Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Tron is Dead

Dang.


That’s about it: “Dang”.


I prayed I would never have to write an article like this, but it has happened, and I must do so. Tron, my beloved tron, is officially done for. The deck is not good. It is one of the worst in the format. It is barely tier 2. The deck has gone by the wayside, and has been pronounced dead. But, why? Why did it die? What happened? How did the deck go from one of the 3 best decks in the format to being unplayable garbage? Most people would simply say “Eye of Ugin”, but it’s more than that. Tron is a deck that always seemed to stay steadily in a good position. It was never truly bad, but never truly amazing. How did it get so far from that? That is what we will find out today.






What Tron was


To truly understand what happened to Tron, we have to find out what it used to be. Now, there are two versions of Tron as we know it today. One being U (or U/W) Tron, the other being the much better and more popular R/G Tron. We’ll be focusing almost exclusively on the R/G version of tron simply because it is the only version that ever made it into tier 1 territory and is, in all honesty, the only good version (I will assuredly make people salty with that comment and I am prepared for that). Anyway, tron used to be a lot different, back when I first got into the deck (Around december 2013) the deck not only didn’t have Ugin or Newlamog, but it was doing really goofy things like playing a 1-of Llanowar Wastes so it could board into 3 slaughter games (Twin was a big problem) or playing 4 main deck Relic of Progenitus. Firespout essentially didn’t matter, and it relied exclusively on 3 Wurmcoil Engines and 1 Emrakul to win. The deck had a few flex spots in it to have random stuff like a meisers Ulamog, The Infinite Gyre or an All is Dust but overall had a pretty streamlined main deck. Let’s go ahead and check out some decklists from over the years of Tron and see how they evolved.


2012

Creatures (5)
2 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
1 Duplicant
1 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth

Spells (37)
4 Ancient Stirrings
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Chromatic Star
4 Expedition Map
4 Explore
2 Mindslaver
1 Oblivion Stone
4 Prophetic Prism
4 Pyroclasm
4 Sylvan Scrying

2 Karn Liberated

Lands (18)
1 Eye of Ugin
4 Grove of the Burnwillows

1 Academy Ruins
4 Urza's Mine
4 Urza's Power Plant
4 Urza's Tower




Oh, umm, ok. What? Some pretty big things here. First off; Academy Ruins? Ok I guess. It’s not technically bad? But obviously that’s it. Oh, wait, Duplicant? Ok ok this is weird. But honestly, this was just the deck back then, it wasn’t great but it did the job and ya know sometimes that’s all you need. Definitely nothing like what we see today but if it got things done back then, it works.


2013/14


Creatures (5)
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
1 Spellskite
3 Wurmcoil Engine

Spells (34)
4 Ancient Stirrings
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Chromatic Star
4 Expedition Map
4 Karn Liberated
4 Oblivion Stone
3 Pyroclasm
3 Relic of Progenitus
4 Sylvan Scrying

Lands (21)
1 Eye of Ugin
1 Forest
2 Ghost Quarter
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
1 Llanowar Wastes
4 Urza's Mine
4 Urza's Power Plant
4 Urza's Tower






Now, first thing you notice is that there are two years showcased. The reason is there isn’t really much of a difference between the 2013 and 2014 lists. Maybe a card or two that aren’t really relevant (2-4 Relics, sometimes an Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre) so I didn’t see a reason to put them in two different groups. But let’s look at the actual list. So this is about the time Ghost Quarter became a staple in this kind of deck. Ghost Quarter very quickly became one of the best lands for the deck. They also started playing a singleton forest to smooth out consistency. Another weird land choice; Llanowar Wastes. This one is tricky because there is no real advantage for it in the main deck. The reason was a 2-3 of Slaughter Games in the sideboard. This was mostly to combat really hard to mess with combo decks like Twin. It was a weird time. Now this is really the prime version of the deck imo. It was tier one, very streamlined, and was about the time people realized it was a real deck again. And then, Wild Nacatl.


2015

Creatures (5)
1 Spellskite
3 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

Spells (35)
4 Ancient Stirrings
4 Sylvan Scrying
3 Pyroclasm
4 Expedition Map
2 Relic of Progenitus
4 Chromatic Star
4 Oblivion Stone
4 Chromatic Sphere
2 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
4 Karn Liberated


Lands (20)
1 Eye of Ugin
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
2 Ghost Quarter
1 Forest
4 Urza's Tower
4 Urza's Power Plant
4 Urza's Mine



Now, 2015 is the year the deck changed the most. In the beginning, it was all about Firespout because Wild Nacatl just got unbanned. But Firespout was honestly pretty garbage. It didn’t do much more than Pyroclasm and if you happened to be up against a deck with ground guys and flying guys you were ruined. But, in mid 2015, our lord and savior Ugin, The Spirit Dragon was released and everything was great again. It may have taken a minute for people to actually realize Ugin was bonkers dumb but once they did it helped the deck a whole lot. This was another great time for Tron because there were many ways to build it with good results. Early 2015 was rough because when everyone played Nacatl the deck was just ok, but never truly bad. Then Ugin comes along and suddenly the deck is back to being great. The above list is one of many Ali Aintrazi decks that used Pyroclasm main and Firespout in the side to give maximum advantage against sweeper-weak decks.


2016

Creatures (8)
2 World Breaker
2 Wurmcoil Engine

2 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
2 Spellskite

Spells (33)
4 Ancient Stirrings
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Chromatic Star
4 Expedition Map
4 Karn Liberated
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Oblivion Stone
4 Sylvan Scrying
2 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Lands (19)
1 Forest
1 Ghost Quarter
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
1 Sanctum of Ugin

4 Urza's Mine
4 Urza's Power Plant
4 Urza's Tower



And here it is, the day the music died. This is obviously a completely different deck. We see that not only do we have the fantastic new inclusion of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, we also have no Eye of Ugin. Now obviously Eye was banned thanks to the Eldrazi Menace, but it hurt tron in an incredible way. Unfortunately, this deck is significantly worse. We can’t just goof around for a million turns and then start searching up big dudes and slamming them. We have to very strategically play the cards we have so that we save enough 7+ mana cards for our Sanctum of Ugin, and even then we do a lot of work for one activation. This is the end unfortunately. This is what has happened to my beloved tron. Why like this? How? Who? What? Well, let’s dig further and see what really happened to tron.


Why Tron is dead
Ok so let’s step back for a minute and try to actually see why Tron is just not viable anymore. Looking at the most recent tournaments and top 8’s, we have the triple GP weekend (0 tron top 8’s), The new jersey invitational (0 top 8’s), The New jersey open (0 top 8’s), the syracuse open (0 top 8’s) and the orlando open (0 top 8’s). That’s 7 Major events in the last month with 0 top 8’s for tron. I can even go back to the top 16’s of each event (besides The invitational, they didn’t post decklists past top 8) and we’ll see a singleton top 16; for mono blue tron. Yeah, not even RG tron. So that is an entire 2 months, 7 major modern events, and Tron didn’t make a single top 8 appearance, with a measly 16th place finish for a lucky mono blue player. This sucks, I love Tron, I wanna see it thrive. This is just not the time. But why?


How Tron Died


We know that tron isn’t doing well, we know how it’s changed, now it’s time to show how everything else changed and caused Tron to fall by the wayside. We need to explain the “Why”, if you will. So, why is tron not viable anymore? The simple answer is: burn is really popular right now. The longer answer is a mix of two reasons


  1. The Eye and Twin bannings made Tron significantly worse
  2. The format has warped itself in a way that prevents Tron from competing


The Eye and Twin Banning made Tron significantly worse
Now Eye of Ugin getting banned was really, really bad for Tron. It came at the worse time too. It happened after only 6 months of us having our new precious tool; Ulamog, the ceaseless hunger. That card was ridiculously good in the deck. After it came out, we had a solid 3 months where Tron was real, real good. It did have a little trouble with Amulet Bloom but we we’re still cool with it. Then, the Twin ban happened. One of the most unexpected bans in history. It was weird. But it was ultimately pretty bad for Tron. The reason being; super linear decks like burn, infect, and ad nauseum could just roam freely without Twin keeping them from being able to go all in on their combo/linear strategy. They could all be more consistent because there was no reason to run much removal as long as you could kill everyone before their creatures mattered. It made it really rough trying to play Tron in a meta full of decks that didn’t give a shit if you played a Karn because their permanents don’t matter. It was rough, but we still thrived. The reason was specifically because the eldrazi were so prominent that all we really cared about was “can you beat Eldrazi?”, and Tron could certainly beat eldrazi. It wasn’t easy, no no no, it was still hard, but that deck was insane so I don’t feel bad about it. The key was that they relied on playing the biggest creatures faster than normal. But by turn 3 they pretty much had 2 or 3 creatures every time. Now, Ugin was bad obviously, Karn was alright, Wurmcoil was insane, and Ulamog was unbeatable. So yeah, it was nowhere close to an unbeatable matchup. But, alas, the Eye of Ugin ban. On April 4th, 2016, Wizards took a dagger and stabbed my second favorite deck (Go Elves!) right in the heart, and then they also unbanned Sword of the Meek for some reason. This has been dubbed “The Day The Music Died” (by me, obviously) and will forever be a sad day for me and all of the great Tron lovers out there. Now, we tried to grasp onto the little hope we still had, we said “Oh hey guys! Check it out! We still have Sanctum of Ugin!”, god were we wrong. So, so wrong.


The format has warped itself in a way that prevents Tron from competing


When we look at the most popular decks at the moment, it doesn’t give us a lot of hope for Tron. Tron really struggles with non-interactive, fast, or linear decks. A deck like Burn is all 3 of those, a deck like Ad Nauseam is non-interactive and linear, and a deck like Through the Breach is non-interactive and significantly faster than Tron. The big problem with Tron against fast decks is that it just generally takes a while to get to a point where you can win. Not just takes a while to win, but takes a while to put yourself in a position where you can win, and then you just sort of go through the motions. The reason is that you first have to play a huge threat. Usually this big threat is summoned through the help of actually getting Tron online. You can’t physically have Tron before turn 3, so even with the perfect draw you essentially sit around and set up for at least two turns, then you slide in on the third turn with the big threat, which sets you up to win the game eventually. Now, since all of Tron's interaction is permanent-based, a deck like Ad Nauseam doesn’t care if you Karn away a land, because they just have to get to 6 (or sometimes just 5) mana (which they can do a million different ways other than their lands) and then they kill you by casting Ad Nauseam, a deck like Infect doesn’t care about their permanents as long as they keep a single infect creature alive (which is not hard), and a deck like Burn doesn’t care about their permanents because they just shove burn spells in your face until you’re at zero. The format is just so insanely fast right now, with Burn, Infect, Through the Breach, and Suicide Zoo all being in the top 10 most played decks, it’s just too hard to actually get out from under any of those decks. The problem is not only that it’s too hard to get under the bad matchups, but Tron is just so much worse now that it’s good matchups are still pretty shaky.


To Conclude

So, yes, the day has finally come. Tron is gone, it’s been cremated, spread in the Mississippi River, and may never be seen again. Does it have a chance to come back? Yeah! With Jund being so popular, it has the chance to come back and make a huge splash, but it is not looking good. It looks like we’ll not be seeing tron for an indefinite amount of time. It could be never, it could be 3 days, it could be an hour for all I know. But to all the Tron players out there, know this; You are not forgotten, you will never be forgotten, you shall always be remembered as the people that tried the impossible. And to Tron; my baby, my sweet, magnificent deck that I may never see again. I want you to know that we love you. We love you and we will always love you. We will never forget what you have done for us, we will never truly concede the fact that you’re gone. You shall live on in our hearts, you shall forever be remembered as the best deck on the planet (except Elves obviously). We miss you Tron, and we’ll see you on the other side.

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