Modern Tron is an archetype using a powerful set of three lands originating from Antiquities to ramp into huge win conditions. It seeks to churn through its deck in the first couple of turns while developing its mana before ending the game in one or two explosive turns. This cycle of three lands from Antiquities showcases Urza’s strong relationship with the natural environment. Much like milking Modern players for wins, these lands use the environment to produce huge quantities of mana for personal gain. While figuring out the connection between large amounts of mana and Tron may not be immediately obvious, the name has a unique origin among Modern decks. The name of this archetype heralds from everyone’s favorite 1980’s cartoon involving dinosaur sheep robots (or something equally ridiculous) assembling to create “Voltron” — a universe or world protecting robot greater than the sum of its parts.
This thematic identity of Tron resonates when analyzing the deck. Each Tron land individually is weak. They fail to provide colored mana and they have no additional utility. Together they become empowered, generating additional mana. The first set of Tron lands generates seven mana — enough to deploy a game-ending threat. A myriad of options are available to utilize this mana, but the quick acceleration constitutes a powerful core of the Modern format. According to many Modern aficionados, Tron deviates from the heroic name origin it possesses and takes its place as a villain of the format. The cause of much consternation, Tron serves as an incredibly consistent control deck with little deviation in its play patterns.
So, you’ve figured out how to count to three. Now, what do you do with all this mana? Throughout the ages, powerful colorless cards have been printed — serving as the perfect capstone to the misery-inducing game plan of Tron. Which of these options serve as the perfect conduit of groans on the opposing side of the table? How do we minimize the number of people asking us if we want to play Modern? Let’s take a look at the seven most powerful payoffs for Tron.
Oblivion Stone serves as an instant speed sweeper that can protect your other permanents. By paying the cost over multiple turns, Oblivion Stone gives Tron an effective answer to Blood Moon.
As one of the most feared Turn 3 plays in Modern, Karn Liberated is here to answer the prayers of every modern player asking for Vindicate in Modern Horizons. Representing the most powerful Vindicate variant in the game, Karn Liberated is the iconic threat in the Tron arsenal. Colloquially referred to as “pantsless Karn”, he’s here to donate that extra change of underwear to your unsuspecting opponent.
Wurmcoil Engine acts as an additional “sweeper” against aggressive strategies, quickly threatening to create an insurmountable life total advantage. This J. R. R. inspired threat forces most opposing decks to immediately answer it, affording Tron more time to play follow up threats.
Rounding out the colorless options, Ugin accompanies Walking Ballista in the sweeper spots, while World Breaker and Ulamog serve as difficult to remove threats that disrupt the opponent. Exiling opposing lands can effectively time walk most decks in the format, restricting the options available to counteract these threats.
The consistency of Tron comes mostly from the multitude of ways to assemble the requisite lands. Sylvan Scrying and Expedition Map can find any necessary land, while Chromatic Star and Chromatic Sphere act as colorless forms of Serum Visions. Sculpting the hand early while facilitating early game green mana for Ancient Stirrings, these powerful “eggs” form the backbone of the archetype.
Ancient Stirrings and Relic of Progenitus round out the one mana options, with Relic serving as disruption against much of the format. Perhaps the most talked about card in Tron, Ancient Stirrings functions similar to Sylvan Scrying but can grab nearly any threat in the deck.
Requiring a land count not satisfied by the full playset of Tron lands, most lists play a combination of utility lands. With eight tutors and a bevy of card selection, finding these lands can be trivial. With the exception of Ghost Quarter, the flex lands in Tron serve as additional means at finding a payoff. Sanctum of Ugin requires no mana investment but relies on having a threat in hand. Horizon Canopy can draw an additional card and produces Green Mana. It can be a bit painful compared to the other lands but provides more consistent mana. Buried Ruin can serve as a different form of Horizon Canopy by returning a cantrip, a sweeper by means of Oblivion stone, or a threat with Walking Ballista or Wurmcoil Engine.
Much of Tron’s success in Modern has been due to the versatile and powerful nature of its sideboard. With access to hand disruption, life gain, removal, and graveyard hate, Tron is capable of answering any opposing game plans without significantly hampering its game plan.
These four cards form the core of all Tron sideboards. Nature’s Claim improves the Burn matchup by gaining life while doubling as a removal spell against Hardened Scales and Whir Prison. Nature’s Claim serves a crucial role in answering otherwise problematic sideboard cards like Stony Silence or Damping Sphere. Thragtusk is an additional life gain option available to Tron while acting as a hard to remove threat in grindier matchups.
Spatial Contortion and Dismember expand the interactive elements of Tron by removing early threats and slowing down aggressive decks enough to resolve a game-ending payoff. Thought-Knot Seer can serve an analogous role for the Mirror and Combo matchups by proactively removing slowing down opposing game plans.
Warping Wail can serve as an additional form of interaction for aggressive decks but can counter a timely Scapeshift or Molten Rain. Surgical Extraction supplements the graveyard disruption provided by Relic of Progenitus but doesn’t slow development. Emrakul, the Promised End is an additional threat for the Tron mirror and difficult to beat Combo decks. Similarly to Ulamog, Emrakul’s trigger resolves whether the Eldrazi is countered or not, allowing Tron to overcome nearly any counterspell scenario.
Gemstone Caverns is a newer piece of tech in the Tron arsenal, occupying a 2-of slot in some sideboards alongside Tarmogoyf. This package increases the number of green sources and can put a faster clock on board in traditionally tougher matchups. Crucible of Worlds and Life from the Loam serves as counters to Field of Ruin while facilitating Ghost Quarter loops. Grafdigger’s Cage is the final sideboard option seeing mainstream play, acting as a less mana intensive form of graveyard hate. While Relic of Progenitus ordinarily gets the nod due to the card draw function, Grafdigger’s Cage can shut entire archetypes out of the game.
Fellow Kingslayer Greg Purpura took his Tron list to a 10th place finish at GP LA, showcasing the power and consistency of the archetype. His list is fairly stock, with the main deck World Breaker switching into a Thragtusk in recent lists. The other choice in the main deck is the decision to run four or five Forest. Greg chose to run four Forest to make room for three utility lands, but this choice remains largely metagame dependent. Versions opting for Thragtusk in the main tend to play an additional forest to facilitate casting Thragtusk more often, while versions without choose to play the additional utility land.
That’s it week’s Deck Tech, and as always any comments or suggestions are welcomed. Let me know what archetypes you want to see in the comments below or on Twitter at twitter.com/PariahPopular.