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Deep Tracks: Skyship Weatherlight


Welcome to another edition of Deep Tracks! Climb aboard the skyship Weatherlight and take to the sky with me; destination Dominaria! Our flight is scheduled to take off in… the year 2001?

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Ah yes, Planeshift! I was building sub-par Magic decks (and loving every minute of it) back when Planeshift was released. And while the initial storyline for the Weatherlight dates back to 1997, it wasn’t until 2001 that Wizards printed a card representing the namesake skyship itself.

So, what’s with the two different versions of Skyship Weatherlight seen above? Wizards added a unique twist to their set design for Planeshift. Three legendary cards had foil versions printed with alternate art… only three cards. One of those three just so happened to be Skyship Weatherlight! And the other two, Ertai, the Corrupted and Tahngarth, Talruum Hero were members of the original Weatherlight crew. So there is some cohesion between these mysterious alt-art foils from Planeshift. If the subject of alt-art and Magic oddities interests you, check out the links section at the end of this article.

Original Crew

Here’s a look at the original crew of the Weatherlight:

Welcome to the Skyship Weatherlight and… the world’s most painful Mana base!

Skyship Weatherlight is iconic. But in a strange way, the card itself always felt a little off to me. I mean, it’s a skyship… that should hold passengers and be able to fly around and maybe even break out some heavy artillery from time-to-time, right?

...Blast ahead to present day and the Weatherlight has returned, only this time, we do get to crew up the vessel and swoop in at our opponents!

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The new Weatherlight shares some traits with the original from Planeshift. And both cards function in a similar-yet-different manner. Skyship Weatherlight enables tutoring, while the new Dominaria version lets you dig five cards deep, which is kind of like a “mini-tutor”. The big difference between the two is obvious though; thank you Wizards for creating the new Vehicle subtype!

Initially, I thought that neither version of the Weatherlight could be “build-around” material. Regardless, I put my nose to the grindstone and chiseled out some ideas for Legacy, Modern, and Standard. But first, let’s take a look at the current crew of the Weatherlight!

Current Crew

Legacy

It didn’t take long to decide I wanted to explore the combo potential for Skyship Weatherlight. My only apprehension toward the skyship was the clunky nature of the card. First of all, it costs four Mana. Secondly, its activated ability also costs four Mana. Because of this, I focused primarily on Skyship Weatherlight’s  “enters the battlefield” trigger. Here’s what I came up with:

Weatherlight Combo is a combo deck disguised as some kind of weird Artifact synergy deck. And yes I know, it's super janky! I mulled over a bunch of ideas, but eventually the light bulb started flashing when I remembered that the cycle of Artifact Lands from Mirrodin are legal in Legacy.

At that point I was super excited and decided to run with the idea that we could simply play a copy of Skyship Weatherlight, exile our entire library except for Laboratory Maniac, draw it, play it, and then win the game on our next upkeep! Sounds good, right? But there is one big issue with this game plan. How do we protect the combo?

I considered options like Pact of Negation, Force of Will, Silence, Etc, Etc… but still I don’t think I’ve figured out a great protection scheme. Although the deck lacks absolute combo protection, there are some tricks we can use to try and force the combo through. For example, the deck can produce a sequence like this:

Chromatic Star > Laboratory Maniac > Skyship Weatherlight (exiling entire library) > activate Chromatic Star > Win

I’ll admit, Weatherlight Combo is pretty crazy! But I fell in love with the concept. Now, if only I could figure out the “perfect” protection package!

Modern

When it came to Modern, I decided to stick with the Artifact theme, only this time we’re not on the “hope and pray” combo plan:

Weatherlight Robots is kind of like a “slow” version of Modern Affinity. We have some of the usual suspects like Arcbound Ravager and Cranial Plating, but the real focus of the deck is to make use of the Weatherlight. Therefore, I mixed in some elements that help us play a grindier style of Magic and eventually out-value our opponent as the game progresses:

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Landing an early Chalice of the Void can help buy the time we need to get out Karn, Scion of Urza and / or Weatherlight to start accruing card advantage. The rest of the deck is built to keep a steady stream of pressure on the opponent while we work our way to the top end of the curve. And sure, we can use our Smuggler's Copter to crew the Weatherlight!

Standard

The Weatherlight doesn’t seem to have a good place in competitive Standard right now, but I didn’t let that hold me back. I started with a lone copy of Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain, and here’s where I ended up:

In case you couldn’t tell, I was on an Artifact kick while concocting my skyship Weatherlight brews! U/R Karn is reminiscent of the Weatherlight Robots deck, at least from a core perspective. We’re trying to survive the early game and then turn the corner with our value engines, including some potent 4-drops from Dominaria:

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To compliment our high impact curve-toppers, I included some other Artifact focused cards such as Saheeli Rai and Glint-Nest Crane. Scrap Trawler is yet another value piece which does an especially good job of squeezing every last drop out of Walking Ballista. And hey, Walking Ballista won't be in Standard forever, so we may as well have some fun with it while we still can! 

Conclusion

I was so hyped the moment I decided to write about the Weatherlight. I couldn’t wait to start hashing out ideas! But I quickly realized it was going to be a challenge to brew around both the old and new version of the skyship. But in the end, it was the challenge that inspired me to build the decks. And there's always a reward. That moment when you think you're onto something, and you see it all the way through. That's the stuff. 

Well, that’s it for now. Let me know what you think! How can I protect my precious Laboratory Maniac combo? What are your thoughts on the new Weatherlight — does it have potential, or will it just go down as another casual memento? As always, all comments are welcome, thank you so much for reading, and have a great one!

Twitter - @Wall of Omens

-John

Sources & related info:

Skyship Weatherlight

Strange, Large, and Rare: Promos and Oddities Part 1
 


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