Hello, you’ve stumbled upon my primer for Modern Green Tron based on the format that is the summer of 2020.
Throughout this primer I will try to give my ideas and reasoning as to why I play certain bits of the deck and why I find certain cards to be necessary or not. Though there are many flavors of Tron in Modern, I would argue that the mono green variant is the strongest choice due to it’s smooth manabase and its low demand for green allowing the deck to include some fantastic utility lands like Blast Zone.
My name is ArchaeusDota and I am an MTGO grinder. You can find my thoughts/lists and stuff on my twitter @ArchaeusDota. In Modern, my two primary decks I have are Green Tron and Eldrazi Tron. Since they are fundamentally different decks, I won’t mention too much about the Eldrazi side for this article, but I have frequently been featured in the league dumps, MTGO Prelims, and have top 8’ed a number of PTQs with the deck.
Recently, I piloted the Golos-Jegantha Tron build to first place in a Super Qualifier. I was one of the first players to successfully work that combo to a league and prelim 5-0. Since the change to the companion mechanic, I’ve had to reconfigure this take on the green-based Tron list. I’ve done a lot of testing and grinding with different variants of the deck and I am so confident with the list that I’ve arrived at that I thought a primer might be due. So, without further ado…
No doubt, in order for something to be considered a Tron deck, the Tron package must be included:
In addition, I am comfortable including three basic forests in the mix…
Now, some players like to run 4x Forest and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, especially if the meta demands it (lots of Path to Exile, Field of Ruin, Ghost Quarter, etc). However, I have found that three is an appropriate amount and rarely find that I need more than three basics to search for without functionally having won or lost already by that point. As I will discuss in the mulliganing section, you do not want Forest in your opening hand anyway.
That said, I would strongly advise against running less than three Forest in the deck, as there are times when you draw the card naturally, and potentially run into problems once opponents start making you search for basics already in your hand. Not a great feeling, I’m sure you’ll already know!
Next, I would consider the collection of “eggs” (4 Chromatic Star, 4 Chromatic Sphere) and land tutors (4 Sylvan Scrying, 4 Expedition Map) to be non-negotiable in this deck. Since our gameplan is to assemble a combination of three specific land cards to cast pricy (but potent) spells, we need to pack a lot of redundancy to assure that we’ll be able to put the third piece into play consistently by turn three/four.
Now, some people in the past have experimented with cutting a Sphere/Star for further threats or “utility” cards. I do not think this is a good idea, especially if you mulligan the way that I think is most effective for running the deck. We’ll go more into depth on that concept in the mulligan section ahead.
Usually, the Stars are considered slightly better than the Spheres, as they draw you a card even if they are destroyed. This can also be relevant when you target your own eggs for lifegain using Nature’s Claim, for example, as Star would draw a replacement card and Sphere would not. More commonly, since Tron decks typically pack Oblivion Stone (which could destroy one’s own egg), I would almost exclusively lead with Sphere in the early game — a small but occasionally important point to note.
Ancient Stirrings is self-explanatory in a deck full of colorless cards and important lands. It’s primary use in the early game is similar to Scrying (locating Tron lands) but can very effectively find the payoffs (Karn Liberated, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon) when Tron is already assembled. For this reason, this one is also a vital piece of the maindeck.
Using the land tutor spells (Scrying and Map) is pretty straightforward but there are a few things to keep in mind. Typically, I would recommend casting Sylvan Scrying before activating Expedition Map when your opponent has their blue (counter) lands tapped or to dodge opponent’s Thoughtseize. Also, Ashiok, Dream Render can be a real thorn in your side as it will prevent all deck searching you wish to do so make sure you’ve either got your Tron pieces early or have a good answer to this Planeswalker ready to go.
Regarding Karn, the Great Creator, I would highly recommend its inclusion in G Tron. There are a few key reasons for doing so in my opinion:
- It helps your game immensely vs Combo decks such as Storm, Devoted Druid, Ad Nauseam and to some extent, Burn and Prowess, too. Finding the silver bullets I’ll talk about later is simply game winning in these cases.
- It acts as the 5th-8th Karn Liberated in Tron mirrors when paired with Liquimetal Coating, and shuts off your opponent’s O-Stone, Eggs, etc.
- It can effectively just win games by itself when you land it vs certain decks fast, such as Jeskai Breach, Hardened Scales, Thopter Combo. Often in these matchups you just keep ticking up to ensure he survives because opponent cannot effectively win the game whilst Karn is on the field.
Wurmcoil Engine is the best card you can play vs “fair” midrange/aggro decks, along with others such as Death’s Shadow and Prowess. It will tax your opponent’s removal spells (unless they exile like Path to Exile) and recoup life loss against aggressive strategies while serving as a sizable blocker.
Karn Liberated needs little explanation and only has a few matchups where it is fairly useless (such as Ad Naus). This planeswalker is sort of the poster child of G Tron and is almost always included as a full playset.
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is one of the most effective cards we can play that affects any board state, deals with almost all permanents and ends the game in two turns. For ten mana, just about the best thing we can be doing in almost any matchup.
In addition to the fifteen core lands, I recommend playing three more utility lands from this list.
- Blast Zone: An amazing upgrade to the deck, deals with any permanent causing you trouble, acts as a sort-of 3rd Nature’s Claim effect on problematic cards like Damping Sphere. All-round great card.
- Urza’s Factory: A niche grindy card, not as effective as others but can turn your late game Sylvan Scryings into a 2/2 factory worker every turn.
- Sea Gate Wreckage: More often seen in Eldrazi Tron, this can sometimes be effective especially as we mulligan low. My issue is often we are stuck with more lands in hand than we can play and therefore find it difficult to completely empty sometimes.
- Sanctum of Ugin: Fantastic tutor land that wins games in long/grindy matchups by letting you find your Ulamog/Wurmcoil/Ballista/TKS and put it straight into your hand.
- Nurturing Peatland: A cheap, one-time similar effect to Sea Gate Wreckage that also provides green mana. Often just drawing one extra card can be enough to win the game.
- Ghost Quarter: Versatile card, most effective in the mirror and especially against Eldrazi Tron. In general, not as effective against us as most players think, more often than not giving us green mana improves our hand with otherwise rotting Stirrings/Scryings.
- Cavern of Souls: Very specific card for Control meta. Can be a brilliant way to force through cards like Emrakul or TKS and can be tutored for with Map or Scrying unlike Veil of Summer.
There are many creatures that we can consider adding to our threat list.
- Thought-Knot Seer: I am a huge fan of this card as it is essentially good in every matchup. 4/4 blocker than steals a card vs aggro and takes combo’s best card while providing a decent clock. I think sideboarding this card is a waste. It also gives removal decks a headache as to whether to leave their Fatal Push in their deck post-board.
- Thragtusk: I know it is a controversial opinion, but I am strongly against running this card. It is a fine body, and the effect is decent. The huge problem I have is it requires G to cast. As I will explain in the mulligan section, you often need to mulligan to 3/4 card hands where there is no way you can afford to keep G, and since Thragtusk is usually needed early vs Aggro, this can lead to one very uncastable beast rotting in hand.
- Walking Ballista: Overall fantastic card, brilliant against mana dorks, effective at picking off planeswalkers and adding a fast clock. It can be meta-dependent and in a high mirror meta, I would probably cut this card to make room for things like Jegantha as I will explain later.
- Kozilek, Butcher of Truth: A pet card of mine, but probably just worse than Ulamog (much to my dismay :D)
- Kozilek, the Great Distortion: In theory this card should be quite a good card, however it runs into the same problem of being unfortunately worse than Ulamog in most situations.
- Sundering Titan: this saw a surge of popularity when the Niv-Mizzet and Dryad of the Ilysian Grove decks were popular, although generally I don’t think this card is effective against enough decks to warrant running it maindeck. It’s a great wishboard target though.
- Emrakul, Promised End: What a card! After reading all the text, you’ll only have to cast this once to understand how game-ending it can be. Although it often requires some creative outside-the-box thinking, it will often lead to wins and only falls short to sweepers. Don’t forget that this does not synergize well with Relic of Progenitus.
- Conduit of Ruin: This is another pet card of mine that I have been trying intensely to make work recently. In effect you are sacrificing a slightly worse/slower turn three for a game-ending turn four. The fact that it is a cast trigger is excellent vs Control-type decks. Definitely one to try out if you are looking to spice your deck up!
- World Breaker: A little bit like a 5th Karn Liberated. In the mirror and other big mana matchups, usually exiling a land is great, and the fact that it can be recurred when you flood out is excellent. Now, before you start screaming, “but this also costs green like Thragtusk”, let me explain: World Breaker is a card for the longer/slower matchups. It is not imperative that we cast it on turn three to survive. Thragtusk is there to be cast on turn three vs Burn to have any chance of surviving. Later on you would rather have more impactful cards like World Breaker once you have access to reliable green mana.
- Golos, Tireless Pilgrim: A neat card, excellent for grindy matchups to find your last missing Tron piece, but on its own fairly low impact. It is particularly good in a meta full of midrange decks like Jund.
Finally, the non-creature flex cards. Here are some of my favorite cards that are just amazing to cast and blow your opponent out of the water with.
- Oblivion Stone: Fantastic card to support Tron’s strategy. Completely blows up any creature deck or even decks that require many artifacts/enchantments to function. This is your best card vs aggro creature decks, along with the RG Ponza deck running around. Even against Control decks, this dissuades them from just running out their walkers into getting blown up, so we usually just leave it sitting there.
- Relic of Progenitus: I am only a fan of this when the meta is heavily graveyard oriented, otherwise I believe you are better off running more threats.
- All is Dust: A faster O-Stone. Very important when the meta is heavy on Prowess or Infect where turn three sweepers are critical to survival. Better synergy with TKS. Gives Humans players a big headache.
- Dismember: Much like Relic, meta-dependent but in general I don’t like running this unless necessary. I believe you should just make Tron rather than using removal as your threats often can act as a type of removal anyway,
- Ugin, the Spirit Dragon: A real whopper of a Planeswalker. Ugin is O-Stone and All is Dust in a Planeswalker and it threatens to win the game in just three turns. Obviously, this card is fairly weak card in the mirror, vs. E Tron, against Control and combo due to the difficulty to cast against counterspells, large number of colorless permanents, or otherwise.
A quick note on Veil of Summer: As great as the card is, for the moment I don’t think it is necessary as it comes in for matchups which are already favored such as Jund, Control, and Shadow. Also, Jegantha is a good option as companion when Walking Ballista and Dismember are not required and combos well with Golos.
- Relic of Progenitus: I think this is a key point of difference between G Tron and E Tron. Some matchups we want Relic for are Control/Jund, already good matchups, where we shouldn’t need to interact with their GY to win (unlike ETron).
- Grafdigger’s Cage: My current favorite because of it’s anti-combo properties vs Storm/Neoform/Devoted Druid. Also shuts off Ancient Grudge flashback from Dredge.
- Leyline of the Void: The best hate card vs Dredge, unless they have exactly Claim or Trophy, they are locked out. It’s a little extreme, but if you find yourself losing to Dredge/Crabvine a lot, then maybe try a 2/2 split between Cage and Leyline. I have had success with this.
- Spatial Contortion: Not a personal fan of this one, as two-mana should definitely be spent on Scrying or Mapping in my opinion. Also does not kill certain creatures like Urza.
- Lignify: Not tested too much, but a potential improvement as it deals with all creatures, despite it also costing two mana.
- Dismember: Probably the best choice, as deals with almost all creatures for one mana at instant speed.
- Nature’s Claim: The classic, one-mana instant speed and we don’t care about giving opponent life. Can be good vs Burn on our own artifact cards, although this is not reliable.
- Unravel the Aether: An excellent answer to any deck which can recur hate pieces such as Lurrus and Damping Sphere.
- Wilt: The new and probably best card, as it cycles when they don’t have hate, and also dodges Chalice of the Void, which is particularly popular at the moment.
- Thragtusk: As discussed before, not a fan.
- Spellskite: Slightly underwhelming, although probably the best card against Infect. The fact it isn’t great in other matchups means it’s probably not worth it.
- Weather the Storm: This card kind of sucks because it requires you to change your plan from making Tron to making G and holding up two mana, which is incredible awkward and often doesn’t even lead to wins especially against Prowess.
- Leyline of Sanctity: The best card vs RW Burn, although if they are running multiple Wear//Tear it might be a liability.
There are so many artifacts one could consider, and I have spent endless hours on Gatherer examining all possible options. These are the ones I have come to believe are absolutely critical in my experience. The one thing I would say is that CMC3 or less artifacts are best as those are the ones we can play on turn three after Karn. Someone recently asked me why we don’t typically run “more impactful threats”. My philosophy on this is very simple. G Tron is essentially a Control/Combo deck which instead of controlling just blows opponents out of the water. We have so many other threats that we just don’t need Karn TGC for that. We do need him for silver bullets in tough matchups.
- Elixir of Immortality: Very underrated in my opinion, five life can make the difference in many situations, and is the best lifegain for this effect we can afford. The shuffling effect can also be potentially useful when we need to find cards in our deck again (such as lands).
- Liquimetal Coating: Incredible card in all mirrors, vs Titan and my go-to artifact to find vs Control. The obvious combo is destroying opponent lands, but can also use on your own Karn then tick up on itself to become a 4/4 attacker. Use in upkeep on opponents Tower to stop them having five mana for smasher to kill your Karn.
- Sorcerous Spyglass: Best card vs certain decks like Devoted Druid. Good when you need to name something like Arcbound Ravager when you know Karn will die anyway.
- Ensnaring Bridge: Brilliant anti-aggro card vs Humans/RG/Shadow. Allows you to close the game a little bit like Mycosynth Lattice.
- Sundering Titan: The best card against Primeval Titan strategies, as we can stop them paying for pact if they have Dryad by killing 5 lands. Also, just good vs midrange strategies like Niv Mizzet.
- Walking Ballista: A flexible mana-sink and great all-round target. Allows you a way to finish off your opponent even when an Ensnaring Bridge is preventing you from attacking.
Sideboard Guide/Matchup Analysis
Please note that I encourage you to think about sideboarding yourself and adapting to what hate/cards they have in the specific match. Here is the Green Tron list I would recommend playing now from all the suggestions we’ve been through:
Archaeus’ Green Tron [July 2020]
4 Karn, the Great Creator
4 Karn Liberated
2 Walking Ballista
1 Emrakul, the Promised End
2 Thought-Knot Seer
2 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
4 Wurmcoil Engine
4 Ancient Stirrings
1 All Is Dust
4 Sylvan Scrying
4 Expedition Map
4 Chromatic Star
2 Oblivion Stone
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Urza’s Power Plant
1 Nurturing Peatland
1 Blast Zone
1 Sanctum of Ugin
4 Urza’s Tower
4 Urza’s Mine
1 Sorcerous Spyglass
1 Walking Ballista
2 Leyline of Sanctity
3 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Liquimetal Coating
1 Elixir of Immortality
1 Sundering Titan
1 Ensnaring Bridge
Vs Bant/Sultai/UW Control: +1 Spyglass +1 Sundering Titan -2 Wurmcoil
A good matchup. If we can stabilize our mana then usually we can pump out enough threats to overwhelm them. A resolved Karn usually spells lights out for them. Name Field of Ruin on Spyglass. Don’t play around counterspells too much. This will give them time to set-up their walkers. Make them have the counter for every threat every turn. Keep up the pressure. If game goes super long, Elixir can stop us decking.
Vs Mirror/E Tron: +1/2 Wilt +2 Dismember(ETron) -1 AiD -2 Ballista
Simple Magic, be on the play, super strict Mulligan. Karns are the best cards. Fetch Coating with KarnTGC. Consider bringing in Spyglass on the play for enemy Maps.
Vs Burn: +2 Leyline of Sanc -1 Emrakul -1 Karn Liberated
Relatively tough matchup. Karn TGC into Elixir is great. Mulligan aggressively. TKS and Wurmcoil should also be very good. Post-board, watch for Path so don’t rely solely on Wurmcoil to win the game. Leyline is a really effective shut-down plan.
Vs Prowess: +2 Dismember -1 Emrakul -1 Karn Liberated
I believe a decent matchup, a Wurmcoil usually spells “gg”, especially game one. Dismember comes in to deal with their creature-based damage sources. Remember to Dismember on your turn otherwise, it can turn on Light up the Stage. All is Dust is also great here. Blast Zone should be a priority land to tutor for.
Vs Dredge: +3 Cage -1 Emrakul -2 Karn Liberated
Game one is nightmareish, they need to miss and we need a good start. Karn TGC and Cage is your best bet. Postboard do not keep a hand without Grafdigger’s Cage, no matter how tempting it may be. Try to get Wurmcoils online as fast as possible. Cage usually is enough to sail through to victory.
Vs RG (Ponza): +2 Dismember +2 Wilt +1 Ballista -1 Emrakul -2 KarnTGC -2 KarnLib
One of our absolute worst matchups along with Infect. There really isn’t much we can do in most matches. Kill their Elf with Dismember/Ballista if you can. Always aim to find O-Stone. Keep land-heavy hands. Keep your mental game strong, it can be easy to tilt vs them. Do not be afraid to aggressively use Ballista/Blast Zone, get any advantage/win you possibly can.
Vs Amulet/TitanShift/Scapeshift: +2 Wilt/+2Leyline -2 Wurmcoil/-2 Ballista
A pretty 50/50 matchup. This matchup is play/draw dependent. We need to find turn three Karn(s) or TKS to try and exile/kill their bounceland or interrupt their setup by picking apart their hand. Remember Wilt kills amulet and Dryad. You may think it’s strange to board out Wurmcoil, but Wurmcoil will not help against 30 2/2 Zombies and 10 Valakut triggers, I promise you. TKS is a great card here.
Vs Jund/BGx : (+2 Wilt) (-2 TKS)
This one is a really good matchup and anyone who says otherwise is welcome to test with me. Trophy is their only shot at stopping us and most of our threats are game-ending as they cannot compete with the value our cards generate. Only bring in Wilt if you suspect Damping Sphere. Fulminator Mage can be Veil of Summered. Be aware of Thoughtseize and try not to keep hands on the draw with one tutor piece, throw back the Karn and keep the second Map.
Vs Devoted Druid: +2 Dismember +2 Cage -1 Emrakul -3 Wurmcoil
My Druid fanatic friend @LaplasJan thinks this is a really good matchup for Druid. I don’t think it’s good for Tron but I think it’s more than winnable. Just focus on doing your thing. All is Dust is king here. Karn?Spyglass wins you game 1. Don’t forget they can sacrifice the Druid when you target it with removal, so be creative in how you approach it.
Vs Storm: +2 Dismember +3 Cage -2 Ballista -3 Wurmcoil
Game one is hard, but postboard with Cage, we can easily overrun them with problems. Like with Druid, game 1 Karn?Cage is really strong.
Vs Ad Nauseam: + 2 Wilt -2 Wurmcoil
What used to be a terrible matchup is now favored! Karn TGC is incredibly problematic for them, as it turns off Lotus and Prism. Kill their artifacts/enchantments aggressively. TKS is again fantastic here.
Vs Humans/Merfolk: +2 Dismember +2 Wilt -1 TKS -2 Karn Liberated -1 Emrakul
Overall, this matchup is slightly favored for us. The challenge is on them to kill us super fast or provide substantial disruption. Any card like O-Stone or Ballista can end games on the spot. Care for Force of Negation from Merfolk. Remember that if they are playing Damping Sphere they are really slowing themselves down.
Vs Death’s Shadow variants: +2 Dismember -2 TKS
Good matchup. They need to have a crazy start to have a good chance against us. Again, play smart around Thoughtseize and Stubborn Denial. Wurmcoil is an incredibly problematic threat for them. Leyline is not worth bringing in. Be smart with your Ballista, do you really want to ping them? Blast Zone is ace.
Vs Boggles: +2 Wilt -2 Ballista
Really good matchup. They have to overextend into our sweeper effects and cannot easily rebuild. Also Blast zone is very good here.
Vs Neoform: +3 Cage -2 Ballista -1 Wurmcoil
Game one is completely nightmareish. Post-board, do not keep a hand without Cage. With it we have a decent shot. Spyglass on Griselbrand is also decent.
Vs Goblins: +2 Wilt +1 Dismember -1 Emrakul -2 Wurmcoil
Treat it like a combo deck. Cards like Ballista and All is Dust are winners. Remember that Karn shuts off Vial and to name Snoop with Spyglass.
Vs Infect: +2 Dismember -1 Emrakul -1 Karn Liberated
A pretty awful matchup. This is one of the few matchups where you probably actually have to mulligan for Dismember/Ballista. That being said, if they keep a slower hand we can have more than enough of a chance to beat them. Use removal on your turn so they don’t benefit from +x+x effects. Blast Zone is an all star here.
Vs Mill: +2 Leyline -2 Wurmcoil
Leyline should be game post-board. Try your very best not to search if you don’t have it, perhaps even choosing not to search with Trophy if you can help it. Elixir is great here.
Mulligan Guide (Brief)
Finally, we come to mulliganing. It is straight-forward:
MULLIGAN TO A HAND THAT MAKES TURN THREE TRON, WITH OR WITHOUT A THREAT
As trivial as it sounds, I still see Tron players lead with forest and Stirrings on 6. Like, what are you trying to do there friend?
Here are your criteria for hands you should keep on 7, 6 and 5 in general. Tron Lands refer to different lands of course.
- Natural Tron (Mine+PP+Tower)
- Tron Land + Tron Land + Map
- Tron Land + Tron Land + Egg + Scrying
- Tron Land + Tron Land + Egg + Stirrings
When you mull to 4 or 3 or 2, and you don’t see the above hands you could start to keep more speculative hands such as:
- Tron Land + Tron Land + Egg (+Egg)
- Forest + Stirrings + Scrying + Scrying
- Tron Land + Tron Land (On 2)
In general, Eggs are better than Stirrings/Scryings if you can only choose one of them as they dig you deeper. I would try and avoid keeping a Forest hand at all costs, but sometimes as I outlined there there can be Forest hands that have Tron turn 4.
Of course, in some scenarios like vs Thoughtseize decks or vs Control decks you can keep slower hands which have more resources but not necessarily Tron itself. Generally, the slower the enemy clock the slower your hand can afford to be.
So, that’s it! A whole 4000+ words dedicated to my experience with the deck I have come to love and continue to believe is a great choice all round. One of the great things about playing Tron is that the deck core is very strong, so we don’t need to change much of it to still have a whopper of a deck. The small changes in the main and sideboard that we do defines how we each individually approach the deck, and that small variation makes the deck interesting to me. We have a powerhouse of a plan that crushes all our opponents if we get to execute it. Our deck is especially effective against those playing “fairer” decks because we go way over the top of their strategy. As the deck will inevitably continue to evolve, I may update this Primer, but for now I am happy with where it is. There are probably a million things I have forgotten here, and I could write much more on individual matchups/cards, but I think I’ve done all that I can do right now, and I’m happy.
I hope you learnt something from this, and if you have your own opinions, I’d love to hear them. Don’t forget to share and follow me on Twitter for updates and ideas. For those interested in Coaching I am open to the idea, so again just shoot me a PM.
Follow me on Twitter: @ArchaeusDota
My messages should be open for queries, or questions. More than happy to answer.
Happy Tronning everyone!