Almost There: Green-Blue Karn

Posted in How to Build on June 8, 2018

By Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

Paulo has been playing Magic since he was eight years old. At fifteen, he ventured outside of Brazil for his first international tournament, and he's been globetrotting as a professional player ever since.

Whenever a new set is released, there are always cards that catch our attention because of how much more powerful they are than anything else. In Dominaria, those cards were Teferi, Hero of Dominaria; Goblin Chainwhirler; and Karn, Scion of Urza. During testing, we always try to find the decks that maximize the full potential on those cards, and we identified very early on that, to make Karn good, we had to be making big Constructs. When we pushed that to the extreme, we ended up with green-blue.

Not all members of our testing team played Green-Blue Karn at Pro Tour Dominaria—some played black-red, some played mono-red and some played Esper (white-blue-black). Of the ones who did play it, two had 7-3 records: Sam Pardee and Ivan Floch. Here are their decklists:

Sam Pardee's Green-Blue Karn

Ivan Floch's Green-Blue Karn

The most important cards in the decks are Karn, Scion of Urza; Walking Ballista; and Aethersphere Harvester. Everything else is a role player to make those work. Glint-Nest Crane finds the artifacts, Scrap Trawler recurs them, Verdurous Gearhulk and Implement of Ferocity make them bigger. Basically, the train of thought is that those are the best cards, and we want a deck that can find them more consistently and make the best use of them.

With this deck, there are three main ways of winning. The first is playing a fast Karn and making Constructs. In this deck, it's almost always right to -2 Karn and then -2 Karn again the following turn. Even if the Constructs are small, they will grow over the course of the game, and they're real cards that have to be dealt with. The exceptions to this are if creating a Construct will mean your Karn dies when it otherwise wouldn't (e.g., the opponent has a 3-power flier) or if you need to hit a fifth land drop.

The second way to win is with Walking Ballista. Scrap Trawler plays a role here because it lets you bring Walking Ballista back every time any artifact that costs one or more dies, including the Trawler itself. This is the reason Implement of Ferocity is in the deck—it not only pumps Ballista if it's in play, but it also brings it back if it's in the graveyard (and it also counts as an artifact for Karn and Metallic Rebuke, of course).

The third way to win is with a big flier. Glint-Nest Crane and Aethersphere Harvester aren't very threatening, but they carry Verdurous Gearhulk counters very well. Decks like Mono-Green Stompy aren't well equipped to deal with an enormous flier, and a 5/7 Crane will let you race almost anything, so don't be afraid to go all-in on either the Crane or the Harvester.

Overall, this is a deck without many polarized matchups. You're kinda 50-50 versus everything (except for white-black and mono-black, both of which you beat handily). Game 1s versus control are tough, but Games 2 and 3 are much easier, once you have a set of Lifecraft Bestiarys and ways to find them. Against mono-red, you're fine versus the fast versions (Bomat Courier isn't good against you), but you struggle more against the slower versions (with Unlicensed Disintegration and Glorybringer). In the end, Green-Blue Karn is not a deck that's going to crush any metagame, but it can be a solid option if you are looking for something different. It's especially attractive in the Unified Standard PTQ, because it doesn't share much with any deck (it clashes with any green deck because of Llanowar Elves and with any Ballista deck, but that's about it) and because decks that it beats (white-black and mono-black) should be way more present than in an individual tournament.

Of the two lists, I like Sam Pardee's a bit more, but I also like some components from Ivan Floch's—namely the Renegade Maps. I thought the deck was a bit short on lands anyway, and 23 lands plus 2 Renegade Maps seems better than 24 lands, no Maps to me. Ivan has an Inventors' Fair as his extra mana source, but I think you just need the colored mana, especially because it can be devastating to have Hinterland Harbor enter play tapped. This is what I'd play moving forward:

PVDDR's Green-Blue Karn

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