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Brewer's Minute: Beating the Looter Scooter


Hey, everyone, it's time for another Brewer's Minute. When it comes to building a successful deck, it's not just about our game plan and what we are trying to do but what everyone else is doing as well. So, this week, we are going to be talking about the most important card on week one of Kaladesh Standard—Smuggler's Copter—and breaking down what options each color has for answering the new best card in the format. 

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This week, we're looking at one card in particular and talking about cards that are super important to formats. In the past, we've seen cards like Collected Company and Siege Rhino dominate Standard, and these type of cards have to be accounted for when building decks. Whether in the sideboard or even in the main deck, these cards have to be answered. Based on the first week of Kaladesh Standard, we have a new best card in Standard, and it's Smuggler's Copter. As such, today's Brewer's Minute is 100% about the cards that we can use to deal with Smuggler's Copter. We are going to go through each color and talk about what answers exist, which ones can fit in the main deck, and which ones can find homes in the sideboard, so by the time we're done, no matter what color or archetype we're playing, we'll have a list of cards we can use to fight against the looter-scooter menace. 

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Before getting to the colors, there are three important things to note about Smuggler's Copter itself. First, as a vehicle, we can't trust that sorcery-speed removal will work, so as far as spell-based answers go, we'll mostly be looking for instants. Second, Smuggler's Copter is an artifact, which opens up more possible answers, since cards like Natural State (which can't kill creatures) can deal with Smuggler's Copter. Finally, Smuggler's Copter has flying, so if we are looking for creature-based answers, they need to be able to block an evasive creature. 

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Red is likely the best color at answering Smuggler's Copter for two important reasons. First, when it comes to answering a threat, one of the things we are looking for is efficiency. Killing a two-mana Smuggler's Copter with a five-mana removal spell isn't really that much of a win. Sure, we will get the Smuggler's Copter off the table, but it will cost us three more mana than playing the threat had cost our opponent. Typically, we'd like our answer to be mana neutral (i.e., two mana for two mana) or, even better, gain us mana (which is why cards like Path to Exile are so powerful). If we do have to give up efficiency to kill a threat, we want to be getting something else in return (for example, Flametongue Kavu, which gives us a creature). The good news about red is that all of its answers are very efficient, with Fiery Temper and Lightning Axe (hopefully) being one mana and Harnessed Lightning being only two mana. 

The other thing we're looking for in answers is flexibility. If all we cared about is killing Smuggler's Copter, Natural State would be by far the best option, being only one mana and instant speed. The problem is that Natural State isn't very good at anything else, so if our opponent doesn't draw a Smuggler's Copter (or isn't playing a Smuggler's Copter deck), Natural State will be a literal mulligan. All of red's answers are quite flexible as well, killing Smuggler's Copter for a low cost but also being able to deal with Depala, Pilot Exemplar, Sylvan Advocate, and basically every other early-game threat in the format. 

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While I think the removal spells are fine in the main deck, when it comes to the sideboard, Weaver of Lightning is one of my favorite trumps to Smuggler's Copter. As a 1/4 with reach, it blocks the 3/3 flier all day, and it also picks off a ton of creatures (including Toolcraft Exemplar and Veteran Motorist) for free whenever we cast an instant or sorcery. I could even see an argument for running Weaver of Lightning in the main deck of specific builds like UR Fevered Visions

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Black has fewer good answers for Smuggler's Copter than I thought it would, considering black is traditionally one of the best removal colors in Magic. Essence Extraction is a bit more expensive than we'd like, costing us three mana to kill the two-mana Smuggler's Copter, but gaining three life is a meaningful upside. Meanwhile, Mindwrack Demon can lock down Smuggler's Copter by being a big, efficient flier, and while I'm not sure that Smuggler's Copter alone is reason enough to run Mindwrack Demon in a non-delirium deck, being able to block Smuggler's Copter can be a tiebreaker if you are choosing between Mindwrack Demon and another card. As far as sideboards, Vampire Envoy could be a possibility. While it isn't a great card, it does work like a flying wall, and having four toughness means it can block Smuggler's Copter with ease. While I'm still not sold on it being worth a slot, it doesn't hurt to keep in in mind just in case, since black doesn't have that many good answers. 

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Green might be the worst color at answering Smuggler's Copter in the main deck, with Ishkanah, Grafwidow being the only good option, and even with Ishkanah, Grafwidow, you really need to have a reasonable shot at getting delirium before you put it in your deck. Without the Spider tokens, it simply isn't good enough for constructed. The good news is that green might be the best color at answering Smuggler's Copter from the sideboard. 

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Green's biggest advantage is having a ton of artifact and enchantment removal, so there is no lack of options for killing Smuggler's Copter. Mockery of Nature is a possibility in emerge decks, leaving behind a big body and killing any artifact or enchantment, which is beneficial if an opponent ends up playing another vehicle or even a Metalwork Colossus. We already talked a bit about Natural State—it's the cleanest and most efficient way to kill Smuggler's Copter in all of Standard, but with a major downside: it doesn't hit much else. How good it will be depends on the format; if Smuggler's Copter is the only vehicle that sees much play, then Natural State is probably fine, but if Skysovereign, Consul Flagship and Fleetwheel Cruiser become big parts of the format, then we'll want a card that can answer all artifacts and not just cheap ones. Finally, Plummet is probably my favorite green answer to Smuggler's Copter because it has value in a lot of matchups. It can kill a ton of powerful threats, including Archangel Avacyn, Skysovereign, Consul Flagship, Spell Queller, and of course, Smuggler's Copter, all for just two mana at instant speed. While not nearly as flexible as red or black removal, Plummet is about as flexible as it gets for green.

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White is a bit like red, with some good, flexible removal and a creature-answer kicker thrown in. If you're looking for spells, Gideon's Reproach gets the job done for only two mana and kills any attacking / blocking creature the size of Smuggler's Copter (even with a Depala, Pilot Exemplar on the battlefield) or smaller. On the other end of the spectrum, Skywhaler's Shot kills things the size of Smuggler's Copter and larger for one additional mana; plus, you get a free scry thrown in as a bonus!

The other benefit of white is that the color has some very good fliers, including Archangel Avacyn and Gisela, the Broken Blade, which can shut down Smuggler's Copter in the air. However, when it comes to picking answers, you want to make sure you're not picking up fringe hate from the card you're fighting against. Take Gisela, the Broken Blade, for example. While it shuts down Smuggler's Copter thanks to first strike, if we assume that people are going to start playing more Harnessed Lightnings and Essence Extractions to deal with Smuggler's Copter, then Gisela, the Broken Blade actually gets much worse because both of those cards efficiently kill her just as easily as they kill Smuggler's Copter

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Blue is by far the worst color at dealing with Smuggler's Copter because it doesn't get any real removal. Instead, it leans on things like Wretched Gryff (which only really works in an emerge deck) and Consulate Skygate, which is basically a colorless, artifact Angelic Wall. Of course, when it comes to colorless answers, other decks can play them as well, but it seems unlikely that any non-blue color would want Consulate Skygate in their sideboard, simply because each other color has better, more efficient, and more flexible ways to deal with Smuggler's Copter. Speaking of colorless answers...

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Maybe the easiest way to beat Smuggler's Copter is to play your own Smuggler's Copter. As 3/3s, they will just smash into each other in combat and die, which solves the problem. As we saw during the Top 8 of this past weekend's SCG Open, nearly every deck can run the Smuggler's Copter—all you really need is some number of creatures to crew it. As such, unless you are playing a hardcore, nearly creature-free control deck, you might as well stick Smuggler's Copter in your deck. This doesn't mean you shouldn't run the other answers we've been talking about (in fact, there's a good argument that whoever can use other cards to make their Smuggler's Copter the best Smuggler's Copter will win most games)—the card is so efficient and flexible that it takes a very good reason (like a lack of creatures) to keep it out of a deck.

The main point of all this is to keep Smuggler's Copter in mind as you brew and build your deck for your next FNM. As least for now (maybe the Pro Tour will change things), you're going to want to make sure you have a plan for beating the looter scooter, or else you're going to lose to it. If you can work some ways into your main deck, that's great, but at the very least, dedicate some number of sideboard slots to dealing with Smuggler's Copter and remember: the more efficient and flexible, the better! If you have any other ways to beat the looter scooter, make sure to let me know in the comments, because I'm sure we'll need plenty of answers for Budget Magic and Against the Odds decks!

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. 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.

 


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