I remember the first time I saw Krark-Clan Ironworks in action. It was the finals of Grand Prix Hartford 2018. After an extremely diverse top 8 with 7 different decks only two remained, Matt Nass with his (at the time) Krark-Clan Ironworks brew and Michael Mapson with the fan favourite Amulet Titan. What ensued was a hilarious 40 minute intense mess of combos and ridiculously tight interactions. What made the ordeal so infamously amusing was neither of the commentators had any clue about how the decks worked or how they interacted or operated against each other making for one of the most awkward and confusing Grand Prix finals ever.
Matt Nass was able to emerge victorious, his innovation of Pyrite Spellbomb and multiple main deck copies of Engineered Explosives had earned him a well deserved trophy. Then the impossible happened, Matt Nass won a second Grand Prix a month later with Ironworks and boasted a 36 - 6 record across 3 Grand Prixs.
Matt Nass - Boasting a 36-6 record with KCI
Ironworks quickly earned a reputation and the deck became the well deserved enemy no1 with some help from new additions such as Sai Master Thopterist and coverage from Ben Stark Piloting it to a 2nd place finish with his team in the 25th Anniversary pro tour. I understand I’m breezing over this decks history here, but after Ironworks placed 4 copies in the top 8 of Grand Prix Portland WOTC blew the dust off their ban hammer and banned Ironworks in the most recent Banned and Restricted announcement; banishing it to the naughty step to think about what it did alongside the ranks of Hypergenesis, Dig Through Time, and Stoneforge Mystic (Before you say anything I know SFM hasn’t done anything wrong, the joke is less funny when I have to explain it). This is a huge banning, I feel it’s the most important we have and will see for a while, and it feels like a big win for Magic. No matter your view of Ironworks, most Modern players are wondering ‘what happens next?’ Don’t get your Tarmogoyf’s in a twist worrying; here are my predictions for the next season of Modern:
Pro Tour 25th Anniversary Finals
The Resurgence of Affinity
We all know (or have played against) that one person who has a mega blinged Affinity deck, not only are their turn ones so bright, if you don’t have super strength sunglasses then you could actually sue for retina damage... but after a chat you find out that they have only ever played affinity, and that the deck has been passed down through generations since medieval times where people were executed for cheating rather than just disqualified.
Ok, so I might be exaggerating here, but have you ever stopped to wonder what makes affinity so popular? The first reason is I think Affinity is one of the best game one decks in the format is it’s fast and vicious. If you usually let the affinity player untap with a Steel Overseer or an Arcbound Ravager there is a good chance you are just dead Secondly - ironically for the deck that runs almost solely colourless creatures - is how good the mana is. Affinity is a five colour deck, one of the only five colour decks in Modern, contested only by Humans. Affinity’s mana is too good, an amalgamation of Glimmervoids, Mox Opals, and the recently adopted Spire of Industry means that Affinity can run whatever cards it wants to in its sideboard, if the player is expecting a large amount of combo they can play 4 thoughtseize, if they are expecting a large density of creatures they can play Ghirapur Aether Grid, their sideboard options are ridiculous in a format so reliant on it’s sideboarding. So what has made affinity suddenly disappear? When discussing Affinity there is a strong cycle of hate. What is this cycle? Well there is a period where Affinity does really well, because Affinity performs well people pack extra copies of infamously good cards against Affinity in their sideboard such as Stony Silence or Kataki, War’s Wage. Now because Affinity has a target on it’s greasy robot head, it does not perform as well, after a while people get cocky with their affinity matchup and trim on hate cards and then the whole process repeats again. This cycle of hate has been ruined by everyone’s favourite Krark-Clan Ironworks. Whatever your view on KCI, it warped the format. It warped the format so hard that Izzet Phoenix decks have been splashing hallowed fountains just so they could bring a couple of copies of Stony Silence. In the most recent SCG Modern Tour Stop in Worcester, Dylan Hand was playing a Fetch and Shock Mana Base for his Humans deck so he could play hate cards in his sideboard. No matter how much you love to play Affinity it would be insane to bring it to a room where almost every person has accidental sideboard hate for you. But KCI is now gone for good which means there is going to be much less of copies of Stony Silence in players 75’s . While Stony Silence will always exist, I feel now that Affinity has a real chance to breathe again, and is going to come back with a vengeance. With new toys such as Experimental Frenzy, I think we are all going to see more of Affinity very, very soon.
The Robot Overlords
War of the Titans
Every time I have sat down for a game of Magic and my opponent has started a game with Grove of the Burnwillows, Chromatic Star ‘go’ I have always wanted to do two things. One, rip my own eyes out. Two, concede go to my sideboard and put 15 copies of Stony Silence in my sideboard (only ever letting my opponent see a maximum of 4 of course). This isn’t only my reaction, alot of the Modern playerbase has at some point been miserable as there KCI opponent thinks you are dead but aren’t quite sure so have to proceed to combo off for 15 minutes while you wonder what you did to annoy Heliod. KCI affected more than paper magic in this way, it bled into any live coverage as well. As someone who lives of a diet of Magic coverage to see how much information I have to soak in before I become a semi-competent player every time a feature match came on where KCI was involved, I would switch off, this was the same with the community as well as SCG’s live views always dipped when KCI was involved. I feel this stole away from what was actually happening in the meta, yes KCI stole the spotlight but there were stirrings taking place in the dark spots of modern (pun intended). Amulet Titan has come back from the dead and it owes thanks to innovations by players such as Will Pulliam for playing cards like Trinket Mage to make the deck more consistent. Since Pulliam won the Amulet Titan mirror match for the trophy at SCG’s Open at Charlotte, an Open which had 12 copies of Primeval Titan in the top 4, the deck has been on a rampage and because Ancient Stirrings was able to survive the axe I think it’s actually in the best 3 decks in Modern. Amulet Titan is able to perform so well because of its reliance on the Karu (bounce) Lands meaning it can play almost any colours it wants too. As previously mentioned Will Pulliam played a heavy blue version relying on Simic Growth Chamber to be able to play his Trinket Mages, Edgar Magalhaes utilised copies of Golgari Rot Farm to play Assassin’s Trophy, the list of possibilities for a deck that plays magic in such a unique way as Amulet Titan does are as endless as the amount of salt you get from an opponent when you cast a turn 3 6/6 and they just lose. The most recent SCG Modern open was won by Dominic Harvey, playing a red heavy version of Amulet Titan so he could cast copies of Through the Breach and Emrakul his opponent (when you have the chance please watch game one of round 11, Ross Merium gets Emrakulled out of nowhere and his face is how I feel most of the time playing Magic), this just proves that the possibilities are endless for Amulet Titan and we better get used to it as the deck is only getting more popular… I can already here you typing ‘it’s not that powerful, just play bloodmoon!’ and well that is very true and exactly my point when was the last time you actually saw a Blood Moon, like seriously? That card has been absent for, dare I say it, for far too long. That perfectly leads me onto my next point, Blood Moon has been absent for a while now and even though it pops up it hasn’t settled into any new or exciting shell, decks like Izzet Phoenix just don’t even bother with the card, if they do it’s usually solitary copies as it doesn’t really support their game plan. Why play a Blood Moon on turn 3 when I can just kill you on turn 3? I think this lack of dedicated big mana hate is just going to result in more big mana. Tron, Scapeshift and Amulet Titan are going to spend the next season flexing their 6 and 7 CMC muscles while Mr Jund wonders why he didn’t bring copies 3 and 4 of Assassin’s Trophy. Ancient Stirrings is going to play a key role in this mess of mana until people start packing 4 Blood Moons again, so get your basic lands ready I think we are going to need them.
A white-bordered Blood Moon will instill salt into the hearts of your enemies
Phoenix Takes to the Stage
If you have been living under a rock recently (and it must be a really, really BIG rock) then you may not know that Arclight Phoenix has been making a big splash in modern. Since Ross Merium destroyed the Baltimore Modern Open in late 2018 and took home a trophy, it has arguably been the strongest deck in Modern. For just a little taste of how strong this deck is, the top 4 of the SCG Worcester open had 12 copies of Arclight Phoenix out of a possible 16... please take a moment for that to sink in. I’m going to state something really bold now (so bold in fact It’s going to be in bold) I think Arclight Phoenix is only going to get stronger. ‘But Sam,’ I hear you type furiously ‘how can one of the best decks in modern get any better? I beat it at my last FNM!’ Well, let me explain. What makes Arclight Phoenix so powerful is its ability to fit into almost any shell. Love Hollow one? So does Arclight Phoenix. Love burn? So does Arclight Phoenix. Love Thing in the Ice? So, does, Arclight Phoenix! But how is it going to get stronger? Well, we owe that to our clown obsessed friends in Rakdos! Ravnica Allegiance released January 15th and while the spoiler season for the set was short and sweet, I feel one or two cards got their fifteen minutes of fame stolen by big flashy angels, or the reincarnation of Birthing Pod in Wizard Ooze form. The card I want to focus on, I feel, was a card whose spotlight was unfairly stolen. The card? Light up the Stage. Now if you know me, then you know I’m the sort of guy who cracks his Misty Rainforest finds a basic Island and then can’t shut up for the next half an hour about how Misty Rainforest is ‘Pure Gas’ I understand it’s a word I use alot but trust me here, Light up the Stage is gas. This card is probably the card with the highest ceiling in the set, I genuinely feel that this card is on the same power level as Fatal Push when we look at potential eternal play, the fact that you can play the exiled cards until the end of your ‘next turn’ still hasn’t quite sunk in for me and it’s a much better card advantage than the likes of Serum Visions. To demonstrate I’m going to take this card at its worst possible, I spend 3 mana and exile 2 lands. In any deck that wants to run Light up the Stage, the exile of 2 lands is still huge for 3 mana as it’s 2 lands you are now not going to draw; and let's be honest here, the spectacle cost is almost always going to be turned on, no question, especially in a format as bloodthirsty as Modern. I don’t think I’m actually able to concoct this cards best scenario so instead, I’m going to try and consider the best shell for it. I think this fits into a mono red Arclight Phoenix shell perfectly, and I think Phoenix is going to love its time on the stage. Yes, admittedly the worst case scenario would now would be exiling two Phoenix's , but cards have mana costs to cast them. Caleb Durwood has already proven my point by 5-0’ing a competitive Modern League in week 0, so imagine the stage during week 10, conveniently enough this just happens to be a perfect shell for the previously mentioned blood moon too. Now I might be wrong here, Phoenix and Stage might just be clunky together, but trust me this card will see play.
'Don't worry, it won't see play' - Everyone
There we go! My 3 main predictions for the next season of Modern, no matter what happens It’s still going to be a blast! See you in round 1 folks!