Last time we talked about Standard and today, we're back to Modern, which I expect to be the trend before we get to know how the Standard metagame is going to change after PT Amonkhet. Luckily, the Modern metagame is vast: a conservative estimate would be that there are upwards of 35 different competitive decks in the format and many more rogue ones. One of the newest additions to the Modern metagame is Eldrazi Tron - essentially a colorless deck (barring some Urborgs and Dismembers) that relies not only on the power of Urza Tron for big mana, but on Eldrazi Temples as well. Once this deck became very popular, the natural question to ask was "is there any way how to get an edge against it while keeping the explosiveness provided by Tron?" A traditional solution is to "go bigger", which is what R/G Tron does very well. But then there's another approach: Blue Tron, which is basically a mono-blue or blue-white control deck with big mana, which allows it to cast overpriced finishers way earlier than it should. For the past couple of weeks, I've been testing such a deck and here's my current decklist:
|Converted Mana Cost|
I think that the first important thing to realize when looking at this deck is the difference between R/G Tron and this build: while R/G Tron is a combo deck that wants to play cards that get it closer to Tron and big payoff cards, mono-blue Tron is a control deck, which means that we need some answers - countermagic and removal like Spatial Contortion. This feature is both the deck's biggest strength and also its weakness: strength because you have answers to problematic cards and strategies that are trying to be faster than you. Also, by playing Thirst for Knowledge and cards that scry or cantrip, mono-blue Tron isn't such an "all-in" deck: it's more consistent and can shrug off attempts to get into the way of its game plan. The downside is that we are slower than R/G Tron and don't have so explosive draws. Without Sylvan Scrying, we are also not guaranteed to complete Tron in the early turns, which is why we don't play Karn - the perfect turn-three play for R/G. There will be games where you will be without Tron for a long time, but it might not even be that much of a problem, as we can fight fair and still keep up.
I think there are good reasons both to play R/G Tron and mono-blue Tron, but let me put forward the arguments as to why mono-blue might be the right call and even some reasons why I play this particular version now. First of all, it includes the Trinket Mage package, which can serve both as mana fixing and as a way how to find late-game threats. Before completing the Tron, your number one go-to target will be Expedition Map. Later on, we will typically go for Walking Ballista as the mana sink. And if you have already completed the Tron and also have the Ballista, feel free to fetch Basilisk Collar: by giving the Ballista deathtouch, it can shoot down any creature (even an Emrakul) for just a single activation. With Academy Ruins to bring the Ballista back in case it gets killed, many decks will simply have no way how to ever get any creature online once you assemble this combination.
Post-board, Trinket Mage can also find Chalice of the Void and Relic of Progenitus, which are our silver bullets in several different matchups. A 3-mana 2/2 is not a great deal in Modern, but on the other hand, the flexibility of this card is incredible and it does almost everything you want at every stage of the game.
Tolaria West is another big pull towards blue and also a strike against blue-white, since you don't want too many comes-into-play-tapped lands, but Tolaria might be better than any other option. First of all, it helps complete the Tron and with a Talisman, you can even transmute on turn three not to miss your land-drop. But because Walking Ballista's converted mana cost is 0, Tolaria West can also transmute for a threat. This way, in the late-game, even an Expedition Map can search for a mana-sink (find Tolaria West, transmute for Ballista), which means that we have a lot more live draws once we complete the Tron, which in turn means we can play more lands without the risk of flooding too badly.
Repeal can also do some nice tricks here. With a Ballista out, you can keep just a single blue mana to save it with a Repeal in case the opponent wants to kill it. And what's even better, the Ballista can use all but one of the counters it currently has before you bounce it back to your hand and deploy it again with a new supply of counters. Repeal also works very well with Thought-Knot Seer - just bounce any troublesome permanent on the other side of the board and then exile it with the Seer.
One traditional weakness of Tron decks is Blood Moon and in this regard, mono-blue Tron fares much better than the classic R/G Tron or even Eldrazi Tron. First of all, we have Condescend and Remand to counter the Moon and then perhaps go off before the opponent plays it again. Second, and maybe even more importantly, we have Repeal to bounce it to get the crucial turn to deploy our big threat. I'm not saying Blood Moon is bad against us, but while against other Tron builds, it can sometimes single-handedly win the game, against us, it's typically merely annoying - with seven basic Islands and four Expedition Maps to find them, we will rarely be cut off blue and can simply counter the opponent's cards and hard-cast our threats.
As I've already mentioned, adding white to the deck is also a possibility, but I don't think it's needed. In order to play white, you need more Talismans and Signets and / or some dual lands which come with various kinds of drawbacks. I think the payoff for playing white is mostly in the sideboard, where white has superior material like Rest in Peace, Timely Reinforcements, Aven Mindcensor, etc. But my impression is that the price to pay for such a luxurious sideboard is too high and I would stick to playing blue only.
Thanks for reading and see you next time!
About Adam Koska
Adam is an experienced player from the Czech Republic who has a number of high-profile finishes under his belt:
- 14th at Pro Tour Portland 2014
- 9th at Worlds 2009
- 9th at Pro Tour Kyoto 2009
- 64 Lifetime Pro Points
- Three times Czech Nationals Top 8