Candelabra Karn

High Tide leveraged free spells, it’s namesake, High Tide, and Candelabra of Tawnos to generate lots of mana, draw lots of spells, and cast a fatal Stroke of Genius. Workshop decks tend to have at least 9 lands that generate two or more mana (4x Mishra’s Workshop, 4x Ancient Tomb, and 1x Tolarian Academy), so I figured it was worth a shot.

So far, I’m 2-2 in Vintage. When the deck runs, it’s great, but I don’t think Candelabra fits in this build.

Jhoira’s Familiar again tests poorly. If you can cast it at four, you can likely cast something better at four. It’s just too slow, even if it helps you cast your Planeswalkers. Cursed Totem in the board is awkward when most of your removal is based on Ballistae. And Candelabra is powerful enough that it requires further exploration.

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon was surprisingly powerful at {8} vs Workshops. Overall, I give the Planeswalker package 4.5 stars out of 5. I think I want two copies of Karn Liberated, and I want Mishra’s Workshops to allow me to cast Planeswalkers.

Here’s the list:

1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
4 Wasteland
1 Triskelion
3 Grim Monolith
1 Kuldotha Forgemaster
4 Ancient Tomb
2 Karn, Scion of Urza
4 Mishra’s Workshop
1 Karn, Silver Golem
1 Lodestone Golem
1 Lotus Petal
1 Mana Crypt
1 Time Vault
1 Mana Vault
2 Jhoira’s Familiar
4 Karn, the Great Creator
3 Voltaic Key
1 Inventors’ Fair
1 Sol Ring
1 Strip Mine
1 Tolarian Academy
2 Ugin, the Ineffable
1 Trinisphere
2 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
4 Mishra’s Factory
4 Walking Ballista
3 Candelabra of Tawnos

Sideboard:

1 Sorcerous Spyglass
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Chalice of the Void
1 Relic of Progenitus
1 Liquimetal Coating
1 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Batterskull
1 Witchbane Orb
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Silent Arbiter
1 Mycosynth Lattice
1 Myr Battlesphere
1 Cursed Totem
1 Ensnaring Bridge
1 Platinum Angel

MVP: Silent Arbiter

Asymmetric Planeswalkers have made their debut. Narset and Karn are strutting their stuff to full effect, and most of the decks seem to have figured out the best ways to abuse the new passives.

Silent Arbiter

It’s round three, game three vs Workshop Aggro, and I’m on the play. I open with turn one KTCG, and immediately wished for Chalice of the Void for 0. We jockey for board state position, and I take control of the game with a wished Wurmcoil, but my opponent answers with a Hangarback Walker for 5. He chump blocks with the intent to attack Karn.

Everyone is already aware of Mycosynth Lattice combo, but Silent Arbiter is my sleeper MVP. This guy changes the entire dynamic of the Workshop matchup. As long as you can disable Arcbound Ravager, you win should win. This is where I won:


At this point, my opponent effectively has no cards in hand (moxen), and I have Ensnaring Bridge in mine. Unless my opponent draws a Karn of his own or a Phyrexian Revoker, his only option is to attack with one Thopter a turn at Karn, forcing me to add a counter to Ballista and kill it. Eventually, I will win this fight.

My opponent didn’t draw an out, and I went on to Crucible/Strip Mine lock my opponent out of the game.

The deck is solid. Voltaic Servant is consistently better than expected. It has pseudo-Vigilance, survives blocking most Vintage creatures (Mentor, Pyro, Snapcaster, Revoker), untaps Grim Monolith, and suffers no Mental Misstep. You know you’re in good shape when your opponent is actively bolting your Servants instead of you or Karn.

Vintage Challenge 2019-05-25

I would consider trimming Karn, Scion of Urza and one Grim Monolith. Also, that Jester’s Cap needs to be Ice Age. Just look at this gorgeous art!

Jester's Cap

I digress. I’m not sure what I would add for those two cards, but I consistently cut these two cards first when sideboarding.

The deck needs an answer for an opposing Karn without needing an activated ability. Meteor Golem and Spine of Ish Sah, are great singleton tutor targets for Kuldotha Forgemaster, but they are too slow to warrant a second slot.

Evasion is out, because, well, there aren’t any good artifact creatures with Flying. Steel Hellkite is the best option, and I’ve tested it (see left). Maybe there is room for some sort of Glint Hawk Idol or Spined Thopter type of threat, but I’m not seeing it. MUD lacks any short of native Shadow or Fear effect, so Hangarback Walker is probably the best bet.

TLDR? I’m happy with the deck. Silent Arbiter is good. We have two slots available.

The London Mulligan

Many years ago, I took a C++ class at the local college, and our professor was a brilliant programmer, but an awful teacher. So a few of us who already knew what we were doing taught the class for the professor. For a final project, we had to write a computer program to simulate Five Card Stud Poker given predetermined rules for the AI.

One classmate implemented the rules with a twist – the AI selected its best hand from both the cards in hand and those it discarded for the turn.

We ran side by side simulations and his AI won about twenty percent more often. For comparison, the house edge in Blackjack is about five percent.

That’s the power level of the London Mulligan.

Tamiyo, Collector of Tales

When you don’t know the answer, keep asking questions.

Tamiyo, Collector of Tales

How good is Tamiyo?

Someone once said we can roughly measure the power of a card by counting the number of cards that change game zones.* So Bazaar’s power is 5 (+2 draw, +3 discard). Tamiyo’s +1 ability is a power of 4. And her five loyalty, six if you +1 immediately, means she’ll probably survive an attack.

What kind of non-Dredge Vintage deck wants to draw four extra cards a turn, but doesn’t care if the cards are in your graveyard or in your hand?

* 99% sure it was one of the So Many Insane Plays podcast.

The State of Vintage

Vintage decks are the knife’s edge, so to speak. The card pool is both wide (~20K unique cards) and deep (B&R List). Even Legacy boasts access to ~15K unique cards. Deck building in eternal formats should use the best of the very best.

I don’t know how I feel about Vintage between London Mulligan and War of the Spark. The new London Mulligan rules favor aggressive mulligans and draw sevens, and Lavinia and Workshops favor more lands. These two axes are dichotomous to deck building even with a both wide and deep card pool.

Better questions, better answers

Looking at recent tournaments results for decks that either 5-0’d Leagues or finished in the Top 8 between March 16th, 2019 and April 14, 2019 for a total of 98 results, we have the following breakdown:

Dredge 19%
Xerox 19%
Storm 16%
Workshop 11%
Survival 7%
Oath 6%
BUG 5%
Grixis Thieves 4%
Esper 3%
Assorted 10%

The assorted decks are as much a classification problem as anything else. Since the volume was small, I checked, and they all lump together into various forms of creatures backed by counterspells, with notable omissions being Eldrazi (1%) and Death & Taxes (1%), both established archetypes.

Analyzing the Data

We need to be careful. For example, the data spans before and after the London Mulligan change (April 10th, 2019), and the post-change data is small. We can, however, ascertain recent trends. Deathrite Shaman is banned in Legacy, and its frequency is increasing in Vintage. Leyline of the Void is also seeing more play. With Dredge making up a fifth of the expected top finishes, and Survival taking another 7%, you have a ~1:4 chance of Leyline and/or Deathrite Shaman really shining. Sideboard slots are limited, and DRS is played main, so this level of consolidation is a real treat for us.

The current Storm variants are primarily counterspell protected and run one Hurkyl’s main. Nobody seems to be going the full nine yards in combo. Lavinia appears to be doing work, and Oath is still packing maindeck Ancient Grudges. And, Mishra’s Workshop fueled aggro decks, as long as Workshop remains unrestricted, will continue to function as the checks and balances of the format.

What does the future hold?

Unless some absurdly powerful card is spoiled in War, I’ll probably run either Karn the Creator Oops, I win! Kefnet. The latter supports Lavinia. Heck, maybe the former does, too. Both Karn and Kefnet are absurdly powerful. Resolving an Ancestral is usually enough to win a game in Vintage, and Kefnet says you can make you opponent fight over a copy instead of the real thing. I’m not sure if that’s more powerful than new Karn (I’ve tinkered with Mycosynth Lattice/Null Rod/Tabernacle, and Lattice/Rod combo is very strong), but I think they are both worth exploring.

The good, the bad, and the ugly

You’d think after playing Magic: the Gathering for twenty years, I’d know a bad card when I see one. And, let’s be clear, I do, but I like to let the evidence convince me.

Angelic Curator is cheap, plays through Thorn of Amethyst, and has Protection from MUD.

It also is considerably smaller than everything MUD plays except Phyrexian Revoker.

Save your pennies. April 2019 testing confirms this card is bad.

Weatherlite

Weatherlight

I wish this card was better. This guy is the Dragonlord Ojutai of MUD, and has the ability to get Legendary Creatures and Planewalkers. You can get Sagas, but only The Antiquities War has seen play so far.

How do we enable Weatherlite? We’re not limited to MUD. Even though Mishra’s Workshop is the premier enabler, we can play this in any deck.

We need at least three power to crew, but most of the good creatures in Vintage either win you the game already (Mentor, Pyro, Blightsteel, Workshop Aggro, Oath & Friends) or aren’t big enough to solo crew (Lavinia, Thalia, DRS). The good creatures in Vintage are either Shops, Legendary, or effectively Legendary. Mentor is restricted, and Blightsteel is effectively restricted because Tinker is restricted. Jeskai won’t run this, so Young Pyromancer is out. Workshop doesn’t have the slots for it, and Oath shouldn’t even bother to test it. Weatherlite would consistently whiff in Xerox.

Stax might consider it, but there hasn’t been a good Stax deck in a long time. Karn the Creator might be a good fit, because they can find each other, and Karn’s +1 can enable Weatherlite to attack, and trigger on connect, through a Null Rod.

I don’t think there is enough here to test Weatherlite yet, but maybe post Spark. Maybe.