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Budget Magic: $98 (36 tix) Modern Ironworks Combo

Салам Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again. Since we are still waiting for Battle for Zendikar to release online, this week we are heading back to Modern once again. Don't worry — once Battle for Zendikar releases on Magic Online (about 10 days from now), I plan on having Budget Magic feature Standard for several weeks in a row. Anyway, this week we are playing a version of a Modern deck that people either love or hate: Eggs featuring Krark-Clan Ironworks. Ironworks Combo is one of those "no middle ground" type of decks. We put our opponent to the test (usually on turn four) and if they have an answer we lose, but if they don't, we win — end of story. We'll talk more about the deck in a minute, but first let's get to the videos. Oh, right. A quick reminder — if you enjoy the Budget Magic series and the other video content here on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish Youtube Channel to keep up on all the latest and greatest.

Ironworks Combo Intro

Ironworks Combo vs Affinity

Ironworks Combo vs Four-Color Chord

Ironworks Combo vs Angel's Grace Combo

Ironworks Combo vs Bogles

Ironworks Combo vs Bloom Titan

First off, as I'm sure the videos made obvious, this is a goldfish deck. In game one, we literally have zero ways to interact with our opponents and even post-board our interaction is limited to getting around a handful of especially devastating hate cards. If you are looking for an interactive game of Magic or like creatures bouncing off each other, Ironworks Combo probably isn't the deck for you. On the other hand, if you like the challeng of figuring out complex lines and putting together a puzzle, this deck is likely right up your alley.

Second, while it might look simple on paper, this deck is actually extremely challenging to play. I honestly feel like we should have went 5-0 in matches, but I clearly punted away the Boggles match by misunderstanding/not paying attention to the fact that Open the Vaults affects all players (unlike Faith's Reward), and probably punted away the Angel's Grace Combo match too, although I'm not 100 percent sure what I did wrong; to be fair, we also got a little unlucky to draw 23 cards and not find a single reanimation spell. This deck is really like putting together a puzzle and the tension is often high because a reasonable percentage of the time you have to start comboing off without any guarantee of success. As a result, you sometimes have to change plans mid-combo and making one false move can be the difference between winning and losing the game. 

The Deck

The easiest way to think about the Ironworks combo deck is to break it down into four parts: card draw, mana production, reanimation and the finisher. While it is the interaction and synergy between these different parts that make the deck a success, breaking it down into bite-sized bits makes the deck as a whole more digestible. 

Card Draw

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With the Ironworks combo it is pretty much impossible to go off before turn three, and fairly unlikely to go off before turn four. We are quite consistent at comboing off on turn four, and it's probably best to ship hands that have little potential for the turn four kill. We have a lot of free time on the early turns of the game, so we spend this free time playing a whole bunch of artifacts that draw us cards when they enter or leave the battlefield. However, unlike GR Tron — the other Chromatic Sphere / Chromatic Star deck in Modern — we really don't want to sacrifice our Eggs until we are ready to combo off because Faith's Reward only reanimates permanents that went to the graveyard on the turn it is cast. However, there are two exceptions to this rule. First, it is sometimes acceptable to crack eggs early if we already have an Open the Vaults in hand and we know we will be casting it on turn four. In this case we can crack our eggs on turns two and three to hopefully find more eggs and make our Open the Vaults even better on turn four. Second, we crack our eggs early if we are desperate and know that the only way we win the game is by getting a little bit lucky. In this situation, we just want to draw as many cards as possible and hope the Magic gods smile upon us. 

Mana Production

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Krark-Clan Ironworks is the centerpiece of this deck and we typically win the game either on the turn we cast it or on the following turn. While sacrificing an artifact to add two colorless mana is a powerful ability on its face, it is really the eggs that make Krark-Clan Ironworks so broken in this deck. When we sacrifice a Chromatic Star or Terrarion to a Krark-Clan Ironworks, we are essentially creating a Lotus Petal that cycles netting one mana and drawing a card. Chromatic Sphere doesn't draw us a card, but still nets us one mana. Ichor Wellspring is mana neutral, but draws us two cards. With this combination, we can typically chain together eggs, generate a ton of mana and cycle though a large part of our deck. At the end, we can sacrifice Krark-Clan Ironworks to itself because we know we'll be getting it back with one of our reanimation spells. 

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Lotus Bloom is without a doubt the most important card in the deck. It is so important that we play four copies of Reshape as Lotus Blooms five through eight. If there is one card we want the most in our opening hand it is Lotus Bloom. Just about any hand with a Lotus Bloom and at least one land and a couple of eggs is a keeper. A Lotus Bloom suspended on turn one almost always means we are "going off" on turn four because the bottleneck of the deck is mana. Reshape, on the other hand, allows us to break the "suspend" rule of Lotus Bloom, turning it into a Modern-legal Black Lotus

While it is technically possible to combo off without a Lotus Bloom, it is pretty difficult. Our big turns almost always involve one and hopefully two or more copies of the card. In essence, two copies of Lotus Bloom means that all of our reanimation spells are free (since we can immediately sacrifice the Lotus Blooms to get back the mana we spend on Open the Vaults) or actually net us mana (in the case of Faith's Reward). 

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It might seem obvious to include a land under the mana producer part of the deck because producing mana is sort of what lands do, but the power of Ghost Quarter in this deck doesn't come from tapping it for one colorless mana. Most decks use Ghost Quarter as a way to control problematic lands in their opponent's decks — think Tron pieces from Tron, Bouncelands from Bloom Titan or Inkmoth Nexus from Infect and Affinity. In our deck, nine times out of ten, we are using Ghost Quarter on our own lands. Why would we want to Ghost Quarter our own lands you might ask? Two reasons:

First, in conjunction with Faith's Reward, Ghost Quartering our own lands nets us a mana. We can tap a land, Ghost Quarter that land, get an untapped basic from our deck and Faith's Reward back both the Ghost Quarter and the land it destroyed, turning two lands into three mana. Second, using Ghost Quarter on our own lands thins out our deck. Since our combo is completely dependent on chaining together eggs into reanimation spells, one way we can lose is by drawing too many lands and fizzling out (see game three versus Angel's Grace combo). Getting all of the basics out of our deck with Ghost Quarter gives us less dead draws and decreases the odds that we fizzle. 


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So far we've spent a lot of time talking about how Ironworks Combo is built around sacrificing artifacts to draw cards and net mana; Faith's Reward and Open the Vaults are the reasons this plan is viable. These are the cards we are looking to cast on turn four, hopefully with a bunch of eggs and a copy or two of Lotus Bloom in our graveyard. Once we resolve either of these spells, it is often game over for our opponents. Getting back our Lotus Blooms gains us a ton of mana, getting back our eggs draws us a ton more cards and theoretically draws us into another Faith's Reward or Open the Vaults which allows us to do it all over again, generating a little bit more mana and drawing a few more cards each time until we eventually land a Krark-Clan Ironworks, at which point our mana production and card draw is usually limited only by the number of cards in our deck. 

The Finish

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Our single copy of Grinding Station is our one and only way of winning the game, and as a result, we must protect it with our life. Having it go to the graveyard is fine because we will eventually get it back with Open the Vaults. Getting it exiled is devastating; once Grinding Station is exiled, our only way of winning the game is hoping that our opponent scoops to boredom while we combo off hopelessly (this actually does happen on occasion). 

Here's how it works: After sacrificing a ton of artifacts, generating a ton of mana, and reanimating them several times with Open the Vaults and Faith's Reward, we will eventually go though one of our big reanimation loops with Grinding Station either on the battlefield or in our graveyard. When all of our eggs, Krark-Clan Ironworks, Lotus Bloomss and other artifacts enter the battlefield, we'll get a huge stack of "untap Grinding Station" triggers (one for each artifact that enters the battlefield). We then simply sacrifice an artifact in response to each trigger milling three cards from our opponent's deck in the process. We'll usually have enough artifacts to mill our opponents entire library in one shot causing them to lose due to drawing from an empty library on their draw step. 

The Hate

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We cannot win the game with either a Stony Silence or a Rest in Peace on the battlefield. Remember, we have no Plan B. The only way we can win the game is Grinding Station and the only way we can trigger Grinding Station enough times to mill our opponent's entire library is by reanimating our graveyard. Stony Silence shuts down our entire deck including Grinding Station, and Rest in Peace locks down our graveyard which makes it impossible for us to win. 

Scavenging Ooze and counterspells like Negate are beatable, but if our opponent plays them properly (sits on open green mana with Scavenging Ooze and leaves up mana for Negate), it becomes extremely difficult to win. Thankfully, our sideboard is dedicated to beating these specific cards (and other similar effects). 

The Answers

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The good news is we don't need to defeat the hate cards permanently; all we need is one big turn to combo off and win the game, so with some combination of Silence (which pretty much defeats counterspells on its own since our opponents are forced to either counter Silence using up their mana, or letting Silence resolve and watching their counters rot away in their hand) and bounce spells (typically used at the end of our opponent's turn before we are planning on comboing off), we can usually buy ourselves the one turn window necessary to pull off the combo. 


Anyway, that's all for today. If you are like puzzly, goldfishy combo decks, give Ironworks a shot. I don't think you'll be disappointing. As far as the deck's viability, it really depends on how prepared our opponents are for the matchup. If Stony Silence and Rest in Peace did not exist in Modern, Ironworks Combo would probably be the best deck in the format. On the other hand, if you are expecting to play these hate cards, the deck's win percentage drops significantly as you are basically on the Legacy Dredge plan of win game one and hope to draw the right sideboard answers in either game two or three. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas and criticisms in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive. 

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