Running out of inspiration due to the staleness of Standard, I messaged my friend and editor Steve Sadin to ask him for ideas on what to write about
this week. It seemed like a good course of action, as I didn’t want to double up on a topic again with Brian Kibler. I was surprised when Steve
suggested I write about Karn Liberated, the new colorless planeswalker from New Phyrexia.
After thinking about it for a while, though, it started making sense.
Karn Liberated is the least restrictive planeswalker Wizards has ever printed. He has some very powerful abilities and might even shake up Standard. I
took on the challenge of finding a home for Karn.
I even read up on his back-story. He’s a magical, animated creature that travels through time and worlds. He created the plane of Mirrodin and is a big
part of Magic’s storyline.
Just one question remained…
What does Karn Liberated do exactly?
The first two abilities are straightforward, and I knew those already, but the ultimate is a bit tricky. “Restart the game” can mean a whole host of
things. Can you mulligan? Who goes first? Answer: Yes, and Karn’s controller goes first. These things are worth knowing!
I started to look through every card in Standard to see where Karn could potentially fit. The first deck I stumbled on was Mono-Green Eldrazi.
- 1 Llanowar Elves
- 2 Oracle of Mul Daya
- 1 Terastodon
- 1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
- 4 Joraga Treespeaker
- 1 Overgrown Battlement
- 2 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
- 4 Primeval Titan
The deck typically wants to curve out like so:
Turn 1: Forest, cast Joraga Treespeaker
Turn 2: Eldrazi Temple, level up Joraga Treespeaker, cast Explore/Overgrown Battlement
Turn 3: Play land. Have six mana available.
So the perfect curve lets you cast Primeval Titan, which then lets the deck play its most powerful creatures and end games quickly.
This is the productive curve that every Eldrazi deck tries to repeat over and over again. This is a very narrow but reliable strategy that has made
this deck as competitive as it is today.
Does a deck like this want a card like Karn Liberated? It can ramp this guy out fast, and it does give the deck a different way to win the game. Is
The threat of restarting the game is very scary when backed with the inevitability of huge Eldrazi creatures on the board that will end the game. This
can put a player in a tough spot where they either try to kill you and race Karn Liberated or have to kill Karn and race an Eldrazi spell. All the
while, you’re taking cards out of their hand (or putting Emrakul, the Aeons Torn under your Karn Liberated).
Karn is also protected from the deck’s board sweeper, All Is Dust, which will probably wipe all the other cards from the board and leave the walker to
do this business.
This sounds great in theory, but will Karn Liberated really play out this way?
The real problem is where a deck like Eldrazi Ramp fits into the metagame. It already has a tough time dealing with Valakut, since that ramp deck kills
one turn faster. Karn Liberated does not really help with this problem. He can kill off a Primeval Titan, but the Valakuts he leaves behind still
present a real threat.
The other big problem is that Karn Liberated is not the type of card Eldrazi Ramp wants when it is trying to beat up Caw-Blade. You really just want to
play out ramp creatures into Eldrazi spells, and even if something gets countered, you can play a Summoning Trap to catch them off-guard.
Karn is very vulnerable to Spell Pierce and Mana Leak and doesn’t trigger Summoning Trap.
If he resolves against Caw-Blade, however, he’s a wrecking ball. Attacking their hand or dealing with Swords, Gideons, and Colonnades seems really
good. Caw-Blade doesn’t have the ability to attack for a ton of damage without both Gideon Jura and Celestial Colonnade in play, so it will be very
hard for them to get this card off the table.
I can see this card really putting Caw-Blade in a tough spot if it ever resolves, but he probably won’t resolve as often as I would like.
Even though Eldrazi Ramp can cast this card, that does not mean this is the best home for it. It does not seem like the deck can protect it enough for
Karn to do its job. This card really wants to be protected to get off the ultimate. I decided to brew up this.
- 2 Condemn
- 3 Day of Judgment
- 2 Spell Pierce
- 4 Everflowing Chalice
- 4 Preordain
- 1 Contagion Clasp
- 3 Tumble Magnet
This list is very rough and just to help you visualize what could be. I don’t advise picking this up without working some kinks out of it first.
I like that most of the cards in the deck help power out a string of good planeswalkers. Gideon Jura and Jace, the Mind Sculptor help protect Venser
and Karn, while they’re doing their own thing to end the game. It doesn’t take many turns for both of these walkers to go ultimate.
Obviously, this deck does not look like it passes the test in Standard right now:
“Does your Standard deck have at least decent matchups against Caw-Blade and Valakut?”
Game one would be very bad for this deck against Valakut. I don’t actually see you winning any games against it. The sideboarded Leylines will help out
as well as the added countermagic to help you find additional Leylines.
It looks like this could put up a decent fight against the Blade. Venser is a very powerful card against them, since it takes off a lot of pressure
from you. This can help get walkers online as long as you win the initial Jace war.
Karn Liberated will help take out the Jace later in the game as well, as you’ll have more powerful spells than they will as long as they don’t gain too
much board presence.
Both of these decks are interesting ways to abuse this card, but we need to get creative.
I called up one of my favorite people in the game and the go-to guy for creative deckbuilding advice, Mr. Jacob Van Lunen. I asked him what the best
thing to do with Karn Liberated was, and he had the answer. Well, he had half the answer. The rest of it was inside Lewis Laskin brain.
There are only two reasons why you might not know who Lewis Laskin is. The first is that you have never watched any StarCityGames.com Open Series event
coverage before, and the other is that this guy loves to brew decks a bit too much. This kid has some real potential in this game if he would stop
playing crazy brews all the time and just stick to a competitive deck.
You’ll always see him with some crazy new brew trying to beat Caw-Blade week in and week out. I wish he’d buckle down and play the “boring”
deck for a little while and get his game to the Pro Tour, but we are who we are.
So Lewis had this sweet idea that I just had to work on. It revolves mostly around Eldrazi Spawn and Fresh Meat. It sounds sweet, right? You make all
of these easy Spawn tokens and then sacrifice them to make big freakin’ Beast tokens (I’ve been hanging out with Evan Erwin a bit too much this week).
From that idea, I was able to brew this deck up.
The whole idea of this deck is to power out as many permanents as you can. Almost every permanent has the ability to produce mana in some way. This
makes cards like Karn Liberated and White Sun’s Zenith very powerful.
The other side of the deck is to use Fresh Meat to replace all of the Eldrazi Spawn the deck can make so easily. If no Fresh Meat is on top of the
deck, you’ll have to slam Eldrazi Monument into play and use Awakening Zone to never worry about running out of creatures.
I’m not going to lie; this is a very rough list. It includes Graypelt Refuge, which has seen very little play, but I think they’re very important.
White Sun’s Zenith is a very powerful card in a deck like this and seems worth it.
Beast Within seems insane in a deck like this, since the tokens get blocked all day long using the walls while dealing with all of the problematic
permanents in the format.
Karn Liberated seems to fit a strategy like this perfectly. It comes down fast and wins games. All of the creatures help protect it as well as power it
out. The Fresh Meats help give the deck a surprise threat that will take many opponents out the first time they play against it. Get seven Beasts after
making them trade in their Gideon Jura for a Beast of their own? I think it’s a fair trade.
This deck can support the six taplands, since it has no turn one play anyway.
This deck seems like a lot of fun, so try and take it to a local event or FNM in the next couple of weeks. It’s interesting, powerful, and one of the
better homes for Karn Liberated. Block Swords all day long with colorless creatures!
I’ll be Spellslinging at the Richmond Prerelease this weekend and might even proxy up this deck to give it a whirl. Speaking of which, it’s that time
of the yearâ€”the best time to be a Magic player. This weekend, we all get our first chance to hold the newest cards ourselves. We can crack packs,
open mythic rares, and have a great time.
A lot of people will also be attending a tournament for the first time, so make sure to show them how amazing this game is.
I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend. If you’re in the area, you should stop by the Richmond Prerelease. It should be one hell of a weekend!