Strictly Vorthos – Karn

Howdy folks! It’s Joe again and we’re continuing our look at various characters from Dominaria and this time we’re looking at the trifecta of our intrepid heroes from the new set. I’m talking of course about the artificial planeswalker Karn.

The Beginnings of Karn

Karn’s very existence began as a very simple idea. Urza Planeswalker, in his crusade to seek out a way to defeat the Phyrexians, began experimenting with the concept of time travel as a way to prevent the Thran from becoming the Phyrexians. However, there were severe limitations to this, as organic material was basically incapable of the act. This led Urza, with the assistance of Master Mage Barrin, to create various probes to go back in time. The two found that silver seemed to withstand the stress of temporal magic much better than any other metal, and set to work building a man out of silver at the Tolarian Academy.

Urza utilized a powerstone heart that had one belonged to Xantcha, a Phyrexian Sleeper Agent that had allied with him in his crusade. And thus, the probe that would come to be known as Karn was born.


The nameless probe was sent out to learn from the students of the Academy, and was immediately beset upon by a young Teferi. Teferi used the golem as a plaything, referring to him as Arty Shovelhead. The golem, not knowing any better, simply played along. Thankfully, Jhoira of the Ghitu was able to get the golem away from Teferi, where she began to teach him. It was during their first talks that Jhoira named the golem Karn, the Thran word for “Mighty”.

Karn began to learn and grow, while helping Urza and Barrin behind the scenes in various temporal experiments. It was during one of these experiments that Karn learned that Jhoira had taken a lover, a man she had rescued outside of the Academy that had crash landed on the island. Furthermore, Karn found out that that man, Kerrick, was infiltrating the Academy to gather plans to invade with the help of Phyrexian Negators. Jhoira was murdered, and Karn / Urza in desperation sent Karn back in time to prevent the Academy from being overrun.

Karn succeeded in going back in time and prevented the invasion as well as Jhoira’s death, but the stress placed on the temporal device became too much and the device exploded.

Karn would later return to help reconstruct the Academy with Urza and Barrin, finding that his dear friend Jhoira was still alive. Reconnecting with her and Teferi, Karn found that without the temporal experiments, he no longer had a real place. Urza had decided to bolster Dominaria’s defenses against Phyrexia, abandoning the plan to send Karn back in time.

Karn was present for many victories, such as the diplomatic talks that allowed the use of the Shivan Mana Rig, and the Weatherlight‘s first mission into Serra’s Realm. Eventually, Jhoira left to work with Teferi on the Mana Rig, while Karn sought to fill the hole in his life by joining the Weatherlight and her crew. However, his depression only worsened. Seeing him distraught, Barrin approached Urza to help him. Urza created a mental cap that would dampen Karn’s memories, allowing him to only recall 20 years at a time. However, Karn would never forget Jhoira, spending every night with a picture of her stating “Jhoira is my friend.”

The Legacy of Urza

Karn was later entrusted with the culmination of all of Urza’s artifacts and his work that resulted in the creation of the human component of the Legacy  – the Capashen bloodline. Karn became a trusted advisor to the Capashens, guiding them towards a single point – Gerrard Capashen. However, Phyrexian raiders attacked the Benalish family when Gerrard was young, forcing Karn to escape to bring the young heir to the Legacy to Sidar Kondo, a Jamuraan war leader who had previously agreed with house the boy should the worst ever come to pass.

Karn stayed with Gerrard until Vuel, jealous of Gerrard’s Legacy after ruining his Rite of Passage, stole the pieces of the Legacy. When Karn went to retrieve them, he was tricked by Vuel into killing an innocent bystander and then deactivated by use of the Touchstone.

Karn lay dormant for years until he was retrieved by Captain Sisay and placed on the Weatherlight. Gerrard found the golem within the hold of the ship after Sisay had been kidnapped by Volrath, reactivating him. Once again, Karn was with his friend and the Legacy, but the killing of the innocent weighed heavily on his mind. He swore an oath of pacifism, vowing to never again raise his hand against another.

The golem joined the crew of the Weatherlight to the plane of Rath, where he was captured by the vicious Greven il-Vec, and taken into the Stronghold. There, Greven tortured Karn’s mind by filling his cell with Mogg goblins and forcing him to land on them, killing them. Being rescued by Gerrard and the others, Karn independently sought out the Legacy artifacts, finding them with the Sliver Queen. Karn convinced the Queen to part with the artifacts, explaining to her that the Legacy was a part of him, just as her swarm was a part of her.

Karn would later join the crew in their escape from Rath and into Mercadia, where they located further pieces of the Legacy. The Weatherlight would arrive back into Dominaria in time for the beginnings of the Phyrexian Invasion.

The Invasion, and Ascension

Karn’s vow of pacifism would catch up with him during the early days of the Invasion, where he was forced to confront Tsabo Tavoc, the Phyrexian general. Karn realized his vow was keeping from protecting the people he loved, and then he was struck on the head, removing the mental cap that dampened his memories. Karn immediately remembered millenia of time, and how he had killed before in the name of protecting Jhoira. He became instrumental in helping Gerrard defeat Tavoc.

However, as the Invasion progressed and Rath began to overlay itself onto Dominaria, Karn took to the Weatherlight and spent most of his time guiding the ship as it further integrated the pieces of the Legacy. To Karn’s surprise, he found that he was able to understand the Thran Tome and its contents, triggering Weatherlight’s sentient final evolution. Karn was overjoyed to have found someone who truly understood him.

However, the ship gave itself up in life to try to defeat Yawgmoth, and Karn was reunited with Urza and Gerrard. Urza instructed Gerrard that there may still be hope and to take his powerstone eyes and place them inside of the silver golem to trigger the Legacy Weapon. With this act, a surging wave of white mana spilled forth, killing Yawgmoth and both humans. Karn was left, having ascended to become a planeswalker.

Karn, the Planeswalker

Karn spent some time traveling the Multiverse before creating the artificial plane Argentum, a plane of mathematical perfection. He created probes to send out among the multiverse, one of which ended up on Dominaria and became the Mirari. Karn again descended into a deep depression caused by the horrid state of the worlds he found himself gazing upon. He was jarred out of this depression by the arrival of Karona. Karn disguised himself as Lord Macht to converse with her and then she left, bringing Karn’s attention back to Dominaria. He found that Karona had been defeated, where her essence had merged back into the form of Jeska, which in turn ignited her own planeswalker spark.

Karn took Jeska under his wing after returning the Mirari to Argentum where he developed it into a guardian named Memnarch. All was not well however, as glistening oil traces left by Karn’s Phyrexian powerstone heart (the heart of Xantcha) infected the guardian. Memnarch transformed the plane into Mirrodin, and shut his creator out of the plane.

Eventually Karn was able to break through the planar blockade by sending dreams to the nascent planeswalker Glissa Sunseeker. Glissa, Slobad, and Bosh were able to finally defeat Memnarch, lowering the blockade for Karn to fix things. He transformed Memnarch back into the Mirari and entrusted it in the care of Glissa, Slobad, and Geth before leaving once more.

Karn would later return to Dominaria, heeding the call of Jhoira to help correct the time rifts that had been plaguing the plane. Karn returned back in time to the Invasion, where he sought to close the rift. However, the Phyrexian corruption began to take hold on Karn’s mind. To protect the others, he planeswalked through the Blind Eternities, eventually returning to Mirrodin.

The Father of Machines

Karn settled in the core of Mirrodin, being hailed by the budding Phyrexians as the Father of Machines. While the Phyrexians vied for his favor, Karn was trapped in his own mind, facing becoming his own worst fear. In a moment of sheer lucidity he sent a messenger to bring to him Venser of Urborg.

Venser, Koth, Elspeth, and Melira found Karn at the center of the plane’s corrupted core, where Melira (a Sylvok who was immune to the effects of glistening oil) cleansed the Phyrexian corruption from Karn’s body, but was unable to cleanse the golem’s heart. Knowing his own life was forfeit due to medical condition, Venser gave up his own spark/life to transfer it into Karn. The sacrifice cleansed Karn, freeing him from the Phyrexian control.  Karn briefly mourned his friend before joining the battle against the Phyrexians.

Dominaria Once More

Karn traveled back to Dominaria in search of a weapon that would destroy the Phyrexians for good, the Golgothian Sylex that Urza had used in the Brother’s War. During this time, he met with Jaya Ballard and Chandra Nalaar, while trying to quell Multani’s regrowth spasms to get to the Sylex. Karn became convinced to defeat the Cabal and Belzenok, meeting his friends Teferi and Jhoira once more.

After the Cabal’s defeat, Karn agreed to help the Gatewatch fight against Nicol Bolas, believing that he is a threat. However, he chose not to take the Oath of the Gatewatch, as he intended to head to New Phyrexia at some point.

Wrapping Up

That’s all the time we have this week folks! I hope you enjoyed this little look into the world of Magic. Next time we’re delving deeper into the older storylines, with a look at the history of a well-known ship. The Weatherlight.

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