It's Me, Hi. I'm the Problem, It's Me.
Karn, the Great Creator has been a staple of competitive play since it debuted in War of the Spark. Not only is it a one-sided Null Rod, Karn has the ability to "wish" for artifacts from the sideboard, making it a powerful tool that finds the exact right card to stop what the opponent is doing.
Sideboard cards like Pithing Needle, Tormod's Crypt, and Skysoverign, Consul Flagship are backbreaking, but narrow so they don't typically fit into the main deck. Karn's ability to grab any of these in game one offers a wide range of utility and applications most decks simply can't afford.
Karn directly led to the banning of Mycosyth Lattice in Modern, a wish target and combo piece which locked the opponent out of all activated abilities, including their lands. Unless the opponent had a dominating board state to clear Karn that turn, it was usually lights out.
New Money, Suit, and Tie, I Can Read You Like a Magazine.
The Brother's War is set to release later this month and the full spoiler has officially been revealed. With it comes several additions to strengthen the Karn wishboards. Given that Karn is already the centerpiece of the tier-one Mono-Green Ramp deck in Pioneer, this power boost may just put this top deck over the top.
Among this batch of new cards are some nice quality-of-life upgrades in the form of Cityscape Leveler, which functions as a repeatable Meteor Golem with a much more enticing stat line. The Mightstone and Weakstone may see play as a flexible card draw source or removal spell. Clay Champion is simply an 8/8 for four mana that scales as a wishable threat and beat stick.
Getting into the higher value pickups, Haywire Might is a wishable Naturalize effect to help out in the mirror and answer hate cards like Damping Sphere. It provides a level of insulation against hate that the deck did not have before and at an efficient rate.
The Stasis Coffin provides the player with protection from everything for the turn cycle and is kind enough to exile itself to be re-bought with Karn turn after turn. While it doesn't give protection to permanents, meaning Karn can be attacked or destroyed, it guarantees the player can untap on the following turn, which is often all that they need to win. With activation loops from The Chain Veil, it's possible to put Karn at high enough loyalty that it can't be attacked down. Mono-Green Ramp in Pioneer is able to put several large creatures on the board to gum up combat as well.
The Stone Brain, similar to The Stasis Coffin, self-exiles so it can be cast repeatedly with Karn. It's the latest Necromentia-style effect that can pluck out key win conditions from the opponent's deck, or remove the few answers they may have remaining. Once The Chain Veil loops allow Karn to activate infinitely, The Stone Brain can be used to exile every card in the opponent's hand and deck, then force them to draw as a combo out. This line is an upgrade over the current plan of Pestilent Cauldron // Restorative Burst milling infinitely as it doesn't require finding a source of black mana.
Even with all of these incredible upgrades, the straw that breaks the camel's back is Woodcaller Automaton. This provides a ritual effect in Mono-Green Ramp by adding two devotion from its prototype cost and its ability to untap Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. Mono-Green Ramp already utilizes Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner and often a splashed Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset as ways to untap Nykthos and facilitate obscene (if not infinite) sums of mana. Giving Karn the ability as well is too much redundancy.
I Think I've Seen This Film Before...and I Didn't Like the Ending.
Paper boomers will recall the banning of Birthing Pod, a format-defining powerhouse from the early days of Modern. It was an equal parts value engine, combo piece, and toolbox tutor allowing players to stop what the opponent is doing, stabilize, or win on the spot. Tell me if this sounds familiar:
"Over the past year, Birthing Pod decks have won significantly more Grand Prix than any other Modern decks and compose the largest percentage of the field. Each year, new powerful options are printed, most recently Siege Rhino. Over time, this creates a growing gap between the strength of the Pod deck and other creature decks. Pod won five of the twelve Grand Prix over the past year, including winning the last two. The high percentage of the field playing Pod suppresses decks, especially other creature decks, that have an unfavorable matchup. In the interest of supporting a diverse format, Birthing Pod is banned."
Mono-Green Ramp continues to outperform the rest of the metagame and with these egregious new additions, I fear that divide will only widen if Karn remains legal in Pioneer. While the card sees play in Modern and Legacy, the speed, power, and variety of decks in those formats make them more hostile to the four-mana planeswalker. (Although the Saturday Modern Challenge finals from this past weekend was a Karn mirror match with Green Tron taking down Prison Tron for the win).
If Wizards of the Coast plans to print more powerful artifacts, Karn will continue to grow stronger while suppressing non-Karn artifact decks. With the next two sets focusing on New Phyrexia, I imagine that will more than likely be the case. With that, I'll stake my claim:
And to the Fella Over There With the Hella Good Hair
I can't imagine Karn sticking around in Pioneer for much longer, but tell me what you think in the comments. Will Karn continue to be a Pioneer staple, or does Wizards have a blank space on the ban list to write his name?