Karn Advantage (Playsession Report)

By: Jason Waddell

Some days you’re just not in the mood to play Magic. Cube owners don’t really have the luxury of backing out at the last minute, especially after the weekly ritual of sorting out the attendee list. This week’s ritual was par the course, with several players bailing on the day of the draft, and a couple unannounced regulars joining at the door.

“In terms of like, instant relief, canceling plans is like heroin.”
– John Mulaney

In the end we found ourselves with 7, which as far as odd numbers of players go isn’t the worst. At 9 players I have to turn someone away or sit out. At 5 we struggle to find a format worth playing, and a three-player Magic gathering makes each participant wish they were doing something else. With 7 we simply pretend it’s an 8-man and deal with it and watch the byes get passed on down the bracket.

On days when I’m not in the mood to draft adventurously, I have the habit of preordaining a pair of archetypes I’m in the mood to play and forcing one of them based on the first pack’s contents. I’ve been nursing a theory that one of the stronger decks in the format is a GB Primeval Titan and Volrath’s Stronghold inevitability engine. I’ve 3 – 0’d with the archetype once before with a supporting cast that included Green Sun’s Zenith, Demonic TutorThragtusk and Vorapede.

The other deck I had in mind is my all-time favorite UWR American Tempo (or Russian Tempo, if Yevgeny is around). Red-White-Blue tempo decks are my Magic equivalent of comfort food, and are my go-to when I don’t feel like thinking about the nuances of other archetypes. My first pack gave me a strong push in that direction with a P1P1 Ral Zarek. After four picks I had grabbed the following:

Ral ZarekGeist of Saint TraftPolluted DeltaLightning Helix

The deck came together quite well, and I sleeved up this concoction:
cube draft deck UWR blue white red
(click to enlarge)

It’s perhaps the most beautiful curve I’ve ever presented, with a rather pristine mana base to boot, including:
Hallowed Fountain
Steam Vents
Sacred Foundry
Scalding Tarn
Scalding Tarn
Polluted Delta

I’d also add that Moorland Haunt and Umezawa’s Jitte are a ridiculously strong pairing. Overpowered equipment and small evasive bodies have long been a winning formula, and I think the entire Magic community should be thankful that Stoneforge Mystic and Moorland Haunt never occupied the same standard environment.

Halimar Depths into Fetchland is the undisputed best durdle opening.

To the matches!

Round 1, Hannes, Naya Aggro Pod (?)

Hannes sleeved a three-color aggro deck with six colorless lands.

1 – 0 (2 – 0)

Round 2, Tom, GW Landfall

Tom mulliganned to 5 and kept a 1-lander with Undiscovered Paradise as his only land. He hit a Turn 2 Lotus Cobra and nearly won the game. Nearly.

2 – 0 (4 – 0)

Finals, Tobi, Jund Karn Advantage

My games against Tobi were some of the most fun and intricate I have played in a while. I watched parts of Tobi’s earlier matches and his deck was capable of some really strong lines, despite looking like a turd pile.

cube draft deck karn jund
(click to enlarge)

Observed highlights of Tobi’s deck:
– Winning after cascading Bloodbraid Elf into Green Sun’s Zenith for 0, fetching Dryad Arbor.

– Playing a pre-combat Zealous Conscripts to steal his opponents Vendilion Clique. His opponent let it resolve then tapped down the army with Cryptic Command. Post combat Tobi sacrificed two Eldrazi spawn tokens and tapped his remaining 5 lands for Karn.

Phyrexian Arena in play. Draw Karn and Zealous Conscripts. Play Conscripts stealing Sword of Feast and Famine. Equip. Swing. Untap all lands. Karn advantage.

Game 1

On the draw I open with a Turn 2 Augur of Bolas. Tobi plays a Turn 3 Call of the Herd. I rip a Stonecloaker off the top to exile Call of the Herd and return Augur of Bolas to my hand.

Tobi plays a Falkenrath Aristocrat and swing. I block.

“Is elephant a human?”

This may or may not have been a jab at another player asking for the Oracle creature-types of Nekrataal during the previous round, hoping against hope that it might be a Wizard for Riptide Laboratory (hey, that’s the name of the show).

Falkenrath survives. I announce “play of the day”, and call the table’s attention to my impending Thundermaw Hellkite. Oops, only one red mana. I suppose Gideon will do.

Tobi starts to mount a comeback, and I am still sitting on a single red source. I defend my Gideon with a Moorland Haunt token, and before damage cast Path to Exile on the spirit token to fetch up a mountain.

Thundermaw finally hits the board. Tobi then steals it with Zealous Conscripts, and kills my Gideon. After combat Tobi taps Gaea’s Cradle for three mana and casts Consuming Vapors targeting himself, with two untapped lands left. Evasive Action provides the blowout with a timely Mana Leak impression. Thundermaw swings for exactly lethal the next turn.

Game 2

Tobi has a decent draw, but after some dancing I eventually get there with Geist of Saint Traft, Eiganjo Castle and Umezawa’s Jitte.

3 – 0 (6 – 0)

UWR delivers again. Old faithful.

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