Preparing to qualify for this weekend’s Explorer Open on MTG Arena has made one thing abundantly clear: the best map in MTG Explorer isn’t the most obvious. After cooking this up, thinking it was a unique idea, and playing it multiple times against various opponents, it’s safe to say the spade is out of the bag.
Karn, the Great Artifact Bearer
This four-mana nuisance from War of the Spark shows a ton of play in various Explorer builds. Although most of these decks are fires of invention takes, a Jund Food variant is becoming increasingly popular for getting a leg up on the mirror while being a nuisance to grease fang.
Karn’s static ability to prevent artifacts from activating is a great look at what the supposed meta is at the moment:
- It stops Parhelion II of the crew
- witch oven does not work
- Oni Cult Anvil does not work
- Treasure tokens created by various means (but mostly fable of the mirror breaker) does not work
- Artifact-based hate, like Unlicensed hearse doesn’t work either.
If that wasn’t enough, Karn’s Rise is capable of destroying artifacts at zero mana. In the Jund Mirror, Karn is also able to destroy Food tokens.
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Karn’s negative ability allows him to go to your sideboard and find an artifact for you. This gives you game one access to some of the format’s best hates:
With grease fang wreaking havoc across the format, having access to Tormod’s Crypt at any time can save you from complete disaster. With the potential to flip for 13 on turn three and leave an absurd amount of stats on board, Greasefang isn’t something you can ignore. Fortunately, the Crypt can Exile Parhelion II in response to Greasefang’s ability. Do not exile their graveyard in advance. Greasefang decks are filled with plunder effects. You may find yourself attacked by a Parhelion that was in their hand the whole time.
Unlicensed hearse is the first hateful option to fight Greasefang. Since the hearse can exile cards to graveyards each turn, it becomes difficult for a Greasefang player to keep Parhelions in the graveyard. Their only honest solution is to force you to activate the hearse before the fight by removing it, then putting Parhelion in the graveyard.
Here’s another big reason why Karn sees a lot of play in Jund Food decks. The possibility of recovering a Bolas Citadel usually means the game ends when it resolves. Keep playing cards on top of your deck until you have ten permanents to sacrifice. Any maimed devils let you double the damage.
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Against what Karn Bad?
Karn doesn’t fare very well against aggressive decks trying to end the game. Most of them don’t play artifacts, so Karn doesn’t slow them down by solving them. Most of the time, four mana for what is essentially a do-nothing game is exactly what aggressive decks want to tackle. Karn going for a unique artifact so you can play it next turn isn’t enough. If Mono-Red or Mono-Green see a slight increase in play, Karn is not where you want to be.
Either way, whichever MTG Explorer decks manage to climb the Pro Tour, it’s likely going to be the new rosters that define the meta. It could be a variety of different things, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Karn was somewhere in there.