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Vintage 101: Down the Rabbit Hole

Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of Vintage 101! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and we're here yet again for another dive into our journey to SCG Con. Some things have changed somewhat massively since last week's article, one of which is the complete changing of the deck I'm planning to play. (Crazy, right?)

Through a wonderful group of people (and one person in particular who I will not name until later on) I am going to be able to play Karn Stax for this event, meaning that I'm going to be full steam ahead on testing with this deck until SCG Con. I am really excited about this because I've been having a lot of fun with the deck and super amounts of fun getting to play Karn, the Great Creator.

As I promised before, I will be sharing my Spreadsheet that I will be using for testing, so feel free to follow along as I play games with it. You can find the link here. I will be beginning to record games after writing this article.

So, without further ado, let's jump down the rabbit hole a little and talk about this deck and how I plan to approach the Metagame with it.

Karn, the Great Stax

NOTE: This list is subject to change up until the event, so it may even get changed all the way up there as my friends and I make any necessary changes.

So, one of the things this deck is trying to accomplish is simply stopping my opponent's from getting to play Magic. Fast mana acceleration combined with the lock pieces typically found in Shops are also paired with cards like Tangle Wire and Smokestack, as well as Crucible of Worlds (to not only allow for the recursion of Strip Mine or Wasteland but to also work with Smokestack to provide parity to the card). The big hitters of this build are Karn, the Great Creator and Karn, Scion of Urza.

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Both Karns synergize pretty well with each other, since Karn, the Great Creator can fetch cards that Karn, Scion of Urza puts into exile with a silver counter (since put into exile with a silver counter is still put into exile), and new Karn + Mycosynth Lattice not only locks the opponent out, but allows for the Construct tokens that old Karn makes to turn gigantic.

The wishboard also consists of several other silver bullet cards, things such as Tormod's Crypt, Grafdigger's Cage, and additional copies of cards like Crucible of Worlds, Smokestack, and Ensaring Bridge. In addition, both Leylines are present to attack specific decks in the Metagame.

So let's talk about the decks we expect to face and how we attack them.

Paradoxical Outcome Storm

PO Storm is one of the most expectant decks we will end up facing at the event with Karn, so it's good to have a plan for dealing with this deck. Versus PO we should be keeping hands that give incentive to lock our opponent out from playing spells (looking for cards like Trinisphere, Sphere of Resistance, Thorn of Amethyst), but then back up those cards with either an early Karn or early Null Rod to lock them out of getting a Hurkyl's Recall off.

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Hurkyls is the biggest threat to the deck and you want to make sure when you play Lattice that they do not have the ability to play a Hurkyls after floating mana. This is something you want to prevent at all costs.

Post board, cards like Tangle Wire lose a lot of utility on the draw as does Crucible of Worlds. Leyline of Sanctity is powerful here because it prevents the opponent from targeting you with Hurkyl's Recall or Tendrils of Agony. Ratchet Bomb is powerful since it can destroy Moxen that the opponent might have in play, forcing them to play around it. However, in the case of this being a wish board, I would actually leave Bomb in the sideboard to fetch with Karn, given the greater chance of finding and playing Karn. Ensnaring Bridge in the main can still be useful against this deck, due to the fact that Monastery Mentor or Blightsteel Colossus often see play in these decks.

Ravager Shops

The Shops matchup is wild because they have a number of ways of just killing you quickly before you can set up a lock on them. Cards like Walking Ballista and Arcbound Ravager are very powerful versus this deck. An early Karn can shut these effects off, but you also need to be able to protect Karn with Ensnaring Bridge. Crucible of Worlds can be excessively powerful combined with Sphere effects, by using Wasteland + Strip Mine to prevent the Shops player from being able to play anything. Chalice of the Void on the play can be back-breaking if the Shops player has a fast start that involves Power.

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Post-board, cards like Sorcerous Spyglass, Ensnaring Bridge, Ratchet Bomb, and The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale can be very powerful at debilitating the Shops player out of their creatures, since most often Shops decks aren't casting their Turn 1 cards off things that aren't always Mishra's Workshop. It's a powerful thing to be able to play a land that shuts them out of their game plan early. Cards like Trinisphere and Thorn of Amethyst can get cut post-board because they often interact unfavorably for you as an opposing Shops-mana base deck.

However, I do expect this to be one of the more difficult matchups, but Karn can be pretty powerful to help tip the scales here.


Xerox decks are the next of the big three, so we need to be conscious of them. UR Pyromancer based decks can be very strong against this deck, as Smokestack can be ineffective versus the strategy of making tokens. However, being able to push lock pieces into play and a quick Karn + Lattice combo can shut out Xerox pretty well. Tangle Wire is actually pretty amazing versus this kind of deck, since a lock piece plus Wire can keep the opponent from casting spells for several turns. Dack Fayden is still fairly scary, but Phyrexian Revoker and sideboard Sorcerous Spyglass fetched with Karn can get around this. Leveraging land destruction with Crucible of Worlds can be important to cut your opponent off this plan.

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Post-board, cards like Ratchet Bomb and The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale can help clean up tokens and there isn't much here to board in because of the wish board, honestly. Your post board game plan is to hope that they can't stop your game plan of making them unable to play Magic while preventing a blowout from a random Ancient Grudge or Dack Fayden.


Dredge, as we talked about last week, is a big part of the format in paper events, so we have to be prepared for this deck. Karn is excellent in this matchup, since he can fetch a sideboard Tormod's Crypt or Grafdigger's Cage to deal with their Game 1 shenanigans. It's likely that Game 1 is still going to go in their favor, but Karn can swing this in your favor if they hit any sort of variance. What's fantastic as well is Ensnaring Bridge since it can keep you from dying to a random Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite or recurring Ichorid or Hollow One giving you the ability to empty your hand until they can't attack Game 1.

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Post-board, cards like Thorn of Amethyst and Null Rod lose a ton of utility (whereas effects like Sphere and Trinisphere are still pretty good versus Hollow One) so of course we drop some cards for Leyline of the Void, and bring in a card like Tormod's Crypt into the main while leaving Grafdigger's Cage in the sideboard (to fetch with Karn). Tabernacle again is very powerful here, since more often than not your opponent will not have mana to pay for multiple creatures they recur if they manage to get any. In addition, Sorcerous Spyglass can be good to bring in to stop Bazaar of Baghdad from activating if you have a Leyline in play.

Oath of Druids

Oath is, of course, another powerful deck we'll likely see at SCG Con. Oath can be powerful but cards like Ensnaring Bridge can shut the opponent off of being able to attack with their big threats like Griselbrand. Karn being able to find a card like this is very good as well. Karn can also find Grafdigger's Cage, which is a great silver bullet Game 1 versus Oath where they often won't have a way to deal with it once resolved.

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Post-board, cards like Leyline of the Void and Leyline of Sanctity are very, very powerful at stopping Oath and Forbidden Orchard (since both target) and Grafdigger's Cage can help stop Oath triggers from going off. Crucible of Worlds and Null Rod ends up being lackluster, giving you ample things to cut for these cards. Some cards can be left in the wish board because of Karn, thankfully.


Survival is another deck I'm sure we'll see at this event. Ensnaring Bridge can be pretty powerful in this matchup with a lot of the major threats being four power or greater (Vengevine, Hollow One) and Karn can help grab things like Grafdigger's Cage to help keep them off these cards. This can be a matchup where the speed of your opening hand matters a ton, since if they stumble you can capitalize on that. One card to worry about in this matchup is Stony Silence because then you can't Lattice (or else you lose the ability to cast your own cards).

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Post-board Leyline of the Void puts your opponent off being able to have Vengevine and Wonder shenanigans, forcing your opponent to have to have creatures like Basking Rootwalla to deal damage you, giving you plenty of time to develop a game plan. Tabernacle can be pretty powerful as well given how mana-starved that Survival can be sometimes. You still need to be cognizant of Stony Silence however, which you can answer by Smokestack and Ensnaring Bridge.

Eldrazi + Opposing Karn decks

The tense matchups are going to be opposing Karn matchups, where you have to fight and play your own Karn first to try to pull off protection before Lattice combo. However, Eldrazi can be powerful and quick with cards like Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher. However, Ensnaring Bridge can put this deck off balance to protect Karn.

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I do fully expect to see this deck at SCG Con, since it has grown in popularity quite a bit on Magic Online. Post-board we get some options in additional disruption like Sorcerous Spyglass and Tabernacle, so that can help stem the quickness of this deck a little bit.

Vintage Challenge 5/11

Wizards was much quicker in getting up the Challenge lists this week, so we've got some data to look at! This gives us a little bit more data on how War of the Spark is affecting Vintage overall. Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Brass City Vault 1st FredMcFred
Ravager Shops 2nd S063
Pitch Dredge 3rd WingedHussar
Ravager Shops 4th Montolio (Andy Markiton)
Jeskai Mentor 5th Ecobaronen (Andreas Petersen)
Ravager Shops 6th R0310
PO Storm 7th Condescend
Colorless Eldrazi 8th Olivetti

Holy Ravager Shops, Batman! The amount of colorless in this Top 8 is crazy! Let's take a look at the numbers on how many new War of the Spark cards appeared overall in this event before looking at some lists.

Card Name Number of Copies
Karn, the Great Creator 24
Narset, Parter of Veils 29
God-Pharaoh's Statue 2
God-Eternal Kefnet 1
Blast Zone 1
Bolas's Citadel 3

As is about expected, Karn, the Great Creator and Narset, Parter of Veils are both everywhere across the Vintage format. These two cards have really cemented themselves within the format as they're both powerful effects. It will be interesting to see just how well these cards continue to be played, but so far this is a pretty good sign. In addition to these two, a few other WAR cards showed up, including Bolas's Citadel in two different Dark Petition Storm lists and a Paradoxical Outcome Storm deck.

This event was won by MTGO user FredMcFred, on a little deck known among the folks of Team Serious as "Brass City Vault" named so after Andy "Brass Man" Probasco. Let's take a look at Fred's list.

One of the big reasons this deck is called Brass City Vault is that it is actively trying to assemble the Voltaic Key / Time Vault combination, a combo made a little bit easier with Karn, the Great Creator being able to fetch the singleton restricted Time Vault from the sideboard. In addition this deck runs the typical taxing elements along with copies of the card Inventors' Fair (which makes hunting down a Voltaic Key) much easier.

One of the Narset decks in the Top 8 was a Jeskai Mentor Xerox list piloted by Ecobaronen (Andreas Petersen). Narset looks exceptionally powerful in this shell, as her static ability is powerful enough but her Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin-like ability is also exceptionally strong.

Finally, the other Karn deck in the Top 8 was none other than Colorless Eldrazi, this variation actually playing the combination of Karn + Mycosynth Lattice in the sideboard. This card feels really strong alongside some of the threats like Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher and even includes a sideboard package of Walking Ballista and Umezawa's Jitte for Karn to fetch up.

Further down in the Top 32 we have another Narset Xerox list by MTGO user Thiim, this time not only sporting Narset, but a pair of Thing in the Ice as well!

Despite the top end of this event feeling a little overwhelmed by colorless manabases, this event overall seemed very interesting and it is great to see a set like War of the Spark having such an impact on Vintage overall. I personally think WAR was one of the best sets for Eternal formats like Vintage and Legacy, and it's not disappointing to say the least.

The Spice Corner

Our spice corner this week is a pair of Oath decks from this weekend's challenge, one of which is sporting Arlinn Kord, while the other has Archon of Valor's Reach!

Wrapping Up

That's all the time have this week folks! Now that we're fully set on the path ahead of us for SCG Con, it's going to be exciting jamming games with Karn Stax! I am going to be doing my best to be on Twitch streaming with this deck before SCG Con arrives and will be covering every moment of my adventure there on Twitter the week of. Next week we'll be analyzing matchups in depths (as I will hopefully be able to actually finally record some video with my chosen deck) and talking about different lines of play with Karn Stax. Be sure to check it out as we also continue to study the Challenge data and the effect that War of the Spark has had on Vintage since its release. If you like supporting what I do, please take a moment to consider subbing to my Patreon, as it really does help keep me wanting to get deeper into streaming and showing off Vintage to folks.

Furthermore, the week of SCG Con I will be running a piece talking about the event itself, and everything going on that weekend in relation to Eternal Formats such as Vintage, Legacy, and even Old School! Following that week I will be presenting my report on the event and everything I did while I was there in addition to the Vintage Tournament! It's going to be an exciting month, and THEN we get to see if Modern Horizons has any Vintage-like goodies for us, or any sweet reprints that we might want to pick up on.

Until next time, praise Mishra!

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