Against the Odds: Self-Driving Cars (Standard)
by SaffronOlive // Feb 16, 2017
Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode seventy-three of Against the Odds. Last week, we had another all-Aether Revolt Against the Odds poll, and in the end, it was Consulate Dreadnought—one of the cheapest, biggest, and hardest-to-crew Vehicles—coming out on top over Planar Bridge and Tezzeret, Master of Metal, which means that this week, we are heading to Standard to see if we can drive our way to victory with the one-mana 7/11! Since the crew cost of Consulate Dreadnought is so high (at crew 6), the trick of the deck is to figure out some ways of turning the artifact into a creature without crewing, and thankfully, there are some sweet ways, including one that lets us win the game by attacking on Turns 3 and 4 with a 10/11 first striker! In fact, our deck only has a single creature, and it only has two power, so it can't even crew most of our Vehicles. This means that, much like Elon Musk, we are all in on making cars that can drive themselves!
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Against the Odds: Self-Driving Cars (Deck Tech)
Against the Odds: Self-Driving Cars (Games)
When it came time to build around Consulate Dreadnought, I realized there really weren't many ways to build the deck. Since the crew cost is so high, the creature plan wouldn't be very good (and if we did try to use creatures, the deck would probably end up looking like Mardu Vehicles with Consulate Dreadnought), so instead, I decided we should overload on the biggest, most efficient Vehicles possible and then stuff the other half of our deck full of cards that could turn the artifacts into creatures without the need for crewing and try to beat our opponent down before they have a chance to recover!
The primary combo of our deck is Consulate Dreadnought and Siege Modification, which together can give us a 10/11 first-striking creature attacking on Turn 3. Probably the best part of the combo is that it only takes two hits to win the game, which means with our best draw, we can kill our opponent on Turn 4—fast enough to race aggro decks and even the Copy Cat combo! Of course, there's one big problem with our plan: Fatal Push destroys the combo (and two-for-ones us in the process) for just a single mana, and apparently, the black instant is played in more than 100% of decks at the moment, which means we need we need some protection.
Blossoming Defense is in the deck to make sure our self-driving Consulate Dreadnought doesn't get blown out by removal. If our opponent goes to kill our car, we can simply give it hexproof and keep attacking to hopefully close out the game in short order. While removal is one of the biggest problems with Consulate Dreadnought, there is one more: while the car is huge, it doesn't have any sort of evasion, which means our opponent can chump block it for a few turns while they are waiting to find removal. The good news is that we have a plan for this too!
Key to the City is an essential part of our nut draw. Here's the idea: on Turn 1, we play a Consulate Dreadnought. On Turn 2, we get down a Key to the City. On Turn 3, we enchant our Consulate Dreadnought with Siege Modification (which makes it a 10/11 self-driving car) and attack for 10. If our opponent has a blocker, we simply discard a card to Key to the City to make our Consulate Dreadnought unblockable; then, on Turn 4, we repeat the process and attack for 10 more damage to finish off our opponent!
While this might sound simple, and sometimes it is, there will also be games when we don't draw a copy of Consulate Dreadnought and other times when we won't draw a Siege Modification. The good news is that while these are our most powerful options for building a self-driving car, we actually have a ton of redundancy built into the deck, with a bunch of vehicles and many ways to make them drive themselves.
As for our backup Vehicles, the main theme here is evasion. Being able to attack is one thing, but being able to attack in the air is another, and they make sure that even when we don't have a Consulate Dreadnought, we can close out the game quickly. Evasion is also important because some of our other ways to turn our cars into creatures are one-shot effects, so we want to make sure we can get in damage before our cars turn off and go back to the garage.
Peacewalker Colossus is great because it's both a car and a way to turn our cars into creature for only two mana, which makes it both a payoff and an enabler. It works well with Consulate Dreadnought specifically, but when we cast it on Turn 3, we should have the mana to animate two different Vehicles on Turn 4, which represents a lot of damage (or, if need be, some really big defenders).
Meanwhile, Start Your Engines is basically our "surprise, I win the game" card, turning all of our cars into creatures and giving them +2/+0. Considering that many of our cars have flying, it often ends up feeling like a Vehicle Overrun. It's also faster than it looks—with a reasonable curve of cars (something like Turn 1 Consulate Dreadnought, Turn 2 Heart of Kiran, Turn 3 Peacewalker Colossus), Start Your Engines usually offers enough damage for us to win the game on Turn 4!
Sram, Senior Edificer is the only creature in our deck, and it isn't very good at crewing Vehicles (in fact, the only Vehicle it can crew is Aethersphere Harvester), which might make it seem like an odd choice. However, we have a massive 19 cards (not just our cars but Siege Modification as well) that trigger the "draw a card" ability, so when we get it on the battlefield on Turn 2, it offers a ton of card advantage and helps us cycle through our deck to find more Vehicles and more ways to turn them into creatures!
Otherwise, we just have a couple of Harnessed Lightnings and a single Fumigate for removal (although we do have more sweepers in the sideboard—they actually work really well with our cars, since they are often not creatures, basically turning Radiant Flames and Fumigate into one-sided wraths.)
First off, our deck can be incredibly fast and punishing, which means we can beat just about anyone if they stumble a bit on their draw and we run well. However, the biggest matchup consideration is just how much removal (and what kind of removal) our opponent's deck is playing. Probably our best matchups are aggro / midrange decks like GR Energy without black for Fatal Push. If our opponent is using red removal spells, they are going to have a super-difficult time dealing with our threats, and our cars tower over any creature they can put on the battlefield. On the other hand, Fatal Push is definitely problematic, and it's played in a ton of decks right now (this is the biggest reason I can't really imagine the deck being a real option at the moment—while it was way more powerful than I imagined, it's also super bad against Fatal Push specifically). The same is true of other unconditional removal like Unlicensed Disintegration.
The other thing I noticed during the matches is that some decks have a ton of hate in their sideboards. Release the Gremlins can be a blowout if the game gets to Turn 5, and Fragmentize kills all of our most important cards for only a single mana. While we can force our way through some number of artifact destruction spells with raw power, once the second or third one of our cars goes to the graveyard, we are going to have a hard time winning the game.
All in all, we got in six matches and won three (giving us a 50% match win percentage), and out of 14 games, we won 7 (also exactly 50%), which is actually a little bit above average for an Against the Odds deck. In some ways, it felt like we were playing Standard Belcher. Self-Driving Cars is really good at putting the opponent to the test in the first three or four turns of the game—if they don't have the right removal, they likely just lose on the spot, but if they do, we likely lose. As odd as it sounds, I could actually imaging playing this deck at an FNM-type of event, especially if people aren't expecting it. The element of surprise is certainly helpful. While opponents likely know something strange is happening when Consulate Dreadnought hits the battlefield, once we start making our cars unblockable with Key to the City or animating them all at once with Start Your Engines, it's often too late for the opponent to really do anything to stop it!
Vote for Next Week's Deck
We've played a lot of Standard lately with the release of Aether Revolt, and while we are going to stick to the Aether Revolt-themed poll for one more week, this week we are switching formats. Which one of these Aether Revolt options do you most want to see in Modern next week on Against the Odds?
Anyway, that's all for today! Don't forget to vote for next week's deck! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.