I think this guy would work best in a metalworker style deck, trying to poop out Karn and a handful of artifacts to start making tokens.

Completing my trinity of stream-relevant Dominaria cards, I think @Prospero and @Protoaddct have added pretty good insight here. First, I agree with Nick when he says he doesn't see this card being playing in Shops. It's just too hard to reliably cast the card through Sphere effects when you can't count on Mishra's Workshop to help you. If it was an Artifact, the card becomes pretty absurd in Shops, but I guess WotC didn't want the marquee Planeswalker in the set getting killed by Abrade. That's actually good news for Blue pilots as it means Null Rod doesn't shut Karn down and Dack doesn't steal him.

@Protoaddct has identified the most relevant ability on the card - the -2 ability is where the money is at. Once you deviate from cards like JTMS, JVP, and Dack, what you are looking for isn't typically a draw engine but a win condition. Chandra in the various decks that have run her hasn't been there for the card advantage or the creature removal. Now, she can be used for that and that's part of her utility, but for the most part I want to -7 her asap and win the game while the opponent struggles to answer her. Similarly, Karn as a card advantage engine is somewhat anemic. Someone previously summarized this but the +1 ability is worth less than a random card from your deck since you are getting the worst of the top 2 cards. The -1 is worth more than a card as you get to chose from the best of multiple cards. The net advantage is 1 card a turn unless you have some sort of deck manipulation to extract value from digging two cards deeper each activation. Again, not bad but JTMS provides that +1 raw card advantage and increases the quality of cards in your hand. This happens immediate where Karn has a delay, meaning a JTMS topdeck is very likely to win you the top deck war, where card provides a pretty significant window still for your opponent to draw some of those broken Vintage cards and end the game.

Now there are certainly ways to extracting more value from Karn - Dack can address the card quality issue through the card selection he provides. I think it is better though to aim to maximize Karn's strengths. It's pretty clear that the power of the -2 is contingent on the number of artifacts that are in your deck. What power and toughness would you expect on a creature for 7 colorless mana? A 7/7 with downside like Traxos? Juggernaut? What about when you get to add a second copy the next turn? In my games on stream, Karn was typically making 6/6 or 7/7 constructs. Which is well above the curve when you consider the fact that you still have a Karn in play that the opponent has to deal with or face a stream of constructs or card draw. Granted this is a deck that is running a ton of artifacts (Seat of the Synod, Mox Opal), but why would you want to run a card in a deck that doesn't make full use of its abilities? Oh, and I've tweaked that deck a bit. Is 4 mana for a 20/20 good?


The deck above was running 1 Karn in a The Antiquities War/Paradoxical Outcome deck. I'm still feeling out both those cards, but I will say that the added dimension of attack is very powerful. Karn and TAW function as win conditions that work independent of PO (unlike Tendrils) and are compact in that you don't have to run cards like Voltaic Key and Blightsteel to make them work (improving on consistency, which is a major issue with PO decks). Opponent plays Kambal or Damping Sphere, make artifact creatures and beat down. Don't draw artifacts or PO, make artifact creatures and beat down. The advantage of Karn in this context is that he works well within the actual PO loop as you play him, make a creature, pick him up with PO, and then repeat until you find Time Walk and attack for 80. In many ways, Karn is more akin to Monastery Mentor in the PO deck. And that certainly deserves exploration going forward.

@ChubbyRain Just curious but have you tried Aetherflux Reservoir in these lists? It seems it would be another win con in PO lists as well as a defensive measure versus aggro.

@serracollector i have tried Reservoir in PO when both cards where printed. It was in a moni U "Storm" like PO shell with just it and vault/key as win cons. It basically took the place of tendrils at first, but it has some distinct features:

  • Its a win con you have to plant before or as you go off as opposed to the finisher after it. As such it is not a absolutely dead card in your hand, when you are not about to win, and can provide some marginal lifegain over a few turns.
  • Planting it a turn early before going off also frees up the 4 mana, which is not possible with Tendrils, but makes it pretty vulnerable.
  • Beeing colorless makes it much easier to cast of course, but beeing an artifact makes it very vulnerable and way easier to handle than when Tendrils hits the stack.
  • Having to play it before or while going off, makes some lines of play, that work for a tendrils finish storm decks more risky. If you don't have the card in your hand, trying to find it while going off might result in you finding it too late and not having a critical mass off spells left to trigger it. This can be played around however (holding some not needed Mox opals and such), and the card counts how many spells have been played before it hits the battlefield, so playing it while going off, will still give you a ton of life.
  • (If you play n cards in a turn and reservoir is already in play you will gain (n+1)*n/2 life. This means if you play 10 spells in a turn, this beeing the first you will gain 54 life, ensuring the kill. This of course gets lower quickly the later you play reservoir, but increases by a ton for each additional spell played. )

Back then the Deck suffered from the same problems that any list trying to maximize the brokeness of PO did, and the win con beeing a null roddable artifact didn't make it better. Still, definitely playable....as a combo Deck.
I do not think reservoir is a fitting win con for a Deck that likes to play it a bit slower with Karn and win over multiple turns with Karn tokens and value. Casting just 1 or 2 spells a turn after reservoir sits on the battlefield does not generate any significant amount of value. Sure it will sometimes safe you from an aggro deck, but there are a ton of way better cards to do that job. Also Karn tokens can do that job as well.

Those two cards just fit in different strategies.

last edited by Aelien

@Aelien Well stated

@Serracollector The most aggressive deck in Vintage is Ravager Shops, which is naturally resistant to Aetherflux Reservoir by virtual of its Sphere effects. That ended up being a pretty big strike against the card in testing. I actually have a mental note to look to Reservoir if Kambal becomes much more prevalent, but the metagame is simply not at that point right now.

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