If you follow my Pauper writing, you likely know that I think the Urzatron mana engine has been a problem for the format. The worst offender is Flicker Tron – a deck that wants to generate a massive amount of mid-to-late game card advantage by recurring high quality spells with Mnemonic Wall and Ephemerate or Ghostly Flicker. Invariably when this discussion rises up, there’s a vocal group saying that Tron is acceptable because it facilitates a deck more in line with Modern variants on Tron.
As of late Flicker Tron has been taken down a notch. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still a fantastic deck. However, recent additions to Pauper, namely Annoyed Altisaur and Boarding Party from Commander Legends, have changed the texture of the metagame. Usually these cards are spouts in either Axebane Guardian decks or decks featuring Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl.
Today’s deck is neither of these things. If you want to slam big monsters early and often, I want to recommend this take on Cascade Tron, played by Paul Rietzl, aka littledarwin, to the Top 8 of the February 28 Pauper Challenge.
Pauper Cascade Tron by Paul Rietzl
Cascade Tron wants to win by invalidating everything the opponent does, not through removal or countermagic, but rather through threats. Outside of Ulamog’s Crusher the entire deck is either mana or a two-for-one (or a potential two-for-one).
Unlike Flicker Tron, which wants to control the pace of the game by dictating the stack, Cascade Tron wants to set the pace by resolving its top-end threats early. The addition of Signets gives Cascade Tron the ability to operate more in line with a traditional ramp deck and hit its mana goals even without finding Tron. In this way, the deck is very straight forward: have mana and resolve absolute units.
Early in the game, you want to be developing your mana base. Thankfully, the inclusion of Signets and Bonder’s Ornament usually means that a single Stone Rain won’t ruin your day. If you suspect you’re up against a land destruction opponent, leave up Crop Rotation as a counterpunch. Ideally, you’ll sequence your first few turns to give you access to as much mana as possible on turns three and four, regardless of whether or not Tron is assembled. Ancient Stirrings should be used to find Tron pieces early and then card draw (or Ulamog’s Crusher) late.
Once you have enough mana, you want to start resolving cascade cards. Since this usually takes place on turns four or five, it’ll be very hard for your opponent to counter both spells. If you have an opportunity for an open attack, play out your Annoyed Altisaur precombat for a chance to hit a Boarding Party. If you have a choice between Altisaur and Party in hand, I would lean on Altisaur unless the damage from Boarding Party will matter.
When it comes to Mulldrifter, you’ll often want to evoke it early to see more cards. This serves a second purpose as it puts a creature in your graveyard to grab with Pulse of Murasa off of cascade. Seeing as how Pulse of Murasa is the best target for Mnemonic Wall in the entire deck, having a copy in the graveyard is also quite nice. Speaking of Mnemonic Wall and Pulse of Murasa, the duo makes for a nice stall tactic against Gurmag Anglers.
Bonder’s Ornament is the bridge between the early game and the late game. In the first few turns, it serves as a mana rock. Eventually, it pivots into a source of recurring card advantage. The nice thing about Cascade Tron is that, thanks to the abundance of two-for-ones, it doesn’t mind having its own Ornaments “turned off” by opposing copies.
While other Tron decks run copies of Moment’s Peace and Temur Tron, the spiritual ancestor of Cascade Tron, ran Fangren Marauder in concert with Chromatic Star and (the now banned) Expedition Map, Cascade Tron runs Fiery Cannonade. This makes sense as the vast majority of early threats in the format die to the instant-speed sweeper. While Moment’s Peace is valuable if you’re going to win in your next two turns, Cascade Tron lacks that certainty. As a result, the opportunity to sweep the board is better here as it should leave you with the last monster standing.
Thanks to its highly redundant nature, Cascade Tron mulligans extremely well. Ideally, you want a hand with access to two lands – whether that’s two lands or a green dual and Ancient Stirrings – and a way to ramp and see more cards. The worse hands are those that have a ton of top-end threats and no conceivable path to them. For example, I would be hard-pressed to keep a three land non-Urzatron hand that also includes Fiery Cannonade, Pulse of Murasa, Ulamog’s Crusher and Boarding Party. Simply put, you can’t afford to take the first three turns off just playing lands that aren’t Tron. That being said, the natural Tron is a beautiful thing and makes borderline hands snap keeps if they contain any action.
If you define midrange as a deck that assumes the control position against beatdown and the beatdown position against control, Cascade Tron fits rather neatly. Against slower decks, you want to be committing cards to the board to try and resolve your top end early. When squared off against aggressive opponents your goal is to stay alive until you can invalidate their threats.
Currently, the vast majority of decks you’re likely to face in Pauper would fall into midrange or control categories. Here, Cascade Tron wants to ensure it has access to mana and threats. Playing around land destruction is important against midrange, which often means holding back on assembling Tron or exposing redundant pieces early. Signets are your best friend as they help to mitigate the damage done by a single Stone Rain. Heads up – you’re around a turn faster than the current crop of ramp decks which gives you the advantage when it comes to resolving cascade threats.
The control matchups are all about out-carding your opponent. Here, you absolutely want to burn Mulldrifter early to keep up on resources. However, if you have the choice between evoking Mulldrifter and casting Bonder’s Ornament on turn three, go for Ornament – it helps you reach your endgame and will keep the cards flowing as long as you hit your land drops.
Right now, aggressive strategies are not extremely prevalent. They still pop up and can be dangerous so be prepared. Fiery Cannonade handles most traditional aggressive decks – Stompy, for example – while also having some solid utility against Elves. Burn can be challenging in Game 1 but that’s where Weather the Storm shines. The most challenging “aggro” matchup is WonderWalls, as you have no good way to remove their mana engine.