Article by Alessandro Moretti Translation by Fabrizio Pucci
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.
Why Fog Tron?
How to beat it
Impact on the meta
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
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.
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
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
Hey everyone, I’m A_AdeptoTerra, in the last month I had 2-3 results in Competitive Leagues and Challenges with a Temur list of Dinrova Tron. I also made two top8 in a 7+ turns paper Pauper tournament with these lists:
We are playing in a midrange-heavy format, so I always assume that the more represented decks in a tournament or League will be Boros Monarch, Boros Bully and Dimir Delver (maybe even Burn, at times). Due to this, in my opinion it isn’t a good choice to rely too much on Ghostly Flicker. Additionally, I do believe that having a more proactive gameplan is better against Ux Delver.
I am not playing Sea Gate Oracle because I want to spend the first turns developing the manabase and/or my hand with high-impact spells. We need to pack at least three copies of SGO to deploy one of them in the first stage of the game – something which would require using several slots in the mainboard.
Mnemonic Wall: I play only two copies of our favourite Wall because, in a Delver metagame, we don’t have time to build the fog lock or a counter/removal lock. Also: we usually spend the early and midgame answering the opponent’s threats. I replaced the third wall for a Compulsive Research, which gives the deck some card advantage and is more versatile overall.
The right amount of counterspells depends on the metagame and also on how you want to play the deck. If you want to have a “full-combo” gameplan and using Ghostly Flicker to lock the opponent, two or three counterspells are a fine option. As for me, I prefer a more interactive approach because I value flexibility (also due to playing in paper tournaments, which don’t have a very defined metagame).
My favourite split is two Prohibits, one Remove Soul effect, one generic counterspell and one or two multi-purpose ones. In a field filled with Delver decks, I’d reccomend three or four counterspells (e.g. Two Prohibit and one Exclude, 1 counter of your choice).
Prohibit is the best maindeck counterspell available thanks to the wide range of two or less-cmc spells played in Pauper. We can play up to two copies of it.
Unlike you what might think, Condescend is probably the worst counter, so I gave it the boot. It is the perfect answer on the stack in the late game thanks to the Urza lands, but does poorly in the early game. Also: we often don’t have enough mana to cast it in a fast metagame.
I prefer the fourth copy of Fire//Ice gets the nod instead, as it is more flexible. Tapping a land is a fine second turn play for example.
Unwind went in instead of the maindeck Dispel. It is a good countermeasure in a field filled with Boros Monarch, besides being one the best protection spells when I deploy a huge treath (i.e. Mnemonic Wall or Dinrova Horror). Untapping enough colored mana allows to play another card (oftentimes Ghostly Flicker) to get even more advantage.
Fire//Ice is the best maindeckable answer against Elves and Faeries, some the decks’ worst match-ups. Dealing with an early Timberwatch Elf, Faerie Miscreant or Ninja of the Deep Hours is very relevant, but Twin Bolt isn’t equally good against, for example, the mirror match or Boros Monarch (despite the presence of Battle Screech). The option to cycle a card that would otherwise be dead is definitely relevant: tapping the opponent’s mana (in upkeep or in the end step) or a creature before the combat (Gurmag Angler?) equals to tempo advantage. Alternatively, tapping the opponent’s Island might be key to resolve a Mulldrifter.
Lastly, Rolling Thunder is one of the most important cards you can play in a long games deck. The worst thing for a control deck is not having a clock or a finisher and RT is a better version of Evincar’s Justice, so gotta roll’em all.
Ulamog’s Crusher is a one-card sideboard plan against Boros Monarch, Flicker Tron (not Fangren Tron) and sometimes against Izzet Midrange and Control. I kept it in my latest list because the current meta is light in the amount of Flicker Tron and Boros sometimes don’t play conservatives and isn’t very good if they push the Aggro side of the deck. (non ho capito cosa intendi)
Obisidian Acolyte is, in my opinion, the best thing we can play against Dimir Delver to deal with Gurmag Angler. I came up to this conclusion based on the fact that we can easily play around Delver of Secrets, but there doesn’t seem to be an ideal hate card to destroy or lock the black Zombie fish.
Circle of Protection: Black needs white mana, but it is one of the better answers to a vanilla 5/5 black creature. There are two problems: we can’t take back it from the graveyard and – you’ll have figured that out by now – Annul.
Obsidian Acolyte is very versatile. We can Pulse it back (even after having milled it with Forbidden Alchemy). It can counter Snuff Out and Soul Reap. In the late game, we don’t have problems paying white mana to provide pro: black to other creatures to block the others Anglers on the board. In my opinion, an important thing is that the opponent can’t counter the Acolyte with a one-mana counter, so it gets down to Counterspell or a Foil.
Some side-in/-out tips
The outcome of many match-ups depend, among other things, on what of kind of player you are and how you want play the deck.
Dimir Delver: tied
The match up depends on how skilled out opponent is and on what they boarded in the post-side game. In g2 and g3 it’s difficult to win via the Ghostly Flicker loop, so it is more profitable trying to kill Delvers and Anglers. You don’t want to rely on the Flicker part of the deck, I’ll suggest this side-out:
Alternatively, you can just switch the counters and rely more on the fog lock aspect (Dimir Delver isn’t good in the long game), but post-board they try to win as fast they can, usually disrupting our manabase with Annul or Daze and putting a fast threat. Obviously, Daze isn’t typically a good card against Tron, but we need to play keeping in mind that they probably might have kept it in.
Problematic cards: Counterspell, Dispel, Foil. Foil, in particular, can generate a lot of tempo advantage and they might tempo us out very well when they have several of them in their hand.
Burn: favorable or at least tied
How it’s possibile? And whitout playing Circle of Protection: Red? Well, Burn is a Lava Spike Combo, that means that’s needs a critical amount of spell to win. In this matchup, we don’t play like an Urzatron deck; rather, we play as a blue-red control and the gameplan revolves around slowing them down by countering burn spells in the dead turns and to run away with the match in the late game. Basically we win thanks to a critical amount of counterspells. In the lategame, they’ll likely have no cards left in their hand, and we have 10 or more lifepoints left.
Make sure to not let Palace Sentinels resolve in the early stage of the game if you can’t steal the Monarch back right away. Fire//Ice is good in game 1 to tap a land (maybe a bounceland), which can prevent the four-drop from being landed. Another good thing is playing Dinrova Horror on turn four if we are on the play and the opponent can’t kill it right away with a Galvanic Blast, because we set the opponent’s development back and they can’t deploy the Monarch card.
If the opponent plays very greedily, skipping on card draw and land-drops (e.g. by bouncing lands back to their hand with Skyfishers and Hawks), the best choice is playing more removal spells to slow them down until they reach topdeck mode and are left with no creatures. Alternative side-in cards, in this case, might be Electrickery and Doom Blade effects.
Usually they have close to no reach (i.e. burn spells), so it is a better matchup than Boros Monarch. Due to their more aggressive nature, cards like Moment’s Peace are more valuable.
The big problem here lies in understanding what to side out. They play different kind of threats: an aggro gameplan with Seeker, Battle Screech and Rally the Peasant and a grindy one with Palace Sentinels. The better thing is probably cutting some situational cards to bring in more answers to the aggro gameplan.
Fire//Ice is more helpful than I thought- tapping an enchanted land in their upkeep in the first turns gives us an extra turn to set the Urza Tron or to dig in the library by delaying their haymaker Auras from landing. Dinrova Horror is a valid finisher. Recoiling an Ancestral Mask or an Ethereal Armor during the combat step is something similar to a lifegain/fog effect (or sometimes a straight up one-for-one trade with their Bogle). One or two counterspells are required post-board due to the Flings, Relics and/or Dispels they might be playing.
An interesting matchup. You need some practice to learn how to play it, base you’ll have a different approach according to the situation at hand- which is stimulating (at least for me).
Side-out: fogs, Fire//Ice (tapping a land or a Prism isn’t relevant and we have more hellpfull cards post-side, Dispel for example), Rolling Thunder (if you don’t have Ulamog’s Crusher and are under time you may think to kept in, but it’s an overcosted finisher in this MU, so it’s difficult having an open window).
Other Aggro decks: (generally) favorable
As a general blueprint I suggest the following:
Side-in: fogs Side-out: slow counterspells.
Affinity is a toss-up, as it can land very fast starts and Atog is a problematic threat.
RDW is a negative matchup: a lot of 2/2 creatures, burn spells and pump spells. They just put a lot of hasty creatures that are difficult to deal with without one-mana removal spells. Cards like Fireblast or Lightning Bolt mess up the life count.
Izzet Kiln, UW Tribe: unfavorable
Probably the worst match-ups of all. We need to prioritize interaction, so be sure to have a fair amount of answers and colored mana to play the game.
I usually prefer to not go overboard with fog effects, as playing removal spells is a safer route and it gives us more time.