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The Many Faces of Pauper Tron


Out of the ashes of a format devastated by Grapeshot and Empty The Warrens came Eight-Post. The deck relied on the massive amounts of mana generated by Cloudpost alongside Glimmerpost to cast big spells. There were numerous ways to go about your win. You could use Ghostly Flicker and Mnemonic Wall to generate enough card advantage to overpower your opponent before killing them with a massive Rolling Thunder. Others opted to go for a massive Temporal Fissure to wipe away their opponent’s board while beating them down with 2/2s and Ulamog's Crusher. No matter how you played it, Cloudpost gave far too much advantage and on September 27, 2013, it was banned alongside Temporal Fissure to help the format settle back into place.

Over time, a different mana engine replaced Cloudpost in the form of the Urza lands.

Individually, they don’t do much. They only generate one colorless mana apiece, but combined they generate a combined total of seven. Drawing them all randomly may be a bit difficult, but that’s why you have cards like Expedition Map to help put them into your hand. With a bit of time, the deck was reborn in the form of Temur Tron, a version of the deck largely eschewing the old Ghostly Flicker style of the Cloudpost variant decks.

I can imagine your first thought looking at this list: Why is the deck known as Temur Tron, a wedge known for Green, Blue, and Red, when it’s clearly running cards outside those colors like Chainer's Edict and Circle of Protection? That’s actually a fair point and sometimes the deck was definitely called Five-Color Tron, but largely the core revolved around Temur cards and often did not play those cards. The core in question is Fangren Marauder, Mulldrifter, and Rolling Thunder. The idea of the deck was to use Mulldrifter to generate card advantage while putting serious pressure on the opponent with Fangren Marauder. You could also gain tons of life by using your sacrifice-able artifacts. As a result, the card also made Affinity a very easy matchup since the Marauder counts your opponents’ artifacts as well. To close out the game you’d use Rolling Thunder for final damage or Ulamog's Crusher to beat them down. Should any of your key creatures die, you could get them back with Haunted Fengraf and keep your game going.

In mid-2016, Eternal Masters hit the scene, bringing with it many much needed reprints and a couple significant downgrades. While cards like Elvish Vanguard and Rally the Peasants all eventually saw plenty of play, the one to make the biggest splash right out of the gate was Peregrine Drake.

Peregrine Drake

It took a little bit for the right shell to show up, but people instantly knew the value of the words “Untap up to five target lands” as they had just had a smaller form of this effect banned at the beginning of the year. Cloud of Faeries was banned following the reign of terror the Familiars deck wrought on the format in January 2016, so drake seemed like a no brainer.

While the Izzet tempo deck was arguably the best and most dominant Drake shell before the card received an emergency banning in November 2016, a Tron variant also existed.

This list brought back the Flicker aspect of the archetype, but this time it used Ghostly Flicker alongside Peregrine Drake and Mnemonic Wall to generate infinite mana. You could also draw your deck by Flickering Mulldrifter or Sea Gate Oracle instead of the Drake and then put all of your mana at your disposal into a massive Kaervek's Torch slung right at your opponent’s face. While Drake came and went quickly, Tron still adopted the Flicker package once more and it became a proper split between that version and the Temur build. That all changed with another downshift in Modern Masters 2017:

Dinrova Horror

Instantly people were brewing with Dinrova Horror. Within the first week of release, people were testing it in player run events on before it was making waves in the Pauper leagues. Essentially, look at the Drake list above and swap out the Drakes for Horrors and fix the mana base a little. That was the initial version of the Dinrova Tron build. Since then, however, it’s evolved greatly.

There’re many ways to play Tron in the Pauper format. You still have the old Temur Tron, Izzet Tron, and Dinrova Tron lists. On top of that, though, you also have the likes of Mono-Green Tron, Rhystic/Azorius Tron, and Stonehorn Tron. Arguably the strongest build for a while was Murasa or 5-Color Tron, which played similarly to Dinrova Tron while utilizing a lot of powerful one-of Instant spells alongside Mystical Teachings to get whatever you needed whenever you needed it to lock your opponent out of the game.

Today, with the advent of Elvish Rejuvenator entering the format, Tron looks something more like this:

You can look at this list and see how it’s evolved and how it looks somewhat similar to the other lists above. Here, you get the benefit of other Flicker targets like Elvish Rejuvenator, which helps find more Tron pieces, and Serrated Arrows to mow down small creatures like Elves, Faeries, and Tokens. It also retains the aforementioned Mystical Teachings package, albeit to a much lesser degree. The Five-Color/Murasa builds would also run, for example, a one-of Doom Blade, Electrickery, and Lightning Bolt, all of which you could get back with Mnemonic Wall when needed.

You also have quite a varied sideboard at your disposal that can be well adjusted to fit any meta. In fact, that’s the whole beauty of Tron in this format. There’s so many ways to play the archetype and so many ways to tune it, the lists are constantly changing. It’s such a prevalent thing that MTGGoldfish, arguably the biggest collector of the Pauper format’s decklists, often lumps them together simply under the banner “Tron.” No matter how you build the deck or play it, there’s no denying the strength of this backbreaking control deck. In the hands of the right pilot, it’s undeniably one of the best decks in the entire format. Build it, take it for a spin, and tune it out to your heart’s content. Maybe you’ll even find yourself coming up with the next big Tron variant to break the format.