Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Thoughts on Tron in Modern Silverblack

(I was going to name this article The Modern Silverblack Bible of RUG Tron but I still have too many questions to try to write a bible on the subject)

As you may be aware of me and my gang (the MagicGatheringStrat community) are running a Modern Silverblack League. Read more about that here:

We do these leagues every other month and everyone is welcome to join. They are free to enter and Cardhoarder sponsor us with 75 tix in prices.

Short summary of Modern Silverblack: The format is Modern. Only commons and uncommons allowed. Expedition Map and Intangible Virtue are banned in addition to everything that is banned in Modern.

I want to play Tron, of course. I played Tron last time we did this in 2014.

Here is the list I played:

1 Crystal Shard
3 Sylvan Scrying
3 Reap and Sow
2 Gruul Signet
1 Urza's Factory
4 Chromatic Star
4 Mulldrifter
2 Vivid Creek
2 Vivid Crag
4 Firespout
4 Forest
4 Artisan of Kozilek
4 Urza's Mine
4 Urza's Power Plant
4 Urza's Tower
4 Brutalizer Exarch
1 Shimmering Grotto
3 Acidic Slime
4 Prophetic Prism
2 Eternal Witness

3 Sowing Salt
2 Relic of Progenitus
2 Back to Nature
3 Pyroclasm
1 Nihil Spellbomb
4 Timely Reinforcements

I think there are a lot of things wrong with this list. Also new cards have arrived.

However, this list is extremely established. The player run free tournament site used to run Modern Silverblack events every week.

You can find decklists here:

These events ended on August 30th, 2014.

RUG Tron was a very established part of the metagame. Every list was very similar to the one above.

I do have a lot of questions.

* Why are there so many double-green casting cost cards in a deck with 12+ lands that produce mana of no color?
* Why is Brutalizer Exarch worth playing? It seems that for six mana you want something that can stabilize (see below) such as Wurmcoil Engine in Modern or Fangren Marauder in Pauper. Exarch produces a mediocre body and a choice between super-expensive tutoring and a Creeping Mold effect (as there are no planeswalkers). That seems underwhelming. If we reach six mana we probably have Tron and could do bigger things.
* How do we survive a fast creature rush or just direct damage? We have zero life gain. Both in Pauper and Modern Tron tends to reach the 1-3 life level before stabilizing (often through life gain) and then winning by going over the top
* What new cards make the list? Frontier Bivouac seems like a given but what else? Bane of Bela Ged? Rolling Thunder seems like a good card for that deck too but can we really afford double red? Blighted Fen and Blighted Cataract looks tempting.
* Four nine-mana spells? Even RG Tron in Modern can not afford that many giant bombs
* Why the LD subtheme in Acidic Slime and Brutalizer Exarch? Is Tron that big a part of the meta? It does not seem like more than 10% if you look at the stats. Or are there really maindeck noncreature artifacts and enchantments we fear this much?
* Some lists did play Ancient Stirrings and 1-mana removal (Lightning Bolt or Flame Slash). I do find the exclusion of Ancient Stirrings very troubling as that is perhaps the best card in Modern Tron AND in Pauper Tron
* 3 Sylvan Scryings just surprise me. Why? Do we not want Tron? Without maps this is the only way to ensure we find Tron
* There was a very varying amount of signets in the lists. I can understand the attraction of the signets but they see zero play in Daily Event tested RUG Tron lists in Pauper (ever) over a two year period. That is telling me something.
* Urza's Factory seems like a really slow lategame plan. I realize that it probably wrecks control but counterspells are so weak in Modern that I have a hard time seeing them do anything against Artisan of Kozilek cast triggers in the lategame anyway. Urza's Factory is just too massive a downgrade from Eye of Ugin IMHO. Even Haunted Fengraf looks better to me.
* Why the need for more lands than Pauper and Modern Tron?
* Why do we not run the full set of eggs? Don't we like our bombs and Firespouts and want to draw them more often?

What does Tron try to do in Pauper and Modern?

To understand what Tron tries to do we have to look at two well tested lists from Pauper and Modern that play somewhat differently.

First we have Avignon's Classic RUG Tron Pauper deck:

And then we have this typical list from Modern:

We do lack a lot of tools from Modern RG Tron such as Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, Karn, Emrakul, Ulamog and Wurmcoil Engine.

That probably means we have to play more like RUG Tron from Pauper.

In both Pauper and Modern the gameplan for Tron is simple.
1. Survive
2. Go over the top with a more powerful lategame and win

It is not more complicated than that.

Improvements to the Pauper List if we play it in Silverblack

So what cards do we gain access to that Pauper does not have. What good uncommons can we play?

Artisan of Kozilek: A significant improvement over Ulamog's Crusher.

Blighted Fen: Having a land that can kill a huge creature seems useful.

Sweepers: Pyroclasm and Firespout makes a world of difference.

Three Color Land: Frontier Bivoauc seems like a strong addition to the deck.

Timely Reinforcements: RG Tron playes in Modern were moving over to WG Tron for a while mainly because of this card. I think we need a white land in our sideboard to help us cast this. Otherwise it might not be timely at all.

So what does Tron try to do in Silverblack?
Looking at the list at the top of the article the goals of Tron seems to be very different in this format. When I changed to the list I will present below I got the comment that I had turn Tron into a grindy deck .... but I don't see it. I have turned it into a regular battle proven Tron deck as the deck is played in Pauper and Modern top level events.

Here is my first attempt at a RUG Tron list that I played in the first week of the League. I defeated a BG Rock-style deck 2-1.

Deck list
4 Ancient Stirrings
4 Sylvan Scrying
4 Frontier Bivouac
1 Sea Gate Oracle
4 Chromatic Star
4 Mulldrifter
1 Ghost Quarter
2 Rolling Thunder
3 Firespout
2 Forest
2 Artisan of Kozilek
4 Urza's Mine
4 Urza's Power Plant
4 Urza's Tower
1 Shimmering Grotto
3 Fangren Marauder
2 Acidic Slime
4 Prophetic Prism
1 Pyroclasm
4 Chromatic Sphere
1 Haunted Fengraf
1 Gurmag Angler

1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Back to Nature
3 Pyroclasm
2 Sowing Salt
4 Timely Reinforcements
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Firespout
1 Jungle Shrine
1 Acidic Slime

I have since made changes to the deck but here is the match on video for completeness. Gurmag Angler was the clearest mistake and he is no longer in the list. 

I will continue work on the RUG Tron Silverblack list but I would be very happy for your input. 

Other references

Salvation has a pretty good thread on RUG Tron in Pauper:

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