Pauper Tron at the end of 2019

da | Dic 22, 2019 | English, Game Analysis

Article by Alessandro Moretti
Translation by Fabrizio Pucci

Introduction

Around november I’ve played in 5 MTGO major Pauper Events (2 Pauper Playoff e 3 Pauper Challenge) and for 4 times I’ve reached top8 with Fog Tron, thanks to my experience I would like to write about it.

  1. Why Fog Tron?
  2. Other versions
  3. How to beat it
  4. Impact on the meta
  5. Conclusions

Why Fog Tron?

In pauper there are many different archetypes based on Tronlands (a.k.a urzalands) because they are an high level enabler for different Strategies, from Control oriented versions (Fog Tron and Removal Tron) to midrange style shells (Fangren Tron, Kitty Tron, ecc.).

Fog Tron is a Prison deck with a game-plane based on locking the opponent out from their combat step looping effects like Moment’s Peace or Stonehorn Dignitary.

Murasa Tron ed Izzet Tron are usually defined as Removal Tron because their way to interact with opponent’s pressure are cards like Flame Slash e Lightning Bolt. They are underplayed right now mainly due to two factors: first, a low amount of spot removals isn’t enough to stop Swarn strategies (Elves, Stompy), and Ux Faeries/Delver and Voltron combo decks (UR Kiln Fiend, UW Tribe) are a little part of the actual metagame.

Another reason Fog Tron is the best Tron deck right now is the powerful endgame value generated by Ghostly Flicker ed Ephemerate, that is good enough to beat Monarch token in the long run. (Boros Monarch is one of the tier 1 of the format currently).
The blink effects of Ghostly Flicker ed Ephemerate allow Tron to be both able to grind out midrange strategies and to stop aggro decks from attacking.

Fog Tron by A_AdeptoTerra, Finalist Pauper Playoff 01/12/2019

Lands (22)
Urza's Mine
Urza's Power Plant
Urza's Tower
Tranquil Cove
Island
Remote Isle
Cave of Temptation
Swiftwater Cliffs

Spells (25)
Ephemerate
Ghostly Flicker
Prophetic Prism
Impulse
Prohibit
Compulsive Research
Mystical Teachings
Pulse of Murasa
Rain of Revelation
Expedition Map
Unwind
Dawn Charm

Creatrures (13)
Stonehorn Dignitary
Mnemonic Wall
Dinrova Horror
Mulldrifter
Sideboard (15)
Hydroblast
Lone Missionary
Red Elemental Blast
Pyroblast
Ulamog's Crusher
Moment's Peace
Ancient Grudge
Dispel
Blue Elemental Blast

As shown by Arcum’s Astrolabe (and Ephemerate) with the no longer played Jeskai Astro, a performing Blink deck in pauper needs 3 characteristics:

Having low mana cost allows to dodge hate (counter, graveyard hate, ecc.) and to race aggro decks.

In order to be fast, blink decks can choose between:

Sunscape Familiar e Nightscape Familiar are combo oriented cards (enabler for Snap and Ghostly Flicker). They are certainly not control cards, but allow blink combo decks to reach the loop condition faster.

The urzalands, as familiars, need enables like Prophetic Prism ed Expedition Map and a number of turns to set up, causing a bad reactivity in the early game. I don’t think those lands are problematic by themselves, but there’s no dout that they allow a go-wide value strategy with cards like Mulldrifter e Pulse of Murasa, often good against removal based decks (MBC; Boros, etc.)

Ephemerate is the relevant card here. First of all, costs 1 mana and usually do not require a second copy of Mnemonic Wall to loop value.

In second place, it does not suffer from graveyard hate, or rather, is a sort of answer to it. Casting Ephemerate on Mnemonic Wall in response to Bojuka Bog o Relic of Progenitus allows to recur a spell from the yard without even losing Ephemerate.
Ghostly Flicker is able to do the same, but the setup require a second copy of Mnemonic Wall, it is self-explanatory the huge difference between paying 3 mana and having a second copy of Mnemonic Wall rather than simply paying W.

Third, It is better than Moment’s Peace.
Is true that Ephemerate requires Stonehorn Dignitary in play, but by paying only W the result is two effects of Moment’s Peace, for 4 mana less and have still access to both Ephemerate (in the yard) and Stonehorn (on the battlefield) while Moment’s Peace would be in the exile zone. Mana advantage of Ephemerate vs Moment’s peace allows Tron players to cast cards like Teachings or Impulse or keep mana up to counter problematic threats.

Why Fog TRON is the best BLINK.DEK?

Ephemerate is the best blink spell and Fog Tron has access to red for Pyroblast/REB. The red answer has a huge impact on the meta because allows to interact with answers and problematic threats (Delver of Secret, Ninja of the Deep Hours, Mulldrifter, Mnemonic Wall and Dirnova Horror and so on) for just 1 red mana.

Other versions

Old Tron variants clearly have a Midrange style gameplan that relies on big threats like Fangren MarauderWretched Gryff and Ulamog’s Crusher (and sometimes Rolling Thunder).

This approach to the game is still good against traditional Midrange and Control decks, but usually is weak against explosive and linear strategies (Burn, Elves) and never had nor has enough answers to Dinrova Horror or Stonehorn Dignitary blink lock.

Fangren Tron by CtrlZED 5-0 Pauper League 20/11/2019

Lands (19)
Cave of Temptation
Haunted Fengraf
Urza's Mine
Urza's Power Plant
Urza's Tower

Spells (30)
Ancient Stirrings
Rolling Thunder
Moment's Peace
Chromatic Sphere
Chromatic Star
Expedition Map
Prophetic Prism
Journey to Nowhere
Oblivion Ring

Creatures (11)
Fangren Marauder
Mulldrifter
Ulamog's Crusher
Sideboard (15)
Ulamog's Crusher
Circle of Protection: Green
Electrickery
Faerie Macabre
Leave No Trace
Standard Bearer
Weather the Storm

Custodi Tron by mlovbo, 5-0 Pauper League 25/05/2018

Lands (22)
Azorius Chancery
Island
Lonely Sandbar
Plains
Secluded Steppe
Tranquil Cove
Urza's Mine
Urza's Power Plant
Urza's Tower

Spells (24)
Compulsive Research
Deep Analysis
Prismatic Strands
Azorius Signet
Expedition Map
Prophetic Prism
Angelic Renewal
Rhystic Circle
Seal of Removal

Creatures (14)
Coalition Honor Guard
Custodi Squire
Lone Missionary
Mulldrifter
Ulamog's Crusher
Sideboard (15)
Coalition Honor Guard
Seal of Removal
Circle of Protection: Blue
Disenchant
Faerie Macabre
Holy Light
Journey to Nowhere
Leave No Trace
Oblivion Ring

As we can see from mlovbo list (and CtrlZED sideboard), we can play a good-stuff gameplan trying to improve the more aggressive match-ups.

Kitty Tron by billster47, 5-0 Pauper League 14/03/2018

Creatures (15)
Glint Hawk
Kor Skyfisher
Palace Sentinels
Thraben Inspector

Spells (26)
Kaervek's Torch
Electrickery
Lightning Bolt
Prismatic Strands
Reaping the Graves
Ancient Den
Alchemist's Vial
Expedition Map
Prophetic Prism
Journey to Nowhere
Oblivion Ring
Lands (19)
Bojuka Bog
Kabira Crossroads
Scoured Barrens
Urza's Mine
Urza's Power Plant
Urza's Tower
Wind-Scarred Crag

Sideboard (15)
Electrickery
Gorilla Shaman
Kor Sanctifiers
Lone Missionary
Pyroblast
Relic of Progenitus
Serrated Arrows
Standard Bearer
Ulamog's Crusher

Billster47’s deklist is somewhat a Big Boros Monarch; here Prophetic Prism is a value engine for Kor Skysher and not for Ghostly Flicker.

Another Control Tron version is Izzet Tron, the most common controllish style Tron before the print of Pulse of Murasa.

Izzet Tron by qbturtle15, Top8 Pauper Challenge 26/05/2019

Creatures (8)
Mulldrifter
Ulamog's Crusher

Spells (28)
Compulsive Research
Firebolt
Flame Slash
Rolling Thunder
Condescend
Lightning Bolt
Mana Leak
Prohibit
Expedition Map
Prophetic Prism
Lands (24)
Haunted Fengraf
Island
Lonely Sandbar
Mountain
Shimmering Grotto
Swiftwater Cliffs
Urza's Mine
Urza's Power Plant
Urza's Tower

Sideboard (15)
Annul
Earth Rift
Electrickery
Gorilla Shaman
Hydroblast
Pyroblast
Relic of Progenitus
Swirling Sandstorm

This version is not a Prison deck. It’s way similar to a a Tap-Out Control or a Combo-Control and the key cards are Ulamog’s Crusher and Rolling Thunder.

These old Tron flavors are still playable, but they usually are bad in the current metagame, because it’s faster compared to 4-5 years ago and due to the presence of Flicker Tron, the worst MU for these kind of strategies (alongside Ux Delver).

How to beat it

Fog tron is consistent having access to high number of similar effects (Stonehorn Dignitary and Moment’s PeaceEphemerate and Ghostly Flicker) and it has at its disposal enough card draw to seek the right cards to play around opponent’s distruption plan.

Morover, have the Tron completed is not mandatory to win. For example against aggro not missing land drop and draw 3 key pieces is enough (Stonehorn DignitaryEphemerate e Mnemonic Wall)

To beat tron we have two solutions:
  • Win at or before turn four
  • To have a lot of disruption and a good clock (mainly counterspells)

Sadly, the meta has lost aggressive blue decks due to Gush ban that used to and could have had a great matchup in Tron. At the same time, Ephemerate is a cheap value engine that eases to have a progressively value over the game.
Let’s try to look at the archetypes usually Tron suffers: Stompy, RDW, Elves e Affinity.

Burn in my opinion is a matchup that highly depends on specific hate cards (lifegain and counterspells), so is not really negative. If you have enough answers, is favorable.

Stompy can close the game at T4 but hate like Lone Missionary helps and the matchup is mostly balanced if even not favorable to Tron.

RDW, Elves e Affinity are explosive fast decks that can deal direct damage from hand or with hard to deal spells and hate cards.(Flaring PainViridian LongbowRelic of Progenitus, ecc.).

 

Kind of disruption:
  • Counterspells
  • Discard effects
  • Graveyard hate

Counterspell and Pyroblast are really good against Flicker Tron using early game threats like Delver of SecretsGurmag Angler e Ninja of the Deep Hour to clock. Affinity, thanks to its sideboard  (Pyroblast and Dispel) is probably the best disruption + clock deck right now. This due to the fact that Ux Delver/Faeries are bad positioned in the meta against midrange strategies Boros (Monarch e Bully) and fast aggro decks..

Tragic Lessons plus Mystic Sanctuary seems a good alternative to Gush; and in combination with Deprive with a  good race, allows to play a favorable gameplan against Flicker Tron, but it has to be seen how those strategies will perform against the rest of the field.

Izzet Faeries by Apa19, Top8 Pauper Challenge 25/11/2019

Creatures (18)
Augur of Bolas
Faerie Duelist
Faerie Seer
Ninja of the Deep Hours
Spellstutter Sprite

Spells (23)
Ponder
Preordain
Brainstorm
Counterspell
Deprive
Fire // Ice
Lightning Bolt
Skred
Tragic Lesson
Sideboard (19)
Ash Barrens
Evolving Wilds
Mystic Sanctuary
Snow-Covered Island
Snow-Covered Mountain

Sideboard (15)
Blue Elemental Blast
Curse of Chains
Dispel
Echoing Truth
Electrickery
Gorilla Shaman
Red Elemental Blast
Stormbound Geist
Swirling Sandstorm

Usually cards like Duress or Divest are not good enough itself; like Tempo strategies a treath such as Okiba-Gang Shinobi is a nice card, despit its mana cost it gives Bx decks away to interact and clock Flicker Tron.

Sadly, after Gush ban, explosive combo decks that pray on Tron’s lack of interaction in early turns (UW Tribe, Izzet Blitz, Infect) are underplayed due to Bx Midranges and/or WR Midranges.

Impact on the meta

Both Flicker Tron and Monarch mechanic are, from my point of view, elements that remove entire strategies from the Pauper format.

Monarch erase automatically all the control and midrange decks that are not able to play and protect the Monarchy or that try to rely their card advantage on other cards. In addition midranges monarch decks limit aggro and combo decks in the format.

I wish to point out that the presence of both Tron and Monarch are the main reasons Ux Land-Go Control is not playable. Moreover, the combined presence of WR and Bx midrange decks limit aggro and combo decks to non-interactive and/or extremely fast builds (Burn, just for example).

That being said, best decks in the meta are probably Affinity, Elves e Burn, then followed by Boros, Dimir Angler/Delver and Stompy.

 

It is mandatory to underline that Flicker Tron is a deck that easily draw in paper and times out on MTGO. This is probably why the results on MTGO and in Paper magic are made by the same expert player of the archetype. This is probably why the deck seems underplayed currently.

Apparently Pauper meta is evolving to face the two dominant strategies (Tron and Monarch) and right now the only innovations are Izzet Faeries e Dimir Angler with  Mystic Sanctuary. Probably the meta could evolve more in the future.

Conclusions

Actually we cannot value if Flicker Tron wil get the ban axe soon because we have not enough data.

We have low number of big paper tournaments, but all of them shows a balanced meta. On MTGO our best (or only) data are Castle of Commons ones for challenges (thanks a lot for you work!).

My personal opinion is that the deck is too consistent and the problematic cards are Ephemerate e (secondly) Mulldrifter.

Why Mulldrifter? It’s the best card itself in the deck and the one, alongside Mystical Teachings, that allows it to be consistent and redundant.

Neverthless, the magic elemental fish is not the real deal.

Ephemerate is unbalanced, way too efficient, both as converted mana cost and as a way to play around graveyard hate and removal spells.

The format is based on Palace Sentinels, MulldrifterEphemerate and how to deal with those cards.
If @Wizards think there must be a ban, those are the place where start.