Communist Ties: Return of the Iron Curtain
I promise this is the last article I will ever write pertinent to this deck. Given the current shift in meta towards more blue-oriented decks, I feel it’s time to dust off the cobwebs on the first nightmare brain child I ever built. Blood Moon, Chalice of the Void and Ensnaring Bridge are still as relevant as they ever were, possibly more so now, giving some validity to this meta call.
In recent months even with the return of the Robots archetype to multiple top eights, I’ve noticed a drop in Kolaghan’s Commands floating around the format. This was a problem for the deck in its original configuration since Kolaghan’s Command has the potential to destroy many of my heavy hitting cards such as Chalice of the Void, Ensnaring Bridge and Kuldotha Forgemaster.
With a decrease in decks that fall under the BGx family there have also been less Abrupt Decays and Maelstrom Pulses in the meta. Both of these cards were a large hindrance to the deck since an Abrupt Decay can take out Chalice of the Void, Ensnaring Bridge and, most importantly in these matches, Blood Moon.
The banning of Gitaxian Probe and the printing of Fatal Push has taken Infect off the radar. With more effective strategies coming to light we have seen a decrease in Naya Zoo, Melira/Vizier Company, Kiki-Chord and the likes. The relevance here is the fact they all contain Noble Hierarch – the only creature in Modern that can effectively swing under an Ensnaring Bridge. I can’t count the number of loses by which I failed to kill a Noble Hierarch.
Modern is still ripe with three and higher colour decks, keeping Blood Moon ever relevant. We still see Death’s Shadow as a top contender in Modern and none of their threats should ever make it under an Ensnaring Bridge. With Chalice of the Void in play Death’s Shadow lists can’t even cast their namesake creature as well as locks them out of all the cards that make their deck function. Having no access to Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek, Thought Scour, Serum Visions, and Stubborn Denial is a huge shock to the deck.
Urzatron lists haven’t gone away either; instead they have evolved. GR Tron still is around but has mostly been replaced with GB Tron, GW Tron and Eldrazi Tron. Iron Curtain reigned supreme versus Tron lists and Eldrazi lists all the same back in the days of the Eldrazi Winter. Even now none of these lists have the power to get through Blood Moons or Ensnaring Bridges consistently.
My biggest concern going forward is the emergence of the Bant and 4c Humans lists. Specifically, the one that just took down the Star City Games Cincinnati Modern Open. Iron Curtain is not a fast deck and Humans has the potential to close out the game quickly. Our only saving graces are: 1. The fact that everything in the deck dies to Anger of the Gods and Sweltering Suns and; 2. There is 0 artifact and enchantment hate in the 75.
Main Game Plan and Setting Up the Prison
As stated in my original primer, the game plan of the deck is to progressively lock the opponent out of the game early on with prison pieces such as Chalice of the Void, Blood Moon, Ensnaring Bridge, Trinisphere, etc. You get the idea. After that we want to clear the way for a one-swing kill with a Blightsteel Colossus that we have cheated into play, preferably on our opponent’s end step with either Kuldotha Forgemaster or Master Transmuter.
In a bubble we can do this consistently within six turns and be laughing. Unfortunately, Magic; the Gathering isn’t a game where “in a bubble” theories ever work. Hand disruption, variance, counter-magic, and luck are all factors that determine how successful any deck can be in the game. We aren’t going to have a turn one Chalice, turn two Blood Moon hand every game. In fact, that will be rare. This is why we look at all the variables in the game that are affecting our strategy.
First let’s look at opening hands. I want to start with the godly dream hand none of us will ever have.
Why is this so beautiful? In the super off-chance we draw a Kuldotha Forgemaster and a land in our first two draws this is a turn 3 kill.
Turn three: if we have drawn another land and a Kuldotha Forgemaster, we play the land and Kuldotha Forgemaster. Equip the Lightning Greaves to Kuldotha Forgemaster, activate its ability to sacrifice three artifacts: itself, Mox Opal and your Signet/Talisman in order to search for Blightsteel Colossus. You leave Welding Jar there to protect Lightning Greaves. In comes Blightsteel Colossus, equip the Greaves, and attack for a whopping 11 infect trample.
Never hinge on this happening. We all want to live that dream but need to accept that it isn’t likely. What we want in our opening hand is two lands, or if you have a Mox Opal you want three lands (with one of them specifically being Darksteel Citadel), Chalice of the Void, Blood Moon, Signet/Talisman, and something to pay off with, Ensnaring Bridge, a 0 drop or a Fabricate.
For the purpose of understanding playlines, let’s assume the hand is: Darksteel Citadel, Temple of Epiphany, Mox Opal, Chalice of the Void, Talisman of Progress, Blood Moon, Fabricate. Our line would go like this:
Turn one: play the Temple of Epiphany and Scry. There are specific things we want here; anything over three mana that isn’t Tezzeret the Seeker, Master Transmuter or Kuldotha ForgeMaster goes straight to the bottom. Any land or Ensnaring Bridge you snap keep that on top. If the card is a Welding Jar you probably want to keep that there- it will protect your Chalice and activate your Opal. Tormod’s Crypt is kind of hit-and-miss as to whether you want to keep it; if you have any indication your opponent’s deck is graveyard based then yes. Otherwise do not. In the blind you definitely bottom the Tormod’s Crypt. Lightning Greaves is kind of a take-it-or-leave-it but you probably want to bottom it. Spellskite you definitely keep. Extra mana rocks you want to bottom. If you have Saheeli Rai or Chandra, Torch of Defiance in your list and they’re on top, absolutely keep them there. Play your Mox Opal and pass the turn.
Turn three: There are a few “ifs” here: if the card you scried to the top was not a land it 100% does not matter what you do here. Play your Blood Moon, make eye contact with your opponent, relish the hope fading from their eyes, and pass the turn. If the card scried to the top is a land there may be some sequencing here. If it is a mountain or Darksteel Citadel play it whenever you want. If it is a Temple play it first unless there is a 2 drop you want to follow the Blood Moon up with. Scrying here you want to see Kuldotha Forgemaster, Tezzeret the Seeker or Master Transmuter here, specifically in that order. If the land is a Wandering Fumarole there is literally no reason to play it before the Blood Moon so do it after. The reasoning for this is with the release of Ixalan, Wizards of the Coast changed the errata on Blood Moon yet again. Non-Basic lands now enter the battlefield as Mountains with ABSOLUTELY NO ABILITIES. Now all those clauses that state enter the battlefield tapped never happen. This is compared to before where it enters the battlefield as whatever land it was then became a mountain.
Turn four: If you already have played a Fabricate to search for an Ensnaring Bridge then let’s just go ahead and jam that Ensnaring Bridge into play. Otherwise we want to Fabricate here. The only other thing you would want to be doing here is casting an Anger of the Gods or a Sweltering Suns to clean up the board before finding the Ensnaring Bridge. If you have six mana available it really doesn’t matter. Cast the Fabricate and the Sweltering Suns. If you have six mana as well as Ensnaring Bridge and a three-damage spell then cast both.
From here you should have nothing but time to set up a kill with Blightsteel Colossus.
We’ve looked at hands we snap keep. Now let’s look at scenarios in which we mulligan.
Any hand that has Blightsteel Colossus in it is one you probably don’t want to keep. Any hand with anything costing more than five is usually a snap mull. If you have less than three lands and won’t have Mox Opal active by turn three, that should be a mulligan as well as all one-landers and any hand with more than three lands that aren’t scry lands. Multiple Kuldotha Forgemasters, Master Transmuter or Tezzeret the Seekers are likely bad as well.
When setting up your prison you want Chalice of the Void and Blood Moon down as fast as possible. Most matches you won’t even need Ensnaring Bridge right away if you can get the Chalice of the Void and Blood Moon down by turn three.
Before even casting Kuldotha Forgemaster you want at least two pieces down to protect it. Any two-card combination of Chalice of the Void, Master Transmuter, Blood Moon, Welding Jar or Spellskite will do.
Master Transmuter is an extremely straightforward card in theory but can become extremely complicated quickly. The most important thing to pay attention to is the cost of activating the ability. I’ve had to argue this with players frequently and even a judge once or twice. The activation cost specifically states “Blue, Tap, Return an Artifact to your hand;” note exactly where that semi-colon is. It is after the return an artifact. This does not target nor does this create a trigger in which your opponent can respond by removing the artifact you intend on returning to your hand from the battlefield. Not until that artifact enters your hand does they get past priority.
With Mox Opal and Tezzeret the Seeker’s +1 untap effect, Master Transmuter can be easily abused. My personal favourite is activating Master Transmuter, putting Mox Opal into my hand to put Spine of Ish Sah into play, recasting Mox Opal and tapping it for Blue +1. I then use Tezzeret the Seeker to untap Master Transmuter and Mox Opal using the blue to activate Master Transmuter again putting Spine of Ish Sah into my hand and putting it back down. This is, in my opinion, the most entertaining way to clear the way for Blightsteel Colossus.
Another use for Master Transmuter and Spine of Ish Sah is when attacking with Blightsteel Colossus. You’ve cleared your opponent’s board and are now attacking for lethal with Blightsteel Colossus. They flash in something to survive one more turn to hopefully exile Blightsteel Colossus. They move to block with that creature they flashed in and before moving to combat you activate Master Transmuter to either flicker the Spine of Ish Sah or put it into play from your hand killing that creature. Trample says your opponent is still dead.
Master Transmuter can be used defensively as well. When your opponent attempts to destroy things like your Ensnaring Bridge or Kuldotha Forgemaster or even the Master Transmuter you can just activate it to flicker that artifact making it no longer targeted.
Repeating the new Blood Moon errata since it is a super important card. With a Blood Moon in play all non-basic lands are Mountains the second they leave the player’s hand. If they would normally enter tapped they no longer have that ability. They now enter untapped. If they do some other effect when they enter they no longer do so. You will not gain life off Radiant Fountain. You will not put counters on your Gemstone Mine. Your Blood Crypt enters untapped. Golgari Rot Farm does not bounce a land to your hand. Blood Moon DOES NOT change “Super Types”. You cannot have multiple Minamo, School at Water’s Edge out. It is still legendary. Darksteel Citadel can still be sacrificed by Kuldotha Forgemaster or returned to your hand by Master Transmuter. It is still an artifact. It still activates metalcraft on Mox Opal. It does however lose indestructible. Do not forget layers. If an opponent casts a Spreading Seas, targeting your Wandering Fumarole, timing is important. If it is before a Blood Moon that land becomes a mountain after Blood Moon resolves. If it is after a Blood Moon that land becomes an Island after Spreading Seas resolves until another Blood Moon enters the battlefield.
If you are playing Trinisphere remember Trinisphere is always factored last. This is after taxing and reducing effects on costs. If a spell would ever cost less than three it does not matter if its original CMC is three or higher. If it costs less than three after taxing and reducing Trinisphere forces it to cost three. Trinisphere does not interact with Chalice of the Void. Trinisphere will not cause a one-drop to have a CMC of three. All that Chalice of the Void cares about is the number printed in the top right hand corner of the card.
If you have Chalice of the Void on the battlefield and your opponent casts a card that would be countered by Chalice of the Void and you allow it to resolve there is no backing up. It is your responsibility to remember your triggers. If you cast a card that would be countered by Chalice of the Void it is still your responsibility to remember your triggers. THIS CAN LEAD TO A CHEATING INVESTIGATION. DO NOT MISS YOUR TRIGGERS.
Dropping Bombs: What to Use as Kill Conditions
You can’t just lock out our opponent and wait for them to concede. As funny as that may be to do that is a good way to get disqualified for slow play. You need something to eventually close out the game. As stated before Blightsteel Colossus is your primary threat but sometimes it isn’t the best fit for the situation. So, what would you put in instead? Ideally all your threats should be artifacts but Planeswalkers do the job as well.Bosh, Iron Golem: I feel Bosh, Iron Golem could be good in the right meta. Maybe not a mainboard choice, however. Bosh feels like he needs to be heavily built around. I maybe see Bosh, Iron Golem would be best used to support Blightsteel Colossus when you don’t have anything to stop Path to Exile. Since Blightsteel Colossus shuffles back into your deck when it dies you can sacrifice it to Bosh in response to a Path to Exile, or similar effect, and hit your opponent for 12 points of damage. You can also follow that up by having Bosh, Iron Golem sacrifice himself to finish off your opponent if you have the mana to activate twice.
Cataclysmic Gearhulk: I think Cataclysmic Gearhulk is the most underrated Gearhulk to come out of Kaladesh. I would not use this as a main win condition, but rather as a Plan B. since Combustible Gearhulk absolutely wrecks your game plan as well having to be used as an emergency killswitch. I suggest using it when someone destroys your Ensnaring Bridge and comes in for an alpha strike with a wall of creatures. Activate Kuldotha Forgemaster bringing in Cataclysmic Gearhulk and keeping, in an ideal situation, Blood Moon, Chalice of the Void with one counter on it, Cataclysmic Gearhulk and a Planeswalker.
Chandra, Torch of Defiance: The masses have been asking for a good red Planeswalker since the Planeswalker card type was released. Wow, did Wizards of the Coast actually deliver! One of the biggest issues Iron Curtain has had the entire time I’ve been building, tweaking and playing it has been card advantage and card selection. Chandra not only allows us both of these things but she also protects herself and provides a very reliable clock which, when left unanswered, will close out games fast.
Combustible Gearhulk: I really like this card. On the surface it seems very lackluster. In the right list and situation Combustible Gearhulk can be absolutely devastating. If they have you draw cards they may be able to get a swing in from under Ensnaring Bridge but they also may have just put the fuel into your hand to close out the game right then and there. On the flip side if they have you put three cards from your deck into the bin they have the potential of multiple high-costing spells flip over and absolutely devastate their life total.
Darksteel Reactor: This would have to only be run in a meta where you are expecting multiple long, grindy matches where Blightsteel will never get through. Darksteel Reactor is an extremely slow clock that takes up to 20 turns to close out the game. Given the fact that Darksteel Reactor doesn’t have additional ways to add counters to the deck and we don’t run any it will be a long game.
Hangarback Walker: With all the protection that Iron Curtain provides it wouldn’t be horribly difficult to put a critical mass of counters on Hangarback Walker then sacrifice it to Kuldotha Forgemaster and make a lethal quantity of tokens that can attack from under your Ensnaring Bridge.
Inkwell Leviathan: I feel this is best used in a build running Bottled Cloister. Bottled Cloister allows us to keep a full hand of 7 cards so Inkwell Leviathan can keep attacking while making our hand disappear on our opponent’s upkeep so they can’t target it with hand disruption. Inkwell Leviathan can be a super strong creature since It cannot be targeted and It has islandwalk so it evades most creatures and if your opponent doesn’t have any islands it has trample to go over other creatures with.
Karn Liberated: I’ve been very tempted to run Karn Liberated in every build I have run. The issue I’ve encountered is if you have Karn stuck in your hand it is really difficult to get him out of it. Kuldotha Forgemaster and Master Transmuter don’t put him into play so you have to actually cast him. Maybe one day we’ll see something that makes Karn Liberated viable as a threat in this list.
Memnarch: I have many fond memories of running Memnarch in kitchen table artifact lists as a kid. Memnarch has a very high possibility of stealing any and every permanent your opponent has and using them as fodder for Kuldotha Forgemaster.
Myr Battlesphere: Myr Battlesphere seems like it can be very strong in the mainboard. Anything that has enter the battlefield… triggers is strong with Master Transmuter. An added benefit to battlesphere is the Myrs it creates can function as blockers and as fodder for Kuldotha Forgemaster.
Pia’s Revolution: I’ve recently started noticing these in affinity lists and I think that is absolutely brilliant. Iron Curtain won’t have quite as many activations of this card but every time you activate Kuldotha Forgemaster your opponent has to chose between taking up to nine points of damage or putting up to three cards that you are literally using as fodder back into your hand.
Platinum Angel: as we already run Lightning Greaves this card can indefinitely stall out the game. Worst-case scenario, you can actually wait for your opponent to run out of cards in their deck. Best-case scenario, your opponent doesn’t have enough fliers to block and kill it and you have a five-turn clock.
Platinum Emperion: this card has been seeing play in Green-Red Ponza. While I think Platinum Angel is arguably a better option Platinum Emperion provides a much better beat stick.
Saheeli Rai: Saheeli Rai overtook standard for a brief period of time until the banning of Felidar Guardian. Since then, she hasn’t seen a whole lot of play. In Iron Curtain she allows us filtered card selection, can copy our ramping artifacts and our Spine of Ish Sah, getting extra triggers out of it. Her copy effect also can generate fodder for Kuldotha Forgemaster. Finally, Saheeli Rai’s ultimate can find three artifacts that can just end the game.
Sphinx of the Steel Wind: The last time I ran this it was in a Jund and Naya Burn heavy meta. The fact that it is protected from two very dangerous colours to the deck is huge. The life gain and other abilities are just icing on the cake.
Staff of Nin: This is another card that can offer a decent amount of card advantage. I really hesitated adding it to the bomb section as it is only one damage a turn. The one extra card per turn can be enough to dig you out of nearly any hole imaginable.
Steel Hellkite: this creature can be a massive beating. Being able to fly over and pump is one thing but if Steel Hellkite connects it becomes a one-sided Engineered Explosives.
Stuffy Doll: I only list this card because of the prevalence of Death’s Shadow lists in the format. The thought of watching my opponent accidentally kill themself when this drops into play off a Kuldotha Forgemaster makes me way too excited.
Sundering Titan: This was a house in my friend’s Tron list a few years back and I still feel the card holds merit. Sundering Titan combos extremely well with Master Transmuter and Kuldotha Forgemaster as well.
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas: I really want to test this Planeswalker in the list. I’ve run it in legacy affinity and the power is there. Filtering your top decks is really strong as is casually turning any artifact a 5/5. The final ability more often than not should just kill your opponent on the spot every time.
Tezzeret the Seeker: I’ve been running this in several builds of the deck and it just fits so well. Untapping two artifacts can give you an activation of either Kuldotha Forgemaster or Master Transmuter on both your turn and your opponent’s or it can ramp your mana. With the second ability you can put Tezzeret the Seeker into play and immediately have an Ensnaring Bridge to protect itself. The final ability will just end out the game but I find it usually irrelevant unless there’s a stony silence in play.
Triskelavus: This is another creature that synergises really well with Master Transmuter. You can bolt your opponent every turn and maybe get a swing in for four.
Walking Ballista: this was one of the biggest breakout cards in standard as well as it made its way into modern and legacy. We don’t have a lot of stuff to ramp this card up to high quantities of counters but four mana isn’t super relevant in this deck past turn six or seven. Walking Ballista also has the potential to mop up annoying creatures or just close out the game
Wurmcoil Engine: I really enjoy how this synergises with Kuldotha Forgemaster. This is also in conjunction with the fact that Wurmcoil Engine closes out games fast and keeps you very much alive.
Chose Your Prison Pieces
At its core Iron Curtain is a prison deck. While Modern doesn’t have as many prison cards as Legacy does, it does have the most important ones. We unfortunately don’t have Smokestacks or Tabernacle but what we do have is enough.
Boil: Recently there has been a rise in blue-white control. While they do play a decent number of lands that aren’t Islands (Celestial Colonnade, Glacial Fortress and Plains) they do still run more than enough that can be hit. Wiping away a pile of lands on your opponent’s end step is still devastating. This can also wreck Grixis Death’s Shadow and Blue-Green Merfolk.
Blood Moon: This has almost never changed but Modern is flooded with three-or-more coloured decks. There are so many matches that easily fold to an early Blood Moon.
Chalice of the Void: This isn’t as effective as it is in Legacy. Modern still has its share of high-powered, one-casting cost spells. With Affinity being huge in the meta right now, a Chalice on zero and one or zero and two can just end the game on the spot.
Choke: Literally the same function as Boil; this is good when you need multiple ways to take down heavily-blue lists.
Contaminated Ground: Sometimes Blood Moon isn’t enough and you need a way to cut your opponent off basics. Contaminated Ground not only turns their valuable basics into a potentially inconvenient swamp but it takes life off every time they tap it for mana.
Ensnaring Bridge: Iron Curtain is not a fast deck. Modern is full of fast decks. You need something to slow down your opponent so you can survive into the late game. Ensnaring Bridge does this super effectively. Since you empty your hand quickly trying to run out prison pieces as fast as possible, it’s going to be difficult for your opponent to ever attack.
Flashfires: Same function as Boil but used for white decks. Mono-White Death and Taxes has started showing up more frequently in tournaments. A well-timed Flashfires can devastate them.
Lodestone Golem: This is one of the most recent cards in Vintage MUD to get the restriction hammer. Clearly it’s powerful. Any card that can make your opponents spells cost more is strong. But the added effect of it being able to attack is massive.
Spreading Seas: Same idea as Contaminated Ground. The difference here is your opponent’s land becomes an island instead of a swamp and you draw a card instead of the land damaging them. I feel this is arguably better since the slight potential of giving your opponent Abrupt Decay, Kolaghan’s Command, or Maelstrom Pulse mana seems a bit dangerous.
Thorn of Amethyst: Same idea as Lodestone Golem. Lodestone makes non-artifact spells cost more so it synergizes better with Iron Curtain. Thorn of Amethyst makes non-creature spells cost more, which could slow your opponent down but it should also hurt them more since they aren’t built for it.
Trinisphere: This is a great card. It can give you the extra time you need to get other lock pieces in place. Best part of Trinisphere is it applies after all taxes and reductions so it doesn’t matter how many Goblin Electromancers your Storm opponent has in play, their Serum Visions still cost three.
Mana Rocks, Lands and Utilities
You need something to accelerate our mana and fix colours after a Blood Moon. In Legacy we have Mox Diamond and Grim Monolith that accomplishes both of these things. In Modern not so much. Even though it is a Blood Moon deck you do still need utility lands as well to help your game plan when you can’t get/keep a Blood Moon on the board. Finally, you need a pile of cards to help support the game plan. Modern has a decent assortment of artifacts, enchantments, Cceatures, spells and Planeswalkers that assist this deck.
Academy Ruins: This land can be an absolute house. With the amount you kill your own artifacts putting them back in the deck seems like a very strong strategy. This gets shut off by your own Blood Moon but if you have a Blood Moon in play you should already be on your way to winning.
Ajani Vengeant: Ajani Vengeant was a first choice in one of my original builds. Ajani can keep troublesome basics tapped down or if your opponent has a creature beating your face in, Ajani can stall until you find an Ensnaring Bridge. In a pinch Ajani Vengeant can gain you life to stabilize until the late game as well as take out Noble Hierarchs. Finally blowing up all your opponent’s lands seems like a really good way to close out a game.
Anger of the Gods: It is a huge toss up as to whether this or Sweltering Suns is better. I feel it is meta dependant. If you expect kitchen finks and graveyard strategies with small creatures then Anger of the Gods is the better option. The rest of the time I’d say Sweltering Suns since cycling is hugely relevant in some matches.
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver: I so badly want Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver to be good. From behind an Ensnaring Bridge, the second ability seems slightly irrelevant but the other two can be game changers. Cutting cards permanently out of your opponent’s deck is always a good plan. Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver’s last ability can also completely neuter even the most well-prepared control player’s hand.
Bottled Cloister: I ran this in one of my original lists. The ability to hold up cards and never be concerned about your opponent swinging through an Ensnaring Bridge is powerful. You also get the added benefit of drawing two cards a turn and protecting your hand from late game Thoughtseizes.
Buried Ruins: This is basically a less effective Academy Ruins. In non-blue versions this can be used as an acceptable one-shot way to get a card back.
Fabricate: This was the initial reason I started running blue in the list. It lets you find any prison or combo piece you need as long as it’s an artifact. This card alone increased the consistency massively.
Glimmerpost: depending on if you’re running Simian Spirit Guides your Burn and other hyper aggressive matchups with direct damage can be difficult but a little bit of life gain goes a long way. Glimmerpost adds more life for every copy you have on the battlefield. I feel this would be best in a list that doesn’t run Blood Moons if you’re on an awkward Tron plan.
Glimmervoid: This card has been one of the largest premier rainbow lands for artifact-based decks. For our purposes I think Spire of Industry is better. This doesn’t mean a copy or two is incorrect.
Glint-Nest Crane: I would sub this in place of Fabricates. Fabricate finds the card you need, this just looks at your top four and you hope for the best. The trade off here is you have a blocker for a turn or two and it costs one less than Fabricate.
Lightning Greaves: One of these is such a house in Iron Curtain. If you are running Platinum Angel this enables you to never lose the game. Given the fact very few decks have an effective method of getting rid of the Platinum Angel and the Lightning Greaves at the same time you can stay alive indefinitely. On top of this giving Kuldotha Forgemaster haste allows for a faster Blightsteel Colossus.
Kozilek’s Return: I would run this specifically in a meta with plenty of Fish and Affinity. The sole reason being it kills Etched Champion and Master of Waves. The instant speed action is also another big plus.
Master Transmuter: This card gets scoffed at on a regular basis. Most players don’t notice or see how absolutely powerful this card is. It gets bombs that are stuck in your hand into play. It can protect your Ensnaring Bridge, Spellskite, Kuldotha Forgemaster and other key components. The absolutely most terrifying thing it can do is start looping Spine of Ish Sah every turn. This lets you destroy one permanent every turn. It can also help Blightsteel Colossus get through blockers faster by flickering Spine of Ish Sah to destroy blockers and maximize the amount of infect damage your opponent takes.
Mox Opal: in legacy we get Mox Diamond. Generally speaking Mox Opal is very pale in comparison but it does the job effectively enough. With the right hands this ramps out early Blood Moons and Chalices getting your lock down faster. Later in the game it becomes instrumental in putting artifacts from your hand into play with Master Transmuter. Tap the Mox Opal for a Blue mana, put it in your hand and put whatever artifact in your hand you want down, then just replay the Opal. It’s like you’re getting seven drops for free.
Nahiri, the Harbinger: I’ve just recently started looking at Nahiri the Harbinger as a serious card in this deck and I’m not sure why I didn’t before. She gives you better card selection with her first ability. Her second ability removes problem creatures and artifacts. The biggest bonus with that ability is being able to exile Stony Silence with her. Finally, her last ability can just throw Blightsteel Colossus into play. Or if you’re in a tight spot where Blightsteel Colossus won’t be able to end the game she can get basically any card in your deck. Being able to grab Spine of Ish Sah, blow something up, then put it into your hand to cast again next turn seems really powerful.
Signets and Talismans: these are your backup mana sources for after you cast Blood Moon so you can cast the cards you splash for. They assist with Mox Opal and sometimes ramp you a little. I feel the talismans are way more powerful than the signets but unfortunately the talismans only come in allied colours.
Simian Spirit Guide: This card has been the topic of many a Banned and Restricted discussion in the community. And with good reason. Free mana has the potential to be very easily abused. Until Wizards of the Coast decides they agree I’m going to try and abuse this card as much as possible. Simian Spirit Guide gives you the potential to ramp out early Blood Moons and Chalice of the Void. In the Burn matchup we can’t get Chalice of the Void and Trinisphere down fast enough so anything to run them out faster is a plus.
Sweltering Suns: Exact same reasoning as Anger of the Gods. The only difference here is if one gets stuck in your hand with no real use you can just cycle it. That reason alone I feel makes it a strict upgrade from Anger of the Gods.
Sorcerous Spyglass: I used to run Phyrexian Revoker in the slots this card takes up. I feel this is a massive upgrade. Since we can’t really run Pithing Needle due to Chalice of the Void with one counter on it is a large part of our game plan and Phyrexian Revoker dies to literally everything, I was super happy when this was printed. The added effect of seeing your opponent’s hand makes this particularly nasty. Sometimes you can just lock them out of their fetchlands right on turn one.
Spellskite: Spellskite serves two purposes. It is a very effective early game blocker and with its redirect ability it is effective in protecting all your prison and combo pieces. When used together with Master Transmuter it is nearly impossible for your opponent to kill the Spellskite or anything else they want off the board.
Spine of Ish Sah: I must have mentioned this card 1000 times by now. This is easily the most terrifying card in the whole deck. There are very few things in the entire game of Magic the Gathering this can’t get rid of. Lets now factor in Modern’s small card pool and how few cards see play that say either “Indestructible” or “Hexproof.” When we add in the fact it’s fodder for Kuldotha Forgemaster then goes back to hand or the fact you can flicker it every turn with Master Transmuter, this card is absolutely insane.
Spire of Industry: The more I look at Kaladesh Block the more I realize that some cards in the set are powerful upgrades to this deck. Spire of Industry is an amazing addition. It works just like Mana Confluence but with the added drawback that it taps for only colorless unless you control an artifact. This means you don’t get pinged for one every single time you activate it and it fixes your colours since they all are just splashes.
Staff of Domination: This is a massive mana sink but it can indirectly win the game for you. With enough mana you can just keep drawing cards and keeping problem creatures tapped down. It also enables extra activations of Kuldotha Forgemaster and Master Transmuter.
Temples: Getting a Chalice of the Void, Ensnaring Bridge and a Blood Moon out in the early game is a key component of this deck. Unfortunately, sometimes you just can’t find them or curve out for them properly. The temple scry land cycle from the Theros block helps you dig deeper for that card you need. I would recommend using specifically the red temples. With the new Blood Moon errata, late game, once a Blood Moon comes down they don’t hinder your game plan anymore as they no longer enter the battlefield tapped.
Tormod’s Crypt: this is one of the few 0 drop cards that are relevant in this deck. Annihilating your opponent’s graveyard is very strong in your Jund, Grixis, and Living End Matchups. It also can activate Mox Opal earlier.
Welding Jar: Same idea as Tormod’s crypt. It enables Mox Opal faster. The difference here is welding jar is there to protect your game plan instead of disrupting your opponent’s. When you play a Kuldotha Forgemaster you need to keep it alive for one turn or at the very least long enough to equip Lightning Greaves. So, when you play it you want out any two of either Welding Jar, Spellskite, and Master Transmuter.
Colour Splashes and What Each Colour Gives You
Iron Curtain is a base red deck that revolves around Blood Moon. That doesn’t mean you can’t splash colours. In fact, we absolutely need to. Each colour gives different benefits.
Black: Nothing Really Massive. You can have Noxious Gearhulk, Slaughter Games, and Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. Not a whole lot more.
Blue: Blue seems to be the best splash colour. You get Tezzeret The Seeker, Fabricate, Glint-Nest Crane and a bevy of bounce spells as well as Spreading Seas if you so wish.
Green: green and white seem to be about on par. Green you get Naturalize and Choke.
White: same as green. You don’t get a choke effect but you get better enchantment removal with Disenchant and Wear//Tear. You also get access to Nahiri the Harbinger.
Building Iron Curtain’s sideboard is odd. You want a mixture of extra hate cards, additional situational bombs, and cards to protect your deck. Most cards I would run in the sideboard are mentioned above. Stuff like Choke, Boil, Trinisphere and Disenchant. Some odd choices you can add are cards like War’s Toll. War’s Toll forces your opponent to attack with all creatures or none at all. This is usually irrelevant due to Ensnaring Bridge. It also forces your opponent to use all their mana at once or not at all making it difficult for your control opponent to time their spells. Ideally you want two to three extra bombs, four to five extra hate cards and the rest utility depending on your meta.
One of my recent sideboards looked like this:
As you can tell I was expecting blue-white control, some amount of decks that go wide with creatures, Burn, and Gifts Storm. The initial plan was to play a slower game one then bring the Simian Spirit Guides in games two and three to get out the gate faster. We later decided they needed to be in the main to combat fast matchups game one.
Affinity: Game one is going to be an uphill battle simply because this is a match were information is king. If by chance you know your opponent is on Affinity you want to drop your Chalices on zero and two. Blood Moon will help in this match a bit but it isn’t necessary. The most important card is and always will be Ensnaring Bridge. As long as you can keep Ornithopter and Signal Pest off the board they will never get damage through. Post board you want Sorcerous Spyglass to turn off Arcbound Ravager. Trinisphere will severely hamper their game plan as well. If you’re running Ghirapur Aethergrids they can keep problem threats off the board. Platinum Angel and Cataclysmic Gearhulk can be very strong here as well.
BGx: This match depends what the third colour is. If it’s red you need a Chalice of the Void and Blood Moon as fast as possible. I would keep any hand I can turn one a Chalice of the Void or a Blood Moon. If you have to make the choice and are able to do so ALWAYS Blood Moon first. If the Third colour is white the match can be swingy. If it’s an aggro version there will likely be Noble Hierarchs and Qasali Pridemages. Like any BGx match an early Blood Moon can hose them. This match I feel turn one Chalice is the more important play. This stops Path to Exile, Noble Hierarch, Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek. If the third colour is blue you should have the easiest time. Again, a turn one Chalice of the Void is huge in this match. You want their Serum Visions, Spell Pierces, Thought Scours, Thoughtseizes, and Inquisitions of Kozilek shut off. You want to follow up with a Blood Moon fast and the match should be yours from there. Post board if you have an extra Blood Moon or Chalice of the Void in the sideboard bring it in. in the BGW matchup you want something to combat Stony Silence and definitely Sorcerous Spyglass to stop Qasali Pridemage. The BUG version most of their lands should be blue “x” so Boil and Choke can just win you the match on the spot. In the BGR version you want Sorcerous Spyglass for Liliana of the Veil and Liliana, Last Hope. If you get one down early and can take out multiple fetches take the opportunity.
Death’s Shadow: Being on the play in this match is important. You want that Chalice of the Void down quick. Most of their deck is one-drops and that will buy you a lot of time. Game one it can be very difficult for them to deal with. If you follow this up with a Moon the game is yours. Post board Trinisphere and Boil are both a beating for them. A big piece here, if you are running it, is Stuffy Doll. You can put it in at instant speed with Kuldotha Forgemaster or Master Transmuter and they have no way of actually removing it. Stick that in front of a Death’s Shadow and the game will likely be over.
Delver: Play a Chalice of the Void and just ride that wave. This match is either a bye or an absolute beating. By Force in the sideboard is a problem card but it is something you honestly just have to accept. Trinisphere and Chalice of the Void are both really strong in this match. Depending on which version you are playing against Blood Moon is either great or awful. Take it out in the straight UR matchup. Other versions it is fine. Boil in the board can get them really hard and can be enough to end the game due to their low land count.
Eldrazi Tron: Game one will be an absolute grind. You both will be playing “who top decks better?” most of the game. A Blood Moon early on can steal this game for you. Post board you want a Sorcerous Spyglass down as fast as possible naming Karn Liberated.
Fish: Game one should be a bye. Your Chalices are largely irrelevant. All you are stopping is Vapor Snag since they have Aether Vial and Cavern of Souls for their four one-drop creatures. The sooner you play a Bridge the easier this match is. Game two you want to get a Chalice on two as fast as possible since either a Hurkyl’s Recall or an Echoing Truth is coming. Both can spell disaster for you.
Gifts Storm: This match is special. Game one will be kind of swingy but game two you have so much stuff that does work. You need a Trinisphere and a Chalice of the Void down quickly. If you can stall them for a few turns to get Trinisphere and a Chalice of the Void on two they just can’t win. You likely want to cut all but on Ensnaring Bridge, and Sweltering Suns and cut all your Blood Moons. Tormod’s Crypt is a big card in this match as well. Another great play in this match is just letting your opponent storm off and after they’ve aimed all their grapeshot copies at your face you can activate Kuldotha Forgemaster and get Platinum Angel. Then proceed to watch as frustration builds and hope fades.
Scapeshift/Valakut: This deck may have the funniest outcome you will ever see. Living the dream when your opponent casts a Prismatic Omen then plays a Scapeshift you can destroy and demoralize them by activating Kuldotha Forgemaster in response to the Scapeshift and destroying five of their lands. Iron Curtain is one of the few decks that actually has an advantage dropping a Blood Moon in this match. It can buy you enough time that a Scapeshift Kill will never happen and with Ensnaring Bridge they can’t get through with Primeval Titan or a Through The Breach -> Emrakul, The Aeons Torn. Most of the lists run four Nature’s Claim as their go-to artifact/ enchantment removal. With your Chalice of the Void on one this is not an issue.
U/W Control: This match can be annoying but overall you should be able to get them. Game one you may feel very far behind. Timely Chalices of the Void and Blood Moons can draw out the match for you long enough to get going with a Planeswalker. Game two and three are as simple as dropping a well-timed Boil or Choke. This can put you far enough ahead of your opponent that you can just cast your threats with no real opposition. You want your Sorcerous Spyglass post board since this shuts off Celestial Colonnade and the various Gideons they run.
Most of this will be very similar. They’re just showing possible different splash configurations.
UR Iron Curtain
RUG Iron Curtain
BRU Iron Curtain
As a final note, I would like to leave a special thanks to Corey Chambers, Raymond Mitchel, Braydon Beacock, and Joshua Cronk for their assistance in developing this over the last 3 years.
Contacting Jeremy Brain; Do you have fan mail? Comments? Hate mail? Have a spicy brew idea you want featured? Are you looking to find a way to break a card into a format and aren’t sure where to start, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.