Magic For the Criminally Insane – Iron Man 2003

Many of you may be unfamiliar with Iron Man (I plan on explaining our group’s specific rules later on), so I will expose the basics here. Essentially, if a card leaves the play area for any reason, it gets ripped (or destroyed in a creative fashion). While many find this objectionable, everyone I know has a ton of commons from expansions they don’t need, so they can usually begrudgingly admit that getting rid of them in this fashion is, at least, plausible.

As with any format, however, there will be those that try and make an impression while playing, by getting rid of foils, foreign black-bordered cards, APAC lands, and even Power 9. I must admit I am one of these people.

With Odyssey block finally gone (Note to Wild Mongrels and Circular Logics everywhere: you won’t be missed) and with the arrival of Mirrodin into Standard, the inevitable had to happen here in Ottawa: An Iron Man tournament. The short and sweet of it is that this means the annual Iron Man tournament was held at Kool Kards Heaven in Orleans, Ontario, on November 22. And hey, if enough of these events happen, can we see Limited Iron Man in the near future? What a motherlode for Wizards that would be.

Many of you may be unfamiliar with Iron Man (I plan on explaining our group’s specific rules later on), so I will expose the basics here. Essentially, if a card leaves the play area for any reason, it gets ripped (or destroyed in a creative fashion). While many find this objectionable, everyone I know has a ton of commons from expansions they don’t need, so they can usually begrudgingly admit that getting rid of them in this fashion is, at least, plausible.

As with any format, however, there will be those that try and make an impression while playing, by getting rid of foils, foreign black-bordered cards, APAC lands, and even Power 9. I must admit I am one of these people. With the loss of a block, we have a chance to dump all those cards that we saw far too often, while using some of the newer commons and uncommons we have in abundance.

The Mirrodin expansion has brought new cards to the mix, and to the banned and restricted list (which is nominally Type 1, with Unglued) for the Iron Man format.

The culprits this time around are Mesmeric Orb (banned) and Worldslayer (restricted).

The impetus for the bannings is as follows:

Mesmeric Orb: In a format where any card going to the graveyard is ripped up, this card simply accumulates too much damage in too short a time. Since its effect is triggered, rather than activated, this card proved to be too strong for the format.

Worldslayer: Like most other sweepers, Worldslayer finds itself on the restricted list because of its ability to remove all permanents from the game. Additionally, Worldslayer’s ability to stay in play, and its possible interactions with Phasing creatures (which do not get ripped up when leaving play, and this can escape Worldslayer and come back to equip it at a later date) make this card problematic for the Iron Man environment.

The format is Type 1 deck construction rules, allowing all Magic sets, including Unglued. Grand Melee play structure, with each player starting with 30 life points. In our area, Grand Melee means that you can attack anyone at the table, and global effects sweep the whole table as well. Essentially, it’s multiplayer Magic. Whenever a card is removed from play except through Phasing, it gets ripped up. Yes this means that Parallax Tide and Parallax Wave are ridiculous. It also makes the Madness mechanic less than optimal, but I never liked it anyway, so tough noogies for it.

Now I know many of you are wondering”Why would I ever want to rip up any of my precious pieces of cardboard, especially such stellar commons as Tahngarth’s Rage or Aurochs?” My answer, of course, would be”To win prizes, to play in a format given legitimacy by Wizards of the Coast (See Mark Gottlieb’s column on the format) to prove you can stand up to the ultimate test, to test your deck construction skills, to be part of an elite social sphere most Magic players only dream of, and did I mention the prizes?”

Yes, there are prizes, and did I mention the event is free?

Yes, I am crazy…I am giving away playable rares to people who will rip up Magic cards.

Prize structure was as follows:

Last Man Standing received a choice of either a Savannah or a Flooded Strand and a Mind’s Desire.

The second to last man standing received whichever prize the Last Man did not pick.

In other words if I chose the Savannah, you’d get the fetch land and Desire…

The most creative deck will get a Mirari’s Wake, and possibly more. Creativity matters, people, pull out those Crypt Rats, Soul Links and Spheres of Grace. Impress me, and find yourself rewarded!

Since I was sure I would win this event, and that my opponents were no doubt shaking in their boots, I have posted my decklist here, for all to ponder, analyze, and fear.

Now generally… I have my tried and true Blue/White deck with which I advance to the finals. I am again piloting a Blue/White deck, with a splash for Black for some interesting cards, namely Royal Assassin, Decree of Pain, and Terror.

My reasons for choosing Blue/White are simple. I assume that the early game will see other players casting low cost creatures and throwing burn spells at each other. My philosophy has always been to wait things out. The problem with using quick and fast resources is that…unlike in constructed and sometimes limited, there is no way to recover your resources. Given this, there are about three patterns you can follow:

A) Use of efficient multi-player reach burn and removal. This is the method that Tony Beck used, and it is, in my opinion, very efficient. Cards that are critical for this are: Syphon Soul, Syphon Mind, Inferno, Sizzle, Flame Rift, Viashino Heretic, and so on. If each of your cards does four damage to each player, or two damage to each player with you getting life out of it…the chasm will widen greatly.

B) Use of multi-player friendly resources. This is typically my way of winning. You play cards like Howling Mine, Unifying Theory, Indentured Djinn, and Congregate. Because you are supplying opponents with more resources, the assumption is that because you’ve helped them, they will be less likely to be aggressive toward you. I can say from experience that this is, indeed, true. If you manage to stave off others long enough, then you just win.

C) The combo approach. This relies on clever card interactions to create a game-state where the player cannot lose. My friend Eric is the master at this. He usually starts by playing a Sphere of Grace, then a Crypt Rat, then…a Spirit Link or Soul Link. At that point, the Rat will deal X damage to every creature or player, and its controller gains X life. That can get really messy in a hurry, and the combination is cheap (in both converted mana costs and in acquiring the cards) and efficient.

Lastly, Iron Man requires a lot of forethought, if it is done in a constructed format. Because of the absence of a graveyard, some cards become absurdly powerful, or simply very, very efficient. For example, Gorilla Titan is an 8/8 for 3GG, since there are never any cards in your graveyard. Likewise, Enslaved Horror is a 4/4 for 3B that has no drawback, since your opponent cannot return a creature from his graveyard to play.

You see… the format by itself is subtly broken by the removal of the graveyard and the fact that cards permanently leave play… the trick is to exploit these changes in a way that can alter the game. For example, we had to ban Mists of Stagnation and Web of Inertia because they were simply too powerful without a graveyard.

At this point, I would like to offer up my decklist (which saw a few tweaks before Saturday), along with my condolences to my opponents in Saturday’s Death Match. I would pity you, but my energies are focused solely on victory, so too bad for you

Blue Black White Control, Iron Man:


1 Annul

1 Braingeyser

1 Bribery

1 Capsize

1 Control Magic

3 Counterspell

1 Deep Analysis

1 Decree of Silence

1 Fabricate

4 Impulse

3 Mahamoti Djinn

1 Merfolk Looter

1 Opportunity

1 Rootwater Thief

1 Shared Fate (Whenever this drops, no one draws a card again, ever, since they get ripped. Enjoy your cards in hand folks!)

1 Stroke of Genius

1 Tinker (Allegedly getting banned, so why not use it for one last hurrah)

1 Trade Secrets (foil)

1 Unnatural Selection


1 Dark Ritual

1 Decree of Pain

2 Royal Assassin

2 Terror


1 Abeyance

1 Allay

2 Altar’s Light

1 Armistice

1 Crusade

2 Devoted Caretaker

1 Dimensional Breach

1 Congregate (probably up to 4)

1 Divine Intervention

1 Foothill Guide (foil)

1 Graceful Antelope (No one will ever miss you)

1 Ivory Mask

1 Look at Me, I’m the DCI!

3 Mother of Runes

1 Opalescence

1 Pianna, Nomad Captain

2 Preacher

2 Savannah Lions

1 True Believer

1 Whipcorder

3 White Knight

1 Wrath of God


1 Isochron Scepter

1 Aether Spellbomb

1 Altar of Shadows

2 Chromatic Sphere

1 Millstone

1 Mind’s Eye

1 Nevinyrral’s Disk

1 Tower of Murmurs


1 Ancient Den

2 Caves of Koilos

1 Salt Marsh

4 Swamp

13 Island

13 Plains

I decided this year that I wanted to be more aggressive in my approach to the game, since I was expecting many Carrion Feeders and other low-cost critters to pop out on turn 1. For this reason, I decided to play several White Knights, Savannah Lions and Mother of Runes for early defense. For the late game, I had the Mahamoti Djinns, Preacher to steal other resources, and the Tower of Murmurs and Millstone.

The game should have unfolded as follows, if my expectations and analyses were correct (they turned out not to be, but it is interesting to compare expectations and results):

The early game should see opponents playing Syphon Minds, Carrion Feeders and Goblins, with occasional spot removal spells. Thus, my early game will consist of playing Savannah Lions, Mother of Runes, and the occasional card search and card-drawers such as Impulse and Braingeyser. The low amount of spot removal in the deck will mean that I will have to go into overdrive with the politicking and so on so I can save my hide until I can play a Nevinyrral’s Disk or Wrath of God. Thankfully, I believe that my opponents will be able to be bribed with various sundries from the store and binders, therefore giving me those few turns I need. If ever the Altar of Shadows or the Tower of Murmurs come out, it’s over!

At that point, in the late game, I should have enough mana and a sufficiently advantageous board position that I will win.

Speaking of Altar of Shadows… Mirrodin made an excellent impression on me, and cards from the set are sprinkled throughout my deck, notably:

All right. I have returned from the Iron Man extravaganza and I am ashamed to say that I lost. However, the experience was great and I will relate here for everyone to enjoy.

The early game had five of us, myself, Tony Beck (a naturalist and good friend), Nick (a young Type 1 enthusiast), Tweek (so named because his is a caffeine and sugar filled body that is constantly twitching and tweaking) and Curtis (a mellow and very friendly Standard player).

Nick and Tweek both rummaged through Onslaught block and Mirrodin block commons and uncommons, and so did Curtis to a degree. In this format, playing multiple early creatures and burn will go a lot farther than you think, but you also need a solution for the mid-game.

Tony had prepared his game to perfection. In his deck were four copies each of multiplayer staples such as Sizzle, Syphon Soul, Syphon Mind, Inferno and Flame Rift. Now it should be noted that Tony and I have a long-standing friendly Magic rivalry, and he had e-mailed me beforehand to make sure that there would be no unfair targeting of himself through gameplay.

Now, one can argue what is unfair. But I’m sure, dear reader, that you will agree that going:

“Flame Rift, Sizzle, Syphon Soul, Syphon Mind, Inferno” consecutively, will ensure a quick and brutal retaliation.

I had no idea that people would be this aggressive, so I got my Ivory Mask out as soon as possible, to ensure that any targeted burn would not be thrown my way. At the midpoint of the game, I had an Ivory Mask, Tower of Murmurs, two Wayward Souls, a Preacher and a lot of untapped mana. I used the Tower of Murmurs three times on Tony to remove him from play, removed his Viashino Heretic with Swords to Plowshares, then cast Tinker, sacrificing the Tower of Murmurs (which, according to sources, should be banned within a week, so no one will miss it) to fetch a Mind’s Eye. I used the Mind’s Eye to draw about six cards, and things stabilized.

At this point, I weigh my options. I have Dimensional Breach in hand, with enough resources (Impulse, Arcane Denial, Savannah Lions) to make a comeback. With a Chromatic Sphere, Ivory Mask, Mind’s Eye, two Wayward Souls and twelve lands in play, I consider.

I move to my draw step.

I look toward the snack bar, where Darcy Green, the storeowner is getting ready to take a picture of the Iron Man event.

I draw…

A Black Lotus.

Now, I don’t own a Black Lotus, so this alarms me somewhat. But, in the spirit of Iron Man, I knew I was going to use it.

I play it, and tap it.

“Sacrifice Lotus, add three Blue mana to my mana pool. Use one of the mana to activate Chromatic Sphere, adding a White mana to my pool. Draw a card.”

I rip up the Black Lotus into four tidy squares.

Panic ensues.

Tweek and Nick lunge for the pieces, unable to believe a Power 9 card has been ripped up in Iron Man. I cast Dimensional Breach, floating UUUW. Everything gets ripped up. I cast Impulse, and see Island, Plains, Graceful Antelope, and Swords to Plowshares. I take the Plains.

While this is happening, Darcy snaps a photo, and Nick gets the pieces of the card formerly known as Black Lotus. Examining it, he realizes…

It was a fake. We found out later that Jayden Green, the storeowner’s son, had placed it on top of my deck unnoticed by anyone.

However, it should be noted that it was so well executed that it could easily have been mistaken for the real thing. People at this point are recovering their senses, and asking me:

“Why would you rip up a Lotus, if you thought it was real?”

“Well, the additional three mana gave me more flexibility. I wasn’t going to miss it, I don’t play Type 1.”

At this point, Gummy Bears get thrown at me.

After the candy war ends, I resume my battle with Tweek, who is, at this point, the lone opponent. I am at two, and he is at three. He plays his fourth land, reveals a Solar Blast, and burns me out, the end.

We decided before the game started, however, that we would make an exception to the tearing of cards. Any rares or foils ripped up would be set aside outside the play area, and then given to Darcy, the storeowner. Darcy, in turn, would find a young magic player with few cards and donate them to him, as a way of perpetuating the game.

So we were all winners in the end. Tweek got his Savannah, I kept my Flooded Strand, Tony Beck got a Mirari’s Wake, and we all had some zany fun.

Can’t wait until Mirrodin block rotates out!