The modern deck Tron gets its name from the 80’s cartoon Voltron in which several giant robot cats are brought together to assemble Voltron, an ultimate fighting machine. The deck, originally called Urza Tron, is centered around bringing together three lands that produce more mana when brought together: Urza’s Powerplant, Urza’s Tower, and Urza’s Mine. If you control one copy of each land, you can produce 7 colorless mana, enabling you to cast powerful spells that otherwise would not see play because they are too expensive for normal decks.
These are most of the cards needed to play a Tron deck. From there you have multiple options for the direction you can go. Eldrazi Tron and Mono-green Tron are the most popular versions right now and, historically, there has been a blue version of the deck as well as versions that splash red for removal, so feel free to do whatever you want. In fact, I would say that you can use whatever colors you want as long as you can make it work.
The Eldrazi Tron variant runs Eldrazi cards like Thought-Knot Seer, Matter Reshaper, Reality Smasher, and Endbringer. Since this deck is colorless, it also runs a few copies of All Is Dust, which makes nearly every opposing deck useless. The only decks that can survive this card are another Eldrazi Tron deck or an artifact based deck like Affinity.
The mono green variant of Tron typically runs Wurmcoil Engine, Karn Liberated, and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. Some versions also run Thragtusk and a few copies of an Eldrazi titan. Walking Ballista is a new inclusion in this deck from the Kaladesh block which functions as removal. Although most of these cards are still colorless, this version relies on Sylvan Scrying to get the lands and Ancient Stirrings to find the lands (remember, lands are colorless) and colorless threats.
Karn, having a +4 loyalty ability, requires a lot of attention from the opponent to take out. Every point of damage done to a planeswalker is a point of damage that could have gone to the player; sometimes it’s hard to choose between the two. Karn’s +4 also slowly takes away the opponent’s card advantage. Once he gets up to 14, he has the ability to restart the game while giving you control of non-Aura cards that he exiled. Now if you do use his ultimate, this doesn’t mean that you won the previous game; it doesn’t count as a win, loss, or draw for either player; it only restarts the current game. There are a lot of judges rulings on this ability and I’ll try to run through them as simply as I can so you understand how this works. Since you are restarting the current game, you cannot sideboard. Each player shuffles their library, leaving the cards exiled with Karn’s first and second abilities in exile. Life totals reset to 20, or whatever is format appropriate. All emblems, counters, or other effects on players are removed. The player who activated Karn’s ability, is the starting player. Both players draw 7 cards and may take mulligans. Before the first turn begins, Karn’s ability finishes resolving and the exiled cards come into play and any “enter the battlefield” triggers activate. These permanents are considered to have been under the player’s control continuously and creatures can attack and tap. Any tapped permanents may untap during the untap step. In a multiplayer game, players who were eliminated before Karn’s ability was activated won’t return to the game and any cards they owned in exile will leave with them.
Ugin’s best loyalty ability is his -X. Since the top of the mana curve for most decks is 4, X equaling 3 or 4 should wipe the opponent’s board. Because nearly everything Tron runs is colorless, this really only affects the opponent like All is Dust in Eldrazi Tron. Even if you don’t use his -X, his +2 is pretty great and his -10 is just nuts.
The mono blue variant of Tron is centered around control and artifacts. Considerably cheaper than other variants, the big spells in this deck are Wurmcoil Engine mentioned previously, Mindslaver, Oblivion Stone, Platinum Angel, and Sundering Titan. The deck also runs a few copies of Academy Ruins.
Mindslaver is an artifact that allows you to control your opponent during their turn. A very powerful effect for a total of 10 mana and sacrificing the artifact. This can easily swing a game in your favor. Combine it with Academy Ruins and you can recur the artifact again and again locking your opponent out of the game. Now just because you control the opponent, that doesn’t mean you get to make them concede, they can still do that of their own free will. You can see their hand and any face-down cards. You choose which spells they cast and what they target, which abilities they activate, which creatures attack, how those creatures assign combat damage, and you may respond to those things as you see fit. While you are able to choose which spells your opponent will cast, you don’t control the spells yourself; for instance, if you control a Guttersnipe while controlling your opponent, its ability wont trigger for your opponent’s spells.
Oblivion Stone serves as mass removal. This card also combines with Academy Ruins to keep coming back which allows you to control your opponent’s board state. While this card is included in other Tron variants, this variant is designed to recur it and get more value out of it.
Platinum Angel prevents your opponent from winning the game as long as it’s in play. Do what you can to protect it once you get it out and the game is yours.
Mono blue Tron also runs a lot of blue control spells to lock down a game. Condescend is a popular choice along with Remand and Repeal. Not only do these offer a control element, but they also offer card advantage. If you think there are better options out there, go ahead and try them out.
Some card draw is also important to blue which is why the deck also runs Thirst for Knowledge and since you have plenty of artifacts to discard, along with recursion in Academy Ruins, that works out perfectly.
Treasure Mage helps you tutor for one of your big artifacts once you have the Tron lands online (game slang for active).
Other popular cards in all variants of Tron include Chalice of the Void, Expedition Map, Chromatic Star, Chromatic Sphere, and a talisman mana rock like Talisman of Dominance.
Chalice of the Void serves to counter all spells of a certain converted mana cost. This card should be used wisely as you could easily set it up to counter some of your own key spells.
Expedition Map allows you to grab any land card which is how these decks tutor for the Tron lands. These effects are very valuable because most other ramp spells only allow you to grab basic lands.
Chromatic Star and Chromatic Sphere provide mana fixing as well as card draw once they are used up. Talismans also provide mana fixing at the cost of 1 life, but they stick around.
As for the side board for any of these variants, what can you not run? With the amounts of mana Tron can produce, you can use whatever you want! If I were to list them all I would be here forever. I’ll just say what I always say, adjust it to your local meta. However, one of the best cards to use against Tron is Blood Moon, which turns all nonbasic lands into Mountains rendering the Urza lands useless. Some enchantment removal in the sideboard can help take care of it if you don’t have a counterspell.
The basic shell of a Tron deck is one of the simplest lists of cards needed to play a deck. It should look something like the following:
Urza’s Mine x4
Urza’s Powerplant x4
Urza’s Tower x4
Chromatic Star x3-4
Chromatic Sphere x3-4
Expedition Map x4
These are the must have cards if you want to play Tron. The rest of the cards are up to you. I say that you should certainly experiment with it and make it something unique. Tron can actually be one of the cheapest decks to build if you avoid the popular expensive cards like Karn Liberated, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, Chalice of the Void and others. You can use whatever powerful cards you want as your win conditions from there. This shell right here will cost roughly $100 or less depending on the artwork and the edition of the lands, which is pretty good for a modern deck. You can’t even get a playset of fetch lands for that price, let alone an entire mana base.
That wraps up Tron, but before I close this post, I want to say that with the banning of Faithless Looting, a lot of the decks in modern have been impacted in some way with some being entirely unplayable now. I will make a post about those decks along with all previous decks that have existed before they were rendered unplayable with a single ban. One can hope that the card(s) may be unbanned one day, however unlikely it may be in some cases. Most players never thought Jace, the Mind Sculptor would be unbanned, but it happened. One can also generate ideas about possible replacements or alternate strategies. This means I will still do an analysis on decks like Hogaak and Birthing Pod. The main point of this series is to inform players about modern decks and how they work(ed). With bannings and unbannings the overall meta can shift significantly as we will see within the coming months. My post about Burn that I made earlier this year is already obsolete with the Faithless Looting ban announcement, not that burn will have a hard time without Faithless Looting since so many potential replacements have been printed. What deck would you like to see next in my modern deck analysis? Let me know in the comments below.