The Three Decks I Considered For Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan

Feature Article from Seth Manfield
Seth Manfield
2/2/2018 11:05:00 AM
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It has been forever since we have had a Modern Pro Tour, so I forgot just how difficult it actually is to prepare for a tournament like this. There are so many decks that it really is impossible to test every single one. This means many players fall back on playing a deck that they are familiar with and know can do well.

The last Modern tournament I did well at was Grand Prix Oklahoma City, where I made the Top 4 with Black-Green Tron. The deck felt like one of the most powerful strategies in the format during that event, and that hasn't changed. In fact, I think that Tron is the most powerful strategy in the format, but also the most targeted. This left me with a difficult dilemma of whether or not to play the deck that most players will be trying to beat.

Tron

The fact is that after playing a ton of Black-Green Tron my results with it haven't been amazing online. There is a major uptick in cards like Blood Moon, Field of Ruin, Ceremonious Rejection and other options aimed specifically at beating Tron. Some of these cards are extremely difficult to actually beat when playing the big mana version of Tron, as you really do need all three Tron pieces in play and able to produce lots of mana.

Eldrazi Tron is an alternative route to take, for those wanting to play the Tron lands but not be as vulnerable to the hate. I think this a reasonable approach to take. Eldrazi Tron doesn't actually need to assemble Tron in order to win since the mana costs are lower – Eldrazi Temple is in many ways the best land to have in your opening hand. The issue with Eldrazi Tron is it isn't capable of having the absurd late-game power of the bigger Tron decks.

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Eldrazi Tron is better against the combo decks that Tron typically struggles to interact with – cards like Thought-Knot Seer and Chalice of the Void certainly make things difficult on the opponent. The bigger Tron decks aim to beat combo strategies by landing haymakers like Karn Liberated as quickly as possible. The six and seven-mana cards are the gamebreakers. In the end I believe that the strategy of choosing a deck that is both good and you know well is a recipe for success.

I have decided to take Black-Green Tron to the Pro Tour. While I can't give away my exact list, I will say it is quite similar to what I played in Oklahoma City.

This deck has a ton of redundancy, so it will be able to find the Tron pieces consistently. Even though this isn't considered a combo deck, in many ways the mulligan decisions are similar. Tron must mulligan very aggressively. This is something I struggle with as someone who really dislikes having to mulligan in general. Most of the mulligan decisions focus on your ability to assemble Tron in your opening hand. Since the deck doesn't play many total lands, you will often have hands with only one land in them.

My general rule is that I want to keep a hand that can already access two Tron lands. This means either two different Tron lands or one Tron land plus a card like Ancient Stirrings or Sylvan Scrying. The Chromatic Star and Chromatic Sphere mean that you have to sometimes rely on them drawing you into that missing Tron piece. Mulliganning might actually be the most difficult aspect of playing the deck, as there are a lot of borderline hands.

The deck doesn't need many cards to win games; I mulliganned to three in a mirror match online and had Karn Liberated on turn three and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger on turn four. My opponent was not pleased. There are even hands where you may have to keep zero lands on the draw after a mulligan. Modern decks often are forced to take more risks, but the rewards are certainly there.

I think Tron gets a bad rap for being an easy and unfun deck to play against. I can understand that many matchups aren't interactive, but you also can get some really interesting games. Knowing how to sequence your spells isn't easy. Looking at results over the past few months, it is clear that Tron is one of the top decks in the format, but there are several other decks I considered as well.

Burn

I've played Burn to a Pro Tour Top 8 before, which led me to gravitate towards playing it. It's another deck that many players believe isn't very skill-intensive, but that isn't always the case. Some matchups are very tricky, especially against Death's Shadow – you can't simply throw all your burn spells at the opponent's face immediately because allows a Death's Shadow to come down too early and you won't have a way to close out the game.

This is the Burn list I would have played at the Pro Tour if I chose the deck:

This list isn't too far off from the norm, but I would like to note a couple of key decisions. For the longest time I had four copies of Skullcrack in my Burn decks, but I believe shaving is now okay. There are not nearly as many Kitchen Finks running around as there used to be. The best use of Skullcrack is when playing it in response to a Lightning Helix, but most players will avoid casting Lightning Helix against Burn while the Burn player has two open mana.

Overall, the matchup where Skullcrack is at its best is against Tron, because it can stop cards like Thragtusk and Wurmcoil Engine, which can buy you the extra turn needed to win in many spots. One of the reasons I wanted to play Burn is because it does have a pretty good Tron matchup if you can dodge Collective Brutality.

The two copies of Grim Lavamancer are also worth taking note of – this is your best card in a variety of matchups. Many decks don't have a lot of removal, so it becomes a reoccurring source of damage every turn. Humans for instance has tons of trouble with Grim Lavamancer, as it can also just ping away most of their creatures. Having a turn one creature is very important for this deck, without one and your draw isn't great.

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The sideboard does have a lot of artifact removal, which is due to an uptick of strategies like Lantern Control and Affinity. Destructive Revelry is also a card that can come in for other matchups that might have cards like Leyline of Sanctity that are very difficult to beat otherwise. Rest in Peace is not just great against graveyard decks, but also does a number on Death's Shadow as well. Stopping delve creatures means that the Death's Shadow deck has very few ways to close out the game without a large Death's Shadow.

White-Blue Control

The last deck I was very close to playing at the Pro Tour is White-Blue Control. I've been working on it quite a bit, but in the end I thought Tron would be a slightly better choice for me. White-Blue Control is actually quite good against many of the top decks in the format – I like the matchups against Storm, Affinity, Death's Shadow and Tron, which could easily be the four most well represented decks at the PT.

The issues are that many creature-heavy strategies do well against it, and it is very vulnerable to picking up unintentional draws because of how slow it is. The last Modern event I played with this deck involved me picking up a draw in a mirror match. This is not an issue I wanted to run into at the Pro Tour. I also think that Jeskai Control is favored against White-Blue Control, but White-Blue is better positioned against big mana strategies.

This deck is all about having answers to what the opponent is doing. Runed Halo is a card I really like, as it can be essentially a spot removal spell while doubling as a way to stop key combo pieces and interactions that target you. Very few decks actually main deck enchantment removal, which makes it even better. Path to Exile is the typical spot removal spell of choice, but this really isn't a Snapcaster Mage strategy like other blue control decks.

In fact, I like having access to Rest in Peace after sideboard, as it helps a lot of your worst matchups beyond just Dredge. The planeswalkers are how this deck wins the game and can be your form of card advantage. Jace, Architect of Thought can end up doing a lot of work digging through your deck. Search for Azcanta is another card that will set you up really well in a long game.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield




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