By Carlos

Now it’s time to wrap up the series of mono-colored decks with a mono-brown list.  Having a colorless general raises a whole slew of interesting problems that don’t come up with a typical deck, the most obvious of which is your manabase.  It becomes pretty difficult to fill out 40ish lands when you can’t use basics.  It’s also reasonably difficult to build a cohesive deck when you’re using exclusively artifacts.  Each color has a unique identity and a set of things that it does well, and artifacts are typically used to supplement those identities.  When the artifacts are the central theme, sometimes you’ve got to reach and focus more on the interactions than on individual cards.

Which brings up another concern:  In general, there are three kinds of decks that are playing lots of artifacts.  First, there are decks that don’t have access to mana acceleration, so they use mana rocks instead (example: Mono Blue).  Second, there are decks that are going Voltron and use equipment to suit up their general (example: Kemba).  Lastly, there are prison-themed decks that use artifact-based mana disruption to prevent people from interacting positively with their plays.  Now, I’d argue that none of these styles are particularly interesting when you’re building mono-artifacts.  I think that the pivotal point here is choosing a general that enables you to do novel things, thereby forcing the deck’s style away from these overly familiar archetypes.

There aren’t very many choices for colorless generals.  In fact, there are only three, now that Emrakul got the banhammer.  Here are your choices in all of their colorless glory:

Karn, Silver Golem
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre

I must say that I have a fundamental problem with the two Eldrazi legends as generals.  When your general is an absolutely absurd win condition unto itself, the entire purpose of your deck is going to be ramping out that general and trying to give it haste.  I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t seem like an interesting deck to me.  It’s like the Tooth and Nail decks from the first Mirrodin block.  Can you count to 9 mana?  Did you untap?  If yes, win the game!  I guess it’s fine if you really like casting Eldrazi, but the novelty has sort of worn itself out for me, so I’m not really interested in that sort of deck.  These Eldrazi decks ultimately fall under the “overly familiar problem” I mentioned already.

That sort of leaves Karn by default, doesn’t it?  Karn is actually the most popular colorless general by a significant margin, and it seems pretty obvious to me why that is.  Firstly, Karn is a defensive powerhouse.  He’s colorless, has a huge 8 toughness, and is capable of blocking a significant portion of the gigantic threats that Magic has to offer.  Granted, blocking isn’t always what you want to be doing to those threats, but hey, Karn can do it.

Secondly, his ability to turn non-creature artifacts into creatures is really interesting, and has all kinds of niche applications.  Salvaging Station is a great example of what can be done with Karn in mind.  Turn an Expedition Map into a creature, tutor for a land, untap Salvaging Station and buyback your Map?  Do the same with graveyard hate trinkets, or all kinds of other tricks.  You can turn artifacts into creatures and then abuse Voltaic Construct.  That seems pretty powerful with something as simple as an Everflowing Chalice, much less Lux Cannon or something else absurd like that.

Lastly, he’s an artifact.  The Eldrazi tentacle-monsters are just colorless, so you can’t really build a mono-brown deck with them, now can you?  Maybe I’m in the minority for being that nit-picky about my theme-decks, but it just seems more fitting to me, regardless of how silly it might be.

I think the biggest trap here is that I don’t want to build artifact-fueled combo.  I want to build something with powerful synergies that isn’t just trying to assemble a combo as quickly as possible.  It’s entirely possible that there will be unintentional infinites in the deck (such as Chalice and Voltaic Construct above!), but I think that by minimizing the pieces that go infinite and not intentionally tutoring up the pieces that go infinite, then I think it should be a pretty fun and powerful deck while not being overbearingly powerful.

Well, let’s get started with this then, and see what this ends up looking like!

Unlike with other decks, I want to start with the mana base.  This is going to be a pretty important part of the deck, especially since I want to avoid running infinite utility artifacts and mana rocks. I want the lands to be as efficient as possible.  If the lands can cover some of the burden of ramping up and providing generic utility, then I won’t have to waste non-land slots on these effects.

Cloudpost
Glimmerpost
Vesuva
Urza’s Tower
Urza’s Mine
Urza’s Power Plant
Temple of the False God
Ancient Tomb
City of Traitors

Wasteland
Strip Mine
Tectonic Edge
Dustbowl

Mutavault
Mishra’s Factory
Blinkmoth Nexus
Inkmoth Nexus
Dread Statuary
Stalking Stones
Gargoyle Castle

Blasted Landscape
Petrified Field
Deserted Temple
Hall of the Bandit Lord
Mystifying Maze
Miren, the Moaning Well
High Market
Reliquary Tower

Gods’ Eye, Gate to the Reikai
Gemstone Caverns
Crystal Vein
Darksteel Citadel
Tower of the Magistrate
Ghost Town
Rath’s Edge
Scrying Sheets
Mouth of Ronom
Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
Sheltered Valley

There are a few different sets of lands here.  Firstly, there are the mana-ramp lands, Urzatron, three Posts, Temple of the False God, that kind of thing.  I’m really surprised that Cloudpost and Glimmerpost don’t see more play in Karn lists, or in mono-colored lists in general.  I mean, there are almost no drawback, but it pays off pretty well when the interaction comes up.  I’m sure it helps that most of my decks run a pretty extensive set of tutors for non-basics.

Second, we’ve got some land destruction.  Just a heads up; there’s a Crucible of Worlds.  The thing is, the land destruction isn’t there to grief.  It’s there to be a land that doesn’t have colored symbols and provide some additional utility when you need it.  There are a lot of broken lands in the format, and you HAVE to have ways to deal with them, so I don’t feel bad about running these spot removal lands.

Next, some manlands.  If you’ve got to run colorless lands, they might as well do some work, right?  Vesuva can copy Blinkmoth Nexus or Mishra’s Factory to help go on the beatdown plan, you can use them as blockers.  Manlands just provide you with a lot of options that you wouldn’t have otherwise, and I don’t see a reason NOT to run them.

Then there are the lands with utility effects that might be relevant in a reasonable number of circumstances.  Deserted Temple untapping Blinkmoth Nexus or Urza’s Tower or some such seems reasonable, and drawing cards off of Blasted Landscape is fine.  These are lands that you’ll find yourself frequently using for their secondary effect  instead of just using them for mana.  The one land I’d really like to take a minute to discuss is Hall of the Bandit Lord.  People need to run this card.  It is INSANE what this does for you.  Don’t want the tapped land?  Cut a spell for it, it’s that good.  These are going for $1 on SCG right now, while other utility lands like Miren and High Market are going for about $3, and there’s no reason for that difference.  I mean, really, Titans, Forgemaster, Colossi, Eldrazi, even generals with activated abilities that involve tapping–all of these things get about infinitely better with haste.

Lastly, there are some lands that have effects that you might use once or twice, but in general will just tap for colorless mana.  There are a really, really low number of snow-covered lands, just in case you get Mouth of Ronom and a Snow source, but that’s almost never going to happen.

There are two lands I wanted to take a second to talk about; the first is Tower of the Magistrate.  I mean, have you ever seen a card that hates on Voltron any harder?  It’s a land that even beats Lightning Greaves: just give the guy pro artifacts when they try to equip it. You can make most other equipment falll off, and sometimes just beat voltron decks by having this in your 99.  If you’ve got Kemba or Godo running rampant, pick up a copy and blow them out!

Second, Gods’ Eye, Gate to the Reikai.  Making a 1/1 is relevant more often than you’d think it would be, but it’s not something you want to take advantage of too often.  If you wanted to run Smokestack, Gods’ Eye would make Smokestack a lot better.  It’s really powerful with Vesuva and Dustbowl.  Just don’t forget that Gods’ Eye has an effect, since it’s relevant reasonably often.

Now let’s cover the mana artifacts.  I don’t want to run too many of these, since they’re just ramp, and take up slots in the deck. As always, you’ll notice a distinct lack of Sol Ring and Mana Crypt.  I hate what these cards do to games, and I don’t want to play them.  I don’t mind other people playing them, but I don’t enjoy games where I pull ahead from the very beginning, and no one really gets a chance to keep up.

Mana Rocks
Sisay’s Ring
Coldsteel Heart
Mindstone
Everflowing Chalice
Worn Powerstone
Thran Dynamo
Mox Opal
Cloudstone Key

Heartstone

Most of these are reasonably straightforward.  Coldsteel Heart is there for making snow mana in case that’s ever relevant.  The only other one that’s even a little bit interesting is Cloud Key.  Cloud Key actually enables a couple of different loops that aren’t infinite, but makes them cheaper.

Hearstone is really interesting here, actually, and it’ll become apparent a little later why that is.  Karn is your general, so you can animate your other artifacts to reduce their activation costs.

Removal
Brittle Effigy
Oblivion Stone
All is Dust
Spine of Ish Sah
Nevinyrral’s Disk

About what you’d expect, right? I wish Effigy didn’t exile itself, but there’s not much that can be done about that.  It was actually really hard to justify adding Disk and Oblivion Stone, since more often than not you’re going to wrath your entire board, which is pretty unfortunate.  Still, you can add Darksteel Forge to the mix and it’ll be fine.  (Sidenote: I intentionally didn’t add Mycosynth Lattice to the deck, since it does so many “unfun” things with Karn, like destroying lands with Disk or Karn’s ability.)

The card I’m most excited about here is Spine of Ish Sah.  I mean, this thing is probably my favorite card from the new set, and one of the things that I really wanted this deck to do is to abuse this card as much as possible.  We’ll see if I managed it!

Station Combo!
Salvaging Station
Grinding Station
Blasting Station
Summoning Station

Hey, why not?  Who can be upset if you win with the four card combo Wizards advertised from Fifth Dawn?  Besides, multiple pieces are pretty powerful in the deck, especially because you can activate a lot of them multiple times in a single turn.  Karn even eliminates the need for some of the stations as long as you can afford to activate him a ton of times.

Salvaging Station is the one I’m really excited about here.  Animate an artifact that sacrifices itself, like Expedition Map.  You now have as many activations of Map as you can afford, which seems awesome.  You can add sacrifice outlets so that you don’t need to “combo” with just Expedition Map, but there are a ton of interesting things that you can do with it that I’m really excited about.

Salvaging Station Targets
Phyrexian Furnace
Scrabbling Claws
Expedition Map
Voltaic Key
Welding Jar

The first three cards here seem pretty obvious to me.  Recurring graveyard hate that also draws cards?  Tutor up your utility lands?  Yes, please!  Not to repeat myself too much, but you can even animate your Phyrexian Furnace/Scrabbling Claws to recur them repeatedly with Salvaging Station, which seems pretty absurd when you’re facing down a graveyard-based deck.

Equipment and Sacrifice Outlets
Mortarpod
Basilisk Collar
Skullclamp
Nim Deathmantle
Lightning Greaves

Sculpting Steel
Krark-Clan Ironworks

So I’m just going to say up front that I am hooked on Mortarpod.  This card is absolutely awesome, and has been making its way into more and more of my decks.  It started in a Kemba deck, then moved into a Tolsimir deck, Horobi deck, and it’s been awesome in all of them.  Seriously, this thing provides a good amount of utility and combo potential for just a 2cc artifact, and I’d be more than willing to say that it’s the best uncommon in Mirrodin Besieged for Commander.

I’m running Mortarpod so I can animate an artifact, like Spine of Ish Sah, equip it with Mortarpod and sacrifice it to buy it back.  Then why not add Basilisk Collar to deathtouch guys with Mortarpod?  Then why not add Skullclamp to draw cards when you Mortarpod a guy?  Then why not add Nim Deathmantle to buyback the Spine you just sacrificed?  Mortarpod adds a lot of interesting interactions, especially with Karn, so I’m definitely running it for now.  Maybe I’ll get a little more disenchanted with the card as time goes on, but right now I’m convinced it’s one of the best cards in the set.

Last, Sculpting Steel provides some of the generic utility that it always does, copying good artifacts like Spine of Ish Sah and whatnot.  Krark-Clan Ironworks is really good because you don’t have to animate artifacts to sacrifice them to it, and because it gives back mana. This plus Nim Deathmantle is kind of stupid, and add any kind of token generation to go absolutely broken. Seems good to me.

The Artifact Creatures – Myr Themed!
Kuldotha Forgemaster

Myr Battlesphere
Myr Turbine
Palladium Myr
Plague Myr
Myr Retriever
Myr Welder
Shimmer Myr

I have been looking for an excuse to play Kuldotha Forgemaster since the card was printed.  The thing seems pretty absurd; Tinker on a body is really, really powerful, and I want to find a way to abuse it.

Myr Battlesphere and Myr Turbine are ways to abuse it.  They make tokens for you to sacrifice, and you can untap the Turbine to make more and more tokens.  It also gives me an excuse to run a small Myr theme, which is always awesome.  Unfortunately, most of the myr have colored symbols on them, which makes me really sad, but there are still some good ones.

Palladium Myr and Plague Myr are just mana guys.  Worn Powerstone on a creature is still really good.  Plague Myr even gives you a chance to poison someone out, which is awesome and hilarious.  Myr Retriever is obviously really powerful in an artifact deck, especially one that’s weird enough to be running Mortarpod and other sacrifice outlets exclusively to make cards like this better.

Myr Welder and Shimmer Myr are a little interesting, since I’m not exactly sure what they do for the deck.  I mean, you can theorize about it all you want, but I think these are two of the cards that you have to play with to see how good they are or aren’t. They seem like they could be really powerful, but I just don’t know.

Recursion and Card Drawing
Junk Diver
Mimic Vat
Arcbound Reclaimer

Ichor Wellspring
Serum Vat
Sensei’s Divining Top
Mind’s Eye

I’m a big fan of all of these cards, and I’m really excited to get a chance to play some of them.  Junk Diver is another Myr Retriever, which is always awesome.  It’s a little overcosted relative to Myr Retriever, but that’s fine.  Everyone knows that Mimic Vat is awesome, but it’s even more awesome when you can untap it multiple times.  Last, Arcbound Reclaimer seems really good, especially when you can recur it and especially with the proliferation coming up next!

Next, there are some powerful card-drawing effects.  Serum Vat is obviously awesome with both proliferate and when you’re casting a ton of artifacts.  Mind’s Eye is obviously awesome, and everyone knows that it’s a really powerful source of artifact card drawing.  Ichor Wellspring and Sensei’s Divining Top are both really interesting ways to draw cards.  It should be noted that you can tap Top and then sacrifice it in response to Mortarpod or Krark-Clan Ironworks to get a card but NOT put it on top of your library.  Ichor Wellspring is another card from Mirrodin Besieged that I think is secretly awesome.  I mean, you’ve got infinite ways to sacrifice it not only to get value out of the sacrifice, but also to draw a card?  Sign me up!  In Slobad, Ichor Wellspring is actually just “draw 2 cards, counter a removal spell” for 2.  That seems really, really good.  This card is going to see more and more play as people realize that it’s a cheap way to draw cards AND get utility.

Proliferate!
Rings of Brighthearth
Contagion Clasp
Contagion Engine

Darksteel Reactor
Orochi Hatchery

And here’s the proliferate package and the cards that love it.  These are especially powerful when you’ve got untap effects, which the deck does.  In playtesting, I managed to win with Darksteel Reactor the turn after I played it, which seems pretty good to me.  There’s a lot of interesting and powerful things you can do with these, especially since you’ve got the tools to keep them going in and out of play with Deathmantle and Retrievers and such.  These are just really powerful  effects, and this deck is uniquely equipped to abuse them.

Bombs!
Duplicant
Wurmcoil Engine
Steel Hellkite

Eye of Ugin

Obviously all awesome, especially with recursion.  Lots of colored decks go out of their way to run these guys, and you still get to run them as a colorless deck, but with more ways to abuse them.  Then add Eye of Ugin to tutor up the ones that are powerful?  I’m sold!  Honestly, even though I’m not running Eldrazi, giving up a land drop to be able to tutor up your best creatures seems more than good enough to me, so I’m going to run with it.

Generic Utility
Crucible of Worlds

Darksteel Forge
That Which was Taken

Clock of Omens
Voltaic Construct

And these are your generic utility effects.  Recurring lands is always good, especially when you’ve got Strip Mines.  You can even use Petrified Field to recycle Blasted Landscape for card drawing, if you need to or just recur your lands that get destroyed.  Crucible is powerful even when you don’t build around it, but when you’ve got a few built-in synergies, it’s absurd.

Darksteel Forge and That Which was Taken are both really good ways to make your permanents indestructible.  What other deck gets to make its whole team indestructible?  Not many.  That Which was Taken edged out Darksteel Plate by a little bit, so you could definitely run that instead, but I think that, with your untap effects, That Which was Taken is probably better.

Lastly, there are the untap effects I keep coming back to!  Clock of Omens is the weaker of the two, since you have to commit to tapping your other cards.  Remember that you can tap Equipment, and it should be fine though.  Voltaic Construct is one of those cards that becomes infinitely better with Karn as your general.  Being able to animate a Contagion Engine, and then repeatedly proliferate in a single turn is REALLY good.

And that’s the Karn deck, the real end to my series of mono-colored decks.  This is definitely one of my favorites of the series, since there’s so much synergy.  I’m sure I couldn’t play it anywhere near optimally since there are going to be so many complex board states, but it’d still be fun to play!  I’d also be interested to see some kind of voltron deck using Karn.  Actually, I just really like the idea of equipping a Sword of Fire and Ice with a ton of other equipment just because I can.  This is such a stupid game sometimes, and I love it.

Anyway, if you’ve got any comments or criticisms, have a deck you want to talk about, or just have some questions, I’d be glad to hear from you.  I’ve been pretty good about staying on top of my mail right now, so I think I’ve gotten back to everyone who’s sent me an email recently.  Next week I’ll be taking a look at a Tribal deck, since that’s something I don’t do terribly often, so get excited!

Carlos
cag5383(at)gmail(dot)com