25 April 2020

Iron Builder: the LEGO® building contest is back

Iron Builder returns! And you can participate. This is great news for anyone who is still looking for advanced LEGO® building challenges (if Ryan Howerter’s REC puzzles and New Elementary’s “Switch Up My Lantern” contest aren't enough for you, that is!).

We love Iron Builder for its mind-blowing NPU and cheeky sense of humour and we intend to share a lot of news about it here on New Elementary. To kick things off, we figured it has been gone for a while and many of you may have no idea what we are talking about. So we collared two of the Iron Builder admin team, Simon Liu and Markus Rollbühler, to give us the lowdown on IB 2020 and how – for the first time ever – anyone can get involved.

Alloy there, lads! What is Iron Builder?

Simon: Iron Builder – named after the famous Iron Chef TV show – is a seed part building challenge, similar to the show in that it features a secret ingredient. Prior to the challenge each builder is sent a secret package containing the parts they’ll use for the round. Unlike a lot of other challenges in the LEGO community, it is a one on one battle between two builders with the winner retaining the Iron Builder Throne.

Markus: In the past each builder had a whole month to build as many builds as possible featuring the seed part. It’s similar to a New Elementary Parts Festival, except that there’s many more builds. And puns. And smack talk! Since it’s two builders facing off against each other it’s not uncommon to have very friendly – and sometimes less friendly – banter between builders. The best Iron Builders even base their next build off what was just posted by their competitor – extremely entertaining!

"I know my puns just keep you in stitches" © Matt De Lanoy

Indeed, sounds riveting. So what happened to Iron Builder?

Simon: Iron Builder is not an easy challenge, in the end it averaged over a build a day for each competitor. It’s gotten a bit much for the builders and coordinating the challenge has its own difficulties; more than once shipping has caused a delay in starting a round as builders from all around the globe are participating. You also need to plan around their personal affairs as life has the tendency to throw things in the way and so it more or less died a quiet death about three years ago.

It seems that Iron was wrought with problems. Why did you bring it back?

Markus: Iron Builder has a very special place in the hearts of many in the building community. It was simply one of the most entertaining things to watch, one of the biggest honors to get to compete, and had the ultimate bragging rights if you won.

Simon: And, speaking from experience, it changes you as a builder. Once you’ve competed you realize you have the ability to build in all genres, build at an incredible speed. Nothing scares you anymore. Which also inspires the community: if the Iron Builders can do it, why can’t everyone? It’s a lot like LEGO Masters in that regard.

© Simon Liu

Markus: Considering so many people bring it up at the most random occasions and ask about Iron Builder’s whereabouts while at the same time we now have a completely new generation of builders that haven’t seen anything quite like it, it felt like a good time to bring it back. There is so much talent out there, and interest has been huge!

Definitely a great test of one's metal. Is it the same format for the 2020 Iron ore have you made changes?

Simon: A lot! We asked a lot of past builders and future hopefuls how they would make the competition more sustainable and less taxing while keeping the same impressive punch. At the same time we also wanted to involve the community itself more, so we are hosting it on the Discord platform now where builders can actively engage!

Markus: The most exciting change, though, is what we call The Forge. In all previous rounds all the challengers were hand-picked by the organizers which – while it worked quite well – didn’t provide an opportunity for fresh and unknown builders to prove themselves. This time around we’re setting up a free-for-all building challenge that anyone can enter! Over the course of multiple weeks you battle other contestants in seed-part challenges for the top spot – one that guarantees you to compete in a future Iron Builder round.


I guess there may prove to be downsides to this approach, but on the oxide, literally anyone can join?

Simon: Yes! Check out iron.builders - the Forge is already open. The first round seed part is minifigure legs and it runs until Friday 1 May, 23:59h (CEST) / 5:59pm (EDT) / 2:59pm (PDT).


Are you welding any changes onto the original format?

Markus: One of the main concerns was always the length of the contest. We therefore have changed the format a bit and now a single round or duel will run for 16 days – that is two weeks including three weekends – which is about half the length of what it used to be. Additionally we will limit the amount of builds that will be judged to keep the quality of the builds up and to discourage spam-building (though we do enjoy the punny spam builds). Finally, to make sure people won’t have to rely on the aftermarket (and shipping) to source additional seed parts for the crazier ideas in life, we will guarantee to ship 100 elements to each builder which should give them plenty to work with.

I bet newbies would love to steel themselves by looking at past Iron Builder creations, and the rest of us are a bit rusty. So which was your favorite round?

Simon: I can more easily tell you which was my least favorite round… but as for my favorite, there are so many from the earlier days. Bruce Lowell vs the now-US-LEGO-Master Tyler Clites is up there, but if I had to choose one it would have to be New E’s Jonas Kramm vs TimS.

© Tim Schwalfenburg


Markus: I completely agree; that one was just one standout MOC after the other, with fun smack talk. Anything involving Siercon & Coral was always a treat and showed you just how much was possible within the medium of LEGO.

© Siercon & Coral

Oh, and do you remember Duplo grass?

© Eero Okkonen
Simon: Ha, who could forget that? In short, each round brought its own flavor and stand-out MOCs. In the future we plan to host all former competitions on the website so everyone can enjoy them, until then feel free to check out the history lesson we prepared on Discord! See you in The Forge?

Sounds like a grate idea guys, see you there!




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