April 10, 2014

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Feeling Liberated

Let’s talk about Modern.

The Modern format has been radically growing in popularity since its creation, culminating at Grand Prix Richmond earlier this year. Richmond broke the record for the largest constructed Grand Prix ever with 4300 players, highlighting just how much players today enjoy playing Modern. The format is dominated by Birthing Pod decks, Splinter Twin variants, and Affinity, all of which are very enticing choices for players who are looking to break into the format. Yet none of these are my weapon of choice. I’m here to talk about a deck that has been relatively out of the Modern spotlight as of late: GR Tron.

Karn LiberatedGR Tron 2Emrakul the Aeons Torn

Now for anyone who isn’t familiar with Tron decks, the deck is centered around assembling Urza’s Tower, Urza’s Mine, and Urza’s Power Plant, allowing you access to seven mana as early as turn three. The next step is casting everyone’s favourite seven-drop planeswalker Karn Liberated or the 6/6 for six artifact menace Wurmcoil Engine, which I can say is a joy to do on turn three. If these cards can’t wrap up the game for you, hard casting a one-of Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is the end all be all of the deck. Tron arguably has the strongest late game in the entire Modern format.

Let’s look at my current list:

Card Choices:

Spellskite Pyroclasm Firespout

Looking at the main deck, you’ll notice a one-of Spellskite as well as only one Pyroclasm and two Firespout. With the rise in popularity of Splinter Twin decks, having access to Spellskite in the main is necessary. Game one of the Splinter Twin matchup is pretty miserable for Tron, but I’ve managed to steal a fair amount of them because of this main deck Spellskite. It’s also good against two of Tron’s worst matchups: Burn and Infect. Firespout gets the nod over Pyroclasm since the unbanning of Wild Nacatl, but I feel it’s necessary to keep at least one Pyroclasm in the main for the Affinity matchup. The way the coloured mana lines up in the deck, it’s not always possible to cast a Firespout for both red and green mana. This can lead to some awkward situations against Affinity, which has led me to alternate between one and two Firespouts in favour of a second Pyroclasm depending on the expected metagame.

Relic of Progenitus has become a necessary four-of in every GR Tron build that I’ve seen in recent memory. Relic has utility in almost every matchup in this format. It’s good against Tarmogoyf decks, Snapcaster Mage, it breaks up Melira Pod’s combo, stops Past in Flames out of storm, and makes life very difficult for Living End decks. Providing protection from some of the most powerful cards in the format as well as cycling for a card makes Relic of Progenitus an all-star in in Tron strategies.

Now I don’t believe Oblivion Stone needs much explanation, but I’ll do it anyways. It destroys stuff. Everything except lands to be exact (and any permanent you’ve put a fate counter on). Oblivion Stone keeps games from getting too out of control and can buy you time when searching for one of your game ending threats. It’s an absolute beating against midrange strategies as well as Birthing Pod decks, and is one of the most important cards in the Splinter Twin matchup to keep them off their combo.

Eye of Ugin is the end game land that allows you to search out more Wurmcoil Engines and everybody’s favourite 15/15 for 15, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Tutoring up threats like Wurmcoil Engine whenever need be becomes very hard for your opponents to overcome. The rest of the maindeck is straightforward enough: Expedition Map and Sylvan Scrying help you assemble your Urza lands, Ancient Stirrings digs deeper into your deck to find your win conditions and/or more lands, Chromatic Star and Chromatic Sphere cycle for mana and allow you to cast your coloured spells.

The Sideboard:

Rule of Law is included in the sideboard if you are expecting high numbers of Storm and Living End decks in the metagame. These match-ups are normally not in your favour as the Tron player, so having access to Rule of Law in the sideboard goes a long way for shifting the odds in your favour. You can’t cast this card unless you have a Chromatic Star or Chromatic Sphere in play, so be sure to not cycle them all early in the game to avoid Rule of Law from rotting in your hand while your opponent combo’s you out.

Trading Post, yes your eyes are not mistaken. Trading Post finds a home in Trons sideboard, and it fits quite nicely. The card is virtually unbeatable for burn decks, which is one of your worst matchups. It also is very good against Living End and Jund decks, allowing you to rebuy your Expedition Maps to fight through their Fulminator Mages and to keep recurring your Wurmcoil Engines to halt their onslaught of creatures. Control has a hard time fighting through the card advantage that Trading Post provides as well. Trading Post began as a joke when considering sideboard options, but after playing with the card it became obvious that Trading Post is no joke.

Nature’s Claim is the cheapest instant speed answer to annoying artifacts and enchantments that Tron has access too. It’s very useful against Splinter Twin, Birthing Pod, Affinity, Pyromancer Ascension, and any deck that could bring in Stony Silence. Nature’s Claim is also put to good use against decks playing Path to Exile to combat your Wurmcoil Engines. Opponents casting Path to Exile will cringe when you Nature’s Claim your own Wurmcoil Engine in response.

As an uncounterable instant speed answer to blue or white creatures, Combust shines against Splinter Twin, UWR Control, and Merfolk decks. Pestermite, Deceiver Exarch, Restoration Angel, and Celestial Colonnade are very powerful cards that require an answer. Combust is the solution.

Torpor Orb is put to good use against Splinter Twin and Birthing Pod strategies that rely on “enter the battlefield” abilities to gain an advantage. As an early play in the game, Torpor Orb allows you to protect yourself from Splinter Twin combos, which means you can focus on working around their counterspells and getting to the late game.

Rounding out the sideboard we have Stone Rain, Wurmcoil Engine, Ancient Grudge, and Firespout. Stone Rain is useful for the mirror match, which always comes down to who can assemble Urzatron first and casts Karn Liberated. Wurmcoil Engine and Firespout come in against creature based strategies like B/G/X, Affinity, and Zoo decks. Finally, Ancient Grudge is another card for the Affinity matchup.

So why play GR Tron?

Aside from having the best late game in Modern, Tron is a very fast and consistent deck. Who wouldn’t enjoy playing Karn Liberated on turn three? In a format where falling behind even for a moment usually spells out your demise, Tron is consistent and powerful enough to pull out wins from situations where many decks would crumble. The deck consistently provides devastating draws that not many modern decks could ever hope to beat. GR Tron also carries an extremely positive matchup pre and post-board against Melira Pod, a deck that continues to dominate the format. B/G/x decks are also popular and fair quite poorly against Tron. Sometimes in a format as diverse as Modern is currently, going big and doing something powerful can be one of the best ways to tackle the meta. If you’re looking for a powerful deck that’s also very fun to play, I recommend GR Tron.
“Turn three Karn really is quite liberating”