An in depth guide to Modern RG Tron, by Fabrizio Anteri
Today I have a good one for you. I am going to tell you everything you need to know about RG Tron in Modern. You may wonder: why should I read what this guy has to say about the deck? How do I know he actually has any clue about how to build it or how to play it?
Some years ago, during the very first Modern PTQ season of 2012, London was one of the cities running the qualifiers, on this weekend I had no plans, so I naturally wanted to play it. I didn’t have cards back then and didn’t know many people, so I literally played what was given to me: RG Tron. The version 1.0 was quite different to what we know today, even though the game plan was the same: find all three different pieces of the Urza lands and cast [card]Karn Liberated[/card]. I lost my win-and-in round that PTQ, but I really enjoyed the deck.
The year after, in Modern PTQ season of 2013, I decided to buy the cards to actually own the deck. Everything went my way that time – I won the PTQ.
I didn’t play much Modern for some months, until it was time to start preparing for 2013’s GP Antwerp. I played online, about 5-8 dailies per week, and did very well. I lost track of how many dailies in a row that I’d cashed in (4-0 or 3-1), but they were about 15 (yes, 15 in a row). By the time of deciding the final 75 for the GP, I was so confident with the deck that I decided to run [card]Stone Rain[/card] in the sideboard in case I had to play a mirror match.
The GP also went quite well. I got confused by the way my opponent played the finals and that drove me into making mistakes, mistakes that I should not have made and thus losing the most important match. That said, I was still happy with a second place finish from over 1600 players.
I also played the deck also in 2014’s GP Prague and lost last round playing for Top 16, ending somewhere in the Top 64.
Tron is also the deck I’ve played more online through all those years. By now, I must have played over 400 matches with it, possibly making me the player with most experience with the deck in the world? Or close to, at least.
I’ve come to a point where I’ve started to play it on auto-pilot. I barely stop to think. I’ve seen so many hands where I’ll know what the most efficient order to cast the spells is.
I hope I’ve convinced you about why you want to know my point of view about Tron. So, let’s get into business.
The decklist: TG Tron by Fabrizio Anteri
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
1 Eye of Ugin
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Card X
The mana base is simple: 20 lands is the number you want to have. I’ve tried both: 19 and 21.
The last hidden card in the list is either a second [card]Forest[/card] or a second [card]Ghost Quarter[/card]. If the metagame is filled with decks with problematic lands then you’ll want two Ghost Quarters in the main. If the metagame has too many [card]Path to Exile[/card] decks or opponents play little non-basic lands, a second Forest is better than a land that can only produce colorless mana.
Must have/Don’t touch:
4 Chromatic Star
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Expedition Map
4 Ancient Stirrings
4 Sylvan Scrying
4 Karn Liberated
3 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
The 20 cards above will put the whole Tron set together for you, they are the core part of deck. DO NOT TOUCH THEM.
[card]Karn Liberated[/card] is the best spell you can resolve with Tron and you never draw too many Karns.
[card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] is very good in most of the matches. At worst it’s a slow clock, so 3 is the right number, at least in the current metagame. Consider cutting or adding one (even to the board) if the meta is right for it.
Here comes the interesting card that I have listed as an untouchable: [card]Ulamog, Infinite Gyre[/card]. Let me explain why, 99% of the games are going to be one of the next three cases:
(1) You couldn’t assemble Tron or your opponent has interrupted you from doing so and you lost.
It doesn’t matter what Eldrazi you are running in your deck.
(2) You assembled Tron and started doing unfair things, while your opponent was doing nothing relevant and you won.
It doesn’t matter here either.
(3) You assembled Tron, but the board state is somehow delicate and the outcome of the game is not clear yet.
In this third scenario Ulamog is going to win most of those games. [card]Emrakul, Aeons Torn[/card] is just going to be relevant in that 1% of the games where you can actually produce 15 mana and you have not yet won. Instead, Ulamog is going to enter the battlefield 2-3 turns before Emrakul and the annihilator ability is going to take the game.
3 Oblivion Stone
1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
[card]Pyroclasm[/card] can win you the game on Turn 2 against so many decks, but it’s going to be irrelevant against so many others. The best thing about it is that it’s buying you all the time you need in the complicated match-ups, and it’s only dead in the match-ups you are most likely going to win anyway. I am currently running 4 of them. It’s the number I consider right for the current metagame. I’ve played 3 of them before and there is nothing wrong with that – if you consider the right moment for your local metagame.
[card]Oblivion Stone[/card] has been an all-star of the deck for quite some time now. 3 + 5 is not always 8, at least not in Magic, and that’s why I prefer this one over cards like [card]All is Dust[/card]. O-Stone is the sweeper you want to have, especially in post-board games against cards like [card]Blood Moon[/card] or [card]Spreading Seas[/card]. I am running 3 of them at the moment, because we have another contender and you can’t have many sweepers in the deck.
I’ve heard and seen a list that’s running 4 [card]Ugin, the Spirit Dragon[/card] and no O-Stone, and I think that’s a mistake. As I mentioned before, 3 + 5 is not always 8, and with Ugin there is no split in the cost. Ugin is one of the last cards you want to see, when there is [card]Blood Moon[/card] in play. It’s also a joke to pay 8 mana for [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] against decks like Affinity. Ugin remains a great threat after clearing the board against GB decks – which is huge – but honestly, it is extremely difficult for GB to come back if you already have Tron online and have cleared the board. Ugin is also better against Elves and Melira Combo (it exiles instead of destroys). All in all, I don’t think I’d want to run more Ugins than Oblivion Stones in this version. 1 or 2 are the number I am looking at right now. Maybe in some weeks-months we’ll see a change in the metagame that will support putting more copies of Ugin in the deck.
The final slots of the deck:
Assuming you agree so far with the numbers: 20 lands, 28 untouchables, 7-8 sweepers, then there are 3 or 4 slots left to work with.
I think this is the best option from what we’ve talked about already. It’s a nice 1-of in a deck with 1 [card]Eye of Ugin[/card] and 4 [card]Ancient Stirrings[/card]. And when Spellskite matters, it really matters. It’s really good against Burn and can be deciding against Twin, Infect, Scapeshift, Ad Nausseam, Amulet Bloom, Bogles.
[draft]Relic of Progenitus[/draft]
There are some graveyard decks that instantly lose to Relic and many others that make use of the graveyard via usage of cards like [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] or Delve spells. Even if the graveyard doesn’t matter to your opponent, it doesn’t matter to you either. The deck can really use an extra cycling spell and I would rather play some Relics than extra expensive spells. 2 or 3 is the number you want to have.
I love how the deck gets to win so many games by literally clearing your opponent’s board, even the lands. Between Karns and Ulamog, you could easily keep the land counting of your opponent low and the Titan could get rid of the last 2-3 lands. Then, a 7/10 body should be enough to finish the game against a landless opponent. Sadly, the Titan is quite bad in many match up so 0-1 is the number you want, depending on your metagame. Consider having it in the sideboard, if you can’t find space for it in the maindeck.
There are plenty of options to run in your sideboard according to your local metagame. I will mention the cards I like and I will explain the cards I don’t.
Card that I like:
Flexible, cheap, powerful. It’s there against one of the worse match-ups for the deck: Splinter Twin. 2-3 should be a decent number.
Tron doesn’t care about giving life to the opponent and this is the best way to have a [card]Naturalize[/card] effect in Modern. Also gaining 4 life by destroying your own [card]Chromatic Star[/card] may be a way to win against Burn. 4 is my personal favorite, make sure you run at least 3.
I played 4 of this once, but with [card]Birthing Pod[/card] banned, there are less incentives in doing so. I prefer [card]Spellskite[/card] because it helps against Burn, which is a much worse matchup than Melira Combo. Still, a mix of Volley, Spellskite and Torpor Orb could be right if you really want to win against Twin. I wouldn’t play more than 2 Orbs right now.
This is particularly good when the favorite GBx decks are the Junk/Abzan ones with [card]Path to Exile[/card]. Wurmcoil is your best threat there, but they have an easy answer with the mentioned white removal. So consider running Thragtusks to back up your Wurmcoils. Obviously, you also want them against Burn. 1-2 should do fine in your board.
[draft]Relic of Progenitus
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
We already mentioned when these are good. Feel free to have extra copies in the board if you want extra help in those matches.
I vote for Grudge here, mostly because the most scary thing about Affinity are [card]Blinkmoth Nexus[/card] and [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card]. Playing it and flashbacking immediately is going to be good enough most of the time anyway. Being able to do so on turn 2-3 is more important that being able to get rid of everything for 5. 1 of these should be enough to help you a bit further if there are many Robots in your local store.
I’ve played both and I’ve really liked both. The Grid is amazing when you get to do basically whatever you want starting on Turn 3. What I dislike about it is that games against Blue decks could go quite long, so the Grid effectively stops working after turn 5. [card]Boil[/card] is very good when you force your opponent to tap out on their end step and resolve something bigger on your turn. I am running Boil at the moment (3-of), but I am sure if I would be happy with the Grid instead, or a mix of both – if the metagame call is right.
Cards that I don’t like:
I’ve seen some of these around. I just don’t understand why. Post-board games people have artifact destruction most of the time anyway.
[draft]Crucible of Worlds[/draft]
I like the card and I like the idea of getting lands back, especially post-board when some decks pack in not only [card]Tectonic Edge[/card] but also [card]Fulminator Mage[/card]. The problem is that these are normally the decks that also have [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] and [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], so I like to keep my Relics in the deck. It just feels wrong to play both Crucible and Relic in the same deck.
Tron is weak against extremely fast decks that normally win by turns 3-4. This card is okay, if the opponent’s deck relies on one or two creatures to win – providing you can pay for it, which can be difficult with so many colorless lands in the deck. It’s also good against [card]Scapeshift[/card], but it is not a deck that wins on turn 3-4. Unfortunately, this matchup is quite close already anyway, and the game plan for Tron should always be focusing on land destruction, also, there are not many Scapeshift decks around anymore. Weighing everything in, I just wouldn’t bother with this card.
I saw copies of this card in some decklists. I don’t think there are any valid reasons to still have this in the sideboard instead of [card]Rending Volley[/card]. I hope those are just not updated lists.
[draft]Feed the Clan[/draft]
I haven’t tried this yet. I am sure it annoys Burn players very much, but I dislike the idea of playing a card against only ONE deck. [card]Rending Volley[/card] for example is at least a complete blowout for Twin.
As you can see, I didn’t just write down the 75 I am playing or I recommend that you should play. The deck has small variations which depend on the metagame of wherever you are, or the time you want to play (metagame could change from week to week), so I tried to give you an insight into the function of each card, as individuals and as a group. I hope it helps you determinate the right list you want to play.
How to Play the Deck: Mulliganing
The deck is clearly very straightforward. Many Pros dislike it because they feel it doesn’t give them many decisions to make. Well, I can’t disagree. I’ve seem many players making mistakes after mistakes and still win – because the deck is that powerful when the cards all align in the right order.
I am sure you are all capable of winning the games when you get your with T3 Karn or T4 Ugin. So instead of going inside those games, I will give the best piece of advice I can regarding what I feel is the most difficult decision the deck offers: when to take a mulligan.
Many would say that Tron is a Midrange or Control deck. I think RG Tron is a Combo deck. It may not have an infinite loop or a way to deal 20+ damage in a turn, but it’s close to unstoppable when a full Tron set shows up. There is also almost no way of winning, if you don’t get to put the three pieces of Urza lands together.
The proper mulligan decision is based on how likely you are to have Tron by turn 3-4. I rarely put attention on the big spells I have to cast. In fact, I will keep most 6 lands hand with all the Tron pieces, regardless of spells. I would even consider keeping 7 lands with Tron if I know my opponent is playing GBx.
Obviously not all the hands are going to have Tron or a clear way to find it by turn 3-4, so what am I looking for in my opening hands?
[card]Chromatic Sphere[/card]/Star in multiples are great, if you are only missing one piece: Urza land, [card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card], [card]Sylvan Scrying[/card], Chromatic X, Chromatic X, Big Spell, Random Spell.
Chromatic X into [card]Ancient Stirrings[/card] can be considered a land: Urza land, Chromatic X, [card]Ancient Stirrings[/card], [card]Expedition Map[/card], [card]Relic of Progenitus[/card], [card]Sylvan Scrying[/card], Big Spell.
These one-landers are a bit risky, but with Chromatic X + [card]Ancient Stirrings[/card] you get to see extra 7 cards (or 8, if you are on the draw), and you will usually find a second land there. It is important that the rest of your hand allows you to play with the second land. If the remaining 4 cards are all big spells, the hand is a mulligan.
Hands with early game defense could be decent: Urza Land, [card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card], [card]Pyroclasm[/card], [card]Spellskite[/card], [card]Relic of Progenitus[/card], Chromatic X, Big Spell. Not one of my favorites, but I will most likely keep this in the dark. Pyroclasm, Spellskite and Relic could be game over against so many decks and in general provide a good defense to survive long enough to get Tron online.
Hands without Urza lands are normally bad: [card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card], [card]Ghost Quarter[/card], [card]Sylvan Scrying[/card], [card]Expedition Map[/card], [card]Expedition Map[/card], Big Spell, Big Spell. Here you have the tools to get Tron, but you are doing so on turn 5. Unless you know what you are playing against and you know there is no fast clock, I would mulligan these hands.
Hands without Tron and no cycling are going to end badly most of the time: [card]Urza’s Mine[/card], [card]Urza’s Tower[/card], [card]Urza’s Tower[/card], [card]Eye of Ugin[/card], Big Spell, Big Spell, Big Spell. It looks deceptively close to get Tron online, but there are very few topdecks that help these hands.
Although printed as a legendary land, [card]Eye of Ugin[/card] should NOT be considered a true land – but rather an artifact with a useful activated ability. This may sound obvious but I’ve seem so many people keep hands like: Urza Land, [card]Eye of Ugin[/card], [card]Expedition Map[/card], [card]Ancient Stirrings[/card], [card]Sylvan Scrying[/card], Big Spell, Big Spell. Ship it away.
I hate to mulliganning to 5 and I’m sure you do as well, but don’t be afraid of doing so when playing Tron. I’ve won at least twice the number of games on 5 cards with Tron than with any other deck in any other format. The deck mulligans VERY WELL. I’ve also won on 4 cards a couple of times at least. Don’t keep bad hands just because you are already on 6 and don’t want to go to 5. It’s better to win with 5 than to lose with 6.
G2 and G3 decisions:
Once you know what matchup you are playing, your mulligan decisions may change. You are not only playing a combo deck that needs a reliable way to get Tron, but you are also running some powerful hate cards that win by themselves. I’ve kept hands like: [card]Forest[/card], [card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card], [card]Ghost Quarter[/card], [card]Nature’s Claim[/card], [card]Pyroclasm[/card], [card]Ancient Grudge[/card], Big Spell – because I was playing against Affinity and I knew I could win without getting Tron online.
Other than making good mulligan decisions, another tip I can give you about the deck is to save the [card]Expedition Map[/card] and [card]Sylvan Scrying[/card] for last. Many times you will have one piece of Urza, some cycling cards and one tutor for another piece. Most of the time you want to keep the tutor as long as possible to make sure you will find the right land.
It seems logical to keep a hand with Urza land, [card]Ghost Quarter[/card], [card]Expedition Map[/card], Chromatic X, [card]Ancient Stirrings[/card], [card]Karn Liberated[/card], Big Spell, then play [card]Expedition Map[/card] on Turn 1. If we draw a second Urza land, we can resolve Karn on turn 3. Great, right? In reality, there are only 8 cards we can draw to do so. It’s way more consistent to play the Chromatic X on turn 1, draw an extra card on turn 2, cast Stirrings (hopefully finding one of these 8 lands), play the Map, crack it on turn 3, and finally cast Karn on turn 4.
Modern is a huge format. That are so many things to cover, even when talking about just one deck. I have tried to point out what I consider are the most important things about the deck and the mistakes I see most often. Of course, there are many more matchups, sideboard plans, and plays to consider. If you enjoyed this article and would like to hear more, please let me know in the comments. If enough people are interested in another article about the deck, I will write it.
As always, thanks for reading. Hope to see you in the next GP!