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By: TheWolf, Shane Garvey
Apr 03 2018 12:00pm
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When Wizards of the Coast announced the new Challenger Decks, I was excited. I am the perfect target for them: I only have a casual interest in Standard, and can't be bothered building a new deck all the time to take to FNM. This product would great for both myself and my kids as a way to get us back playing the format without having to do a ton of work.

This series of four articles will put all of the Challenger Decks through their paces in a friendly Standard league on Magic Online, the closest thing I can think of to what a normal FNM would be like. I'm going to play the decks as they are, before offering some budget-friendly upgrade ideas. I'll run you through how the matches play out and give my overall thoughts on the deck.

Last week, I took a look at Hazoret Aggro. If you want to see how that went, click here.

This week: Vehicle Rush

 

This is another aggressive deck, but one based around the vehicle mechanic from Kaladesh block. It's essentially a budget version of Mardu Vehicles, a deck the dominated Standard for some time. Let's put it through it's paces.

Match 1

I won the die roll and choose to play first. I started with a Toolcraft Exemplar into Heart of Kiran, followed by Depala. My opponent played Servant of the Conduit and Harnessed Lightning to kill Depala, and I assumed they were on red/green energy. I followed up with a Scrapheap Scrounger and a Pia Nalaar, while my opponent played Samut, the Tested, but it was all too late for them and I won game one.

I didn't see much of my opponent's deck and so I decided to just leave the sideboard alone for now. My opponent started game two in a quicker fashion, with a Servant of the Conduit into Voltaic Brawler and Rhonas the Indomitable. I was able to play Toolcraft Examplar and Scrapheap Scrounger, but when I tried to use Unlicensed Disintegration to kill their Brawler, they saved it with Blossoming Defense. I was under a heap of pressure but somehow managed to stabilize at 1 life, after I dealt with their creatures, meaning Rhonas could no longer attack. We both went into top deck mode but it was my opponent who drew out of it first, with a Heart of Kiran that was out of range of the Lightning Strike in my hand.

This time, I sideboarded in Magma Sprays, Harsh Mentors and the Cast Out to deal with Rhonas. I played first in game three, starting with a Bomat Courier and a Veteran Motorist, and using a Magma Spray when they played Servant of the Conduit. They then followed up with an Aether Chaser which I tried to kill, but which was saved again with Blossoming Defense. I ended up trading two Veteran Motorists in my hand for four cards from my Courier, which netted me a Heart of Kiran and an Unlicensed Disintegration - quite a good trade. I started attacking with the Heart and killed a Brawler with Disintegration, and also played two Harsh Mentors; this would prove to be crucial in the end, as my opponent played Electrostatic Pummeler but was unable to activate it without killing themselves. In the end I took the game and the match.

The deck is off to a good start, with a 2-1 victory.

Match 2

My opponent chose to play first and started with a Minister of Inquiries, which told me immediately they were on white/blue Gift as their deck of choice. For me, I started with a Bomat Courier, Heart of Kiran and Depala, and started attacking. My opponent was able to get a turn four God-Pharoah's Gift, but thankfully had nothing to target in their graveyard. I was able to get them down to 9 life before they reanimated an Angel of Invention. I had no answers and quickly fell behind to lose. 

For sideboarding, I bought in Magma Sprays, Cast Out and the Crooks of Condemnation. Unfortunately, it would do no good as my opponent had an even better game two. Once again they got a turn four Gift, but this time they had and Angel of Invention and an Angel of Sanctions in the graveyard; this was easily too much for me and I quickly lost.

1-1, and 2-3 in games. I really, really dislike God-Pharoah's Gift as a card. You often just lose on turn four, and that is just no fun.

Not my favourite combination of cards in standard by a long stretch

Match 3

There really isn't much to say about this match. My opponent was on Grixis Control and I had to mulligan to five in both games - not something you want to be doing in general but certainly not against a control deck. Anything I played my opponent had answers for - I could not land a single threat, as it was either countered or killed. Not a fun time, and can't learn much from it either.

Now 1-2, and 2-5 in games. 

Match 4

I was on the draw in game one, and my opponent was playing a red/green beatdown deck, as evidenced by the three Merfolk Branchwalkers and three Earthshaker Khenra they played in the opening turns. They were able to control my board with a combination of Magma Sprays, Lightning Strikes and Abrades, and I quickly lost.

I sideboarded in my Magma Sprays and Chandra's Defeats and hoped for better in game two, but it was more of the same. My early plays were removed, while my opponent developed their board. I was just outclassed at every turn, and my opponent was able to finish me off with a Rekindling Phoenix and a Gloryrbinger.

1-3, and 2-7 in games, which is obviously not great. One thing I am learning is that, if I don't draw a Heart of Kiran early, I don't feel like I am in the game at all. This is obviously a bit of a problem with this deck. Let's see if I can at least get a win on the board in the final match.

Match 5

My opponent won the die roll and started with a Skymarch Aspirant, upon which the played Cartouche of Solidarity and Curious Obsession, indicating they were possibly on white/blue auras. This was confirmed when they played Sram, Senior Edificer. For my part, I played a Toolcraft Examplar and then Lightning Strike to kill the Aspirant, then followed up with Aethersphere Harvester. My opponent then played One with the Wind and another Curious Obsession, this time on the Warrior token they had, but it was blanked by my Harvester. I was able to then play Pia Nalaar and then drew and cast Unlicensed Disintegration on his Warrior. This actually cleared the way for me and I was able to go on and win the game.

Game two started in much the same way as game one. However this time my opponent was able to play his auras on a lifelink Vampire token, which ramped his life total into the 30s. I managed to stabilize with Skysovereign, Consul Flagship which I was then able to use to start clearing the board. I gained the ascendancy in the game, until I went for the kill and my opponent cast Settle the Wreckage which, well, wrecked me! My opponent was then able to get some creatures on the board and I wasn't, and we went to game three.

This final game was essentially a mirror of game one; my opponent played a bunch of creatures and auras, I tried to kill them, then took over the game with my creatures and vehicles (I was careful not to play into Settle the Wreckage this time). The game ended with a Lightning Strike to the opponent's head.

That gives me a 2-3 record, and 4-8 in games. Not as good as last week, but not too bad, all things considered.

Upgrades

Alright, how can we make this deck better while sticking to a 100 tix budget? The deck certainly felt better when I drew Heart of Kiran and Aethersphere Harvester, so let's start there. We already have the maximum amount of Hearts, and I want to add another couple of Harvesters. So I am taking out a Depala and the Cultivator's Caravan for them.

Speaking of Depala, I didn't find her very good in the deck; Pia was better. I want to cut another Depala and add a third Pia. The artifact Pia drops is quite important for various things, so this should help with some synergy there. I suggest dropping the final Depala for a card that is just raw power: Hazoret. It has no synergy with the deck, but ups the power level by a lot, so I think it is worth it.

Finally, let's look at the mana base. I wasn't entirely happy with it and I think I can improve the consistency of the deck by modifying the lands. Firstly, I want to drop the Evolving Wilds for Canyon Slough; this will help us smooth out our draws by being able to mitigate flood a bit if we draw them late. The Unclaimed Territories are now less important without Depala, so I want to get rid of them an Inspiring Vantage and two Concealed Courtyards.

As for the sideboard, I want to add an additional Cast Out as well as two copies of Settle the Wreckage. To do this, I will get rid of one each of Aethersphere Harvester, Duress and Harsh Mentor. That leaves us with this:

 

These upgrades should make the deck more powerful and more consistent. As always, tailor the sideboard to what decks you are seeing.

Next time, join me when we try out Second Sun Control.