Why Mono-Green Tron Will Win SCG Indianapolis

Owen is pretty much laying out his expectations for the top of SCG Indianapolis’s meta: It’s gonna be Tron. Get some keep or mulligan practice with Tron’s new biggest fan!

For the second weekend in a row, I was glued to the screen watching the SCG
Tour for any possible nugget of technology in any of the formats to help in
my preparation for Pro Tour 25th Anniversary. During the finals, the Modern
matchup was a Mono-Green Tron mirror:

I played Mono-Green Tron at both Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan and
Grand Prix Phoenix, so it’s a deck I know very well. But one thing I don’t
know is why people hate Tron so much. I’ve always felt the hate was a
little weird, especially when I would complete Tron on turn 3 and my Magic
Online opponent would concede immediately. I imagine that that
concession was either due to frustration with bad luck or possibly just a
conscious decision that the following turns don’t constitute fun in a game
of Magic. Heck, I’ve seen people tweet “I won’t date you if you play Tron”
which deeply confuses me but hey, everyone likes what they like.

These results are from Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan and, as you can
see, two of the best players in the game’s history, Jon Finkel and Yuuya
Watanabe, both put up huge finishes with Tron. Honestly, it wouldn’t
surprise me if either of them were a single game outside a top 8 finish and
if you look even closer you’ll see more of the game’s best played it:

  • William Jensen
  • Shahar Shenhar
  • Seth Manfield

Personally, I find Tron to be a difficult deck to master and to the naked
eye it can be hard to tell the difference between a game which was played
well and a game which was played perfect. Sequencing is huge and when I
play Tron I try to keep a voice in the back of my head reminding me “try to
get as lucky as possible!” This alone isn’t enough to help through the
tough parts of the game, but it does encourage you to do everything in your
power to see the maximum number of cards in the hopes that among them will
be Urza’s Tower, Urza’s Mine, and Urza’s Power Plant with whichever
colorless bomb is the strongest against the strategy you’re up against.

Here’s a sample opening hand on the play in the blind:

This is a mulligan. Yes, this hand does have Tron, but it doesn’t get to it
particularly quickly and it doesn’t have anything to do with it once you’re
there. Additionally, the nature of Modern makes it hard to predict the
value of Dismember in this hand. But the biggest reason I dislike this hand
that without getting lucky, you’re obligated to play a Forest on turn two
which takes the possibility of turn 3 Tron off the table.

When it comes to mulligan decisions, it’s good to evaluate the hand overall
and then each card individually. Forest is a bad card to have in a Tron
opener, but alone is not enough reason to qualify a hand to be shipped
back. The second Forest, however, pairs extremely poorly with the first and
almost none of the good Tron opening hands want two Forests in them. The
second Forest occupies space in my hand, something that is better spent on
my important cards like Urza’s Tower, Urza’s Power Plant, Karn Liberated,
or Oblivion Stone. I always slot matchups into creature-based (where I
prefer Oblivion Stone) or non-creature based (where I want Karn Liberated).
This hand doesn’t check with of those bases.

We mulligan into this six:

This is a one-land hand on the play, but with a scry, it’s a clear keep.
All I need is Urza’s Tower or Urza’s Mine in my top three cards and I can
cast a turn 3 Karn Liberated or Wurmcoil Engine and surely one of them
should be good enough to win the game singlehandedly. More importantly, if
neither of them can win the game, why did I choose to play Tron in the
first place?

With my scry, I see a Forest.

I know this may be controversial, but I put this Forest on the bottom of my
deck. I don’t want to play a Forest on turn two because my objective is to
get Tron onto the battlefield as quickly as possible and putting the Forest
on top is almost planning for failure. By choosing to put the Forest on the
bottom, I’m hoping that my draw phase and card from Chromatic Star on the
second turn will show me Urza’s Mine or Urza’s Tower, two cards that win
the game in many situations and my fallback is a similar battlefield when I
draw Forest, Ghost Quarter, Sanctum of Ugin, or Ancient Stirrings.

Here’s another hand on the play in the blind:

This is a hand that appears to be borderline, but I’d keep it. I have the
clean start of opening on a Tron land and the ability to play a green spell
turn 2 which is one of the better hands for this style of deck.
Additionally, I can get really lucky and hit Urza’s Tower or Urza’s Power
Plant in my top three cards and bank on Wurmcoil Engine or Ugin, the Spirit
Dragon to dominate the game. Normally this would make me nervous to have an
anti-midrange plan when my pairing might randomly be against combo or a
deck with counterspells, but Modern is a low-edge format and if casting
Wurmcoil Engine turn 3 isn’t any good on average then, again, it’s time to
re-evaluate our deck choice.

It’s important to keep in mind, especially when playing Modern, that some
things are completely out of your control and you’re already running on
thin margins. I checked and my top card was Urza’s Power Plant, so this was
likely an easy game to win.

One final hand on the play in the blind:

This is a snap keep. Unlike the first hand I had which also could assemble
Tron, that hand couldn’t do so by turn 3 and with a hand like this, I see
the flaw of potential flood, but I’d cross my fingers and hope for the
best. If my deck provides me with only mana or cards I don’t need and can’t
cycle away, I’d chalk it up to bad luck and a nonfunctional hand.
Assembling Tron is the hardest part of the equation, and it’s very hard to
win a game one when you don’t. I wouldn’t be afraid to mulligan down to
five or even four with this deck.

It can be easy to misplay with Tron and especially easy to lose focus
during the playtest games with such a “dumb” deck, but I’ve taken it on
myself to be the enemy during playtesting and I take on all comers with
Tron. It’s a tier one deck and nobody can deny that as it’s been around
forever and always puts up strong, consistent finishes. There’s a lot to
dislike about the deck – non-interactive gameplay isn’t much fun – but if
you’re reading my column, you probably don’t care how much fun your
opponent is having. You probably just want to win.

I sometimes feel that playing Tron is a waste of my talents since it’s the
type of deck that gives you no room to outplay your opponent; you simply
win or lose based on the strength of your draw. That said, Tron can still
be a great choice depending on if the metagame is filled with Jeskai
Control, Humans, and not much Hollow One, something that the finalists of
SCG Philadelphia proved last weekend.

I was nervous about Damping Sphere when it was previewed, but now that the
hype has settled down and people have played a ton with and against it, I
think we can agree it’s not the end-all be-all hoser it looked like it
might be. In my eyes, Damping Sphere is roughly equal to Blood Moon, a card
that can be effective or a liability depending on strength of hand and

I’ve played over a hundred matches on both sides of Affinity versus
Mono-Green Tron, and I can say confidently that, on average, when the
Affinity player casts Blood Moon, their chances of winning the game goes
down, not up. There’s a very real cost in Affinity turning their copies of
Inkmoth Nexus and Blinkmoth Nexus into Mountains, as those are some of the
toughest cards for Tron to beat. Further, Oblivion Stone is the most
important card in the matchup anyway, so relying on Damping Sphere or Blood
Moon, permanents that can be swept away by Oblivion Stone or killed by
Nature’s Claim, just isn’t the best way to approach the matchup.

It’s true that Oblivion Stone is harder to activate without the ability to
complete Tron quickly, but Tron is a deck littered with cantrips, card
selection spells, and land tutoring, so finding an Oblivion Stone and five
lands to buy tempo and card advantage. I’m not saying Damping Sphere or
Blood Moon are bad cards against Tron; what I am saying is subtle nuances
can swing the each card’s value drastically and to be very careful how you
use them.

This is the list of Mono-Green Tron I recommend moving forward and, to me,
it’s flawless. I feel two Ugin and two Walking Ballista is fairly brutish
and rather than play some random looking copies of cards and hoping the
matchups align in their favor, I prefer to make room for World Breaker,
which gives me more options when tutoring with Sanctum of Ugin and a third
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. The first time I saw three copies of Ulamog
in a Tron list was from Yuuya Watanabe, and I fell in love immediately, so
it’s surprising to me it hasn’t caught on. On turn 3, I could take either
Karn or Wurmcoil depending on the matchup, but there’s no matchup where I
don’t want turn 4 Ulamog and it swings a lot of the combo and control

Infect is one of your worst matchups and Walking Ballista helps there, but
rather than have two copies of the Construct maindeck, I believe it’s
optimal to have one maindeck and a Spellskite in the sideboard. You get the
free value against G/W Hexproof, but it’s also just the nuclear option for
both matchups as those decks crumble in the face of the 0/4. Modern can
often be about who got the luckiest fastest draw, but it can also be about
being prepared and having the one card that shuts off their entire strategy
like Grafdigger’s Cage does against Dredge. Speaking of which, that’s
another change I’ve made, swapping around some numbers to include three
Relic of Progenitus maindeck to pair with the sideboard Grafdigger’s Cage
such that I can have four anti-graveyard slots against Hollow One and

Lastly, I feel strongly that the five Forest version of Mono-Green Tron is
the best and splashing for either black or red simply hurts your
consistency and makes you more vulnerable to Field of Ruin. The decklist
above, something I’ve tuned over a hundred Magic Online matches, is only a
few cards off what Kellen Pastore and Timothy Juliano played at SCG
Philadelphia, but I believe with the minor tweaks I’ve suggested, this
version of Mono-Green Tron is the best one to be bring to SCG Indianapolis
this weekend.

I know there’s a very real chance I either play with or play against
Mono-Green Tron at the Pro Tour in a few weeks, so it’s a huge part of my
testing process and it should certainly be a huge part of yours if you’re
looking to win matches in Modern.