Deck Tech – paTron of the Sea

I’d like to start my article by apologizing for the lack of content from me over the recent weeks. I’m currently trying to set up a way to be able to do videos from this point going forward. The videos will feature me playing a modern deck that I choose for the week as I pilot it against various other players on xMage. I will discuss strategies for the matchup, as well as explain my thoughts on the lines of play as I make them. Along with the videos, I’ll also be including a much shorter text article to accompany it outlining where I think the deck stands in position to various metagames, as well as what changes can be made for the deck for the future.

Using the previous article that outlined multiple different types of “control” style deck, I’m going to choose one of those deck and go over a more in-depth and piece-by-piece type of guide.

This time I have chosen to provide an in-depth look at a newer deck to the format, Black-Green Tron. This combination gained attention when Fatal Push was leaked. It, along with Collective Brutality, offers a nice variety of answers for Tron’s most deplorable matchups.

Tron has been a large player in Modern for a long period of time now, constantly gaining upgrades throughout the years. Along with grabbing those upgrades along the way, namely Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, the shell of the deck also allows it to be inherently dynamic. We’ve seen many iterations of Tron be developed throughout the years to combat the shifting meta. Most recently Green-White was the go-to version of Tron as it offered the most impactful sideboard strategies, as well as Path to Exile. Along with Green-White there is Green-Red. This type of Tron looks to utilize the Red for early board wipes in the way of Kozilek’s Return and Whipflare. If you’re playing in a heavy Revolt Zoo-meta then Green-Red is probably optimal.

The Ship

Green-Black Tron by Sean Hume
7th Place – Grand Prix Brisbane 2017

2 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
2 World Breaker
2 Wurmcoil Engine

4 Ancient Stirrings
4 Collective Brutality
4 Sylvan Scrying

4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Chromatic Star
4 Expedition Map
4 Karn Liberated
3 Oblivion Stone
2 Relic of Progenitus
2 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

3 Blooming Marsh
1 Forest
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Llanowar Wastes
1 Sanctum of Ugin
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower

1 Crucible of Worlds
2 Engineered Explosives
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
3 Nature’s Claim
2 Surgical Extraction
2 Thragtusk
3 Warping Wail

This list was piloted by Sean Hume to a top 8 finish at Grand Prix Brisbane this year, a rather impressive feat for any Magic player. Helping him, was a very powerful arsenal & toolkit available to help keep the ship afloat for the 15 rounds of Swiss.

The Arsenal

You get to choose from the normal threats provided in Green-based versions of Tron which are World Breaker in the mainboard, as well as Thragtusk in the sideboard. Along with them, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Wurmcoil Engine like to tag along.

World Breaker allows you to deal with a multitude of different types of situations in Modern. I like to compare him to the old style of using grapeshot to attempt to tear apart the other ships sails, rendering them immobile. His ability is on cast, so your opponent can’t counter World Breaker to counter his ability. This often allows you to cast World Breaker knowing you’re going to obtain at least some sort of effect by casting him, even if he is countered. This can bait out counter-spells to deploy other, more prioritized threats like Ugin, or Karn. As well, World Breaker can return from your graveyard later, so if he is countered, unless it Dissolves sometime in there, you should be able to return him.

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger runs along the same lines as World Breaker as his ability is on cast. So, when you cast Ulamog, you’re almost always getting to exile two permanents. I like to compare him to the chainball technique, where they would attach two cannonballs together by chains and launch them to break apart the masts. It’s just pirate things. In addtion, if you get to turn him sideways then your opponent is forced to lose about 40% of their deck depending on how late in the game it is.

Wurmcoil Engine offers a bit of midrange, and can often push you over the edge against fast decks like Zoo, and Burn thanks to his lifelink. The deathtouch side of him, while not typically useful in Modern as a 6/6 is already a large body in the format, does sometimes come into effect when blocking large Tarmogoyfs’ or Death’s Shadows’

The Crew

Both Karn and Ugin act as what I like to call “rock” threats. These are they guys that, when they resolve, offer a great foundation for the rest of the game due to your opponents being forced to focus on removing them.

I’d like to state that Karn is, in most cases, not as big of a threat as Ugin is. There are matchups where you’d rather be able to cast a Karn and minus him to exile a threat, however, most matchups the combined power of the board wipe, plus the bolt attached to Ugin’s plus are too powerful to not want him as a finisher.

That point also leads me into my next which is the two different roles that Ugin and Karn play. Karn is a utility card, while Ugin is a win condition. Arguably restarting a game with Karn is a win condition, but more reliably so I think Ugin is.

Karn Liberated, 80% of the time, is a removal spell. He just happens to be a removal spell on a very big stick. The other 20% of the time is using him to out card advantage the control matchups if you can get him to resolve, eventually leading you to restart the game. Being able to cast him off of natural Tron is a big reason why he is a 4 of in the list.

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon has a lot of diversity packed into his kit. His plus is Lightning Bolt, one of the most powerful spells in Modern. His minus allows you to wipe the board of decks like Merfolk, Burn, Zoo, Death’s Shadow and all of the other various decks that win through large board states. Along with those, his ultimate is game ending in a deck packed full of large, powerful threats that all happen to be permanents. All 3 of these abilities offer unique interactions, but as well, very important advantages. I think we can agree a Planeswalker card is good when its plus, which is Lightning Bolt, is its worst ability in this deck.

The Toolkit

Black-Green Tron became popular due to its wide variety of tools available to it with recent cards printed. We have 3 different types of tools available in our toolkit: salvage, security and chromatic.

Our salvage tools are the ones we rely on to help keep our ship afloat. We use them to make sure the foundation of our ship, the very structure of it, is complete and whole so it can float and do battle to it’s maximum potential. Our salvage tools are:

Both of these cards provide us the ability to search our deck for missing Tron pieces we need. While not directly being, they play along with the idea of being 8 extra copies of whichever Tron piece you need.

In another area in our tookit we have our security tools. These are what we use to defend ourselves from the onslaught of enemies.

“Woah, hold up there, what’s the thing there on the end? It wasn’t in the decklist you posted above!”
Oh that? That’s our newest weapon. Much like the blunderbuss, Fatal Push is a newer weapon that not everyone feels safe using. It can get you out of some close, impractical situations, but there’s always a chance you’ll draw too many against the wrong matchup, or just at the wrong time, and it’ll blow up in your face. Proceed with caution.

Oblivion Stone is one of our most important lifelines. It offers a wide board-wipe effect at a very early point in the game as long as we were able to carefully construct our Tron ship in the first couple turns. As an additional bonus, if you’re deploying this in a game that has run late, you are often able to save some of your stuff before having to use it to clear the board.

Collective Brutality brings with it many different effects. At its absolute worst it’s a pay 2, drain 2 effect. This is not the greatest, but more often than not you’ll be using the other two abilities along with the drain to get multiple advantages out of a single card. The escalate cards have found multiple homes in these eternal formats. I would credit this due to their diversity of what they can offer against various matchups. Collective Brutality is no exception. You can use it as a Duress or a Disfigure, or both.

These are our last type of tool, the chromatic tools. They offer mana fixing for hands where we keep natural tron but no black or green mana. They are crucial for making the deck work and should not be underrated. As an additional bonus, they draw cards!

Along with all of these things that must come together to make a ship functional and able for battle, there is one final piece that really allows the other parts to work in unison: The Captain. The Captain (You) is responsible not only for making sure all of the pieces work together smoothly, but is also responsible for having tricks to use against their opponent in battle. It is common knowledge that most keep theirs’ in their sleeve.

The Captain’s Sleeve

While there are a lot of potential options for what tricks to keep up your sleeve, there are some that are more potent than others. As well, there are some that are required as they can save your skin from the early aggressor decks. Building your sideboard in Modern is all about knowing what decks you think you’ll be facing. Make sure to do your homework.

My favorite cards for the sideboard of Green-Black Tron are:

These are just a few of my favorite tricks that we can have waiting in our sideboard.
Engineered Explosives offers such an incredible effect for such a small mana commitment that it has found itself present in the sideboards of most decks in Modern featuring more than two colors of the magic pie chart. As well with Engineered Explosives in our Tron deck, we can use the chromatic tools from before to help add additional colors into the sunburst ability.

Chalice of the Void is easy to use if you know what you’re playing against, and are very knowledgeable about the matchups. It is not a sideboard card I would recommend to people who are new to the deck as it does take some skill to use to its maximum potential. For example, when playing against Burn, placing a Chalice on 2 will absolutely crush the Burn player. Typically they only play Destructive Revelry in their sideboard to combat artifacts and enchantments. Just be sure not to miss your Chalice trigger!

Warping Wail is a very underrated card in Modern, though admittedly it has more functionality in Legacy. It offers to be a nice removal spell, as well it doubles as a circumstantial counter-spell.

Tron, no matter what color combination you chose, offers a resilient package that can take over games if the engine runs smoothly and quickly. I do really like what the combination of Green and Black brings to Tron, and feel like Fatal Push will find home in the deck in some shape or form. If that is to be sideboard, or mainboard, I’m not sure yet. Collective Brutality does a lot of what you need as far as early removal, with upside, so I’m not sure if it’ll replace those mainboard.

Below are what I feel like what the respected matchups for Tron.
Good Matchups:
Grixis Delver
Grixis Control
Esper Shadow
Nahiri Control
Bant Eldrazi
UW Control

Difficult Matchups:
Death and Taxes
Ad Nauseum
Zoo variants
Abzan/Jund Deaths Shadow
Abzan Combo Variants

Expert-Mode Matchups:
GR Ponza
UR Gifts Storm

As always, keep an eye out on what your local meta looks like before deciding to invest in a deck like Tron. The Burn and Zoo players love to prowl on unknowing Tron decks. However, if you happen to walk into a room full of Grixis Delver/Control players you’re more than likely going to take the day. Tread the waters carefully and know which battles your ship win.


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