Smuggler's Copter left a big hole in Standard when it was shown the door. The 3/3 flier laughed at sorcery speed removal, scoffed at Planeswalkers, chipped away at life totals, and helped players sculpt their hands, all for the low low mana cost of 2, crew cost of one.
In the months following the release of Kaladesh, the deceptively diminutive artifact flitted into many decks, and many more Top 8s. Its departure threatened the very existence of decks that relied on the two-drop to apply pressure and survive effects like Radiant Flames or Fumigate.
Enter Heart of Kiran, the legendary vehicle seeing play in 136 decks this weekend. In stats, at least, Heart of Kiran more than takes the place of Smuggler's Copter. It, too, flies. It, too, costs just 2 mana. It even has an added point of power and an added point of toughness.
That's one of the many questions competitors at Pro Tour Aether Revolt are seeking to answer in the ten rounds of Standard being played during the swiss portion of this weekend's tournament, and many players seem to think the answer is an emphatic "yes."
Like Smuggler's Copter, Heart of Kiran is a mana-efficient play, and there's little that can remove it at an equal or lesser price. This gives the decks playing it a tempo advantage over those not, effectively putting them on the back foot in the early turns of the game.
"It comes down cheap," said Justin Cohen, member of Team Mutiny. "It's hard to lose mana. Fatal Push is the only thing that has a positive mana interaction with it. Anything else you're probably equal or losing out on tempo."
Unlike the Copter, a Thraben Inspector doesn't have a license to drive Heart of Kiran, at least not alone. A Veteran Motorist, however, is more than up to the job, as are both Depala, Pilot Exemplar and Thalia, Heretic Cathar, and vehicle-centric strategies were running these cards already.
"Heart of Kiran threatens Planeswalkers as well as anything can," Cohen said. "If your opponent plays a Heart of Kiran and you have a Nissa or a Gideon in your hand, it's just really embarrassing. There's just nothing you can do, your Planeswalkers are all horrible."
Justin Cohen is more than happy to crew the copter replacement, Heart of Kiran, given its ability to punish Planeswalker-heavy strategies.
Heart of Kiran is legendary, so players can't double up on them the way they might have with multiple Copters. It's also competing for space with another new vehicle, Aethersphere Harvester. The Harvester costs 3 mana, but makes up for it with a crew cost of one.
Heart of Kiran is edging out that closest competition, however, as most vehicle decks are playing four of the mythic and between one and three of the rare. We still have many rounds of Standard before we know if it'll be edging out other competing decks as well.