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Great Creations: Blue Tron


The first time I saw a Blue-based Tron deck, I was pretty amazed by the power of it. My comrade and compatriot, fellow Madisonian Matt Severa, was playing a build of the deck in preparation for either a GP or PTQ, and I was just wildly impressed by what the deck could do.

"What's wrong with this deck?" I asked. "Why isn't everyone aware of it?"

His answer was pretty simple: the powerful draws were shocking, but there were a great deal of games where the deck simply would have expensive cards and not enough of its mana online for it to be reasonable to unload.

This made a lot of sense to me. Watching him play it more, I'd see this play out in a significant enough number of games, I could see it as a potential place for the introduction of a fail rate.

That was many years ago. Looking at the deck more recently, it is understandable to see why the Green-based builds have become the baseline for how we think about what Tron is. Green is so single-minded in its focus on assembling Tron - and so good at it! - that the more expensive cards in Tron just can be counted on to do their work much more often.

Blue Tron is rare enough that not many people have necessarily seen a competitive build play out. I looked through all of the lists I could find, and I couldn't find it in a major event Top 8. If someone else knows of a list I'm missing, please share it; for now, here is the top finishing list I was able to locate: Andrew Wood's 16th place list from the SCG Open in Syracuse in 2016.

One of the first things to note about this archetype is the existence of a largely unbreakable lock: Mindslaver plus Academy Ruins. While this takes a great deal of mana (thirteen), oftentimes you'll decimate someone so much after the first activation of Mindslaver, it will take them a great deal of work to recover, giving enough time to fix the situation by pulling off the lock.

As far as Blue Tron decks go, this one is fairly minimal when it comes to the wildly varying card choices. These days it has largely become more common to go with what well-known Blue Tron aficionado, shoktroopa, has been doing with the deck, creating a mini toolbox out of various searching cards, potentially working with Treasure Mage, Trinket Mage, and Tolaria West (which is itself something that can be found by Expedition Map).

Here are two shoktroopa builds of the deck - the first that I could find of theirs, as well as the most recent as of this writing.

And then, three years later....

These two decks obviously have a lot of their base in common: a heavily disruptive counterspell package, joined by a suite of high-casting cost cards that can overwhelm a game, and then some mana fixing. As was seen in the SCG list from Andrew Wood, a reliance on the Mindslaver package to close out the game is present, with the newer deck taking advantage of Walking Ballista but otherwise using largely the same rough game plan, if including more singletons.

These singletons are important to be able to have the flexibility and power to win in a number of situations, but they are still quite frustrating,

Whenever you think about any Tron list, you should, of course, inevitably compare it to its recent analogs - in this case, Green Tron. Here is the most recent list from Magic Online, at the time of this writing:

Of course, it can't go without saying that there is something new and crazily powerful in the new Green Tron lists: Karn, the Great Creator. In and of itself, the card is powerful, certainly. But in a way, the card is a one-card combo: go get a Mycosynth Lattice from your sideboard with your Karn, the Great Creator, and you've locked out any activated abilities from your opponent - including their lands.

This is pretty bonkers.

In a huge way, if you have determined that Karn, the Great Creator makes your list, it is worth it to cut out a ton of cards just to make room for it. In essence, the two-card combo that locks out your opponent is a one-card combo since Karn searches for the other element all by itself.

It doesn't always want to search for Mycosynth Lattice, of course, but that element is such a powerful locking mechanism, it does end up making the case for a reduction in the other lock of the deck, the Mindslaver Lock.

Initially, in keeping with this idea, I tried only a single copy of Mindslaver. This seemed right in theory. Then, reality crashed in, and I thought "I know, I'll add a copy to the board." Reality being what it was, this copy of Mindslaver was rarely tutored for; in essence, it was usually better to tutor for something to stay alive (if that's what you needed), or the Mycosynth Lattice. Still, just one copy felt insufficient, and two felt like too much.

And so it was that a single Treasure Mage - the card I was trying to minimize in my deck - came back into the fold. This ended up making another impact as well, though: inspired by Commit // Memory lists run by friends of mine like Ray Perez, Jr., I'd been running Commit over Repeal to answer problems, enjoying the extra ability to be a counter on top of everything else the deck was doing, and Treasure Mage meant that I suddenly felt empowered to add in a Torrential Gearhulk to go with my Commit // Memory over a third Wurmcoil Engine, while still feeling like I had a strong Wurmcoil Engine/Walking Ballista defense shell that I'd seen in other builds of Blue Tron (especially kiwi, a player who has been on quite a tear with this style of the deck).

Here is where I am as of today:

Once I had established in my own mind that I was going to do a Karn, the Great Creator-based build, I was locked in on running a build with Talismans - in this case, three Talisman of Dominance. Then, once I'm locked in on Talisman of Dominance, I find myself more interested in Commit // Memory, as the commitment to four mana is pretty solid in a deck like this. That starts the core of the deck, which, as built, tends to have a much lower curve than other Blue Tron lists, maxing out at only five six-casting cost cards or higher, excepting Walking Ballista, with Torrential Gearhulk absolutely being a card that one could cut from the mix if one so desired.

A fair number of the cards in the list are very stock, but I do want to talk about the more unusual choices in the seventy-five cards of the list.

Triple Walking Ballista with a fourth in the sideboard is one of the things I love about this deck. The deck scales mana very powerfully, and Walking Ballista is a well-proven great card to be able to establish a defense in the early game as well as put forth a late-game power play. The Blue Tron player named "kiwy" who I mentioned before ran a four Walking Ballista and four Wurmcoil Engine package in their Blue Tron list with Commit // Memory, and I started with that as a base. Eventually, I realized that I wanted to tutor for Walking Ballista a not-insignificant amount of time, leading one to go to the board. The Wurmcoil Engine count got cut into more and more as I realized how often I could stabilize with a Mycosynth Lattice lock, or that I could tutor for a Batterskull, Platinum Angel, or Platinum Emperion with Karn, the Great Creator. Making those cuts felt great.

Cutting the Repeal for the Commit (of Commit // Memory) felt absolutely fabulous. I've long-loved Commit, and while there are certainly moments where Repeal gets cast very cheaply, there are also plenty of moments where the card basically feels uncastable. The use of Commit comes with it the potential to get a payoff on Memory, which can be absolutely huge in a deck that makes as much mana as his deck does. Torrential Gearhulk is an absolute blowout in combination with this card, as well.

Once you start tutoring with Karn, the Great Creator, some sideboard cards feel necessary. I couldn't imagine not running a Tormod's Crypt, for example. The "second" copy of Tormod's Crypt is Grafdigger's Cage, which does much the same work, but also has another application as well. Memory in the main also serves as a form of graveyard hate.

I think you need a fair amount of sideboard removal. Spatial Contortion and Dismember are simply must-runs. In most of the matchups where you plan on running those, you'd also bring in the Walking Ballista from the board, as you might not have time to tutor for it, but you'd want the body in the first game, and you're more likely to tutor for Batterskull, Platinum Angel, Ensnaring Bridge, or Mycosynth Lattice.

Many of these decks run Chalice of the Void main, but most of these are als running Tolaria West. I'm not running it main (nor the accompanying Engineered Explosives) because I don't think I can afford to make that choice by cutting into my islands. If you're feeling saucy, consider cutting the third Talisman of Dominance for a single Tolaria West. With two in the board, I can tutor for them, and feel comfortable boarding one or both in, depending on the matchup.

One thing to remember: if you don't think you'll have time to tutor for a card with Karn, but you think you'll actually want it, board it in. Yes, you might end up being sad that it isn't there to be tutored for, bu in the matchups where you don't think that kind of time is available, as they say, "them's the breaks". Conversely, if you think you'll have time to tutor for a card and you believe you'd actually want to tutor for it, put it in the board. Remember, this doesn't make sense if a card is game theory semi-'dominated' by another card - that the second card would just generally be chosen over the first in most instances. Shifting out your artifacts to and fro in the sideboard is an incredible difficult dance to choreograph, and I know I'm still working out the kinks.

Frankly, I haven't determined whether or not this is a better Karn, the Great Creator deck than good ol' Green Tron. But I think it might be. When you're fighting the mirror, you absolutely kick them in the face in the fight for the lock because you have counterspells. In one absurd game, I enjoyed floating mana, letting the Mycosynth Lattice resolve, then casting Commit on their Karn, then untapping and casting my own. The utility of the controlling elements came into play in other matchups as well, where I got to turn into a kind of absurd counterspell-based combo deck, pushing hard into my uw Control opponent with game-ending threats, knowing that if just one hit, it was all done.

That's all for this week. This weekend, I head to Providence for the Grand Prix, joined by my friendly teammates, the inimitable Ryan Saxe and Zac Hill proxy Myles Housman, so I hope you'll be cheering us all on. I'll be likely giving updates on Facebook and Twitter, so I hope you follow along!

I'm now a man of two cities, renting apartments in both NYC and Madison, but come next month, I'll be fully settled into my new home in the Big Apple. I promise once me and my streaming rig are all in one place, I'll start giving you these games again on the onlines for you all to cheer and jeer.

Wish me luck at GP Providence!

- Adrian Sullivan

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