by Darrel E. Feltner Jr. “bigdeezyrider”
I have assembled VOLTRON!!
So, everyone knows about the recent bannings to shake up Modern…
Eye of Ugin… HEGONE!
Ancestral Vision and Sword of the Meek, stop riding the pine, you are in the game!
Well, that caused everyone to start brewing this weekend, myself included, and I think I did Card Knock Life proud. I am going to owe a dollar, because this is rife with my bad beat story of how I missed the top 8 of the first SCG Modern Classic after the April banned/restricted list changes. There were all sorts of new decks abound, and some old favorites (or villains, depending on your perspective) were out in force as well. Well, I went back to my oldest stand by, the cards in my collection with the most shuffle creases and most wear and tear. Blew the dust off them and reassembled U/W Tron! The deck got some new toys and I will go into details about them below but let’s first get to the best part of every magic article: the list!!
There is a ton of stuff to discuss here, and I will try to cover it all in one sitting in the following order: Gameplan, Card Choices, and tournament report from the classic
Unlike its green-based Tron brethren, Gifts Tron is much more of a control deck that looks like a U/W Gifts deck but instead of splashing a third color, we decided to play big mana spells and utilize Tron to push us over the top of our opponents. In the long game, when all we have is time and all we need is time, we will out-muscle our opponents’ threats with things like Emrakul, Ulamog and Mindslaver. The biggest boon this deck got from the recent unbanning was the ability to shave awkward bombs (ie. Ugin, which made its way to the sideboard) for the Thopter/Sword combo-the thing that people are afraid will become the new boogieman of the format. You will attempt to be a more controlling deck but your deck’s explosiveness and power completely pivots around one card: Gifts Ungiven. This card makes all of your seemingly random win-cons and combo pieces come together in a very tightly woven package.
1. Unburial Rites/Fatty
This is our most common package for Gifts. Oftentimes, decks will fold to one of these two choices depending on whether they are playing aggressively (Elesh Norn) or are a combo or mono-colored deck (Iona). Iona is also good against decks that only have removal in just one color (like Jund, naming black cuts them off of any removal that could kill the 7/7 flyer, and if they don’t have a bunch of Tarmogoyfs or a Liliana, they lose to the Iona). This is typically plan A, otherwise you get to go to the other combo and value gifts piles.
2. The Thopter/Sword Pile
This one is rather academic (pun intended). No matter how the opponent gives you cards here, if you cast Gifts on their end step you can have the combo next turn (and will have all 4 related cards unless they put Crucible and Ruins into your yard). Then you can combine the power of Tron into an engine that blossoms the more generic mana you have! A win/win for the Tron Decks!
3. The Guaranteed Tron Pile
This is the pile for when you need to accelerate your mana into the stratosphere. If you have 2 Tron lands but can’t seem to find the third one, this gets you there. All of these pieces give you the option of ending up with the third Tron land in the next turn or so. If you don’t need a Tron land, you can add Colonnade to this pile for an extra threat.
4. The Feldon’s Cane Gifts Pile
This is a pile that lets you grind your opponent into dust. When you have a lot of mana, you can gifts for Emrakul, another bomb (Ulamog, Mindslaver, for example), and 2 other cards you want. The theory behind this is that you won’t get the bombs because you could cast them at this point and close the game, so they give you the other 2 cards. If you pick Gifts and Thirst off of this, they just let you bury them in the cards you can accrue from these two cards. Most people call this the value gifts.
There are some pretty non-standard card choices in the way I built this deck. I will cover them below:
3 Remand/2 Spell Snare:
This deck plays something like 4-6 counterspells sometimes 7 (I went to a lower counter count for reasons that I will discuss later). Most of the time they err to 4 Remand and 1-2 Condescend. While Remand is admittedly good against Ancestral Vision and can counter any type of spell, I opted to play just 3 copies because of the fact that it only delays your opponent. You really need to make things go away. The 2 Spell Snares were played out of respect for Thopter/Sword. I thought people would be aggressively trying to jam this new piece of tech. They also have upside against other reasonable cards in modern (ie. Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant) so I played 2 copies. Those numbers will likely change.
10 Tron Lands:
What the hell?!?!?!?!?!? So most people look at a Tron deck and wonder how you get away with playing only 10 Tron lands. No one does that. Well, here the numbers are just right for it. I wanted 12 colored lands and I wanted to play Ruins for sure. These types of decks commonly play 25 lands, but with this new configuration, I couldn’t find a spell to shave because I liked the balance I had so I only played 24. I cut one of each of the 2-mana Tron lands since you can map for them. You have decent card velocity and, with this particular deck style, it isn’t mandatory that you get Tron online. You will get there eventually and drown your opponent in mana. After playing this at the Classic, I am satisfied. I will stick with 10 Tron lands.
1 Thopter Foundry/ 1 Sword of the Meek:
Many people have been experimenting with inclusion numbers for this particular combo. Splits I saw today included 4/3, 3/2, 2/2, 2/1 (Thopter and Foundry respectively). I started with the 3/2 split and then cut it down to 2/1. After some testing, I finally settled on 1/1. I wanted access to this strategy without needing to run too many disparate combo pieces that are lackluster when independent. Having just enough copies to gifts for felt like the perfect place to be. In match-ups where this combo is poor, it is easy to side out of the maindeck.
This is partially stupidity, partially mad genius, and partially having lost my organization of cards in my collection. I forgot about Oblivion Stone (which pairs great with Tron and Ruins) and ran this in search for my third wrath spell. Considerations were Hallowed Burial, Day of Judgment, and this. I figured the upside of 1 mana Terminus is so good and such a blow out that it was worth it.
2 Thought-Knot Seer:
This goes back to our counterspell discussion and why we don’t have to play 7 counters anymore. This is a Thoughtsieze effect that allows us to have a 4/4 body, get grindy on our opponents, and can apply pressure on our opponents. I would like to play the full 4 in the 75 but haven’t figured out how to do that yet. The card was a house all day.
This section is going to be a little lackluster. I didn’t come into that tournament thinking I was going to do a report. I just wanted to get some practice, but it ended up being an awesome tournament! Win/Win (although I didn’t win).
Round 1: Infect
The MVP here was Thought-Knot seer. Many times, it came down after I stymied the initial infect rush and blanked a pump spell then left them trying to beat with Noble Heirarch or Dryad Arbor. Highlights include: Breaking an EE for 1 and getting to kill 2 Noble Heirarchs and a Glistener Elf; miser’s Disenchant vs Inkmoth Nexus; and Celestial Colonnade blocking an Inkmoth Nexus when my opponent went all in and thought I was dead because he couldn’t be blocked.
Round 2: UW control (saw no visions)
This match was not exciting at all for our hero. My opponent employed the many colorless land destruction strategies combined Crucible of Worlds in game 2. GG.
Round 3 UWR Vision (with Goblin Dark Dwellers)
The first game was a game that I won off of the first appearance of the Thopter/Sword combo. I cast gifts for the combo pieces, assembled it, assembled Tron, and the Thopter Foundry lifegain put me out of bolt range. In game two I saw my opponent mulligan to 5 and then hit him with a turn 3 Thought-Knot Seer. I took his Remand and had GQ for the first Colonnade he played. Then, with my 7 lands, I Gifts for Path, Tectonic Edge, Crucible and an irrelevant card against my opponent’s known hand of irrelevant spells and a Colonnade. He Conceded. I found out afterwards that he boarded in Stony Silences assuming that the point of my deck was foundry. Whoops, I boarded the combo out! Plus 1!
Round 4 Jund
I lost the first game very easily. Game two involved me winning with Thopter/Sword after I was hit with discard spells and Fulminator Maged 4 times! Get outta here! Then I grinded through my opponent’s Scavenging Oozes that were threatening to keep me off my graveyard combos only for him to draw Nihil Spellbomb and kill my Mindslaver and Thopter Foundry combos. Never fear, big daddy Emrakul came down against him with him at 18 life and 6 lands. Apparently the Aeons are tasty. My opponent doesn’t think so…
Round 5: U/W Thopter Combos:
My opponent was playing a Krark-Clan Iron Works combo deck that could make infinite thopters with Thopter/Sword and then tap them with Ghirpur Aether Grid and deal infinite damage. I found out about that combo during the first game after playing a Mindslaver, taking his turn, not knowing how Open the Vaults worked, and killing myself for not holding up Remand in the face of his 7 mana. Whomp whomp! Game 2 involved him stumbling on mana and me casting Ulamog to kill his lands. In game 3, he mulliganed to 5. I cast a turn 3 Thirst for Knowledge, discarded Ulamog and Rites, reanimated it, and attacked with triple Remand backup.
Round 6: Abzan company
Game 1 my opponent killed me without drawing a white or black mana producing land (and only one Birds of Paradise). I drew the Elesh Norn the turn before I went to Gifts so I had to cast Wrath and let his Finks and Voice of Resurgance get value. Game 2, I cast Unburial Rites to reanimate Elesh Norn and kill his creatures. Then he removed it with a Fiend Hunter a few turns later. He cast Collected Company, got Finks and Eternal Witness targeting Company, casts it again and gets Anafenza and Voice of Resurgence. I cast Path in response to the Finks trigger and get back my Elesh Norn killing his whole board and, eventually, him. More of the same in game 3 without the Fiend Hunter, easy squeezie Parcheesi.
Round 7: R/W Moons
As my opponent for round 7 sat down, someone nearby commented, “I heard there is a person that is killing people with Baneslayer”. He said, “yea, that is me”. I proceeded not to believe him.
He put 2 Leyline of Sanctity in play on turn 1 and I lose with 4 Gifts Ungiven in my hand. Sweet deck bro. Then, in game 2 I get to be the talk of the town around me. My opponent’s board is Guardian Seraph, Blood Moon, Rest in Peace, lands. I break a Mindslaver, and on my opponent’s turn cast Gifts Ungiven, giving myself an Ugin to kill all of his permanents (including the Baneslayer he had in his hand) and then cast an Iona (his deck was mostly White). Game 3 he had a Leyline in his opener. At the end of turn 3, I Disenchanted the Leyline, negated his Faith’s Shield that he used to try and protect it, then Gifts at the end of his turn 4 and found Iona. This prompted the concession. So Close!
Round 8: Infect
Unfortunately we are in 10th on breakers, and we have to play. We didn’t really play. We get stomped by infect. No story to tell, wasn’t even close. The hero’s story is over here.
Good for 600 prize wall points (essentially 150 in credit) 4 open points, a fun article and a posting on the website!
I know there is a lot to process here but there will be many changes made. Feel free to take this for a spin and listen to the next podcast. I will be talking about the concept shift that caused me to play this deck over others this weekend!