Mardu Vehicles was public enemy #1 going into the Pro Tour, but it didn’t start that way. It was the most played deck, but it put up pedestrian results. In the tournaments following, Mardu made appearances and had some winning records, but it hasn’t been the dominant force it once was. Perhaps looking to the past for a new direction is the way to right the ship.
Mardu has some of the best aggressive creatures we’ve seen in Magic, and that all starts with Toolcraft Exemplar. Ignoring the fact that it will sometimes get first strike, you still have a 3-power attacking creature for 1 mana. This requires that you have access to artifacts, but in a 3-or-more-color deck that’s already looking to utilize Spire of Industry, that isn’t a big ask.
One way to change up the Mardu deck is by getting even more aggressive. It made sense for this deck to play some Chandras and Archangel Avacyns in the main deck to try to go over the top of the mirror, but those aren’t effective against Marvel spinning into huge monsters. Instead, you’re going lower with Inventor’s Apprentice to get on the board on turn 1 and make sure you’re getting in for maximum damage ASAP.
Scrapheap Scrounger has long been a big draw to splashing black, but it’s especially important in this deck. Not only is it a mana fixer with Spire of Industry, but it turns on your Exemplars, Inventor’s Apprentice, and it’s a recursive threat out of your graveyard to keep battling for more damage.
Heart of Kiran is just an insane Magic card. Attacking for 4 in the air on turn 3 allows you to close out games in a hurry, and this deck is filled with undercosted 3-power creatures—Toolcraft Exemplar will crew your Heart for just 1 mana.
Thraben Inspector doesn’t hit hard, but it’s a 1-mana artifact and a way to gain some important card advantage in games that last more than a few turns.
While Veteran Motorist isn’t easy to cast, it gives you a 3-power creature for 2 mana and the ability to crew your Vehicles (not to mention the power bonus). That’s all before factoring in that you somehow get to scry 2, which is fantastic in the early and late game, to make sure you find lands and spells, or specific cards for various situations.
Pia Nalaar creates an artifact, adds 3 power to the board to crew Heart the turn she is cast, and packs some powerful abilities. She’ll pump your Thopters or Hearts while keeping your opponent’s creatures from blocking, and that’s not to mention the combo with Scrapheap Scrounger. There are only 2 copies of Pia in the deck, which tends to be the case with legendary creatures, but she’s also the only 3-mana creature in the list. You’re looking to go lower to the ground here and play Inventor’s Apprentice over more expensive cards. This list also plays the lowest land count I’ve seen at just 22 lands in the main deck.
Unlicensed Disintegration provides additional reach and unconditional removal in a deck that already wants to splash black for Scrounger. This list just touches on black, and this is the only card that requires the color in the main deck, so no Fatal Pushes here. Instead, you’re going with Declaration in Stone, which is easier to cast in a mostly white deck with basic Plains. Players often aren’t prepared for this, and it can do a number on an unsuspecting opponent.
Aethersphere Harvester is the other Vehicle to make the cut. It’s great in racing situations, such as the mirror or against Zombies, and actually serves as a mana fixer in a deck that runs 4 Aether Hub.
Finally, you have the biggest difference in this Mardu list—it’s not truly Mardu. There are 3 copies of Metallic Rebuke in the main deck. For these you add Spirebluff Canals to Spire of Industries and Aether Hub. This also makes cheap artifacts even more important, as you can use them to make the Rebuke cheaper. Trying to beat a turn-4 Marvel or a turn-6 Torrential Gearhulk isn’t always easy, but if you’re able to counter the first one, you should have time to finish off the game. This blue mana also lets you play Negate in the sideboard.
With Mardu putting up lesser numbers than many expected, perhaps it’s time to go back to adding that 4th color. You have plenty of excellent lands to try to make it work, and curving Exemplar into Heart into a counter is tough for many decks to compete with.