against mass removal. Just some random three drop under this will allow you to quickly setup a board position and pressure so long as you can find 2 power to crew from your hand. Equally, a couple of nice EtB triggers on dorks you cycle in and out of play will get out of hand very fast indeed. Even if you trade this off in combat on the first attack you will have had two flickers from it which in the era of prototype dorks, is pretty tasty. I can imagine that easily averaging a card and something else, a removal effect, a 3/3 golem, that sort of juice. You do not need to tag that much on to this card to make it look like clearly good value. 

Unlicensed Hearse 7th

This is a funny one in cube. We are now pretty comfortably at the point where there are enough graveyard synergies on the go that all decks will make some use of them and those that fail to do so are wasting resources. Even so, some decks fill the bin slowly and make minimal use of it while others lean on it pretty hard. That ultimately still leaves this as a fairly polar card that you cannot control the power of fully. Sometimes it will be a beating and others it will be fine and that is not the kind of card design I like including in my cube. The other thing I don't love about this is that it is just a big pile of stats. It gets away with this a bit by being so cheap, growing fairly quickly, and with the general perks of the vehicle card type. I certainly rate this over Tarmogoyf and there is more than a passing similarity between the cards. Goyf is also making a bit of a comeback in this age of good delirium cards and high tempo. The thing that keeps Herse something I am happy including in my cube is that you can empower it yourself. Just so long as you can fill up your own bin with some aplomb and don't need to reply on it too much for your other cards then this is a fine include. I wouldn't want to run this maindeck in a green or white creature heavy deck as there is every chance this fails to grow to a sensible size in time to be relevant. In a more spell and disruption heavy deck that is putting cards into both bins this thing is easily able to become a 4/4 and a 6/6 in time to dominate the mid and late game board. Fantastic sideboard tool as well. This controls yards at a very good pace and is a decently good threat into the mix. It is the new and improved Scavenging Ooze for all. Growthing threat and yard control but with none of that tedious low tempo mana investment. Hearse is a fine card with reasonable uses that is really making a name for itself with an impressively high raw power level. 

Reckoner Bankbuster 6th

We have had a pleasant little run of cards like this starting with Treasure Map, then moving and improving on with Mazemind Tome, and now this little gem. This is very much another card that offers utility rather than raw power. Three is a high crew cost and means this only really adds a net of one power to the board. It reduces the general reliability of this as threat, certainly any sort of early threat. That isn't really what this card is about however. I am not putting this in my deck as a threat, I am putting it in because I want more value and it is looking like a good option because it doesn't concede much threat. The mere fact that my opponent must consider it as a threat works heavily in its favour. It is exactly this sort of thing that is provoking the decline of planeswalkers. You could just have this in play but if I make a planeswalker all you need is a three power dork to lay and my walker is probably easting four damage in the face. Being a threat or value as the game demands is an effect you want in your cubes as they will make games more consistent and enjoyable. Have a nice curving hand full of dorks, then Bunkbuster is giving them psuedo-haste and acting like a robust two mana 4/4. Find yourself flooding out and Bankbuster is a good way to sink a bunch of mana and draw into gas, while becoming gas itself! The total deal of a 4/4, a 1(3 as crew)/1, a treasure, and three cards is well worth the 8 mana total cost given that you can break it up into small chunks at your convenience. Doubly so as you get access to that 4/4 and some of the cards before you are fully paid up! I have simply found I love playing with this card. I like having it in play and tend to feel good about things when I do. 

Thunderhawk Gunship 5th

A sneaky 40K card here and one I might easily be underrating due to relatively little experience playing it thus far. This ends games very effectively. It also does so while being a nice safe high value play even when from behind. It has all the merits Grave Titan was so revered for while also being able to push and close a game. This is still mostly 10/10 in stats and 3 bodies even if sometimes you can only use 8/8 and 2 of them. It is still a lot. The giving everything flying is the real shocker here. It just means so many games are just over if this gets to attack. It is pretty hard to stop it doing that. Instant speed removal for a six toughness dork? This is a very good card. It is everything you want from a top end threat. The only thing stopping it being oppressive is that six is quite a tall order in cube these days. This is a card you play in a dork heavier deck, in part to help with crewing duty but mostly to benefit from getting sent to the skies. While most cube decks these days qualify I am finding that those decks generally seem to stop before reaching six on the curve. 

Skysovereign Consul Flagship 4th

I am not a lover of this card but there is no denying its power in cube like environments. It is the Glorybringer that all can play. Obviously clunkier than the dragon and a little less effective on the control side of things but a much more tenacious threat to make up for it. Skysovereign is a powerful threat that usually offers value, tempo, utility, and pressure. The main floor of the card is the need of crew. Being so much card it comes late enough that it can find itself being the only thing and it is a pretty sad play without crew. Doubly so if it comes down and fails to do anything useful with the 3 damage! I think this would perform better if it were scaled back a little so as it give it more chance of having that all important crew. Answers to this are not easy to come by and taking it out in combat is even rarer. Trying to race this is no kind of fun either. I think a lot of why I don't like this card is that when playing against it I often feel like I get to a position where I am just hoping they do not draw something that can crew it, if they do I lose on the spot and that isn't the kind of game state I enjoy! I have seen a lot of manlands getting animated just to crew this recently which speaks volumes to the power of this bad boy. 

Night Scythe 3rd

Seemingly low power card that I wouldn't be surprised if most readers had either forgotten about or simply never even seen. While this clearly lacks the punch of many of the flashier vehicles calling it low powered feels like a disservice. Equally this card is an absolute options factory without outwardly having that appearance. This is 5/3 of total stats, on two bodies, with partial evasion. That is a pretty good deal power wise for three mana. Coming with a 2/2 token and just having crew 2 itself makes this a very accessible and reliably active vehicle. This is a pig to protect against and a pig to attack past. You kill the token and it crews up a blocker meaning two removal spells are needed to get passed it. The low toughness of Scythe isn't a big downside as you have that much more control over when it is a creature than with other 3/1 fliers. This is alike to Blade Splicer except it is harder to get out of play, more threatening, and playable in all the colours. It is the kind of card I find I rarely fail to play if I have access to it. It isn't like slam first pick or a core card I lock in my list right away but it does seem to be added eventually! 

Smugglers Copter 2nd

Ousted from the top spot this little beast is still an excellent card but things have caught up with it a little. Power creep has obviously been steep but it has specifically targetted removal and dorks. Dodging removal was a big part of why Copter was so powerful but these days it feels as if the card is fairly easy to take down, or at least compared to when the card was first out and so utterly rampant. Although crew is a low cost it is not nothing which means any two mana instant speed removal typically trades positively with Copter. My Searing Spear just tapped your dude! We also just now have cards like Ledger Shredder that put some perspective on the reduced power of Copter relative to the field. I still play it in most decks that will reliably crew it. The card is very rounded being a well statted evasive threat that offers card quality. It often does good work but it rarely gives that much in the way of actual value or even that much actual tempo. 

Esika's Chariot 1st

Pretty comfortably the best vehicle to date. This is the complete threat. It is a total of 8/8 stats minimum which is rather nuts at four mana. It is spread over three bodies, it is extremely hard to completely or efficiently answer, and it even provides ongoing value. Potentially scaling value I might add. You get to copy any token and I have certainly managed far better than a mere 2/2 cat! It is even utility as sometimes clues are more exciting than more cats. This thing beats the hell out of you if you fail to hinder it in some way. Vehicles that come with dorks who can crew are pretty fixed, they don't suffer the same rapid diminishing returns that traditional vehicles and equipment do. You can play this in your deck pretty much as if it were a dork without having to worry too much about your dork count or ability to reliably crew it. It got to the point where this was sufficiently good that people were splashing for it! Green has never really been splashed for much, it is the one normally doing the splashing! This is another card that really put the boot in on Grave Titan displaying a scarily comparable play pattern and clock at two thirds the mana cost! The most common way I saw this pulling ahead was just coming down on curve with little to nothing else relevant on either side of the board and looking like a beating. The defending player would then not have an answer to the Chariot itself and would do something inefficient to one of the cats, say a Searing Spear again! Just in the fleeting hope that they wouldn't then be able to crew it but they inevitably would and the cats would multiply and the game would be over soon there after. A very hard card to beat indeed. This is still the highest pick green card in my cube edging out the like of Birds of Paradise by being that much more unique and game ending. There enough mana ramp cards, there are either too many or too few cards of this foolish a power level! 

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