Taking Tron to the Top 4

Feature Article from Seth Manfield
Seth Manfield
12/13/2017 11:01:00 AM
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I have been talking about Modern for a while now, and with the latest shifts in the metagame this past weekend was the perfect time for Tron. Lantern Control has been the deck receiving the most attention lately, and that might be Tron's best matchup. Brad Nelson played Tron at the last SCG Invitational, and I was able to get some valuable feedback from him on the deck. He was playing the mono-green version, but we realized that adding black makes the deck better.

Going over the hottest decks in Modern, from Five Color Humans to Jeskai Control to Lantern Control, it seemed like Tron was perfectly positioned. This was indeed the case. While there are some tougher matchups like Scapeshift, which I eventually did lose to, that matchup is definitely winnable. In fact, I beat it during the swiss rounds. What I dodged the whole weekend were cards like Blood Moon, Spreading Seas, and Fulminator Mage. There was very little mana denial at Grand Prix Oklahoma City, at least from what I saw.

When we take these factors into account it makes a lot of sense why various builds of Tron did so well, and why it was Scapeshift that eventually won the tournament. Both of these decks struggle against mana denial, but beat up on the midrange creature, and control strategies. This does not mean that Tron and Scapeshift are too good for the format. There are decks out there that are good answers to these decks, though they are not as strong against the creature decks. For example, in the wake of GP: Oklahoma City, I expect a deck like Blue-Red Breach to become more popular again.

Tron can definitely lead to some uneventful games of Magic, but I don't think it is too powerful for Modern. There are many combo decks that aren't interactive in Modern. I can definitely understand the frustration of a turn-three Karn Liberated ending the game immediately, but there are also plenty of interesting games Tron plays as well. I played multiple games that lasted beyond turn 10, so clearly there is the potential for that to happen. I definitely had fun playing in Oklahoma City last weekend. Of course my opponents may not have enjoyed being on the other side of the table as much.

This is the deck I took to a top 4 finish:

Clearly this is a bigger, more traditional Tron deck, in comparison to Eldrazi Tron. Interestingly, Eldrazi Tron was by far the most popular Tron-based strategy until recently. That deck has access to more disruption in the form of Chalice of the Void and Thought-Knot Seer, but does not have the same sort of late-game. The other issue with Eldrazi Tron is it doesn't find Tron very reliably. Eldrazi Temple acts as another way to ramp, but doesn't compare to the amount of mana you can have by having all three Tron pieces in play. The Black-Green Tron deck is able to have Tron in play by turn four consistently, and oftentimes on turn three.

Since you have Tron reliably, it is easy to play a bunch of big spells, based on the assumption you will be able to have the mana to cast them. If you are not getting run over early, or close to losing to an opposing combo, the lategame is always going to favor the Black-Green Tron deck, which is a nice feeling to have. You can also turn your cards that find lands like Sylvan Scrying and Expedition Map into a huge creature. This is done by searching out Sanctum of Ugin, the most important land in the deck after the Tron pieces.

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Sanctum of Ugin can quickly become an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. This is part of the reason I like only playing one copy of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, as it is searchable. Normally casting one copy of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is enough to close out a game. There is also a copy of World Breaker which generally provides a similar effect to Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, though is clearly less powerful, and mana intensive. Being able to attack opposing lands with your big mana cards is one of the primary routes to winning.

The Warping Wail Story

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I didn't play as many games as some of my teammates did to prepare for the Grand Prix. I relied heavily on Corey Baumeister to help me with this deck, and he was the one constantly jamming it on Magic Online. While I ended up playing the same 74 as him, I did switch one card. He had Ghost Quarter in his sideboard, and I thought that was a mistake悠 knew I wanted a Ghost Quarter maindeck. It is very important against Affinity, while also being a useful tool against other big mana decks, and manlands like Celestial Colonnade.

Since I moved the Ghost Quarter to the maindeck in place of a Llanowar Wastes, it allowed me to have access to one additional sideboard card. I was up late into Friday night all of a sudden trying to figure out what my last sideboard card should be. Luckily, I was staying in the same room as Steve Rubin, who was also playing Tron, and he had Warping Wail in his sideboard. Once I realized all the matchups the card is good against, it was an easy inclusion.

In fact, I wish I had played more than one Warping Wail. I was lucky to draw the single copy I had in my sideboard a lot, and it was very good. It almost won me my semifinal match against Scapeshift, had my opponent not topdecked the critical land he needed to cast Primeval Titan. It did win me a match against Scapeshift in the swiss rounds though. This is an example of how every card in your deck matters, sometimes a single card in the sideboard can make all the difference.

Would I Change the List at all?

I like B/G Tron, and I think it is better than the mono-green version, or any other Tron deck for that matter. That is the first point I want to emphasize. You are not losing much by touching on black, primarily gaining high-impact sideboard cards. I also mentioned I would add more copies of Warping Wail, probably shaving on some of the other sideboard cards. For instance, I could see cutting a Thragtusk or Nature's Claim.

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I liked the three maindeck Relic of Progenitus, but I could see cutting one potentially. Relic of Progenitus is a card we have seen in and out of the maindeck of Tron decks. I wouldn't go below two, but right now graveyard decks aren't terribly popular. In many matchups it is a cantrip that provides some sort of disruption. Whether that means shutting off Snapcaster Mage, Tarmogoyf, or Knight of the Reliquary, that depends.

I can see playing More or Less Relic of Progenitus maindeck depending on the popularity of the graveyard decks. We decided that Ravenous Trap would be a better sideboard card, as the opponent won't see it coming, and when it is good it just wins the game on the spot. This is also a good way of surprising a Storm player when they are trying to go off with Past in Flames. The deck definitely needs some amount of graveyard hate between the maindeck and sideboard. I don't like Grafdigger's Cage, because it isn't good to have it in play when casting Oblivion Stone.

I would never cut Chromatic Star or Chromatic Sphere from the deck. Not only do they fix colored mana, but they cantrip for less mana than Relic of Progenitus, because you get a mana back from sacrificing them. The only card in the maindeck that was not terribly impressive was Fatal Push. Fatal Push is going to be bad whenever you get paired against a deck not relying on creatures, and I faced a number of those decks. When I did get paired against Affinity or Death's Shadow I was happy to have Fatal Push.

I am honestly not sure which is better between Fatal Push and Dismember. Even though Fatal Push is the only maindeck black card, it isn't the actual reason for playing black. Fatal Push is going to get boarded out a lot, as would another spot removal spell like Dismember. The reason it is in the maindeck is to have access to more early interaction. When facing off against a deck like Burn for example, Fatal Push is going to be great. The card is matchup-dependent, so I could see Fatal Push being better as a sideboard card, but for now I'm keeping it maindeck.

This was a long way of saying I would change very little about the deck as of right now. The only clear change would be adding another copy of Warping Wail to the sideboard, and I would consider additional changes based on the metagame.

Sideboard Cards

I will be talking about general applications for sideboard cards, rather than a specific sideboard guide. This should be more helpful, as there are too many decks in Modern to have a detailed guide for everything, in my opinion.

Collective Brutality is one of the main reasons to play black. It turns around your worst matchups, and that is exactly what a sideboard card is supposed to do. For instance, Burn is supposed to be a terrible matchup, but you are heavily favored after sideboarding in Collective Brutality. This is the best possible card to have for that matchup. Collective Brutality is also good against Collected Company decks, as killing a creature and nabbing a key copy of Collected Company or Chord of Calling is great. I also bring Collective Brutality in against combo decks like Storm or Scapeshift, as a Duress-type effect.

Thoughtseize goes alongside Collective Brutality as one of the key black cards. I found myself boarding in Thoughtseize a ton. You can't afford to have too many black cards, because you don't always have colored mana, but I found myself able to consistently cast Thoughtseize. I board Thoughtseize in against all the decks that aren't aggressive creature-based strategies, essentially.

You can use Nature's Claim on your own artifact in a pinch to gain life. It is primarily here as an answer to troublesome enchantments like Blood Moon and Stony Silence. Of course, you also are going to want it against any artifact- or enchantment-based strategy.

Ravenous Trap is for graveyard-based combo decks.

Thragtusk is a great card to have access to postboard. It is your Contingency Plan, as oftentimes the opponent will be bringing in cards to stop you from easily winning with early copies of Karn Liberated and friends. For instance, Death's Shadow is likely to attack you postboard with Stubborn Denial and Ceremonious Rejection, and Thragtusk is great against that plan of attack. It also comes in against most midrange and control decks. It is better than Wurmcoil Engine versus decks with Path to Exile.

The most important mode of Warping Wail is countering a sorcery against combo strategies. That being said, it is also solid against small creatures out of decks like Infect or Affinity.

Thanks for reading,
Seth Manfield




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