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Against the Odds: Mono-White Karn-helion II (Standard, Magic Arena)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 189 of Against the Odds. War of the Spark is here! Last week, we had an all-War of the Spark Against the Odds poll, and in the end, it was basically a tie between Bolas's Citadel and Parhelion II (while it has bounced around, as of the moment I'm writing this, there is a two-vote difference between the two, with around 7,000 cast). Since we just played Bolas's Citadel for Much Abrew a couple of days ago, Parhelion II was declared the winner. As such, we're heading to War of the Spark Standard this week for a deck that's looking to use Karn, the Great Creator's +1 to turn Parhelion II into a massive 8/8 flying beater that comes along with some angelic friends to boot, potentially allowing us to hit for 16 in the air and maybe even kill our opponent in a single turn! Can the combo of Karn and Parhelion work in War of the Spark Standard? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Mono-White Karn-helion II

The Deck

When I realized that we were building around Parhelion II, I immediately knew there were two problems we'd need to overcome. First, we needed to figure out a way to get an eight-mana artifact on the battlefield before we die. Second, we need a way to turn Parhelion II into a creature. While we can theoretically do this with a big creature, the crew cost of four is a lot. Thankfully, with a bit of work, it's possible to make Parhelion II into a creature without playing any creatures at all.

Parhelion II

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Parhelion II is an interesting card. It's incredibly powerful if we can attack with it, but it's expensive in terms of both mana cost and crew cost. The good news is that we're liking to deal 12 damage if we can get in even a single attack with Parhelion II, and we can potentially deal 16 with some help—maybe enough to one-shot our opponent with a single attack. For this power to be realized, we need to do two things: get Parhelion II onto the battlefield before we die and find a way to turn it into a creature.

Crewing Parhelion

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Karn, the Great Creator is our best way to turn Parhelion II into a creature. Actually, not only does Karn, the Great Creator turn Parhelion II into a creature but, because Karn turns a non-creature artifact into a creature with power and toughness equal to its converted mana cost, it actually makes Parhelion II into an 8/8 rather than a 4/4. Even better, since Karn, the Great Creator can tutor an artifact from our sideboard into our hand, it gives us a way to find Parhelion II as well. While our general rule for Against the Odds is to play the winning card as a four-of in the main deck, Karn, the Great Creator allows us to break this rule and put a copy in the sideboard for wishing purposes. Even discounting Parhelion II itself, Karn's 2 offers a lot of value, essentially giving us access to powerful sideboard cards like Sorcerous Spyglass, Chaos Wand, and God-Pharaoh's Statue in our main deck. As such, while the main reason Karn, the Great Creator is in our deck is to animate our Parhelion II, it actually offers a lot of upside and flexibility in multiple ways.

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While Karn, Scion of Urza is our best way to attack with Parhelion II, we have a couple of additional planeswalkers as backup ways to make sure we can turn the vehicle into a creature. Karn, Scion of Urza (with the help of the random artifacts in our deck) can 2 to make a Construct token that will mostly likely have at least four power—enough to crew Parhelion II—while Ugin, the Ineffable makes 2/2s, two of which will give us enough power to turn on Parhelion II. More importantly, both of these cards generate card advantage, allowing us to dig through our deck to find Parhelion II along with removal and ramp to stay alive and get Parhelion II on the battlefield. Ugin, the Ineffable also doubles up as a (mostly) unconditional removal spell that can take down everything from Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God to Wilderness Reclamation to Hydroid Krasis.


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Our primary ramp spell is Chromatic Lantern, which not only gives us some extra mana to cast our Parhelion II but also gives us an additional artifact on the battlefield to make sure our Karn, Scion of Urza tokens are big enough to crew Parhelion II once it's on the battlefield. It also allows us to overload on powerful colorless lands like Mobilized District, Karn's Bastion, Blast Zone, and Field of Ruin while still having enough white mana to cast any of our colored spells.

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Meanwhile, Treasure Map and Azor's Gateway give us cheap artifacts that filer through our deck in the early game while eventually turning into ramp to cast our Parhelion II. If we play Treasure Map on Turn 2 and scry with it every turn, the Treasure it makes when it flips will give us enough mana to cast our Parhelion II as early as Turn 6. Meanwhile, Azor's Gateway makes a ton of mana if we manage to flip it while also gaining us some life to stabilize against burn spells and random creatures.

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While not its primary purpose, Crucible of Worlds can also work as ramp in our deck, making sure we hit our land drop every turn by playing something like Field of Ruin or Blast Zone from our graveyard. Speaking of Blast Zone and Field of Ruin, these lands are the main reason why we have Crucible of Worlds in our main deck (and another copy to Karn-wish for from our sideboard). A lot of decks in Standard at the moment are being extremely greedy by playing very few basic lands, which means the Field of Ruin Strip Mine lock is a fairly legitimate plan, especially against control. Meanwhile, Blast Zone offers repeatable removal against small creatures, and it can even take down bigger threats like planeswalkers or creatures in the late game, when we have a lot of mana.

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Finally, Thaumatic Compass makes sure that we are hitting our land drop every turn and eventually works as ramp itself, as it flips around into a Maze of Ith that taps for mana. The extra mana it makes in land form is helpful in casting our Parhelion II, while the Maze of Ith aspect helps to keep our opponent's biggest and baddest creature from beating us down.

Other Stuff

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Otherwise, our deck is stuffed full of sweepers and removal to make sure that we can stay alive long enough to get a Parhelion II on the battlefield. Cleansing Nova and Settle the Wreckage deal with our opponent's entire board of creatures, while Prison Realm and Ixalan's Binding can exile both planeswalkers and creatures. Ixalan's Binding is especially nice against four-of finishers like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria since a single Ixalan's Binding can essentially shut down all of the copies of the card in our opponent's deck.

The Matchups

The matchups for Karn-Helion II are fairly straightforward: we'd much rather play against control or midrange than aggro. While we did manage to take down Gruul during our matches, aggro decks put a lot of pressure on us to hit a wrath very quickly. And while we have six wraths after sideboarding, we still sometimes miss and lose the game. It's almost like a creature-free deck looking to win with an eight-mana artifact will struggle against decks that get off to fast starts. On the other hand, against control and midrange, we have a lot of card draw and planeswalkers to generate card advantage, and Karn, the Great Creator's ability to tutor up silver bullets like Sorcerous Spyglass is very helpful. In these matchups, we can usually grind with our opponent and eventually run our opponent out of resources, allowing us to pick up the win with Parhelion II.

The Odds

We played five matches with Karn-Helion II and won three, giving us a 60% match win percentage, which is slightly above average for an Against the Odds deck. More importantly, we actually got some Parhelion II kills! While the plan of winning with Parhelion II certainly isn't quick, our deck is pretty good at surviving until the late game, and then just a single attack from a Karn-animated Parhelion II often steals the game. 

Vote for Next Week's Deck

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Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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