B/R Vehicles Matchup Guide (Part 1)

by Zen Takahashi on 07 June 2018, Thursday

Zen Takahashi


B/R Vehicles Matchup Guide (Part 1)

Hello everybody! 

Over the past weekend, I competed in Pro Tour Dominaria, where I played B/R Vehicles – the deck that half our team decided to sleeve up. Although my record was terrible, the deck performed well overall for the team, with Andrea Mengucci and Hao-Shan Huang finishing with an 11-5 and 10-6 record respectively. 

Today, I will be going over the decklist we played and how to sideboard and play against the two decks we expected would be the most popular at the Pro Tour – B/R Vehicles and W/U Control. In my next article, I will be going over how to sideboard and play against the rest of the top decks, with some additional playing tips for piloting the deck.



Team MTG Mint Card's B/R Vehicles

The following was the list I played:



Amongst the seven of us who played the deck, we all had minor differences due to preference and playstyle. The list above is what Christian Calcano, Javier Dominguez, Hao-Shan Huang and I submitted. 

Lee Shi Tian and Andrea Mengucci chose to play a more aggressive version of the deck with two Ruin Raider, a second Chandra, Torch of Defiance and a second Magma Spray in place of the third Pia Nalaar, the second Karn, Scion of Urza, Walking Ballista and Shock

In the sideboard, they also played a third Ruin Raider and a single Fatal Push over the third Sorcerous Spyglass and Angrath, the Flame-Chained. Meanwhile, Simon Nielson played a combination of the two versions we had.  


Heart of Kiran Unlicensed Disintegration

The Mirror


We expected B/R Vehicles would be the most popular deck at the Pro Tour – though we did underestimate just how popular the deck would be. 

Alongside W/U Control, this was the matchup we tested the most. We found that there were no cards that broke the mirror, but the matchup largely came to better gameplay and sequencing. 

Thankfully for me, I had my wonderful teammates next to me as always! Simon Nielsen just won a Grand Prix with the deck a few weekends ago. Lee Shi Tian was the original designer of Mardu Vehicles (and played the deck to a lot of success last season). Aggro master Javier Dominguez and the ever-so-kind-and-humble Andrea Mengucci both taught me how to play the mirror correctly. Even though it was the mirror match, this was the matchup I felt most comfortable playing.  

The matchup plays out in two ways – it is either about tempo or resources. In the former, the games mostly involve one player – usually the person on the play – curving out and the opposing player not being able to align their spells and losing abruptly. 

These games often happen in the mirror, and there is not much you can do as the opponent as this deck can sometimes have some brutally powerful draws.


Karn, Scion of UrzaChandra, Torch of Defiance


However, in games where neither player gets snowballed out, the game often becomes a grind and is centered largely around resources. In these games, the planeswalkers become your most important cards – with Karn, Scion of Urza being the best of them all. Since they are the most important cards for you, do not cast a planeswalker you cannot protect unless you have to – as you want to generate as much card advantage from them as you can. 


Karn, Scion of Urza

If you have a planeswalker in play and you can protect it, then you are most likely ahead. Traditionally in an aggro mirror, if you are ahead on board, you want to press that advantage by being more aggressive. 

However, while B/R Vehicles is an aggro deck, in these resource-based games, both decks morph into pseudo-control decks. In these games, instead of being more aggressive when you are ahead. 



You want to play defensively and make sure you do not get blown out by anything, such as the sequence of Unlicensed Disintegration into Glorybringer. If you can keep a planeswalker in play for long enough, you will win the game due to the amount of card advantage you are generating from it.

On the flip side, if they have a planeswalker in play, you have to pressure it and try to kill it or else they will generate too much card advantage from it and will eventually bury you in cards. 

Karn, Scion of Urza is one of the most important cards in the matchup – especially in post-board games, where you both have more removal spells, so the game is likely to become more about resources. Karn, Scion of Urza is better than Chandra, Torch of Defiance because it generates card advantage. It also has such a high loyalty that it is difficult for your opponent to deal with it when they are on the back foot – especially if you can cast it on the play. 

Karn, Scion of Urza is less good on the draw, but it is needed because it is the best answer to opposing Karns. Although Karn is difficult to kill, its card advantage is also fairly slow. 

This means if your opponent casts a turn four Karn and you answer back with your own copy, you can keep up with the card advantage they generate from it. Neither of you are threatening the other’s Karn unless one player controls a Heart of Kiran, in which case they will be much more advantaged. 


Rekindling PhoenixGlorybringer


In addition to planeswalkers, you also need a plan against Rekindling Phoenix and Glorybringer

If you are looking to protect your planeswalkers, make sure you have a way to deal with these flying creatures – as they are the biggest threats. This means you often want to keep removal up instead of deploying more cards onto the board, because as mentioned above if your planeswalker is not being threatened – you should be ahead. 

Similarly, if you are planning to deploy your own Rekindling Phoenix or Glorybringer, make sure you do not walk into their removal and get blown out – especially by Chandra’s Defeat. Having your Glorybringer be answered for one mana will often lose you the game as that is a massive tempo swing. Generally, Glorybringer is the last card I want to play as I bait their removal with all my other creatures. 

A common play pattern that happens in the mirror match is to not walk your Heart of Kiran into their removal spells. 

For example, if you have a board of Scrapheap Scrounger and Heart of Kiran and they have an empty board with mana up, do not attack with your Heart of Kiran and instead just attack with your Scrapheap Scrounger as you would rather they spend their removal on your creature than on your vehicle. 

Another common situation is if you have a Heart of Kiran and a planeswalker in play and they have mana up, then do not crew and attack with your Heart of Kiran, as it can walk right into their Unlicensed Disintegration and then they can follow that up with a Glorybringer to pressure your planeswalker. 

By not crewing there, you may be missing out on four damage, but you are also guaranteeing that they will not be able to connect their Glorybringer to your planeswalker. And I as I mentioned above, the mirror match is all about protecting your planeswalkers at all costs. 

Cards to Play Around

Main: 4 Goblin Chainwhirler, 2-3 Glorybringer, 0-2 Walking Ballista, 2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance, 4 Abrade, 3 Unlicensed Disintegration, 1-2 Magma Spray 

SB: 0-1 Glorybringer, 2-3 Chandra’s Defeat, 1-2 Karn, Scion of Urza, 0-1 Release the Gremlins, 0-1 Cut//Ribbons

Sideboard Plan

+2 Chandra's Defeat
+1 Cut // Ribbons
+1 Karn, Scion of Urza 
-1 Walking Ballista 
-1 Shock
-1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance 
-1 Magma Spray (play) 
-1 Unlicensed Disintegration (draw)

W/U Control

After B/R Vehicles, we expected W/U Control to be the second most popular deck. We also believed that it was the best deck in the format going into the Pro Tour, and would be a popular choice amongst the pro players, especially after Brad Nelson’s second-place finish at GP Toronto with the deck just two weekends before. 

Therefore, this was the matchup we worked on the most. Initially, the results were not great, but after days of working on it, we eventually felt like while we were still unfavoured in pre-board games, we were favored in post-board games.  


Teferi, Hero of Dominaria Irrigated Farmland

The key to this matchup is to apply pressure and keep them on the back foot, but also to not walk into their spells as that is exactly what they want you to do. 

Their ideal game plan is to answer all your cards on turns two to four, and then cast a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria on turn five to a relatively non-threatening board. Therefore, it is important to cast your cards out of sequence so that you can stop them from playing their ideal game plan. This is hard to explain though, as it is almost always contextual and largely comes down to what you think they have and what they are representing. 


Sorcerous Spyglass

Post-board, the game plays out similarly, but you do not have any dead cards, and you get to overload on more threats. It is worth noting that Sorcerous Spyglass is your best card against them, as it is a threat of its own for just two mana. 

These W/U Control decks are very reliant on Teferi, Hero of Dominaria – both as a win-condition and as a source of card advantage. In fact, if you can deal with the planeswalker, this W/U Control deck does not have much card advantage – especially as they usually board out a copy of Pull from Tomorrow against you. 

Since you overload on more threats post-board, they essentially have to deal with Sorcerous Spyglass if they want to win the game. They need the card advantage to keep up with all your cards because they can no longer rely on just out drawing you since you do not have dead removal spells as you did in the pre-board games.  



One of the most difficult cards to play with in this matchup is Duress. Again, it is hard to explain how exactly you should play the card, as it is very contextual to how the game is playing out. 

As a general rule of thumb though, try to cast it on a turn where you can try to bait a counterspell with it, so that you can then follow it up with a threat such as Karn, Scion of Urza or Chandra, Torch of Defiance. This generally means you want to cast it on turn five. However, if you do not have much pressure on the board and you are on the draw, you usually have to cast it on turn four to try hit their Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, as an unthreatened Teferi will just run away with the game. 


Lyra Dawnbringer

I generally want to hold Doomfall until the coast is clear on whether they have Lyra Dawnbringer or not. 

Some lists play it, and an unanswered Angel will usually beat us. Therefore, I will usually look to cast it on turn six on the play or turn five on the draw, or earlier if you saw their hand already with Duress and know they do not have the Angel. However, similar to Duress, if you do not have much pressure in play, then you will often be forced to cast it earlier to try hit their Teferi, Hero of Dominaria


Seal Away Settle the Wreckage

One thing to note is that their creature removal is mainly in the form of Seal Away and Settle the Wreckage

Therefore, if your opponent is on a low life total, you can opt not to attack with Walking Ballista. Instead, put a bunch of counters on it and try to burn your opponent out. This game plan is vulnerable to a timely Cast Out and Blink of an Eye, so carefully think about how many additional turns you are giving them by not attacking, and figure out whether that is worth it or not. 

Cards to Play Around

Main: 0-2 Torrential Gearhulk, 3 Blink of an Eye, 1 Commit//Memory, 4 Disallow, 2-3 Essence Scatter, 0-1 Negate, 3 Settle the Wreckage, 2 Syncopate, 2 Fumigate, 2-3 Cast Out, 3 Seal Away, 4 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, 0-1 Gideon of the Trials 

SB: 1 Aether Meltdown, 1 Fumigate, 1 Gideon of Trials, 1-2 Sorcerous Spyglass, 2-3 Negate, 2 Invoke the Divine, 0-2 Lyra Dawnbringer 

Sideboard Plan

+3 Duress 
+3 Sorcerous Spyglass
+2 Doomfall
+1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
+1 Karn, Scion of Urza 
+1 Angrath, the Flame-Chained
-4 Abrade 
-3 Unlicensed Disintegration
-2 Rekindling Phoenix 
-1 Magma Spray 
-1 Shock

I hope you enjoyed this article as I covered the B/R Vehicles list that half our team played at Pro Tour Dominaria, and how to sideboard and play against the top two decks of the format. In my next article, I will be going over how to sideboard and play against the rest of the top decks, with some additional playing tips for piloting the deck.

Until next time!

Zen Takahashi
@mtgzen on Twitter

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