It’s a good time to be a Smuggler. Remember kids: Smugs, not drugs. Last weekend was SCG Indianapolis, which heralded the release of Kaladesh. Ahh, yes. I love that. That’s the first taste of how this set is going to affect the Standard format. Inhale that brand new set smell. Not only is Kaladesh a new addition to Standard, but with the removal of Dragons of Tarkir and Magic Origins, we are in for a completely new format altogether.
Just think of how amazing it is that we are no longer living under the shadow of Collected Company. “No more!” we said, and our cries for help were answered by an unlikely hero. That hero was 18 months of time passing at a completely normal rate, long enough for the dreaded CoCo to die of natural causes as it rotated out of the format, on schedule. Nobody saw that one coming. I know my money was on the butler doing it. Now that Collected Company is gone, we are finally in store for a format rich in diversity. We are finally ready for a format where we are free to play whatever cards we want. Where nobody can tell us “that’s not good enough.” Where innovation, leveling, metagaming, and sheer strength of spirit will carry the day. We are finally in for a golden age of Standard where no one card or strategy will oppress us. We are finally free! Let us rise up, and claim what is rightfully ours! Let us BE… THE…
Uhhh… hold one second. Someone keeps tapping me on the shoulder, apparently with an urgent note. What could honestly be urgent enough that it’s worth interrupting my impassioned speech? This better be good. Let me just read this note real fast and…
Oh. I see. It actually turns out that there were 32 of a possible 32 copies of Smuggler’s Copter in the Top 8 of SCG Indianapolis. No, I’m not crying, it’s really dusty up here. Really, I don’t need that tissue. I’m okay. You know what? We may now be enslaved by an even more horrible dictator than Collected Company, Animal Farm style, but our freedom from format oppression was fun while it lasted. It only lasted about 3 rounds of Swiss, but those were great rounds. Fun rounds. I liked them. I’m glad I played those rounds. Well, actually, I had 1 bye. But the other 2 rounds. Those were cool. They were really something. The good old days, we’ll call them, 3 months from now while we’re softly sobbing to ourselves.
So, I don’t know what you thought you were going to read in this article, but if it’s a Top 5 list of cards from Kaladesh, then you’re completely right. Because here’s my segue into that Top 5 list, a transition as smooth as sandpaper on a cheese grater. Top 5. Hit it.
#5: Verdurous Gearhulk
I thought this card was going to be number 1 from Kaladesh when I saw the spoiler. I thought this was like the Nelly of Kaladesh cards. Number one, no matter if you like it, sit down and let BBD write it. Turns out, it actually IS the Nelly of Kaladesh cards. Not as good as other cards. I mean, on paper it’s big, it’s green, and it does everything you could ever want it to do. You know, presuming that the only thing you care about is the lawful distribution of +1/+1 counters. But what else is there to care about? Answer me that. That’s what I thought. Silence. Nothing else matters.
Now, after having played the SCG Open to a fresh Top 32 finish, I feel like I have some more insight on this card. It’s good, but not as good as I thought it would be. The format seems a lot faster than the last format, which means you don’t always have the time for a 5-mana ground pounder. In a slower game, this card is absolutely boss, but when your opponent is smashing your face with a flying looting machine of death and destruction along with making their other creatures unblockable, it’s a little on the slow side.
I imagine this will continue to be the big go-to play from green decks, but they have to adapt to survive the pressure long enough for that to matter.
#4: Veteran Motorist
This is an oddly specific choice. I could have gone with something generic like Fleetwheel Cruiser or Harnessed Lightning, but I went with this card because Veteran Motorist does something extremely important.
It makes Smuggler’s Copter a 4/4 instead of a 3/3. That may seem like just a marginal upside, but it’s actually huuuuge. A 4/4 Copter can bash through a 3/3 Copter, for one, and there are also a number of planeswalkers that basically start on 4 loyalty, including but not limited to Dovin Baan, Liliana, the Last Hope, Plant Nissa, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. A 4/4 also dodges removal like Fiery Temper and a natural Harnessed Lightning.
It also has a reasonable body and scry 2 is pretty good too. Full package.
#3: Unlicensed Disintegration
Excuse me, do you have a permit for that? That’s what I thought. You don’t. That disintegration appears to be unlicensed, and I for one will not stand for it. I will be filing a report to the proper authorities and you will face proper justice for your actions. Actually, hold on a second? Is that an artifact? Nothing to see here. You’re good.
Mind Rot wasn’t very good but Blightning defined an entire format. Murder is a medium playable, but Unlicensed Disintegration is the truth. It’s dirty how much the extra damage from this card adds up, and if R/B aggro ends up being better than R/W, it’s entirely going to be on the sturdy back of this card. Full disclosure, the back of this card is the normal Magic back. It’s not double-faced, and it has the same thickness and sturdiness as other Magic cards.
Full disclosure, the back of this card is the normal Magic back. It’s not double-faced, and it has the same thickness and sturdiness as other Magic cards.
#2: Scrapheap Scrounger
This is an aggressively-costed card that fits into a lot of homes. For one, it’s a great engine along with Prized Amalgam and Haunted Dead to provide a lot of recursive threats in a graveyard oriented shell. It’s also great for enabling delirium, thanks to its status as a an artifact and a creature. It’s also great in aggressive strategies, where being an artifact matters for cards like Unlicensed Disintegration, Toolcraft Exemplar, and Inventor’s Apprentice.
This is one of those cards that is aggressive, resilient, and has a lot of natural synergies with a variety of cards. Nothing flashy, but it gets a lot of jobs done.
#1: Smuggler’s Copter
It’s lewd, crewed, and a party dude. This is an even more aggressively-costed card that fits into even more homes. Those homes? Any deck. It’s no surprise to me that 32 out of a possible 32 copies made the Top 8 of SCG Indianapolis. This card does everything. It hits hard. It has evasion. It ignores sorcery-speed removal and even most instant-speed removal, since you control when it becomes active and you can just not throw it away in the face of open mana.
Oh yeah. I almost forgot. It also loots. Looting can be a game-changing effect. It smooths out your draws so that you are less prone to flood out or get mana screwed, and it ensures that you have the right mix of creatures, spells, and non-creature non-spell effects that are part of a balanced breakfast. I once even wrote an article about how great looting is! It was titled “Don’t Loot.” Aaaaaand moving along…
From a flavor standpoint, I’m a bit confused. I get looting on attacking. The ship’s coming in quick, maybe stealing some precious commodities or information and then getting the hell out of there. That makes sense to me. But looting on a block? You really think that when a giant destructive death star is bearing down on this little pea-sized air-sputterer, they are gonna be like: “Hey, we could escape to freedom, but how about we steal this guy’s lunch money at enormous personal risk first?” They get that money. The ship is destroyed, but they get that money. You can take that to the bank. Moral victory.
So yeah, long story short is that S. Copter is pretty damn good. If you’re not playing this card, you better have a pretty good reason not to. It does so much so quickly and there are so few good answers to the card in the format. Do whatever you want, but as for me and my kin, we will serve the Copter. For the next few months, I’ll be living that Smug life.