Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Modern Bible of RG Tron chapter 21 - Doing the right thing with Karn Liberated

Karn Liberated is the most important card in the RG Tron deck for Modern. Your main plan is to have seven mana on turn three and resolve Karn Liberated. Once you do that you are presented with a lot of choice. Doing the right thing with Karn can be tricky.

Lets look at the three abilities.

+4 Target player exiles a card from his or her hand. 
Its super discard. He can't use the card for anything. He can't get it back. You get four loyalty counters. The main problem with this ability is that it does not affect the board. In Modern you might very well be about to die when Karn comes down and you do not have the luxury to use this ability. If you have time (maybe because of a well-placed sweeper such as Pyroclasm or Oblivion Stone) this is an excellent choice of what to do with Karn.

-3 Exile target permanent
This is immensly powerful. Karn can do this twice, which makes him a super powerful two-for-one targeting anything on the board that is not hexproof. The problem with the first use of this ability is that it leaves Karn open for that most format defining of cards: Lightning Bolt. Some of the time you are happy getting rid of their biggest threat and one of their Lightning Bolts for your turn three play but some of the time this will not be enough.

-14 Lots of text
The ultimate is cute and will decide some very long and grindy decks. You should of course never forget about it but in the first 120 matches I played with the deck I got to ultimate Karn Liberated once. This is the least important of Karn Liberated's abilities. Exiling your own Emrakul and then ultimating Karn is a pretty sweet way to win (if you don't have the 15 mana to play Emrakul) but it is not a way many games of Magic will be decided.

General tips about playing and using Karn

  • Karn must stay alive.
  • If you see no threats and you can't disrupt your opponents mana base reliably, use the +4 ability.
  • If you have another Karn in your hand and your opponent does not have counterspells you may use the first Karn to two-for-one with two -3 activations and then play your second Karn. Using the 2nd Karn's -3 ability the same turn feels a bit like cheating.
  • If there is a single game-winning threat coming at you, use the -3 ability. If there is a risk of a Lightning Bolt, consider whether you have the time to +4 instead and still survive.
  • If there is too much aggro on the board for Karn to handle, try to play a Wurmcoil Engine or a sweeper instead.
  • Karn's main mission is to stabilize the board to allow Wurmcoil Engine or your Eye of Ugin + Eldrazi/Titan plan to take over the game.
  • If you have the time, always put a fate counter on Karn before you activate your Oblivion Stone.
  • Remember that land are key targets in certain matchups (such as the mirror)
  • Against Burn always use the +4 ability if you will survive whatever is on the board plus six damage.

Bad matchups for Karn Liberated
There are certain matchups where Karn Liberated is too slow to save you. In these matchups you often have to board in removal and something has to leave the deck. The correct choice can sometimes be Karn himself, even though it sounds counterproductive.

I will consider taking out one or more Karn Liberated when facing ultra fast aggro or combo decks, such as Affinity, Bogles, Burn, Infect and Zoo.

See the sideboard plans for more details (chapter 17-19).

For a full list of the chapters of The Modern Bible check out this link:

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