Card Spotlight: Karn, Scion of Urza

Posted in Event Coverage on June 1, 2018

By Tobi Henke

"Karn is like ... it's a really insane card," said Matthew Nass when I asked him about every Standard player's favorite new planeswalker card. He was struggling for the appropriate words to do Karn justice but found them soon after. "It's only okay if you're not abusing the minus mode. Otherwise it's the best card in Standard."

Multiple cards were vying for that title, of course. However, Karn, Scion of Urza was uniquely positioned to make such a claim for multiple reasons. It could go into decks of any color or colors. Sometimes it would generate card advantage, and sometimes board advantage. It was a central part of some decks' primary game plan in the initial 60 cards. For others, it was a valuable sideboard addition, offering whatever was missing or needed in any kind of matchup.

All of this meant that, between main decks and sideboards, I counted no less than 422 copies of Karn in the tournament, not that far from the number of players competing this weekend.

Multiple times, Nass emphasized the importance of being able to use Karn's minus two ability. "It's especially great when you have cheap artifacts," he explained. "Playing against this is tricky. If the Karn player has a slow draw and will only be able to plus Karn for a couple of turns, aggressive decks can sometimes just ignore that. Increasingly larger Constructs on the other hand can't be ignored."

Going into the tournament, the big deck that was most known for using Karn to create Constructs was white and black featuring the artifact theme of Toolcraft Exemplar, Heart of Kiran, Scrapheap Scrounger, and nowadays, the new planeswalker. As such, these lists were the most likely to include a full play set.

Chris Vincent's White-Black Vehicles, 14th at GP Birmingham

This wouldn't be the Pro Tour though if players didn't come up with some new ways to make use of Karn. In fact, Nass and other ChannelFireball pros were running a spicy brew in green and blue with Implement of Ferocity and Scrap Trawler. After two recent Grand Prix Top 8s and a win with Klark-Clan Ironworks in Modern, Nass was probably the most famous Scrap Trawler player in the world.


Matthew Nass—Krark-Clan Ironworks expert—was one of many singing the praises of Karn, Scion of Urza.

"Originally, we wanted to make The Antiquities War work and started out with a blue-black shell," Nass explained. "But then we realized that Llanowar Elves was pretty good here, and Verdurous Gearhulk was actually better as the big artifact threat of choice than Skysovereign, Consul Flagship."

Hall of Famer Luis Scott-Vargas added more. "We were trying to build a good Karn deck and this is it," he said. "Llanowar Elves was the obvious choice to speed things up and we wanted a lot of artifacts to go along with Karn. Glint-Nest Crane is awesome with this many artifacts. Scrap Trawler isn't great, but it is another cheap artifact and it regrows your Walking Ballista."

Scott-Vargas stressed the importance of Walking Ballista. "Ballista is your best ... Well, it certainly is your best artifact, or let's say that it's your best non-Karn card."

When asked how they dealt with answers others might bring for Karn, Scion of Urza, specifically with Sorcerous Spyglass, Nass pointed to the Thrashing Brontodon in the sideboard. "Sorcerous Spyglass is annoying," Scott-Vargas admitted. "But it's not as if the deck can't win without Karn. I'm certainly not bringing in Brontodon against everyone on the off-chance that they might have Spyglass."

Green-Blue Karn was a new entry in the category of decks interested in Constructs. Karn's flexibility had already been pointed out, so it was no big surprise that the planeswalker also found a new home in decks which cared more about the ability to generate extra cards.

Case in point, Eduardo Sajgalik of MTG Mint Card was part of a small group of players running the card in Blue-Black Control. "It replaces Glimmer of Genius, and it's great because it doesn't need anything past the initial investment," he said.

Sajgalik said that he got the idea after talking to Simon Nielsen, who had pointed out that he would often hold on to his bigger threats until the time when regular blue-black decks would start to refill their hand with Glimmer of Genius. Then they couldn't without dropping their shields against those bigger threats, and would eventually be overwhelmed because their usual sequencing got out of sync.

"Instead, we now just slam Karn, Scion of Urza and get ahead of them," said Sajgalik. "If you can slam Karn on an empty board and go to six loyalty, it's very hard for a lot of decks to come back from that, and Blue-Black is extremely good at creating such a position. You have all of this one-for-one removal, and unlike White-Blue Control with its Seal Away and Settle the Wreckage, you don't have to wait for anything to attack before you get rid of it."

Whether it was Karn Control or Karn Constructs, the Scion of Urza kept sneaking into more and more decks. It was going to be interesting to see where it would end up by the end of the weekend.

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