Well, not really mathematically. But we’ll get to that in a second…
Welcome back everyone! As Dominaria spoilers continue to roll in, it’s a great time to be getting a head start on analyzing and getting to know the new cards that will soon be joining Standard. There are a huge number of cards that I’m really excited to get my hands on, but today I want to focus on one card that I’ve been seeing get a good amount of support around the Magic community that I don’t think will be anywhere close to Standard playable, at least for the time being. In this article I’ll be going over Weatherlight and why I think that it simply doesn’t have what it takes to succeed in Standard. Let’s jump in.
The Mana Cost
Despite Vehicles being a constant force in Standard since their initial printing in Kaladesh, we haven’t really seen a 4 mana Vehicle see play in Standard. The closest we’ve come to a playable 4 CMC Vehicle was Fleetwheel Cruiser, and that really only made it in to occasional sideboards. In general, for aggressive decks that want Vehicles, 2 mana has been the sweet spot, with both Smuggler’s Copter and Heart of Kiran creating archetypes on their own. Aethersphere Harvester has frequently been the supplementary option, with Skysovereign, Consul Flagship being less preferred but still options for these aggressive decks.
For midrange decks, however, Aethersphere Harvester has been the more reliable go-to, as it’s excellent at holding off all sorts of aggressive decks and provides a somewhat removal-proof body in the air. Skysovereign, Consul Flagship has also seen play in midrange decks here and there since its printing, but it’s been difficult for it to lock down a slot due to its rather high cost combined with it needing you to have a board presence in order for it to be really effective.
Looking at this, we can fairly confidently assume that it’s in more midrange-y decks where Weatherlight would fit in due to its mana cost. However, it’s possible that 4 mana is still too much for these decks.
A 4/5 flyer for 4 mana is a great rate, and one we’ve seen see play in Standard before. Of course, simplifying it to just that would be a little bit short-sighted. While it may be a great rate, comparing it with Aethersphere Harvester doesn’t shed a good light on this new Vehicle. The extra power that Weatherlight gives certainly isn’t worth the extra mana, and frequently Harvester operates more or less as a 3/5 flyer with lifelink, an incredibly important ability against the aggressive decks of the format. In my opinion, the stats on Aethersphere Harvester are marginally better than those on Weatherlight.
Now, comparing Weatherlight’s stats to those on Skysovereign, Consul Flagship, it’s a tad more difficult to pick between the two. Is 2 extra power worth the extra mana that you would pump into Skysovereign instead of Weatherlight? It’s a little hard to say, but I think the answer is probably no. 4 power in the air is a real sweet spot in this format, as Weatherlight can profitably block Glorybringer and Rekindling Phoenix, as well as cards like Warkite Marauder that appear to be on the rise.
This would indicate that Weatherlight is perhaps a very well-positioned defensive card in this format. Unfortunately, it’s simply not as good as Aethersphere Harvester in this context, as the lifelink is crucial and turns the 3 mana Vehicle into much more than a somewhat costly roadblock. If a 4 mana 4/5 flyer (completely ignoring crew cost) is a good thing to be doing in this format, then Weatherlight’s stats could lead it to being played, but if the format shifts at all with the addition of Dominaria and perhaps less of a reliance on Glorybringer and Rekindling Phoenix, the 4/5 flying stats on the new Vehicle become much less relevant.
Additionally, we’ve seen with Vehicles in the past that simply having good stats isn’t enough for them to see play, as they need to either be severely undercosted (see: Heart of Kiran or Aethersphere Harvester), or provide relevant card advantage (see: Smuggler’s Copter or Skysovereign, Consul Flagship). Weatherlight is neither of these things unless it’s attacking, which leads me to my next point.
Weatherlight’s triggered ability when it hits the opponent is potentially very powerful. The ability to cast an Impulse that looks at 5 cards instead of 4 is nothing to joke about. However, looking a bit deeper, this ability isn’t as sweet as it seems, as it can only hit Historic cards (artifacts, legendaries, or sagas). This closes the door significantly on what types of cards it can hit and greatly strains deckbuilding. I haven’t seen any sagas that have seriously impressed me yet, and there are currently a limited number of artifacts or legendaries seeing play, other Vehicles and cards like the Gods and Walking Ballista being the main buckers of this trend.
Unlike Smuggler’s Copter, which allowed you to get the loot value on attack or defense, Weatherlight demands that you not only use it to attack, but that you hit your opponent with it, something that is more difficult than in may seem with cards like Aethersphere Harvester in the format. Comparing it to Skysovereign, Weatherlight’s ability does not deal in on-board card advantage, something that made Skysovereign a premier card in midrange mirrors, and it does nothing when it enters play, something that made the hefty 5 mana investment into Skysovereign worth it. Both of these elements combined make me believe that Weatherlight’s ability lags significantly behind Skysovereign’s.
The Crew Cost
Crew 3, we meet again. It’s starting to seem like Crew 3 might just be the most common Crew cost among potentially playable Vehicles for the time being. This crew cost likely takes Weatherlight out of contention for a slot in aggressive decks, as the only other Crew 3 that has seen aggressive play, Heart of Kiran, benefits greatly from its alternate Crew cost. The only other full-blown Crew 3 card that has seen play so far is Skysovereign, Consul Flagship, which I believe fits significantly better into the midrange-value archetype that both of these cards ideally want to settle into. Crew 3 is very demanding, and it’s certainly within the realm of possibilities that you get left with an awkward Vehicle on board in these grindy mirrors.
With all of these elements combined, I simply can’t see Weatherlight seeing play. It’s not as good of an aggressive card as Heart of Kiran, it’s not as good of a defensive card as Aethersphere Harvester, and it’s not as good of a mirror-breaking card as Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. Once those cards rotate out of Standard, is it possible that Weatherlight could become the Vehicle of choice? Certainly, but I wouldn’t count on it making an impact in the next several months.
Until next time,
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