Karn, Scion of Urza
May 7, 2018
Commander [EDH]: 4.13
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale.
1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
It strikes me that Karn’s +1 and -1 ability basically combine to make a version of Fact or Fiction, albeit one that’s even slower than sorcery speed because it takes at least two turns to put a card into your hand. Is that a fair trade-off for being able to do it in mono-green? It seems kind of slow to me, but then again, if you are otherwise in control of the game and/or are in a format like Commander where decks might get some setup time, it might be effective. There’s also always the possibility of leaning more heavily on his -2 ability and getting some Construct tokens, to play well with various themes in Kaladesh, Ixalan, and Unstable.
Colorless planeswalkers bring with them an inherent risk, since they can be splashed into any deck and carry warping risks if they’re too powerful. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Karn Liberated, the two prior colorless planeswalkers, were brutally powerful permanents partially balanced by high mana costs…mana costs that aren’t a massive issue in Tron builds, mind, but they still had that as a means of balance.
Karn, Scion of Urza isn’t as overtly powerful as its forebears. At four mana, it can’t be. But it’s still a powerful planeswalker all the same, albeit more subtle than some.
There’s obvious synergies between Karn’s +1 and his -1. His +1 isn’t great at first glance: your opponent gives you the “worse” of your next two cards, and the second one gets exiled. But that’s where his -1 comes in, giving you the exiled cards from the +1. The wording on Karn is that, as long as the exiled card has a silver counter, you can fetch it; this is regardless of if the Karn out is the Karn that exiled it. By alternating his +1 and his -1, or just using his +1, you get an extra draw each turn, and that’s a powerful effect for any deck. And Karn’s 5 loyalty provides a bit of a buffer in case he starts getting attacked.
Speaking of that, Karn’s -2 is a means to end the game…slowly, but it can work! Since the Constructs he makes will see each other if there are multiples, you can make a massive board in short order, since you can “ult” him twice after he comes in. He pairs well with Treasure generation (still a thing) and other artifacts, and I can see him putting in a lot of work in Affinity and other artifact-heavy decks.
Karn is a powerful planeswalker, and he’ll see a lot of play. For good reason! His power is not as flashy as some planeswalkers offer, but subtle power is power all the same, and expect to see him a lot in Standard and Modern, with possible appearances elsewhere.
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