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5 Queues: Ironworks Combo

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern

Last week I had a deadline rushed look at Krark-Clan Ironworks and the combo that it has inspired in the Modern format. I had time for two games, and I rapidly recorded them to get content up for the daily update. I won those two matches, and decided that I was going to make one final push for Qualifier points on MTGO. While the season has been delayed on the client, getting those 15 points meant a lot to me. The card you earn for getting those points is an alternate art Lion’s Eye Diamond, and as an aspiring Legacy mage, getting one for kinda free (I think I ended up 50 tickets on the season, but I did not keep a good count of that.) means I only have to figure out how to get three more. The same goes for Force of Will next season. I figure buying three of each would hurt the pocketbook less than four of each! After reading Tyler’s excellent look at ANT in Legacy I’m really excited to expand my Legacy collection on MTGO to something besides Oops All Spells! and Burn.

After the recording, and downtime, I ended up playing another 20 matches with Ironworks combo. I caught fire with the deck in 8man queues, and ended up getting the minimum 15 points. It’s not a huge accomplishment, and going 2-1 nets you three packs and a point, so I just kept playing. I took notes of what I played against in those twenty matches, and while I beat some decks that I think I had no right beating, I also lost to some decks that I felt had no right beating me. I played against a wide range of archetypes in the Modern format, and am happy that I found a deck that is not only competitive but is also fun to play!

Though, Merfolk will always be my most favorite deck in the format!

Let’s take a look at my twenty matches.


Deck Wins Losses
Hatebears 1 0
Tarmotwin 3 0
UR Storm 1 1
Scapeshift 1 0
Master Affinity 0 1
Burn 1 1
Life from the Loam 0 1
Soul Sisters 0 1
Mono Blue Devotion 1 0
GR Tron 1 0
Melira Pod 1 0
BW Tokens 1 0
Zoo 0 1
Merfolk 0 1
UWR Control 1 1

Overall Record:  12-8

The Master Affinity deck was one that ran Master of Etherium. Both games in that match were over on turn four. He just came out of the gates strong, and I felt like my sideboard was not exactly built to defend against Affinity. To me it feels like the match-up is about racing, and both games I was a turn too slow.

Beating Tarmotwin all three times was weird. I expected that match-up to be more in their favor, and it might be. However it was smart play that kept me on the winning path there. I typically won the games that I was on the play, on my turn four. They would make a Pestermite or Deceiver Exarch and tap one of my mana sources, I would make an Ironworks and go off anyways. They never tapped one of the cards that could filter my mana though. I feel like if they paid attention to my Chromatic Star or Prophetic Prism that those games I won would not have happened. While the deck is great for getting tons of mana when it casts Ironworks, sometimes the filters are not there, and it’s hard to get to the WW to cast Open the Vaults or the UU to cast Tezzeret the Seeker. It may be better for the Twin player to let me resolve the Ironworks, and in my upkeep worry about my colored sources. I know a few games had I not been able to cast Open I would not have had the requisite amount of colored mana to get to the critical mass I need to cast Open the Vaults which in turn allows me to get a ton of colorless mana to quickly power on an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

Also it never failed that if they did not have the enters the battlefield tapped guy on the turn I went I off, they had it on my extra turn when it was time to attack with the flying spaghetti monster. It’s extremely important in this match-up to have a back up plan in case this happens. You may want to leave enough cantrip trinkets in play in order to dig for another Emrakul and go off again, or you may want to cast a Tezzeret, use his +1 ability and in the extra turn animate your artifacts in order to attack for lethal either way.

I played against Burn, Storm, and UWR control multiple times. Burn and Storm in my mind are similar matches. I play against both of them looking to craft the best hand that I can and try to beat them before they beat me. I went 1-1 against both of those decks. UWR is a bit of a different beast. While you still want to craft the best hand, you also want to make sure you are not just jamming things out to get countered. Sometimes it’s best to bait them with a Tezzeret, or a small Open the Vaults, to gain some form of card advantage than it is to just run spells into Mana Leak and Remand. Enough typing, let’s get to the decklist and then the five queues!

Decklist and Gameplay

Remember that my list is running two Nihil Spellbombs over the Blood Moon and a Defense Grid!

Video Match Records

This was a weird two part recording. I played 6 matches, which is fine, two of which were against Counter Cat, which I lost, I do not think the second match was even close. Then I played a match in the tournament practice room because I wanted to avoid the third rematch with Counter Cat. I beat a Value Pod deck (I’m not sure what to call non Melira Pod.). I ended that recording after waiting for another match to start, and the second part sees us square off against a really cool Time Warp/Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle/Prismatic Omen deck. After dispatching it, we battled against the same RW Village Bell-Ringer/Splinter Twin twice, taking it down twice as well. So I went 3-2 in the recorded portion of the article. Overall I am 15-10 with the deck in tournament play on MTGO.

It’s a lot of fun! 15 wins I believe is a 60% win percentage with the deck, which is not the worst, but is better than I expected out of it.


My issue with the deck is twofold, the first being, is Mind Stone really needed in the deck? Could the stone be better suited as a Talisman of Progress? Is the potential to draw a card that much better? Talisman of course would be castable copies of Adarkar Wastes so maybe the incremental damage that the UW rock would deal us is not worth it? Of course it does make casting Open the Vaults a tiny bit easier. The trade off there might be worth it!

The second issue I have is I believe the sideboard was not built with aggro decks in mind. Granted, it’s a race, and we do not want to overburden the already stressed mana base with more colored spells, but usually it’s not an issue to cast those things thanks to our mana filters. Phyrexian Unlife and Rest for the Weary both give us some much needed breathing room, but I often times feel like they are not enough. I know I side out Remand against aggro decks, but maybe Repeal could serve as a replacement in the board? It does basically the same thing, bounces a permanent, draws us a card, and slows the damage down, but Repeal can deal with other problems as well, like Rest in Peace or Relic of Progenitus.

Another sideboard issue I have is with Erase. Exiling is pretty awesome. Having an answer for a Splinter Twin at instant speed for one mana is even better, and I feel like that is why the card is in the sideboard. However, would having something like Disenchant or Wear // Tear be even better? I like the idea of Wear // Tear because it still allows us to deal with Splinter Twin for one mana at instant speed, but it also gives us an answer to some of Affinity’s threats for cheap as well! It’s not like we should care about the exile ability of Erase right? Twin is not going to Regrow the enchantment right?

The rest of the board I really like, and would not change it anymore. Let’s take a look at my new proposed sideboard.

2 Defense Grid
3 Wear // Tear
1 Hurkyl’s Recall
2 Pyroclasm
2 Repeal
2 Torpor Orb
2 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Wurmcoil Engine

Sideboard Guide for the top 5

With the new build of the board fresh in mind, let’s take a look at the sideboarding plans against the top five decks in the metagame, as reported by mtggoldfish.com

Melira Pod

This match-up is about weathering their disruption and making sure that the game does not go on long. You need to be aware of Qasali Pridemage (maindeck), Harmonic Sliver, Kataki, War’s Wage and Ethersworn Canonist. Those guys in most decks are post board, which is good for us, as game one is just a race to win before they combo you out. The post board games see them bring in more disruption, and that makes us focus more on managing our resources. Make sure you take care of Ironworks! If they Chord of Calling you make sure you filter the proper mana in response to the comes into play trigger of whatever they get!

In: 2 Pyroclasm, 2 Nihil Spellbomb
Out: 2 Thirst for Knowledge, 2 Chromatic Sphere

Splinter Twin

Here is another combo deck, and you’re not a huge favorite in game one. Unless you have an early Ironworks, you can be assured that the chances of you winning past turn four are low. Save your Remands for Splinter Twin, as that is what actually beats you. If you can go off safely with Emrakul (they have no mana available) then do so, but if there is enough mana to get one of their silly creatures into play during your free turn, make sure you have worked out a back up plan, either cast Tezzeret, or have an Open the Vaults at the ready in case you need to try again.

In: 2 Torpor Orb, 2 Defense Grid, 2 Wear // Tear
Out: 2 Thirst for Knowledge, 2 Ichor Wellspring, 2 Chromatic Sphere


This match-up is bad, and we should feel bad. Prior to the new board we had no real answers other than man sure hope we go off before the kill us! The new board might give us a little bit of hope as there are ways to deal with artifacts in it now. Again, like every other combo or aggro deck in the format, we’re just racing them. Goldfishing the opponent if you will. If they stumble on their aggression or do not have a Cranial Plating to punish us we are in a good place. Otherwise it’s not very good for us.

In: 1 Hurkyl’s Recall, 3 Wear // Tear
Out: 2 Remand, 2 Thirst for Knowledge


The fourth deck on the list is gasp, another combo deck! That is three combo decks in the top four! Race match up with no interaction blah blah, Remand their Pyromancer Ascension blah blah, be ready to hit f6 and hope that they fizzle, if not, move on to the board. You’re bringing in some answers to Ascension and Past in Flames, and you’re going to try to do it while not weakening your own game plan as well!

In: 2 Wear // Tear, 2 Nihil Spellbomb
Out: 2 Thirst for Knowledge, 2 Ichor Wellspring

UWR Control

The first deck that is not a combo or beat your face in deck! Hooray! You’re a favorite in this match-up. A completed Tron makes a mockery of their countermagic. Heck a tron set means you have enough mana to cast Ironworks and pay for the Mana Leak! This match-up is actually pretty tricky. I say that because if you think you’re against RWU control you’re actually against RWU Twin, and you’re gonna have a bad time! You just out mana them, cast an Ironworks, resolve a Vaults and then hit em with the Emrakul. Not like they can counter that guy! Post board they have access to Stony Silence (which is a REAL ISSUE!) and Rest in Peace (which is a do nothing against us, we just plan to play out our artifacts, an Ironworks and sac the board to please our flying, annihilating monster.)

In: 2 Defense Grid, 3 Wear // Tear
Out: 2 Ichor Wellspring, 3 Mana filtering sphere/stars

Ok, you’ve watched the videos, saw the guidelines, and figure, why not? I’m going to try out Ironworks in Modern! I say to you this: You’re a pioneer of fun! Give the deck a go, play around with it, and have some fun, it’s surprisingly good, has good games against most of the field (outside of CounterCat and Affinity.) and is fun to play. What could be more fun than ramping out a giant Eldrazi and taking an extra turn? Aren’t 15 mana spells just the best?

Thanks for joining us, and have a great day!

Joshua Claytor

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