Against the Odds: Can Braids Break Karn, Living Legacy in Standard?

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Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 347 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had another Dominaria United Standard Against the Odds poll, with some interesting results. Karn, Living Legacy took an early lead only to be passed by Braids, Arisen Nightmare, which ended up winning by 4% of the 33,000 votes cast, but I have some good news. While brewing around the cards I realized that Braids is the best way to make Karn work in Standard and Karn is one of the best ways to support Braids in Standard, so today we have an Against the Odds two-for-one with a deck built around both Karn, Living Legacy and Braids, Arisen Nightmare! Is Karn as bad as I thought? Can Braids be a real threat in Standard? What are the odds of winning with a deck playing both? Let’s get to the video and find out in today’s Against the Odds; then, we’ll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Braids & Karn

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The Deck

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While it might not be obvious at first glance Braids, Arisen Nightmare and Karn, Living Legacy are perfect for each other. If you think about what Braids wants it’s permanents to sacrifice each turn, preferable permanents of types that most opponent’s won’t have so we can drain our opponent and draw a card. Then if you think about what Karn wants, it’s some way to make use of its mostly useless Powerstone tokens that it can make every turn with its +1. While it maybe be that ramping with Powerstones is a legit plan at some point in the future, right now there just aren’t enough expensive artifacts to make it work, so the current best use of Karn’s +1 is to use the Powerstones as synergies pieces, for example sacrificing them to Braids.

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Backing up Braids & Karn we have a bunch of other cards that care about artifacts entering or leaving the battlefield. Dragonspark Reactor slowly builds up counters as we make Powerstones and have other artifacts enter play until it eventually shoots the opponent for a ton of damage (while also taking down their best creature). Oni-Cult Anvil rewards us for sacrificing Powerstones to Braids, Arisen Nightmare by making a 1/1 Construct token which happens to be an artifact to add counters to Dragonspark Reactor. Finally we have one Bootleggers’ Stash to dig for with Karn’s minus ability. If we manage to get it it on the battlefield it lets us make a ton of artifacts which in turn add a ton of counters to Dragonspark Reactor, endlessly fuel our Braids, Arisen Nightmare and make Karn, Living Legacy‘s ultimate super lethal should we get to it.

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We also have a couple of other cards that add artifact tokens to the battlefield (while also just being strong cards) in Bloodtithe Harvester and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker. Ideally we’ll start our engine of sacrificing things to Braids, Arisen Nightmare as quickly as possible, which means we don’t usually want to have to wait until Karn, Living Legacy hits the battlefield. The Blood token from Bloodtithe Harvester or Treasure from Fable of the Mirror-Breaker let us start getting Braids value faster while also adding removal and card filtering to our deck. 

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Rounding out our main deck we have a bunch of removal and card draw that works with the theme of our deck with cards like Voltage Surge and Reckoner’s Bargain giving us backup ways to turn Karn’s Powerstones into value while The Meathook Massacre works extremely well with Oni-Cult Anvil, giving us a Blood Artist style finisher to help drain our opponent out of the game.

The Matchups

Braids & Karn is a pretty unique deck. We’ve got a ton of synergy and are pretty good at fighting through removal, but we’re not especially fast. If we have time to get our board set up and keep our pieces on the battlefield we’ve got a chance to beat pretty much anything, but if we have a slow draw we can get run over by aggro, and decks that have a lot of artifact removal that can keep Dragonspark Reactor and friends off the battlefield can be tricky. The good news is that deck feels pretty solid against most black midrange decks (outside of Jund, which is overloaded with artifact removal and Titan of Industry is pretty much unbeatable for our deck) and those decks are super popular in Standard at the moment.

The Odds

All in all we finished 5-3 with Braids & Karn, which is a pretty solid record. More importantly, our two namesake cards were great…if we could get them both on the battlefield together. While both Braids, Arisen Nightmare and Karn, Living Legacy are narrow cards that aren’t good in most decks, in the right deck both are super powerful. While Karn, Living Legacy mostly just makes a blank artifact token each turn, with the amount of synergies in our deck – Braids, Dragonspark Reactor, Oni-Cult Anvil – making a Darksteel Relic each turn is actually surprisingly powerful. Meanwhile, Braids, Arisen Nightmare‘s ability to slowly drain our opponent out of the game while keeping our hand full of cards is hugely important to our deck. Not only does it make the Powerstones do something, but the damage helps us get our opponent’s life total low enough that we can win with Dragonspark Reactor and Oni-Cult Anvil damage! While I still think that Karn, Living Legacy is one of the worst planeswalkers of all time for nearly all decks, as we saw today, in the right context and with the right support it can be pretty decent at least, and Braids, Arisen Nightmare might be one of the most underrated cards in Standard, although once again you need to be a specific deck (with a bunch of useless permanents to sacrifice) to really make it work, but in our deck Braids was absurd. Basically, while Braids & Karn might be not good enough on their own, when you put them both together they are actually surprisingly powerful!

Vote for Next Week’s Deck

Next week we’re trying more Dominaria United, but this time in Modern! Which card should we play? Click here to vote!.

Conclusion

Anyway, that’s all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive, or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.