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By: SpikeBoyM, Alex Ullman
May 25 2015 11:00am
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Last week I examined what it means to build with the best possible cards in mind. What followed was an aggressive deck focused on maximizing the value of both Galvanic Blast and Ardent Recruit. Y’know - beating down. It makes sense to go on the offensive when you think about it. In trying to find the best possible spells for a given slot, Pauper is naturally going to trend towards the lower end of the mana curve. Given the near-entire history of Magic it is easy to find a spell that costs one that is almost as good, if not better, than a spell that costs two. Just look at Lightning Bolt and Lightning Strike or Doom Blade against Murder - going back in time holds power.

In turn it is easy to ignore the more expensive spells. Pauper is a format that features a healthy dose of fast aggro in the form of Affinity, Burn, and Izzet Blitz. Dawdling for any length of time can be a death sentence when your opponent can go Lightning Bolt Lightning Bolt Fireblast extend the hand. One would need some pretty big incentives to focus on costly spells that win late. That carrot exists though - the more mana a spell requires the larger the impact. One only needs to look at the Mono-Black Control trend towards Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Corrupt to see this axiom ring true in action.

The obstacle to the promised valley of high mana costs is the desert of hitting a land every turn. Even then, when the effects cost six or seven, the problem is surviving to that point. In the past Pauper was able to rely on Cloudpost to help cheat the mana curve and cast game ending haymakers. One of the more successful decks of this stripe was Izzet Post, which would seal the deal with Rolling Thunder or Ulamog’s Crusher. There were others - Mono-Blue Fissure Post and Mono-Green Cloudpost - but the current swath of big mana decks all derive from Izzet Post.

Izzet Post was built around having the best spells. At every point it tried to be doing something better than what the opponent could accomplish and thanks to running blue it would meet this goal early and often. Cloudpost and Glimmerpost enabled the deck to resolve multiple high impact spells per turn. What followed was a game where the Post deck could simply do more - another advantage of having more mana.

Of course then Cloudpost up and got banned. In its place emerged Tron decks. Powered by the trifecta of Urza’s Mine, Urza’s Power Plant, and Urza’s Tower, they represented a fundamental shift in how this style of deck operated. 

       Cloudpost only required a Cloudpost and another Locus to jump the curve. Tron requires all three pieces.

       Cloudpost and Glimmerpost occupied eight slots as opposed to twelve. Consequentially Cloudpost decks had an easier time running card with heavier colored mana requirements.

       Tron has no analog to Glimmerpost for a natural defense against aggressive strategies. 

The end result was a less explosive and less consistent deck. I do not mean to imply that Tron is bad - it has consistently been a presence - but it has never approached the level of dominance of Cloudpost.

Let’s look at today’s prototypical Tron list: 

Temur Tron - that is blue-red-green - has become the default home for Tron as a tap-out control deck. The idea here is that your spells are pound for pound better than whatever can be thrown at you so you can empty your mana pool without fear of a retaliation that matters. To this end Temur Tron has evolved to operate at sorcery speed. Ancient Stirrings helps to stitch together the combo of the mana base by finding every land as well as Expedition Map and Prophetic Prism. The fact it can also go and find an Ulamog’s Crusher late does not lower its stock.

The concession in this deck is relying on cogs - Chromatic Star and Chromatic Sphere - to accelerate through the deck towards mana. This is mitigated quite a bit by the presence of Fangren Marauder, allowing the deck to make up for the absence of a Glimmerpost analog (while also being a not so quiet all-star against Affinity). Temur Tron also runs Mulldrifter and Rolling Thunder, which are so far above the curve that they’ve been shifted rarities for Modern Masters and Tempest Remastered respectively.

So with all this power, why is Temur Tron under 2% of the metagame?

The answer resides last week’s discussion where I identified Galvanic Blast as the new Flame Slash. Temur Tron is a deck capable of doing powerful things but it does them all at sorcery speed. While there are metagames where this is absolutely correct the current Pauper rewards control decks that are efficient with their mana and can leave open lands as a threat or reaction.

The question then becomes is there a way to blend the mana engine in Tron with the instant speed action of a Draw-Go control deck?

I mean, at this point, the answer should be pretty clear. 

The quest for a Draw-Go style Tron deck, one that operates at instant speed and is reactionary stemmed from the release of Anticipate. Jason (of the semi-defunct Casting Commons) and I started talking about how great the card was for Magic in general. We then went down memory lane and started talking about Impulse. Impulse has been legal since the very beginning of sanctioned Pauper but never really caught on. To us this made little sense as the ability of Impulse to shrink your deck during your adversary’s end step seemed incredibly potent. Compare to a card like Ponder or Preordain: yes these cards cost less and can help sculpt your draws, but that is if you cast them on your turn. Impulse can be cast at any time and automatically sees four cards (one more than Preordain and the same as a Ponder on shuffle mode) and lets you pick the best one. Then the other cards go to the bottom. Impulse may not be able to go five deep but it serves as quite possibly the best Ancient Stirring ever. No longer are you limited to going to fetch a colorless card. While there is a speed cost the ability to get anything makes Impulse a better option in the modern world of Tron.

The first place I went with an Impulse powered Tron deck was Mono-Blue. The idea behind this deck was to have the best possible mana base and access to some of the best expensive spells around in Whispers of the Muse and Capsize.  

Mono Blue Tron
Proposed Pauper Deck Alex Ullman
4 Omenspeaker
3 Spire Monitor
7 cards

Other Spells
4 Expedition Map
1 Whispers of the Muse
3 Impulse
4 Think Twice
4 Counterspell
4 Prophetic Prism
2 Exclude
1 Fade Away
1 Capsize
3 Serrated Arrows
4 Condescend
2 Repeal
33 cards
1 Haunted Fengraf
8 Island
4 Urza's Mine
4 Urza's Power Plant
4 Urza's Tower
21 cards

Urza's Power Plant

The glaring omission in this deck is Mulldrifter. Mulldrifter is above the curve for a card in Pauper but it has to be cast on your turn. In moving to instant speed I was finally able to find a home for Whispers of the Muse. These two cards - Whispers and Mulldrifter - have problems cohabitating in the same 75 because they pull a deck in two completely different directions - Draw-Go against Tap Out. Here, Whispers won out.

Omenspeaker was another card that over performed. The ability to set up draws and convert them into actual cards with Prophetic Prism actually matters and is a surprisingly good way to sculpt your hand.

Impulse was as strong as I anticipated but Condescend was a pleasant surprise. The counterspell managed to act as an upgrade over Preordain as it traded for a threat while also improving the top of my deck.

Mono-Blue Tron struggled against creatures. Fade Away and Serrated Arrows were not enough to hold the fort and so another color was sought out. I immediately turned to black as it solved so many problems. Black has access to an abundance of cheap removal that can be tailored to a specific metagame. It also has Gurmag Angler, which while not an instant, can come down for the low low price of a single black mana. Finally, moving to black also made casting the flashback on Mystical Teachings that much easier.

Oh yeah, this turned into a Mystical Teachings deck.

My experience with the monochromatic version showed me that I did not need to overload on card quantity since the quality of my cards was so much higher than the expected average. What is far more important with this deck is to be able to go get the perfect tool for the job and Mystical Teachings does just that. Mystical Teachings also happens to be one of the most powerful cards in Pauper and has only been held back by its mana cost. Pairing it with Tron is not a new innovation, but it is a natural evolution. Also, it can go and fetch Spire Monitor in a pinch, which is awesome. 

Dimir Tron is a powerful option for Pauper. It has a very good game against anything not running red (more on this later). It is in this deck’s best interest to have the game go as long as possible so cards like Capsize and Whispers of the Muse can take over.

Getting us there is the removal suite. This is the most mutable area of the deck and should be adjusted based on an expected metagame. Disfigure is odd as a three-off but having one in your opening hand against certain decks can provide an absolutely huge advantage. Condescend is also an odd three-of since it does so much in stopping threats and smoothing draws. It is significantly better on the play though so the fourth resides in the sideboard for just that reason.

Dimir Tron has a better long game than the current crop of midrange and control decks in Pauper making those matchups fairly mundane. There, Dimir will draw out the game and pick off threats, either directly or through a combination of Capsize and countermagic. Eventually Dimir will have a sufficient mana advantage to Capsize lock the enemy and deny them every resource, letting Gurmag Angler or Spire Monitor mop up the remaining life points.

Here is a video of me playing the deck against Mono-Black control. I’m still learning how to play on video, so feedback on the recording is welcome.

The biggest problem I found with the deck is that it has an uphill climb against aggressive red strategies: Burn, Izzet Blitz, and Affinity. These are decks that can win quickly and some, like the latter, can be fought with removal. Burn, however, operates at instant speed as well and their spells are cheaper. There is a reason there is a fifth gain land in the deck and Burn is it - the deck is trending upwards and cannot be underestimated.

The Tranquil Cove may be cute, but the ability to go fetch an Overrule to stop a spell and gain back some life is absolutely huge against Lightning Bolt. The Bottle Gnomes, in conjunction with Grim Harvest, also provides some life total padding. Adding these cards have certainly helped the Burn pairing, and having Devour Flesh main to maybe eat an Angler does not hurt.

I would absolutely run the above deck, with some adjustments, in a metagame where Mono-Black Control and other slower decks were a dominant force. However, if the tides shifted towards aggression, I would want to change course.

In my opinion, Draw-Go Tron needs to run the following spells to be effective (in addition to the UrzaTron itself): 

4 Expedition Map
3 Disfigure
1 Whispers of the Muse
4 Impulse
4 Counterspell
4 Prophetic Prism
2 Exclude
1 Capsize
2 Mystical Teachings
3 Condescend

That is the core. Everything else can be tweaked and tuned to a specific metagame. And that’s what I did. The landscape of Pauper is leaning more towards Affinity and Burn, and while MBC is still a factor I was willing to give up some ground in an effort to shore up my matchups at large, especially since I consider MBC to be a very good matchup.

My experience with Overrule led me to white and its removal, including Celestial Flare, Last Breath, and Temporal Isolation. While I did like Omenspeaker I was looking for another option and could not find one in Azorius. When I looked to the Simic I found what I was looking for in Coiling Oracle. The first time I flipped an Urza’s Tower into play I was sold.

Going from there I ended up with this build: 

While some the mana is worse the ability to shut down aggressive decks is well worth the cost. The Khans of Tarkir gain lands do so much work in this deck. While they are no Glimmerpost, they certainly help. When Modern Masters 2015 becomes legal, I may try to find space for a Sphere of the Suns. 

So this is my foray into the world of Tron. The combination mana engine is very strong and if you can survive, which Bant is quite capable of, then victory is within your grasp. 

Just be sure to click fast and true. 

Keep slingin’ commons-

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Hi Alex. I love Coiling by Tom Scud at Mon, 05/25/2015 - 11:30
Tom Scud's picture

Hi Alex. I love Coiling Oracle, and will probably have to give that deck a spin solely for that reason. You might want to see if a puremtgo editor can edit those decklists to put all the lands in the right place - looks like jamuraa's auto-deck creator doesn't recognize the gain lands as lands.

And that isn't an awkward by Tom Scud at Mon, 05/25/2015 - 11:31
Tom Scud's picture

And that isn't an awkward automatic comment title.

The editor checks for by Adam_the_Mentat at Tue, 05/26/2015 - 20:32
Adam_the_Mentat's picture

The editor checks for grievous amounts of typos and spellcheck requirements, and makes sure you aren't bullying anyone or cussin' your face off, but Josh isn't going to edit deck lists. Sometimes the jamuraa deck editor isnt perfect but once its pasted intot he article editor you can move arond the links by copy and pasting.

I actually normally fix the by JXClaytor at Wed, 05/27/2015 - 04:09
JXClaytor's picture

I actually normally fix the decklists, but this is the first time I've noticed the gainlands being in the right place.

I'll message jam and see if a fix can be into place for that.

Thanks for bringing it up!

A thought by Rerepete at Mon, 05/25/2015 - 18:33
Rerepete's picture

If you put in your own title, it is less awkward.

Alex: What are your thoughts on Radiant Fountain?