Diabolic Intent - Terminators

(Day of Judgment | Art by Vincent Proce)

Hasta La Prismatic Vista, Baby

Welcome back to Diabolic Intent, where we build decks around iconic villains and their diabolical schemes!

While most villains perform their evil deeds due to some form of Corrupted Conscience, our featured guest this week is notable for lacking a conscience, entirely. Everyone say hello to Skynet!

When it comes to the most famous evil computers, Skynet is right at the top of the list, probably only matched by HAL 9000 (but when it comes to body count, HAL falls a wee bit behind). Skynet's fame was derived primarily from its two big plays: nuking humanity, and sending Terminators back in time to kill Sarah/John Connor before John could grow up to defeat Skynet.

Let's Do The Time Warp

This strategy of "send a killing machine back in time to kill your enemies before they become a threat" should translate well into Magic. The most straightforward time manipulation mechanic is extra turns, but that's really more time stretching than time travel, and that's just not gonna cut it for us. How would we actually go about sending a dangerous creature "back in time"? That would probably mean sending it to the beginning of the game, but that's ridiculous; surely there isn't a card designed for such a specific purpose and intention?

Is there?

There Is

Well, would you look at that! Turns out Magic lore has its very own "robot built to screw with the past", with a design to back it up. Karn Liberated's first two abilities are most often used on our opponents, but we can just as easily target ourselves with his first ability if we're looking to send back a very specific threat. And speaking of threats, we can't just send any old battlecruiser to deal with our enemies. No, we have to send...

The Terminator

Robot? Check. Virtually unstoppable? Check. Deadly? CHECK. This deck will, of course, include a few alternative Terminators, but this is by far the best, both in terms of utility and flavor, so if we manage to ult Karn Liberated after exiling Blightsteel Colossus with one of his +4 activations, we can hunt down our opponents without "pity, remorse, or fear." But how do we keep Karn alive for two turns after he comes out? If only we had more time. Wait a minute, we've got all the time we want: we've got a time machine!

Janky Combo

With the right pieces (and a truckload of mana), it's possible to pull the whole thing off in one turn. If you understandably can't bring yourself to process the sheer non-viability of this combo, here's a quick breakdown:

1) Activate Karn Liberated's +4, targeting yourself, exiling Blightsteel Colossus.

2) Activate The Chain Veil.

3) +4 karn again, exiling Lightning Greaves.

4) Use Voltaic Key to untap The Chain Veil.

5) Activate The Chain Veil.

6) Ult Karn Liberated, go first, equip Lightning Greaves.

7) Watch your opponents struggle to find answers.

8) Laugh.

9) Terminate.

I'm sure you've noticed the huge flavor win of this whole evil robot combo being completely colorless. As much as I would love to make the whole deck colorless, we'd be limiting our options too much. Plus, maybe we should pick a commander who can help us pay the exorbitant 21 mana that it would cost to pull off this combo in one turn.

Commander - Kykar, Wind's Fury

Jeskai will prove to be exactly the colors we need to implement our remaining Skynet schemes. Our final decklist will only run about 15 creatures, which means Kykar will be a big help for pulling off our crazy time travel shenanigans, which we do have a few different (expensive) ways to execute.

Lets Do The Time Warp (Again)

Another way to effectively "restart the game" is to completely reset the board state. But before we do that, we'll need to send a Terminator on a little journey with one of these.

With our Terminator safely hurtling through time, we're free to "rewind" to the beginning of the game, ensuring that our Terminator arrives at the right temporal location, that location being the time before our opponents had blockers or lands!

I'd like to call out the exceptional flavor of Dimensional Breach in that it lets our opponents send their own Kyle Reese back in time to stop us.

But don't the card names Apocalypse and Worldpurge hint at another famous Skynet move?

Judgment Day

Oh right, the title event of the best Terminator movie. These can serve the same function as our "rewind" cards while still winning us flavor points for playing like Skynet. (Side note: I am legally obligated to include Day of Judgment in a Skynet decklist.) And since these cards say "destroy", we don't even have to flicker Blightsteel Colossus!

On the subject of Blightsteel, let's introduce the rest of our arsenal:


As long as our life total is high enough, these two are perfectly suitable alternatives if we're looking to send back something that can one-shot our opponents. It's worth noting that Evra, Halcyon Witness does need us to activate her ability before we lose all our lands, but we can mitigate the danger of being at 4 life by swinging with her immediately afterwards. We've also got some other options that aren't instantly lethal but are still dangerous.

Darksteel Colossus (or a Monstrous Colossus of Akros) can survive our "destroy" wipes, and while they can't kill in one hit, being indestructible tramplers means that they might as well be able to, for all your opponents can do about it! On the other hand...

Malignus and Phyrexian Juggernaut actually can be lethal if we send them back with the right help! Venser, the Sojourner is a good way to flicker our non-creature options, especially since he'll survive several of our wipes.


The T-1000 is an icon of the Skynet arsenal, and there are a few artifact cards that represent its MO remarkably well. Duplicant and Mimic Vat follow a similar strategy of killing and copying important targets, and Phyrexian Metamorph is a slap-bang dead ringer for our goopy pal.

Aside from their delicious flavor, these can help us survive the early game by copying the biggest threat.


There may come a time when we find ourselves with a Terminator 2 and no Judgment Day, so these cards will help our Hugbots sneak into our opponents' bedrooms to give them Goodnight Kisses. Manifold Key does double duty as a stand-in for Voltaic Key in our combo. Also, shout out to the guy in Aqueous Form for playin' it wiggly like the T-1000.

This also a good place to propose that we run Worldslayer, since these can all help pop it off.

 The Direct Approach

I spotted Chandra's Ignition on the EDHREC page for Serra Avatar, which inspired a whole different line of thinking for uniting Terminator with Face: why not remove combat from the equation entirely?

Cards Are Important

This deck is still a little bit short on card draw, so we'll toss in a few options that can take advantage of our expensive artifacts (or just are expensive artifacts). Naturally, they come highly recommended on the EDHREC pages for Blightsteel Colossus and its high-CMC pals. Also, two out of three Kykar decks recommend Skullclamp for all your card-drawing needs.

There we go! Here's the final decklist:

Elon Musk and the Clunky Bunch

Commander (1)
Creatures (15)
Instants (8)
Sorceries (15)
Artifacts (20)
Enchantments (5)
Planeswalkers (3)
Lands (33)

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How does it look? If we rebuilt this deck, would any of these cards be back? Should we come with these cards if we want to live? Let me know!

Thanks for checking out this installment of Diabolic Intent! Next up: The Night King!

Amos has been playing Magic since OG Innistrad, where in his first ever draft pack he passed a shiny Grimgrin for a Corpse Lunge. He hails from the icy wastes of Vermont, where he enjoys hunting Warhammer players on his dogsled and watching movies. You can follow his Tweeter at @Byrnenator.