Last updated on September 20, 2023
Smuggler's Copter | Illustration by Florian de Gesincourt
Vehicles debuted in 2016 and quickly became a staple in Limited and various Constructed formats. While not quite an evergreen type, it looks like we'll continue to see vehicles on and off for the foreseeable future.
We've seen vehicles dominate Standard and Pioneer, leading to a ban in both formats for Smuggler's Copter and an Alchemy nerf for Esika's Chariot. Cards like Heart of Kiran, Skysovereign, Consul Flagship, and Fleetwheel Cruiser have all seen regular play across several formats even while other cards may not have been banned.
But what exactly are vehicles, and how does their crew mechanic work? Let's talk about that.
What Are Vehicles in MTG?
Renegade Freighter | Illustration by Izzy
Vehicles are an artifact type that debuted in Kaladesh. They frequently appeared as one-(or two-)off cards in most sets, not as a main mechanic. Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty uses vehicles as a main element and features more new vehicles than Kaladesh, including the first black and multicolored vehicles.
Best White Vehicles
White is one of the primary colors for vehicles. Most vehicles are colorless but there was at least one white vehicle even before Kamigawa. Now there are a few mono-white vehicles, and multicolored ones.
One of the most powerful vehicles ever printed, Parhelion II has seen a lot more play in Pioneer thanks to Greasefang, Okiba Boss’s ability to reanimate a vehicle with haste. It’s a huge amount of vigilant power and toughness if you’re able to crew and cast Parhelion II, most of which stays around even uncrewed.
A new Kamigawa Commander card, Aerial Surveyor allows you to attack players who have more lands than you and then fetch a basic Plains to put on the battlefield. It’s especially good in multiplayer games where you can attack different players to consistently trigger its ramp ability.
Best Blue Vehicles
Blue has the most colored vehicles with cards printed in Kaladesh, War of the Spark, Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, and the Neon Dynasty Commander deck. While none of these cards dominate their respective formats yet, several are already role players and EDH staples with notable power level.
Silent Submersible has a restrictive mana cost, but you can steadily draw extra cards and bury your opponents with tempo if you can play it early and sneak in some damage. Vehicles that draw extra cards have proven strong, especially in multiplayer games where players are slower to develop in the early game.
Cosima, God of the Voyage / The Omenkeel
A flip god from Kaldheim, The Omenkeel is a strong vehicle payoff that allows you to get lands from other players’ decks after your vehicles deal damage. This ensures that you don’t miss land drops throughout the game. A legendary 3/3 for two mana with a low crew cost pairs well with a lot of synergies, especially in EDH.
Imposter Mech is the newest blue vehicle from the Kamigawa Commander precons. It’s a Clone that takes the image of a creature an opponent controls, except it’s a vehicle with crew 3. This can easily allow you to steal your opponents’ best creatures, kill them, and have a protected version of them hidden away as an uncrewed vehicle. A very powerful Clone effect that pairs well in the vehicle Commander deck.
Deluxe Dragster/card] is a sweet new vehicle released in March of the Machine Commander. It's a 4/3 for that allows you to cast instants and sorceries out of a player's graveyard for free when you deal combat damage to them! That's an insane ability, even for a 5-mana vehicle, and it sure makes up for the fact that it needs to be crewed.
A new vehicle from Neon Dynasty, the first time [card]Mindlink Mech is crewed each turn it becomes a copy of the nonlegendary creature that crewed it until the end of the turn. This allows for some interesting combos, like with Combat Celebrant, or just any creature that has an attack trigger. I suspect we'll see more of Mindlink Mech soon.
Best Black Vehicle
Black, much like green, didn't get any vehicles from Kaldheim. The first vehicle in black is a rare from Neon Dynasty that gives a promising future to the power level of black vehicles to come.
The only black vehicle we’ve seen so far, Mukotai Soulripper is a strong card in aggressive black decks, especially ones with excess artifacts or creatures. There are plenty of ways to power it up for virtually no cost with so many Blood tokens running around.
Best Red Vehicle
Red didn’t have any vehicles in the original Kaladesh set but has since received two uncommons and a rare in War of the Spark, Crimson Vow, and Kaldheim. I’m sure we'll have better options as we get more colored vehicles in the future.
Mizzium Tank is a solid vehicle with a small crew cost. It can grow to an overwhelming size with trample in decks that can play several spells per turn. While the bonus stats are only temporary, this could be a stronger option for spell-based decks that don’t run many creatures.
Best Green Vehicle
Green only has a single vehicle printed but it's made its mark in Standard, Historic, Pioneer, and Alchemy. One of the strongest vehicles for competitive play, Esika's Chariot dominates the board by itself and has been played more than any other colored vehicle. It’s definitely a top choice for powerful vehicles.
Best Multicolored Vehicles
We finally have multicolored vehicles with the release of Neon Dynasty. I’ll list them both since the pickings are slim, but hopefully we get more in the future outside of just white and blue.
Shorikai, Genesis Engine
Shorikai, Genesis Engine is one of the faces of the latest Commander deck for Kamigawa. An 8/8 vehicle for four mana, Shorikai lets you filter through your deck by drawing two and discarding one. Then you get a 1/1 Pilot that can crew as a 3/3.
You can crew this 8/8 by itself after three activations, but you can also quickly get attacking with an 8/8 in decks leveraging high-powered creatures to crew. In case of wraths, you can loot and re-deploy your vehicles with the Pilots. A great card for any vehicle deck.
A 3/4 for three mana, Prodigy's Prototype has decent stats for a decent cost. With crew 2 you can easily activate this Prototype, but it’s the triggered ability that works best in vehicle-heavy decks.
Whenever one or more vehicles you control attack, you create a 1/1 colorless Pilot that can crew as if it had a power of 3. This can immediately enable multiple attacks from vehicles with some of the higher crew costs by providing tokens to crew.
Best Colorless Vehicles
As you'd expect of a list looking at an artifact subtype, the colorless section has the most powerful and iconic vehicles. So let’s get into the best colorless vehicles of all time!
What is there to say about Smuggler's Copter? It’s arguably the best vehicle ever printed. It was banned in Standard and Pioneer to limit the oppressiveness of aggressive decks filtering out the bad draws while keep up immense pressure.
While this card hasn’t and won’t see play in other eternal formats, it was a constant 4-of that dominated in the formats where it did see play. This should be an early consideration for any EDH deck that can reliably crew it.
One of the harder-hitting vehicles in its Standard format, Cultivator's Caravan also fixes your mana while providing an insurance policy against wraths. While the crew cost can be tough in aggressive decks, the acceleration and mana fixing allows you to quickly ramp into the midgame and deploy bigger creatures.
The namesake of an entire Magic set, Weatherlight is a 4/5 flying vehicle for four mana with crew 3. You can look at the top five cards of your library, reveal a historic card from among them, and put it in your hand whenever the vehicle deals combat damage to a player.
This card can quickly out-grind midrange and control decks. And you can often find your next threat while protecting against wrath effects in decks with plenty of vehicles, sagas, legendary cards, or artifacts. Weatherlight is a great vehicle for any midrange deck that can actively crew it.
Conqueror's Galleon / Conqueror's Foothold
A 2/10 vehicle with a high crew cost, Conqueror's Galleon looks like an odd inclusion at first glance. The benefit of this card is that you get to transform it into Conqueror's Foothold once you can get an attack in with it.
This land ramps you, loots, draws cards, and return cards to your hand from your graveyard. The value gained by this flip land is hard to combat, especially in formats like EDH where you have time and mana to spare.
Heart of Kiran
Heart of Kiran is a powerhouse that took the place of Smuggler's Copter once Aether Revolt came out and Copter ate a ban. Harder to crew than Copter, Heart's primary mode was in decks that played planeswalkers with high loyalty counts like Azorius () Flash decks to get in free attacks without tapping your creatures.
A card that was largely ignored in its Standard format, Peacewalker Colossus is starting to see play in Pioneer with the release of Kamigawa. Being able to crew other vehicles for two mana helps to crew your high-cost vehicles like Consulate Dreadnought or Colossal Plow in decks like Mono-White Vehicles.
A one-time staple in Vintage Shops, Fleetwheel Cruiser acts as a 4-mana Lava Axe that can continue to threaten opponents’ life totals through removal and wraths if it survives. Cruiser is definitely best in decks where your opponent can’t maintain a board presence.
One of the best cards in Pioneer at answering aggressive decks, Aethersphere Harvester can attack over most decks in the format, block aggressive creatures well, and gain you life. We don’t see it as much as we should right now even thought it was the best sideboard option into aggressive decks in its Standard. I'm curious if we'll see Harvester uptick in play versus all the Lurrus of the Dream-Den decks right now.
A 2-mana 2/4 with crew 2, Mechtitan Core can turn into a 10/10 legendary Mechtitan with flying, vigilance, trample, lifelink, and haste. You have to exile four other artifacts to create it, but you get all your artifacts except the Core itself even if your titan is answered.
A payoff for having other vehicles, Surgehacker Mech deals two times X damage to target creature or planeswalker an opponent controls, where X is the number of vehicles you control including itself. A removal spell stapled onto a 5/5 menace for four mana is a very good rate.
Along with several cards on this list, Surgehacker made a home in the Mono-White Vehicles deck in Pioneer. I expect this card will see lots of play in Standard and Pioneer for the foreseeable future.
A solid midrange payoff from Kamigawa, Reckoner Bankbuster is a 4/4 for two mana with crew 3. Similar to Mazemind Tome on a vehicle, this card should see play in plenty of midrange decks in Standard, Pioneer, and EDH as one of the best value vehicles ever printed.
Best Vehicle Payoffs
Vehicle-specific payoffs don’t see heavy play for the most part, but Kamigawa Standard is still fresh and it’s still possible that some of these become metagame staples.
- Surgehacker Mech
- Cosima, God of the Voyage / The Omenkeel
- Peacewalker Colossus
- Mobilizer Mech
- Shorikai, Genesis Engine
- Sram, Senior Edificer
- Deadeye Quartermaster
- Depala, Pilot Exemplar
- Armed and Armored
- Mech Hangar
- Kotori, Pilot Prodigy
- Katsumasa, the Animator
- Anchor to Reality
- Greasefang, Okiba Boss
Do Vehicles Have Summoning Sickness?
While vehicles aren't creatures they still become creatures when they're crewed, and the normal rules of summoning sickness apply. So unless they have haste like Fleetwheel Cruiser, vehicles can't attack the turn you play them since they're affected by summoning sickness.
Can Vehicles Block?
Crewed or animated vehicles work the same as any other creature. If there isn’t an effect stopping them from blocking, vehicles can block like normal.
Can You “Over-Crew” Vehicles?
Yes, you can “over-crew” vehicles or crew vehicles that are already crewed. This came up during Kaladesh Limited thanks to cards like Veteran Motorist and Night Market Lookout that let you pump the vehicle or drain your opponent even if the vehicle was already crewed.
Can Vehicles Crew Other Vehicles?
Yes, you can use crewed vehicles to crew other vehicles. These vehicle chains were common when trying to crew cards like Heart of Kiran that had a high crew cost relative to the power of creatures in the format.
But vehicles do need to be creatures to crew another vehicle, so an uncrewed vehicle can't crew another uncrewed vehicle.
Are Vehicles Considered Creatures?
Vehicles are only considered creatures when they're crewed or animated via other means. While uncrewed or unanimated vehicles are just artifacts, not creatures.
Can Vehicles Be Destroyed?
Yes, vehicles can be destroyed by any spells that destroy artifacts. Or, if they're crewed, they can be destroyed like any creature.
What if the Vehicle is Uncrewed?
You can still destroy an uncrewed vehicle as if it were a noncreature artifact.
Can You Enchant Vehicles? Equip them?
You can enchant and equip vehicles that are crewed or animated. Some cards can enchant vehicles specifically, like Aerial Modification, so the aura won’t fall off the vehicle when it stops being a creature.
Do Counters Stay on Vehicles?
Counters stay on permanents even if they're no longer creatures. This works the same way that adding counters to a planeswalker like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar works. The vehicle retains the counters which are immediately applied if and when it becomes a creature again.
Can Defenders Crew Vehicles?
Yes, defenders can crew vehicles. “Defender” only restricts a creature’s ability to attack your opponent, so they can crew vehicles based on their power as normal.
Are Changelings Vehicles?
Are Vehicles Creatures in Graveyards?
When in the graveyard, vehicles are their uncrewed version exactly as printed, meaning that they're artifacts and not creatures.
Can a Vehicle Crew Itself?
A vehicle could crew itself up until the release of Neon Dynasty, but they can no longer do so with the rules update from the set.
Are Vehicles Actually Good?
Vehicles are resilient threats that have seen play in Standard, Pioneer, Historic, Alchemy, EDH, and Limited. While they aren’t generally powerful enough for Modern or Legacy they are well balanced for the newer formats. Some vehicles even dominated their respective formats and required bans or nerfs, like Smuggler's Copter and Esika's Chariot.
While there are plenty of mediocre vehicles aimed more towards Limited, the best ones are multiformat all-stars that are worth considering in any deck that can reliably crew them.
Esika's Chariot | Illustration by Raoul Vitale
Vehicles are an artifact subtype that changed a lot about how the game functions when they were first printed in Kaladesh. Since then we've seen those limits pushed with more powerful cards and more colors added to the vehicle subtype.
I’ve enjoyed vehicles a lot since their printing, and I think having access to wrath-proof threats that can pressure other decks is a good tool for aggro and midrange decks. I hope we keep seeing more vehicles printed, especially with more colors and abilities that don’t just dominate the game like Chariot or Copter.
Let me know what your favorite vehicles are and what decks you’ve played them in! Did you play Mardu Vehicles, Azorius Flash, or do you have a sweet EDH vehicles deck? I personally have 16 Smuggler's Copters in my binder from all the copies I picked up before the repeat bans.
Thanks so much for reading, and stay safe out there!
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