Written by Sean Hume.
I made the decision to pilot a Tron deck at GP Brisbane quite late; after seemingly unsuccesful testing with an aggro Abzan list, I decided that I wanted to attack the meta from a different angle. I began testing G/W Tron feverishly on MTGO and quickly realised that Tron was very well positioned with everyone trying to find a home for Fatal Push - a card that the Tron deck literally doesn't care about. I considered G/B the entire time I was testing and kept asking myself, “Is Collective Brutality worth losing Path to Exile? What if Titanshift or Reality Smasher just kill me every round?” and finally I concluded that yes, it was much better against the majority of he field. It also allowed me to fight Burn, which is traditionally one of our worst match ups. However, it wasn't until a message from Matt Little three days before the GP effectively saying, “Dude, just do it!” before I finally caved and decided G/B was the list I wanted to pilot. After fighting through 16 rounds of magic and earning an invite to Pro Tour Amonkhet, I can't thank Matt enough for the push that helped me get there. And without further ado, here is my G/B Tron List:
3 Blooming Marsh
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Llanowar Wastes
1 Sanctum of Ugin
4 Urza's Mine
4 Urza's Power Plant
4 Urza's Tower
2 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
2 World Breaker
2 Wurmcoil Engine
Instants and Sorceries (12):
4 Ancient Stirrings
4 Collective Brutality
4 Sylvan Scrying
Other Spells (23):
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Chromatic Star
4 Expedition Map
4 Karn Liberated
3 Oblivion Stone
2 Relic of Progenitus
2 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
1 Crucible of Worlds
2 Engineered Explosives
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Grafdigger's Cage
3 Nature's Claim
2 Surgical Extraction
3 Warping Wail
I opted not to play any copies of Fatal Push in my 75 as I figured that Tron would be a reasonable percentage of the metagame and I didn't want to have any dead cards against them game one. Also, I already had game against the decks I would bring it in versus in game one anyway, due to cards like Karn Liberated, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, Wurmcoil Engine, and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. The list goes on - and let's not forget that Collective Brutality always has an application in some form game one.
Round 1 vs. R/G Titanshift (2-0)
This is a relatively bad match up for us since we aren't running the Path to Exile that W/G Tron gets, but of the three Scapeshift decks, this is probably the middle matchup; Bring to Light being the easiest and Titan-Breach being the most difficult. Even though this deck doesn't have the explosive kill potential that Through the Breach enables, Tron still finds it hard to interact with Prime Time's ETB doming us for 6 or 12 damage. However, unlike the Though the Breach version, our Warping Wails from the side are a lot more relevant since they allow us to stop our opponent's Scapeshift, which they rely on more than the Breach version.
Game one my opponent and I agreed on a two D6 high roll to decide who would start. I rolled double 6s and promptly decided it was my lucky day. The early turns of this matchup are incredibly unexciting, with one side trying to ramp into more lands and the other side trying to ramp into specific lands. The game progressed down a fairly straight forward route; my opponent played Prime Times, getting Valakut, the Mountain Pinnacle and/or Mountains, throwing bolts at my face doing first 6 then 12 damage, ultimately leaving my life total on 2. I responded with Karn Liberated to stop his Prime Times from attacking, then looped two Ulamogs back to back off a Sanctum of Ugin to remove his Valakuts and hit him for 20 over two turns, securing a win.
Game two my opponent ramped up to four lands with a Kalni Heart Expedition on one counter. If he drew a fetch land, he would have been able to crack it for two more counters, and then sacrifice Kalni Heart Expedition to Scapeshift for the win. Fortunately for me, he did not, so I promptly exiled his Kalni and a Valakut with an Ulamog trigger and cast a Collective Brutality, revealing that he did in fact have the Scapeshift in hand. By then it was too late, though. Two hits with Ulamog, and it was over.
Round 2 vs. Mono White Hatebears (1-2)
The Hatebears matchup for us is absolutely awful if you never draw an Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. The only reason this match was even 1-2 was because my opponent sat down across from me and told me “I've got a game loss - last round I had a bye and I had a deck registration error, so you win game one.” Spoiler alert: I then proceeded to get dumpstered by Brisbane's premier legacy Death and Taxes player. Everything about this deck is made to make us suffer: Aven Mindcensor, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Leonin Arbiter, Ghost Quarter...they have it all. All the schwifty plays in these two matches went to my opponent, the first of which being when I cracked my Oblivion Stone and he responded by dropping in a Fiend Hunter to eat his Aven Mindcensor and promptly dumped it back onto the board after the wipe, ensuring I was locked out of finding Tron, and to continue the steady procession of Ghost Quartering me back to the stone age. The second play was when he baited me into destroying two Aether Vials with an Engineered Explosives, only to drop a third and watch me face palm while I slowly lost the ability to play the game. Kudos to my opponent; he definitely schooled me – a casual legacy Death and Taxes player- on the art of playing the deck.
Round 3 vs. Naya Burn (2-1)
Traditionally a bad match up for Tron, but not so much when you have arguably the best card in the format against them - Collective Brutality - in your deck.
My opponent won the dice roll here and played a turn one Goblin Guide, which on my turn two I ate with a Collective Brutality escalated twice, taking a Boros Charm and draining for two. The value from the Collective Brutality allowed me to stave him off until I got an Ugin on the board, and two upticks and an ultimate later from the Daddy Dragon himself, I well and truly had the game locked.
Game two went reasonably similarly although I had to pass the turn back to my opponent on 1 life with a Wurmcoil Engine out, and he pulled the Lava Spike off top... you know, you can't be upset about a 50% chance topdeck.
Game three I kept a hand with two Collective Brutality and a Thragtusk in it with no way of getting Tron online, but I was fairly confident this was fine. After linking together the Brutalities, I dropped the Thragtusk, taking myself back to 18 life, and then proceeded to strip my opponent's hand of resources with a follow-up Karn Liberated. Three hits with the Thragtusk and it was over. Ultimately, post-sideboard I believe this match up is very winnable if not even favourable.
Round 4 vs. Jeskai Control/Burn (2-1)
This is the matchup we want to see all day; control decks have an incredibly hard time against us because of all of our unforgiving cast triggers, and if we ever land a planeswalker, we gain too much incremental advantage for out opponents to handle most of the time. All in all, this is a very favorable matchup for us. When sideboarding, remember to bring in Nature's Claim as a hedge against Stony Silence, and swap out Wurmcoil Engine for Thragtusk as they are better against Path to Exile.
Game one my opponent took the play and proceeded to go for a heavy burn strategy - Snapcaster Mages, Lightning Bolts, and Lightning Helixes all went to the face while I struggled to assemble Tron. My Expedition Maps and Sylvan Scryings kept getting caught in Mana Leaks and Spell Snares. I finally stabilised on 6 with a Worldbreaker on field to block his Restoration Angel. I decided to go on the offensive as I was two swings off lethal with Worldbreaker, and he was mumbling something about needing to draw a burn spell. Turns out he had a second Angel in hand and flashed it out for lethal; my fault for listening to what my opponent is saying and thinking they're telling the truth.
Game two my opponent became quite upset with me when I floated a green in response to his Blood Moon and Nature's Claimed it after resolution. “You hedged for that? I'm playing three colors!” I responded with “Stony Silence,” and he resigned that it was a fair enough hedge. An Ulamog or two later and he conceded the game before proceeding to sideboard in what I believe were his stony silences he didn't have the foresight to bring in game 2.
Game three my opponent stalled the game on the turn I got Tron by slamming a Blood Moon. It was a turn where I had managed to assemble Tron, but without enough mana to drop a threat. I was left with three Mountains and not a lot else while my opponent sat behind a Blood Moon and a Stony Silence. Funnily enough, he had four non-basics and sat there drawing spells and discarding for four turns while I ripped land after land until I hard cast Ugin on turn eight. The game ended shortly after an Ugin ultimate.
Round 5 vs. Eldrazi Tron (1-2)
Even though we're both Tron decks, the strategies are different enough here that one is clearly favored, and that deck is Eldrazi Tron. Effectively what happens here almost every game is either the non-Eldrazi list manages to slam a Karn on turn three uninterupted -usually on the play- and then they have a fighting chance, or both decks tutor up their Ghost Quarters and it turns into a slog-fest. The Eldrazi deck wins the grind as they have the alternate strategy of playing Eldrazi Temples and dropping Thought-Knot Seers and Reality Smashers that disrupt you and are difficult to remove. The addition of Walking Balista and Basilisk Collar in these Eldrazi Tron lists is incredibly powerful and has really helped solidify the strategy as a whole.
Game one my opponent took the play and stuck two Thought-Knot Seers back to back on turns two and three. Ouch. My opponent hit me for four and then eight, leaving me on 8 life before I stuck and cracked an Oblivion Stone. Reality Smasher hit the board and took me down to 3 before I was able to remove it with with a Karn from my hand. I passed the turn back to my opponent, and he tanked for a minute or so before placing another Smasher on the board and apologizing for tanking. He was sincere enough, so I didn't mind being slow rolled for the win - sometimes we just make those mistakes.
Game two went better for me s I was able to land a Crucible of Worlds to outgrind my opponent. my Collective Brutalities, a Blooming Marsh, and Ugins were sideboarded out for Thragtusks, Crucible, Surgical Extractions, and a second Ghost Quarter. Thragtusk did work here due to its ability to trade with both Reality Smasher and Thought-Knot Seer and leave me with a 3/3 to keep pushing the advantage against my opponents superior value. After a long and arduous game, I came out the victor.
Game three was a butchery: turn two Thought-Knot Seer, turn three Reality Smasher, turn 4 double Thought-Knot Seer. My opponent left me feeling like Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Mimic were still legal in the format.
Round 6 vs. Esper Control 2-0
This was a deck I expected going into the GP because I often saw it online, along with U/B Fairies as people attempted to break Fatal Push in the format. It was also part of the reason I decided to play Tron in the first place; just like against the Jeskai control deck, we are favoured in the matchup. Our sideboard strategy is much the same as against Jeskai as they run the same cards to try and shut us down. Luckily for us, without the clock that Lightning Bolt and Lightning Helix provide, they struggle to have any real way to win against us.
I was on the play game one and after slamming two threats into counter spells, I finally got an Ugin to resolve. I kept his Creeping Tar Pit at bay with a Ghost Quarter until Ugin was in ultimate range and did the big -10. My opponent declared that he was going to scoop, but he just wanted to see what I dropped, so I told him like it was: I was going to drop a bunch of lands and a second Ugin, and then cast the Ulamog from my hand sacrificing my Sanctum to go get another Ulamog. He conceded that was plenty good enough and shuffled up for game two.
Game two I managed to catch his turn two Stony Silence with a Nature's Claim and from turn four onwards stripped his lands back with a procession of Worldbreakers and Ulamog cast triggers into a relatively easy win.
Round 7 vs. R/W Hatebears (2-0)
As we already know, hatebears is a pretty horrible match up, and this game was no different. My opponent's list was quite interesting. As he was running R/W, he had Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile as well as some dinky little creatures like Pia and Kirin Nalaar to drop in off his Aether Vials. They real haymaker here from my opponent was the main board Fulminator Mages he was casually running.
Game one I took the play and managed to drop a Wurmcoil into Karn. The Wurmcoil ate a Path and the Karn ate a Lightning Bolt. Eventually I stuck an Ugin and removed everything but my opponent's 1/1 Thopter token. From there on out, Ugin's +2 kept all his creatures at bay and won me the game even though he destroyed my Urza's Tower with Fulminator Mage and kept me off Tron.
Game two my opponent made an interesting decision to sit back on a Fulminator Mage, using it to attack to try and gain value before passing the turn to me, allowing me to move to my main phase and play my last Tron land. He then tried to stop me and destroy my Tower, but I informed him that's not how priority works and cast an Ugin. From there I used Ugin's -3 to wrath the board of his Fulminator Mage and Kitchen Finks - another interesting card in his list - and from there on out, Ugin kept his entire deck at bay, winning me the game.
Round 8 vs. Kiki/Evolution Chord (2-1)
Of all the variants of the Chord of Calling combo decks, the Eldritch Evolution is my least favourite. It just seems clumsy and ungainly, and the loss of value from Eldritch Evolution seems bad when you have Chord of Calling and Collected Company in the format. All in all I think the deck is pretty good, but only without Eldritch Evolution.
Game one my opponent kept a low land high dork hand, not knowing what I was playing. As the game wore on and I noticed he was sitting back on two Razorverge Thickets and a few Birds of Paradise/Wall of Roots, I went straight for my Oblivion Stone and left my opponent miles behind. When my opponent is playing a Voice of Resurgence for his turn while I am dropping Worldbreaker, I'm feeling pretty good. From there on out my opponent struggled to recover.
Game two I don't remember much, but I do remember the outcome: lots of Angels. Theorietically infinite Angels.
Game three my opponent failed to put the pressure on early, and we created a stalemate where he couldn't swing through my Worldbreakers with his Restoration Angels while I tried going to town with a Thragtusk. I cast Ulamog, hitting two of my opponents remaining four red sources, and he flipped the top card of his library and conceded. All in all I think the entire round lasted about fifteen minutes.
Round 9 vs. Ad Nauseum (2-1)
This is a match up I considered unfavourable simply because sometimes you're not going to be able to stop your opponent from killing you, but the more I play it the more I have come to the opinion that their inconsistency doesn't quite compete with our consistency. More often than not we can succeed at our game plan, which in this case is attacking their resources before they get to go off and win. Either way when my opponent played a Temple of Deceit against me turn one, I let out an audible sigh. Ad Nauseum is powerful, but I am in no way a fan of the deck.
Game one my opponent got to double suspend Lotus Bloom turn one, and was off to a good start. I fought back with a Collective Brutality on turn two taking his Ad Nauseum, and followed it up with a turn three Karn, but my opponent managed to draw another Ad Nauseum and win. I wish there was more to write about this game, but sadly there isn't; that's just the deck.
Game two I utilised the Nature's Claims from my sideboard to remove my opponent's Leyline of Sanctity on turn one to start dismantling his hand with my Collective Brutalities. After I felt sufficiently safe from the combo, I stripped back his hand and permanents with Karn, and closed the game out with an Ulamog.
Game three my opponent got the turn one suspended Lotus Bloom as well as the turn zero Leyline of Sanctity. Off to a bad start. I hit a Pentad Prism turn two to try and keep my opponent low on mana. My Karn on turn three was feeling pretty miserable as all I could do was hit a land or a Leyline. I opted to hit the land even though passing back to my opponent meant he would get the Lotus Bloom and have the option to play another land, giving him six mana total, which is enough for Angel's Grace and Ad Nauseum - but I had no choice. Thankfully my opponent failed to combo and two back to back Ulamogs left my opponent on 9 life with no permanents in play. I asked if he wanted to concede, and he replied with, “No, I have a Laboratory Maniac in hand, so if I draw a Lotus Bloom, I win.” Confused, I hit him another time with Ulamog and ended day one 7-2.
Check back in a few days to read part two of Sean Hume's tournament report from GP Brisbane, covering Day Two of the GP and his Top 8 knockout.