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Tron in the New Modern

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Hey everyone!

I'm not writing to you today about a sweet Stoneforge Mystic brew, but rather to tell you a story about counting to seven. I figured out how to do it and I believe you can, too.

I have been practicing Modern to team up with Max McVety and Clay Spicklemire at Magic Fest Indianapolis this weekend. It's going to be a great time and I'm hoping to qualify for the upcoming Mythic Championship.

Tron is my new best friend after the London Mulligan. I have played Tron in several tournaments over the last few weeks and it has been performing well. I won a Charity event and Top 8ed an MCQ. Nearly every game I assemble Tron and only a single time have I flooded. This is a sample size of about thirty matches. Not only is this deck powerful, but it's incredibly consistent.

Here's my list:


Walking Ballista
The maindeck is fairly stock, but it has some key differences that have been performing well for me:

Four Walking Ballista has been impressive because I can play it early to interact or win the late game. I can trigger Sanctum of Ugin by casting it for at least x=4.

Ballista is decent in the mirror because casting it for x=3 on turn three presents a conundrum against opposing Karn Liberated. If they exile your Tron land Karn will die to the Ballista next turn. Exiling the Ballista will take the loyalty to three and you can shoot it down. Ballista was weakest against Faithless Looting decks that are no more because the small creatures would come back from the graveyard.

The playset of Wurmcoil Engines are for Burn and Mono-Red Prowess. I need to mulligan aggressively to find an early Wurmcoil because nothing else will get the job done in Game 1. It's another solid threat in the mirror because it's a lightning rod for Karn's exile ability.

A single Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is there to be found with Sanctum of Ugin. I've tried playing more than a single copy and have been disappointed. A 10-drop is weak in most games of the mirror because once someone gets seven-mana Karn Liberated will take over.

Ulamog is also weak against Jund because they attack your mana with Assassin's Trophy and it will be trapped in hand vulnerable to discard. It's the first card I discard against Liliana of the Veil. I have found it effective to exile lands against Burn to stay in the race if Wurmcoil Engine isn't enough.

I don't play Karn, the Great Creator. He's effective in the mirror and against Whirza variants. If the static ability of shutting off artifacts is relevant than it's a good card in the matchup. I haven't seen many Tron mirrors come down to the Great Creator as many are decided by someone running away with Karn Liberated. It's the next best thing to Karn Liberated in the mirror. I would play Karn, the Great Creator if I think the mirror will be popular.

Whirza strategies are good matchups as long as you remember the most likely way to lose is by facing down millions of thopters. Urza or Thopter Foundry aren't good enough on their own.

Karn, the Great Creator
There are some silver bullets Karn can fetch to turn around unfavorable matchups such as Burn, Valakut, and Storm, too. I have been impressed with Trinisphere and Witchbane Orb to stall until Mycosynth Lattice comes down the following turn.

The Valakut matchup is more difficult thanks to Field of the Dead. Witchbane Orb and Mycosynth Lattice isn't enough as a horde of zombies can offer threat diversification for free.

The metagame is currently diverse as Faithless Looting and Hogaak were keeping down many archetypes. Once the dust settles the time may be right for Karn, the Great Creator. The cost to playing Karn is most of my sideboard is dedicated to silver bullets. I have been through many sideboard options and my fifteen cards all have a purpose.

The last two maindeck spells are my flex slots: Nature's Claim and Thragtusk. I want my flex slots to gain life to fight Burn and Prowess. A single Nature's Claim feels free to me because many of the popular decks play artifacts or direct damage. Thragtusk is both a life gain spell and a threat to close the game.

Many Modern decks have a similar problem to solve: there are about 56 cards locked, but what to do with the last slots? I'm a proponent of playing singletons because the Modern metagame is diverse and I would rather hedge my bets. We saw this theory take hold at the end of Hogaak Summer with Simon Nielson winning Magic Fest: Las Vegas. He played eight singletons as the flex slots since they all had diminishing returns.

Blast Zone
The second Blast Zone has been amazing in the board. Some matchups I swap it for Ghost Quarter because Inkmoth Nexus, Valakut, and Urza lands are the only scary targets. There are also times where I want the twentieth land since Blast Zone requires you to sacrifice. I can board out Sanctum of Ugin if the game will end quickly.

Opponents play annoying cards like Collector Ouphe, Damping Sphere, and Stony Silence. I can't kill Stony Silence or Collector Ouphe with Oblivion Stone so that's where the extra Blast Zone helps.

The twentieth land is also helpful against Jund where they board in Fulminator Mage. I want to empty my hand as quickly as possible and hit enough land drops to cast Wurmcoil Engine and Thragtusk. Each card in hand is a liability against Thoughtseize and Liliana of the Veil. I've blown up Liliana with Blast Zone on many occasions as her ultimate comes up frequently.

A final annoying hate card I face is Alpine Moon. Mono-Red Prowess should be one of the few decks to play it, but it sets me back in casting spells. Blast Zone is able to not only kill the Alpine Moon, but also multiple creatures with prowess. Jund has been known to play it and might pick up in popularity thanks to Valakut.

Four Thragtusk seems like a lot after board, but I want all the help I can get against Mono-Red Prowess and Burn. These are two popular and scary matchups. I also like four tusks against Jund and uw Control; this is because my mana is under attack and hardcasting them is easy.

Dismember is the creature removal spell of choice as it costs one mana. As I mentioned before Collector Ouphe is very annoying. Humans is a good matchup as long as you can activate your Oblivion Stones and Expedition Maps. Walking Ballista is good, but it won't solve my Ouphe problems. The same can be said for Jund; I've lost numerous games to Jund due to the Ouphe. It's especially detrimental on the play because I haven't been able to filter any of my chromatic artifacts or maps.

It may seem surprising, but I like boarding in Dismembers against Mono-Red Prowess because there isn't enough burn without creatures in play. The same cannot be said about the Burn matchup where the Dismember is very weak.

Surgical Extraction is my only graveyard hate in the board because it's more likely to be used against big mana decks. I can tutor for Ghost Quarter to hit Valakut or a Tron land and then extract it from the opponent's deck. It's very rare a single Ghost Quarter is good enough to take Tron off of their payoffs for long so you need a way to stick the nail in the coffin.

Beast Within in a secondary way to disrupt big mana strategies that combos with Surgical Extraction. This is a new addition that only fits because there isn't currently a deck that demands more graveyard hate. I would cut this if Dredge gets popular.

Veil of Summer doesn't get boarded in often, but is a blowout when cast. Jund has many targets as it counters Fulminator Mage's activated ability, Assassin's Trophy, Inquisition of Kozilek, and Thoughtseize. A savvy opponent will wait until your turn to activate Fulminator Mage to avoid you drawing a card because no Black spells were cast on your upkeep.

I can also counter Liliana of the Veil's -2 ability or her ultimate. It's best to pretend to be worried about her ultimate when she has 6 loyalty. Reading the card on that turn will direct your opponent's attention to activating.

Not only do you and your permanents gain hexproof from Blue and Black they also can't be countered. I like two copies against uw decks as they will board in Ceremonious Rejection.

Now that the deck tech is out of the way, here are some tips and tricks:

Mulligan aggressively. The London Mulligan is your friend. I'm more afraid of a Tron player with four cards to start than a hesitant keep on seven. I win many games on mulligans to five. It's important to not leave your ability to assemble Tron up to fate.

Chromatic Sphere and Star are similar, but the star draws a card when it goes to the graveyard. If I plan on tapping out for a chromatic artifact I'll play the star in case it gets destroyed. This becomes more relevant after sideboard as you can expect to face Abrade and Smash to Smithereens.

Ancient Stirrings is an unwieldy Tron tutor so I prefer to use it ahead of Sylvan Scrying and Expedition Map. Try and get as much information as possible before using the search effect that guarantees a land. Don't be afraid to hold Map and Scrying in hand after Tron has been assembled in case it gets broken up by Assassin's Trophy or Field of Ruin.

When you are making your first few land drops try and save the Urza's Tower for last. This is because you may need to tap the other tron lands for the search effect before they produce extra mana. Saving the Tower for last ensures you get the three out of it. This could mean casting on Oblivion Stone or being one short.

The same can be said if you're playing against Tron. It can be tempting to destroy the Tower, but it's more effective to attack the Power Plant or Mine. Once you have destroyed one Tron land it's best to be consistent if possible as the odds of naturally drawing a backup is less likely.

Practice the heuristics of assembling Tron ahead of time. I learned a lot about Tron by goldfishing and seeing what hands were acceptable. As a general rule I don't want to fumble into Tron and it needs to happen by turn four. I also prefer the hands to be able to luck into turn three Tron.

Now that we're all Tron experts let's get into the matchups.

Mirror

As I mentioned before this matchup is all about assembling Tron as quickly as possible and resolving a Karn. There isn't much more to Game 1.

Beast Within takes out Tron lands as well as Karn. The land denial strategy is combined with Surgical Extraction to take the opponent off of Tron permanently. I can search for Ghost Quarter to enable Surgical Extraction, but that means I'm putting off assembling Tron so it's less effective.

Nature's Claim puts Oblivion Stone and Walking Ballista at risk so I cut them. I prefer Thragtusk to attack opposing planeswalkers because Karn, the Great Creator shuts off Ballista's pinging ability. Make sure your early artifacts don't get hit by opposing Nature's Claim. I can go up to four Nature's Claim because Karn, the Great Creator gives me plenty of targets.

Remember that Mycosynth Lattice allows any type of mana to cast spells. You can float a colorless mana with Lattice on the stack and then cast Nature's Claim on Karn, the Great Creator.

Karn, the Great Creator animates non-creature artifacts. If they attack you with Trinisphere the static ability will shut off because it only works while untapped.

Karn's -2 can fetch any artifact from outside the game or in the sideboard. Their Relic of Progenitus can exile itself to effectively get a cycle. Don't exile their graveyard willy nilly as it might give them access to a tutor target like Wurmcoil Engine.

Burn

I mulligan very aggressively as Tron into threats that don't gain life will not be enough. Watch out for Skullcrack as that's the best way to fight through Wurmcoil Engine and Thragtusk. Nature's Claim can kill Eidolon of the Great Revel, but you really want to be destroying your own Chromatic Star.

Ghost Quarter getting the nod over Sanctum of Ugin is due to all of the Green cards I'm adding. I can blow up redundant Tron lands to find the mana required to cast Nature's Claim.

Burn plays three Smash to Smithereens. On the draw your map will be exposed. If you have a Nature's Claim in hand it might be best to wait to cast it on turn two.

Whirza

This is likely the scariest of the prison decks for Tron to face. The previous iterations were too slow and Tron had too many activated abilities that would win the game. Whirza is able to quickly assemble Urza + Thopter Foundry + Sword of the Meek to generate millions of life, millions of mana, and the ability to cast any cards in the deck.

The key artifacts to fear are Pithing Needle and Damping Sphere. Needle is able to stunt your early land development if you're leaning on Expedition Map. The second Blast Zone in the board can kill pesky needles, but make sure your extra Maps don't get caught in the explosion.

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon exiles colored cards which means it can -x to remove Urza, Thopter Foundry, and the Blue thopter tokens.

I don't board in Surgical Extraction because it's difficult to actually hit the Sword of the Meek in the graveyard. When the return to battlefield ability is on the stack they can sacrifice another artifact to Thopter Foundry and make a token to fizzle the extraction. You can only play so much interaction and Nature's Claim is the best.

Humans

Gaddock Teeg looks scarier than it is. The only expensive non-creature spells are Karn Liberated and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. I need to sweep the board before casting Karn anyway; it's played as an answer to their follow up threat.

Wurmcoil Engine can be weak against Humans because of Reflector Mage. They typically side some out, but also have Deputy of Detention. It's able to win the game by itself so I leave one despite the drawbacks.

The Humans plan of playing the disruption role is less effective than beating down with Champion of the Parish, Thalia's Lieutenant, and Mantis Rider. I can break out of soft locks of Meddling Mage and Kitesail Freebooter. The scary lock pieces are Damping Sphere and Collector Ouphe.

Jund

This matchup is favorable, but have the potential to pack lots of hate cards. I expect to face two Collector Ouphe, at least two Fulminator Mage, and artifact hate. If they really mean business Alpine Moon is also possible.

Wurmcoil Engine and Thragtusk are great in this matchup and I expect to hard cast them without Tron.

I don't mulligan as aggressively in this matchup on the draw because Expedition Map can be taken with hand disruption. On the play I'm able to overwhelm them with land-searching effects.

Valakut

I think this is the hardest matchup. The key time to disrupt their lands is after Scapeshift resolves. I can Beast Within a Mountain with Valakut triggers on the stack; if there aren't five other Mountains when the ability resolves they will all fizzle except for the mountain that was destroyed because it sees the other five. This means a Scapeshift with seven lands deals three damage and Scapeshift with eight lands deals six.

Ghost Quarter is hard to fizzle Valakut because it's an on board trick. The new version of Valakut plays three Mountain and three Snow-Covered Mountain; if they leave a single one in the deck after Scapeshift it will take the place of the one destroyed.

I can Surgical Extraction Valakut, but I still need to face Field of the Dead. Oblivion Stone and Ugin are able to take down the tokens and Karn can exile the Field to shut off the engine. This is asking a lot of my deck and that's why the matchup scares me.

That's all I have for today. I can't wait to jam Tron this weekend at Magic Fest Indy with Clay and Max; it should be a ton of fun. Modern is great once again.

Thanks for reading!

-Kyle