Debating the Gods: Karametra, God of Harvests
Welcome to the first article in what may turn out to be a new series on CMDR Shenanagins, Debating the Gods. One thing that will always be true is that different cards will be evaluated differently by different players and based on different criteria based on that player’s experiences and opinions. This started when Born of the Gods came out and my friend Eric stated that Karametra, God of Harvests was not just the worst of the new batch of Gods, but also a bad card in general.
What followed was a couple weeks of discussion both in person and via text messaging debating the various points of Karametra and what makes her good or bad. This eventually led to the idea for this article. I wrote down my position on Karametra, and Eric wrote his, we sent each other these positions via email and then responded to the other’s position. The final step was for each person to rebut the other’s response. The point of this was to discuss a single card from various points of view and to realize that a lot of the time, the worth of a card will be different among different players. The emails are copied below.
Karametra in Commander is a mediocre at best ramp enabler. As a potential commander at 5 mana she is subpar. True, she is a 6/7 indestructible for only 5, but you have to have 7 devotion before she becomes a creature and even with that a simple board wipe turns her back into an enchantment. Her ability is weaker than the other gods with 3 drawbacks. First, to use the ability requires casting a creature from your hand. It’s not when a creature enters the battlefield which limits her usefulness in token decks and bounce decks. Second, she only searches out either a single forest or a single plains. While it’s ok since she is white and green, it seriously limits the decks that can play her effectively. She’s stuck in a 2 color deck. She would not be good in a 3 or 5 color deck because of that limitation, where as if she read “search your library for a basic land card” she would be infinitely better as a mana fixer. Third, the land comes into play tapped. I really have nothing against this as it is very common for ramp spells to have this downside as well.
Let’s go over why she is mediocre. I think everyone can agree that Rampant Growth is the single most mediocre ramp card in magic (after all, it’s where we get the term “ramp” from). For 1 green and 1 colorless you can search up a single BASIC land card and put it into play tapped. It’s not the best, it’s not the worst, it simply is right down the middle. Now Karametra, upon casting a creature, tutors up a single PLAINS or a single FOREST and puts it into play tapped and that’s only if she’s already been played herself. She gets 2/5 the potential land, cost 3 mana more before casting a creature (so who knows how much mana will actually have been spent) and accomplishes the same as a common sorcery.
The only real up side for Karametra is the fact that if you cast multiple creatures you can tutor a plains or a forest for each of them. That means in reality that instead of casting your small creatures early in the game, you save them for turn 5 or 6 to cast them all at once. In my experience that is simply asking for a board wipe when you drop 3, 4 or more creatures on the board. It also turns you into an archenemy where the entire table turns against you. With Karametra, even with all that mana, she isn’t a game winner and it would be especially difficult to hold off a table like that.
Karametra could be used effectively in a few deck strategies but only in green and white. A landfall deck with Lotus Cobra, Admonition Angel and Rampaging Baloths would be pretty good. Also using a land destruction / mana rock strategy with her could be very effective. In that case you get her on the board with 3 or 4 mana rocks, such as Sol Ring, Signets, Darksteel Ingot, and the like, saving your small creatures. Cast a land destruction card, preferably Armageddon, and begin using your rocks to cast creatures to tutor land. You cripple your opponents while maintaining a board presence.
Now I understand why Karametra was limited by Wizards of the Coast. If she tutored up land when a creature entered the battlefield, she would be easily broken by token decks and bounce decks. If it were any land, as with Primeval Titan, she would again be too broken to play and soon would be banned. If the lands came into play untapped, again broken and banned. But with these limitations on her, coupled with her relatively high casting cost, she becomes less than desirable. There are much better 5 mana enchantments, creatures and spells in those colors that do more than what she offers.
And the argument that just being a 6/7 (why is she bigger than any other god in power and toughness?) indestructible creature for 5 mana is worthy of mythic status or picking for a deck, I don’t agree. Karametra, along with every other God since Theros, should be considered an enchantment when being picked for a deck. If any of them become creatures it’s a bonus. So with that in mind you have to ask yourself this question. Is a 5 mana enchantment that potentially tutors for one of two types of land when you cast a creature a top pick for your deck. If you are playing white and green, she’s fine, not great but fine. If you have any other color, even while playing white and green, she’s pretty much useless.
Bottom line for Karametra is this. She is not a ramp card. She is not a creature, though she can become a creature. She is not a mana fixer. She is a ramp enabler that by herself does not affect the game state. She is moderately costed, under powered and useless in most decks. Like most cards, she is amazing if built around, but unlike most of the Gods, she needs to be built around to be effective. The only other God like that is Phenax, God of Deception and he really should only be a commander.
Unlike every other God though, Karametra has limitations attached to her ability. Heliod, God of the Sun, Thassa, God of the Sea, Erebos, God of the Dead, Purphoros, God of the Forge, Nylea, God of the Hunt all affect the game the moment they hit the battlefield. Phenax turns all your creatures into amazing Millstones, no limits. Xenegos, God of Revels turns a single creature during your combat into twice what it is, no limitation. Ephara, God of the Polis, as long as a creature entered the battlefield under your control during the last turn you draw a card, amazing with tokens by the way, no limitation. Mogis, God of Slaughter, opponents either take 2 damage or sacrifice a creature, no limitation. Karametra, CAST a creature, search for a FOREST or a PLAINS, comes into play TAPPED, 3 drawbacks.
The truth is I really, really want Karametra to be a good card. I want her to dominate games. I just have a hard time seeing her do so with those limitations that were put upon her to keep her from being broken. It’s almost like Wizards knew they made a great card, maybe too great a card, so they limited her abilities and upped her power and toughness to make up for it.
In your comparison of Karametra to Rampant Growth, a couple of things were left out of the equation, primarily the fact that Karametra is re-usable. This alone is enough to make her much better ramp than Rampant Growth. With Rampant Growth you get one basic land, with Karametra you are only limited by the number of plains and forests in your deck. There are very few permanent land tutors that are repeatable, the only one coming readily to mind is Journeyer’s Kite. It is a two mana cost artifact with the ability to search for a basic land which you put into your hand, and you have to tap it and pay three mana to activate it. So once per turn, if you have the three mana open, you can search for a land, but you don’t get to ramp at all because it goes into your hand. This is a great card, but it will never get you ahead in terms of mana as it can’t give you an extra land drop. Karametra has the potential to give you multiple extra land drops, assuming you have her on the board and can cast multiple creatures on a turn.
I disagree with the fact that Karametra can only be used in a two color deck. I feel that she can easily go into a three color deck as long as it has an adequate amount of creatures. The primary reason that this is true is because most of the time you will have more mana ramp and/or fixing than just Karametra, and therefore you should be able to hit your third color reliably. Furthermore, it is true that she isn’t the best mana fixer, though she can fix a bit because she can tutor up the original dual lands and the Ravnica block dual lands, but at the same time, I see her as a ramper, not a fixer. By the time that you cast her, you should have all of the colors in your deck anyway. If you don’t then you have bigger problems. What you really want her for is to jump from five to seven, eight, nine mana in a couple of turns. She lets you reliably bypass the plateau that we all hit where we cap out at five mana with a bunch of six drops in our hand, and just can’t hit a land on our draw step to save our lives. She brings the late game into effect much earlier than if she weren’t there.
I don’t generally like to compare cards in cycles to each other unless they all do the same or similar things. In most cases we are limited to one or two of those in a deck, so it isn’t relative to look at Phenax in comparison to Karametra because they are only rarely going to be in a position where they could both be in the same deck. However, a couple of points come to mind. First, Mogis is bigger on power and Phenax is equal on toughness. Mogis is also one mana cheaper. Both Ephara and Xenagos have the same power as Karametra and Ephara is one mana cheaper. Her large size, if you look at if from a flavor standpoint, can easily be attributed to the fact that she’s green, which traditionally has large creatures. That said, every God save Mogis has one major drawback… they ALL require additional creatures. Starting with Ephara, you have to get creatures into play, which makes her good with tokens, but you draw only one card (not one per creature) and you do it on the next upkeep. Limitation. Phenax has a major drawback of being a “mill” enabler. Mill is traditionally weak. I hope he makes it more viable, and we will see when I build the deck. Also, Phenax relies on other creatures being in play, and to be truly viable, you have to have a very large amount of creatures which goes against the typical mill strategy which generally involves minimal creatures and is more of a control deck. Limitation. Xenagos has the same drawback as the others, the reliance on creatures. It is true that in his colors that shouldn’t be a problem, but he also doesn’t give them any evasion, and he only affects one other creature which can’t be him. So if your opponent is playing a token deck for example, you are SOL because they can chump block until the cows come home. Limitation. Each God has some sort of drawback… except for Mogis. He doesn’t care if you have anything but him on the board, and even if your opponents don’t have creatures to sacrifice, he doesn’t care, he just shocks them to the face. No limitations. In the end it makes little difference to the effectiveness of Karametra, as her ability isn’t effected by the other Gods… though she does have some synergy with Ephara, and I would have no problem putting both of them in a Bant deck.
As far as using her as your Commander, yes, building a deck around her ability and pairing her with landfall creatures and something like Knight of the Reliquary would be really good, but you don’t have to for her to be effective. Even if you have a green/white deck that follows a typical curve, and has a relatively high number of creatures, she will make an impact. Lets look at a typical progression. Lets say that in the first four turns you cast a ramp spell, a small creature, and hit all four land drops. You will have five mana on turn five (with only 4 land in play), and you can cast Karametra. Then on turn six you cast a three drop, maybe a four drop, and in doing so you ramp into your sixth mana. On turn seven you draw a land, play it, then cast a seven drop, ramping into your eight mana. Turn nine you cast a six drop, ramping into your ninth mana. The point is that as long as you can cast even one creature, your mana base will continue to grow. Think about it, in most games to hit nine mana it usually takes until turn eleven or twelve, maybe more. In the end, with Karametra you will almost always have the mana you need when you need it.
Notice that none of my arguments have made any reference to whether she is a creature or not. Honestly, if I were to leave her creature aspects aside, I would quite easily play a five mana enchantment that had her ability because I don’t know about you, but i hate getting stuck on six mana and waiting draw step to draw step, hoping that I draw “just one more land”.
The bottom line for me is that she is absolutely a ramp card. In fact it is what she is best at. True, she needs creatures to be cast in order to be effective, but lets face it, this is green and white, you better be playing creatures, and you better be casting them.
First, had you read my initial statement you would have seen that I did in fact point out Karametra’s ability to tutor multiple times where as Rampant Growth is a single tutor. It was in the next paragraph. You make a good point that she pushes you over that hard to reach 7 land plateau, but at what cost? The cost is in saving your small creatures until she hits the board, reliably (according to you) on turn 4 or earlier. So turn 5 and later you are dropping cards that most of us would drop on turn 1 or 2. It is true that Karametra makes it easier to cast bigger creatures late game, but if you can’t defend yourself from moderate creatures while you are building up your little creatures, you won’t last long enough to get the big ones out. Also, dropping a lot of little creatures to tutor for land makes you archenemy, drawing the attention of everyone at the table, something Karametra won’t be able to overcome.
Second, you wrote that Ephara’s ability was limited. I completely disagree. Ehpara’s draw ability takes place on EVERYONE’s upkeep. You make a token or blink a creature on someone else’s turn, draw a card next upkeep. That’s potentially 3 extra cards on other people’s turns. In a white and blue deck, not that hard to do. Not a down side. I also don’t agree with Phenax being limited on ability. His ability is unlimited but I did say he was limited to really being only a Commander and being in a deck built specifically to abuse him. As with Xenegos, you could say he’s limited in ability because it only affects one other creature on your combat step only, but in green and red you’re not playing defense, you’re playing offense and doing as much damage as possible as quickly as possible. He’s darn near perfect and I would not consider him limited, other than to say his ability targets one other creature.
I would counter that Karametra is not a ramp card, she is a ramp enabler. In green / white it is true you will be casting creatures and in Karametra’s case, tutoring for land, but to maximize her ability you do so by reducing your cards in hand. And if there is one thing you, my friend, have taught me it is to not overextend yourself and cast everything you can just because you can. It is a recipe for disaster that Karametra appears to encourage.
One of the best things I heard about Karametra is “she’s not flashy.” I agree wholeheartedly, she’s not flashy, she’s not great, she’s borderline good and mediocre. In the right deck with the right support she could very well be amazing. I would really like to see that deck in action.
There’s one position and the arguments for and against it. Here’s the other side of the coin.
I feel that Karametra is very good in Commander and is playable in most green/white decks, and potentially in three-color decks as well. First, she is a 6/7 indestructible creature for five mana. True, there is the devotion setback where she won’t be a creature very early in the game, but on the plus side, she provides two mana symbols towards that devotion on her own, leaving just five more to make her a creature. If she is a creature, then she is amazing for her mana cost.
If she isn’t a creature, then we have to look at her enchantment side which lets you tutor for a plains or forest whenever you cast a creature spell, and put it into play tapped. So this is a repeatable, conditional (on two fronts) ramp spell. That word “conditional” is troublesome; first she only triggers when you cast a creature, and second you can only search up plains or forests. For the latter condition, I feel it is largely irrelevant. In most cases you are playing her in a green and white deck, and for those cases where you are playing three color (I would never play her in a five-color deck), it is true that you can’t search up that third color, but you are likely playing a deck with a fair amount of other ramp that can. In most cases you will likely have access to all of your colors without Karametra and I feel that she is best in a deck where you cast her to speed up the process of getting your large creatures onto the battlefield, rather than fixing your mana. It is relevant to note that she can tutor up dual lands with basic land types like Hallowed Fountain if you are playing blue or Taiga if you are playing red,so while your pool of these lands is limited you only need to find one to fix your mana most of the time. The former condition to her ability has to be there. Green and white are the colors that make tokens, and if she triggered on a creature entering the battlefield, well then, in the right deck you could jump from five to twenty mana in one turn pretty easily if you have a decent token generator. She would be downright broken.
Karametra would be best in a creature heavy deck, most likely green and white, but she could fit into a three color deck from time to time. In the early game you can use her to ramp up to those large creatures much faster than you would have been able to otherwise, and in the late game she will likely hit the board as a 6/7 indestructible creature for only five mana. Perfectly playable in either case. You want to avoid putting her into a deck that uses a lot of bounce and/or blink effects, cheat into play effects, or token generation, as none of these things trigger her ability.
I think that if the right deck is built for her, she would be a great commander as well. As a five mana indestructible enchantment to start, she ramps you up into the rest of your deck nicely, and if you tie it all together with something like Landfall (say that Avenger of Zendikar that you just ramped into on turn 6), then you have an insanely good interaction going. I think that with the right opening hand you could reliably cast her on turn four most of the time, then ramp at least once or twice on turn five, putting you at six to seven land even if you had no regular land drop on turn five. But that’s speculation and of course it will vary to both ends of the spectrum.
To sum up I believe that Karametra is good in the early game as an enchantment that ramps you into the late game faster, as well as giving you the resources to hit her devotion requirement sooner, which makes her into a 6/7 indestructible creature for only five mana. I feel that she is playable in most green/white decks and some three color decks as long as they are heavy on creatures so that you are able to maximize her ability, and I feel that she would be at her best as the commander of a deck where you ramp into her as early as possible, then ramp into the big stuff even faster, and pair her up with landfall creatures to truly maximize on her abilities.
I agree with most everything you say about Karametra but I disagree with her being useful as the commander of a deck. I believe she is nothing more than a mediocre tool that could be good in a green/white deck designed to utilize her. That being said there are much better green/white commanders that could be used to more effectiveness, namely Captain Sisay. With Captain Sisay you can easily tutor up Karametra and other Legendary creatures to activate her ability. Plus Captain Sisay is white / green which means she could maximize the effectiveness of Karametra.
If you chose to use Karametra as the commander you would have to hope you draw into creatures in order to best utilize her ability. The creatures would have to be small to best use her in order to ramp larger creatures into play. Karametra also is very vulnerable to removal. Even though she is indestructible, removing other permanents of her colors pretty much neutralizes her as a creature. Therefore a Wrath of God, though it doesn’t remove her from the board will most likely remove her as a creature. With Karametra as commander it is my belief that you would end up top decking soon after she comes into play and draw the immediate attention of all other players at the table. One board wipe, board position gone, Karametra an enchantment only, lots of land and no hand. It would not be a good position. I’ve heard people say, “You’ll be pulling land out of the deck and drawing nothing but power.” In the deck you are talking about, the power will more than likely be small creatures or ramp spells rather than a large creature. We’re talking turn 6, 7, 8, you’re dropping Llanowar Elves where other players are dropping Avacyn, Angel of Hope. Not good. Now onto landfall. Yes, landfall would be amazing with her but there are so few decent landfall cards in green and white that it would be very hard to make a complete deck on that strategy.
I also disagree that she would find a home in most green / white decks and even 3 color decks. Yes, she can be used in every green / white deck and she may find her home in quite a few if there aren’t better cards that help in whatever deck strategy is being used. Karametra as a tool, not a centerpiece, she just has too many drawbacks to make her useable. In a deck that isn’t creature heavy, she would be of minimal use as a ramp engine. In a token deck, again minimal use. In a bounce deck, minimal use. In these deck types, of which green / white decks excel, she is a poor substitute for other spells such as rampant growth.
It is my view that Karametra is best viewed as an enchantment that can become a creature and not vice versa. Even though she is indestructible a board wipe will, in most cases, turn her back into an enchantment, which is pretty much what the person casting the board wipe wanted anyway.
To recap, Karametra is a poor commander and a poor ramp engine in most decks, including most green / white decks. Karametra’s limitation of being able to only search for plains or forests is ultimately her Achille’s heel and the reason why she will not be seen in very many decks. Her other limitations, unfortunately were necessary in order to keep her from being banned. Karametra can be an amazing ramp engine if a deck is designed around her, using her as the focal point of the deck and coupling her with cards like Avenger of Zendikar. There are very few white / green Legends that could properly use her to the best of her ability.
To your first point, I don’t feel that comparing Karametra against another commander in her colors is really a fair comparison, and what that really comes down to is opinion. Is Captain Sisay better than Karametra as a commander? Well, that depends on the deck doesn’t it? If you build a deck for Sisay, then yes, Sisay would be a much better commander than Karametra… but Karametra would go into that deck pretty easily. Ask yourself, if you build a deck for Karametra would Sisay be a good commander in that deck? Not at all. Would Sisay even go into that deck? Again, it depends, but most likely no because most of us don’t saturate every deck we have with legendary creatures like “some” people. In the end that argument is all about opinion, and when you evaluate things based on criteria that doesn’t apply to them, well then, of course they won’t be as good.
The next point I want to address is how we use our commanders. Your evaluations are based on getting some level of maximum effectiveness out of Karametra. Yes, if your deck is set up to hold small creatures, cast Karametra, then drop the rest of your hand, ramping the whole way, then you leave yourself open to removal and without cards in hand. As the pilot of that deck it is up to you to carry out that plan, and if you choose to do so, then you are hopefully aware of those risks. Most games won’t play out that way however. In most cases, in most green and white decks, you are going to play lands and cast spells, many of which will be creatures. If Karametra is in play then casting those creatures that you were already going to cast is going to net you card advantage. In my opinion card advantage is one of the best things you can have in this game, which is why repeatable tutors of any kind are always very valuable.
You mention board wipes and how vulnerable Karametra is to them. This is a typical argument for creatures, and that is because all creatures, Legendary or not are susceptible to removal in one form or another. She is less susceptible than most, in that she is indestructible. If a board wipe is used then most likely she will become an enchantment only, assuming she was even a creature to begin with. But she is still there, and because you have gained mana advantage over your opponents, you are in a better position to re-populate your board and turn her creature side back on.
You state that she has too many drawbacks to be usable, and what I think you mean is that it will be difficult to maximize her abilities, but you don’t have to maximize her abilities. You put her into play and she rewards you for doing the things that you were already going to be doing. In doing those things you can sometimes turn her into a sizable creature. There is not a single other card that does what she does. The closest I can find are Elfhame Sanctuary and Journeyer’s Kite. Elfhame Sanctuary is a two mana enchantment that lets you tutor for a land every upkeep… if you skip your draw step. The land goes into your hand. Journeyer’s Kite is a two mana artifact that for three mana and tapping it you get to search for a land. The land goes into your hand. Neither one of these repeatable land tutors ramps you in any way. In every other case the artifact, creature, or enchantment has to be sacrificed, or it only happens when it dies or enters the battlefield. Some of those put the land into play, some of them don’t, but in every case you get to use them just once barring any recursion that you might have. As far as land tutoring ramp cards, she is the only one that does what she does. That makes her the best at that particular action. You mention that you would prefer Rampant Growth in most cases, but I ask why is it necessary to make that choice? My thought is that in any deck where I want Karametra, I also want Rampant Growth.
While it is true that Karametra will not trigger off of tokens entering the battlefield, nor off of creatures being bounced or blinked, there is one thing common among just about every green/white deck… they all rely on creatures. As an example, my Ghave, Guru of Spores deck is a token deck through and through. The goal is to get a vast army of tokens and attack my enemies. I have twenty creatures in that deck. That is one-third of all of my spells (not counting lands), so I will typically be casting creatures a fair amount of the time. I’m not saying that I am immediately going to throw Karametra into that deck, but if I find that my land is tending to hang up at five or six mana and it is taking me longer than I would like to get where I want to be, then I would easily consider adding her to the deck, knowing full well that she doesn’t interact in any way with the token aspects of the deck, and knowing full well that she can’t get me more than two swamps (Godless Shrine and Overgrown Tomb).
To sum up I feel that as a flashy “win the game” commander, it is true that Karametra, God of Harvests is lacking. However, as a steady rock upon which to build a green/white deck that focuses on creatures, I feel she is among the better commanders in her colors… assuming that is what you want to do of course. She comes into play fairly early in her colors, and she rewards you for doing the thing that you were already going to do, cast creatures. Sometimes she is also a 6/7 indestructible creature and can smash face.
There you have it. The same card evaluated from two different perspectives. I think what we learn from this is that each and every card in the game is going to be considered good by some players and bad by others because every player has different proclivities and opinions on what makes a card good or bad. It is true that there are some fundamental aspects of cards that define if that card is good, for example, a 2/2 creature for two mana at common is generally considered good. A 2/2 creature for two mana at rare better have some kind of upside. A vanilla 1/1 creature for two mana is generally bad. That said, each of those cards will still be evaluated differently based on the player’s personal perspective and opinion.