There was a lot of hype around vehicles and crew in Magic: the Gathering when they were released in Kaladesh. Wizards of the Coast had been hyping them up for months, and players were excited to see what they could do. Unfortunately, they failed to have a lasting impact on the game. In this article, we will explore why that was the case and how they could be improved.
Vehicles are too Fragile
Vehicles are just artifacts until crewed, then they’re artifact creatures. The huge problem with artifact creatures is that they’re the most vulnerable permanent type in the game, being targetable by a huge percentage of removal spells, and destroyable by every color.
This isn’t so bad for vehicles that have an enter the battlefield trigger, like Skysovereign, Consul Flagship, but it makes most vehicles mediocre as they just trade one for one with your opponents’ removal.
Crewing is a Trap
Crewing a vehicle requires tapping creatures with shared power greater than or equal to the crew cost. On paper, this is usually worth it, as vehicles are basically under-costed creatures. However, in reality, you’re just setting yourself up to waste a turn as your vehicle gets sniped by your opponents’ removal (as described above). This is a problem for most vehicles, but there are some exceptions like Heart of Kiran because they have alternative crew costs.
One small bonus of crewing is that it allows you to make use of creatures that you’ve just played, as they can tap to crew a vehicle regardless of them having summoning sickness. This is particularly useful in control matchups as your vehicles stop being creatures in your opponent’s turn, thus surviving their board wipes.
Vehicles are Useless Alone
Vehicles are also generally useless alone. This is because they require creatures to crew them, and thus they’re only as good as the number of creatures you have on the battlefield.
This can be a problem in aggressive decks as you often want to be able to deploy your threats as quickly as possible, and thus don’t want to waste time playing creatures just for the sake of crewing a vehicle.
Check out our other articles on MTG Mechanics.
While vehicles are a cool and flavorful concept, their impact on constructed play has been minimal so far. We saw Smuggler’s Copter get banned in pioneer, and the introduction of the Greasefang/Parhelion reanimator deck with Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty but these are the only recent appearances of vehicles in constructed play.
If future vehicles are printed with better value and have a decent payoff for the risk of casting and crewing them they would undoubtedly enter the competitive metagames of various formats, but for now they’re just another meh mechanic with wasted potential.