The State of Modern: Quick Hit on Mono-U Tron, by Brandon Lunt

Mono-U Tron is a control player’s dream with a cult-like following. What the deck lacks in early game threats, it makes up for in late-game power. Overall, the deck has a lot of moving parts and I’ve never seen two people with the same list. Everyone has made tweaks here and there to match their play style. Here is my current U Tron list:

Mono-Blue Tron, by Brandon Lunt

The Mainboard

As a big-mana control deck, you’ll want to reserve 25-26 slots in your 75 for lands and some number of Talismans. I used to play with Talisman of Dominance until Kolaghan’s Command became prominent; now I just don’t think they’re worth playing anymore. However, they can help you ramp into your larger spells early on. A basic blueprint for your lands will look something like this:

8-10 Blue mana sources

4 of each Urza’s land

1 Academy Ruins

1-2 Ghost Quarter

1-2 Gemstone Caverns

0-1 Other lands

Islands are essential. Without blue mana, we can’t cast a majority of our spells. I don’t like running too many nonbasic blue sources, because opponents will have a tendency to side in Blood Moon against us.

Academy Ruins is one of my favorite Magic cards. It allows us to get multiple uses out of any artifacts in our graveyard. You can repeatedly tutor up Tron lands with the same Expedition Map, get back a Chalice that was Thoughtseized away from you, or cast and crack Oblivion Stone again and again. Better yet, have 12 mana in play plus Academy Ruins and you can infinitely Mindslaver your opponent.

We also want to dedicate a slot or two for dealing with your opponent’s irritating lands. I honestly can’t recommend Tectonic Edge on account of its restrictions. While it is a much better land in the late game, we typically want to use this effect early on against Inkmoth Nexus, Cavern of Souls, or enemy Tron lands, so Ghost Quarter is a better choice. Another aspect that leads me to favor Ghost Quarter is the ability to use it on your own lands to get an Island as needed.

Gemstone Caverns is another interesting card, as it basically lets us be on the play when we’re not supposed to be. Going second is rough for mono-U Tron, but having Remand or Condescend ready for your opponent’s turn two play on the draw is huge. I’ve really liked running a second Caverns in the side to bring in after winning game 1 or 2.

Now that our manabase is ready, we need some spells to buy us time before we can play our haymakers. You can tune these numbers to your liking.

4 Condescend

2-4 Remand

0-2 Mana Leak

0-1 Spell Burst

A playset of Condescend is a necessity. It’s almost always live and scrying two helps us search for our Tron lands and win conditions. Next you’ll want a split of Remand and Mana Leak. Remand is a tempo card that stalls the opponent without undermining our card advantage. If your meta is swarmed with aggressive decks, then a couple Mana Leaks will be the way to go.

Spell Burst is a neat card that struggles early on. During the first few turns it’s an expensive, single-use hard counter, while later it can completely lock the opponent out of the game. Mono-U Tron will never be able to play something as mana intensive as Cryptic Command, simply because we can’t rely on having three blue mana when we need it every game.

2-3 Repeal

0-1 Cyclonic Rift

0-2 Spatial Contortion

Repeal can take care of any permanent for the right price, drawing us a card in the process. The versatile Cyclonic Rift can be a blowout when overloaded, which is usually no problem with our Tron mana. Spatial Contortion is a newer card that gives Tron players a colorless Lightning Bolt for our purposes, and can (very rarely) be used as a combat trick on our own creatures.

4 Thirst For Knowledge

0-2 Anticipate

0-2 Epiphany at the Drownyard

0-1 Gifts Ungiven

If our opponent passes the turn without giving us a spell to counter, we want to be able to do something to advance our game plan. Casting Thirst for Knowledge on the end step lets us reload our hand and, since we have such a high artifact count, we’re often only discarding one card. Don’t forget that any artifacts we pitch away can be grabbed later with Academy Ruins, so if you don’t have enough mana for that Mindslaver yet, toss it.

I am eager to test Supreme Will from Hour of Devastation. Contending with Mana Leak and Anticipate for a spot in my list, Supreme Will can do either for one more mana.

4 Expedition Map

1 Snapcaster Mage

1-3 Solemn Simulacrum

1-2 Chalice of the Void

Snapcaster Mage is one of the best blue cards ever printed, so it’s no surprise to see him make an appearance. Solemn Simulacrum is a serious value machine. Some U Tron players run Thought-Knot Seer in his place, but the prospect of recurring a sad robot with Academy Ruins is way too good to pass up. Since the only one-drop in our main is Expedition Map, we don’t have much to lose from running Chalice of the Void. It hoses Death’s Shadow, Affinity, Living End, Burn, and much more.

1 Oblivion Stone

1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

1-2 Treasure Mage

0-2 Fabricate

Oblivion Stone and Ugin are musts for the deck. We know how great they are in Gx Tron and they play the same role here. While Ugin cannot be fetched by Treasure Mage or Fabricate, there’s a whole arsenal of artifacts we can grab with these two tutors. Treasure Mage is nice because it has a 2/2 body, but you may want to run a Fabricate or two if you need to reliably fetch your Chalices, Maps, and Oblivion Stone. Here’s a list of the knockout punches U Tron can deliver:

1-2 Wurmcoil Engine

0-1 Batterskull

1 Platinum Angel

1-2 Mindslaver

0-1 Sundering Titan

0-1 Torrential Gearhulk

Wurmcoil Engine is one of the easiest finishers to cast while being one of the hardest to deal with. Batterskull plays a similar role and is one mana cheaper, but doesn’t profitably block Reality Smasher, Tasigur, or Death’s Shadow among others. Platinum Angel is a do-or-die last resort that can close games rapidly if your opponent can’t find an answer.

Mindslaver is the most exciting card in U Tron. Taking your opponent’s turn while they watch you fool around with their cards is a rewarding part of playing the deck. Once the Mindslaver lock is in action, there is no way for your opponent to get out of it. Just repeat until they concede or mill out of cards.

Sundering Titan is an old favorite for many Tron players. Manabases are so greedy in Modern that we can typically destroy two or three of our opponent’s lands whenever it triggers. However, since the completion of the fastland cycle in Kaladesh, players have been running fewer lands with basic types. Other recent additions to the format, such as Bant Eldrazi and their painlands, just don’t depend on shocklands. Lately I’ve preferred a second Wurmcoil in this slot, but if the field consists mostly of traditional three-color decks, Sundering Titan is no joke.

Torrential Gearhulk is a 5/6 Snapcaster Mage that can be brought back with Ruins. Double blue can make this tricky to cast at times, but flashing back a spell with Snapcaster has the same requirement. Our X spells are a bit of a nonbo, so if you’re running a Gearhulk I’d suggest moving away from Epiphany and Spell Burst. Aside from Condescend and Repeal, the rest of our instants play nice with Torrential. All things considered, flashing back a Condescend solely for the scry 2 isn’t a terrible ETB effect on your 5/6 for six.

A common mistake I’ve seen in U Tron lists is the addition of Karn Liberated because of how great he is in Gx Tron. Karn is wonderful, don’t get me wrong; it’s just that he’s better suited for a deck that is built to reliably cast him on turn three. A turn six or seven Karn can be incredibly underwhelming.

The Sideboard

Large amounts of creatures will usually be our downfall, so a few copies of Spatial Contortion and Dismember are a must. Silent Arbiter and Aetherize are decent cards to run if you hate wide aggro decks. If you need more chump blockers with upside, Filigree Familiar is the foxy child of Solemn Simulacrum and Bottle Gnomes, and can be abused with Academy Ruins.

Sideboard bullets we can use to hate out specific strategies include Surgical Extraction and Grafdigger’s Cage for decks that use the graveyard more than we do. Since we can tutor Ghost Quarter in a pinch, Surgical Extraction also lets us have more game versus Tron and Valakut decks. Spreading Seas does wonders against decks dependent on their lands and you can neutralize a Cavern of Souls to make sure your counterspells get through. Run a couple copies of Hurkyl’s Recall if Affinity is giving you a hard time.

It’s also nice to have some extra counterspells when they’re called for. Negate is my personal favorite; it beats out alternatives like Spell Pierce and Dispel for this spot, because we’ll often be putting a Chalice on one in various settings. Summary Dismissal is an odd card, but it has a lot of uses, from countering creatures cast with Cavern to stopping an Ulamog and his cast trigger. If there’s something on the stack you don’t like, take care of it with this.

Definitely complete your playset of Chalice of the Void in the sideboard, as knowing the magic number to cast this on for the decks you expect face can be lethal. Chalice will usually be on zero, one, or sometimes two, but with the Tron lands, it’s no problem getting X as high as five. If there are still open slots in your sideboard after all that, fill them up with spare copies of Wurmcoil or Mindslaver as you like. Don’t forget a second Gemstone Caverns.

Tips and Tricks

You’re usually going to need a blue source to keep an opening hand. Although it depends on the matchup, typically we require some interaction in our starting hand to survive.

A lot of the time, a single Mindslaver activation is enough to swing the game in your favor. You want to have your opponent lose as many cards as possible by making terrible plays. Good news if they happen to have an even life total with Spellskite in play, because we can activate Spellskite repeatedly in response to any spell or ability until they’re out of life. Even if you can’t cause a ton of damage, make the most of it by using a search effect, such as a fetchland, to inspect their list. No matter what you end up doing with their turn, be sure to tap all their mana sources at the end so they can’t play spells during your next turn.

Aggressive decks are obviously our worst type of matchup since we won’t always have enough resources to deal with their high threat density. When up against aggro, don’t be afraid to tap out for a turn four Solemn, especially if you can follow it up next turn with a Wurmcoil or Gearhulk. A timely Ugin or Platinum Angel can easily turn the corner in these games. In grindy midrange and control matches, it’s more practical for you to assemble the Mindslaver combo in the late game although Wurmcoil can still get the job done. Like Gx Tron, we have a lot of inevitability, so use this to your advantage.

After game 1, it’s not uncommon to board out some number of Expedition Maps for a few reasons. For example, if you plan to put a Chalice on one or are expecting a Stony Silence. On the draw against decks with discard spells, you’ll rarely have a chance to play your turn 1 Map anyway. If there’s room, you can leave a single Map in the deck since it can be tutored with Fabricate when you need it.

Why Mono U Tron?

Mono U Tron is a formidable deck to bring to any event seeing that it’s so under the radar. A lot of players won’t know what to expect out of the deck and those that do may underestimate it.

If we can land a Chalice on one versus Death’s Shadow through all the discard, we have a huge advantage. Eldrazi Tron is a favorable matchup, as long as we dodge their singleton Cavern of Souls, because many of their threats won’t stick. Just like G/x Tron, we handle the U/W Control and Company matchups with ease. When playing Mono U, watch out for Bant Eldrazi and Merfolk, two of our absolute worst matchups. Their constant Aether Vials and Caverns make our counterspells near useless, not to mention that we give our opponent’s fish free islandwalk. There’s just not a lot we could do against these tribal decks without giving up other matchups by using ridiculously narrow sideboard cards (Merfolk Assassin, anyone?).

That’s all I have for now, but hopefully I’ve given you a different perspective on Tron decks. (Make sure to take a look at my write-up of G/B Tron if you haven’t already). Whether you love or hate the Urza lands, Modern would not be the same without them.

Brandon Lunt is a Modern enthusiast from suburban Chicago who will happily play Magic anywhere he can drive. He has Top 8’d four NRG Championship Series CTQs in 2017 and currently sits in fifth place on the leaderboard.

 

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