Pattern Recognition #132 - Vehicles

Features Opinion Pattern Recognition


28 November 2019


Hello everyone! Welcome back to Pattern Recognition! This is's longest running article series. In it, I aim to bring to you each week a new article about some piece of Magic, be it a card, a mechanic, a deck, or something more fundamental or abstract. I am something of an Old Fogey and part-time Smart Ass, so I sometimes talk out my ass. Feel free to dissent or just plain old correct me! I also have a Patreon if you feel like helping out.

Vehicles are AWESOME!

Join me next week when I....


You want a full article, rather than the summary, don't you?

Pft. Spoiled you have I?

Very well, let's do this.

Vehicles are the newest Artifact Subtype - the first since Equipment of Mirrorden. They were introduced in Kaladesh and Aether Revolt as part of the Magical Steampunk theme of the plane. Unlike Equiment, which attached to a Creature, Vehicles were instead "Crewed" by creatures.

OK, time to step back here, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Vehicles are a specific type of Artifact that has the stats of a Creature - a power and a Toughness - as well as abilities that are associated with Creatures on it. But they are not a creature by default. Rather, each Vehicle has a "Crew" keyword on it. When the Crew ability is activated, then the Artifact - Vehicle becomes an Artifact Creature with all the benefits and restrictions therein.

Now, this leads us into the first thing that confuses people about Vehicles. They are only Creatures while they are Crewed - and Crewing only lasts until the end of the turn. This means that Vehicles are Creatures only when you want them to be, and not when it is convenient for your opponents for them to be creatures.

In addition - and I asked this question during the Kaladesh pre-release as a feeder for the Judge of my FLGS - Vehicle is not a Creature type, so no fun and abuse with Coat of Arms. It is still an Artifact Subtype though, to make things still relevant.

Now, as an additional rule, when a Vehicle dies, any creature that is Crewing it does not die. Unless it's the victim of a boardsweep, like with Fumigate. And when a creature that is crewing a Vehicle dies, the Vehicle does not stop being a creature for the turn. With the same natural caveat that if the Vehicle is already a Creature when a boardwipe comes down, then it dies along with the crewing creature.

So, Kaladesh!

Vehicles in Kaladesh were a minor theme, but one that was assigned to for the purposes of Draft and Sealed through support cards as at the time, coloured artifacts had not yet become deciduous. The flavour of the set involved the Ovalchase Raceway, where Artificers could take their Vehicles out for competition, to demonstrate their skill and top hopefully get contract to build more form the Consulate. Vehicles could fly like a Sky Skiff, sail like the Bomat Bazaar Barge or go on the ground like a Daredevil Dragster.

It's hard to describe just how well received Vehicles were in Kaladesh and Aether Revolt. As they were artifacts, they could slip into any deck, allowing any creature to be able to participate in combat even when doing so would otherwise be dangerous. Vehicles also tended to be quite large in terms of Power and Toughness, making using them in combat even more appealing.

I mean, seriously, a 5/5 for that when it enters the battlefield, you draw a card? That's a serious creature right there. And all you need to do to activate it is to tap 3 power worth of creatures? Creatures that you might not want to attack with and are just cluttering up your board and don't want to risk them on the defense?

Vehicles hit the game, and the player response was pretty much universally positive. Yeah, there were a few kinks to work out, but the idea was intuitive, they were something unique and different, and most importantly....

Vehicles are fun.

As a result of the sheer popularity of this new card subtype, Wizards knew that they had a winner on their hands, but at the same time, they couldn't just shove them in anywhere and into any set. There had to be a reason for them to be in the set, and they realized that under the New World Order, Vehicles had to be Uncommon or higher unless they were a focus in the set.

Now, it was too late to do anything for Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation, but after that?

After that, we had Pirates.

And as anyone who has ever heard of a movie series stolen out from under the intentions of its creators by Johnny Depp, Pirates are on boats, and Boats are - mechanically speaking - Vehicles.

Ixaland and Rivals brought us the Fell Flagship, a Sleek Schooner and other interesting boats to sail the high seas on! They even got into the Dual Faced Card game with Conqueror's Galleon  Flip, one of the very few cards that has a power less than its crew cost.

And again, despite the flavour flubs of the set, and its sometimes schizophrenic focus, the Vehicles were another highlight of the set, proving to Wizards that they actually had something that could work out in multiple sets and be a worthwhile inclusion!

But Wizards knew that they couldn't just add Vehicles. They could show up, but they needed a reason to be there, and the next set? Oh boy did the next set deliver on a promise unasked for. You see, Wizards had something in their back pocket. Something that we, the players who were old time players, asked for, but never would expect to get. You see, there was, from the early days of Magic, a means for the protagonists to get around on their adventures. A vehicle. Called Skyship Weatherlight. And people dreamed of a new version of that card that was a Vehicle. But we didn't expect much from that. It was a dream of glories long past, and Wizards delivered.

Dominaria delivered, and the Weatherlight was raised from her watery grave to grace the skies of Dominaria once more. Once she gets a working Planeshift engine again, well... all will be well.

Finally, War of the Spark gave us three more Vehicles, Mizzium Tank, which has been a staple of my Mono-Red deck on Arena since it came out, Parhelion II, a very interesting Vehicle that can quickly generate a ridiculous number of Angels, and Silent Submersible, which you will probably find in your FLGS' bulk rare bin.

These three cards combined Vehicles, which are now very firmly in the toolbox of Wizards as something to use, and the newer concept of coloured artifacts. Each of these is a Vehicle in a specific colour, and has an ability that you might find in that colour. It's an experiment that works, and I will be glad to see more in the future.

And I seriously cannot overstate my love for Mizzium Tank, given how it works and resolving even two of these bad boys can put the screws to a lot of my opponents on Arena. Especially now that Br-Oko is Banned. Just casing something like a Shock gives me a surprise blocker or attacker!

Throne of Eldraine gives us the Enchanted Carriage, which creates its own crew when it comes into play for additional relevance to the popular fairy tales. And I can only presume that we will be seeing more Vehicles in the future!

Now, there is another half to Vehicles that still needs to be addressed. And not just because I'm only two-thirds the way through my minimum article length. A long time ago, I talked about good and bad multi-coloured cards, and how I thought that the Invasion Block really nailed it home how to make it work, with Ravnica a close second.

Well, the problem is the parasite attached to Vehicles. The problem is Pilots. You see, when I mentioned earlier about support cards for Vehicles, I wasn't just talking about cards like Aerial Modification, as cards that only enchant specific subtypes as options isn't new. Not like cards like Built to Last or Built to Smash, which synergize really well with the underlying theme of the set.

You see, Pilot is a Creature subtype introduced in Kaladesh (and later retroactively added onto Goblin Test Pilot), and whose abilities solely revolved around Vehicles. I accused, two years ago, of Depala, Pilot Exemplar of being a poor example of multi-colored work, being Proscriptive in its design, saying to the players in the set, "If you want to use me, you better be using Vehicles" and not "I am a good card that works well with Vehicles, and we are both better for it". In contrast, Renegade Wheelsmith is a good example, as while its ability also requires just being tapped, the effect is far more viable, preventing a creature from blocking means that the Wheelsmith - or any other creature that could include the Vehicle it is crewing - can can get through combat easier.

But the Pilots, by and large, only really work when you are running with Vehicles, and that's not good design outside of set-restricted limited. Sram, Senior Edificer, while not a Pilot, is a good example of how to keep to the theme of the set and build it up rather than limiting it even further. And that's partly the reason why Pilot as a creature type hasn't been seen since Aether Revolt, despite Vehicles for them to pilot coming back.

I mean, would it have been to hard to create an Orc Pirate Pilot in Ixalan in the relevant colours with the theme of being the Ship's navigator? I mean, it might, given the other restrictions that the set was operating under to add in one more thing. Like the lousy excuse to not have Rebels in a set about a Rebellion.

(insert angry fistshake here)

Look, what I'm trying to say is that Vehicles are a hit. They are full of flavour, they work mechanically, and they, because they are Artifacts, can slip into any deck and be useful. Just ask Smuggler's Copter.

Oh wait, you can't because it was banned in Standard for the crime of being too good and appearing in every deck. Which is constant issue where non-coloured artifacts are concerned, a lesson that has only started to be fixed by the proper introduction of coloured artifacts to help balance them out.

But on the whole, Vehicles work, and we'll keep seeing them into the future. And this is good, because....


Join me next week when I talk about another Face'Walker for Wizards, and why this one got shelved.

Until then, please consider donating to my Pattern Recognition Patreon. Yeah, I have a job, but more income is always better. I still have plans to do a audio Pattern Recognition at some point, or perhaps a Twitch stream. And you can bribe your way to the front of the line to have your questions, comments and observations answered!

This article is a follow-up to Pattern Recognition #131 - Let it Snow! The next article in this series is Pattern Recognition #133 - Green Face'Walker

I think Wizards did make a Challenger deck on Vehicles in 2018.

December 1, 2019 3:43 p.m.

Brutal_B says... #2

I was hooked on vehicles from the get go. Here's my vehicle edh deck. Shameless plug I know but why not show it off in the light of this article. Creatures with the Inspired mechanic work great for vehicles. King Macar, the Gold-Cursed , Sphinx's Disciple , Oreskos Sun Guide and others are great additions to vehicle centric decks. Like mentioned in the above article, some of the pilots of Kaladesh: Gearshift Ace , Ovalchase Daredevil , Speedway Fanatic ... Not to mention some of the artificers in the same block. They all mesh to create a cohesive deck that's a blast to "pilot" ; ) Some other creatures worth mentioning are as follows: Hateflayer , Golem Artisan , Night Market Lookout , Mishra's Self-Replicator , Throne of the God-Pharaoh . And Mirrorworks cuz why not, right? Of course these are for the commander or modern minded players.

I don't mean to steal the spotlight berryjon but I just couldn't hold back. The potential that vehicles hold is fun to witness unfold and I can't wait to see what WotC has in store for future releases. Keep up the Pattern Recognition articles..I always look forward to them.


December 1, 2019 6:56 p.m. Edited.

jandrobard says... #3

Smuggler's Copter just got banned in Pioneer, so it's status as too good evidently continued there (I wasn't tracking tournament results). Side note: Enchanted Carriage pulls double duty for the "non-humans matters" subtheme in ELD, as it brings two non-humans and can animate into a non-human as well, which won me a game today when I could free equip Rosethorn Halberd to it.

December 3, 2019 4:33 a.m.

Please login to comment