This past weekend has gotten everyone talking about the upcoming Banned and Restricted update coming up on Monday, January 21st. Specifically from this weekend, many are calling for a Krark-Clan Ironworks banning, because of the increasing success of its eponymous deck in Modern.

Ironworks players have known the power of the deck for months, and more players have just started to come to the same realization and pick up the deck themselves. Ironworks was the most represented Day Two deck at the SCG Columbus Team Non-Unified Modern event, with ten decks. Grand Prix Oakland had four copies of the deck in the Top 8 of the event, as well.

Ironworks likely shouldn’t be a deck that is able to exist in Modern. Not only can it easily win despite any form of interaction an opponent might have to disrupt the combo, but a single turn can take up to ten minutes. Plus it breaks the unwritten rule that Modern is a turn four format by consistently being able to win on turn three. However, I don’t believe the card Krark-Clan Ironworks is the real problem.

Ancient Stirrings is the Real Culprit

While Krark-Clan Ironworks is the namesake of the deck, Ancient Stirrings is the glue that holds the deck together and truly enables broken gameplay.

It isn’t the glue just for KCI decks, though—you will always find a playset of Ancient Stirrings in many of the powerful strategies like Hardened Scales Affinity, Ironworks, Tron, Lantern Control, and Amulet Titan. One mana cantrips have historically been deemed too powerful for the Modern format, leading to cards like Ponder and Preordain to be banned. While all of these powerful Blue spells are considered “too good for Modern,” Ancient Stirrings (and Faithless Looting, for that matter) have been free to run wild in Modern for years.

The problem with Ancient Stirrings is that it’s often used to find exactly what a deck needs to win. It can find Krark-Clan Ironworks, Scrap Trawler, lands, or other artifacts that enable Ironworks to complete their combo and win the game. This is true of other Ancient Stirrings decks as well. Amulet Titan can find lands or Amulet of Vigor, which enables the deck to run at its peak performance. Similarly, Tron can find the proper lands to assemble Tron or threats it needs to close out the game. Aside from Tron, all of these decks have to potential to win turns two through four. Ancient Stirrings enables those fast wins, but the decks would still be prevalent without it—they would just be at a more reasonable power level.

“But It Will Hurt the Other Ancient Stirrings Decks!”


If we look at GP Oakland, we see that there were twenty copies of Ancient Stirrings in the Top 8. Hardened Scales Affinity is not showing up in every Top 8 of SCGs and GPs; however the deck is still very powerful, and in the right metagame the deck puts up a number of good results (the latest being in the Top 8 of GP Oakland). Even if Hardened Scales Affinity has not been as oppressive as Ironworks, the idea of digging five cards deep to find exactly what you need to win the game is likely too good for Modern.

The more egregious Ancient Stirrings deck is Tron. The deck has been popular for many years, with various versions ranging from RG Tron, EldraziTron, Colorless Tron, to the most recent and popular version, Mono Green Tron. Tron relies on getting all three Urza Lands (Urza’s Mine, Urza’s Power Plant, and Urza’s Tower) into play, which allows each land to tap for two to three mana. When paired with Ancient Stirrings, it’s almost impossible to not achieve this goal. Digging five cards deep to find each land that you need (or a huge threat when you already have all of the Urza Lands in play) is extremely powerful.

Amulet Titan does not function as well without Amulet of Vigor. Being able to increase your chances of getting Amulet of Vigordramatically increases your chances of winning before turn four. Amulet Titan is a very powerful deck and has been putting up more and more results. Last season, SCG Charlotte had two Amulet Titan players in the finals, and at SCG Columbus last weekend there was a triple Amulet Titan team in the Top 4 of the event. Basically, hitting Ironworks with the ban-hammer is the goal, but selecting Ancient Stirrings as the banned card follows the unwritten rule that “cantrips are too good for Modern” that WotC has been employing and allows each of these decks to still exist at a lower power level.

“But Tron Keeps the Fair Decks in Check!”

I’ll be honest, I never liked this argument because I didn’t think fair decks needed to be kept “in check.” However, this argument was only valid when fair decks were represented in the metagame. Back before Jace, the Mind Sculptor was unbanned, you could see fair decks like Jeskai, UW Control, Jund, or the Rock do well in events. Now, you might see a single UW Control player Top 8 an event, but that is usually attributed to the strength of the player, not the strength of the deck.

Tron used to help balance the format so it wasn’t only fair decks, but now Tron is just the final nail in the coffin as to why you shouldn’t even try to play fair decks in Modern.

“But Modern is So Diverse!”

Is it, though? Sure, there are a large number of decks that can succeed in the format. In that numerical sense it is, in fact, diverse.

Yet it’s been common knowledge for a while now that you should play either Faithless Looting, Ancient Stirrings, or Noble Hierarch decks if you want to succeed. Banning Ancient Stirrings (and probably Faithless Looting) would open up the format a lot more and allow Modern to slow back down to a turn four format.

Modern is currently too fast to support many fair decks. The format comes down to aggro and combo, and to me a healthy and diverse format would also include midrange and control.

The Other Boogeyman

A reasonable argument people have about the banning of Ancient Stirrings is that Faithless Looting decks would dominate the format post-ban. We see Faithless Looting decks (along with Ancient Stirrings decks) already dominating the format with 21 copies of Faithless Looting in the Top 16 of GP Oakland.

I agree with this argument and think Faithless Looting is probably too good for Modern, as well—maybe even more so than Ancient Stirrings. I suppose my thoughts on cantrips in Modern is either ban them all or unban the ones currently banned. Is Preordain really that much more powerful than what Ancient Stirrings and Faithless Looting have been doing to Modern the past few months?

Should all cantrips be banned? Or should they all be legal? You decide!

What should we do about cantrips?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Ally Warfield is a Magic grinder and personality. She hosts the VClique podcast and is an up-and-coming grinder with an impressive range in terms of archetype selection. You can find her on Twitter @ArcticMeebo.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.