Almost a year ago there was one deck that not only did everyone know about but it was one of the top decks in standard. No, it wasn’t Aetherworks Marvel, it was Mardu Vehicles. Piloting some of the strongest cards in Magic at the time, it was an agro deck that just ran away with matches utilizing premium threats like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Heart of Kiran with premium removal like Fatal Push and Unlicensed Disintegration.
But that all fell apart when Rotation hit. Mardu Vehicles lost many of its core pieces like Thraben Inspector, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and the creature lands. That may not seem like a lot but the raw power provided by those cards truly crippled the deck to the point where it was almost a long-lost remnant of standards past.
That is until it recently started top 8ing again. Two top 8 finishes in the past month. So, what happened to resurrect this former titan? Well let’s check the list that made a top 8 recently. Straight from GP Atlanta, I bring you Lawrence Vess’s Mardu Vehicles list.
Something that has changed is the fact that the deck has gone from a full on agro deck to a more mid rangy deck. It runs 25 creatures, 6 of them being vehicles. It wants to hit the ground running and never take its foot off the gas as it goes up the curve. Starting at the bottom is the only one drop in the form of 4 copies of Toolcraft Exemplar.
Much better on offense than defense, this guy is a 1/1 until you gain an artifact. Once you get to combat with an artifact it becomes a 3/2 and if you have three or more it gains first strike. This is a great turn one play if you can get the ball rolling but becomes close to useless as a top deck to an empty board.
It’s at the two drop that the deck really starts to do its thing. The first stand out pick is the premier vehicle and classic, Heart of Kiran, 4 whole copies. This 2 drop is a 4/4 vehicle that crews for 3 or one loyalty counter of a Planeswalker. That’s where Toolcraft Exemplar comes into play. Heart of Kira turns on the Exemplar which in turn crews the vehicle for 4 power in the air on turn three. That’s a very fast clock.
The second powerhouse is Scrapheap Scrounger. This playset brings with it a 3/2 artifact creature that can’t block but for two mana (a black and anything) you can bring the scrounger back from the graveyard at the cost of exiling another creature. Blocking is the last thing we want from this. Combined with the exemplar you have a pair of 3/2s on turn three that just keep beating down. With its resurrection clause, you’ll always have a beater on hand. It being an artifact just sweetens the deal.
The final two drop is 3 copies of Veteran Motorist. For a red and a white you’re given a 3/1, which already crews Heart of Kiran, but also gives any vehicle it crews +1/+1 until end of turn. Oh, and it lets you scry 2. This two drop does so much work for the deck. A great blocker, smooths out your draws both early and late, and buffs your vehicles. And the hidden tech of the deck is the fact those effects stack. So, all 3 of the motorist can crew a vehicle giving it +3/+3 in the air. Talk about a power play.
At three mana we bring in our evasion in the form of 3 copies of Pia Nalaar and 2 Aetherpshere Harvester.
What can be said about Harvester that we don’t already know? 3/5 body, crew cost of only 1, flying, and for an energy it gets lifelink. It’s a great vehicle that also gives our exemplar something to do when not on offense. The lifelink helps to bounce back from a deficit or increase a lead. A solid three drop for offense and defense.
Chandra’s mom on the other hand, is an excellent enabler for this deck. She’s only a 2/2 but she brings a 1/1 thopter with her. For 1 and a red she can buff an artifact with +1/+0 and for just one mana she can sac an artifact to make it so one creature can’t block. At this level in the curve pushing through for damage is the key goal and anything that helps you do that is fantastic.
The final five creatures are 1 Hazoret the Fervent and 4 Glorybringers. Honestly, there’s nothing more to say about these. Huge hasty creatures that can serve as removal or great top decks late game. They can likely end the game when they come down.
Finally, there’s the 3 copies of Chandra, Torch of Defiance. The best Planeswalker in standard right now because she does it all. Card advantage, mana ramp, burn and an ultimate that almost says you win the game. Just great all around.
That leaves the deck with 7 spell slots and they’re all removal. 3 Fatal Push, because in black there’s no reason not to run it, and 4 Unlicensed Disintegration. This is more flexible option in the long game. 3 mana to just kill a creature, which is great, but with the artifact clause, you also get to lightning bolt them. With a deck this focused on being aggressive that extra 3 damage will matter every time.
All that’s left is to talk about the lands. All 25 of them. 25 lands in Mardu colors and it’s a complicated list: 3 Aether Hub, 2 Canyon Slough, 4 Concealed Courtyard, 1 Dragonskull Summit, 4 Inspiring Vantage, 4 Mountain, 3 Plains, and 4 Spire in Industry.
Truly this deck wants to hit land drops, with both fast lands in its respective colors and the ability to produce mana of any color across 7 lands. This deck wants to hit the potential for all three colors by turn two and double red by turn four. If it can get off the ground it will just run its over its opponent.
The biggest issue with this land base is that it’s very reliant on momentum. Spire of Industry means nothing without an artifact, the fast lands are tap lands past turn three, and Aether Hub is only relevant as long as you have the energy. If something goes wrong the deck will slow down drastically.
Post side board the deck remains aggressive but with more answers. Against control really the only sideboard option is 2 Duress and another Hazoret the Fervent. Hopefully, they’re aggressive enough to just mow them down before they can get their game plan going.
Against agro 2 Fumigate, 1 Fatal Push, and 2 Chandra’s Defeat come in to keep the momentum in its favor.Chandra’s defeat pulls double duty as a 1 mana answer to Chandra when she comes down. 3 Rampaging Ferocidon can even lend a hand to punish them for playing out their cheap creatures.
Finally, there are a few niche pick ups. 2 Abrade to take out a God-Pharaoh’s gift or be more removal. 1 Skysovergin, Consul Flagship to break board stalls against Energy or other mid-range decks. Even a solitary copy of Cartouche of Ambition for pseudo removal and lifelink.
This deck wants to hit the ground hard on turn one and absolutely race to the finish, never letting up on the threats whether they be on the ground, in the air, or through Planeswalkers. There are powerful threats and answers at every level of the curve but it’s strength is also its weakness.
The deck is very reliant on the pieces of the puzzle coming together to work as one giant machine. Almost like a combo deck. Without artifacts or proper mana or even enough creatures, the deck falls apart fast and struggles to rebuild and catch up. It takes a great pilot for this vehicles list so if you think you can get behind the wheel try it yourself.