Modern Deck Primer: Krark-Clan Ironworks

Hello readers! Doug Lambert here. I’m a 14-year veteran of the game, Pro Tour competitor, GP Top 32 finisher, SCG Modern Classic winner and proud longtime member of the People’s Republic. Modern is among my favorite formats to play and think about, and I have experience piloting Pod, Burn, Abzan Company, Ad Nauseam and many other decks in the format.

Today, I’m going to be discussing the latest list I’ve picked up - Krark-Clan Ironworks Combo.

What Is It?

A Modern artifact-based combo deck. The deck is composed of combo pieces, artifacts that draw cards, Ancient Stirrings (which lets you take one of the top five colorless cards of your deck), Mox Opal, Engineered Explosives and lands (approximately six of which either return artifacts from your graveyard to your hand or let you search your library for an artifact and put it into your hand). The key combo pieces are Krark-Clan Ironworks and Scrap Trawler.

How Does It Win?

By dealing two damage to the opponent with Pyrite Spellbomb, returning Pyrite Spellbomb from the graveyard to the hand and repeating the process until the opponent is at 0 life. The deck can very rarely (but occasionally) win by attacking the opponent with Scrap Trawler and Myr Retrievers in games where the opponent sides out most or all removal. The deck can also win via alternate win conditions from the sideboard including Ghirapur Aether Grid, Wurmcoil Engine, The Antiquities War and Sai, Master Thopterist.

How Does the Combo Work?

There are two major phases:

Phase One - maximize card draw

Phase One is to assemble the combination of Krark-Clan Ironworks and Scrap Trawler on the battlefield. You typically want to resolve Ironworks first and Scrap Trawler second to allow yourself to sacrifice other artifacts in response to removal cast on the Scrap Trawler. Once you assemble both pieces on the battlefield, you can begin sacrificing artifacts for 2 colorless mana each and returning cheaper artifacts from the graveyard to your hand via Scrap Trawler’s triggered ability. Many of the artifact cards draw you a card when they go to the graveyard, allowing you to dig further into your deck.

Your goal in this phase is to maximize card drawing. You should typically sacrifice artifacts in the order of cheapest to most expensive. You typically want to return the most expensive artifact from your graveyard to your hand with Scrap Trawler’s triggered ability. Doing both allows you to work down the chain of casting costs to maximize card drawing and mana production.

For example, if you had your Krark-Clan Ironworks and Scrap Trawler in play with one Mox Opal, two Chromatic Stars and a Mind Stone, you’d want to:

  1. Tap and sacrifice the Mox Opal for mana;

  2. Sacrifice a Chromatic Star (drawing a card off Chromatic Star’s triggered ability) and return Mox Opal to your hand via Scrap Trawler’s trigger ability;

  3. Play, tap and sacrifice the Mox Opal for mana;

  4. Sacrifice the second Chromatic Star (drawing a card off Chromatic Star’s triggered ability) and return Mox Opal to your hand again via Scrap Trawler’s triggered ability;

  5. Play, tap and sacrifice the Mox Opal for mana;

  6. Sacrifice the Mind Stone (to draw a card if untapped or just for mana if tapped) and return Chromatic Star to your hand via Scrap Trawler’s trigger ability; and

  7. Play, tap and sacrifice the recurred Chromatic Star (drawing a card off Chromatic Star’s triggered ability) and return Mox Opal to your hand via Scrap Trawler’s trigger ability.

In this sequence, you’ve:

  • Drawn three or four cards (depending on whether Mind Stone was tapped)

  • Netted 3 mana of any color

  • Netted 11-14 colorless mana (depending on what you did with the Mind Stone)

Plus, you still have a Mox Opal in hand. Off the three to four cards you’ve drawn, you’ve likely drawn two to three other artifacts that draw more cards, and you can continue drawing more cards and netting more mana off the returned Mox Opal.

The 1-mana artifacts represent one card to draw, the 2-mana artifacts and additional Krark-Clan Ironworks represent two to three cards to draw, and additional Scrap Trawlers let your sacrificed artifacts return additional artifacts from the graveyard (which is another reason why you want to sacrifice the lowest cost artifacts first, i.e., always start bottom-up, or smallest to biggest). Your card draw generally outpaces your superfluous lands, Mox Opals and Engineered Explosives (which are generally blanks), allowing you to draw into Phase Two (see below). A secondary Scrap Trawler almost assures you’ll draw into Phase Two. And throughout this process, you’re recurring and sacrificing Mox Opals to net mana, thereby making mana costs a non-issue during this Phase One.

Phase Two - Loops

Phase Two involves loops with Myr Retriever. You get to Phase Two by drawing Myr Retriever or searching for it via the land Inventor’s Fair, but only if you have not yet played your land for the turn (a good reason to not play a land the turn you start comboing). There are several permutations for making loops. The video below shows and explains them well (though I’m also happy to walk through these in person - all the more reason to come to a People’s Republic event).

The loop at the three-minute mark of the video is the one I use most. Once you can illustrate one of these play patterns more than once, you’ve illustrated a “loop,” and can specify the number of times you want to do it. Most of these loops draw cards and generate mana. Therefore, you can specify that you’d like to do the number of loops equal to drawing your deck.

Once you draw your deck, you can recur Pyrite Spellbombs in loops to deal 2 damage to your opponent equal to number of loops you do. This can accomplished with:

(a) Two Myr Retrievers getting themselves back with their own ability (and paying for themselves via the 2 mana off Krark-Clan Ironworks) and recurring a Pyrite Spellbomb via a Scrap Trawler trigger (you’ll get a Mox Opal back when you sacrifice the Pyrite Spellbomb for 1R; the Mox Opal makes 2R, thereby paying for the activation cost of Pyrite Spellbomb); or

(b) Incorporating Pyrite Spellbomb recursion into your loop from the paragraph above (with only a single Myr Retriever) off a second Scrap Trawler (using Chromatic Sphere as the looped 1-drop so you don’t deck yourself).

On Which Turn Does the Deck Usually Win?

The deck generally wins between turns three to five against no disruption. I feel the deck wins (undisrupted) by turn three about 30 percent of the time; by turn four about 65 percent of the time; and by turn five about 90 percent of the time. Since it’s a combo deck, there will be some games where Krark-Clan Ironworks or Scrap Trawler (and Inventor’s Fair) are all in the bottom half of your deck and you’ll lose. And regarding the turn three wins: these require Mox Opal and/or Mind Stone as an accelerant to play Krark-Clan Ironworks on turn three, then you sacrifice two artifacts to pay for Scrap Trawler and then try to combo off.

What Is the Deck Good Against?

The deck generally performs well against decks with lots of one-for-one spot removal or discard (e.g. Jund, Jeskai, Mardu) due to its ability to draw and recur many cards, as well as low-disruption, big mana decks (e.g. Tron, Eldrazi Tron, Valakut/Scapeshift), which take too long to win and don’t do enough to stop you from winning.

What Is the Deck Bad Against?

The deck generally performs poorly against faster combo decks (e.g. Infect and Storm); disruptive aggressive decks (e.g. Humans); and certain sideboard cards. The best commonly played sideboard cards against the deck are, in rough order:

Top Tier, Very Hard to Beat

  • Stony Silence

  • Kambal, Consul of Allocation

  • Eidolon of the Great Revel

Next Tier, Beatable with MD Configuration

  • Rest in Peace

  • Leyline of the Void

  • Surgical Extraction

Low Tier, Easily Beatable

  • Damping Sphere

  • Ancient Grudge

  • Relic of Progenitus


  • Use your land drop to combo off if necessary (i.e. don’t wait a turn), but save it if possible to play and use Inventor’s Fair.

  • Be mindful of not turning off Mox Opal by losing metalcraft, as many of your artifacts can be sacrificed and you can end up with too few to activate your Opal.

  • Additional copies of Mox Opal can be used as one-shot 1-mana accelerants.

  • If your opponent tries to destroy your Scrap Trawler at the beginning of your combo, you can sacrifice your board of all 0-2 mana artifacts one at a time in response and bring them back while drawing a bunch of cards and netting a bunch of mana. If you suspect your opponent has a removal spell, you should cast as many cards as you can prior to casting Scrap Trawler to maximize your draws. You’ll often draw into another Scrap Trawler and then proceed to combo off again.

  • You can (but shouldn’t necessarily) keep some one-land hands. If you do, then lead on a Chromatic Sphere or Star to allow you to draw into a land to cast a 2-drop such as Mind Stone. Do not lead on Terrarion since its activated ability to cycle costs 2.

  • Engineered Explosives acts as a watered-down Mox Opal substitute when comboing.

  • Casting Engineered Explosives for 0 to turn on Mox Opal is often the correct play.

  • Scrap Trawler can get back Engineered Explosives via sacrificing Chromatic Sphere/Star or Terrarion to its own ability. This is very useful versus decks like Affinity and Elves when you don’t yet have Krark-Clan Ironworks and need to buy time.

  • You can overpay when casting Engineered Explosives with colorless mana to play around Chalice of the Void and Spell Snare. Engineered Explosives only cares about how many colors you paid into it.

  • Buried Ruins lets you play around one-shot graveyard removal like Surgical Extraction and Relic of the Progenitus.

  • You can sacrifice a bunch of artifacts in response to Relic of Progentius to get key cards back.

  • You can play around Extirpate when comboing by sacrificing a higher-cost artifact to Krark-Clan Ironworks (which is a mana ability which can still be done versus split second) and then resolving a Scrap Trawler trigger.

  • You tend to beat counterspell-heavy decks by overloading on mana and casting multiple Krark-Clan Ironworks in the same turn. If you are able to stick a Krark-Clan Ironworks, it’s very easy to resolve or recur Scrap Trawler, since you make much more mana than your opponent.

  • You should give your Death’s Shadow opponent as much life as possible with Grove of the Burnwillows.

  • You should dump your hand and use Buried Ruin’s activated ability on end step versus heavy discard decks and Lilliana of the Veil.

  • Ghirapur Aether Grid is very good against Affinity and Elves. I’m skeptical as to its use versus Bant Spirits and Jeskai (I don’t side it in).

  • Guttural Response counters Gifts Ungiven versus Storm, in addition to any counterspells.

- Doug Lambert

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