4-Color Tron in Pauper Constructed

Introduction

Hi, I go by Avignon on Magic Online, and I recently brewed a sweet Pauper deck that I’d like to write about.

I went infinite on Magic Online largely by playing Pauper, so the format has a special place in my heart. Still, I didn’t play much of the format since the first wave of new bannings; the Temporal Fissure decks were just too miserable to play with and against. Ironically, the format was far less degenerate with Empty the Warrens and Grapeshot in the format, because the fast storm decks that attacked on angles (rituals and 1/1s) that were relatively easy to interact with hated out the Cloud of Faeries decks capable of overwhelming any kind of hate with their card advantage engines. It’s far easier to beat a Storm deck that gets its storm count by playing rituals than it is to beat a storm deck that storms by just having 20 mana and playing Compulsive Researches. In the pre-banning format, I loved to play various Cloudpost control decks; post-banning, they were almost unplayable. Being proactive was just too important.

So naturally, I was pretty excited to hear that Temporal Fissure was going to be banned. I wasn’t as happy that Cloudpost was going too, but thought it was understandable. Still, now that the primary nemesis of durdlers everywhere was gone, I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from casting Mulldrifters.

In my mind, the biggest problem with control decks in Pauper is that the best control cards are all fairly inefficient. There aren’t any Wrath of Gods, Pyroclasms, or Sphinx’s Revelations at common; while there’s good removal and good card draw, it’s all relatively low-impact or expensive. Because of that, most control decks need to run a lot of lands and a lot of 1-for-1s, which leaves them very vulnerable to flood when they don’t draw the right mix of cards. The Cloudpost control decks avoided these problems by naturally generating a lot of mana with an artificially small manabase that included 4 great utility lands. Their excess of mana also let them play cards like Firebolt that are extremely powerful but too clunky for a fair mana base. Because of these factors, I felt that big mana was still the clear best direction for a control deck in the new format. Luckily, despite banning Cloudpost, R&D was considerate enough to leave Urzatron in the format.

The question then, was how best to utilize Tron. Tron clearly functions completely differently from Cloudpost, so it was impossible just to reuse the old control shells. The three big distinctions that Tron has are that it requires 4 more colorless land slots, doesn’t come with any utility lands, and greatly benefits from having only colorless lands in play. The first two points highlight Tron’s inconsistency, but the last point is the most important because it means that Tron decks can’t play like a normal deck. A Cloudpost deck could play basics whenever it wanted because all it needed to do to “break” Cloudpost was to eventually play a Glimmerpost. With a Tron deck, every basic that you play is another turn that you don’t have Tron. Therefore, it’s paramount that a Tron deck can function entirely with Tron lands in play. It’s not enough to just play Tron and some Prophetic Prisms; you need to structure your entire deck around it.

The primary payoff is that Tron is capable of generating significantly more mana than Cloudpost when it comes together. Barring crazy draws with multiple Cloudposts or very late games, a Cloudpost control deck that hits all its land drops is usually only 2 or 3 mana ahead of its opposition. Furthermore, because it only played 4 Cloudpost and 4 Expedition Map, it often had games where it didn’t have a Cloudpost until the midgame. Tron plays far more lands that can potentially produce more than 1 mana, and a Turn 3 Tron puts the Tron player 4 mana ahead of its opponent. That said, Cloudpost is clearly the better engine for a number of reasons; we’re looking at Tron because we have no alternatives. Nonetheless, it’s important to recognize Tron’s advantages as well as its disadvantages.

The Maindeck

So, recognizing all this, how are we going to build our deck? Luckily, there’s another format where Tron sees play: Modern.

4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower
4 Expedition Map
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Chromatic Star
4 Ancient Stirrings

This is the core of Modern Tron decks and is a fine place to start. The first 24 cards are obvious enough, though my inclusion of Ancient Stirrings may raise questions. Without Sylvan Scrying, it’s not obvious that our deck should play green and more apparently powerful cards like Preordain and Ponder are available in Pauper. And unlike Modern, there aren’t powerful colorless threats for Ancient Stirrings to find. However, assembling the three pieces of Tron is hard, and Ancient Stirrings just sees so many cards. At the beginning of the game, assembling Tron is by far the highest priority and the extra two cards Ancient Stirrings sees are worth quite a lot. Furthermore, with cards like Chromatic Sphere and Chromatic Star in the deck, traditionally more powerful card selection spells like Preordain and Ponder are significantly weaker. If you Preordain and just see cantrips on top, what advantage are you really getting by putting them on the bottom? Preordain only becomes significantly better than Ancient Stirrings after you’ve already assembled Tron and are looking for a threat, but winning after assembling Tron is the easy part.

After this, it’s clear that we need to play at least 8 more lands, so our deck can function when we don’t have Tron. Since Expedition Map can’t find Glimmerpost, some of these lands need to be utility lands to mitigate flood. Since we’re designing our deck to function entirely off of colorless mana, playing more colorless lands isn’t a huge sacrifice. Because we’re primarily fetching for our utility lands with Expedition Map, it’s clearly best to play a mix of the available options. We’d like to play basics as well, though it’s not yet clear what colors they need to be. However, before we round out the manabase, we need to figure out exactly what we’d like our deck to do so we know what holes we’d like our utility lands to cover and just how much flexibility we have with colorless lands.

Now that we’ve set ourselves up to play Tron on Turn 3 and rocket ahead on mana, we need to pick the best way to make use of our mana advantage. We’d like to survive against aggressive decks so we have time to set up Tron, but we’d also like to be proactive against midrange and control decks. With 4 Ancient Stirrings, 4 Expedition Map, 20 land, and at least 8 cards that cycle, we’re playing an extremely high effective land count. So we need all of our cards to be very high-impact. Our defensive cards need to proactively generate an advantage, and our win conditions need to be able to win games on their own. To me, this 12-card defensive suite is the best answer to the first part of the problem:

4 Mulldrifter
4 Sea Gate Oracle
4 Firebolt

In my opinion, these are the three marquee control cards in Pauper. While they’re all are slightly inefficient for the effect they provide, they all generate card advantage while keeping you alive and ensure that you don’t run out of gas. While more powerful, efficient cards like Flame Slash are tempting, the extra damage often isn’t relevant in the early game, and Firebolt provides the same effect in the late-game when mana is no object. Against aggressive decks that run an extremely low land count or mono-black decks with cards like Chittering Rats and Phyrexian Rager, playing 1-for-1s virtually or literally leaves you down cards. This was more palatable in Cloudpost decks, as they had less mana and could afford to play far more card draw, but I think that giving up efficiency for power is necessary sacrifice when playing Tron.

We already have cards of three different colors. While the cyclers enable this to an extent, it’s clear that we need to play:

4 Prophetic Prism

I think Prophetic Prism is a card that’s deceptively powerful, and in practice it facilitates the greedy manabase of the deck better than could possibly be imagined. After the Tron lands, Prophetic Prism is by far the best card to find with Ancient Stirrings. The two-mana investment is nothing with Tron, and it provides additional ways to play spells off of a Turn 3 Tron.

After the Prophetic Prisms, we have 8 slots remaining. While Mulldrifter and Sea Gate Oracle are certainly capable of attacking, it’s unlikely that they’ll win games on their own, so we’ll need some dedicated win conditions. From past experience with Cloudpost decks, I was also interested in playing a fifth removal spell and a ninth card draw spell:

3 Fangren Marauder
1 Ulamog’s Crusher
2 Rolling Thunder
1 Compulsive Research
1 Flame Slash

There isn’t much to say about this section other than that I’ve tried a lot of different cards in a lot of different combinations and that this is what that came to. Fangren Marauder is by far the best win condition because it turns boardstates that are solidly unfavorable to extremely favorable. Unsurprisingly, the deck often falls behind in the process of finding Tron and there aren’t plays like Karn Liberated, Oblivion Stone, or Wurmcoil Engine available to bring the board back to parity in Pauper. Fangren Marauder is usually worth 10 or more life in addition to the 5/5 the turn it comes down and is the closest approximation available for these other effects/cards. Ulamog’s Crusher earns its place because a 5/5 sometimes won’t cut it against more robust midrange decks like Mono-White or Tokens. The Crusher is the best finisher in a vacuum because it can be taken with Ancient Stirrings, but it’s unfortunately insufficient in a lot of board states against aggressive decks. It’s too easy for aggressive decks to just sacrifice two lands, take a hit, and swing for lethal. Still, the single copy towers over stalled boards and is well worth it.

Rolling Thunder is there to provide inevitability. Because the other finishers are all vulnerable to removal, a Fireball is necessary to give the deck some resilience. Mulldrifters can do a decent amount of damage but they will rarely do the full 20, especially against life gain, and Rolling Thunder can finish the job. Despite its more difficult mana cost, Rolling Thunder wins over Kaervek’s Torch because it’s a far better card to play in a normal game. Against creature decks, a Rolling Thunder for 5 or 6 is often enough to lock up the game, when a Kaervek’s Torch would just be a removal spell. Two copies are necessary so that there’s still one to topdeck if the other gets drawn early on and gets taken by discard. I originally played Aurochs Herd in this spot to overpower removal spells, but they were far too expensive against decks that weren’t interested in controlling the board.

Flame Slash and Compulsive Research are by far the best cards purely in their respective roles and round out the deck. It would be reasonable to play a Serrated Arrows over Flame Slash so that Ancient Stirrings has a chance of finding a removal spell and to give the deck some way of interacting with Spellstutter Sprites at instant speed. However, unless Delver gets astronomically more popular, I think that it’s reasonable to err on the side of efficiency over power in this one case. It’s very easy to play Flame Slash in addition to another spell and catch up against a scary board, while Serrated Arrows is expensive and slow.

Now that we have our spells, we need to sort out the rest of our mana base. After scouring the list available nonbasics, this is what I came up with:

1 Haunted Fengraf
1 Quicksand
1 Khalni Garden
1 Remote Isle

Haunted Fengraf is the best land to get in grindy matchups and Remote Isle guarantees that Expedition Maps at least cycle. Quicksand lets Expedition Map double as a removal spell, which is especially valuable against Kiln Fiends and ninjutsu creatures. Khalni Garden is the last land and could arguably be cut, but it lets Expedition Map find a chump blocker and is reasonable as a second target against black decks. Most black decks in the current metagame are heavy on Edicts and light on sweepers, so the 0/1 token will often trade for a full card. The cost is also relatively low as it produces green mana and the high density of 1-drops lets tapped lands slide easily into the curve. Playing four utility lands also means that Expedition Map will almost always have something useful to find; games commonly go long enough that you’ll naturally draw multiple utility lands.

Remote Isle takes its place over the other options because blue is the best color of mana to have in the midgame. You would have to play Smoldering Crater early on to make use of the colored mana for a removal spell, while you’d usually like to hold your cycling land to see whether you really need to play it. With Remote Isle, you can wait until Turn 2 or 4 and decide whether you need the natural blue mana or can afford to cycle it instead. Green mana isn’t nearly important enough to justify Slippery Karst.

That leaves us room for 3 basics, as we’ll need a Shimmering Grotto as well. Though Shimmering Grotto is slightly unfortunate to draw, being able to fix every color off of a single Expedition Map is too valuable of an option to give up. We could also play more utility lands, but our manabase is already pushing it and we could use some consistency. A basic forest is likely unnecessary as our green cards need to be played very early or don’t need to be played until very late, so we’re unlikely to ever search for it over Khalni Garden and Shimmering Grotto, if at all. A basic Island is necessary to cast Sea Gate Oracle off of Expedition Map in more fair draws, and a basic Mountain is necessary to facilitate Rolling Thunder in the late game. The last land could be an Island or Mountain, but there’s already a second natural blue source in the deck because of Remote Isle and it’s far more important to cast the red removal spells early. So we can finish our deck as follows:

2 Mountain
1 Island
1 Shimmering Grotto

In summary, this is our maindeck:

The Sideboard

Because the deck has relatively easy access to all five colors of mana and has access to limitless colorless mana, it’s free to run almost whatever it needs in the sideboard. In fact, I’d say that the sideboard of this deck is by far its biggest selling point. The exact best sideboard to run is highly dependent on the metagame, including what cards other people are playing in their sideboard, so take the following recommendations with a grain of salt. However, I think that the following 15 cards offer the deck a number of great options in an open metagame. I approached the sideboard looking to play a mix of powerful haymakers for the deck’s bad matchups and flexible role-players for its good ones:

3 Circle of Protection: Red
3 Circle of Protection: Green
2 Serrated Arrows
2 Pyroblast
1 Arc Lightning
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Ray of Revelation
1 Flame Slash
1 Fangren Marauder

The exact sideboard cards could and likely should change from day to day, given the time and determination to constantly adjust it to the whims of the metagame. That said, I think that the distribution of cards for a few specific matchups is relatively rigid, so I think it’s still worth treating the cards in turn and explaining their presence.

3 Circle of Protection: Red
3 Circle of Protection: Green

Read the Circles of Protection. Notice that they don’t target. Thanks to weird old rules text, the Circles of Protection often just cold decks that try to kill you by making a giant monster, like Kiln Fiend and Hexproof, which are two of the worst matchups. Though the Circles have become slightly more common lately, they’re still very rarely played relative to their power level. This is due to the combination of several factors. The biggest one is that in most fair decks, the mana required to activate the Circles is actually a significant cost. The aggro decks in Pauper invariably run such low land counts that the control decks have to skimp as well, so spending 3 or 4 mana each turn keeps them from playing other spells as the attacking player eventually overwhelms their land count. This is obviously much less of a concern with Tron. The second one is that many decks don’t actually have inevitability even with a Circle in play. If a Hexproof deck assembles a 10/10 with reach and lifelink, it’s difficult for most decks to win even with a Circle, putting the control deck in the awkward position of needing to dig for mana and being afraid of decking. Again, because we play Rolling Thunders and have total freedom as to when to use them in these matchups, this isn’t an issue. The third factor is that the best white cards in Pauper are generally fairly poor for control decks. Once again, we get to cheat.

The Achilles’ heel of the Circles is obviously that if they draw an answer to one that you’re relying on, you lose the game on the spot. However, if you look at the sideboards of Kiln Fiend and Hexproof decks, you’ll notice that most players don’t run a single way to deal with a Circle of Protection! Sideboard space is valuable in a format as diverse as Pauper and Circles are so rare that this is likely a good decision on the part of these pilots, but it’s a hole that can be brutally exploited.

If this trend changes in the future, these cards can and should be replaced either for more removal like Innocent Blood or more direct hate such as Serene Heart and Hydroblast. However, obviously, Circles have powerful applications against other, more fringe decks like burn and Infect, so the tides would need to shift dramatically to make such changes worthwhile.

Be careful, however. The Circles shouldn’t come in against decks that are actually capable of overwhelming them, like Goblins, or are likely to bring in enchantment removal anyway, like Stompy. While it’s fine to bring in a copy or two for value depending on how your opponent plays, I think it’s wrong to bring in all three copies in either matchup and it’s certainly wrong to treat a Circle as the end of the game. Even against a deck like Kiln Fiend, it’s good to be cautious. If you suspect your opponent to have Flaring Pain, and some will, then it’s necessary to leave in a card like Rolling Thunder that you’d otherwise board out as a means of “closing” the game before they find their answer. Against Hexproof, some players will bring in Standard Bearers (white creatures) just to dodge Circle of Protection: Green, so you may need to leave in removal.

2 Serrated Arrows
1 Arc Lightning
1 Flame Slash

These serve as additional removal against aggressive decks. Because the removal in the maindeck is mostly cheap and the creature bases in most Pauper aggro decks inherently generate card advantage, whether though Mogg War Marshal, Squadron Hawk, or Spellstutter Sprite, I like playing powerful, splashy cards in these slots. The split between Serrated Arrows and Arc Lightning is because I think drawing a single copy of each is so much better than drawing two Serrated Arrows that the cost of drawing only Arc Lightning is well worthwhile. However, Serrated Arrows is the more powerful card by far, not only because it interacts at instant speed but also because it cuts off future plays.

The singleton Flame Slash is there because I think there are several decks where having a Flame Slash is very important, the biggest one being Affinity, against which I like being able to board up to two copies. However, it shouldn’t come in against just any aggressive deck. If you overload the deck with removal, you can very easily find yourself flooded.

2 Pyroblast

These serve as stack interaction against decks with countermagic and also additional answers for Nivix Cyclops. I’m playing two copies primarily because that’s exactly the number I want to bring in against Delver decks. While the card is obviously very powerful, playing it requires multiple colored mana and usually involves resolving several color fixers, which isn’t always easy. Because of this, it’s far more of a mid- to late-game play and drawing multiples is bad more often than not. Still, it’s important enough and powerful enough that drawing the first copy can be the difference between winning and losing.

1 Fangren Marauder

This space belonged to a third Rolling Thunder for a long time. The basic idea behind it is that I want to take out exactly one card – Flame Slash – for exactly one card – another win condition – against mono-black decks. While Rolling Thunder is obviously the best card in that capacity, I recently switched to a fourth Fangren Marauder because I realized that resolving a Fangren Marauder actually instantly wins the game against Affinity decks. Because the card advantage engine in this deck is so strong, it’s perfectly realistic to overload a mono-black deck’s removal, so the swap only gives up a small edge in a good matchup.

1 Ancient Grudge
1 Ray of Revelation

I like to bring in a single copy of one or both of these cards for value in a wide range of matchups. A surprising number of decks in Pauper make use of artifacts or enchantments to meet the limitations of their colors, and having an Ancient Grudge to bring in against mono-blue or a Ray of Revelation to bring in against RW or UW midrange is very valuable. Of course, playing too much of this effect leads to dead cards too often. I’ve been happy with a miser’s copy of both. The deck commonly sees so many cards that the one copy can have a huge impact.

As a closing note, I’d like to repeat that although I’ve put quite a lot of work into my sideboard and would highly recommend it, there’s a ton of flexibility, I’m only human, and experimentation will likely be rewarded.

Sideboarding

Although Pauper is too wide a format to discuss all of the possible matchups in depth and provide detailed sideboarding guides for each, I think that giving a few sample sideboard plans would be good to illustrate the way I approach sideboarding with this deck and my attitudes with it toward the general metagame.

In my mind, Pauper decks can be broken down broadly into four kinds of decks: Delver, aggro, midrange, and combo. Aggro includes everything from Stompy to Goblins, midrange everything from White Weenie to Mono-Black, and combo primarily includes Kiln Fiend and Hexproof. For example, I’ll give my plans against Delver, Goblins, mono-black, and Kiln Fiend. I’d classify the current popular Affinity lists as decidedly midrange, though the dynamic of the matchup is so different from that of other midrange decks that I’d like to address it separately.

Delver
-1 Flame Slash
-1 Compulsive Research
-1 Ulamog’s Crusher
-2 Rolling Thunder
-2 Ancient Stirrings

+2 Serrated Arrows
+1 Arc Lightning
+1 Ancient Grudge
+1 Fangren Marauder
+2 Pyroblast

Delver lists vary so widely that it’s important to sideboard and play primarily based upon the cards that your opponent shows you. If your opponent plays Frostburn Weirds and Stormbound Geists, then you want Flame Slashes. If your opponent doesn’t play Spire Golems or doesn’t appear to be playing 4, then you don’t want Ancient Grudge. If your opponent plays Bonesplitters, then you very much want Ancient Grudge.

Still, this sideboard plan is a good indicator of what cards I consider to be important and what cards I don’t. Because their deck is capable of generating so much tempo, it’s important to slim down the mana curve. At first, I was concerned about running out of win conditions against hard counters, but in practice they’ll typically spend counters on your Mulldrifters and Prophetic Prisms so worrying about the super-late game is unnecessary. At least, it’s certainly not worth compromising the early game over. Fangren Marauder is usually enough to overwhelm their small creatures and gets you back into games where you’re behind (that is, most of them), so it’s the best win condition. In matchups where I bring in a lot of removal, I like to trim Ancient Stirrings because the manafixers will primarily be used to cast removal spells, which in turn makes Stirrings hard to cast and somewhat clunky.

Playing the matchup is primarily about constraining their mana and keeping them from getting value from their Spellstutter Sprites. Becuase most Delver decks play a very low land count and need to play some creatures on their own turn, they typically can only leave up 2 mana at a time. Because of this, you typically want to save your spells until you can cast two or three or four on the same turn and punish them for using a counterspell. Games where you have Tron are typically very favorible, and games where they have a Turn 1 Delver of Secrets are typically unfavorable. Being on the play is a tremendous advantage because it means you have two turns to resolve 1-drops under Spellstutter Sprite.

That said, if your hand doesn’t do much, you’re under pressure, and you don’t have Tron, definitely just play your spells. They don’t always have it, and you don’t want to lose the games where they don’t. And if they have it, you often won’t win by waiting anyway.

Mono-Black
-1 Flame Slash

+1 Fangren Marauder

That’s it. Against other midrange decks, you’ll have a few more cards you want to bring in and I’ll usually take out Ancient Stirrings for them, because it’s by far the weakest of the Tron enablers and as such the best way to reduce the effective land count. The gameplay, however, is largely the same. Against decks that give you time to assemble Tron, you typically just assemble Tron and win because your deck does more powerful things more quickly than theirs. These matchups are the most compelling reasons to play the deck, especially because these decks are quite popular at the moment. While they aren’t quite unloseable, you’re heavily favored across the board.

Affinity
-1 Compulsive Research
-1 Rolling Thunder
-1 Firebolt

+1 Fangren Marauder
+1 Ancient Grudge
+1 Flame Slash

Affinity is like other midrange decks in that you’ll typically have time to assemble Tron, but unlike them in that they can actually beat you when you do. While I think the Atog + Fling combo is gratuitous most of the time and bad the rest, it’s quite good here. Because you also give them so much time, they can assemble a critical mass of cards and burn you out over the top of whatever you’re doing. Because of this, the matchup revolves primarily around resolving a Fangren Marauder as quickly as possible. As such, all of the Tron enablers are sacrosanct. Firebolt and Rolling Thunder are both much worse than usual because their creatures are so large, and Compulsive Research is a little slow. I like leaving in a single Rolling Thunder because Fangren Marauder often can’t attack, when Rolling Thunder can break the game open. However, it’s possible that there’s enough removal in the maindeck that leaving in the Compulsive Research to maximize the chance of an early Fangren Marauder is better.

Goblins
-2 Ancient Stirrings
-1 Compulsive Research
-1 Ulamog’s Crusher
-1 Rolling Thunder

+2 Serrated Arrows
+1 Arc Lightning
+1 Flame Slash
+1 Fangren Marauder

The aggro matchups with this deck are fairly bad as a whole, as your interaction is almost entirely sorcery speed and fairly clunky, because it usually needs to be played off cyclers. If they draw the perfect mix of lands and spells, it’s very tough to win. However, if they stumble or flood or mulligan, you can decisively punish them. Furthermore, the current popularity of midrange decks has strongly suppressed aggressive decks.

Goblins is likely the worst matchup of the available aggressive decks because spot removal is so weak against it, but the sideboarding is almost the same for all of them. Unlike the combo matchups, there aren’t any extremely potent sideboard options. It’s just a matter of trimming the curve as much as possible, playing all of the removal, and hoping to draw well.

Kiln Fiend
+3 Circle of Protection: Red
+2 Pyroblast
+1 Flame Slash

-2 Ancient Stirrings
-1 Ulamog’s Crusher
-2 Rolling Thunder
-1 Compulsive Research

This sideboarding assumes that Circle of Protection: Red wins the game on the spot. Pyroblast is slightly narrow, but Nivix Cyclops is their best card by such a wide margin that it’s good to bring it in. Firebolt and Quicksand make it relatively unlikely that either Kiln Fiend or Delver of Secrets will win the game. Fangren Marauder is a better win condition than Ulamog’s Crusher because it closes the game against a flipped Delver of Secrets, and there’s so much removal in the deck post-board that neither the annihilate nor the larger body matter.

If the opposition has Flaring Pain or Echoing Truth, it’s necessary to keep in the two Rolling Thunders over likely a Firebolt and a Fangren Marauder.

Some Closing Advice

Because so much of the deck cycles and the cards all have unique, wildly different effects, this deck is fairly tricky to play. There aren’t any useful shortcuts, and it’s worth playing the deck a lot to get good sense of all of the matchups and interactions.

That said, I have a few tips for those looking to pick up the deck.

The biggest piece of advice is to recognize that your opening hand is only a fraction of the cards you’ll see in a game and will likely only be a fraction of the cards you’ll need to function. The deck needs a lot of different pieces to work and trying to find Tron too aggressively will lead to a shortage of some resource. As a general rule, I’ll keep almost any hand that uses all of its mana on the first two turns or has a Tron piece and Prophetic Prism. I’ll keep every hand that has Tron on Turn 3. Unlike the Modern Tron deck which plays as a hybrid ramp/combo deck, this deck is primarily a control deck, and cards are important. Even if it doesn’t look like a hand does much, if it’s only missing a piece or two then it’s worth putting a little faith in the heart of the cards.

Keep sideboarding light. Like most linear decks, this deck won’t function if too much of the core goes missing. Even if it seems like a sideboard card is super powerful and should certainly be in the deck, it will often be worse than something innocuous like an Ancient Stirrings in the grand scheme of things. For instance, against Black-Blue Control decks, unless the opponent shows a ton of countermagic, it’s barely worth bringing in the first copy of Pyroblast and certainly isn’t worth bringing in the second.

Pay attention to how your opponent plays against you. For the time being at least, this deck is fairly rare and different players will approach the matchup in radically different ways. Some players will leave in Daze, some won’t; some players will board in artifact removal, some players won’t; some players will board in Pyroblast, some players won’t. Even against the same deck, the matchup can be radically different: Shimmering Grotto will be more or less important, Prophetic Prism will be a great bait spell or a mana sink, it can be important to save Mulldrifters until it won’t matter whether they get countered. This is especially true against decks that are less established. This deck always has a lot of powerful options and there’s value in making use of all of them.

Cycle aggressively if hitting a certain card is important, save the mana fixing if reasonable plays are available. This is by far the most nebulous piece of advice and is largely a direction to get a feel for exactly how valuable additional information is against having cyclers in play to cast multiple colored spells or gain life with Fangren Marauder. For instance, on the turn you hit Tron against Affinity, you should cycle as much as possible before playing any spells so that you can play a Fangren Marauder if you draw one. If hitting a Tron piece will make or break a game, cycle to find it! Personally, I err on the side of using my cyclers conservatively, but it’s very rare that just passing the turn is preferable to digging deeper.

You will lose sometimes. Some of the time, this deck works every time, so to speak. This deck is a numbers deck in every sense of the word and while it will do completely unfair things the majority of the time, it will sometimes do nothing. It’s necessary not to be discouraged by bad draws, but rather focus and play every turn optimally. Sometimes you’ll get lucky, sometimes you won’t. All this is true of most decks, but especially true of this one.

Overall, be critical of your plays. The deck is complicated and even seemingly innocuous decisions like what color to filter for when you’re just cycling a Chromatic Sphere or whether to save artifacts for Fangren Marauder or use them to have more options can make or break a game. I’ve found that in almost every game I’ve played with the deck, there’s something I could have done better, which is something I love about it.

In any case, this deck is extremely powerful and a hell of a lot of fun to play. It’s not uncommon to go through forty or fifty cards in game or end the game at over fifty life. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I have.

Let me know if you have any complaints, or suggestions. I’m open to advice!

 
  1. Awesome article. I thought Tron decks were just a fad, but you made me believe it is a real strategy. Your arguments seem sound and I’ll be testing your list. Thanks for writing.

  2. Love the deck. I have been playing it for a month when it still had Swirling Sandstorm…I like Deep Analysis over Compulsive Research though.

  3. @ray I personally prefer Compulsive Research to Deep Analysis primarily because it’s much better before you assemble Tron. The front end is obviously much more powerful, and it costs one less mana. Even after Tron is assembled, assuming the land you discard doesn’t have much value, Compulsive is still 3 mana for 3 cards while Deep Analysis is 6 mana and 3 life for 4. Deep Analysis is obviously way better against decks with counterspells and is something you can play to metagame if the field moves in that direction, but I think playing the more efficient card is good for now.

    Swirling Sandstorm is a card that I played some in old UR Cloudpost decks, but I found that it just didn’t do anything (literally) in the time frame that removal is most valuable. I never played it in this deck for that reason, though I’d be interested to see the early lists that other people came up with.

    Thanks for commenting, everyone.

  4. Thanks for writing the article, it was a pretty good read. I have been on hiatus from Pauper since the bans happened and I’ve been pretty eager to get back once I find a deck that’s both good and fun to play. This just might be the ticket, so I’ll have to try it out!

    I enjoyed the section about CoP:X however I suspect just running some amount of Moment’s Peace might do the job too. At least in the scenarios where you say you want them!

  5. I don’t think 20 lands is nearly enough. I find myself mulliganing way too often with this setup. I’d run at least two basic forest in addition to the current base and probably one more cycle land.

  6. @AJ the list is tight as it is. The mana base is fine. There really is no room for more land and it doesn’t need it to be honest.

  7. @hiveking Moment’s Peace is definitely more flexible, but even with flashback, this deck often can’t actually close the game before it runs out of Fogs. A Circle will usually hold down the game for 6 or 7 turns, if not more. I could be wrong, and I hope you’ll let me know if I am. Anyway, I hope you like the deck!

    @aj You have to realize that Expedition Map and Ancient Stirrings are for the most part just lands, and that running 12 cyclers mean you’re playing an effectively 48-card deck. So ultimately, 28/48 cards are basically mana. This is obviously an oversimplification of what’s actually going on, but the basic message is this: adding more lands is going to make your average opening hand look better, but it means you’re often going to be flooded in the lategame. I usually like to play more lands than necessary myself so I can sympathize, but I think that 20 lands is already brushing the upper limit. One-landers and mulliganning are unfortunately just part of the territory.

  8. Great article. I hate playing against versions of this deck, mainly because it always takes a long time and I’m impatient. That said, I hate it MUCH less than playing against Fissure. :)

    Who knows, maybe one day I’ll even sleeve it up and give it a run.

  9. I do realize that. But I was speaking from play-testing, not theorycrafting. I have had much better games with more lands, especially forests since they actually cast your ancient stirrings without a fuss. It’s just my input after playing the deck that you suggested. Isn’t that the whole point of public columns like this?

  10. @aj Sure. It’s fine if you disagree with me on the land count, I just thought I’d give a more detailed explanation for it than I did in the article. I wasn’t trying to declare anything definitively, though I am pretty set on 20 lands. I’ve personally had more games where I struggled because of flood than manascrew, but of course it’s fine for you to disagree. If you feel that more land is better, then you should definitely play more land. And discussion definitely the point; thanks for commenting.

  11. Hi, im trying to get into pauper on mtgo and since I like tron in modern I thought this would be right up my ally. Build it up and took it to the practice room. Right away I faced 4 decks in a row that I simply could not beat. One was Mono U control of some kind and the other UB. Either one had more than enough counters and doomblades to answer every wincon in the deck (which unless im missing something is only the ulamogs and the rolling thunders or am I missing some other way to win)

  12. Good read. I’d say IMHO that this is literally the FIRST good pauper article on MTGO Academy!

    Keep up the nice work!

  13. I should add I even got a turn 4 ulamog against one guy just to have it doombladed. Every creature and rolling temblor after that was met with mystic teaching->counterspell

  14. Very good article, love the solid explanations of theory behind the choices, and the obvious practical experience as well.

  15. Has anyone considered Halimar Wavewatch for this deck? It actually seems like it might be a pretty good sideboard plan vs. blue. It blocks early on to dampen aggro assaults, and becomes a 6/6 unblockable beater later in the game depending on the deck you are facing. I could actually see running it main board… although I’ve never played the deck so I have no idea what I would take out for it.

Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>