Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund & the Art of Sideboarding

Is Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund playable in competitive Constructed formats? Mark Rosewater doesn’t seem to think so… But there might just be precedent to playing a seven mana Legendary Dragon who is only good against Dragons. Really!

I pay attention to a lot of the stuff Mark says.

I even follow him on Twitter at @maro254 even though the bastard doesn’t follow me back at @fivewithflores (hint: follow @fivewithflores and an angel will get her wings).

Anyway I found this to be a strange statement:

“I know the kind of responses a card like this can get from some people: a seven-mana Dragon that steals every other Dragon and gives them all haste? When is this situation going to come up exactly, where you’re still alive yet your opponent has Dragons just lying around waiting to be stolen? My response to these people is this: this card isn’t for you.

“While players understand that there exist other types of players, for some reason they forget this when they run across a card that doesn’t make sense to them. Why did Wizards print such a card? The answer is because we believed someone else would value it. Karrthus might not win any tournaments (even then, he is a 7/7 flier with haste for seven mana—hey, aesthetics popping up its head again), but I do know he’s going to go into a bunch of Dragon decks. I know that there will be players who rip him open and gape because in the circles they play, this is going to be an awesome card.

“Karrthus is fun. Maybe not for everyone, but definitely for the people the card was designed for.”

From “An Outside View”

It’s interesting because I and a couple of friends all had the same idea when we saw Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund: Wow! That seems pretty savage against Broodmate Dragon!

Here’s the thing: You probably wouldn’t play Karrthus in your main deck; you might not even think to sideboard him. But I asked Will Price this question last week:

You walk up to the first round pairings at Regionals. You haven’t turned in your deck list yet. You see that you are paired up against me first round… True or false, you swap one sideboard card for a single copy of Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund?

The answer was definitely, obviously, true.

Will and I will be live testing, podcasting and updating the universe “live” on Twitter tonight (check Top 8 Magic and Twitter* for details). Both of us like Jund Mana Ramp as one of our deck options right now. If you followed the awful-sounding BBQ podcasts from last week, you know why we find Mana Ramp to be so exciting. Here on Five With Flores I posted a Cascade-based ramp deck. One of the other decks I am considering is Reflecting Pool Control. What do all of these decks have in common?

They all play three or more Broodmate Dragons.

So especially in a deck that can muster seven mana, that can dig to a singleton copy of a particular game-breaking creature with Gift of the Gargantuan or Primal Command, why not play such an inexorable threat / threat-breaker?

Like I said, there is precedent.

Hydroblast is precedent.

Do you really think most Blue decks cared about blowing up individual Red cards? The Hydroblasts, in large part, were there to Counterspell the Pyroblasts to ensure that the Blue deck’s finale actually succeeded in closing the curtain; that is to keep the bad guy Stage Three non-interacting in Stage Three.

Ring of Gix is precedent (kind of**).

Back in the Napster v. Replenish days, Replenish really couldn’t beat a Stromgald Cabal. But Ring of Gix could tap it, allowing the bad guys (funny how the U/W deck is the bad guys in this example) to play their un-fun four mana White spells. Ring of Gix was notoriously difficult for Napster to deal with… Powder Keg did it, but along the way the good guys (funny how the Negator Black deck is the good guys in this example) would end up blowing up their Cabal, Skittering Horror, whatever gassy threes.

Or, Replenish could decelerate Napster into a point in Stage Two where Replenish could profitably interact and could work from to springboard into its true Stage Three.

Divert is precedent.

This is the best example I can think of because it is relatively recent… Extended PTQ season last year… Pre-season actually. The deck I was testing at the time was one of those U/W decks that Shaheen Soorani loves so much in Extended. The matchup against Red Deck Wins / Zoo was pretty good due to Spell Snares and Condemns. The trouble was in sideboarded games — especially when the Red Deck was on the play — and they could land a Molten Rain. The matchup was like 65/35 U/W if the Red Deck didn’t have Molten Rain and 20/80 if they did. The problem was that on the draw, there were no great cards to sideboard. You could play Remand but then they would just play it again. I found most of the permission spells in the format quite obnoxious and I really only liked Spell Snare and Cryptic Command, largely relying on Counterbalance to do my dirty work.

… But no way Counterblance could be accurately on-line at this stage of the game, especially on tne draw.

Enter Divert.

Divert was a card that was present purely to deal with Molten Rain. But deal it did. In addition to being pretty good against the mana tight Zoo decks at making them brain their own Tarmogoyfs with huge Tribal Flames, Divert could not only save one of my lands (and net me two life) but cripple the Red Deck at the same time.

In this case Red / Zoo was Stone Molten Raining U/W into a Stage One from which it could never recover. Using Divert, U/W could keep itself in a Stage Two where it could keep up its dukes and in fact turn the tables on the Stages.

I see Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund as kind of the same card, but with less pressure attached. Divert was pretty good, but you kind of had to have it the turn they had the Molten Rain. With Karrthus, though, you should be able to set up and dig for a few turns before you can start crushing with the opponent’s own gear.

Most of the time this will “merely” be an incredibly powerful Stage Two play that puts the opponent on a one turn clock, but sometimes… Stage Three here we come!

Tonight: Testing


If you want to follow along, ask us matchup questions, and so on, follow the Top 8 Magic team on Twitter!

Will Price
Matt Wang

** It’s only “kind of” precedent because Napster typically started Stromgald Cabal, even though it smelled like a sideboard card.

facebook comments:


#1 Daekirja on 05.05.09 at 11:57 pm

Not to forget that Chameleon Colossus is, among other things, also a dragon – still Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund is maybe not the best sideboard strategy for G/B decks …yet it would probably result in a Kodak-moment reaction if you suddenly had a 7/7 flyer and a Chameleon Colossus (both with haste).

#2 NoblePunk on 05.07.09 at 12:56 am

So are you abandoning standard Tezzeret? I would love to play the deck, but I think it’s and auto-loss to Faeries witch is harsh. What are your top two recommendations for regionals at the moment?

#3 messels on 05.07.09 at 2:54 pm

when i read the card, i also thought of all the broodmates floating around–and that was pretty much the only applicable thing i could think of. i’m not sure though. seems really, really miser-y. def’ don’t want to be cascading and then see him dumped to the bottom if the opp’ is only one turn away from broodmate. looses the whole purpose of being sideboarded in…or am i missing something? i’m def’ going to be sitting on edge waiting for your playtesting results. 🙂

#4 The American Nightmare on 05.08.09 at 1:19 pm

Two words, messels:

Primal Command

Do you ever play a Broodmate or even a Chameleon Colossus if you KNOW Flores or someone playing the deck has Kaarthus in their hand

#5 hudnall56 on 05.08.09 at 1:27 pm

Karrthus is pretty intriguing to me and might be pretty sick out of the side. Not only is he gas against Double Dragon and provides your own hardcast/Manaquined Broodmates or potentially even Chameleon Colossi with haste, but 7 points of celerity to the grill seems like exactly the sort of play I’d like to make against any deck where my potential game plan is to attack the hand with Scepter (I haven’t really been active in Standard for a while, so perhaps this is not the sort of thing you’d want to do against a Dragon deck). Definitely worth thinking about.

#6 hudnall56 on 05.09.09 at 7:52 pm

@the American Nightmare: So knowledge of a single sideboard card in hand keeps them from playing (one of) the best cards in their deck? Sounds effective.

#7 The American Nightmare on 05.10.09 at 6:51 pm

I can’t tell if youre being sarcastic, hudnal.

I play Primal Command to get Karrthus. You play Broodmate Dragon. I play Kaarthus and thank you spending six of your mana to give me two 4/4 fliers which in turn punch you in the face. It feels like the Ravnica Hunted creatures without the suck. Don’t forget that you KEEP the Dragons even if KToJ dies.

I know I’m not playing a Dragon in that spot unless I can do something about KToJ before it plops down.

#8 hudnall56 on 05.10.09 at 10:15 pm

Surprisingly enough, I was not being sarcastic. If the worst consequence that comes of telegraphing the Tyrant’s presence with a tutor is that my opponent not only won’t, but, essentially, can’t play one of the most potent cards in the format (of which they are likely packing 3 or 4) until either I’m in a position where the 7 damage matters or I’ve been forced to discard him, then I would consider Karrthus to be effective. In fact, it sounds suspiciously like dictating the field of battle, which I hear is some good.

#9 Five With Flores » Story of My Life, Terrible Tournament Report, &c. on 05.17.09 at 11:09 am

[…] cards: I tried to buy Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund on-site and it was like $8. No way. So I am running around trying to mise Karrthus to no avail. I […]

#10 Five With Flores » A Theory of Going Big on 06.05.09 at 6:49 pm

[…] Jund-colored Bloodbraid Elf decks have Broodmate Dragon… Why not play a couple of copies of Karrthus main […]

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