Last updated on June 6, 2023

Karn's Temporal Sundering - Illustration by Noah Bradley

Karn's Temporal Sundering | Illustration by Noah Bradley

Magic is a game with a long history and plenty of lore to go along with it. There are plenty of characters who have been a part of the story for decades, like Urza, Jhoira, and Teferi. Another of these iconic characters is Karn.

Karn is a large roleplayer in the current Magic lore detailing the Phyrexian invasion of the Multiverse. Karn has spent much of his life fighting Phyrexia and their goal of compleating all other life forms, and he still fights them to this day.

But who is Karn, the silver golem?

Who Is Karn?

Karn, Scion of Urza - Illustration by Chase Stone

Karn, Scion of Urza | Illustration by Chase Stone

Karn is a silver golem and planeswalker. Created by Urza, Karn was nothing more than a tool of Urza’s. He has incredibly powerful magic that allows him to manipulate metals at will and understand technology with a single touch. After his spark ignited, Karn would walk the Multiverse and create planes.

List of Karn Cards

Karn, Silver Golem

Karn, Silver Golem

A card printed before Karn’s spark ignited, Karn, Silver Golem is a pretty good encapsulation of his character, even if it’s not the strongest card. Karn is a pacifist at heart. He doesn’t enjoy hurting others, which he finds difficult because he’s immensely strong and often holds back his strength. This is well reflected in the ability that removes his power should he block or become blocked.

Its activated ability also shows off Karn’s skill at artifice. He can manipulate metal at will and can create many kinds of machines with a thought. He’s able to analyze unfamiliar metals and objects with a touch. Converting an inanimate hunk of metal into a creature is a great way to show this ability on a card.

Karn Liberated

Karn Liberated

The first card to depict Karn as a planeswalker, Karn Liberated was the first colorless planeswalker card. It’s also incredibly powerful. Karn Liberated costs a lot of mana but makes it worth your investment.

The +4 is a great way to win an extended game. It prevents your opponents from hoarding resources like countermagic and eats away at their hand if they can’t empty it quickly enough. The -3 is a fantastic tool to protect your planeswalker with unconditional removal. It can also hit an opponent’s lands.

The ultimate is what really makes this card, however. You’ll rarely find yourself activating it, if only because you’ve won the game by the time Karn is at 14 loyalty. If you do find yourself restarting the game, Karn gives you enough of an edge that victory is all but assured.

Karn, Scion of Urza

Karn, Scion of Urza

Karn, Scion of Urza is one of my favorite planeswalker designs. This Karn doesn’t have a true ultimate, but it creates a Construct token, often called a Karnstruct, with its -2. The other abilities provide a steady stream of card advantage.

The Karnstruct is a token type that debuted here, but we’ve seen it often since, usually associated with Urza on cards like Urza's Saga and Urza, Lord High Artificer. They provide a powerful offensive or defensive force thanks to their stats though they ask you to have a fairly high artifact count.

The interaction between this Karn’s other abilities is also great. The +1 lets your opponent give the worst of two cards (often the land of the pair), while its -1 lets you pick the other card that was exiled. To uptick and take the worst of two or downtick to get an exiled card always feel like interesting options, and this planeswalker plays really well.

Karn, the Great Creator

Karn, the Great Creator

Karn, the Great Creator might be the most impactful depiction of the character. It got restricted in Vintage and got Mycosynth Lattice banned in Modern and is just a super solid card.

The ability to shut down opposing artifact strategies makes this a powerful stax piece, which is why it got restricted in Vintage. Many decks in the format rely on artifacts, and playing a Karn just stopped them from functioning.

Its ability to find artifacts makes it an incredibly versatile card that can pluck the perfect answer to a given situation out of your sideboard. Its +1 can turn your artifacts into threats to close the game with or kill any 0 mana artifacts under your opponent’s control.

Karn, Living Legacy

Karn, Living Legacy

Karn, Living Legacy brings us from Karn’s most impactful card to his least impressive. This iteration of Karn is far too niche to be useful in most situations.

This +1 creates Powerstones, which are weak outside of artifact-centric decks. They don’t have a meaningful impact on the board and don’t produce mana for a turn, and the mana they produce is quite restrictive.

The -1 is just a bad source of card advantage. Paying any amount of mana to put a single card into your hand isn’t great. It’s an outlet for your Powerstones if you don’t have anything else to do with them, but it’s still pretty weak because your deck should have better things to do with all that mana.

The ultimate is interesting. Tapping your artifacts to deal a damage to an opponent can close out a game quickly. Since the emblem has the ability and isn’t giving it to the artifacts, it gets around effects like Collector Ouphe and Karn, the Great Creator, and utilizes the Powerstones. That said, it’s not strong enough to be worth playing a card that doesn’t have a meaningful impact on the game in the three turns before creating the emblem.

Karn’s Backstory


Karn has been part of Magic’s lore for quite some time and has seen lots of conflict in his time. Urza created Karn to assist in time-traveling experiments. Karn was crafted from silver because the metal is resistant to temporal forces. Eventually, Urza moved on from Karn as he did many other projects, though he never wasted an opportunity to use the silver golem.

Karn was named by Jhoira, a student of Urza’s at the Tolarian Academy. “Karn” is a Thran word for strength. Karn and Jhoira became fast friends. During a Phyrexian invasion, Jhoira was killed, prompting Karn to use temporal magic to travel back in time to save her, destroying the Academy in the process.

Jhoira moved on from the Academy, returning to her home nation of Shiv to run the mana rig with fellow Academy student Teferi. Missing his only friend who saw him as more than an object, Karn fell into a depression that Urza “fixed” by forcibly capping Karn’s memories so that he could only remember the past twenty years of his life.

Karn was later instrumental in Urza’s Legacy project. Urza created the perfect Dominarian bloodline, the Capashens, and tasked Karn with protecting it. Karn protected a young Gerrard Capashen before accidentally killing an innocent man and getting frozen until Gerrard one day woke the silver golem.

In the Phyrexian Invasion, Karn was an instrumental part of the Legacy Weapon that saw the downfall of Yawgmoth and his Phyrexians. Gerrard used the Weakstone and the Mightstone (the objects that set the Brothers’ War in motion and became Urza Planeswalker’s eyes) with Karn to unleash a blaze of white mana so great it scoured Yawgmoth and the Phyrexians into nothing. This same cataclysm allowed Karn to absorb the Legacy into himself and ignite his spark, turning him into a planeswalker.


As a pre-Mending planeswalker, Karn was immensely powerful and created the plane Argentum. It was a perfect world of metal from which Karn monitored Dominaria and other planes with probes. One probe malfunctioned and became the Mirari, which Karn later turned into Memnarch. Memnarch was tasked with overseeing Argentum.

Unbeknownst to Karn, the heartstone that gave him sentience was Phyrexian and left traces of glistening oil on Argentum. Memnarch was tainted by this and converted Argentum into Mirrodin, stealing lifeforms from other planes. Karn dismantled Memnarch, turning him back into the Mirari and leaving Mirrodin once more, unaware how deep the glistening oil’s corruption ran.

Karn returned to Dominaria to aid Jhoira by closing the time rifts that threatened the Multiverse. Closing the rifts required a planeswalker to give up their spark and ability to travel the planes. Karn did this to close the rift in Tolaria. As soon as he did, the glistening oil started to corrupt Karn because his spark was the only thing protecting it. Karn returned to Mirrodin, instructng his friends not to follow.

New Phyrexia

Karn found his perfect plane utterly corrupted into the plane that became New Phyrexia. Karn was locked in the center of Mirrodin, where the five praetors of New Phyrexia hailed him as the new Father of Machines after Yawgmoth. He became corrupted by glistening oil flowing from his heart.

Eventually, Karn’s friends, including the planeswalker Venser, found Karn in Mirrodin’s heart, deep in the grip of phyresis. Venser gave up his spark in a powerful act of magic to cleanse Karn of the glistening oil and allow him to planeswalk. Karn left New Phyrexia, vowing to destroy the Phyrexians.

Investigating the Sylex

We later found Karn on Dominaria, researching the Golgothian Sylex Urza used to end the Brothers’ War and devastate most of Dominaria. He intended to use it to obliterate New Phyrexia. After being caught in the battle against Bolas on Ravnica during War of the Spark, Karn returned to Dominaria to continue his research.

As he researched the Sylex in Koilos, Karn encountered several Phyrexianized individuals. Further investigations led him to the foundations of a Phyrexian invasion helmed by an injured Sheoldred. The ensuing battle saw one of Sheoldred’s disciples, Rona, collapse the caves on Karn. He was buried for months before Ajani Goldmane dug him out.

Later, as Dominaria was invaded by the Phyrexians, Sheoldred, and a compleated Ajani captured Karn and his Sylex in the final battle. Karn was returned to New Phyrexia, where the Mother of Machines Elesh Norn had him disassembled so he could bear witness as Phyrexia invaded the Multiverse to bring the glory of compleation to all planes.

A final attempt by the Mirran resistance, aided by a flight of angels from New Capenna and Teferi leading the warriors of Zhalfir into New Phyrexia, gave Karn a chance to rebuild his body and join the fight. He killed Elesh Norn to end Phyrexia’s influence before going to Zhalfir with his friends. Karn sacrificed what remained of Venser’s spark to help cleanse the compleated planeswalkers Nissa and Ajani, freeing them from phyresis just as Venser once saved him.

What Is Karn?

Karn is a living silver golem. He gained sentience thanks to a heartstone given to him by Urza. The heartstone was a Phyrexian construction Urza obtained after his companion and former Phyrexian sleeper agent Xantcha sacrificed herself to allow Urza to defeat Gix in Koilos. The heartstone became the core of Karn’s personality, storing his emotions and memories. And it bore traces of the glistening oil that eventually corrupted Karn and Mirrodin.

Is Karn Still Alive? Is Karn Dead?

Karn is currently alive. He has, however, given up his spark and his ability to planeswalk. The last time we saw Karn, he was on Zhalfir with his friends.

Did Karn Create the Phyrexians?

Karn didn’t create the Phyrexians. The Phyrexians were created by Yawgmoth ages before Karn or even Urza was born. Once human, Yawgmoth was a cruel, callous eugenicist born towards the end of the Thran Empire. His inhumane experiments and the discovery of a disease caused by overexposure to powerstones became the foundation for his plane of Phyrexia and his goal to convert or compleate all life in his perfect image.

How Is Karn a Planeswalker?

Karn first gained a spark in the final battle against the Phyrexians and Yawgmoth at the end of the Invasion story by absorbing the Weakstone and Mightstone in an explosion of magic that destroyed Yawgmoth and the Phyrexians.

Karn gave up his spark to seal the time rift in Tolaria, giving up his powers as a planeswalker. Venser later gave Karn his own spark to cleanse the golem of phyresis, giving him the ability to planeswalker once more.

How Did Karn Lose His Spark?

Karn lost his spark during the events of the Time Spiral block. Due to the many magical cataclysms that affected Dominaria over its history, the fabric of the plane became irreparably damaged. The plane began to rip itself apart and could have destroyed the entire Multiverse.

Karn was among the planeswalkers who sealed the time rifts by giving up their sparks. Karn sealed the rift in Tolaria by traveling back in time and giving up his spark just before the mage Barrin cast a spell that would have worsened the many temporal issues the island already suffered. Losing his spark made him vulnerable to compleation and aware of the glistening oil inside his heart, causing Karn to flee Dominaria and return to Mirrodin.

At the end of the March of the Machine story, Karn lost his spark a second time. This time, he gave it up to save several of his friends from phyresis in the wake of the war with Phyrexia.

Who Made Karn?

Karn was made by Urza and Barrin, primarily to assist in their experiments with time travel. Urza used the heartstone to give Karn sentience so that he could make decisions on his own if the need arose. Despite giving Karn sentience, Urza rarely showed affection for the golem and didn’t treat him with much more respect than any of his inanimate constructs.

How Old Is Karn?

According to the official Wizards of the Coast character page, Karn is more than 1200 years old.

Where Is Karn Now?

The last time we saw Karn, he was surrounded by his friends on Zhalfir. Zhalfir had been phased out of the Multiverse for centuries, but it has become a full-fledged plane after the destruction of New Phyrexia. Given that Karn gave up his spark on Zhalfir to aid his friends, it’s unclear if he’ll ever leave the plane again.

How Tall Is Karn?

According to The Art of Magic: The Rath Cycle, a book printed in 1998 that encapsulated much of the story occurring during the expansions between Weatherlight and Exodus, Karn is 6’6”.

Does Karn Stop Triggered Abilities?

None of Karn’s cards can stop triggered abilities. Karn, the Great Creator prevents your opponents from using the activated abilities of their artifacts, like Manifold Key or Grim Monolith, but it only stops those activated abilities. Triggered abilities, like Ichor Wellspring‘s that trigger when it enters the battlefield or the graveyard, still trigger as normal. Karn also doesn’t stop static abilities like that of Winter Orb that affect the board while the artifact in question is in play.

Why Is Karn, the Great Creator Good?

Karn, the Great Creator

Karn, the Great Creator is a powerful card for a few reasons. Cards that prevent your opponents from doing a thing are generally good. It’s especially good in formats with high amounts of artifacts used for mana, like Commander.

This Karn’s also just powerful on its own. The ability to grab artifacts from your sideboard gives your deck a ton of flexibility. You can put silver bullet cards like Pithing Needle, Grafdigger's Cage, or Dampening Sphere in your sideboard and grab them with Karn. This lets you play as though you’re preboarded, which is a massive advantage, without worrying about drawing a card that isn’t useful outside of specific matchups.

Does Karn Get Rid of Emblems?

None of Karn’s cards directly remove a planeswalker emblem. Planeswalker emblems exist outside of the game and can’t be targeted or affected by cards within the game state. They’re more like reminders that something is happening to the game because of a planeswalker. That said, the ultimate on Karn Liberated restarts the game, which removes a planeswalker’s emblem in the most roundabout fashion possible.

Is Karn, Scion of Urza an Artifact?

Karn, Scion of Urza

Karn, Scion of Urza isn’t an artifact; it’s a legendary planeswalker. It’s unaffected by cards like Etherium Sculptor that care about artifacts, and it can’t be destroyed by cards that destroy artifacts like Nature's Claim.

Is Karn, the Great Creator an Artifact?

Karn, the Great Creator

Karn, the Great Creator is not an artifact, though it works very well with them. It’s a card with the legendary supertype and the planeswalker type. To date, there have been no planeswalkers printed with types other than planeswalker, though several planeswalkers can make themselves into creatures in addition to the planeswalker type.

How Does Karn Liberated Work?

Karn Liberated

Karn Liberated is a long-time player in Modern thanks to the Tron deck that powers it out on turn three with the Urza lands. The most common play pattern with Karn is to play it on turn three and exile an opponent’s land to create a massive mana advantage in your favor. You can also start eating at their hand with the +4.

The ultimate is one of the most unique in the game, simply restarting it. When it’s activated, both players shuffle all the cards they own into their libraries, with the only exception being the cards exiled with Karn’s abilities. Both players reset their life totals, draw their opening hands, and may mulligan and take any pregame actions. The player who activated Karn’s ultimate is on the play.

The permanents exiled with Karn come into play as part of its ability’s resolution and before the first turn of the game. This means a few things: creatures don’t have summoning sickness because they came into play before their controller’s first turn. Any permanents that come into play tapped like Jetmir's Garden come into play before the first untap step, so they untap. Any abilities triggered by these permanents coming into play are placed on the stack at the beginning of the first upkeep.

Can Karn Get Artifacts From Exile?

Karn, the Great Creator

Karn, the Great Creator can get cards from exile with its -2 ability. This works well with artifacts that exile themselves as part of their abilities like Campfire or False Floor. It also gives your deck resilience. If your opponent tries to remove your threats by exiling them with something like Path to Exile or Prismatic Ending, you can get it right back.

How Do Karn and Mycosynth Lattice Work?

The combination of Karn, the Great Creator and Mycosynth Lattice is so powerful that it got the latter banned in Modern. The Lattice turns all cards into artifacts. Karn on the battlefield prevents your opponents from activating the ability of artifacts. Most critically, this shuts down your opponent’s lands since mana abilities are activated abilities. Played together, they create a powerful lock since your opponent can no longer produce mana to cast spells. If your opponent doesn’t have an answer to the Lattice while it’s on the stack, they lose.

Bonus: Karn Deck

All Is Dust (Secret Lair) - Illustration by Dominik Mayer

All Is Dust (Secret Lair) | Illustration by Dominik Mayer

This bonus Karn deck is for Oathbreaker, which was officially recognized as a format by Wizards of the Coast. The format lets you pair a planeswalker, or Oathbreaker, alongside an instant or sorcery as their signature spell in a 60-card singleton format similar to Commander.

This is a colorless Oathbreaker deck that pairs Karn, Scion of Urza with All Is Dust as the signature spell. This is an artifact-focused deck that relies on stax effects. You’re doing everything you can to inhibit your opponents’ gameplans, primarily by restricting their access to mana with cards like Winter Orb and Lodestone Golem. You’ve also got a ton of ramp options to churn out big finishers like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Karn Liberated way ahead of schedule.

Karn, Scion of Urza is a great Oathbreaker for this deck because he functions as both card advantage and a win condition. It can draw you cards until you want to use the Construct tokens to win the game – and you’ve got plenty of artifacts to make those tokens huge. All Is Dust is a fantastic signature spell because it wipes all your opponents’ boards while leaving yours completely untouched. It also deals with opposing Oathbreakers and gets around indestructible.

Wrap Up

Karn, the Great Creator - Illustration by Wisnu Tan

Karn, the Great Creator | Illustration by Wisnu Tan

In the long, rich history of Magic’s story, there are few characters with more impact and relevance than Karn. A golem created as a simple workhorse, Karn grew into something much more. He grew into a friend, a fighter, a pacifist, a warrior, and a creator of worlds. He’s also a deeply caring individual, as seen by his willingness to sacrifice his spark.

Karn’s also had a history as a game piece with iconic cards like Karn Liberated and Karn, the Great Creator. With so much lore, it’s no wonder he’s a fan-favorite character. What do you think of Karn? Is he a good character? What do you think is next for him in the story? Let me know in the comments or on the Draftsim Discord.

Thanks for reading, and stay safe!

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