Wizards of the Coast has banned Krark Clan Ironworks in Modern.

According to Wizards, the Krark Clan Ironworks (KCI) combo deck had both an extremely high win rate and Top 8 conversion rate at Grand Prix, to the point where it was beginning to impact the health of the Modern format. When combined with the fact that the deck could also take absurdly long turns when comboing off and that said combo relies on “arcane” rules interactions, Wizards felt that merely weakening the deck wouldn’t be enough to address those problems. Instead, they decided to ban the card at the core of the deck’s intricate combo: Krark Clan Ironworks.


KCI combo rose to prominence in March 2018 when Matt Nass placed third at Grand Prix Phoenix with the deck. A month later, in April 2018, Nass won Grand Prix Hartford with KCI, and then also won Grand Prix Las Vegas with KCI in June 2018. Nass compiled an amazing 35-6 record in that stretch and proved to everyone that KCI was nearly unbeatable in the right hands.

But neither Nass nor KCI stopped there. In December 2018, Nass finished 12th with the deck at Grand Prix Portland, and just a month later, in January 2019, Nass again Top 8’d with KCI at Grand Prix Oakland, eventually placing fifth.

By the time Nass made his fourth Top 8 with KCI in January, other people had finally begun to equal his level of mastery of the deck. Four of the Top 8 decks in GP Oakland were KCI combo; and while an Izzet Pheonix deck won the tournament (via a concession from a KCI player), it was clear that KCI was starting to take over the Modern format.

An “Arcane” Combo

The core of the KCI combo relies on three specific cards: Krark Clan Ironworks, Scrap Trawler, and Myr Retriever. With those three cards, you can sacrifice cards like Terrarion and Mind Stone to Krark Clan Ironworks to generate mana and draw cards, then sacrifice two Myr Retrievers to return themselves plus the cycling artifacts (thanks to Scrap Trawler) to the battlefield, completing the loop. Eventually, the KCI player will find a Pyrite Spellbomb, which they can similarly loop to deal lethal damage.

Besides being intricate, the KCI combo is also difficult to understand as a Magic viewer and is very uninteractive, leading to long turns on camera that are nearly impossible for a non-KCI pilot to grok.

Second Sunrise Combo 2.0?

Many in the Magic community have compared KCI combo to the Second Sunrise combo (aka Eggs or Second Breakfast) that won Pro Tour Return to Ravnica in the hands of Stanislav Cifka in October 2012. Second Sunrise was similarly based around generating mana and drawing cards by sacrificing cheap cycling artifacts and looping them with Second Sunrise or Faith’s Reward, eventually winning with Pyrite Spellbomb.

Like KCI, Second Sunrise had extremely long and uninteractive combo turns, even leading to Pro Tour Hall of Famer Brian Kibler writing F6 (the hotkey to pass until end of turn in Magic Online) on a piece of paper and placing it on the battlefield in the quarterfinals of Grand Prix San Diego in March 2013. And just like KCI, Second Sunrise was banned in Modern a few months later.

Ancient Stirrings Survives…For Now

Until Matt Nass proved how broken a card like Krark Clan Ironworks could be, decks like Tron and Lantern Control were having (and continue to have) a lot of success in Modern by leveraging the powerful card filtering effect of Ancient Stirrings. All three decks play colorless combo pieces (cheap artifacts for KCI and Lantern, the Urza lands for Tron) which allow them to use Ancient Stirrings to quickly assemble their combo.

In their announcement banning Krark Clan Ironworks, Wizards mentioned that they considered banning Ancient Stirrings as well. However, they believe that the colorless deckbuilding restriction of Ancient Stirrings prevents it from reducing deck variety in the Modern metagame, unlike Ponder and Preordain, which have no deckbuilding restrictions other than playing Islands and are banned in Modern.

Wizards did state that this doesn’t mean Ancient Stirrings is safe forever. If the Modern metagame shifts post-KCI ban and Ancient Stirrings does begin pushing other decks out of the format, Wizards is open to banning it. But given that Wizards currently views Modern as a healthy and diverse format they decided to surgically ban Krark Clan Ironworks in order to avoid “splash damage against other archetypes.”

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