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Buckle Up Precon Upgrade Guide | $50 | Shorikai | Vehicles | Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty preconstructed decks have been revealed and with it comes another round of my precon upgrades. We're going to do a thorough analysis of each deck, highlighting its goals and how well it accomplishes them, check out its deckbuilding fundamentals, identify its strongest and weakest cards, then use all that information to create a high-impact list of upgrades for under $50.

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Buckle Up is a Azorius Artifact precon with a primary focus on Vehicles: the deck is all about casting vehicles from the small Mobilizer Mech to the mighty Parhelion II, ramping them out with cards like Foundry Inspector, starting their engines easier with cards like Cyberdrive Awakener, and beefing them up with cards like Katsumasa, the Animator. Then you crash these huge artifacts straight into your opponents' life totals for the win!

If you're looking for a Vehicle deck that utilizes some awesome Artifact support found in both White and Blue, then Buckle Up is the precon for you!

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The Precon List

Before we talk upgrades, let's take a look at the stock list to see what we're working with:

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Right out of the box, Buckle Up does a solid job focusing on Vehicles: I count 15 vehicles along with 5 cards that directly support vehicles and 29 cards that support artifacts, which vehicles are a subtheme of. The deck doesn't really support any archetype outside of Vehicles -- there are plenty of cards that can be used to support any style of Artifact deck, but no other subthemes show up here. You could certainly transform the deck into a different type of Artifact deck, but it would take a lot more work to do so than just improving the Vehicle theme.

Choosing Our Commander

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Buckle Up provides two options to lead the stock list: the face card, Kotori, Pilot Prodigy, and Shorikai, Genesis Engine in the 99. While the stock list functions fine with either of these leading it, these commanders want to be built around very differently.

Kotori, Pilot Prodigy is a straightforward Vehicle commander: it provides a flat rate to crewing vehicles which is usually a small discount (e.g. Mobilizer Mech) and very rarely a huge discount (e.g. Colossal Plow). Vigilance and lifelink is a solid defensive boost, keeping your life total nice and high and making sure you have blockers to deter clapbacks. It's a solid but not super exciting commander for Vehicles.

The far more interesting commander is Shorikai, Genesis Engine: it's a vehicle, not a creature, making it far harder to remove from the battlefield. It's a super-looter that puts my pet commander, Niambi, Esteemed Speaker, to shame -- draw 2, discard 1, and make a pilot, for just 1 mana??? Sheesh! Oh and yeah, it can also get in there as an 8/8 when needed. This commander is nuts, one of the strongest so far in 2022, and effortlessly lets you draw your entire deck and make tons of creatures when paired with Intruder Alarm, the Isochron Scepter + Dramatic Reversal combo, and more.

Honestly it's not even a competition between these two: Shorikai is simply more powerful for any direction you want to take this precon. If you want to focus on Vehicles then it's better as it's providing a steady stream of pilots to crew your vehicles while drawing you whatever you need, filling your graveyard for recursion, and being harder to kill. If you don't want to focus on Vehicles then Shorikai is obviously the better option as well, and I predict non-Vehicle versions of Shorikai will become immensely popular, definitely one of the most popular Azorius commanders.

I think Kotori, Pilot Prodigy is a useful choice in that it's clearly a lower power commander, which makes it better suited at lower power tables where Shorikai might be too strong at. But for the purposes of this upgrade and being optimized? Yeah, we're going with the giant mech! 

Analyzing the Precon

Now that we've glanced at the stock list and settled on our commander, let's take a closer look at the deck itself to identify what parts benefit the most from upgrades.

As I often explain in my Budget Commander articles, every time I build a rough draft of a deck, I make sure I have a certain ratio of mana, interaction, card advantage, etc. This gives me a reference point to compare to the deck and see which areas may need improvement. My general ratio is:

  • 50 mana; lands and ramp, usually a 37–13 split
  • 10 card draw; cards that net you 2+ cards in hand
  • 8 targeted removal; split between creature / artifact / enchantment removal and countermagic
  • 3 board wipes; creature-light decks might want one more, creature-heavy decks might want one less
  • 2 graveyard recursion
  • 2 flexible tutors; higher budgets I recommend more tutors
  • 1 graveyard hate; since you need to keep Graveyard decks honest 
  • 1 finisher; something that can win games the turn you cast it without too much setup

That's always my starting point, which is then tweaked to suit the individual deck's strategy and further tweaked with playtesting. I always find it immensely useful to figure out some quick ways to improve the deck in question.

Let's see what the rough ratios are for Buckle Up and how it compares. I count:

The ratios for this precon looks fantastic, almost like the designers have been reading my articles! The deck even has graveyard hate as a cherry on top.

Now that we've taken a look at the ratios, let's take a deeper dive into the individual cards.

37 Lands. Do these precons signal the end of crappy tapped dual lands? It might be: there isn't a single gainland to be found, just a single Temple of Enlightenment, which is at least a decent land as far as tapped duals go. We've got a couple untapped duals, which are great, the standout being Spire of Industry. But uhhhh ... the deck has 30 basic lands? 30 basics??? Look, I like basic lands in 2C decks more than the average Commander player, but this feels like WOTC is just being unnecessarily cheap on us here. I expect some inconsistency issues here where you won't have the correct mana to cast some of your spells on time. Not good.

Also this was a huge missed opportunity to reprint Adarkar Wastes, which hasn't been reprinted since 2007, 15 years ago! The land is now over $10 due to lack of reprints. Other painlands in the cycle get regular reprints, like Caves of Koilos, which is currently under $1. And it's also worth pointing out that last set's commander precons had an Azorius deck in it, so WOTC missed on reprinting this twice in a row and who knows when the next opportunity will come. What a pity.

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13 Ramp. The ramp here is exceptional overall: we've got a lot of 2-drops, with standouts including Vedalken Engineer and Etherium Sculptor. We got a notable reprint with Fellwar Stone too. Even some of the weaker ramp, like Raiders' Karve, is boosted by vehicle synergy. Very good ...

... however, this was the second missed opportunity in a row to reprint Talisman of Progress, which was last printed in 2011, 11 years ago! It's over $12 at this point. When are we getting a reprint?

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8 Card Draw. 8 is a bit low if Kotori, Pilot Prodigy is your commander, but if Shorikai, Genesis Engine is the commander then this is more than enough. Shorikai is by far the best draw engine in the deck, with some good new options like Research Thief and some cuttable stinkers like Jace, Architect of Thought. Yet another reason to have Shorikai in the command zone btw!

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9 Targeted Removal. Lots of great spot removal here: Dispatch, Swords to Plowshares, and Generous Gift are all-stars. There's also a lot of hype around the newly printed Swift Reconfiguration as a versatile way to answer some opposing creatures but mostly to protect your own creatures or enable infinites such as with Devoted Druid. Personally I think it's way overhyped but hey, happy to be proven wrong.

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2 Board Wipes. Despite being easily recurrable in this deck, Cataclysmic Gearhulk looks terrible here since you'll almost always end up sacrificing a ton of artifacts to it, aka most of your board. I do like Organic Extinction as many of your creatures will survive it. Vehicles pair so well with board wipes since they dodge most creature removal, so it's weird we don't see another wipe to take advantage of that.

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6 Graveyard Recursion. The recursion package is definitely a highlight of the precon: cards like Dance of the Manse and Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle get tons of value here. Keep in mind that Shorikai, Genesis Engine can help set up recursion too if you need yet another reason to choose this as your commander.

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0 Flexible Tutors. Tutors are super helpful for any Commander deck to help you find the right card for any situation, but I'm fine with them not showing up in precons. These are decks that are meant to pick up and play without being intimately aware of the deck's contents so tutors would only serve to confuse new pilots.

1 Graveyard Hate. Release to Memory looks like it was supposed to be printed in Spirit Squadron a few months back and accidentally ended up here instead. The creatures can help crew vehicles so it's not totally out of place, but the card itself is pretty bad.

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3 Finishers. There's plenty of big beaters here like Parhelion II, but two stand-out finishers to me are Kappa Cannoneer and Cyberdrive Awakener, both able to deal explosive damage. The Awakener is particularly useful because it can turn an unassuming board into one filled with evasive beaters, catching opponents by surprise.

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The Verdict. There's a lot of powerful cards to help start this precon's engine. It looks like a great package overall, with the biggest disappointment being the 30 basic lands and the lack of Adarkar Wastes and Talisman of Progress reprints which seemed like freebies for this product.

Upgrade Goals

I have some specific goals when upgrading Buckle Up:

  • Swap in better board wipes
  • Add the best missing vehicles
  • Add more Artifact / Vehicle support cards
  • Upgrade the lands

With Shorikai, Genesis Engine as our commander, I'm going to also be adding two game-winning combos:

I know some viewers prefer avoiding combos, so simply don't make those upgrades if you don't want to run them.

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$50 Upgrades

Disclaimer: Card prices are volatile and may be different at the time you read this article.

Here's how I'd swap in $50 worth of upgrades. If you want to upgrade on a smaller budget then just makes less swaps:

In Out Reason
Intruder Alarm Arcanist's Owl Easy combo with commander
Dramatic Reversal Armed and Armored

1/2 of Dramatic Scepter combo

Isochron Scepter Master of Etherium

1/2 of Dramatic Scepter combo

Mirrodin Besieged Myrsmith

Token creator or finisher

Mechtitan Core Kappa Cannoneer


Skullclamp Riddlesmith

Busted draw

Soul-Guide Lantern Release to Memory GY hate and artifact synergy
Trinket Mage Sram, Senior Edificer Finds Clamp / Lantern

Anchor to Reality

Katsumasa, the Animator

Finds anything

Myr Retriever

Hanna, Ship's Navigator

Efficient recursion
Padeem, Consul of Innovation Indomitable Archangel

Better protection

Workshop Assistant Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage

Efficient recursion

Nevinyrral's Disk Cataclysmic Gearhulk

Artifact wipe

Mindlink Mech Jace, Architect of Thought

Cool utility vehicle

Conqueror's Galleon Access Denied

Utility vehicle

Millikin Raiders' Karve Mana dork that works with combos
Ornithopter of Paradise Mirage Mirror

Mana dork that works with combos

Cosima, God of the Voyage

Swift Reconfiguration

Kinda good vehicle support

Deserted Beach Plains

Manafixing land

Glacial Fortress Island

Manafixing land

Nimbus Maze Plains Manafixing land

Here's how the swaps look in lists.


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And here's the deck with the upgrades installed:

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Next Up: Upgrades Unleashed Precon Upgrade!

I'll be back soon with Upgrades Unleashed! Thanks for reading!

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