Sunday, September 6, 2015

Modern Bible of RG Tron chapter 29 - RG Tron vs Merfolk

In this series of specific matchups I tend to dwell on the matchups that are not really easy wins or super hard to deal with. I think getting skilled with Tron is very dependent on how to handle the "even" matchups. This week we cover another one of those matchups: Merfolk.

It never feels even. It is either super easy (you pyroclasm some Merfolk) or super hard (they Spreading Sees you and overrun you with 4/4s).

Is this a bad matchup for RG Tron?
It is my humble opinion that this is a 50/50 matchup. People may disagree (and please do so in the comments). I heard the Professor discuss it on a podcast and he felt it was quite favored for Merfolk. He might very well be correct.

Things to consider when playing RG Tron vs Merfolk
The matchup is not about you getting to Tron. It is about you surviving the initial charge of Merfolk. Don't think too hard about Tron. It is perfectly acceptable to keep a hand that can cast Pyroclasm.

You have to cast Pyroclasm as soon as possible. If you let him have two lords (remember Aether Vial!) your Pyroclasms are then useless. Use them quickly and early.

Spreading Seas is a nightmare, but it does not disable you completely. Oblivion Stone can still be cast and used.

You only need the Wurmcoil Engines to win. They can win the games by themselves.

Oblivion Stone is more useful than ever in this matchup. If you can resolve and use the good old O-Stone your only remaining problem is some pesky 2/2 man-lands.

The combination of counterspells and aggressive creatures should spell your doom but remember that counterspells are really bad in Modern and that they often can be played around. Ulamog does lots of work against them.

Merfolk hits hard but they dump their hand fairly quickly and have a hard time refilling it.

Useful and less useful sideboard cards
Boil: It looks like such a good idea until you realize that your Urza's Tower is now an island thanks to Spreading Seas. I think this is not the matchup for Boil.

Chalice of the Void: Set it to 2 and watch Merfolk cry.

Firespout: Pyroclasm 5-8 would be very useful here. This matchup (and Zoo) are my main reasons for wanting Firespout in my sideboard.

Nature's Claim: You are able to remove Spreading Seas, kill Aether Vial and gain some critical lives for yourself if you really have to. Useful! Killing your own Wurmcoil Engine in response to Vapor Snag feels quite alright too.

Pithing Needle: Many players recommend it for this matchup to turn off Aether Vial. I have no experience playing the card versus Merfolk.

Rending Volley: This kills a lord, which can make all the difference. Make sure you board it in quickly. 

Spellskite: Spellskite blocks some of their creatures until you have an island and can redirect Vapor Snag from Wurmcoil but I don't think that is enough to warrant a slot in the main deck for Spellskite after the first duel.

Less useful main deck cards
Emrakul: The big girl is somewhat more useful than in other aggro matchups, but most of the time she is just a dead draw. Take her out if you are still maindecking her. 

Eye of Ugin: In theory you can chain Wurmcoil Engines with this card. I am reluctant to take it out but it is sloooow. One good principle is that if there is any chance games can go long (and they can against Merfolk), Eye should stay in.

Karn Liberated: The threats are multiple and fast. Karn does not do enough in this matchup but he is still Karn. I can see sideboarding out one to three Karns if you need the space.

Relic of Progenitus: Relic does not do anything here. 

Sundering Titan: Obviously ultra bad in this matchup. 

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon: If Karn is too slow, Ugin is even slower ... but his ability is ultra useful. To be able to kill off everything when Karn can't deal with the horde of Merfolk is very powerful. 

Ulamog, the Infnite Gyre: You are better off if this is your maindeck Eldrazi but I could see you boarding him out after the first duel. In this matchup he can often be relevant and remove a critical lord. I tend to keep him more than I board him out.

What do they bring in?
One of the reasons this matchup is not that bad for us is that they really don't have too many options. They will probably have access to some land-based land destruction (Ghost Quarter or Tectonic Edge) but their sideboard slots are commonly used for other purposes. Maybe they don't fear Tron enough.

However, they will bring in Spell Pierce for your Oblivion Stones, which Martin Juza himself feels makes Merfolk the favored deck after sideboarding.

Sample video
In this video I take on Merfolk with one of my RG Tron builds.

Next week the Eldrazi are coming back and we will have to look at some of the Battle for Zendikar spoilers

For a full list of the chapters of The Modern Bible:

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