Now that we are weeks into War of the Spark’s life, we are beginning to see which cards will make waves in Modern. War of the Spark is likely to make an impressive impact on the format, extending outside of the thirty-six Planeswalkers the set boasts. However, I want to focus on one Planeswalker in particular: Karn, the Great Creator.

I wrote briefly about Karn in Modern a few weeks ago, but want to dive deeper as we are beginning to see Karn’s impact spread outside of Tron strategies I originally predicted. I believe Karn to be one of the cards that will have the biggest impact in Modern, and this week I go into why with a focus on archetypes outside of Tron.

Let’s begin by looking at what Karn, the Great Creator does, and why it has such a high ceiling in Modern.

Four mana for five loyalty isn’t a terrible rate—coming down outside of Lightning Bolt range is a good place to start. But its Karn’s abilities push him well above that baseline. Karn brings something unique to the table if you are willing to build around this colourless Planeswalker, but there are artifact-based strategies that won’t need to change much to accommodate Karn.

The plus ability can be relevant in certain scenarios, but the minus two opens worlds of posibility with a wish-style sideboard plan. Modern already has a suite of artifact hate cards that regularly crop up in sideboards across various archetypes, and Karn brings those cards into game one. The biggest attention-getter however, is Karn’s passive ability. Shutting down opposing artifacts can be quite powerful. But what if you could use Karn’s minus to get a card that turns everything into artifacts?

Karn is part of a two-card combination alongside Mycosynth Lattice that provides an alternative win condition that can be fit into a variety of decks. Once Mycosynth Lattice is in play, it turns all permanents into artifacts, which subjects all opposing permanents to Karn’s static ability. Your opponent will not be able to activate their lands, meaning they can’t tap for any mana. It’s a very powerful combination which is as close we are going to get to functional Armageddon in Modern.

Both cards being colorless makes them easy to fit into existing archetypes. In comparison to other card combinations, it’s not essential to run a set of Mycosynth Lattice to achieve consistency. Thanks to Karn’s minus ability, you only need one Mycosynth Lattice from the sideboard. That creates room for more silver bullets in the sideboard. Even if your artifacts are exiled by cards such as Surgical Extraction, Karn can grab these back as part of his minus ability.

Karn provides plenty of resilience, and there will always be artifacts joining Modern to make Karn better as time goes on. But there are negatives along with the positives. Stony Silence has been a mainstay in Modern sideboards since its printing back in Return to Ravnica. Not only does it cost two mana, Enchantments are difficult to remove. Despite Karn offering the upside of creating a one-sided Stony Silence effect, he is more vulnerable to removal and dying to your opponent’s creatures.

If you want to include the Mycosynth Lattice combination in your deck, it’s important to note that Karn does need multiple copies as well as protection for the combination to work. However, Karn makes an excellent alternative for strategies that aren’t able to play White and gives the upside of tutoring additional artifact pieces if required.

Whir Prison

Karn, the Great Creator looks to be a natural fit in Prison strategies as the density of artifacts is already high. Whir Prison has seen moderate success recently as a means of resource denial and board control. Adding Karn to the mix bolsters this strategy, which we saw in the Top 8 of an SCG Modern IQ in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Whir Prison

Spells (39)
Karn, the Great Creator
Mox Opal
Whir of Invention
Sword of the Meek
Thopter Foundry
Mishra’s Bauble
Chalice of the Void
Collective Brutality
Damping Sphere
Engineered Explosives
Ensnaring Bridge
Grafdigger’s Cage
Tormod’s Crypt
Nihil Spellbomb
Pithing Needle
Welding Jar
Lands (21)
Academy Ruins
Darkslick Shores
Inventors’ Fair
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
River of Tears
Scalding Tarn
Spire of Industry
Tolaria West
Watery Grave

Sideboard (15)
Bontu’s Last Reckoning
Damping Sphere
Engineered Explosives
Ensnaring Bridge
Mycosynth Lattice
Sai, Master Thopterist
Sorcerous Spyglass
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
Torpor Orb
Unmoored Ego
Witchbane Orb

Whir Prison is notorious for implementing a slower gameplan than other decks, but Karn offers a swifter route to victory. In addition to Mycosynth Lattice, Karn can grab Sword of the Meek or Thopter Foundry from the sideboard after game one. Karn doesn’t change the formula in Whir Prison, but enables more consistency and better lines to victory.

Additionally, I don’t think running a playset Karn is correct in Whir Prison because he can’t be tutored with Whir of Invention. The namesake card encourages plenty of toolbox options already available in the maindeck, whereas Karn would prefer these in the sideboard instead. I think we will see Karn featured in Whir Prison, but it’s more likely we will see a handful of copies in the seventy-five to provide insurance against cards such as Unmoored Ego and Surgical Extraction rather than a focus of the deck.

Amulet Titan

Karn’s impact is extending to other big mana archetypes such as Amulet Titan. Karn has been cropping up in Amulet Titan lists, and the archetype won the Modern MOCS a few weeks ago with the inclusion of the silver golem.

Amulet Titan

Creatures (13)
Azusa, Lost but Seeking
Hornet Queen
Primeval Titan
Sakura-Tribe Scout

Spells (19)
Ancient Stirrings
Pact of Negation
Summoner’s Pact
Amulet of Vigor
Coalition Relic
Engineered Explosives
Karn, the Great Creator
Lands (28)
Gemstone Mine
Selesnya Sanctuary
Simic Growth Chamber
Tolaria West
Bojuka Bog
Boros Garrison
Cavern of Souls
Ghost Quarter
Kabira Crossroads
Khalni Garden
Slayers’ Stronghold
Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion

Sideboard (15)
Emrakul, the Promised End
Engineered Explosives
Mycosynth Lattice
Path to Exile
Reclamation Sage
Spell Pierce
Tormod’s Crypt
Walking Ballista
Wurmcoil Engine

Amulet Titan’s strategy remains the same, but Karn, the Great Creator provides insurance against Blood Moon. Amulet has plenty of artifacts to compliment a transmuted Tolaria West, but with the addition of Karn, the sideboard expands into more potent answers such as Wurmcoil Engine as an out to aggressive strategies. Killing opponents with a pumped-up 0/1 Plant Token has always been a viable line in Amulet Titan, and this can now be extended to killing your opponents with an animated Amulet of Vigor, Coalition Relic, or Mycosynth Lattice thanks to Karn’s plus ability.

Ancient Stirrings becomes more consistent due to the inclusion of Karn, and having the means to dig for the Planeswalker is important in these toolbox strategies. I expect to see Karn become a mainstay in Amulet Titan and likely replacing Hive Mind going forward. However, given the design space that Amulet Titan offers, I still foresee various builds coming to fruition in due course with the Karn package being the most popular and successful.

Karn, the Great Creator looks to carve a new Modern landscape, but it’s not the end of days. There has been plenty of comparisons between Karn and Splinter Twin. I don’t believe this to be the second coming of what Splinter Twin originally brought to Modern. Despite the combination that Karn brings, you still have to answer the board and the threats your opponents have on the field—deploying a Mycosynth Lattice won’t stop you from dying to creatures that are already in play. Plus is a turn six combination instead of turn four, meaning it’s much slower than Splinter Twin. While the Mycosynth Lattice combination proves to be powerful, it can be slow and it won’t race many Modern strategies at present.

Karn’s ideal bastion is in artifact and big mana strategies. Given the easy mana cost of both Karn and Mycosynth Lattice, I expect to see these combinations of cards crop up in modest numbers across various archetypes. Even if Mycosynth Lattice didn’t exist, I think Karn would still be Modern playable given the amount of utility he provides.

I can’t wait to see what players do with Karn, the Great Creator in Modern and the last few weeks have been encouraging to say the least. With Modern Horizon’s incoming, I wonder what artifacts will come into Modern that Karn can use the best. But I don’t think it will warp the Modern landscape unfavorably at all.

Emma is a writer and Modern enthusiast based in Suffolk, England. She has been involved in Magic since Khans of Tarkir’s release back in 2014, but won’t shy away from Cube and MTG Arena. Follow her on Twitter @emmmzyne to join in on the conversation!

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