With Grand Prix Pittsburgh behind us and Grand Prix Utrecht coming up, I wanted to take another, final look at Mardu Vehicles. Today, I’ll share two alternative builds, a “What’s the Play?” puzzle, and my updated list with sideboard plans.
Two Alternative Builds
While testing for the Pro Tour, I toyed around with various alternative builds of the deck. I ultimately decided that they weren’t as good as the “normal” version, even though they could certainly catch opponents off-guard. Following all the other writers who shared their rejected Pro Tour brews, here are mine.
Siege Modification Mardu
The dream with this list was to play Consulate Dreadnought on turn 1, double Toolcraft Exemplar on turn 2 (attacking for 7), and then 6 more power of creatures on turn 3 (attacking for 13). Yup, a turn-3 kill is indeed possible in Standard!
A more realistic sequence, of course, was to assemble Consulate Dreadnought plus Siege Modification. Some decks basically had no outs against a 10/11 creature on turn 3. And thanks to Sram, Senior Edificer, assembling the combo at a later stage of the game was reasonably consistent.
The problem was that Siege Modification was mediocre when you didn’t draw a cheap Vehicle to go with it, and it was rather poor against Fatal Push. For a deck like this to work, the metagame needs to shy away from spot removal, or a more reliable protection card—Selfless Spirit is nice, but it just dies to Walking Ballista—needs to be printed in Amonkhet.
The theory behind this deck was that Saheeli Rai fit a Mardu Vehicles deck better than a control deck because the incremental damage from Saheeli’s +1 ability actually mattered to the aggro strategy. Also, Saheeli can crew Heart of Kiran. Finally, I hoped that Toolcraft Exemplar would act as a pro-active Dispel, eating a Shock so that opponents would not have an answer to the combo later on.
The idea was neat, and Veteran Motorist was a good target for the copy/blink effects of Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai. Even the mana base was viable! But despite all that, the Copycat combo never impressed me. I rarely assembled it in testing, and when I did, my opponent would often have Walking Ballista or Unlicensed Disintegration to disrupt it. Coupled with the problem that the individual combo pieces—Felidar Guardian in particular—were lackluster by themselves, I abandoned this build as well.
For a deck like this to excel, the metagame needs to shy away from main-deck answers to the combo, or a card like Reflector Mage has to be printed in Amonkhet. (I don’t have high hopes for that one…)
What’s the Play?
Let’s return to the regular Mardu Vehicles deck with a puzzle.
In this game state, you have the following cards in play:
You have 3 cards in hand:
Since your opponent had been stuck on lands all game, you’re clearly in an overwhelming position. But the question is: Can you win the game on this turn? If so, how?
- Tap Veteran Motorist and Scrapheap Scrounger to crew both Cultivator’s Caravans.
- Sacrifice Scrapheap Scrounger to Pia Nalaar’s ability to make Winding Constrictor unable to block. (4 mana remaining.)
- Shock your own Veteran Motorist. (3 mana remaining.)
- Bring back Scrapheap Scrounger from the graveyard. (1 mana remaining.)
- Tap Scrapheap Scrounger to crew Heart of Kiran.
- Sacrifice Scrapheap Scrounger to Pia Nalaar’s ability to make Tireless Tracker unable to block. (0 mana remaining.)
- Attack with Pia Nalaar and all 3 Vehicles, which thanks to the +1/+1 boost from Veteran Motorist is exactly 17 power. Your opponent is unable to block and takes lethal damage.[collapse]
- Shock your opponent’s Tireless Tracker.
- Cast Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. (All lands tapped.)
- Tap 1 Cultivator’s Caravan for mana, then sacrifice it to Pia Nalaar’s ability to make Winding Constrictor unable to block.
- Use the +1 ability of Gideon to turn it into a 5/5, then use it to crew the remaining Cultivator’s Caravan.
- Use a loyalty counter of Gideon to crew Heart of Kiran.
- Attack with Veteran Motorist, Scrapheap Scrounger, Pia Nalaar, Heart of Kiran, and Cultivator’s Caravan for 17 damage.[collapse]
My Latest List
I won’t be competing at Grand Prix Utrecht this weekend as I’ll be on text coverage. Instead, I lent my latest Mardu Vehicles deck to a friend.
In the deck guide I wrote after the Pro Tour, I recommended a version with more Fatal Pushes and fewer Inventor’s Apprentices, as I anticipated a metagame that would be dominated by Winding Constrictor.
At the top tables this weekend, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a variety of control, combo, and emerge decks aiming to prey upon B/G Constrictor. My list is constructed with those developments in mind. But if you expect a metagame of Cat/Vroom/Snek only, then you could move 1 Inventor’s Apprentice, 1 Shock, 1 Mountain, and 1 Aethersphere Harvester from the main deck to the sideboard while simultaneously moving 1 Thalia, Heretic Cathar, 1 Fatal Push, 1 Shambling Vent, and 1 Cultivator’s Caravan to the main deck. (All of those slots are connected for curve and mana base reasons.)
Notably absent from my sideboard is a card that I did run at the Pro Tour: Fumigate. It’s not a bad card—far from it. It can wreck inexperienced B/G Constrictor players, especially when you catch them off-guard. Since your Vehicles and planeswalkers are immune to Fumigate, you can build up your board and get them if they over commit. That’s why I played it at the Pro Tour.
The reason I cut them is that by now, the Fumigate plan has become well-known, and I expect that the better B/G Constrictor players (at least the ones you’ll face in the Top 8) will be ready. If it doesn’t come as a surprise to them and they approach the matchup with Fumigate in mind, then I’d rather not bother with the sweeper in the first place.
Then again, I wouldn’t criticize anyone for adding 2 Fumigate to the sideboard, even if I would only board them on the draw against B/G Constrictor in the early rounds of the tournament. It’s not like you really need Selfless Spirit, Thalia, Implement of Combustion, or the fourth Gideon anyway. Heck, you could put 4 Ornithopters in your sideboard and it honestly would not make a huge difference. Well, except for the look on your opponent’s face once deck lists are handed out in the Top 8.
Sideboarding should depend on who is on the play, the specific build of the opponent’s deck, and various other factors. Boarding out a land on the draw is often wise, and I explained various constraints here. If you lack the time to familiarize yourself with all the details and don’t want to go through the hassle of changing things every game, then you could use my baseline guide below.