Iron Curtain Control
Today we will be considering a new mono-red control deck for Modern. This is a prison deck designed to prevent your opponents from executing their game plan.
I. Overview and Decklist
II. Main Deck Card Choices
III. General Strategy
IV. Sideboard Card Choices
VI. Other Possible Card Choices
I. An Overview of the Deck and a couple sample lists
Greedy mana bases are the norm in our current Modern meta. The format is chock full of fetch lands, shock lands, man lands, and various utility nonbasics. Therefore we are presented with an opportunity to attack our opponent’s mana base and punish them for playing nonbasics. Decks such as Death and Taxes and Hate Bears are known for restricting the opponent’s mana while presenting an efficient clock. We too will be going after our opponent’s ability to cast spells.
The Iron Curtain was the result of being stuck in traffic with a friend of mine on the way back from FNM. As we were discussing ridiculous combos we could try and pull off in Modern, we had a momentary spark of genius. We theorized that we could combine pieces of Legacy MUD and Legacy Dragon Stompy to have a devastatingly powerful Modern control deck. The original design was to use Mox Opal, Simian Spirit Guide, Darksteel Citadel, Springleaf Drum, Ornithopter and Memnite to ramp out a fast Koth of the Hammer, Blood Moon, or Magus of the Moon. From there, we could take our time eliminating our opponent with either Koth of the Hammer or a Blightsteel Colossus run out via Kuldotha Forgemaster.
The first snag we hit was Path to Exile and Lightning Bolt. Path gets rid of Blightsteel Colossus effectively and Lightning Bolt is an easy way to remove a Magus of the Moon. The solution was to add Chalice of the Void. This presented a new problem, as our original design had Springleaf Drum, a one drop. These were replaced with Trinispheres. Without the Springleaf Drums the Memnites and Ornithopters became useless, so they were replaced with Spellskites.
The aggressive nature of the Modern format forced us to add Ensnaring Bridge to the mainboard. Simian Spirit Guide resulted in a lot of bad hands looking keepable; however, when we removed them we still needed mana ramp but couldn’t decide what. This is when we started looking at Master Transmuter and the interactions it could have. We took the Spirit Guides out and brought in Izzet Signets, which seemed to fix the mana issue entirely.
The deck debuted at the ManaDeprived Super Series in Toronto on November 7th. My final record was 5/3. My only loses at the tournament were to Jund, Ad Nauseam, and Zoo. Changes I have made since then to the sideboard and the main should help those matches.
Sample List #1
Sample List #2
II. Main Deck Card Choices
Blightsteel Colossus: Possibly one of the most terrifying Modern legal cards. When this comes down unanswered it’s game over. In our deck this is a tutorable win condition. I wouldn’t include more than 2, and 1 should be all you ever need.
Kuldotha Forgemaster: The engine that makes it all work. Forgemaster finds all your threats, and even answers to your opponent’s threats, at instant speed. Include 3-4 of these.
Master Transmuter: The backup plan if you lose all of your Forgemasters, this card can be very deadly on its own as well. It enables some devastating loops with Spine of Ish Sah or Sundering Titan and lets you protect your artifacts since returning an artifact to your hand is part of its ability’s cost and not part of the resolution. Include 2-3 of these.
Platinum Angel: This has been a staple in Commander, casual, and some Tron lists for ages. Sometimes all you need to get out of a bad situation is an Angel. With a Chalice of the Void on the board burn will have a hard time killing Platinum Angel and an even harder one if you have a Spellskite as well. Run 1-4 of these in your deck depending on how much burn and combo is in your meta.
Spellskite: Spellskite is a very powerful part of your prison setup: it protects your other prison pieces, it’s a large body that can block plenty of the creatures in the format, and since it only costs 2 it can activate your early-game Mox Opals and be fodder for your late-game Kuldotha Forgemasters. Include 2-4 of these in your deck.
Steel Hellkite: Steel Hellkite is one of many nasty bombs that you can bring out with your Kuldotha Forgemasters. It’s fantastic for removing problem permanents and also has fire breathing and flies. Its 5 power presents a 4 turn clock or better. Include 1-2 in your deck.
Sundering Titan: This card is the stuff of greedy players’ nightmares. If it’s not bad enough that you’re keeping them off their dual colour lands with Blood Moon, now they can kiss their basics goodbye. To make matters worse, it’s a hard-to-kill 7/10, and if they do remove it there goes even more land. Master Transmuter lets you trigger it twice a turn. Include 1-3 of these in your deck.
Wurmcoil Engine: Every Tron and MUD player’s favourite creature. It starts out as a 6/6 body that kills everything it touches and gains you six life every time it touches something. That’s pretty gross on its own, but if your opponent can kill it, it splits in two, making a 3/3 with lifelink and a 3/3 with deathtouch. That’s some nasty business right there. Include 1-3 of these.
Anger of the Gods: Does your opponent have too many small creatures to make attacking a viable option? No problem – let’s destroy as many of them as 3 damage each will kill. And just to be safe, let’s make sure they never come back again. Include 3-4 in your deck.
Blood Moon: Nothing is a bigger disappointment then having your carefully crafted mana base be reduced to uselessness. With so many three-colour decks floating around and very few of them running basics, this can end a game all on its own. Understanding exactly how Blood Moon and Magus of the Moon work is crucial to this deck. Blood Moon changes all nonbasic lands’ subtypes to Mountain and removes ALL printed abilities from the cards once it hits the board. It does not, however, change types(eg: Artifact, Creature) or supertypes (eg: Legendary, Snow.) It does not affect lands’ abilities that change the way they enter the battlefiend (such as “Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle enters the battlefield tapped”), but it removes any “when this enters the battlefield” abilities before they can trigger (such as “when Temple of Malady enters the battlefield, scry 1.”) If your opponent has a Dryad Arbor, it’s still a 1/1 Creature, but is now a Mountain instead of a Forest. Include 4 in your deck.
Chalice of the Void: Path to Exile, Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek, Duress, Lightning Bolt, and many other one drops are enormous problems for this deck. In comes Chalice of the Void. Most of the time the only number you’re sticking this on is 1, but in some matches Chalice for 0 or 2 is absolutely back breaking. Include 3-4 in your deck.
Ensnaring Bridge: This card keeps you alive while you set up a Forgemaster or Master Transmuter. It is pretty easy to keep two or fewer cards in hand. When you go for the kill, sacrifice the Ensnaring Bridge to Forgemaster on your opponent’s end step so you can swing in with whatever giant bomb you want to use. Include 2-4 of these in your Deck
Koth of the Hammer: Planeswalkers are always useful. Koth of the Hammer helps in so many different ways. Need an attacker or one more mana? +1 Koth of the Hammer. Need a lot more mana? Use his -2, and remember that Blood Moon makes Darksteel Citadels mountains. Having trouble clearing the board to get in with a bomb? -5 Koth of the Hammer and just let your mountains drain your opponent to zero from behind your Iron Curtain of prison effects. Include 2-4.
Lightning Greaves: The majority of the time this card will speed up your Kuldotha Forgemasters and Master Transmuters, but in many games you can use it to protect Platinum Angel and guarantee a win. Run 1-2.
Spine of Ish Sah: Very effective for picking off literally any (non-indestructible) target. Cut off your opponent’s creatures, planeswalkers, lands, enchantments and artifacts with this. With a Master Transmuter out, you can remove one more permanent per turn. Include 1-2 in your deck
Trinisphere: A nightmare to deal with in Vintage and Legacy, now Trinisphere is playable in Modern too. Making your opponents pay 3 for 0, 1, and 2 drops is fantastic, and Trinisphere does not change spells’ CMC, so anything that would normally be countered by Chalice still does. As a bonus, it also taxes spells cast with suspend.
Tormod’s Crypt: Early game it can activate your Mox Opal. Late game you can shut off your opponent’s Snapcaster Mages and Jace, Telepath Unbound. It shrinks Tarmogoyf and is incidentally excellent vs Living End, Grishoalbrand, and Storm. Run 2-4.
Darksteel Citadel. It’s an artifact and it’s a land. Under a Blood Moon it stays an artifact. It can be sacrificed to Forgemaster or sent to hand by Transmuter and put right back down. This card offers so much utility. Include 4 in your deck.
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth: Most of the time this card is entirely dead, but if you don’t have a Blood Moon out it lets your Sundering Titan hit man lands. Post board it gives you more access to black cards. Run 0-1.
III. General Strategy
The main goal of the deck is to imprison your opponent then hit them with something huge. An ideal breakdown would be as follows:
Turn 1: Darksteel Citadel, Mox Opal.
Turn 4: Forgemaster.
Turn 5: Play some artifacts or an Anger of the Gods. At the end of your opponent’s turn, activate your Forgemaster to call in the big guns.
Turn 6: Kill.
A perfect rundown:
Turn 1: Darksteel Citadel, Mox Opal.
IV. Sideboard Card Choices
Boil: This is pretty self-explanatory. A well-timed Boil can absolutely devastate any blue deck. This comes in against Twin, UWx Control and RUG Scapeshift.
Jaya Ballard, Task Mage: Mostly for removing threatening blue permanents such as Deceiver Exarch and Pestermite. This can also be used to clear out a wad of problematic creatures. Bring in vs Twin, Delver, UWx control.
Phyrexian Revoker/Pithing Needle: Shuts off your opponent’s problematic planeswalkers, Kiki-Jikis, etc. Bring in vs Kiki Chord, Tron, Twin, and Jund.
Shattering Spree: One-sided, gets around your own Chalices, and can destroy multiple targets in one shot. Bring in vs Tron, Affinity and Lantern Control.
Spine of Ish Sah: Sometimes you actually need two of this card. This is most useful against control decks and Tron.
War’s Toll: This card can be very dangerous and blow up in your face, so be careful. Against creature-heavy decks it’s bad, but it can ruin Control and Tron’s day. It also prevents man lands from being activated. Bring in vs UWx Control, Tron, Twin, Affinity, and Grixis.
Slaughter Games: If you want to play it safer than trying to run Surgical Extraction or Extirpate alongside Chalice of the Void, run this. As a bonus, it’s convenient not having to wait for your opponent to put that problem card in their graveyard.
Sun Droplet: This effectively negates some of burn’s most biggest threats and slows them down by at least two damage a turn. It’s also great against decks that spend the first few turns just poking you with small stuff. I occasionally mainboard one just because it has the potential to buy me a lot of time
Jund: This match is absolutely miserable. You need a Blood Moon down before they realize what is happening. They have Abrupt Decay, Kolaghan’s Command, Terminate, Liliana of the Veil, and Maelstrom Pulse to wreck your day. You’re almost better off conceding game one and siding in Pithing Needle/Phyrexian Revoker, Surgical Extraction/Extirpate, and something to make you untargetable. Spellskite is a MVP in this match.
Grixis: The second worst match-up you have. At least they don’t have Abrupt Decay, but they do have Kolaghan’s Command and lots of basics. Sundering Titan, Spine of Ish Sah, Boil, Spellskite are all really strong here.
R/U/G Scapeshift: This match can go either way very quickly, but generally you’re favoured. Blood Moon kills their Valakuts and they rarely have a backup plan main. Just sit back and enjoy.
R/G Tron: I have yet to win game one, but in games two and three we are heavily favored. If you have a Revoker in hand, drop it after they drop their Oblivion Stone unless you also have Shattering Spree, in which case hold Revoker for Karn or Ugin. If you can Extirpate or Surgical the Oblivion Stone then it should be smooth sailing. Always hold a second Blood Moon in hand if able until you have Karn and Ugin locked out.
Twin: This match can be aggravating. Chalice and Trinisphere aren’t as useful, but they still counter their Bolts and cantrips and make their counterspells cost more. This deck has more than enough ways to handle Twin, so if you don’t get game one games two and three should be much easier
Zoo: This is similar to the Hate Bears match. An early Ensnaring Bridge or Pithing Needle/Revoker on Qasali Pride Mage also helps.
Ad Nauseam: This is one of the few matches where you want Chalice on zero. It’s a good call to hold your Chalices until you see a Lotus Bloom. Neither Blood Moon nor Trinisphere cripple them, so make yourself untargetable quick. Also remember that Pithing Needle and Revoker can name Lightning Storm.
VI. Other Possible Card Choices
Fabricate: This isn’t the fastest card you could use for this purpose, but in the terms of mana cost, it’s the cheapest. Whether the piece you need is Kuldothan Forgemaster, Master Transmuter, or even a Darksteel Citadel, Fabricate finds it and puts it in your hand.
Oblivion Stone: For those days where absolutely everything has to be destroyed. This has the potential to blow up in your face, so timing is vital. Part of what makes it nice is that it does not blow up your Blightsteel Colossus.
Blasphemous Act: Another card for when absolutely everything needs to die. This is fantastic against decks that pump out a lot of creatures and is very useful in removing creatures that are too big for Anger of the Gods.
Bonfire of the Damned: Yet another kill card. It’s one-sided, has the potential to be devastating if you have plenty of mana available when it comes up, and hits your opponent’s life total as well. Unfortunately, if you draw it too early to use miracle it’s less effective than Anger of the Gods or Blasphemous Act.
Lightning Greaves: I’ve been bouncing back and forth on using this. It can enable a faster Blightsteel kill, but I feel it’s slightly clunky in Modern compared to Legacy.
Staff of Domination: This can be a very useful utility piece or mana sink. A little extra life or card draw can go a long way.
Staff of Nin: Another utility piece. It doesn’t have as many uses as Staff of Domination but it automatically draws you a card every turn and can poke your opponents’ small creatures to death.
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth: This is a bit of a weird card to include, and a greedy one, but it has the potential to be nasty. Urborg can give your Sundering Titan one more target to hit.
Elixir of Immortality: Use this to shuffle things back in for those long games. Its only downside is that it costs one, so it doesn’t get along with your Chalices too well.
Phyrexian Metamorph: Not an awful card and it provides plenty of utility.