Monday, November 10, 2014

I Tron, U Tron...

I've found myself writing at length about the Modern Mono-Blue Urzatron deck lately on reddit, which seemed to suggest I should probably get all my thoughts written down somewhere so I could stop repeating myself and just link to this. I'm not in much of a rhetorical mood today, so I'm just gonna lay out some information about the deck without my usual pomp and circumstance. I'll be starting to stream it soon on my Twitch channel, so look out for that.

Okay, so... yeah.

A Mono-U Tron Primer

I guess people generally start with the "why" of a deck when they explain it. You might be attracted to U Tron for a couple of reasons. The shallowest of which is how incredibly cheap it is without being some boring aggro nonsense. This isn't Burn; you get to play very interactive skill-testing games for like, 150 MTGO tickets (about $200 paper). That's always good.

So, there's that. Another appeal to the deck is the sheer power level of the spells you get to cast. Sundering Titan is a pretty good Magic card. I don't know if you guys have ever Mindslaver'd a Storm opponent and then played out their deck and made them Grapeshot himself for 20, but... it's a pretty good feeling. Don't have removal? Hey look, a Platinum Angel.

I guess if you want to talk about the competitive side of things, the actual reason why Blue Tron can be the "correct" deck choice is your top-notch inevitability. Your one weakness is man-lands, which you need Dismember or Tec Edge/Ghost Quarter for. That aside you have the best Inevitability in the format. In other words, when the game starts to go long, your win percentage skyrockets. Not only do you have Sundering Titan, Mindslaver locks, and occasionally Platinum Angel to win the game on the spot, you have a LOT of countermagic to land those as well as Spell Burst to hard-lock your opponent out of the game.

All of this comes at the cost of having very little interaction on turns 1-4 or so. It isn't literally zero interaction, but you will end up behind in nine out of 10 games. The convenient thing is that, when looking at the game from the Who's The Beatdown? perspective, you are The Control about 105% percent of the time. This is an estimate.

The role of Blue Tron slow people down enough that you can go way, way over the top with the aforementioned bombs/bullets. So, missiles I guess. That's basically what a missile is.

Enough talk though, let's get to the GOOD STUFF. Have a decklist:

Mono-U Tron

Lands (23):

4 Urza's Mine

4 Urza's Power Plant

4 Urza's Tower
9 Island
1 Academy Ruins
1 Tectonic Edge

Instants (19):
4 Thirst for Knowledge
3 Remand
4 Condescend
3 Repeal
3 Dig Through Time
2 Spell Snare

Support Creatures (3):

1 Treasure Mage
2 Solemn Simulacrum

Artifacts (9):
4 Expedition Map
1 Oblivion Stone
4 Talisman of Dominance

Win-Conditions (6):

1 Sundering Titan

2 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Mindslaver
1 Spell Burst
1 Batterskull

Sideboard (15):
2 Dismember
1 Platinum Angel
2 Relic of Progenitus
2 Spell Pierce
2 Chalice of the Void
2 Pithing Needle
1 Trinket Mage
1 Repeal
1 Remand
1 Wurmcoil Engine

Now, I've been tuning this for some time, but until I get onto MTGO with it I don't have a whole lot to go off of. Cockatrice players are lovely (some of them), but you don't really get anything competitive there. So regard this as a sketch and more an exercise in trying to deal with the "metagame", in a broad sense of the word.

So let's break this down.

The Skeleton

The cards that I consider to be necessary for any Blue Tron build:

4 of each Urza land

1 Academy Ruins
    -Recurs Mindslaver to lock your opponent out of the game, occasionally recurs O-Stone or other artifacts

4 Thirst for Knowledge
    -Debatable with Dig Through Time in the format, but four is still probably correct before you start adding Dig.

Some Repeal, Remand and Condescend
    -These cards give you time and also dig for missing Tron pieces and more Repeals, Remands, and Condescends. All we want is time, so having at least 10 copies of these cards is pretty necessary.

A Treasure Mage or two
    -Dig Through Time also makes me less inclined to a lot of Treasure Mages, but I think you want at least one. It's possible three or four is correct, but lately I've cutting them for more of the cards they search for time to exchange precision for speed.

4 Expedition Map
    -Or did you not want to assemble Urzatron in this Urzatron deck?

4 Talisman of Dominance
    -You can't always assemble Tron and oftentimes don't need to. Talisman makes your deck a little reliable and turns colorless mana into much-needed blue mana. Solemn Simulacrum also does this (and other stuff), so I play a few of him as well.

At least one Sundering Titan, Wurmcoil Engine, Mindslaver, and Spell Burst
    -Each of these cards can straight-up win a game against the right opponent. Blue Tron enthusiasts will note the lack of Platinum Angel in the deck, which I find to be very unimpressive in the mainboard. Most people disagree with me, so do what you like, but I really just hate that card.

Other Stuff

Spell Snare deals with a lot of cards we otherwise have a very hard time dealing with. It's much easier to keep up Spell Snare mana to counter a Young Pyromancer or an Eidolon of the Great Revel (our two main targets for it in the two biggest bad guys in the format) than Condescend, and Remanding them doesn't really do a whole lot for us. Snare has the added bonus of being very useful against decks running Remand or Mana Leak.

Dig Through Time is a REALLY GOOD CARD. Like, so good. It completes Tron, it finds our answers, it finds our threats, it synergizes beautifully with Thirst for Knowledge, which was already good, and it allows us to diversify our deck and our sideboard. If you want to see DTTizzle's power in the hands of a great player, check out LSV's DTT Scapeshift video series.

Some Brief Words on Playing the Deck

You are not GR Tron and your gameplan is not to power out Tron as fast as possible. It is almost never correct to assemble Tron on turn 3, unless you also have Wurmcoil Engine/Batterskull in hand and that will actually be effective against your opponent. You want to play the long game; you are not a combo deck. Play control, stop them from doing their stuff. Only then do you have my permission to die win.

As with any deck, you should use your life total as a resource. In this case, that means prioritizing stabilization over protecting your life total whenever possible. If the choice is between going to 10 life and resolving a Dig Through Time or Repealing their guy, you probably want to prioritize getting ahead in the long game. If you're gonna end up in Bolt range, well... try not to do that. But just remember that there is no need to try to pressure your opponent or expend more resources than necessary to stay alive. You're Blue Tron! You'll kill them when you're good and ready!

Sometimes it's correct to crack Map for an Island. Even if you don't have Tron. Even if you already have one. Blue sources are at a premium and need to make sure you have enough to cast your spells before you try to "combo out". This again circles back to making sure you're playing the control game. Don't try to win until you're as sure as you can be that it's safe.

So, yeah.

That's all I've got today. Like I said, check out my stream this week. I'll be piloting the deck and providing commentary (and great music), so come hang out and chat with me! I'll post back here soon (maybe) with changes to my list once I get some solid testing in.


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