We knew vehicles would be good in Standard. We knew they offered advantages traditional equipment did not, and we knew that Smuggler's Copter would be good.
We didn't know it would be this good.
The first weekend with Kaladesh hitting the Standard format yielded some striking results, with 32 copies of Smuggler's Copter soaring into the Top 8 of the StarCityGames.com Open in Indianapolis. That's a level of dominance rarely seen, though it is by no means a surefire sign of things to come.
Even if Smuggler's Copter isn't as dominant at Pro Tour Kaladesh as it was in its debut, there's no doubt there will be plenty of players opting to pilot the Copter this weekend. Its advantages stretch across the board and allow it to be a successful addition to either an aggressive or controlling deck.
For starters, its stats are solid. A 3/3 flyer for two mana is worth jumping through a lot of hoops for, and in this case those hoops aren't even all that difficult considering cards like Thraben Inspector and Inventor's Apprentice were already strong cards on their own. The low cost to crew the Copter means that it's always a creature when needed, and is ready as early as the second turn to play defense before attacking on the next.
And attacking is something the Copter does very well. It flies over most of the prominent cards in the Standard format, allowing it to pressure planeswalkers like Liliana, the Last Hope early on while avoiding most would-be blockers. The emergence of Copter has pushed out planeswalkers from the format and—just as importantly—has made traditional sweepers bad. In past Standard formats, cards like Fumigate would have been staples of control decks and completely swing the board when cast, but in a Smuggler's Copter format, that doesn't hold true. An unscrewed Copter will escape the Fumigate and still be ready to swing when any creature hits the board on the following turn.
On top of all of that comes the ability to "loot," drawing a card and then discarding it. Not only can this help smooth out too few or too many lands, but it's also an enabler for madness cards. The versatility the Copter displays is what takes the card from "good" or even "great," to "format-defining."
"The first day it was revealed, I thought it had to be the best card from the set, and nothing has changed since to make that incorrect," explained Pro Tour Hall of Famer and renowned deck-builder Patrick Chapin. "You would never get a 3/3 artifact creature for two mana, but in this case it is a flyer that also turns one of your creatures into a Merfolk Looter. It's format-defining and sets the pace for the rest of the cards. If they interact with Copter, they're good. If they don't, they're bad."
While Chapin considers Smuggler's Copter the most important card in Standard, he doesn't think it's oppressive.
"There are ten different Smuggler's Copter decks, but it is a card that has a lot of play and rewards skill," he explained. "It makes for a lot better format than if something like Umezawa's Jitte was the best card. There are also other decks like Aetherworks Marvel that don't have to play Copter, so long as they have a plan for it. I think the format will be forced to adapt, but I don't think it's going to change this weekend. I'll say this — if you're not playing Smuggler's Copter, you better not be playing fair."