Hey everyone, and welcome to my debut article for MTGOAcademy. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Noah Whinston. I’m a spell slinger from Chicago, and I currently compete at the PTQ level, though hopefully that will change soon. Up until last year, I had barely ever played MTGO, but I’ve since turned to the digital version of cardboard crack as a way to increase my play time and practice critical formats, as well as just have some fun! I mainly plan to be doing Constructed tournament walkthroughs: first introducing a deck at the beginning of the article and then giving you some play-by-play recaps of tournament matches with the deck to help you get a feel for it (though I may expand this to Limited play as well). I’m going to start off on a more casual foot this week though and give you the rundown on my experience playing the Pauper Weekend Challenge from Sunday, November 28, 2010. Let’s start with taking a look at the deck I piloted:
(To load a .txt deck into Magic: Online’s Deck Editor, click “Load”, select “Local Text Deck”, find the location of the downloaded deck file and double-click the deck.)
First, we need to break this deck down to its key components. Right off the bat, we can see that the archetype is centered on generating massive amounts of mana from Cloudpost, usually in conjunction with its fellow Locus, Glimmerpost. However, one of the things I like best about Pauper is the way it incentivizes creativity. There is no “best” finisher for Pauper big mana decks, unlike the conventional Tron that plays either Tooth and Nail or Mindslaver lock. Currently, I like to prioritize Rolling Thunder over Ulamogs Crusher, both because of its earlier utility against aggressive decks, as well as Crushers weakness to removal. For those of you interested in other archetypes based around this mana engine, there are multiple offerings using the Locus package, but the two main ones are this and mono green. While mono green has a highly favorable matchup against other Cloudpost decks, due to Reap and Sow and other mana acceleration, I feel that blue-red is better against the metagame as a whole, especially aggro decks like Goblins.
So given that the base of the deck is established, I want to move down color-by-color to look at the impact that each card choice has on the deck’s matchups and play.
Though we already covered lands a bit, let’s just look at some of the intricacies of the mana base before we enter the meat of the deck. Glimmerpost is not only great as a way to generate extra mana with Cloudpost, but singlehandedly steals games against aggro. I have gained upwards of 15 life in a single game by using the Glimmerposts in conjunction with the Izzet Boilerworks. And because that was a game against Goblins, I ended up with an obvious victory! Quicksand as a one-of is okay, but I wouldn’t be against replacing it with a Terramorphic Expanse to try and increase the deck’s consistency.
The problem the deck has with finding its colors is addressed more in the colorless section. While Expedition Map usually fetches Cloudposts, I’ve often had to find an Island or Mountain when lacking sources of colored mana. To help with this problem, we also have a play set of Prophetic Prisms, which not only effectively decrease the size of your deck by four cards, but also are critical for just casting your spells. Even with 8 Loci, that Mulldrifter won’t be leaving your hand without some help, and that’s exactly what the Prisms are there for. Ulamogs Crusher rounds out this section as a finisher against aggressive decks that have a harder time removing or countering him.
Blue is up next, and I think this color is the reason why blue-red has a metagame advantage over other “Tron” decks. Access to both countermagic and card draw are so critical against control, as well as stalling against aggressive decks if your removal is being shy. Prohibit and Condescend are both excellent tools in all matchups. Though Counterspell may seem to be a natural fit, we have to remember the mana constraints that this deck has, often making it impossible to afford double blue. We have two card draw spells here, Mysteries of the Deep and Oona’s Grace. Oona’s Grace is my own innovation, which I added to the maindeck as a tool against Control and the mirror, but it always gets cut against aggro. While you should never be discarding Loci to draw extra cards, you can often have excess colored mana in hand when you have a threat light draw and can use Grace to dig up some action. It’s interesting to note that in especially long games, Grace can be used to deck out opponents, though this very rarely happens. Mystical Teachings is just generic card advantage Game 1, but can tutor up sideboard cards against almost any deck post-board. Finally, we have an additional finisher in Capsize, and while it is the most easily disrupted, it also requires much less mana to be effective when compared to Ulamogs Crusher or Rolling Thunder.
Finally, we come to red. Red backs up blue to cement UR Tron as the premier big-mana contender. While blue provides effective anti-control tools, red is necessary to survive the early aggressive rush. With seven 1-drop removal spells, as well as Staggershock and the ability of Rolling Thunder to act as a one-sided Wrath of God, aggro is not a huge problem when this deck gets rolling (pun intended). Rolling Thunder also serves as one of the deck’s best win conditions. Burning out an opponent from 15 life or more is not only less than unusual but is expected. I think my current record is killing an opponent from 47 life (after recouping the Thunder with a Mnemonic Wall, having another copy countered, then drawing a final one to dome for the win).
Now, let’s move onto the sideboard:
4 Fade Away- This is absolutely necessary. I’ve seen several builds of Tron without this in the board, and I think that’s just criminal. Without it, traditional Storm decks with Empty the Warrens are pretty much unwinnable, and the post board games against Gobs drop to about 50-50 or worse. While four can seem a bit excessive, I always like to have the option to Fade available on Turn 3, just in case. Unfortunately, it’s not an Instant (and not fetchable with Mystical Teachings).
Well, with the deck all covered, let’s hop into my report from the tournament. A prior warning: many of my games were missing from the replays, so I’ll try to summarize those as best as possible.
Round 1 vs. Burn
Not a great matchup to start the day, but perfectly winnable depending on the number of Glimmerposts I draw.
I started off on the back foot in Game 1 as he drew many Bolts and directed them to my face. I managed to stabilize and started beating with a Mulldrifter with two pieces of countermagic in my hand. Toward the end, however, I made a critical mistake- I tapped down to a single blue source to play a Mulldrifter, before I played a Boilerworks to bounced a Glimmerpost (which would have been worth 3 life on the next turn). I was at 2 life, so I had to spend a Prohibit when he cast an Incinerate, but because I had no more blue mana, I didn’t have an answer to Fireblast and dropped the first game.
Unfortunately, Game 3 will also have to be reported from memory, but it was quite an interesting game. I started off rather slow, but my opponent missed his second land drop for three turns, just Lava Spike-ing me twice to start the game. The reason for his risky keep soon became evident as he drew a second land, then played a Kiln Fiend … for four consecutive turns! Thankfully, I had Prohibit, Firebolt, and Flame Slash to answer them, and then Crusher swung in for the win.
2-1, 1-0 overall
Round 2 vs. Mono-Green Stompy
Another slightly difficult matchup, but like Burn, not unwinnable.
Game 1, he got me pretty good with multiple River Boas and Rancors. I countered two Boas and a Rancor, but the remaining copies of each beat me down through my lonely Island. River Boa is very difficult for this deck to deal with- you pretty much need to dig for a Capsize answer it.
Unlike Goblins, I only like bringing in 3 copies of Fade Away against Stompy, because it will occasionally have draws with more enhancers than creatures (leading to some awkward Fades).
Game 2 went much better, as I was able to limit him to one River Boa without any enhancers. We had a bit of a stand off between my Quicksand and his River Boa, where I probably played too cautiously. I was at 5, and he eventually attacked with his Boa while I had Prohibit in hand (to his four open mana). If I try to kill his Boa with Quicksand, he can double pump for the kill as I only had one counter, so I decided to hold out since the Quicksand would prevent him from killing anyway. Two turns later, I was forced to Quicksand to keep myself alive, but he proved to have nothing. With the Boa gone, my spot removal easily answered his other threats, and Rolling Thunder took the game.
Game 3 also went my way after an attrition war. He was a little threat light this game, and only drew a single Boa (which I countered to ease my worries). The key play came when he attacked with a 1/1 after playing a land and Groundswelled it to take me to 8. I untapped and Flame Slashed the 1/1 on my turn (it was his only guy) ,and he Groundswelled it in response…making it a 3/3…which promptly died. It probably wouldn’t have mattered, but properly using the Swell would’ve left me on 4 less life, perhaps making a difference. After that, I cast a Mulldrifter with plenty of mana to spare, killed a few threats with Staggershock, then Thundered for the win.
2-1, 2-0 overall
Game 1, like my previous aggro matchups, was won on the back of Glimmerpost. Gaining 10 plus life is pretty excellent, and it bought me the time necessary to fully develop my mana (eventually casting Rolling Thunder for 14).
Game 2 went much the same as the first, with double Glimmerpost and double Boilerworks buying me a few turns to let me land an Ulamogs Crusher. Thankfully, Crusher is pretty much immortal against red decks, and I just rode it to victory.
2-0, 3-0 overall
Round 4 vs. WUB Storm
This was the storm focused around the “free” spells like Frantic Search, Cloud of Faeries, and Snap in combination with the Invasion Familiars and Ravnica Karoo lands. This is probably Tron’s worst matchups, because they have countermagic of their own to protect their combo and can’t be disrupted by a Fade Away after they go off.
Game 1 went much as expected. I had no clock, and he had plenty of time to combo. Once he assembled Temporal Fissure and Mnemonic Wall recursion to insure that I never stuck a permanent ever again, he beat me down with 1/1 dorks.
Games 2 and 3 really showcased the effectiveness of the sideboarded land destruction package. In Game 2, my opponent played a Turn 2 Karoo, which I immediately Stone Rained to get a concession! In Game 3, my opponent kept a 3 land hand, with his first play being a Compulsive Research, which I answered with Condescend. Then, I untapped and Stone Rained his blue source. He missed on land for a few turns, and by the time he drew two more blue sources, I had found two more Stone Rains; Mulldrifter beatdown with Thunder backup for the win!
2-1, 4-0 overall
Round 5 vs. Gobs w/ Burn
This was a very frustrating match. While the replays have been lost, I remember going into the end of the third game massively ahead on the board. He had five lands in play and a single card in hand, with me at 4 life. I had one blue source, but had enough mana for a massive Condescend, so I was feeling comfortable. I attacked him down to 2 with a Mulldrifter, but he obviously topdecked a Fireblast to go with the Pyroblast already in hand.
(For sideboarding, see Round 3)
1-2, 4-1 overall
Round 6 vs. UW Fish
I don’t know what the official name of this deck is, but it featured Deft Duelist, Ninja of Deep Hours, Sea Gate Oracle, Aven Riftwatcher and Kor Skyfisher alongside blue disruption.
Unfortunately, this was another frustrating match. In the first game, tilted from my loss the previous round, I kept a horrible one lander, with Cloudpost and Expedition Map. To be fair, I probably would’ve had a chance if I drew a land in the next 6 turns, but it was still an inexcusable risk and a lapse in judgment.
I won Game 2 quite easily like I’m supposed to- this deck was made to crush control and midrange strategies (like the blue and white opponent).
But Game 3 just didn’t fall my way. I had an excellent opener with double Cloudposts, an Island, and a Mulldrifter, with disruption and twin Rolling Thunders. I should be an easy, quick win if I can hit the lands, and it’s not even risky of a keep with the Mulldrifter. But I didn’t get there- twenty-five cards into my deck, with 4 scrys, and no fourth land. Facing down two Ninjas and a Spire Golem alongside a hardcast Errrant Ephemeron, I conceded.
1-2, 4-2 overall
TILT. This is the third consecutive Pauper PE where I’ve started undefeated, lost the last two rounds, and then missed Top 8- it’s getting to be quite monotonous. Let’s change it up with a Top 8 soon, shall we? Keeping my head in the game after a tough loss is something I clearly need to work on, as well as not losing focus when the end is in sight- lessons learned. Anyways, hope you all enjoyed this first article on MTGOAcademy, and I plan to return with many more. Until then, sling some spells.
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