Karn, Living Legacy – Dominaria United
Date Reviewed: September 26, 2022
Commander [EDH]: 4.25
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Karn’s recent outings have often emphasized other elements of his character and abilities, so it’s sometimes easy to forget (as this card’s title indicates) that he’s an embodiment of Urza’s Legacy artifacts and research. You have to feel like that might come into play in the upcoming sets, as the original purpose of the Legacy was to defeat Phyrexia.
In gameplay, Karn has some pretty powerful abilities, well suited to midrange or control decks. There is a caveat: his +1 demands a lot of artifact spells in your deck, which solves the game balance issue traditionally associated with artifact mana at the cost of flexibility. But it seems kind of shallow to complain about that, considering that artifacts can also have colors now and have always had some very powerful effects. His -1 is also a great use for extra mana at any stage of the game, and I’ll remind you that his mana cost means he can go in colors of deck that usually don’t get access to the ability. And while ultimates don’t always become relevant and/or define planeswalkers’ prospects, I’m actually interested to see if somebody can use him in the bigger formats, in a deck that casts all the cheap artifacts and is capable of stalling. You can’t even stop it with Pithing Needle, because the activated ability belongs to the emblem!
Commander [EDH]: 4.5 (two words: Treasure tribal)
Back with another Dominaria set, Karn’s latest outing is more of a value engine than an indomitable wrecking ball. That is, outside of his ultimate, which I feel like I should mention first: this is a very scary ultimate, especially with all sorts of artifact tokens running around. It’s not impossible to go from Karn’s ultimate to just wiping them out on the spot, and it even dodges artifact hate like Stony Silence. While his ultimate is slow to get going, this is enough of an “I win” button that decks can protect him for that I’d be remiss to not mention it.
The other two abilities are the value side of Karn, and they’re pretty solid value overall. His -1 is an interesting form of card selection: you pay mana to look at that many cards and keep 1, and his +1 ramps your mana (with the promise of payoffs for Powerstones in future sets). Both are incremental, but incremental is the name of the game at times. He’s a colorless source of card selection or card draw, and he’s colorless mana ramp. Mind, going from 4 to 6 mana is less impactful than other break points, but this is a repeatable way to put out more mana rocks…and threaten to machine gun things down with his ultimate.
The main knock against Karn, Living Legacy is that he doesn’t protect himself whatsoever, so you need to be able and willing to put in the separate legwork. He’s flexible, though, and he serves as both a source of mana advantage and card advantage until he’s dispatched. Sometimes that’s all you can ask for, and he does deliver well on it.
Limited: 4.25 (probably more useful for repeated uses of his -1 to dig out your other bombs)
Commander [EDH]: 4 (excellent set of abilities, hampered by his vulnerability without additional legwork)
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