Buckle Up Upgrade Guide: Buckle Up for 5 New Upgrades

Another new set, another round of Commander upgrade articles. Buckle Up Upgrade Guide is all about the Blue-White Vehicles deck, which is quite interesting. We’ve got tons of ground to cover, so let’s take it a quarter mile at a time.

A Brief Note on Budget

Once again, I want to make my same old disclaimer about budget. I know that not everyone has access to infinite amounts of money or Magic cards. However, these articles are meant to be a brainstorming exercise. I am trying to consider as many different ideas as possible for these new decks. Some of those ideas might involve cards that are expensive.

I won’t pull any punches with these expensive cards, to not impede the creative process. If you want to add any of these decks or individual cards to your collection, consider checking their prices online beforehand.

If you’ve never read one of my upgrade articles before, don’t let this disclaimer scare you away. Many of my recommendations end up being budget-friendly. Furthermore, I often try to recommend more affordable replacements for expensive pieces if they exist. Ideally, this Buckle Up upgrade article will have something for everyone.

And even though I’m throwing out a lot of ideas, this is by no means the exhaustive list of upgrades for this deck. If you come up with an awesome upgrade idea or a unique piece of tech, leave a comment for me. I’d love to hear anything you can come up with that I missed.

Anyway, if you don’t have a Buckle Up deck yet, you can order it on Amazon.

Buckle Up Kamigawa Commander Deck

Buckle Up Decklist

Commander (1)
Kotori, Pilot Prodigy

Planeswalker (1)
Jace, Architect of Thought

Creature (27)
Aeronaut Admiral
Arcanist’s Owl
Cataclysmic Gearhulk
Cyberdrive Awakener
Drumbellower
Emry, Lurker of the Loch
Etherium Sculptor
Foundry Inspector
Gold Myr
Hanna, Ship’s Navigator
Indomitable Archangel
Ironsoul Enforcer
Kappa Cannoneer
Katsumasa, the Animator
Master of Etherium
Myrsmith
Raff Capashen, Ship’s Mage
Research Thief
Riddlesmith
Sai, Master Thopterist
Shimmer Myr
Silver Myr
Solemn Simulacrum
Sram, Senior Edificer
Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle
Vedalken Engineer
Whirler Rogue

Sorcery (4)
Dance of the Manse
Organic Extinction
Thoughtcast
Universal Surveillance

Instant (8)
Access Denied
Armed and Armored
Crush Contraband
Dispatch
Generous Gift
Reality Shift
Release to Memory
Swords to Plowshares

Enchantment (2)
Swift Reconfiguration
Thopter Spy Network
Lands (37)
Command Tower
Exotic Orchard
Port Town
Prairie Stream
Skycloud Expanse
Spire of Industry
Temple of Enlightenment
15 Plains
15 Island

Artifact (20)
Aerial Surveyor
Arcane Signet
Azorius Signet
Colossal Plow
Cultivator’s Caravan
Fellwar Stone
Imperial Recovery Unit
Imposter Mech
Mirage Mirror
Mobilizer Mech
Parhelion II
Peacewalker Colossus
Prodigy’s Prototype
Raiders’ Karve
Shorikai, Genesis Engine
Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
Smuggler’s Copter
Sol Ring
Surgehacker Mech
Weatherlight

One of each basic lands is a special Japanese full art basic land.

Buckle Up General Upgrades

Kotori, Pilot Prodigy Neon Dynasty Commander Decks

Artifacts-matter has been a staple Commander archetype for a very long time. There are tons of artifacts in the format, and many ways to build around them. Vehicles happen to be a subtype of Artifacts, so there will be a temptation when building this deck to include a bunch of Artifacts-matter synergies. If that’s what you want to do, be my guest.

I would warn, though, that diluting the deck with these kinds of cards runs the risk of robbing the Vehicles’ identity. In other words, the deck might feel like an Artifacts deck rather than a Vehicles one.

Not all the upgrade paths I recommend include Vehicles strategies, but I think this lesson applies to artifacts decks in a broader way as well. Consider what makes your deck special, then lean into that.

The Mana Base

Flooded Strand Upgrade Mana Base Buckle Up

It seems to me that this deck has an appropriate number of lands (37), but has too many basics (a whole 30 of them). Consider trading up some of those basics into dual lands that enter the battlefield untapped. Here are some of the best ones for Azorius colors:

Also, lands that tap for any color count as dual lands in decks that only have two colors:

General Commander Synergies

Once upon a time, it felt like Wizards left some cards out of the deck that were pretty easy to include. They would synergize well with the commanders, no matter how you chose to upgrade the deck. Nowadays, it seems like Wizards puts those cards into the precons.

Obviously, if there are really powerful cards that you want to add, like Mana Crypt or Rhystic Study, feel absolutely free. However, this article isn’t going to be going into any “good stuff” cards. Rather, I’m going to be diving deep into specific upgrade paths for my recommendations.

What to Take Out

Again, there used to be a time when I wrote these upgrade articles, there were a handful of cards that didn’t have anything to do with the deck’s theme. I could recommend that you start your upgrades by taking those out. That is no longer the case. Each section will have a part at the end that will describe which cards you can leave in/take out of this deck.

Buckle Up Upgrade – The Five Options

Now that we got all that out of the way, these are my five ideas for upgrading Buckle Up:

  1. Vehicles
  2. Non-Vehicle Artifact Creatures
  3. Tribal
  4. Artifact Reanimator
  5. Tap/Untap

If I missed a cool upgrade path, please let us know in the comments section below. Furthermore, if you have any questions about my thought process on the strategies or individual cards, we would love to hear those in the comments as well. You can also hit us up on social media, links included below.

Power Level

At the beginning of each of the next sections, I included a range of numbers. That range is what I expect this deck to be able to perform at on a 1-10 power scale (based on the power scale established by the Command Zone Podcast). For more information on the Commander power scale, you can take a look at the table below.

Power LevelNameDescription
1-2Jank Very little synergy among cards. No Commander staples. Under powered on purpose.
3-4Casual Some synergies, but lacking the strong ones. The deck still lacks focus. Mana curves mostly neglected. A deck that a new player would build.
4-6Focused Synergy exists, the deck has a focused gameplan, although it doesn't always win in the exact same way, usually after turn 13. Includes staples and a small amount of tutors. On the same power level as most Commander precons.
7-8Optimized Powerful and varied synergies between the cards. A decent number of good tutors. Good mana curve. Has an efficient and consistent way to win on turns 10-12 (level 7) or 7-9 (level 8). Some social rules — like no mass land destruction, no consistent combo wins — still exist.
9-10Competitive The most powerful decks, on competitive EDH level. Quick and explosive, can win on turns 4-6 (level 9) or 1-3 (level 10). No social rules, no jank cards. Only the most powerful commanders and strategies can reach this level.

Actual power levels may vary, but let those numbers be a guide when considering upgrading this deck in those ways.

1. Vehicles (3-7)

Out of the box, this deck has fifteen Vehicles. (If you’re a new player, you can check the Vehicle & Crew rules.) While that is a pretty high number, I would expect more for a deck with Vehicles as its focus. If I was playing this deck as a precon, this fact would probably tempt me to want to run Shorikai, Genesis Engine as the commander. However, Kotori could be a fantastic option if you add a few more Vehicles.

Consulate Dreadnought

Here are the ones that aren’t included in the precon:

Obviously, not all of these cards are good. You probably don’t want to include them all, so maybe adding five to fifteen of them will round out the Vehicles theme a lot better. Prioritize cards with additional utility, such as Conquerors’ Galleon, Cosima, God of the Voyage, Daredevil Dragster, and Dermotaxi.

Vehicle Support

Deadeye Quartermaster How to Improve Buckle Up Commander Deck

In addition to Vehicles, you can’t leave out the cards that make the Vehicles go. These are a couple of cards that work really well in a deck trying to crew up a bunch of Artifacts:

New Cards From Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty

Vehicles, being one of the main themes in the set, have a ton of new cards in Neon Dynasty. You likely won’t want to include them all, but there are definitely enough for you to pick your favorite ones:

In addition to those, there are also a few Vehicles support cards. Again, be judicious when deciding what to include:

What to Take Out

It is difficult to recommend taking Creatures out of a deck that needs Creatures the way this one does. However, if Kotori is your commander, you won’t need as many Creatures just sitting around to crew Vehicles. Additionally, focusing on too many Artifacts matter cards threatens to distract from the Vehicles matter themes. Keep a bunch of the utility Creatures that you want, but consider taking some of these out of the deck:

In addition to these good cards that you just might not have room for, there are a couple of bad cards in this deck. Or rather, there are other cards that don’t fit the deck’s theme very well. They likely have homes in other upgrade paths, but not this one. These are the ones I found and would consider removing:

2. Non-Vehicle Artifact Creatures (5-8)

While this deck is obviously designed to work with Vehicles, Kotori is worded in a way that actually benefits any kind of Artifact Creature. We have seen a lot of interesting Artifact Creatures throughout Magic’s history, but there are some especially spicy ones recently. Ideally, you want ones that you can cast for relatively cheap that can come with a lot of power.

Darksteel Juggernaut Kotori Pilot Prodigy Upgrade Commander

Here is what I’m talking about:

These cards make great targets for Kotori, since she can give one of them Vigilance and Lifelink. Then you can swing in with something big and scary, and still be protected against your opponents’ retaliation.

This section is fairly simple. Basically, run your favorite Artifact Creatures, of which there are many. The ones I listed above are good, but any will do. You might even find you like a mixture of Artifact Creatures and Vehicles. The fact that these cards tend to have high power happens to synergize well, will Vehicles anyhow.

New Cards From Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty

Cloudsteel Kirin

There are quite a few Artifact Creatures in Neon Dynasty. I don’t know how many of them are going to be good enough to make the cut, but if you have them and like them, they are at least worth considering. Here they are:

What to Take Out

This one is tricky, since it depends on what you want in the deck. In other words, this deck sort of comes out of the box as an “Artifact Creatures” deck. Feel free to take out whatever Vehicles or Artifacts that you don’t want in order to make room for the ones that you do.

If you take out some Vehicles, though, consider also taking out any of the Pilots or other Vehicles support cards like Sram, Senior Edificer. Kotori should be plenty for crewing the Vehicles you do keep, while cards like Sram might not trigger enough times to be worth it without a critical mass of Vehicles.

3. Tribal (3-7)

Moonfolk (3-7)

This commander has absolutely no synergy with the tribe it hails from. If you want to build a Moonfolk deck, choose another commander.

Meloku the Clouded Mirror

However, if you do want to pursue this direction, here’s a list of all the Moonfolk in Magic:

Pilots (3-6)

Recommended Commander: Kotori, Pilot Prodigy or Shorikai, Genesis Engine

Either of the commanders from the Buckle Up deck could reasonably lead a Pilot tribal deck. Part of the reason for this is because Pilots are going to look very similar to Vehicles. Feel free to consult that section of the article, but it would probably be a good idea to consider what makes this version of the deck different from that one. However, there aren’t many Blue and White Pilots missing from this deck. There are just three:

It might be worth finding a commander that lets you also run red or even black to expand this list to a point where you can actually have a tribe. Don’t forget, Changelings can also help fill in the gaps.

Maskwood Nexus

If you are really dead-set on running tribal Pilots, though, including cards like Arcane Adaptation, Xenograft and Maskwood Nexus do something kind of cool in the deck. They can turn your Vehicles in to Pilots, so they can then benefit from cards like Coat of Arms, Door of Destinies, Kindred Boon, and Kindred Discover.

I should note here, that this will not let your Vehicles work with cards like Cavern of Souls, Herald’s Horn, Reflections of Littjara, or Vanquisher’s Banner. The Vehicles do not have a Creature type until they are crewed.

What to Take Out

Rather than taking cards out of this version of the deck, I would probably just recommend building a different version. There are a few Pilots you could leave in if you want to build the Pilots deck I just outlined, but there are only two Moonfolk other than Kotori. If you love Moonfolk and want to build that deck, consider Patron of the Moon or Tameshi, Reality Architect.

4. Artifact Reanimator (5-8)

I have mentioned before that the recent Commander decks that Wizards have released have focused well on that deck’s theme. My job has become more and more difficult, since the baseline power level has been increasing.

After studying the Buckle Up decklist, I noticed that this deck seems to have two major themes. One of these themes is Vehicles, including non-Vehicle support cards. The other is Artifact reanimation, which we will go into more thoroughly in this section of the Bucke Up Upgrade Guide.

This is not a new archetype. There are tons of cards that bring Artifacts from the graveyard to the battlefield. You can run them in decks from zero to five colors. You can combo off with them by accident. However, I’m hopeful that Shorikai, Genesis Engine can give us a new way to appreciate this old strategy.

One Time Reanimation

Shorikai is great, because it generates card advantage as well as filling up your graveyard. Plus, it doesn’t count as a Creature on the battlefield unless you crew it, so it dodges certain kinds of removal. This lets you leave Shorikai alone and activate its ability a whole bunch of times.

Agrivian Restoration Buckle Up Upgrade Guide

Once you do that, you will find lots of opportunities to put big Artifacts in the graveyard, as well as having the necessary cards in your hand to reanimate them. Here are some good spot reanimation spells:

These cards compliment a few others that you get in the precon. Of course, you will also need some powerful targets to reanimate with these.

Memnarch Buckle Up Precon Upgrade

You can choose whatever you want, but here are a few suggestions in case you need some help:

Mill and Mass Reanimation

Of course, if you don’t want to rely on one single Artifact to win you the game, you could always just reanimate them all.

Triumphant Reckoning Buckle Up Upgrade Guide

Shorikai does a good job putting one or two things in to the graveyard, but utilizing self-mill cards, you can fill your graveyard up much more quickly. This, in turn, will set up a chance to use one of these big mass reanimation spells:

Ideal mill cards are going to ones that also synergize with Artifacts. For example, Grinding Station and Diligent Excavator. These cards by themselves open up an opportunity for infinite combo potential, but if that’s not your jam, you could also try:

Obviously, that is way more than you will ultimately end up needing. You don’t want to include too many, because it will distract from the big Artifacts and reanimation spells, making your deck less consistent. Once you find the perfect balance, though, you are sure to have a great deck.

New Cards From Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty

Brilliant Restoration Kamigawa Cards to Upgrade Buckle Up

Neon Dynasty has a couple of gems that could work in different part versions of this deck. Brilliant Restoration is mass reanimation, while Invoke Justice and Tameshi, Reality Architect are targeted reanimation. Then, Kairi, the Swirling Sky is a mill spell that can also get your mass reanimation spell back from the graveyard if it ends up there.

What to Take Out

You should probably keep any of the reanimation spells that come in the deck. Additionally, feel free to hang on to any Artifacts you might want to reanimate. Other than that, feel free to gut this deck in order to make enough room for the above-mentioned cards.

You don’t need Pilots, Moonfolk, Vehicles (unless you want to reanimate them), or anything else that comes in the deck. I do say this with the caveat, make sure all of your fundamental bases are covered. Don’t leave out too much removal, card draw, or ramp. Remember, if it can synergize with the rest of the deck, that’s even better.

5. Tap/Untap (3-7)

The Innistrad: Crimson Vow products included another Blue-White Commander deck with a tribal Spirits theme. The secondary commanders for that deck were Rhoda, Geist Avenger and Timin, Youthful Geist.

In the upgrade article that I wrote for that deck, I included a section about tapping/untapping your opponents’ permanents. Read up about it here. This section is very similar to that one. The big difference is that, in this deck, the Creatures you are tapping are your own.

One part of Vehicles that most people don’t tend to think about is that they make you tap your Creatures down to crew them. This is often a drawback for the mechanic. However, there are some instances where you can use it to your advantage.

Inspired

Arbiter of the Ideal Buckle Up Upgrade Kotori

A small handful of Magic mechanics actively care about being untapped. The first one I want to talk about is Inspired. From original Theros, Inspired lets you pay a cost when the inspired Creature becomes untapped to get an effect. Oftentimes, it can be tricky to tap a Creature, especially if your opponents have profitable blocks.

With Vehicles, though, you can tap any number of Creatures to crew them, and you can do it multiple times. There’s no threat to your Creatures, and you can definitely get your Inspired triggers.

Here are the most interesting cards in blue/white with Inspired or Inspired-adjacent effects:

If you have too many of these, the amount of mana you have to pay for them can become a lot, but since there are only a handful in the game, you should be fine.

Untap Symbol

There are also cards that let you untap them as a cost for an ability. In Lorwyn/Shadowmoor block, Wizards introduced the untap symbol. It is basically the opposite of the tap symbol, stating that a Creature must be tapped in order to untap itself. If you have a bunch of mana to sink into it and a Vehicle to tap it down, these generally mundane effects start to get a little bit stronger. Here are the ones in the right colors:

None of these abilities are going to end the game for you, but they will let you capitalize on a bit of incremental value.

Misc

Throne of the God-Pharaoh

To round off this section, here are a couple of cards that don’t really have their own unique category. They all want you to tap your Creatures down in some way or another, though:

New Cards From Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty

Moonfolk Puzzlemaker is a new card that likes to be tapped. Tezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh cares about you tapping your Artifacts. Other than that, there’s really not any new cards for this deck.

What to Take Out

There are a couple of creatures in the deck, like Emry, Lurker in the Loch, that have tap effects attached to them. Those could potentially be helpful in the deck and worth keeping. Also, the new Drumbellower seems like a fantastic card, minimizing the risk of tapping down all of your Creatures for value. You could keep in all the Vehicles, but Shorikai is good enough by itself if you need to make more room.

Buckle Up Upgrade – Conclusion

And now we’ve made it to a red light. Let me know what you think about these ideas, especially if you build one of these decks. Additionally, if you want to get a hold of me for whatever reason, you can find me on Instagram or Twitter.

I also have a podcast called the Gathering: My Thought MTG Podcast. You can find that on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. I have episodes going over each of the Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Commander decks, as well as spoilers, predictions, and random hot takes about Magic.

If you’d like to try your luck and open some Kamigawa cards, I talked about, you can get a Neon Dynasty Set Booster Box on Amazon.

Kamigawa Neon Dynasty Set Booster Box

More Content

If you liked this Buckle Up upgrade article, check out the Upgrades Unleashed Upgrade Guide (other Kamigawa Commander deck). Also, here is more great Commander content on CardGameBase.com:

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