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By: Bertro, Robert Reed
Aug 11 2014 12:00pm
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Mono-Trons!

So if you’ve read my previous articles you might remember I started with this rouge (yep, still making that joke) Mono-Red Tron build.

 

The above build got me thinking…could I do mono-colored Tron decks for the other four colors.  Now the simple answer is yes, but I didn’t want to build a deck for the sake of building a deck. If I was building a Tron deck I needed something to do with all of the mana I could produce. Naturally any build can use (Ulamog’s Crusher), but one card really isn’t enough to justify, in my opinion, moving to a weaker build of an established deck.

Mono-red at least gives access to X spells so there’s something to do with all the mana. Black has X spells as well, but at the common level they all require black mana for “X”. I put this project on the back burner for a while as I played different decks and then one day on MTGOTraders I can across the answer to at least part of my problem. I found the Invoker cycles!

Legions:

Stonewood InvokerGlintwing InvokerFlamewave InvokerSmokespew InvokerStarlight Invoker

Rise of the Eldrazi:

Wildheart InvokerFrostwind InvokerLavafume InvokerBloodrite InvokerDawnglare Invoker

Now I will say that not all of the creatures both cycles are created equally, but they do offer something to do with the mana I will be generating from Urza’s lands. In the original Legions’ cycle, the only one I think is worth a damn is Flamewave Invoker. With the Rise of the Eldrazi cycle I like Wildheart Invoker, Bloodrite Invoker, and Dawnglare Invoker. I think Frostwind Invoker is ok, but so many of blue’s creatures already have flying that I think overall it’s less practical in the mono-colored builds I’m using.  Beyond having overall better abilities, I also like the ROE cycle because there’s no color mana in the activation costs which really benefits Tron builds.

Today I am going to focus on my mono-black and mono-white builds with Bloodrite Invoker and Dawnglare Invoker.

Contents

1. Why Mono-Tron?

2. The Mono-Tron Base

3. Mono-Black

4. Mono-White

5. Exile “Trick” Primer

6. Sideboard Options

7. What I’ve Learned So Far

8. Conclusion

 

1. Why Mono-Tron

As I said in my mono-red article and it still holds true with the decks below, the RUG Tron version is probably the superior version. It’s one of the decks that any of my mono-Tron decks have trouble defeating. The RUG version tends to have an easier time putting together the Urza pieces, has access to better draws, and has more varied threats.

So why mono-Tron?

I think the answer is partially because I can. Ichor Slick is one of my favorite cards (I really seem to have a thing for Future Sight), but it’s a difficult card to play. Without lots of mana it’s a -3/-3 spell for 3 at sorcery speed, but with mana it’s a -3/-3 with card draw for 6 at instant speed! That might not sound like a deal, but no one expects to see an Ichor Slick.

Also I think mono-Tron decks defy expectations. My opponents are thrown when I play that Plains or Swamp. Even if I play a Mountain which isn’t a surprise in a Tron build, the lack of an Island or Forest is a surprise. They expect Tron builds to look a certain way and by playing very non-standard cards they are left guessing more on what might be coming next and to appropriately gauge threats particularly in Game 1.

2. The Mono-Tron Base

The natural starting point is with the Urza lands. These are the three pieces we are trying to assemble and typically we want to assemble them as quickly as possible. However with the mono-colored builds below we do have time in getting all of the pieces as I try to have enough answers to slow down the opponent. This typically works except against extremely aggressive builds.

Expedition Map

Expedition Map is the easiest way to fetch our Tron pieces and can be used in a pinch to get another one of the utility lands.

Chromatic Star

The reason I use Chromatic Star instead of Chromatic Sphere is that the Star will always draw a card if it goes to the graveyard. This is not an issue 95% of the time, but it is something important to keep in mind when looking at the two eggs since the card draw is part of the activation for Chromatic Sphere.

Also in using Chromatic Star, the correct answer is to almost always use it as soon as possible because of the card draw. I will often effectively add 1 to the casting cost of a spell to put a Star into play and crack it even if I can produce the proper color mana. In Tron builds I think it really is that important to dig and with mono-colored builds we know (at least pre-board) what color mana we will need to cast a spell.

Prophetic Prism

Card draw and color fixing plain and simple. This card is particularly important in the mono-white build as we are setup to potentially use Prophetic Prism as repeatable card draw (which I talk about below).

Haunted Fengraf

Probably not absolutely necessary, but I do like the ability to get our creatures back particularly in the late game.

I know at the top I said that I didn’t want to build a Tron deck just to easily cast Ulamog’s Crusher, but I still love the big lug and like to keep him in the build. Plus I find that he sometimes sticks around longer because opponents like to use removal on our Invokers. Alternatively our Invokers stay around longer because removal is used on a Crusher. Hooray multiple threats!

3. Mono-Black


Mono-black was actually the first mono-build I brewed on my own and it’s really because of Bloodrite Invoker. The idea of 8 mana for a life loss and life gain effect seemed intriguing, but in a normal build it just wouldn’t be practical to expect to get much use out of the ability. I realize the ability isn’t the most mana efficient, but as a repeatable effect it creates a threat.

One positive of the mono-black build is that it offers resiliency. It’s hard to keep our creatures down with 11 creatures at CMC 3 and 3 Unearths plus two Haunted Fengrafs. The build tries to maximize card draw while slowing down the opponent. That’s one of the reason that much of the card draw is on creatures with Phyrexian Rager and Moriok Replica.

One weakness of this build is that it uses a lot of its own life to draw cards. I have certainly lost games by helping my opponent bring my life down to zero. Bloodrite Invoker helps manage the life loss, but this also relies on drawing the Invoker and keeping it in play! Activating the Invoker once is typically not a problem, but it can be difficult to keep one in play for very long.

The removal is designed around value. (Chainer’s Edict) is a sorcery, but with Flashback we get greater utility and a Tron build is designed to put up the mana to play the Flashback cost. Ichor Slick is one that can be cast at sorcery speed in a bind, but the hope is to get to 6 mana where it becomes an instant by Cycling it and then using the Madness cost as it’s discarded from our hand. Oubliette is designed to be a catch all and to take care of big threats.

Twisted Abomination is here to help smooth out any mana issues and can be threat in and of itself once we get our mana going.

Overall I like this build, but I think I would still need to find something to do with the mana created by the Urza lands beyond just using Bloodrite Invoker. I like the Invoker, but the 3 life loss/3 life gain ability was often underwhelming when I was playing from behind. It’s an ability that does help win games, but you almost need to treat Bloodrite as an 11 or 9 (with Unearth) mana creature because it just doesn’t stick around.

I’m not sure where I will go with the black version of mono-Tron and it might be a while before I come back to it because I really fell in love with the mono-white version!

4. Mono-White

 

The white version of mono-Tron creates a unique challenge for a Tron deck in that white has a lot of great answers to threats in Magic, but damn if it isn’t hard to figure out how to dig for those answers and to dig to put together the Urza lands.

The answer to the card draw problem came from a few sources. First are the cycling cards with Secluded Steppe and Marshaling Cry. The great part about Marshaling Cry is that it’s typically easier to cast from the graveyard because while the CMC is higher from the yard it goes from needing two white mana to cast to just one white mana.

The other answer to card draw is Kor Skyfisher. No really, Kor Skyfisher is the answer. Its bounce ability lets us bring back a Prophetic Prism to hand and recast it. Once we have the Tron built it’s even easier to bounce and recast. Additionally Momentary Blink continues to allow us to bring Prophetic Prism back to our hand by blinking Kor Skyfisher out of and then back in to play. Momentary Blink also lets us use the Skyfisher to permanent exile creatures and/or other permanents by using Journey to Nowhere and Oblivion Ring. If you are not familiar with how to exile objects permanently with those three cards, I have a primer in the next section.

Momentary Blink has a lot of utility in this deck as it also allows us to create surprise blockers. One of my favorite plays is blinking an Ulamog’s Crusher as it will survive most combat situations because of its size. And because the Crusher “entered play” on our opponent’s turn, it will be ready to attack again on our turn.

Journey to Nowhere and Oblivion Ring are the main removal options until we get Dawnglare Invoker online. Since Pauper (thanks to bannings) is mostly a format of turning creatures sideways to win, having a creature that prevents attacking is a huge advantage. At one point I had Celestial Flare in this deck and I realized that with an Invoker on the board, the Flare was a dead card. If an opponent doesn’t have removal and they are playing a creature based deck then the only limiting factor for me winning is can I get the opponent to 0 life before I run out of cards in my deck. Dawnglare is an amazing (albeit fragile) card.

Noble Templar is here to help find a white mana source and if we don’t need to cycle it then it provides a big butt that helps muck up the board until we can get an Invoker online.

Angelic Edict is another removal option that gets rid of a creature or enchantment permanently. Out of all of the cards in this build, Angelic Edict is probably my least favorite. I love the exile effect, but I hate that it’s sorcery speed. And while it is my least favorite I also pretty much never board it out because it does have a strong effect.

This build and mono-red are in competition for my favorite Tron builds (with mono-Tron blue and green coming down the road at some point in time). If I were going to redo a Tron build I would probably go with a WUB build. Blue for card draw and black simply for Unearth, I always wished I had Unearth to bring back Dawnglare Invoker when it goes to the graveyard. After playing this build I think Dawnglare is really an underrated card in this format. Even in a RUG build I think it might be worth looking at putting a Dawnglare or two in the sideboard.

5. Exile “Trick” Primer

So I don’t know if I would really call this a trick (I’m going to continue to call it a trick) and I’m sure many people reading this are familiar with the card interactions, but if you’re not familiar then you have this great primer! And if you are familiar then you can certainly feel free to skip to the next section!

This trick is really just about taking advantage of how Journey to Nowhere and Oblivion Ring (along with cards with similar templating) are worded. These cards are worded in such a way that they actually have two abilities. The first is exiling a card when it comes into play and the second ability is bringing that card back when Journey or the Ring leaves play. (Wizards has recently “fixed” this on cards such as Banishing Light by creating new wording that will keep the target in play if Banishing Light leaves play before the trigger resolves.)

Anyways on to the steps in permanent exile:

Step 1: We have all of the pieces we need with a Kor Skyfisher in play and Journey to Nowhere/Oblivion Ring and Momentary Blink in hand.

Step 2: For this example we will cast Journey to Nowhere and target Ulamog’s Crusher.

Step 3: With the Journey exile trigger on the stack, we cast Momentary blink targeting Kor Skyfisher. Kor Skyfisher’s enter the battlefield ability goes on the stack and asks us to return a permanent we control to our hand. We’ll use this ability to target Journey to Nowhere.

Step 4: Now that Journey to Nowhere has returned to our hand and left play its second ability goes on the stack. The second ability looks to the Exile Zone to return the creature that was exiled by Journey. Since the first ability has not resolved there is not a creature (Crusher in this case) in the Exile Zone and nothing will be returned.

Step 5: The first ability from Journey to Nowhere resolves and exiles Ulamog’s Crusher. Since Journey has already left play the Crusher will stay exiled! And we can now use our Journey to Nowhere again to remove another creature!

As I said up top, I’m hesitant to call this a trick, but it’s really just a smart way to take advantage of card wording and the stack. Also as previously mentioned this wording you will only find on cards prior to M14. M14 brought us Banisher Priest and the new wording for this effect that prevents permanent exile shenanigans.

For further questions here is the Gatherer rulings for Oblivion Ring and Banishing Light:

Oblivion Ring
Banishing Light

6. Sideboard Options

So all the effort and energy I put into the mainboard to keep it mono-colored I throw out with the sideboard. Postboard I just want to make sure that I have answers to various decks so the mono-colored route is one that I avoid. I don’t add any extra color sources beyond Chromatic Star and Prophetic Prism so as opposed to above where I recommended cracking the Star right away, postboard it can make sense to wait.

In general though, here’s what I have in my sideboards:

Circle of Protection: RedCircle of Protection: Green

CoP: Red is the more common one in my sideboard to help fight burn, goblins, and other aggressive builds. Once I stabilize I can hold my own, but against aggressive match-ups it can become difficult. I usually don’t have a CoP: Green in the board, but I have been running into more elf and infect decks to it’s one that I would consider.

Ray of RevelationAncient Grudge

I lump these two together because they serve similar functions, but it’s not often that I would need to bring them in together on any given match-up. The reason I prefer these two say to some that can hit both artifacts and enchantments is because of Flashback. Flashback just gives more utility in my mind.

Relic of ProgenitusNihil Spellbomb

This is a format that it is not uncommon to run into a deck that uses the graveyard as a significant resource. Both of the above cards are great options to mess with or slow down graveyard plans. I’ve also considered putting Bojuka Bog in the sideboard not to use it as a land, but because it’s uncounterable graveyard removal.

Electrickery

There are a lot of x/1 creatures in the format and the above two cards aren’t the only options, but any mini-sweeper will be good. Electrickery has the advantage of being able to cast it at one mana if necessary and its two mana mode doesn’t target so it can be useful against Hexproof. I haven’t tested Festergloom yet so I can say how great of an option it is, but I imagine it could be a solid sideboard option.

Diabolic Edict

Edict effects are great in this format. My biggest caution would be that with limited access to colored mana that edict effects could be weaker in mono-Trons because of a potential lack of ability to cast the spell before mid- to late-game. I think edicts are at their best early on, but they can make good options.

Firebolt

I include these because they can take out bigger targets and that can certainly be helpful in certain match-ups.

Lone Missionary

Another option against burn or other aggressive match-ups. Stronger in the mono-white Tron because of Momentary Blink.

Overall mono-Trons do let you splash almost any card with a single color mana in its casting cost. While we have limited access to off-color mana there is enough card draw to dig to the resources. I would avoid off-color cards with double color mana symbols and mixing too many off-color cards from the board, but otherwise I find that I can cast just about anything.

7. What I’ve Learned So Far

I miss Mulldrifter. I realize that not using Mulldrifter is because of a self-imposed limitation, but the card is just so good. I particularly miss it in the mono-black Tron since I’m literally killing myself drawing cards. I will say though that mono-Trons are really helping show me the value of certain cards.

Burn is a hard match-up particularly pre-board. Post-board we can bring in a CoP: Red, but burn is a tough match-up.

It’s a lot of fun taking the challenge of building a mono-Tron and seeing the directions you can go with cards.

It feels really, really, really good to drop a Dawnglare Invoker in an infect match-up when the other player was taunting you earlier in the match. Like really good. It gets even better when they rage quit and they aren’t using some BS cookie-cutter build…and once again the opponent was playing infect.

8. Conclusion

That’s all I have for today. At some point in the future I will have green and blue mono-Trons to showcase, but those are both still in development. I plan on my next article to be on a graveyard land based deck which I imagine should be ready in a few weeks.

I hope everyone enjoyed the article and remember, it feels really good to drop a Dawnglare Invoker against infect!

MTGO - Bertro

 

4 Comments

On adding rebels by Bertro at Mon, 08/11/2014 - 21:37
Bertro's picture

Matt, I wasn't aware of the Cloudpost Rebels list, but I think it's worth looking into as an option. I think this deck suffers a bit because I need three land pieces to make big mana work vs. the locus lands.

Thanks for the recommendation!

Tronz by Elbinac at Tue, 08/12/2014 - 00:11
Elbinac's picture

Rebels should fit a little better into an urzatron list one would think.
having untapped lands to drop the initial rebels early and then once tron is active you should be fetching at least two cards a turn.

The black list is an idea I was toying with during the cloudpost days.
But found it to be suboptimal.
Some things I tried with the urzatron lands aside from cards already looked at:

Grim Harvest
Perilous Myr
Fume Spitter
Predatory Nightstalker
Evincar's Justice
Read the Bones

Polluted Mire over Barren Moor.
Why?
You have much more available colorless mana than colored.
And the colored is at a premium.

I much like the replica's here though, will need to test them.

Overall I find the black list by Bertro at Tue, 08/12/2014 - 14:09
Bertro's picture

Overall I find the black list to be sub-optimal (I still really like the white list). I think Evincar's Justice would be a great addition even if it's just in the sideboard.

I thought about Read the Bones, but I like trying to keep my card draw on creatures to help put bodies on the field.

I also like the idea of using the 2 colorless cycling lands over the 1 on-color lands. You're right about having all of that colorless mana available.

Replica is great if you are trying to stick to mono-color or think you'll hit aggressive builds that you need bodies early, but I almost always wished it were a Mulldrifter. Of course in the build above Unearth can target a Replica and would not be able to hit a Mulldrifter.

Mono Black. by Elbinac at Tue, 08/12/2014 - 22:31
Elbinac's picture

Read the Bones is extremely effective due to the scrying.
My interest in Replica is the ability to recur with Grim Harvest.

Staying in mono black, you can use Grey Merchant as your lifegain of choice.
It clogs the ground very well to give your Abominations time to grind through.

Grim Harvest also lets you cycle Abomination early and the get it back when you want.

Predatory Nightstalker goes a long way to making the mono black version viable.

Evincar's is your catch all on weenie style matchups.
And helps get your edict effects through.

Though is can be argued that the tron lands aren't actually NEEDED for the list.
And indeed the list I ran could have been fine without, but it was more vulnerable to control without the tron lands feeding the recur engines.

Oh, and Nihil Spellbomb works really well in the Chromatic Star slot for mono black.
Stops many decks from doing things they want to do and at worst just cycles.