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Bomberman: The (un)Official Strategy Guide

Bomberman: The (un)Official Strategy Guide
Written by:
  • Max Gilmore

📅 May 22, 2019

⏱️15 min read

For the past month, I've been shouting from the rooftops about the power of Karn, the Great Creator, and how much this peaceful golem propelled Bomberman into what I believe is the best deck in the format.

If you need a little bit of catching up on all the things Karn, the Great Creator can do in Legacy, or how Bomberman works, click this link to my article a few weeks ago, titled "Total Karnage."

Here is my current decklist for White Bomberman:

W Bomberman

Creatures Spells Lands Sideboard
4 Monastery Mentor 4 Chalice of the Void 4 Ancient Tomb 1 Cast Out
4 Auriok Salvagers 4 Mox Opal 4 City of Traitors 1 Walking Ballista
3 Walking Ballista 4 Lotus Petal 4 Ancient Den 3 Swords to Plowshares
4 Urza's Bauble 4 Cavern of Souls 1 Mycosynth Lattice
4 Mishra's Bauble 2 Karakas 2 Containment Priest
3 Lion's Eye Diamond 1 Plains 1 Ensnaring Bridge
3 Karn, Scion of Urza 1 Lion's Eye Diamond
4 Karn, the Great Creator 2 Tormod's Crypt
2 Disenchant
1 Sorcerous Spyglass

Now that we're all up to speed, I wanted to get a little more in depth about Bomberman, including why I believe the deck is so good.

The Many Ways to Bomberman

Bomberman's power comes from its flexibility. It can reliably win in one of 5 ways:

1: Auriok Salvagers + Lion's Eye Diamond to generate an arbitrarily large amount of mana, to then return and cast a lethal Walking Ballista. If a Walking Ballista is not available, you can draw 15-30 cards by repeatedly recurring a Mishra's Bauble or Urza's Bauble, learning a lot about the top of your opponent's deck or their hand in the process. The card draw should make it trivial to win on your next turn.

2: Monastery Mentor + noncreature spells. Mishra's Bauble or Urza's Bauble are great "slow-trips" to trigger and grow the Mentor, creating an army in no time. An unanswered Monastery Mentor can easily become too much for many decks in Legacy to answer, and this deck can reliably cast the Mentor on Turn 2, sometimes even Turn 1. On this note, it is sometimes better to wait a turn on the Mentor if doing so enables you to cast your 0-cost artifacts after the Mentor is in play.

3: Karn, Scion of Urza "Karnstruct" beatdowns. See below. Karn+Turn+2

“Casual 15 power on Turn 2” - Julian Knab


Callum Smith, responding to Julian: “Cute”

4: While Karn, the Great Creator isn't quite as good at making 40 power by Turn 3, it's just as good at ending the game by then. Thanks to Lion's Eye Diamond, Bomberman is particularly good at being able to cast a fast Mycosynth Lattice to prevent your opponent from casting spells anymore. The nut draw of Ancient Tomb or City of Traitors, 2x Lotus Petal, Karn, the Great Creator, and 2x Lion's Eye Diamond is a Turn 1 Lattice Lock, on 6 cards! The less broken draws involve a Turn 2 Karn, the Great Creator, tutoring for a Lion's Eye Diamond, and then grabbing the Mycosynth Lattice to win next turn. On top of that line, you have access to tutoring both halves of the Auriok Salvagers combo, by getting Lion's Eye Diamond and/or Walking Ballista over two turns, or tutoring for Ensnaring Bridge or Tormod's Crypt when those cards are situationally necessary to prevent losing.

5: It's easy to forget, but this is a Chalice of the Void deck! And not just any Chalice deck, mind you. Between the 8 Sol Lands, 4 Lotus Petal, and 4 Mox Opal, this deck is actually better at casting a Turn 1 Chalice of the Void for 1 than any other deck in Legacy. Most other Chalice decks in Legacy have this as their Plan A. For Bomberman, it's just one of a plethora of broken plays. Turn 1 Chalice of the Void followed by a Turn 2 Monastery Mentor, Auriok Salvagers, or either Karn is a very common sequence of plays. If your Chalice of the Void got hit by a Force of Will, the chances are much higher that your Karn, the Great Creator is going to stick.

A Small Aside...

Bomberman, unlike most other Chalice of the Void decks, is really hard to play optimally. While many people relish in the knowledge that their deck is tough to pilot, I want to unequivocally state: a deck being hard to play is not upside. You do not get extra points for playing a hard deck.

With that out of the way, we can also address the opposite side of the coin: there is significant upside in playing a deck that is hard to play against.

Bomberman checks both of these boxes, and is also high enough in raw power that you can still misplay your way to wins (unlike, say, Doomsday).

Tips & Tricks

To facilitate the learning process, here are a bunch of little tips and tricks with Bomberman:

  • Use Lion's Eye Diamond before wishing with Karn, the Great Creator, and you will have the mana in your pool before the wish resolves (obvious but worth stating)
  • Karn, the Great Creator can wish for any artifact in exile. Over two turns, you can wish for a Tormod's Crypt, Crypt yourself, and now wish for an artifact that is now in your Exile zone.
  • If you use Karn, the Great Creator to turn an equipment into a creature, it will fall off of the creature it's equipping. This kills Germ tokens! It also prevents re-equipping, since Karn's passive ability is a Null Rod.
  • Monastery Mentor + Auriok Salvagers + Lotus Petal (or 2 Mox Opal) = As many prowess triggers as you can produce white mana, as you loop the petal.
  • You may sometimes want to hold artifacts incase you draw a Monastery Mentor, so that you can generate monks. This is a difficult judgment call that depends on game state.
  • With Monastery Mentor, do some math. Often, holding an artifact back to play next turn will present more damage with Prowess triggers than the summoning sick Monk would on your current turn. If the artifact is a Bauble, it can be right to just play it and hope to draw into more gas.
  • Sometimes, to keep a Mox Opal live, you may want to just keep a Bauble around. This is usually the right call if you know you'll need the mana next turn and already have another land to play.
  • You can Chalice on 1, 2, or 3 relatively freely. However, if you Chalice on 2 and your Chalice on 1 gets blown up, you won't be able to replace it. (outside of using Karn, the Great Creator's +1 on your own Chalice on 2)
  • If you have Karn, the Great Creator + Mycosynth Lattice, but need a blocker, Karn can turn lattice into a 6/6. This seems obvious but I've seen people miss it.
  • Along those lines, plan your Karn actiations over multiple turns.
  • With a Salvager + LED loop, 2 extra mana (1W) is sufficient to play through a Surgical Extraction. Just return the thing again in response to Surgical.
  • Related, but Surgical on an artifact isn't that permanent. As stated, Karn, the Great Creator can wish for cards in Exile.
  • The exiled cards with Silver Counters on them that Karn, Scion of Urza creates are, again, cards in Exile. If there's an artifact you want with a Silver Counter on it, Karn, the Great Creator can, again, wish for it.
  • Against discard decks, you often want to "hide" what you'd "slow-trip" (Bauble) into, so you want to use the Baubles on your opponent's turn.
  • A very basic rule of thumb is to use Mishra's Bauble on the opponent's upkeep (see what they draw), and Urza's Bauble on the opponent's end step (after they cast stuff for the turn).
  • Against Show and Tell, you'd rather have the cards you cantrip into to be in your hand, so you can put them into play off of Show and Tell, so use Baubles on your own turn.
  • Against Narset, Parter of Veils, you can use a Bauble on your own turn to draw a card on your opponent's turn. If you wait until your opponent's turn to crack the Bauble, you'll "lose" the draw. If you fear Narset being played on your opponent's turn, crack Bauble on your own turn.
  • Sideboarding out an artifact gives you access to it via Karn, the Great Creator's wish. Keep that in mind. Sometimes it's nice to be able to wish for a Mox Opal or Bauble postboard.
  • Chalice of the Void is a liability in matchups where your opponent can set yours to zero. This is primiarily DnT and Depths.
  • There's an argument, for matchups where you want to combo fast, to bring in some elements of the combo from your sideboard to your maindeck (saving you a turn of Wishing with Karn). There's merit to the argument, but I've also been burned while trying it (unable to "wish" for the remaining combo piece since I sidedboarded it in). I'm not 100% sure what's correct, and I'm currently trying sideboarding in the Walking Ballista half, but keeping the Lion's Eye Diamond as a wish target.
  • Auriok Salvagers returning and re-casting Baubles is a fine value play. Drawing cards is great.
  • You can animate noncreature artifacts to kill them with Walking Ballista.
  • Mycosynth Lattice makes everything colorless. Force of Will requires Blue cards to alt-cast. No more free Force of Will.
  • Mycosynth Lattice makes everything an artifact. If you're playing a Karn, the Great Creator mirror, you can float 1W in response to your opponent's Lattice, then Disenchant their Karn. If you have your own Karn, you are the captain now.

Matchup Guide (Including Sideboard Plans)


Generally speaking, the cards that beat you are Back to Basics and Counterbalance. Their Monastery Mentors are better than yours. The way to win this matchup is to take advantage of the early game, exploiting the fact that 14-17 of their cards say some form of "Draw a Card" instad of affecting the board. If you watch MinMax Battle #1, Min plays Turn 2 Counterbalance into Turn 3 Back to Basics, and I still win convincingly.

When deciding how heavily you want to commit creatures, you can use Mishra's Bauble to check the top of their Library for a Terminus. You can also figure out what the CMC on top of their Library is in the face of a Counterbalance.

My sideboarding plan against them is to cut a little bit of the fast mana, as your threats will be less likely to stick around postboard, so committing too heavily into one thing can be a liability. I bring in Disenchant and Cast Out to answer their problematic permanents.

Out: 2 Lotus Petal, 1 Mox Opal

In: 2 Disenchant, 1 Cast Out


Karn, the Great Creator's Passive ability is insane in this matchup, due to its ability to shut off equipment. Although I mentioned this in the "Tips & Tricks" earlier, it's worth repeating: turning a Batterskull into a 5/5 creature makes it fall off of the Germ.

Unlike against Miracles, you can commit heavily to the board with relative impunity, since you don't have to play around Terminus.

Commit must-answer threats early and often, and try to overwhelm them. Try to create a situation where they are too behind on board take a turn off to cast a Back to Basics.

Out: 2 Lotus Petal, 1 Mox Opal

In: 2 Disenchant, 1 Cast Out

Grixis Control

This matchup can be fairly swingy. Hymn to Tourach can be devastating against us. Diabolic Edict can make it risky to Salvagers with no other creatures, into open mana. However, a resolved Karn (either one) is very hard for them to beat.

There's a difficult balancing act of waiting on cracking Baubles to play around hand disruption, or cracking one on your turn to play around an incoming Narset, Parter of Veils.

You will gain a lot by practicing this matchup to learn the play patterns.

Out: 1 Mox Opal

In: 1 Cast Out

Delver (Any Flavor)

While there is a huge variety in Delver decks, they play similarly against Bomberman. Mana denial + a fast clock + disruption can be hard to beat. Ancient Tomb is rough when there's a Delver clocking you.

Your plan should be to eliminate the clock on you. Aggressively using Walking Ballista to shoot down Delvers, often even setting a Cavern of Souls to "Construct" to make sure it resolves. You're much better at gumming up the ground.

Karn, the Great Creator getting Ensnaring Bridge is often game-winning in Game 1, and can still be a solid play postboard.

Karns are still hard to resolve, but since Karn, the Great Creator presents free wins, I like keeping those. Karn, Scion of Urza doesn't do enough in this matchup for how hard it is to resolve, so those come out.

I like bringing in Swords to Plowshares, even with Chalice of the Void in the deck. They usually don't let the Chalice stick around, and if it does, you're usually winning. If presented with a hand that has both cards in it, you have the agency to cast the removal spell first. It can sometimes be awkward, but I think it is necessary to have both in the matchup.

Out: 3 Karn, Scion of Urza

In: 3 Swords to Plowshares

Karn/Ugin Post

Their Chalice of the Void on 0 is great against you, while yours are not great against them. This is a problem. The good news is that Game 1 on the play, you are free to cast your 0-drops, and on the draw, they will likely cast a blind Chalice on 1 if they're able.

Karn, the Great Creator is incredible in the matchup. It kills their Chalices, shuts off their artifact mana, and presents a very fast way to win. Generally speaking, if you're able to combo with Auriok Salvagers, do it ASAP and they won't have much recourse.

Be aware that their Karn, the Great Creator turns off your artifact mana, including your Ancient Den. Fortunately, Karn is a Planeswalker, and we have creatures. Attack it down!

Out: 4 Chalice of the Void

In: 2 Disenchant, 1 Cast Out, 1 Swords to Plowshares

Against Eldrazi Aggro, trim a Mox Opal and an Urza's Bauble for the full 3 Swords to Plowshares.

Sneak & Show

This matchup generally comes down to how fast they can combo you. If they have everything they need for a Turn 2 Show and Tell, they usually win. Obviously, there are exceptions, like if they bring in Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and you show them a Karakas, or put in Auriok Salvagers and you just untap and combo them. Omniscience from them usually does it, though.

There are lines where you can generate a ton of monks with Monastery Mentor, stay at above 15 life, and be insulated from an Emrakul hit.

If the game goes a couple of turns, your combos, as well as Chalice of the Void are enough to win. Chalice on 1 is obviously great, but Chalice on 3 can also be very worthwhile.

Postboard, Containment Priest and Cast Out obviously interact favorably with their combo, and Karn, Scion of Urza is generally too slow.

Since Karn, the Great Creator is usually tutoring for a combo piece or Ensnaring Bridge, it might be worth bringing in the "weakest" wish target, Sorcerous Spyglass. I'm unsure on this, and would probably cut a Bauble or a Plains to do it.

Out: 3 Karn, Scion of Urza, 1 Urza's Bauble

In: 2 Containment Priest, 1 Cast Out, 1 Sorcerous Spyglass


Save Baubles for their turn in order to protect yourself from discard. Mishra's on their upkeep, Urza's on their end step.

Karn, the Great Creator shuts off all of their artifact mana, and tutoring for Tormod's Crypt is great vs ANT.

Chalice of the Void is sometimes better set to 2 than 1, since it prevents Hurkyl's Recall, Echoing Truth, and Infernal Tutor / Burning Wish, as well as still hitting Cabal Ritual out of ANT.

If you're going to commit to a Mycosynth Lattice, look out for Hurkyl's Recall, Echoing Truth, or a preemptive Burning Wish for Pulverize out of TES.

You want to bring in Walking Ballista to increase your likelihood of a fast lethal Auriok Salvagers combo.

Out: 1-2 Karn Scion of Urza

In: 1 Walking Ballista, 1 Tormod's Crypt (for ANT)

BR Reanimator

This matchup is obviously very fast, so, again, Karn, Scion of Urza and Monastery Mentor are too slow.

Graveyard hate comes in, as does Walking Ballista, to speed up the combo slightly. Keep hands that can interact in a meaningful way on Turn 1.

Out: 3 Karn, Scion of Urza, 4 Monastery Mentor

In: 3 Swords to Plowshares, 2 Containment Priest, 1 Tormod's Crypt, 1 Walking Ballista

Death & Taxes

This matchup can be tricky. They have a lot of answers for what we can present, and we have a lot must-answer threats.

The biggest liability is a Chalice of the Void on 1 being reset to 0 by a Flickerwisp. Try not to let this happen.

Here's a cool trick that I've heard about but haven't had the chance to use:

If you have a Karn, the Great Creator and Walking Ballista in play but are afraid you will lose your Karn, either to a Flickerwisp or by damage, you can animate an opposing Aether Vial and then shoot it with the Ballista.

Also, remember, you can +1 Karn, the Great Creator on an equipment and it will fall off of the creature it's equipping. The static ability of Karn will prevent it from being re-equipped as long as Karn lives.

They have a lot of hate. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Sanctum Prelate, Phyrexian Revoker, and Flickerwisp are all very difficult to deal with. The longer the game goes, the less likely you are to win.

Out: 4 Chalice of the Void, 1 Mox Opal, 1 Lotus Petal

In: 3 Swords to Plowshares, 2 Disenchant, 1 Cast Out


This is another matchup where it is okay to have both Swords to Plowshares and Chalice of the Void, especially since Chalice on 2 is often the best number to set. They will bring in Sphere of Resistance and Krosan Grip, so plan accordingly if you try to move all in with something postboard into open mana.

Monastery Mentor loses to both Punishing Fire and Tabernacle, so I like cutting them.

Try to keep your Karns above 2 loyalty so that they don't die to a single Punishing Fire.

Out: 4 Monastery Mentor, 2 Urza's Bauble

In: 2 Swords to Plowshares, 2 Disenchant, 1 Tormod's Crypt, 1 Cast Out

Moving Forward

The Monowhite build of Bomberman has performed phenominally, but I can't (read: won't) stop tinkering. I'm currently exploring UW builds, utilizing Teferi, Time Raveler as a way to be able to combo off without fear, as well as bounce annoying permanents like opposing Chalice of the Void.

I recorded a league, replacing the 3 Karn, Scion of Urza with 2 Teferi, Time Raveler, and a 5th Monastery Mentor, by which I mean Sai, Master Thopterist. Watch it here!

UW Bomberman

Creatures Spells Lands Sideboard
4 Monastery Mentor 4 Chalice of the Void 4 Ancient Tomb 1 Cast Out
4 Auriok Salvagers 4 Mox Opal 4 City of Traitors 1 Walking Ballista
3 Walking Ballista 4 Lotus Petal 4 Tundra 2 Swords to Plowshares
1 Sai, Master Thoperist 4 Urza's Bauble 4 Cavern of Souls 1 Mycosynth Lattice
4 Mishra's Bauble 2 Ancient Den 2 Containment Priest
3 Lion's Eye Diamond 1 Seat of the Synod 1 Ensnaring Bridge
2 Teferi, Time Raveler 1 Lion's Eye Diamond
4 Karn, the Great Creator 2 Tormod's Crypt
2 Disenchant
1 Sorcerous Spyglass
1 Padeem, Consul of Innovation

I hope this primer was valuable to you. Let me know in the comments (Reddit, Twitter, or here) if you have any questions or comments.

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