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Feature Article – UW Tron in Preparation for GP Columbus

By the time you read this, Grand Prix Columbus will have already finished and you will know the results. However, as I sit here writing this, I’m not leaving for another 24 hours—so all I can say about the Grand Prix is that my hopes (and expectations) are high. After two weeks of playing Modern, my thoughts on the format have changed considerably, as have the decks I’ve chosen. With the GP looming on the horizon, I have finally settled on playing UW Tron.

Considering that last week I was playing Hive Mind, it’s safe to say that things have changed a bit. Although I enjoyed toying around with Hive Mind, I can’t honestly recommend it as a wise choice at the moment. It is powerful and has strong starts, but it isn’t nearly as consistent as a deck in Modern needs to be in order to succeed. I found my deck losing to itself way more often than any deck should. In a format as fast as this one, you don’t have much time to fiddle around trying to find specific combo pieces. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that the [card]Hive Mind[/card] combo is just two cards. It is actually a 3+ card combo on most occasions, once you consider: [card]Seething Song[/card] and/or [card]Pentad Prism[/card], and a 2nd Pact if they have 4R available (which Pod often will by turn two or three).

The most important reason I ditched Hive Mind was that it wasn’t consistent enough to beat Naya Pod. Even with just a bit of testing, it quickly became apparent how powerful the Pod decks are. After talking to people about their choices, it seemed to me like I wasn’t the only one to come to this conclusion, since there were many people I know personally who settled on Naya Pod for the GP. Since I would never want to go into a given tournament as an underdog to something that I feel is the most powerful deck, and likely a popular one, my main focus this last week was to find a powerful and versatile deck that had a favorable matchup against Pod. After trying a lot of different decks, I found UW Tron to have the absolute best matchup against Pod. Although my exact 75 cards will likely change between now and the Grand Prix, here is the decklist I would play at the time of writing:

UW Tron

[deck]Main Deck:
4 Thirst for Knowledge
4 Gifts Ungiven
4 Path To Exile
4 Remand
1 Condescend
3 Expedition Map
4 Azorius Signet
1 Talisman of Progress
2 Mindslaver
1 Repeal
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Oblivion Stone
1 Wrath of God
1 Day of Judgment
1 Unburial Rites
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Tower
2 Seachrome Coast
2 Hallowed Fountain
1 Celestial Colonnade
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Tolaria West
1 Buried Ruin
1 Academy Ruin
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Adarkar Wastes
1 Island
Sideboard:
3 Rule of Law
3 Timely Reinforcements
2 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
1 Negate
1 Pact of Negation
1 Ghostly Prison
1 Celestial Purge
1 Disenchant
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Ghost Quarter[/deck]

This decklist is similar to Luis’ UW Tron from the Magic Cruise, but I will discuss the important changes I’ve made:

[draft]Mindslaver
Academy Ruins[/draft]

These two cards are the most impactful additions to the deck. I can’t consider this a new addition, since Tron decks in old Extended always ran these two cards. By itself, [card]Mindslaver[/card] is extremely good against many of the top decks in Modern. [card]Academy Ruins[/card] is a great value card when used with [card]Oblivion Stone[/card], [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card], or [card]Expedition Map[/card]. When used together, however, [card]Mindslaver[/card] and [card]Academy Ruins[/card] almost always close out the game.

As soon as you have access to 12 mana, [card]Mindslaver[/card] + [card]Academy Ruins[/card] allows you to steal all your opponent’s turns and then run them out of cards, since your draw steps are replaced by the [card]Mindslaver[/card] you keep putting back on top of your deck. When you have the necessary mana, [card]Gifts Ungiven[/card] will almost always fetch [card]Mindslaver[/card], [card]Academy Ruins[/card], [card]Crucible of Worlds[/card], and [card]Buried Ruin[/card]. No matter what two cards your opponent gives you, you will have access to [card]Mindslaver[/card] + [card]Academy Ruins[/card]. Although this may seem like a slow way to win the game, it is usually at least a couple turns faster than the previous win condition using [card]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/card].

[draft]Oblivion Stone[/draft]

With [card]Buried Ruin[/card] and [card]Academy Ruins[/card], [card]Oblivion Stone[/card] is finally good enough to take a slot in this deck. Although most recent UW Tron decks haven’t used the O-Stone, RG Tron has played it for some time now. The synergy with [card]Academy Ruins[/card] gives [card]Oblivion Stone[/card] one slot in the deck, since recurring board sweepers are never a bad thing to have access to. Against [card]Birthing Pod[/card], this combo is absolutely ridiculous, since they don’t usually have many ways to recover from it.

[draft]Unburial Rites
Iona, shield of emeria
elesh norn, grand cenobite [/draft]

This is really the most powerful game-plan in the entire deck, and even though it’s nothing new, it is definitely worth talking about. If you aren’t familiar with how this works, the deck can use [card]Gifts Ungiven[/card] to reliably set up a reanimation of either [card iona, shield of emeria]Iona[/card] or [card elesh norn, grand cenobite]Elesh Norn[/card]. The play is to cast [card]Gifts Ungiven[/card] and search for [card]Unburial Rites[/card] and the creature you want to reanimate. When you only search for two cards, your opponent is forced to choose both those cards to put into your graveyard. Then you can flashback Unburial Rites to get Iona or Elesh Norn into play. This is the main reason that Pod is such a good matchup, since a quick Elesh Norn is exceedingly tough for Pod to beat. Against some decks, Iona is the card you want, since it shuts down many combo strategies such as Storm and Splinter Twin.

The Mana: With eight different singleton lands, at first glance the mana looks all over the place. But after playing many games and changing the lands accordingly, I am extremely happy with it.

[card]Celestial Colonnade[/card] is a card that can be exceptionally useful, but the drawback often sets you back way too much. This deck usually has a lot to do with its mana every turn, so I found myself gradually cutting lands that come into play tapped. I’m still not 100% sure about the right number for this card, and I could definitely see adding one more to the deck before the Grand Prix.

[card]Tectonic Edge[/card] is here because of the great synergy with [card]Crucible of Worlds[/card]. Along with the [card]Ghost Quarter[/card] in the sideboard, [card]Tectonic Edge[/card] is the main way to get an edge against other Tron decks.

Sideboard: In an extremely diverse format such as Modern, it would be a headache to try to remember sideboarding strategies for every deck you might face. However, I find it’s really important with any deck to know what your plan is for games two and three. So instead of trying to cover all the matchups, I’m going to go over the sideboard cards that I chose to include and their possible applications.

[card]Rule of Law[/card] is mainly here for the Storm decks, although it can be helpful against some fringe archetypes such as [card]Living End[/card]. Storm can be a difficult matchup if the Storm player really knows what they’re doing, so [card]Rule of Law[/card] is an important inclusion. [card]Ethersworn Canonist[/card] is another option, but since it dies to [card]Lightning Bolt[/card], I chose the less fragile permanent. Usually, [card]Rule of Law[/card] will buy you the time you need to get Iona into play (naming red) to seal the deal.

[card]Timely Reinforcements[/card] comes in for all the aggressive archetypes. This category includes Affinity, RUW Delver, RB Burn, and Jund, among others. [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card] is one of the best cards you can have against an aggressive creature deck and it’s really necessary to help you buy the time you need in the early turns of the game.

[card]Linvala, Keeper of Silence[/card] is probably the best hoser you can have against Pod. Although it has applications in other matchups such as Affinity and Splinter Twin, Linvala is really hard for many Pod decks to beat. Game one against Pod is usually a complete massacre, since they have very few ways to interact with you while you remand their crucial spells, wipe their board with your sweepers, then win with an [card elesh norn, grand cenobite]Elesh Norn[/card] or a [card]Mindslaver[/card]. After sideboard, the Pod matchup gets more interactive, since they usually bring in cards like [card]Avalanche Riders[/card] and [card]Fulminator Mage[/card].

At four mana, Linvala is a great way to trump this land destruction plan while completely shutting off their [card kiki-jiki, mirror breaker]Kiki-Jiki[/card] combo. If they aren’t expecting Linvala, they will sideboard out their Linvala, which usually leaves them with few ways (if any) to remove it. Just like Elesh Norn, Linvala does a lot the turn it comes into play since it shuts off their mana creatures, slowing the Pod deck down considerably.

[card]Negate[/card] and [card]Pact of Negation[/card] are both really helpful against the combo decks like Storm and Splinter Twin. Without a [card]Pyromancer Ascension[/card] in play, it can be difficult for Storm to fight through multiple counterspells. [card]Negate[/card] is also useful when playing against RG Tron, since [card]Karn Liberated[/card] is an absolute nightmare for this deck.

[card]Ghostly Prison[/card] has a lot of applications across the field. Against Splinter Twin, it stops them from attacking with the unlimited number of creatures they can make once they assemble their combo. Against Jund, it really helps to negate the power of the manlands such as [card]Raging Ravine[/card] and [card]Treetop Village[/card], as well as the power of [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card]. Against swarm decks like Affinity, it stymies their game plan in the early turns.

[card]Celestial Purge[/card] and [card]Disenchant[/card] are both good against Twin since they can remove a Splinter Twin in the middle of the combo, while [card]Blood Moon[/card] is one of their most dangerous weapons after board. The great thing about having access to both of these in the Splinter Twin matchup is that you can assemble a pretty powerful [card]Gifts Ungiven[/card] package with [card]Path to Exile[/card], [card]Celestial Purge[/card], [card]Disenchant[/card], and any other answer you want ([card]Negate[/card], [card]Pact of Negation[/card], [card]Ghostly Prison[/card], and [card]Repeal[/card] are all options). [card]Celestial Purge[/card] and [card]Disenchant[/card] are both great against numerous other cards/decks, which make them both fantastic sideboard cards in such a wide open format.

[card]Engineered Explosives[/card] can help against RUW Delver, Affinity, BW Tokens, and Soul Sisters to quickly annihilate many of their fastest starts. Against [card]Blood Moon[/card], if you have an [card]Azorius Signet[/card] in play, you can play Explosives on 3 (using one of your non-basic lands for red mana) to get rid of the pesky enchantment.

Like I mentioned earlier, [card]Ghost Quarter[/card] is fantastic with [card]Crucible of Worlds[/card] against any other Tron deck. I also find myself bringing in [card]Ghost Quarter[/card] to simply function as an extra land against decks like Jund and RUW Delver that are likely to sideboard in land destruction, such as [card]Molten Rain[/card] and [card]Fulminator Mage[/card].

I’m extremely happy with the deck thus far, and I’m pleased with each of the changes I’ve made. If UW Tron looks like something you’d enjoy playing, I’d highly recommend it. I expect Grand Prix Columbus to have a really diverse field, with Pod as one of the more popular and better performing decks. I feel like UW Tron is a really good choice for this tournament, because it is able to compete with the best decks in the format while also doing some extremely unfair things. As it turns out, Modern is not a format for fair decks.

Thanks for reading,
Iain Bartolomei
[email protected]
greyknight7 on MTGO

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