Last updated on April 6, 2021

Karn, the Great Creator - Illustration by Wisnu Tan

Karn, the Great Creator | Illustration by Wisnu Tan

Colorless Ramp was a meme deck for the longest time in Historic. That is, until Zendikar Rising gave us Forsaken Monument.

The previously tier-two deck fought its way up to the top thanks to the massive amount of colorless ramp artifacts available. Monument seals the deal, allowing us to add one extra colorless mana each time we tap a land or artifact and gaining some life.

We already had a lot of good-top-of-the-curve cards like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger along with several versions of Ugin. Still, with the Monument it suddenly became easier to get these hard-to-cast cards on the battlefield.

The deck is quite grindy and takes a few turns to set up. But once you do get established and can start attacking or dealing damage, you’ll be able to pull off some amazing tricks. Once you start putting your big mana stuff down, the game has usually reached a point where your opponent has no chance of winning anymore. It’s risky since that means you’re generally unable to defend yourself for a few turns, but that’s what this deck is all about: risk versus reward.

Let’s get into it.

Cascading Cataracts

Cascading Cataracts | Illustration by Noah Bradley

The Deck

The Strategy

This deck’s strategy is simple. You play lands that produce colorless mana and then play artifacts that help you ramp like Hedron Archive and Mind Stone.

Once you reach five or more mana, your goal is to get Forsaken Monument on the field, usually around turn 4. Then, once you untap with all your lands and artifacts, you should now produce 10+ mana a turn. Which means casting your big plays becomes extremely easy.

You’ll be casting numerous threats and using your lands by putting counters and activating powerful effects. Let’s take a closer look at all the key pieces to make this work.

The Ramp Package

Yes, that’s right, we have six sources of ramp in the mainboard. With eight mana rocks at the 2-mana slot, four cards at the 3-mana slot, and another four cards at 4-mana, you should never be in a situation where you can’t ramp up by at least turn 3. If all else fails, you can also try to survive long enough to cast a Golos, Tireless Pilgrim that’ll fetch one of our colorless producing lands from the deck.

You can even bring something like Cascading Cataracts onto the battlefield that’ll mana-fix the colors for Golos’s ability, which in return will give you plenty of stuff to play for free. Like I mentioned before, your main goal is to get Forsaken Monument onto the field as soon as possible. With three copies in the mainboard and a fourth in the sideboard, you’ll find it’s consistent to pull this off thanks to Karn, the Great Creator.

The Consistency Plan

Karn, the Great Creator

We run four copies of Karn, the Great Creator. Having Karn pretty much means you have seven cards copies of your Monument in the deck (granted, you need to take one turn to fetch it). So playing it on turn 4 or 5 is easy.

If you already have your Forsaken Monument, there are many excellent tools in the sideboard that give you the perfect answer against pretty much any deck. I’ll briefly go over each card’s effect and when to pick a specific card a bit further down.

Karn’s most significant upside is that, since it fetches stuff from the sideboard directly, you don’t even want to sideboard cards into the mainboard most of the time for games 2 and 3. There are a few exceptions, but it does make this deck a bit of a one-trick pony at being an all or nothing toolbox. You either ramp and make your strategy succeed, or you end up failing miserably and get wrecked.

Karn has an excellent passive effect that stops the opponent from activating artifacts as well. Against decks like Jund sacrifice, your opponent can suddenly no longer activate their Witch’s Oven, which slows them down a ton. It’s also excellent against mirror matchups or any other deck that tries to use artifacts as their win condition.

Temur energy is a trendy deck in Historic using cards like Aetherworks Marvel. Karn turns off the Marvel entirely. Sadly, since we have no counter magic in the deck, Marvel decks tend to use burn spells to eliminate our planeswalker, so be wary of this.

The Payoffs

There are many payoffs in this deck that’ll benefit from our incredibly large mana generating ability. Let’s first focus on what we have ready to cast in the mainboard, and I’ll go over the sideboard afterward.

These are our three main payoffs: Ugin, the Ineffable, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. All three of these are absolute powerhouses, with the latter two being format-bending.

Ugin, the Ineffable is somewhat a ramp spell, removal, and value engine all in one. Its ability to allow colorless spells to be cast for two less mana is fantastic. Before Forsaken Monument was released, I used to play this Ugin in combination with Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge. The passive affinity was excellent, and the extra damage it provided was quite helpful.

If you want to be adventurous, you can always try adding some copies of Tezzeret into the mainboard since our Cascading Cataracts and Interplanar Beacon help to fix its mana cost. Seeing the claw zap the opponent is just plain amusing.

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is the main card that’s wrecking formats. I’ve talked about this card a lot in some of my other deck guides. When this card enters the battlefield, most decks fold. Its minus ability that usually exiles the entire board is tough to recover from.

This Ugin is a bit less strong when facing a deck that focuses on colorless spells like other Colorless Ramp or the now somewhat rare artifact aggro decks. They do exist, and you may need to change your strategy accordingly. Since we run only colorless permanents, our stuff doesn’t get exiled by the Spirit Dragon. If you face a colored deck, it’s pretty easy to take over the entire game, constantly using the plus and minus ability to survive.

Forsaken Monument

Forsaken Monument | Illustration by Piotr Dura

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is a sickening card as well, though. When you cast it, you get to exile two target permanents. Keep in mind these permanents can be lands as well. Since it says “cast” rather than “enters the battlefield,” you get to exile these permanents even if the opponent counters Ulamog. In the event it doesn’t get countered, though, it becomes tough to deal with for your opponent.

There’s a lot going on — an indestructible 10/10 creature that exiles the top twenty cards of your opponent’s library whenever it attacks. The exile effect alone already means you’ll win the game in a few turns, not to mention if you get to connect ten damage a turn.

I’ve found myself in many situations against decks like mono red where they almost defeated me, only for Ulamog to come in and turn the game around. It does its flavor text justice, that’s for sure: “A force as voracious as time itself.”

Utility Lands

We have a lot of utility lands. Each of them has one thing in common: the ability to produce colorless mana. Forsaken Monument allows them to produce two mana when it’s on the battlefield. Let’s quickly go through all the tools we have and when or how to use them.

Emergency Removal

Blast Zone

Our very first tool is Blast Zone. This is our emergency removal. By spending XX mana, we can put charge counters on this land, and for three mana and tapping it, we can sacrifice it and destroy all permanents with the same CMC as the total number of charge counters on it. Kind of like a Ratchet Bomb in a land. By adding charge counters, you’ll easily load this up to get rid of specific threats on your opponent’s side of the field. Against aggro decks, it’s perfect for blowing up all their 1-drops.

Artifact Retrieval

Buried Ruin

Buried Ruin comes in handy when the opponent destroyed your artifacts, you extra staying power and can basically draw them directly from the graveyard.

Cheap Card Draw

Bonders' Enclave

Since we have plenty of high creatures with high power, especially with the Monument on the field buffing them, Bonders’ Enclave lets you draw a card for just three mana.

Golos Combo

Cascading Cataracts

Cascading Cataracts is a utility land that goes well with Golos, Tireless Pilgrim and fixes all colors to let Golos look at the top three cards of your deck with its ability. You may play these cards for free until the end of the turn. Sometimes you can fetch an Ulamog or Ugin off the top with this effect for an excellent value cast.

Creature Doubles

Crawling Barrens can become a massive creature with enough counters on it. If you have nothing to spend your mana on, keep putting more counters on this land. Keep it as a land at first, though, since it’ll be harder to destroy that way. Once you’re ready to attack with it, you can quickly turn this into a giant elemental.

Mobilized District becomes a colorless 3/3 citizen, which means buffed with the Forsaken Monument, it can pack some punch.

Lifegain

Interplanar Beacon helps us regain some life whenever we cast one of our many planeswalkers. Very useful against mono red burn specifically. Radiant Fountain is here for some extra lifegain upon playing it.

Up Against a Big Target

Labyrinth of Skophos

Labyrinth of Skophos is lovely when you’re up against opponents with just one big attacker. Continuously keep removing that creature from combat, and it becomes hard for them to win.

A Bit of Scry

Zhalfirin Void

And our final tech land is Zhalfirin Void. This card helps to fix the top of the deck with a scry to make sure you increase the odds of finding a land or ramp spell, whichever you may need.

Rules of the Mulligan

A mulligan with this deck follows two rules:

  1. Make sure you have either Karn, the Great Creator or Forsaken Monument;
  2. Make sure you have either two lands and three cast-able ramp spells OR three lands and two cast-able ramp spells.

Following this strategy should help you to always push out a turn 4 or 5 Forsaken Monument.

Sideboarding

Our sideboard is full of fun toys, gizmos, and artifacts that can make your opponent groan in annoyance. In most BO3 matches, you typically don’t need to sideboard. There are cases where one of your Ugins may not be useful, at which point you might put the copies of Mystic Forge in. Other than that, only the Grafdigger’s Cage copies make it into the mainboard since Karn, the Great Creator, helps to fetch everything else anyways.

Every single one of these sideboard options has an important role. You might want to switch these artifacts up a bit in the future if (when) the meta changes.

Graveyard Matchups

We have both Tormod’s Crypt and Grafdigger’s Cage for graveyard decks. These are pretty self-explanatory. Keep in mind that there are two copies of Cage in the mainboard already. There are just so many players pulling permanents from the deck or graveyard it’s almost a staple by now.

Mono Red Matchups

Platinum Angel

Platinum Angel to stop yourself from losing against mono red or other decks with weird or oppressive win conditions.

Insane Combos

Paradox Engine to make your plays even more insane when you have your Forsaken Monument on the field already. You can almost go infinite with this card if you also have a copy of Lithoform Engine or Mystic Forge on the board. Duplicating effects and tapping and untapping all your mana-generating artifacts every time you cast something off the top of your deck is insanely good.

Life Wincon

Aetherflux Reservoir

Next, since we heal quite a lot of life with Forsaken Monument, we have Aetherflux Reservoir. All you need is to be above 50 life and you can plop this down and activate it to win the game. Generally, I get this one from a late game Karn, the Great Creator if the game has stalled out so long that I’m sitting in the 60+ life.

All the Rest

We have some removal, Ratchet Bomb, which lets you destroy all permanents equal to the charge counters on it. An extra copy of Forsaken Monument if you didn’t draw a copy from your main board. Sorcerous Spyglass mainly to shut down planeswalkers and an easy Karn grab.

Akroma’s Memorial makes your creatures even better, granting them both protection and a plethora of keywords. Meteor Golem if you need to destroy a non-land permanent. Finally, we have Sculpting Steel, which lets you copy an artifact on the field. Usually, you want this to be a Powerstone Shard to further increase your mana generation.

Tips and Tricks

There are lots of tricks with this deck, but most revolve around picking the right cards from the sideboard. Let’s go to a few reminders to play optimally.

If you have an Ugin, the Ineffable in hand, always calculate if it’s better to cast this card first because of its mana cost reduction on everything else. Sometimes you can make even more plays by doing so.

Another tip would be to make sure you play your Guardian Idol on turn 2 since you usually don’t have a 1-mana play anyway. This’ll allow you to cast a Mind Stone and Powerstone Shard on the following turn, putting you at six or seven mana available on turn 4.

Lastly, Karn, the Great Creator, can turn a Forsaken Monument into a 7/7 with its plus ability. Sometimes this may be just enough to close out the game.

All other tactics should be pretty self-explanatory, but if you have any questions about interactions, leave a comment down below! I try to answer all questions as soon as possible.

Colorless Cooldown

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger | Illustration by Michael Komarck

This deck is a toolbox. Each game you play will be different because you’ll choose other tools to get the job done. I’m a big fan of the diversity it adds, and that sideboarding is relatively simple or even non-existent. At a glance, it may look like a hard deck to pilot, but once you isolate everything in your head according to its task, it becomes pretty simple to manage.

When I play this, I look at everything as ramp, utility, planeswalker, or a game finisher. I know what to cast because I always take my time to think about what tool may be useful against the decks I’m facing off against. Some decks can lose the game to something as simple as a Platinum Angel. Others can’t get over a Grafdigger’s Cage or an Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. You have a bit of everything at your disposal.

As long as you aren’t up against counter magic or get defeated before your set-up is complete, you should have an enjoyable time with this. Part of me hopes we’ll someday get access to the Tron lands from Modern. It would make this strategy even more consistent. Perhaps even something like a Wurmcoil Engine would be amazing, but maybe those types of things would break the Historic format.

If you can, give it a try, queue up some games, and soon you’ll have the hang of it and be the next in line to embrace the power of mono brown. With that said, thank you all for taking the time to read this! I hope you’ll have fun with this one. I think it’ll be around for a long time to come.

See you all soon, and stay safe!

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