Magic Memories: Karmic Guide


The Tentacled One
When it comes to graveyard recursion, black and green are the two most prominent colors. But white has some excellent tools of its own. I've covered some green cards in this area. Black graveyard recursion and reanimation effects haven't really been a subject I've deliberately tackled in Magic Memories, but it's some up indirectly on some occasions. With white? Well, I guess there was the Sun Titan thread. And Sun Titan is a great card. That got me thinking about Karmic Guide, a card that I've been using since it came out, a decade before Sun Titan existed.

Karmic Guide has been one of the most potent creature recursion effects in the game for over 20 years, but it's also a bit of an unsung hero. Even when it's doing well, some other card generally gets top billing. Karmic Guide is possibly the greatest angel card ever, the greatest white reanimation tool ever, one of the most enduring and potent creature toolbox components, one of white's greatest combo pieces, one of the best targets for flicker effects, the greatest "echo" creature, one of the best spirits, and generally one of the greatest creatures of the 90's. I'm not exaggerating on any of those points and any one of them would be noteworthy. Karmic Guide has them all, so you'd think that it would have a reputation as one of the game's all-stars. Instead it just doesn't, for some reason.

By no means am I suggesting that Karmic Guide has a bad reputation. It definitely has a good reputation. It's a good card and everyone seems to admit this. But when the time comes to talk about the greatest cards, Karmic Guide probably doesn't come up at all. If it's narrowed down to a more specific category, like white creatures, then Karmic Guide might warrant a mention as an afterthought or runner-up. There are reasons it shook out this way, and I think I can wrap my head around most of them. I'll explore some of those circumstances. But the more I scrutinize it, the more I think the Magic community tacitly understates the potency of this card.
Karmic Guide always seems to find itself overshadowed. I'm not sure why either. It was featured in the Flash lists in Legacy ...but that's the only thing I can think of off the top of my head. It's a sweet card in Commander too, one of the better reanimation cards for white. It's actually available in Modern now too because it was reprinted in MH2 which I don't remember that happening either haha.


The Tentacled One
It was featured in the Flash lists in Legacy ...but that's the only thing I can think of off the top of my head.
Yep, its biggest spike in tournament usage would definitely have been in Flash decks. Karmic Guide has made other appearances in Legacy, to a lesser extent. The other big Legacy application was in Cephalid Breakfast decks. Flash was a much bigger deal over its short window, but Karmic Guide was a Cephalid Breakfast staple for a long time, until the archetype eventually petered out as more broken stuff made it obsolete.

Components of the Flash package made their way into Legacy Reanimator decks (it was basically the Flash deck, only not as good), but the Mystical Tutor ban put a stop to the versions of Reanimator that took this approach. Karmic Guide was also in some Survival decks, but then Survival of the Fittest was banned. And it was sometimes used in Pattern Rector decks. But the format evolved out from under those applications. It eventually resurfaced in Birthing Pod decks, which I've seen. I can't prove it, but I suspect that those Pod decks were the result of Modern players being pushed out by the Birthing Pod ban and reconfiguring their pet deck for Legacy. And I'd imagine that was bittersweet for them: Legacy Pod makes Modern Pod look slow and clumsy, but Legacy Pod couldn't become a competitive force in the format. It just didn't do that well.

The Vintage Hulk Flash archetype used the same cards and stuck around for longer than the Legacy version, but the restriction of Flash abruptly ended Karmic Guide's Vintage tournament career. I haven't heard of Karmic Guide making appearances in Modern yet, but I wouldn't discount the possibility of it happening in the future.
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I totally forgot about all those decks! Good stuff! I wouldn't be surprised to see Karmic Guide pop again in Modern in the future, especially if Pod ever gets unbanned. It's a good combo card as well as just a decent midrange or value card.


The Tentacled One
It's a good combo card as well as just a decent midrange or value card.
There's that too! I was going to bring that up at some point. It's worth mentioning. The use of the "Echo" mechanic on this card has its pros and cons, but having to pay for the creature twice gets mitigated because you get the value of two creatures: the one you brought back from your graveyard and the 2/2 flying pro-black angel. Sure, a little 2/2 spirit (angel) isn't worth five mana, let alone twice. But if you don't have anything better to spend the mana on, then the reanimation effect comes with that 2/2 body. You can sacrifice it to some other card or let it die to its own upkeep, then reuse it if the opportunity arises. But I've also found myself simply paying the echo cost and having Karmic Guide pitch in as an attacker. Or it can chump block. Sometimes it messes with combat math for an opponent because of the foreknowledge that you can throw Karmic Guide in the path of an attacker, but you were going to let it die to its own echo cost anyway. Protection from black sometimes just doesn't come up, but it's not nothing. Against some opponents, the combination of flying and protection from black lets this humble 2/2 punch through the last few points of damage.

I'll probably talk about combos a lot in this thread, and Karmic Guide is a card that has seen its share of infinite loops. But the overall utility of Karmic Guide in a midrange utility role, especially in a deck heavy on graveyard manipulation, is remarkable in its own right. Big, crazy loops are bound to dominate the historical tournament presence for this card (and probably future tournament usage too), but the subtle value of the 2/2 flying body can really matter. I've had non-combo decks in which I would not have run Resurrection, but did run Karmic Guide, even though it costs an extra mana.


The Tentacled One
I talked about this in the Tolarian Academy thread, but Karmic Guide was an unfortunate casualty of a reaction to the "Combo Winter" of 1998 and 1999. In the case of Karmic Guide, this happened in a roundabout way, so I should explain....

Karmic Guide came out in Urza's Legacy, which was released in mid-February of 1999. At the, WotC imposed power-level errata on the four blue "free" creatures in Urza's Saga and Urza's Legacy starting in March: Great Whale, Peregrine Drake, Cloud of Faeries, and Palinchron.

This came about because Great Whale was being used in an infinite combo deck with Recurring Nightmare. Recurring Nightmare was banned anyway, and I criticized this in the Magic Memories thread for Tolarian Academy. What I didn't note at that time is that WotC probably feared the infinite mana combo of Sneak Attack + Palinchron. They would have had to weigh the options between banning Palinchron, banning Sneak Attack, doing nothing, or attempting to determine which of the four "free" creatures were safe and which ones would need to be banned. Power-level errata was a more aggressive solution, but it was also effective.

Personally, I've gone back and forth with regard to how much of a problem the "free" creatures ever really were. Palinchron is bonkers, but the other three are not on the same level. Notably, tournament players managed to exploit the creatures anyway by using them alongside Bubbling Muck. So maybe the sledgehammer of power-level errata was the cleanest solution to a real problem. One way or another, the errata happened. At the time, Karmic Guide escaped the fallout of this entirely. But that was short-lived. And it was all the fault of a new card released in June of 1999.

Treachery was an enchantment, but it was templated just like the four "free" creatures that had received errata. WotC didn't want to be inconsistent, so they decided to extend the power-level errata to Treachery. And while they were at it, they hit the unrelated Karmic Guide, which had committed the crime of having a similar wording.

By August, they'd hit Iridescent Drake too. Power-level errata were all the rage. They were so hip and in vogue. This would be undone in 2006, but Karmic Guide was essentially nerfed for about the first seven years of its existence. So when I said I didn't know why the card doesn't have a better reputation, well, this probably didn't help!


Staff member
I forget the name, but there was a card similar to Resurrect, but it worked at instant speed - handy when you're being attacked and you can pull your favorite critter out of your graveyard with +1/+1. Good times...


Staff member
Yes, that's the one. It's a little more expensive than Resurrection, but since it only required one white mana, it was easier to splash into other decks...


The Tentacled One
Interesting. I noticed it when I was going through the full set of Visions for setting up my collection binders, but I haven't ever played Miraculous Recovery and honestly can't recall seeing someone else use it against me. As Magic cards go, it's decent. It was reprinted in Ultimate Masters, so if I'd gotten the opportunity to draft the set, I'd almost certainly have run into Miraculous Recovery.

It would have rotated out of Type 2 before Karmic Guide was printed, but it was definitely still floating around and I probably owned a copy at the time. Thinking about the nerfed version of Karmic Guide that existed from 1999 to 2006, Miraculous Recovery is looking pretty good as an alternative. You get instant speed and a +1/+1 counter. Not bad. And of course you're right about the single white pip. I was using Breath of Life for much the same reason, and four mana is better than five. But man, instant speed? Worth it.

Thinking of what my games were like back then, asking myself about situations in which I could or would play Karmic Guide, "Would Miraculous Recovery have just been better there?" I think the answer is usually yes. Eventually, that would stop being true. By a lot. Karmic Guide is a far more flexible and potent card than Miraculous Recovery in 2022. But in 2000? I suspect it was the other way around.


The Tentacled One
I'll get back to old Memories at some point, but here's a fresh one I just came across with one of the brand-new cards released last week...
  1. Vivien on the Hunt resolves and the +2 ability is used to sacrifice a 3-drop creature, grabbing Felidar Guardian from the library.
  2. Felidar Guardian's ability blinks Vivien. The new Vivien's +2 ability is used to sacrifice Felidar Guardian, grabbing Karmic Guide.
  3. Karmic Guide brings back Felidar Guardian, which blinks Vivien again.
  4. The new Vivien's +2 ability is used to sacrifice Felidar Guardian, grabbing Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.
  5. Kiki-Jiki is activated to make a copy of Karmic Guide. The copy brings back Felidar Guardian. Felidar Guardian blinks Kiki-Jiki.
  6. The new Kiki-Jiki is activated to make a copy of of Felidar Guardian, which blinks Kiki-Jiki.
  7. Infinite hasty Felidar Guardians attack for the win.
Of course, Karmic Guide has been used to enable infinite combos many times over the years. Some of those loops are ones I've personally used. But this was a brand new one I happened to witness, so I figured it might be a nice benchmark for comparison to the older setups we'll discuss in this thread.
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The Tentacled One
Enough of the newfangled chicanery! Back to the good old days. Well, they weren't such good days for Karmic Guide, on account of that pesky erratum. It's not so much that Karmic Guide is a card you always want to cheat into play. Hardcasting Karmic Guide is feasible and normal. But having access to the EtB trigger through other means is valuable. Even in 1999, this blocked synergies that Karmic Guide could have used with Sneak Attack, Lifeline, Flicker, Victimize, Living Death, Diabolic Servitude, etc. But I think the biggest missed opportunity here was Recurring Nightmare.

We know that Recurring Nightmare was a reasonably successful tournament card in this era of the game, and its use with Great Whale was probably the motivating factor behind the sweeping power level errata that hit Karmic Guide as an afterthought. What doesn't come up as often is that Karmic Guide would have been decent alongside Recurring Nightmare. I'm not saying that we'd have seen a powerhouse Standard or Extended deck with this interaction: those environments had some obnoxiously powerful stuff. But the potential would have been there!

Rec-Sur was at its peak before the Urza's Block came in, and would have needed retooling to make use of Karmic Guide anyway, but it strikes me as plausible. I mean, check out the old Rath Block Constructed "Horsecraft" deck...

12 Forest
10 Swamp
1 Cloudchaser Eagle
1 Hermit Druid
2 Mindless Automaton
1 Mogg Fanatic
2 Spike Feeder
2 Spike Weaver
1 Spike Breeder
1 Stronghold Assassin
4 Wall of Blossoms
2 Workhorse
3 Corpse Dance
4 Earthcraft
4 Overgrowth
4 Recurring Nightmare
3 Scroll Rack
3 Survival of the Fittest

3 Canopy Spider
1 Cloudchaser Eagle
3 Oath of Ghouls
2 Spike Weaver
2 Stronghold Taskmaster
1 Stronghold Assassin
2 Thrull Surgeon
1 Verdigris

That's pretty clever, and something similar could easily have supported a hypothetical Karmic Guide. And it's worth noting that Rec-Sur was an archetype that went on to see play in the early years of the Legacy format. I contend that if Karmic Guide hadn't been nerfed from 1999 to 2006, it would have been a key player in Rec-Sur decks across multiple formats. Here's a Legacy Rec-Sur decklist, which I believe to be from 2008. Behold, it contains Karmic Guide...

1 Bile Urchin
1 Carrion Feeder
1 Harmonic Sliver
1 Karmic Guide
1 Loxodon Hierarch
1 Reveillark
1 Shriekmaw
1 Squee, Goblin Nabob
1 Withered Wretch
2 Eternal Witness
2 Tarmogoyf
3 Academy Rector
3 Wall of Roots
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
3 Duress
4 Cabal Therapy
1 Moat
1 Recurring Nightmare
3 Pernicious Deed
4 Survival of the Fittest
1 Murmuring Bosk
1 Plains
1 Swamp
2 Phyrexian Tower
2 Wooded Foothills
3 Bayou
3 Savannah
4 Forest
4 Windswept Heath

1 Academy Rector
1 Choke
1 Dovescape
1 Form of the Dragon
1 Ivory Mask
1 Kataki, War's Wage
3 Krosan Grip
4 Leyline of the Void
1 Loxodon Hierarch
1 Yixlid Jailer

Yeah, the Karmic Guide is obviously there for an infinite loop with Reveillark. But still!


The Tentacled One
Well, the Reveillark is out of the bag now. I've got nothing against Reveillark. It's a great card and I use it alongside Karmic Guide myself all the time. I currently have the pair in an EDH deck: An Elephant Never Forgets. My qualm here is that the two work together so well, I had hoped to lead with more about Karmic Guide as a card on its own. Well, the ability that makes Karmic Guide such a great card requires a creature in your graveyard, so I don't literally mean on its own. Rather, I want to emphasize that Karmic Guide is a pretty nice card even outside of Reveillark loops. I used Karmic Guide before Reveillark existed. Karmic Guide doesn't need Reveillark in order to be a good Magic card!

Karmic Guide and Reveillark go together like chocolate and peanut butter. But I thought I'd spend some time talking about chocolate without bringing up peanut butter just yet.

The problem is that pesky power-level erratum! Reveillark was released in early 2008. Karmic Guide existed in its nerfed state from 1999 to 2006. There was a window of time in which the fully fledged Karmic Guide lived in a world without Reveillark. Over a year. At first glance, this doesn't seem like too narrow a window. And then I gave the matter some thought...
  • By the time its erratum was rescinded, Karmic Guide had rotated out of the Extended format. Its only possible niches for tournament play had to exist in Vintage and in Legacy.
  • By the time the Legacy community got around to noticing the potential of Karmic Guide, they'd also been alerted to a more important power level erratum removal: Flash.
  • By this time, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker had existed for a few years and its power was well known.
  • Flash Hulk. Karmic Guide becomes a component in Flash Hulk decks.
  • Flash Hulk dominates Legacy in early 2007. Why bother using Karmic Guide in some weaker deck when it can be used in the best deck?
So Karmic Guide gets a pre-Reveillark application, but it's pretty much all just down to that one application. At least in tournaments. Casual players can do whatever. In tournaments, Karmic Guide was a combo piece in the oppressive Flash Hulk deck. Once Flash was banned in mid-2007, Karmic Guide was able to more or less continue this role. If you aren't familiar with such decks or don't remember, I can help. There were two distinct archetypes doing this.

  1. Get Protean Hulk into your graveyard, probably by casting Cabal Therapy on yourself.
  2. Use Reanimate or Exhume to get Protean Hulk onto the battlefield.
  3. Sacrifice Protean Hulk to Cabal Therapy. Use its ability to get both Carrion Feeder and Karmic Guide.
  4. Have Karmic Guide get Protean Hulk back.
  5. Sacrifice Protean Hulk to Carrion Feeder. Use its ability to get Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.
  6. Tap Kiki-Jiki to make a hasty copy of Karmic Guide. While this is on the stack, sacrifice Kiki-Jiki to Carrion Feeder.
  7. Have the copy of Karmic Guide get Kiki-Jiki back.
  8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 to make an army of hasty 2/2 flyers.
  9. Attack for the win.
Cephalid Breakfast
  1. Get Nomads en-Kor + Cephalid Illusionist. Repeatedly target the Illusionist with the Nomads, milling your entire library into your graveyard. Narcomoebas trigger and show up on the battlefield.
  2. Sacrifice Narcomoebas to flashback Dread Return, getting Karmic Guide.
  3. Have Karmic Guide bring back Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
  4. Tap Kiki-Jiki to make a hasty copy of Karmic Guide.
  5. Have the copy of Karmic Guide get Sky Hussar. This untaps all your creatures.
  6. Use Kiki-Jiki to make hasty copies of Sky Hussar, which keep untapping Kiki-Jiki so that you can do it over and over.
  7. Attack for the win.
These are not actually the only post-Flash, pre-Reveillark applications for Karmic Guide. But the vast majority of Legacy appearances of the card during that window fell into one of these two categories. You either looped Karmic Guide infinitely with something or you used Karmic Guide to set up an infinite loop with something else.

Before we move on, let's find an exception! Here's a Survival decklist from 2007. Due to a reporting error, the sideboard we see here would have been illegal, but I can't find the correct version...

1 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
1 Blazing Archon
1 Bogardan Hellkite
1 Karmic Guide
1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
1 Man-o'-War
1 Phage the Untouchable
1 Psychatog
1 Simic Sky Swallower
2 Birds of Paradise
2 Elvish Spirit Guide
2 Volrath's Shapeshifter
3 Eternal Witness
4 Brainstorm
4 Force of Will
1 Living Wish
3 Show and Tell
1 Root Maze
4 Survival of the Fittest
4 Aether Vial
2 Polluted Delta
2 Tropical Island
3 Wooded Foothills
6 Island
8 Forest

3 Echoing Truth
1 Gaea's Blessing
3 Krosan Grip
1 Loaming Shaman
1 Magus of the Moon
3 Tormod's Crypt
1 True Believer
1 Trygon Predator
1 Venser, Shaper Savant
1 Viridian Zealot

This would seem to be the closest thing to a non-combo inclusion of Karmic Guide from this era. The primary use for Karmic Guide would probably have been hardcasting it to reanimate a fatty that had previously been pitched to Survival of the Fittest. Akroma would have been a likely choice here. Alternatively, rescuing a fallen Volrath's Shapeshifter when you had the cards ready to go for a traditional "Full English Breakfast" kill would have been a consideration. Another interesting option here might have been to use Karmic Guide to set up interactions with Kiki-Jiki and Bogardan Hellkite. Not infinite, but it's also not hard to imagine this resulting in lethal damage.


The Tentacled One
I was curious to see if a CPA searched turned up any love for Karmic Guide. It kind of did. In true CPA fashion, what I found didn't make much sense, but was fun and silly.

Back in 1999, Baron Sengir came up with a proposal for a "CPA deck" with cards themed around members of the boards. It appears that the deck was never fully completed, but they got a lot further along than we would these days! In 2022, we've only had 10 members post anything at all, and I doubt we'd even get half that number to contribute their themed cards for such a project. I didn't know about this place in 1999, but some familiar names come up in the thread. Here are the cards that came up...

Baron Sengir → Baron Sengir (duh)
Veldrane of Sengir → Veldrane of Sengir (same thing)
Child of Gaea → Child of Gaea (another easy one)
Ferret → Joven's Ferrets
Ferret → Repopulate (Ferret correctly endorsed the superior artwork on this card over the rather lackluster art on Joven's Ferrets)
Nekrataal → Nekrataal (this was pretty easy for CPA members whose handles were actual Magic card names)
Ed Sullivan → Plated Spider (because he's the web master)
igfett → Bounty Hunter (because of Boba Fett from Star Wars?)
Dune Echo → Avalanche Riders (because the card uses the "echo" mechanic)
Zadok001 → Greater Good (?)
Waubers → Mounstrous Hound (because this member's handle came from his dog's name)
K1 → Karmic Guide (K1 liked angels and stuff)
Stormseeker → Stormseeker (another easy one)
Stark → Starke of Rath (close enough, right?)
Force of Nature → Force of Nature (username was already a card name)
TheOrgg → Orgg (another obvious one)
Forkblast → Fireblast (Forked Bolt wouldn't exist for another decade or so)
Drik2 → Orim, Samite Healer (member was a pediatrician, apparently)
David Doust → Serra Avatar (suggested by Ed)
Masticore → Masticore (another existing card name)
Noj the Necromancer → Necromancy (makes sense)
The CPA as a whole → Unlikely Alliance
TomB → Tombstone Stairwell (the card has his name in it)
Bane → Deranged Hermit (member confessed to being deranged)
Forum lurkers → Silent Attendant
JF → Ertai, Wizard Adept (?)
Stacy Doust → Serra Angel (to go with David Doust's Serra Avatar)
Faxe → River Boa (because the user was from Brazil)
The classic CPA forum color theme → All Hallow's Eve
God → Divine Intervention (seems appropriate)
Ihsan's Shade → Ihsan's Shade (another existing card name)
Spidermage → Hidden Spider (we all know this was you, Spiderman)

The project kind of fizzled, but Orgg brought it back.


The Tentacled One
And then there's this guy...

Karmic Guide being used the old-fashioned way can be cool, but as we've already seen in this thread, it's the loops that really break the card. Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker was easily the most prominent enabler for such loops when Karmic Guide first had its power level erratum rescinded, and remains one of the strongest. All of that was soon to be overshadowed by Reveillark.

The general play pattern here is to have an easily reusable sacrifice outlet and to sacrifice Reveillark to bring back Karmic Guide and one other creature. Karmic Guide brings back Reveillark, then you can sacrifice Karmic Guide to the outlet. Follow that up with sacrificing Reveillark, and you can get Karmic Guide and another creature. Rinse, repeat. Which other creature hops along for the ride? Well, there are lots of options. The first time I used this combo, the other creature in the loop was Mogg Fanatic. And the most recent time I can recall, I used Solemn Simulacrum. Some notable examples...

-Bile Urchin (drain your opponent's life with each loop)
-Mogg Fanatic (targeted damage wherever you want, usually at your opponent)
-Triskelion (another ping damage option)
-Wall of Blossoms (draw cards and dig for something lethal)
-Wall of Roots (make infinite green mana)
-Sakura-Tribe Elder (not your first resort, but pulling all your basics from your library onto the battlefield can set things up if you have no other options)
-Eternal Witness (in the right conditions, looping non-creatures from your graveyard can win the game)
-Kitchen Finks (gain infinite life)
-Yosei, the Morning Star (lock your opponent down)
-Stingscourger (some of these decks usually won through combat damage, so bouncing blockers is highly effective)
-Blood Artist (superceded most other life-draining options)
-Saffi Eriksdotter (allows Karmic Guide to do an extra loop, bringing back all creatures from your graveyard as many times as you like)

My personal favorite is Iridescent Drake, which I wrote about in an article for the old CPA frontpage. On its own, Iridescent Drake does nothing for us in this type of loop. But I was using it in a Pattern Rector deck. Oh, I probably covered this already in the Magic Memories thread for Academy Rector? Oh well!


It looks like I used Body Double instead of Karmic Guide in my original example, but I switched to Karmic Guide at some point after the article was published...

Use Iridescent Drake's ability to get Pattern of Rebirth back enchanting it, then sacrifice the Drake and use Pattern of Rebirth to find Reveillark and put it into play. Sacrifice Reveillark to bring Iridescent Drake back into play and use the Drake's ability to get Pattern of Rebirth again. Sacrifice the Drake and use Pattern of Rebirth to find Body Double, copying Reveillark. Here's where this method gets really cool. At this time, you can simply use the Body Double's copied Reveillark ability to bring itself and Iridescent Drake both back, using the Drake to bring back Pattern of Rebirth again to get Mogg Fanatic and do the infinite damage loop just like with the first method. But at any point, instead of recurring Mogg Fanatic, you could get the Drake and Pattern of Rebirth instead. So you can put any and every creature from your library into play. For most practical purposes, you'll just use the Fanatic to win, but there really are a lot of possibilities with this.

I'm tempted to say that this makes the old toolbox version of Pattern-Rector obsolete. But I've yet to see an actual deck built around this concept, so it's not yet clear if that's the case. Academy Rector might not even be necessary here, although it seems like it would be a perfectly good card to use. If you do want to take a shot at building this deck, keep in mind that Hulk Flash decks found it worthwhile to run a Body Snatcher. That way if either Reveillark or Body Double is in your hand instead of your library, you can instead put Body Snatcher into play, discard the combo component, and kill Body Snatcher to put the combo component into play. Good luck.


The Tentacled One
Of course lately I've been making use of Karmic Guide in my EDH decks, but I was a fan of the card long before I made the transition to almost exclusively playing EDH instead of real Magic formats. I've experimented with Pattern Rector decks in multiple formats over the years, and the archetype has really grown on me in all that time.

I've talked a lot about my appreciation for combos, but what I don't always emphasize is that certain interactions have really been what keep me hooked on the game after 25+ years. Dark Ritual + Necropotence is the first one that comes to mind, and I recall discussing a bit with Psarketos how it isn't really necessarily the sheer power of the combo or deck, but rather the intricacy in how it plays out, the choices that are presented. Dark Ritual can push Necropotence out on turn 1, so that you can immediately shift from playing "normal" Magic to playing in a totally different way, where you aren't confined by drawing one card per turn, but by how you use your life total as a resource. In turn, once you are in Necropotence mode, copies of Dark Ritual boost tempo and enable plays that would otherwise take longer. Powerful, sure, but this isn't about me wanting to do broken things. Easy wins get old quickly. In the past, I certainly played in spaces where my Necro decks were at least slightly disfavored, but the satisfaction in navigating my own play patterns, gauging how much life I could afford to lose at different points, is something special. I'd rather have an environment in which Dark Ritual and Necropotence are both unrestricted even if the deck itself is a bit of an underdog in that environment. And these days, that's almost impossible. But Academy Rector + Pattern of Rebirth is another one of these interactions. The package is extremely flexible and each piece augments the utility value of the other, effectively opening up a toolbox of different creature and enchantment options. Sometimes it's an infinite loop. Sometimes it's the last card you needed to beat an opponent down with combat damage. Sometimes it's purely defensive. The flexibility of the Pattern Rector toolbox setup is basically unique to Magic: the Gathering. I've never seen anything else like it in any other game.

Of course, the details of which creatures and which enchantments are used have evolved with time. There are card bans and there are new printings. There are different formats, with their own card pools and their own obstacles. And Karmic Guide has been one of the most notable and most consistent tools in these decks. It's fitting that, like Pattern of Rebirth and Academy Rector, Karmic Guide is originally from Urza's Block. Even after all these years of power creep, a surprising number of key cards for this archetype date back to that controversial, yet amazing, block. If things had gone just a little differently, I really think that we could have had a proper Pattern Rector deck in 1999 or 2000. A fully functional Karmic Guide would have been part of that, but I can't figure out how the deck would try to finish opponents off. It's a fun little idea, though.

Maybe Phyrexian Ghoul would have been the sac outlet and the loop would have been to use two Karmic Guides, with each one bringing the other back?


The Tentacled One
I already appreciated Karmic Guide well before 2014, but that was when I began using the card in EDH. Some of that is archived in this thread, but not very well. Karmic Guide was in the very earliest test builds of that deck and remained throughout the evolution of my Karador deck, into the transition of the deck to the Canadian Highlander format, and where it was eventually poached for a couple of my West Coast Commander League decks. So it was a staple throughout. There's another story that this narrative doesn't really capture.

The deck I started out calling "Helcomb County Municipal Lake Dredge Appraisal" had its roots in my aspiration to abuse Bazaar of Baghdad in the EDH format. I was thinking of the classic Ichorid decks from Vintage, and wanted to translate that to EDH in a way that wasn't really tenable at the time. Version 1.0 was running stuff like Bridge from Below and Bloodghast, and the idea of needing to to take down multiple opponents, each starting at 40 life, was kind of glossed over or underestimated. In the early builds, Karmic Guide was key, as I wasn't really using sac outlets for unbounded loops. So I often found myself doing stuff like using Reya Dawnbringer to bring back Karmic Guide, then not paying the echo. A setup I used for a while was to have Angel of Despair or Shriekmaw kill my own creature, often Ashen Rider. Karmic Guide was valuable in this sort of engine because it was one of the only recursion pieces that could kill itself (thanks to its Echo ability), so I'd have it in the graveyard ready for reuse. Apprentice Necromancer filled a similar role. Eventually, I added Phyrexian Delver just to have a second, albeit inferior, version of Karmic Guide.

The deck moved away from this playstyle, but kept Karmic Guide and other recursion cards, only with a focus on more explosive payloads, like Lord of Extinction. The targets for Karmic Guide shifted, but Karmic Guide itself became better overall. In fact, the entire evolution of this deck over the years might have just been a showcase in squeezing more value out of Karmic Guide. For years, I thought that this would be my primary EDH deck, my pet project that I'd keep around permanently and focus on. I numbered each update and logged my changes. Here's how it played out...

-Series 1 started out with my initial, experimental list, and still had untenable cards like Nether Traitor.
-Series 2 streamlined the same general idea, with stuff like Kessig Cagebreakers.
-Series 3 cut midrange value stuff in favor of more recursive looping.
-Series 4 cut most of the token generation and big attackers for more sac outlets and a package focused around The Gitrog Monster. I renamed the deck in honor of The Gitrog Monster.
-Series 5 saw the deck shift focus to infinite combos with the general starting point of using a sac outlet with either Protean Hulk or Boonweaver Giant.

2018 was a bit of a weird year for my Magic decks. Over the previous few years, I had gotten used to having one EDH deck, one or two Legacy decks, one joke deck, my Burn deck, and sometimes dabbling in something else like a Vintage deck or even a Standard deck. In 2018, I shifted focus to the Canadian Highlander format. I broke apart almost all of my old decks in that process, but this also marked the beginning of diversification for my EDH decks.

I left the old Karador Dredge deck with a "Final Note."

I toyed with other ideas. Ending this has not been without reservations. I think that, for a time, I probably had the best Karador deck out there. But I haven't been giving the concept much attention and it was turning into a Pattern Rector deck anyway. Canadian Highlander, as a competitive format, is more suitable for that archetype.
Five months later, I'd reopen the thread here at the CPA and the decklist on TappedOut to announce that "the Monster is back!" It was a kind of forced continuity. Of course, GCMLDA was my most important EDH deck for quite a while thereafter. But that was a black/green deck. Karmic Guide had already moved into its new role in my Canadian Highlander deck.


The Tentacled One
Since 2019, I've been building a lot of EDH decks. Some of those have had Karmic Guide...

Uncle Stephen's Tub-'o-Lard

This deck didn't really work out for me anyway, but the idea was that between Sneak Attack, Greater Good, Doomgape, and stuff my opponents would be doing, that I'd be getting creatures in my graveyard and would want to bring some back.

Loomsday Device

This deck blinked creatures a lot, and blinking Karmic Guide was an easy way to get back any dead ones.

Needs Mor Beatdown

Another deck with plenty of big creature to reanimate, along with Sneak ATtack and Greater Good. But this one also used Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and had Ashnod's Altar, so some loops were quite possible.

The Worst Tooth and Nail Deck
A very silly deck that kept trying to keep everyone at the table healthy. The usual Karmic Guide targets were Arbiter of Knollridge and Spike Weaver.

Unsavory Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
This was a Loam deck, so binning lots of creatures was typical. Karmic Guide was an easy way to set the board up for more recursion.

Halloween Spooktacular 2021
Karmic Guide perfectly fit both the spirit theme and the graveyard theme of this deck.

Angus Mackenzie's Family-Friendly Thanksgiving
Similar to the Lady Caleria deck, this was silly and would use Karmic Guide to recur creatures I could use to save my opponents, such as Arbiter of Knollridge, Spike Weaver, Peacekeeper, etc.

An Elephant Never Forgets
One of my favorites. The simple action of cards leaving the graveyard was enough to fuel this deck, and Karmic Guide is perfect here. Reveillark loops were possible, but so were many other excellent uses for Karmic Guide.

Dance of the Grand Duke
With so many creatures dying and being reanimated as part of this deck's function, Karmic Guide was a no-brainer. It was even possible to loop Karmic Guide with my commander and Ashnod's Altar for infinite mana and 1/1 tokens.

Bless This Mess
Yeah, this one hasn't really worked out yet.


The Tentacled One
This would seem to be the closest thing to a non-combo inclusion of Karmic Guide from this era. The primary use for Karmic Guide would probably have been hardcasting it to reanimate a fatty that had previously been pitched to Survival of the Fittest. Akroma would have been a likely choice here. Alternatively, rescuing a fallen Volrath's Shapeshifter when you had the cards ready to go for a traditional "Full English Breakfast" kill would have been a consideration.
I was browsing this thread looking for something else, when I was distracted by the Full English Breakfast thing. I thought for a minute that I was being an idiot when I called this a "non-combo inclusion of Karmic Guide." Maybe I still am? I can't see a proper infinite loop here, but I can't figure why it wasn't worth it to include one either. Am I missing something? I did a search for Karmic Guide in the Premodern format and found it appearing in similar lists to this one: Full English Breakfast. Since FEB is just Volrath's Shapeshifter + Survival of the Fittest and the other cards involved here are all pretty much built around that, I don't see the obvious appeal behind Karmic Guide. And yet, the card does pop up in lists.

Notably, the Premodern Full English Breakfast decks each seem to use a full playset of Unearth. So with Volrath's Shapeshifter in your graveyard (probably because you pitched it to Survival earlier), you could use Survival of the Fittest to put Karmic Guide on top of your graveyard, cast Unearth to bring back Volrath's Shapeshifter copying Karmic Guide, and have Karmic Guide bring back something else. To what end, though? These decks don't have sac outlets other than Cabal Therapy, which seems pretty tame compared to what I'd be trying. It's not that I think Karmic Guide is a bad card (this whole thread should make that clear). It's just strange that decks in two different formats separated by over a decade in time should be using Karmic Guide alongside the same combo it doesn't actually participate in while also being virtually the only decks in those formats at those times to be running the card.

I keep thinking, "I'm missing something. Karmic Guide can bring back Volrath's Shapeshifter. While the trigger is on the stack, you kill your own Karmic Guide. Then Karmic Guide is on top of the graveyard and Volrath's Shapeshifter enters as a copy of it, which targets your Karmic Guide." But there's no sac outlet for this! No Phyrexian Ghoul. No Goblin Bombardment. Nothing. So it's not a combo.