Welcome to part 2 of my guide on playing Krark-Clan Ironworks. If you missed part 1, you can find it here.
Where We Left Off: The Cards
Ichor Wellspring, while not technically necessary to the actual combo, is your safety net. It’ll be hard to draw a ton of cards because with just your twelve 1-mana eggs, you’ll eventually run out of gas. This 2-mana egg nets you two cards because it triggers when it comes into play, when it dies, and it brings back a 1-mana egg that will draw you another card. It also lets you develop your board and find combo pieces, unlike the other eggs that need to be sacrificed to do so.
I have won games where I didn’t draw it, but only if I had Sanctum of Ugin and Hangarback Walker. Mind Stone can sometimes be a replacement if you have 2 Scrap Trawlers out—getting back two 1-mana eggs will probably get the chain going well enough.
Wellspring is generally the last card you want to sacrifice when you combo. That’s because the deck only has six 2-mana artifacts, and if you want to maximize the number of cards you draw, you should wait until you have a safe number of Scrap Trawlers in play (two or more).
It’s easy—just sacrifice your 1-mana artifacts until you don’t have any left, then sacrifice Ichor Wellsprings.
This speaks for itself. The deck can’t realistically win without it, but also rarely loses with it in play.
Generally, I don’t like to pass the turn with Krark-Clan in play and expose myself to Kolaghan’s Command or Maelstrom Pulse. As I said though, if you’re able to cast it, you should be able to win the same turn anyway.
Drawing multiples during the combo is actually not a bad thing. If you have Scrap Trawler in play, it means you can bring back more Scrap Trawlers, or Ichor Wellspring and Mind Stone without having to sacrifice the very important creature.
It is not as easy as it looks to cast Ancient Stirrings. You want to maximize the card selection it gives you. You want to know exactly what your missing pieces are before casting it, and because your deck has a lot of cantrips, you’d rather use those before using a spell that digs 5 cards deep.
The priority should always be based on your hand, but generally:
Hitting land drops is obviously important, but keep in mind that whenever you draw off an Egg, you are way more likely to draw another Egg or land than a unique card such as those prioritized above.
To conclude, Ancient Stirrings should be the last dig spell you cast if mana and land drops permit.
Just like Affinity, drawing Mox Opal in this deck increases your chances of winning quickly by a lot. It helps not only to get KCI into play sooner, it also lets you deploy your eggs earlier so that you can crack them and find your most important cards.
It’s also the card that produces the most mana when you have a Scrap Trawler. Bring it back, add a colored mana, and sacrifice it to net a total of 3 mana every time.
Everflowing Chalice fills two important roles in the deck: First, it’s a zero-mana artifact to use with Scrap Trawler in case you don’t have Mox Opal, which is usually essential to not run out of mana, despite not producing 3 mana like the Mox—2 is generally enough.
Second, it simply helps ramp to 4 mana. The deck is very land light, so being able to cast this card with multi-kicker once can save your life.
One last niche scenario is that you started to combo off, but then run out of cards to draw. You can always use all of mana you generated to multi-kick an Everflowing Chalice for a ton, so that in the following turns you’ll still have access to that mana.
It’s critical to draw at least one 2-mana artifact that cantrips during the combo because it buys back a 1-mana cantrip artifact with Scrap Trawler. It lets the cards flow, essentially giving you a kind of inevitability. I’ve been strongly considering playing a 3rd copy over the 4th Chalice for those reasons.
Besides being a zero-mana artifact when combo’ing, Engineered Explosives lets you beat main deck Eidolon of the Great Revel and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Remember that Explosives can get around Thalia’s ability, you just need to pay 1 color, and then the 1 more that ishe requires you to pay also goes toward sunburst.
Now and then, you need Engineered Explosives to be able to clear some nonland permanents before you attack with Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. That way, they don’t get to keep any lands and you can more easily lock them out of the game.
In a pinch, Explosives lets you buy time, killing creatures and recurring with Scrap Trawler to do it again. It happened a few times that alongside Hangarback Walker I was able to survive up to 7 turns just creating blockers and killing Death’s Shadows and Tarmogoyfs.
We finally get to the mana base and I’m starting with the best land you have. In order, Darksteel Citadel is the first land you want in play. It lets you get to metalcraft quickly, and once you have Krark-Clan Ironworks in play, it’s 2 free mana. The only scenario where you should consider playing it later is post-sideboard when you expect Stony Silence.
If this were not a legendary land, you would have 4 and the deck would be straight-up broken. Unfortunately, in a 17-land deck, you can’t afford the legendary rule to clash with your ability to make land drops.
Inventors’ Fair is used most often to fetch Krark-Clan Ironworks when you don’t have it. It is particularly good against discard spells since you can do that at instant speed. It is also part of the reason why you should always wait to make your land drop combo’ing if you can. Getting Scrap Trawler, Hangarback Walker, or Ichor Wellspring is a common play.
Fetching Engineered Explosives to beat Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Eidolon of the Great Revel is a great fall-back plan. It comes up most often in post-sideboard games such as when they have Rest in Peace.
The life-gain isn’t too relevant, but it’s just a free bonus.
Sanctum of Ugin
Sanctum is here specifically to work with Hangarback Walker or Myr Battlesphere, but remember that Engineered Explosives can be cast for 7 colorless mana to trigger Sanctum as well. This happens once every few matches when you have a ton of mana, but no ways to draw cards.
Getting a Sanctum of Ugin into play should be the 2nd highest priority after Darksteel Citadel. The shortcut saves time and makes sure you never fizzle. I’ve seen lists without them, that instead have colored lands and a better sideboard with Abrupt Decay. I don’t know yet how valuable that is, but I know for sure that the sideboard in its current form can be improved, and that might be the next best step.
It took me a while to actually understand why this card was in the deck when I first picked it up. It seemed like a freebie and it has been useful from time to time against counterspells or disruption to be able to bring back Krark-Clan Ironworks and Scrap Trawler. Still, it only really became a tangible benefit when I figured out that that’s how you beat Melira’s infinite life combo. By having this one land, I have the peace of mind to just combo as usual, get Emrakul into play, lock them out of playing any spells for the rest of the game, and I can’t mill myself because I will eventually find Academy Ruins.
In a version with more colored cards, I could see cutting it because Melira is not a very popular deck. As it stands, it’s worth the slot.
Tendo Ice Bridge is straight-up better. I didn’t have it when I registered the deck and because the difference was so marginal, I didn’t bother finding it. It is superior to Aether Hub because it does not have an enters-the-battlefield trigger, which means someone wouldn’t be able to Ghost Quarter or Fulminator Mage you in response. But if you were to play more than one copy of that card, Aether Hub would become better, since you can use the energy on your second copy. It is obviously very unlikely that either of these scenarios become relevant.
Grove of the Burnwillows
There’s your answer. In the dark, game 1, I will always tap Grove for life, because giving them a life if they’re not Death’s Shadow is close to irrelevant, and if they are, it can often be the difference between losing and winning the game.
Of course this is only one matchup where it matters, but it’s the most popular deck. If you either can’t afford Grove of the Burnwillows or want to play a sideboard with more colored options, Llanowar Wastes, Spire of Industry, Yavimaya Coast, Glimmervoid and so on are all reasonable choices.
Ghost Quarter and Path to Exile. Literally the only reason we have a basic Forest in the deck. I could see cutting it, especially once everyone knows there should be one in your deck. You just need them to respect it and not Ghost Quarter you immediately.
That wraps up the main deck! I’ll be covering the sideboard later in the week, so check back for that.