The Brothers’ War approaches, and with it comes something that may seem a little out of place in Magic: giant battle mechs. But of course, The Brothers’ War takes place far in the past of the game’s storyline. So that means mechs have been here the whole time?
Well, kind of. Artifacts and various machines of war have been in the game since the beginning — but actual mechs? Those are a little harder to come across.
That doesn’t mean they aren’t there to find, especially since the advent of Vehicles. So today, we’re going to be ranking the top ten mechs already in Magic: The Gathering.
What Makes a Mech
First, what exactly do we mean by “mech”? We have to know what we’re (very arbitrarily) ranking before we rank, so let’s define our terms.
Once you sort through real-world definitions of mech, you come up with a few different answers that talk about what we want. The broadest definition I found was “a large, pilotable machine.” A little more specific definition was “a large, mobile suit of tank-like armor.” So where do we land?
Closer to the second definition. With the introduction of vehicles into Magic in Kaladesh, the first definition is a little too broad. By those terms, every car you see on the road is a mech, which takes some of the fun out of things.
However, the second definition specifies a suit of armor, meaning a mech is something worn. I think that’s a little too restrictive, as I lean more toward “pilotable” in the first definition. Also, neither definition requires that the machine be strictly humanoid.
So, here’s our guidelines: a mech in Magic is a large construct that can move and is controlled by a pilot, either directly or remotely. It can’t be just purely a means of transportation (flavorfully speaking), so no Esika’s Chariot here.
Also, the card itself needs to be the mech, so while Void might have one of the better art representations of a mech, it doesn’t count here. I’m also going to add that there has to be a physical, mechanical component to the mech. No purely magical auras or anything counts.
There’s one last caveat before we get into the lists. For these lists, we aren’t going to count Universes Beyond… mostly because Transformers and Warhammer 40K would end up dominating, kind of by default. Besides, while Transformers fall into the spirit of mechs, they aren’t really piloted. Meanwhile, the whole 40k setting is partially based around folks in power armor or huge mobile tanks fighting giant demons and aliens.
Now with our terms defined, we’re almost ready to dive in.
10. Brute Suit
I’m not going to lie, this is here purely for the name. That said, any vehicle that can turn a 1/1 token into a 4/3 beater is probably not too bad — just maybe a little unexciting. Sweet name, though.
9. Imposter Mech
Having a copy of a creature that isn’t always a creature is a great way to protect a static effect or activated ability from creature removal. Also, you get a copy of your opponents’ best option, which just adds a little extra sting to the proceedings.
8. Mechtitan Core
Yes, it’s a little clunky, requires jumping through a lot of hoops to activate, can often be seen coming from miles away and results in the mother of all blow outs if your opponent has any kind of Stifle effect. But c’mon, you’re making the Mechazord here, and that deserves a little bit of respect.
7. Aerial Surveyor
An evasive, well-costed threat that ramps you when it attacks and is pretty easy to crew with a utility creature or a couple spare tokens? Yeah, this gets this spot purely on value alone. This is a good early game play that gets you to the mid and late game in a hurry if left unchecked.
6. Imperial Recovery Unit
Speaking of low-cost threats that generate a ton of value, in the right deck this can be a value-generating linchpin. Pair this with cards like Sakura-Tribe Elder, Coiling Oracle, Thraben Inspector and any kind of sacrifice outlet and you can start looping enters-the-battlefield or death effects until your opponent finds an answer.
5. Surgehacker Mech
A semi-evasive threat that, at a bare minimum, shocks something when it comes into play. The only reason this isn’t higher on the list is that Crew 4. But that isn’t that big of a hurdle to clear, as you’re getting a power upgrade from two smaller creatures in addition to the menace the Surgehacker has. That means it’ll most often be trading with something, even if the opponent can profitably block at all.
4. Shorikai, Genesis Engine
This mech is kinda bananas. At first glance, the Crew 8 seems like a ridiculous hurdle to jump, even if you’re getting all that power back as Commander damage. There’s no evasion on this thing, and you’re likely tapping multiple creatures to make yourself wide open to some removal.
But honestly, animating this and attacking feels like an afterthought for this mech. A single mana of any (or no) color to filter through the top two cards of your library and make a token that can crew above its actual power? The value this card provides is bonkers, and the only reason it’s this far down the list is that it requires two colors of mana to cast…and yes, the fact that it often won’t get used as a mech at all for large parts of the game.
3. Mighty Servant of Leuk-o
Same Crew 4 as the Surgehacker, but for more power and a killer payoff to its Trample ability — plus it comes down a turn earlier. Drawing two cards is quite good, and this card encourages attacking at every opportunity.
This also gets the same small bump as Brute Suit. I really like cards named with just a touch of whimsy.
2. Peacewalker Colossus (Mobilizer Mech)
This falls in the same category for me as Shorikai, as the point of this mech is its ability rather than its combat stats. This colossus shortcuts the Crew costs of all your other vehicles, which…I mean, that’s supposed to be the main drawback of the entire vehicle card type.
Mech Hangar does something similar on a land, but it can only do this to one vehicle per turn (if you aren’t untapping it somehow). The Colossus does it for less total mana to as many vehicles as you can pay for.
This is an auto-include in any vehicle-based deck that can run it, as it enables everything else on this list.
So what can possibly beat it?
1. Reckoner Bankbuster
Look, I know. This isn’t the flashiest mech out there, or the biggest. And yet, it’s just so, so good.
Mechanically, it’s efficient enough to see play in competitive formats, and it still works well in Commander. It’s very well balanced, makes for interesting and strategic gameplay and plays better than it reads.
It’s also a flavor homerun, telling a complete story in a single card purely through the rules text. You spend time and resources digging into a bank and draining its loot (tapping the Bankbuster and spending mana to get cards over a few turns). Then, once the bank is depleted (all the counters are taken off the Bankbuster) your getaway driver helps you escape with the money (you get a Pilot token and a Treasure). A+ design on all counts, no notes.
Now I stuck to Vehicles for this list, as those seem to best fit the technical description of a mech, but those don’t appear in every set. In fact, there’s not a single one in The Brothers’ War.
And yet, the upcoming set is chock-full of huge automatons that will surely crack a future version of this list. If you want to pick up some of those future entries, we’ve got our preorder for everything Brothers’ War live over on cardkingdom.com!
Jason Krell is the content manager at Card Kingdom, meaning he helps make all of this possible. He is also an unabashed Esper control player, and he hopes the two things at least cancel each other out. He loves when everyone gets to do their thing in a game of Commander and spends way too much thinking about game design. Jason also comes from an esports journalism background, which probably explains a lot about his work.