(Modern) Deck Spotlight – Mono Blue Tron

While the CKL podcast is on a brief break (we’ll return soon!), the hosts certainly haven’t stopped playing Magic.  Personally, I’ve been reinforcing bad math habits…

“1 + 1 + 1 = 7?”screen grab

Here’s the Quick Explanation (Skip it if you’re familiar…)
If you’ve played modern before, you’ve surely encountered this ungodly combination of lands used to summon terrible things like Ulamog, Karn, or Ugin.

Blue Tron is a less-common version of the deck that uses the same 3 cards to play in more of a control style.  The deck gives a little bit on the consistency of reaching an early Tron in favor of many more reactive options and control spells.  For that reason, potential turn-three threats like Karn Liberated typically don’t appear in a Blue Tron deck.  Instead, blue pilots take a more cautious route to casting things like Wurmcoil Engine with counter spells and other protection at the ready to ensure that they’ll stick around to do their job.

Corey’s List

tron list.PNG
Click to visit decklist on MTG Goldfish

I’m Sold On Blue
I had some serious misconceptions about Blue Tron after giving it a shot years ago.  I lost a few games because I didn’t draw a threat when I needed and I lost a few more when aggressive decks overran my clunky starts.  The more I play this deck, the more I realize how versatile and consistent it can be.

 

Most importantly, the deck is fun and interesting to play.  Unlike green-based counterparts, Blue Tron requires quite a bit of interaction and a much longer set up for end game scenarios.  It is a VERY DIFFERENT DECK than RG Tron.  Here’s a picture of me living the glory to pique your interest…

living the glory

Notice the big old ‘0 life’ that I’m working with here?  Many games end with double digit negatives and are an adrenaline rush of ‘stick a Platinum Angel and protect the queen’.  Cards like 2 main deck Chalice of the Void set to X=1 (to stop opposing Path to Exile, Lightning Bolt, Vandalblast) or a hand full of counterspells provide an adequate insurance plan.

Better than Green?
Whereas RG Tron runs a relatively linear ‘ramp to a big threat’ strategy, blue tron can be very competitive in games where cards like Blood Moon or Crumble to Dust are locking us out of our ‘tron-fecta’.  In cases where we can’t just drop one of each tron land and cheat out a giant threat unreasonably early on, we are just fine playing “draw go” control until we happen upon enough mana to get proactive.

In fact, a majority of the control-type spells are cantrips or can scry.  Keeping a threat-light hand is just fine when you’ve got a grip full of Condescend, Remand, and Repeal.  This deck can dig…

Speaking of digging, the greatest incentive to playing a control-style Tron deck is Thirst For Knowledge.  There is certainly no reason not to pack four of these.  In recent results, U Tron lists have also included up to two Epiphany at the Drownyard, a draw spell that scales very well with this deck’s extreme mana curve.

While my admiration for Thirst is quite clear, I’m still experimenting with Epiphany.  I think that my average ‘X’ has been about 4.5 in the three or four leagues that I’ve tried it.  In those cases, there are enough cards to balance out two very impactful piles in a way that offsets the disadvantage of your opponent having the choice at which one you get.  The biggest incentive to playing a spell like this is the last line…”and the other (pile) into your graveyard”.  If one of the ‘X’ cards you flip is an Academy Ruins, that just might be enough to include alone in a pile as long as the other one contains a needed artifact (or there’s one in your graveyard for that matter).  Even better, if you’ve already got the Academy Ruins in play, Epiphany at the Drownyard can set up an instant-speed Mindslaver lock at the end of your opponent’s turn.  Beautiful.

Ok, the more I talk about it, the more I like it.  I’m sold now…jumping on the Epiphany bandwagon…

Maindeck Notables
Here are a few things to consider about of the more controversial maindeck inclusions.

Spatial Contortion is a game changer for Blue Tron.  Previously, a hand full of tron lands and control spells was the mark of death.  Surely, if you draw into an island in the first or second turn, things can work out.  If you don’t, you’re doomed.  With Spatial Contortion (and Warping Wail too), a hand full of colorless lands can allow you to play T1: Tower, T2: Mine and still have a reactive spell to fend off your opponent’s attackers.  This is a big deal!  It can allow natural tron draws to drop Wurmcoil on turn three instead of four.

Also, I am a firm believer in Spell Burst.  I will always cut one Condescend for a singleton Spell Burst.  When your opponent is playing around Condescend, which they often are, a Spell Burst can be a real surprise.  It is perfect for picking off Lightning Bolt or Path to Exile at crucial moments and has a buyback that can allow for some very degenerate board states where you can defense all of your opponents plays with a single card.

Wait…let’s rewind…

Mindslaver Lock

Some might say that the Mindslaver Lock is the primary win condition of the deck.  It’s definitely Plan A in most games but, based on my experiences, is only the way to win about 25% of the time.  The combination is simple and difficult to interact with when online.  Clearly, the plan is to take your opponent’s next turn with enough mana left over to put the Mindslaver back on top of your deck and repeat on the next turn.  Your opponent gets no more turns to play but you don’t necessarily win…yet…

Mindslaver vs. MTGO Client
You still have to kill your opponent and a savvy player on MTGO will F6 through the entire process to take valuable time off your clock.  This is a very clunky function of the online client that can result in you losing due to an empty clock.  I’ve personally lost many games in this way but won matches that I shouldn’t have because my opponent conceded as soon as I had the lock online rather than making me play through it.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Does your opponent have pain lands?  Tap them out quickly damaging them each turn and pass quickly.  Don’t waist time capitalizing on all your opportunities for sabotage.  If you control the rest of their turns, you won’t need to worry about anything else that they could do.
  • Fetch and shock when you can.  Scalding Tarn into untapped Blood Crypt, for example, takes three life off their clock.
  • Tap out all of their mana sources!  Remember that your opponent can activate abilities and cast instants on your turn.  Don’t give them that opportunity.
  • Stop the loop if you can finish them the old fashioned way.  Typically, it only takes a few turns to guarantee victory at the hands of a Mindslaver Lock.  If you’ve done enough to strip their hand and run all of their creatures into your big blockers, lay off the cycle for a minute and hold back some counterspells to one-for-one their top decks.

The Other 75%
The inclusion of main deck Though-Knot Seer (previously Solemn Simulacrum in my build) allows for a Plan B of a good old-fashioned beatdown.  A 4/4 is nothing to scoff at.  It takes two Lightning Bolts to kill it and countering the second one is always fun.  We pack additional punch in our big artifact threats, Platinum Angel, Wurmcoil Engine, and Sundering Titan.  There may be only one of each of those but Treasure Mage (who also can apply some pressure) helps to find the most useful one in a pinch.

In some ways, playing mono blue seems to give us a major advantage in terms of life totals.  Nearly every other deck plays shock lands and fetch lands.  We run neither and have very few spells (with the exception of sideboard Dismember) that deal us damage.  In most games, your opponent will do some of the work for you.

Sideboard
Here’s where I differ from many of the other lists.  Notable omissions include Surgical Extraction and Grafdigger’s Cage.

tormod's

Dredge is one of the deck’s worst match-ups.  Originally, I opted for Tormod’s Crypt because it didn’t cost 14 tix.  Now, I’ve stuck with it because of the interaction between it and Academy Ruins.  Since it doesn’t remove itself from the game, it can be returned to the top of your library for reuse.  Also, whereas Grafdigger’s Cage can put graveyard shenanigans “on pause” until an artifact removal spell is drawn, Tormod’s Crypt takes care of them for good.  I’m still experimenting with this one but my strategy against Dredge hasn’t changed…hope you don’t see it.

squelch

Another challenging match-up is Jeskai Nahiri.  It’s difficult for any deck to survive Annihilator 6.  It’s also tempting for your Jeskai Nahiri opponent to assume that nothing could go wrong once they’ve ticked Nahiri up to 8 and are ready to ultimate.  Squelch does a lot of work here.  I’ve experimented with Imprisoned in the Moon and haven’t seen much success.  Other than that, there are not a lot of options short of counterspells that allow us to effectively deal with a planeswalker.  Squelch gets pretty close and has many other utility functions that make it more appealing.  Obviously, Squelching a fetch land activation is great.  Also, this can be used to stop Kiki-Jiki before 600 angel tokens are made.

spreading seas.jpg

Lastly, Spreading Seas is great against opposing Tron decks.  We know this.  It is also, a saving grace vs. Blinkmoth Nexus, Inkmoth Nexus, and Celestial Colonnade.  We have very few answers to manlands in mono blue.  Typically, we can disrupt infect or boggles with a Repeal, Engineered Explosives, or Ratchet Bomb and then we often die to the manland on the next turn.  In some cases, we’ll need to spread the seas on a Cavern of Souls to put our counters back online vs. decks like Eldrazi Aggro.

Thanks for reading.  As always, share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.  -Corey

Corey Murphy is one of two hosts of the Card Knock Life Podcast. He started playing magic in 1999, lives in Wisconsin, can touch his tongue to his nose, plays the trombone, and focuses his MTG content efforts on Modern. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You’re here for the magic content right? Ok, I’ll shut up now…

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