Feature Article – Three Versions of Tron in Extended

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Tuesday, December 23rd – In his first article for StarCityGames.com, newly crowned Rookie of the Year Aaron Nicastri takes us through Blue/Black Tron for the upcoming Extended PTQ season. On top of that, he brings powerful Blue/White and Blue/Red versions to the table. Could these decks be the breakout builds that send you to Hawaii?

I’m the sort of person who looks for meat in articles, and that’s what I’m here to deliver. I think Tron is one of the great contenders in the upcoming extended PTQ season and I feel it was a great choice for Worlds.

I will start with the UB Tron list (The way I would currently play it).

This differs from my Worlds list as follows: -1 Academy Ruins for an additional Polluted Delta (the Ruins has been moved to the sideboard), -1 Smother for the 3rd copy of Night of Souls’ Betrayal. The sideboard has 2 Smothers and 1 Academy Ruins added at the cost of Grim Poppet and Annul, with the Night of Souls’ Betrayal moved to the main deck.

The first thing everyone will note is the lack of Chalice of the Void and the addition of Night of Souls’ Betrayal to the main deck (this is the major difference between my list and the Japanese list). During chats with Guillaume Wafo-Tapa at the player party, it became apparent that Nights of Souls’ Betrayal could be better than Chalice (from our testing, we were both a little unimpressed with Chalice against Elves).

When trying to decide which is best, the first question is: in which matchups would you prefer Chalice and in which would you prefer the Legendary Enchantment?

ElvesBetrayal: main deck they currently have no outs to this card- in the sideboard they may have Gleeful Sabotage, Gaea’s Anthem, or Elvish Champion. Knowing their sideboard strategy will help you a lot in knowing which tools you need to win.

FaeriesBetrayal: main deck they can spend 6 mana and a lot of life to hit it with an Explosives; alternatively if they drop their best card Glen Elendra Archmage (if they play it), they can counter Betrayal, but what I would like to point out is that main deck they actually have no answer for you just running it out there. When you drop this card, don’t assume you’ve won… you have done the hard work, but they can still get there with any one of 3 Mutavaults, 2 Glen Elendra Archmage, and 2 Mistbind Cliques, any of which could be wielding a Jitte. From the sideboard they get 2 Annul and 3 pre-emptive Thoughtseizes.

Zoo – Chalice: clearly a key card in this matchup and a good lock with Spell Burst. It is far superior to Betrayal, but due to Night of Souls’ Betrayal’s superiority in other matchups, and the fact that I did not expect exceptional quantities of Zoo, the loss of a key card was acceptable. Betrayal is not a dead card in this matchup, as it answers fresh Figures, Mogg Fanatic, and Dark Confidant, as well as saving a little life from the beaters.

DredgeBetrayal: Magus of the Bazaar and Narcomoeba are nullified; add to this that their 2/2 zombies and 1/2 imps have now shrunk, and you have a recipe for staying well ahead. They probably can’t kill you in a single turn with Flame-Kin Zealot, and have to aim at taking you down with big Trolls. From the sideboard, we are well prepared (2 Crypt and 2 Extirpate) because of the cross-over of wanting to be good in the mirror. Chalice is good in this matchup when cast for two, but often has little effect as the two-mana spells have already been cast.

Blue Control (Jamie Parke) Betrayal: whilst it is not overly relevant, if the Betrayal resolves they have very few win conditions left, and only a few outs in Repeal and Explosives. Unlike the Faeries list, you can’t just play this spell whenever you feel like it because they do have real countermagic. Chalice would come down for two in this matchup, but is unlikely to have a large impact on the game.

Japanese Blue Wizards (Masaya Kitayama) – Neither: I think both cards are pretty lackluster in this matchup. Chalice for zero shuts off Visions, and for two it can shut down Jitte and some counters (Leak and Sprite). Betrayal eats some of their men and makes Glen Elendra less of a headache

All-In Red – Neither: both cards do nothing here… Chalice could be randomly set for one or zero to stop Rite of Flame or Chrome Mox respectively

Death Cloud – Chalice: Chalice can be set to one for Raven’s Crime and Thoughtseize shenanigans, two to counter Tarmogoyf and Sakura-Tribe Elder, and in the late game it could be set for three for Eternal Witness or four for Garruk Wildspeaker. Night counters Worm Harvest, Sakura-Tribe Elder, and stops Witness from bashing in as well as saving some life from the beaters.

Burn baby Burn – Chalice: set for one or two with Spell Burst backup is ownage, whilst Night of Souls’ Betrayal only stops Fanatic, Blinkmoth Nexus, and Spark Elemental, while saving very minor life off Marauder beats

Mirror – both are horrible. However, if they are Blue/White Tron, then you suddenly have an answer to Decree of Justice.

Swans – Chalice set for two can temporarily stop them winning the game. Betrayal can kill some Vendilion Cliques.

Due to the fact that Betrayal is best in the two biggest matchups (Faeries and Elves), I’d rather have it over Chalice. However, if there ever was a close race, this is it. Based upon your own metagame, you should decide which one is better. Who knows? Maybe you’ll just decide both are optimal (as I hit Level 6 and can’t play PTQs anymore, this one is unfortunately out of my hands).

Now that I have over-analyzed Night of Souls’ Betrayal, let’s have a look at the rest of the deck:

The current Extended format is aggro- and creature-based for the most part, hence the large quantities of removal (2 Smother, 2 Damnation, 1 Slaughter Pact, 3 Night of Souls’ Betrayal, 1 Engineered Explosives, with additional 2 Smothers and 1 Damnation in the board) over a strong counter package. The counter package has one surprise element in the Spell Burst (or at least I thought it was a surprise heading into Worlds). In many matchups this is a key lockdown card and is a win condition all on its own (it’s worth noting that the card is better with Chalice and Repeal). The other win conditions are the tried and true Mindslaver, Sundering Titan, and Triskellion which can all be recycled with Academy Ruins.

The Gifts package: When we cast Gifts Ungiven with this deck, we are looking to set up our game. Based upon game state, matchup, hand, and whether or not you have Tron up, these piles will vary wildly. Basically, with good analysis of the situation and with the versatility of Tolaria West, Academy Ruins, Crucible of Worlds, Sundering Titan, Makeshift Mannequin, Triskelion, Mindslaver and a final Tron piece, you can usually find a devastating group of cards for the game state (also of note is that you have a varied removal package, and can get 4 pieces of different removal when necessary, or even look to recycle Engineered Explosives).

The sideboard is to shore up matchups in which I feel I have a lot of dead cards; a prime example of this is the mirror. We also have the option to up our removal count, as well as having access to many “rainy day” cards like Trickbind and Platinum Angel. Other cards that could be considered for the sideboard include Sun Droplet, Chalice of the Void, Engineered Explosives, Repeal, Threads of Disloyalty, and Deathmark).

Now for something a bit more innovative…

Sideboard possibilities for this list (in addition to the cards previously listed):

Rule of Law
Angel’s Grace
Exalted Angel
Kiss of the Amesha
Last Breath
Dispeller’s Capsule
Pulse of the Fields
More Crovax

This is the fun Tron list. I guess I just like the idea of stealing my opponent’s turns with a Magus of the Tabernacle on the table. I really wanted to play this list at Worlds, as I love bringing something unexpected to the party. Unfortunately, time and testing meant this was not a viable option. I am a big fan of Mana Tithe in the current format; you feel a bit naughty every time you hard counter a spell with it, and Extended is the sort of greedy format where it is optimally effective. On top of this, Magus of the Tabernacle, Talisman of Progress, and Mana Tithe all have very good synergy.

This deck seems to be more powerful then other Tron variations. It opts for mass removal over spot removal, and it does not play the incremental cards like Condescend. Instead it opts for power in the form of Decree and a walking Night of Souls’ Betrayal (which combines nicely with the Decree). The other thing that excited me initially about this deck was the lock between Spell Burst and Rule of Law. I think enchantments in this format are extremely potent because no one is playing any real sideboard hate for them (most players’ answers come in the form of Engineered Explosives, as opposed to, say, Naturalize, Krosan Grip, or Disenchant), and Rule of Law is particularly powerful in matchups such as Elves and Desire.

White offers you some sideboard options that are at the least surprising: cards like Angel’s Grace can potentially swing a matchup (I’m looking at the combo decks), especially when followed by a Wrath of God against Elves. Exalted Angel is a “must answer” for any aggro deck, and who knows? Multiple life gain effects could just be silly. Last Breath and Condemn could provide the deck with spot removal if you felt that it was really necessary.

And finally….

Sideboard possibilities for this combination, in addition to the standard previously-listed cards:

Ancient Grudge
Slice and Dice
Trash for Treasure
Guttural Response

The reason I like this list is it does not have any double costs, something that you should certainly look at if you are a Tron fan (my manabase was certainly a critical factor in the team finals). All the lists have similarities, but the subtle differences can be the difference between you flying to Honolulu or staying at home.

In this version you will note there are only three accelerators as opposed to the standard 4 Signet and 3 Mox in the other listed builds. The reason I think this particular build can get away without running Signet is simple: Firespout is a cheaper Wrath, and means the deck does not actually need to accelerate to four like the other Tron builds, thus you can afford to be slower. The combination of dropping Signets and running fewer win conditions has freed up some slots for Repeals and extra countermagic. Repeal is a good tempo card; as Zoo finds its feet a little in the format, and other aggro decks sprout up, you will see its inherent value. Also bouncing Chrome Mox and Lotus Bloom is downright unfair. Repeal is also very nice with Chalice (in some games against Elves and Zoo you can set it for one on turn 2 then proceed to bounce their one-drop).

Also I want to give a quick reasoning for Grim Poppet over Triskelion (I won’t ramble on for too long this time): basically, without spot removal, the deck has a lot of trouble with Goyf. Grim Poppet is infinitely better in most situations against Zoo then Triskelion, as it has a lasting effect on the board even if it gets burnt out for 5. Grim Poppet also has the added attribute of being able to swing in for 4 after dispensing its tokens.

This deck has some nice weapons from the sideboard. Instant speed Wrath is awesome against Elves. Detritivore could be obscene in mirrors and may be crippling for other control decks (however, I think I would like Izzet Signet in the deck if I wanted this beast in my sideboard). Ancient Grudge is the reason that we play 1 Breeding Pool (it also allows you to play Explosives for 3), and if Tron decks become a real contender (as I’m certainly advocating) then this card is amazing. It also gives you some real game against Affinity, which is usually one of those near-unwinnable games for a Tron deck. Demonfire could also be a game stealer with a Tron backing, since Zoo starts the game on something like twelve life the last time I checked. . .

So that’s your low in fat, 100% protein, pure meat serving for the day… I hope you enjoyed reading.