Kaladesh Driver's Ed
By now, you've had a chance to take Kaladesh out for a spin. You're probably accumulated a mass of energy counters, made a few tough fabricate decisions, and perhaps even summoned some wondrous artifacts and inventions.
And, no doubt, you've taken the opportunity to test drive some Vehicles.
Vehicles are a new kind of artifact showing up for the first time in Kaladesh. And they play differently than anything you have ever tried before. Knowing when and how to play them can be crucial in this fresh new Kaladesh world.
So...do you have your Kaladesh driver's license?
If you aren't sure, let's run through some driver's ed. to make sure that you're up for the task of piloting the multitude different Vehicles running around Kaladesh. There are definitely a few key tactics you should keep in mind. Let's run through them!
1. Build with the Crew Number in Mind
Okay, so let's start with deck building. (Or, if you're playing Limited, the drafting process.) Something to keep in mind when picking to play one card over another is how high the crew numbers on your cards are. Ideally, you want to crew your Vehicles with as few creatures as you can. And you definitely don't want to "waste" any power on crewing them.
For example, let's say you're going to play this lovely Cultivator's Caravan here.
You're playing a white deck that skews aggressive, and you're trying to pick between playing a creature with 2 power or one with 3 power. However, the abilities on the two creatures makes the decision between them hard.
Well, the third power on that creature has a secret hidden bonus: the ability to crew your Vehicle! If you have, say, two 2-power creatures in play, you're "wasting" a point of power by tapping them both to hop in the (Cara)van. Even if you have the exact right number of power on the battlefield, you would generally rather tap one creature than two because it's generally better to have more creatures for blocking.
In Booster Draft, this is true even during the draft: if you have a couple Vehicles with crew 3 in your deck, then you're definitely going to prefer picking up 3-power creatures like Trusty Companion to help crew those.
There are many factors to take into account, of course. And you should try to avoid playing weak cards just to crew Vehicles. But when it's a close choice, the ability to crew your Vehicles can be huge.
2. Vehicles Aren't Always Creatures
Okay, so that part you probably know by now. But how does that factor into your deck building? What do you count your vehicles as?
It's actually a bit of a tricky question: they're creatures sometimes, but not others. When building, say, a Limited deck, should they count toward your creature count or not? Are they half a creature? What's going on?
Well, as a good rule of thumb, the more Vehicles you put into your deck, and the higher crew numbers they have, the less they count as creatures.
Think of it this way. Your first Vehicle is the one that is most likely to be a creature: if you have any creature of the requisite crew number around, you can crew it. If you end up with a bunch of Vehicles on the battlefield, it's going to take significant resources to animate them all. (In a way other than just tapping them to crew each other.) If you only have Vehicles, then none of them are creatures.
Additionally, if your creature has a high crew number, that makes it less easily crewed or you'll need multiple creatures to crew it. Compare these two:
The Sky Skiff can be crewed by almost anything. The Stomper, on the other hand, is likely going to require a couple different creatures to crew it up.
Plus, no matter how easy it is to crew your Vehicle, to crew it you're going to need to tap at least one creature—which means you have minus one creature to use.
So, while the easy answer is "it depends," something more actionable is that in Limited I generally count my first two Vehicles—provided they have a low crew number—as creatures. After that, I start factoring them in as "half creatures."
In Constructed, you should be building with them in mind. If your Constructed deck has more than eight Vehicles, you definitely need a good reason—for example, like the aforementioned Caravan, it has other uses—because if you drew several of them, you might not be able to do much of anything. In general, four to six Vehicles is a pretty good number for Constructed, and they generally (but not always) fit better in aggressive decks.
With all of that said, it really does depend. The important thing is that you're paying attention to how often you'll be able to crew your Vehicles...and making sure you aren't overdoing it.
Of course, once your Vehicles are gone, then future Vehicles get better. Which ties right into...
3. Trade off Vehicles First
Let's say your opponent is attacking you with Brazen Scourge.
Because you're at a low life total, you need to block. You both have no cards in your hand. You can either block with your Armorcraft Judge, or use it to crew your Renegade Freighter and block.
How should you block here?
Well, as the title of the section may have had you guess, I would crew and block with the Vehicle here. There are a few reasons here.
First of all, while the Vehicle is certainly the stronger creature, it's not always guaranteed to be a creature. If you trade off with the Judge and don't find a creature next turn, then you're just missing out on 3 points of damage.
Even if you do find a creature, you'd probably rather have two active creatures at this stage in the game than one creature and one Vehicle. It gives you a lot better attacking and blocking options: you can attack with one and leave the other back, for example, as opposed to committing both of them at the same time.
Plus, if you have more Vehicles in your deck, you really don't want to be stuck with two Vehicles in this situation.
Let's expand this out to a larger board. If you have four creatures and a Vehicle that requires you to tap one of your creatures to crew, then you have four functional creatures for attacking or blocking. If you trade off one of those non-Vehicle creatures, then you only have three functional creatures left. Whereas if you ditch the Vehicle, you still have four creatures to operate with.
Now, there are situations where it's right to not trade off. In the aforementioned situation, if your opponent is at 5, then you definitely want to keep the Freighter! If you need to save your big Vehicle to break through a complex board, you may want to keep your Vehicle. If your deck is built in such a way to take advantage of Vehicles, then Vehicles are better. And so on. But, as a general rule of thumb, trade off your Vehicles first.
It's all about thinking ahead to future turns. And hey, speaking of...
4. Think Ahead
When you're driving a car in real life, you need to be looking ahead for potential dangers. And the same is true of Vehicles in Magic.
While it's always true that you want to be thinking ahead in Magic, Vehicles really demand it. If you tap a creature this turn to get in, what does that leave you with next turn? What do you need to leave open next turn to crew defensively? What if they kill off the creature you were going to crew with at the end of your turn with Chandra's Pyrohelix?
I can't tell you how many times I crewed my Vehicle to attack...and then immediately realized that it would have been far better to leave my creature Vehicle back to block. It's a simple thing, but one that's easy to overlook.
When you're playing with Vehicles, you really want to think through your combat and your opponent's combat all the way.
Vehicles really reward knowing if you're the aggressive or defensive player. They require a large resource commitment either way. If you're aggressive, then you're okay playing creatures and tapping them to get into the Vehicle and attack. If you're defensive, then you want to keep creatures untapped to both block or crew. Figuring out which you are will go a long way.
With Flying Colors
Now that you have your driver's license—or at the very least, your learner's permit—go forth into the world of Kaladesh and explore Vehicles!
This is just the beginning of the complex Vehicle interactions you'll find, and some of the tiny nuances you'll encounter in playing. However, this should give you a great base to work with. I look forward to hearing about how it goes!
If you have any thoughts or comments, you can always find me by sending a tweet or asking a question on my Tumblr. Alternatively, feel free to email me at BeyondBasicsMagic@gmail.com.
May all of your Vehicles in the next week have crews!