Paupers and Kings, Ep. 4: Blue Tron

platinum angel In its heart lies the secret of immortality.

Hi everyone, and welcome to the fourth episode of Paupers & Kings, my series on porting Pauper decks into the Modern format while staying on a budget.

Part of the idea behind this series is that if you find a list you like to play in one format, you can take that enjoyment and your skill with that list into another format. Using last week as an example, if you love playing and are good with Living End in Modern, I reasoned that you would also enjoy and be good at playing Damned Rats in Pauper.

For my own part, I’ve found this concept to hold true during my play-testing. I enjoy the lists similarly and skills from one transfer across to the other. This week, though, was a little strange. While the lists this week play similarly, I enjoyed playing one much more than the other. Perhaps it was just my own limited experience, the large number of play mistakes I made, and the weird, grindy match-ups I endured, but I had a hard time enjoying Magic playing Rhystic Tron in Pauper. It is slow, finicky, and packs a whopping three win conditions which, hey, better hit or you’re looking at beating your opponent only through sheer force of will and superior patience.

I’m getting ahead of myself a bit, though. I started out this week wanting to build Tron in both formats. I could have done RUG Tron in Pauper and RG Tron in Modern, but the latter is prohibitively expensive for this, an article about building on a budget. Rhystic Tron has been the hot new Tron list in Pauper, so I went with Blue Tron in Modern, and couldn’t be happier with how the two relate. In many ways, they are very similar.

Modern does have its own UW Tron which utilizes [c]Gifts Ungiven[/c] and also looks like loads of fun but is, again, significantly more expensive. We’ll look at variants in each format as we go.

Let’s take a closer look at our Pauper list this week.

UW Tron in Pauper

Most of the conversation I’ve seen about this list has been over on Reddit. MTGO user d1n0sauR claims credit for the original idea, but Saibod / obZen has seen the most success with it in PCT and Daily play. I chose to use one of Saibod’s lists since I am familiar with his abilities as a brewer and tinkerer and his successes with the list are a good marker of its power.

Rhystic Tron seeks to get Tron online, stay alive with Rhystic Circle, and, eventually, win. Somehow.

It is fairly good at accomplishing the first two goals. RUG Tron is better at getting Tron online (as is RG Tron in Modern), which is part of the reason UW Tron packs Signets in Pauper (and Talismans in Modern). These allow you to ramp up faster than your opponent, regardless of whether or not you get your Tron online.

[d title=”UW Rhystic Tron by Saibod (Pauper)”]
1 Remote Isle
2 Swiftwater Cliffs
1 Island
1 Mountain
1 Plains
1 Haunted Fengraf
1 Quicksand
4 Tranquil Cove
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower

4 Expedition Map
4 Azorius Signet
2 Izzet Signet
1 Relic of Progenitus

Win Conditions
2 Ulamog’s Crusher
1 Kaervek’s Torch

Card Draw
4 Compulsive Research
2 Impulse
2 Deep Analysis

2 Fade Away
4 Condescend
4 Journey to Nowhere
4 Rhystic Circle

2 Fade Away
4 Earth Rift
2 Gorilla Shaman
2 Hydroblast
1 Capsize
3 Pyroblast
1 Orim’s Thunder [/d]

The win conditions themselves are fine, except for when they’re not. Crusher doesn’t do anything when it hits the board and, as the saying goes, it dies to removal. MBC will never, ever let it live. In fact, they’ll be so happy they get to blow up a creature with all the removal they’ve been sitting on.

Decks with red removal will have a harder time dealing with the 8/8, but those decks are mostly running blue now as well and likely have more counterspells than we do. White lists usually have [c]Journey to Nowhere[/c] and even Affinity can throw down a [c]Doom Blade[/c] or two [c]Galvanic Blast[/c]s. We do have [c]Condescend[/c]s to keep the crushers alive, but they still feel pretty fragile.

Kaervek’s Torch is harder to disrupt, but it can be hard to get around decks with multiple counterspells or too much life gain. As a 1-of, you also run the risk of finding it at the very bottom of your deck, even with all your card draw.

One synergy I really enjoy is [c]Rhystic Circle[/c] and [c]Fade Away[/c]. Since your opponent will likely be tapping a lot of mana to get some damage through on their turn, Fade Away can do some serious work when you cast it on your turn, disrupting their mana and destroying their permanents like nobody’s business. This works best against aggressive creatures strategies, though, which are not at their most popular in Pauper right now.

Ultimately, I feel like Rhystic Tron is focused too much on reacting to what your opponent is doing and not enough on “being the problem.”

RUG Tron is ultimately the stronger deck in Pauper and is much better at being the problem. It’s also about half the cost, since we can cut [c]Hydroblast[/c] and [c]Gorilla Shaman[/c] from the sideboard, as [c]Fangren Marauder[/c] nulls the need for that particular SB tech.

Now let’s take a look at Modern.

Blue Tron in Modern

If you are interested in seeing how successful Mono Blue Tron can be in Modern, you need look no further than Shoktroopa’s daily results. Premier results, too. That’s a whole lot of wins and quite a few are undefeated.

The list I chose to run is inspired by Shoktroopa’s successes and explained in good detail in Jacob Van Lunen’s article on ChannelFireball. The plan here hinges more around: get [c]Platinum Angel[/c] into play, protect [c]Platinum Angel[/c], profit. It’s a classic three-step plan to fame and riches. Here’s the list.

[d title=”Mono Blue Tron – Van Lunen (Modern)”]
1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
1 Tolaria West
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Academy Ruins
7 Island
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower

3 Solemn Simulacrum
2 Treasure Mage
3 Platinum Angel
1 Wurmcoil Engine

4 Talisman of Dominance
4 Expedition Map
1 Mindslaver

Draw and Control
4 Remand
4 Condescend
3 Repeal
1 Spell Burst
3 Pact of Negation
4 Thirst for Knowledge

1 Tectonic Edge
1 Cyclonic Rift
2 Negate
1 Oblivion Stone
2 Dismember
2 Squelch
1 Sundering Titan
1 Aetherize
1 Island
1 Wurmcoil Engine
2 Bottle Gnomes [/d]

The amount of card draw and scrying in the list help make it very consistent and unlike RG Tron, it’s very resilient against having its Tron pieces removed. Being just one color, mana constraints are easy to get around, and the base itself is very simple. Angel wins against most strategies, especially with ample counter protection. Wurmcoil beats the rest, including Jund, especially with [c]Academy Ruins[/c] in play.

[c]Mindslaver[/c] lock is also a very real win condition but, as Dan reminded me, you need something else in play to actually win with it. Some creature, some card draw, some something. You’re using your draw every turn to get the Mindslaver back, so you don’t get any new cards to work with. You can hope your opponent draws into something interesting that you can use against him, but even then, without some way to do damage, all you can do is stall the game forever. (Edit: poopgobbler69 illuminated me in the comments that since you’re not drawing from your deck anymore – you just keep drawing Mindslaver – you will eventually Mill your opponent out. So the lock is a win-con all on its own!)

I had a blast playing with this list and it felt really powerful. Even though it was mentioned in Van Lunen’s article, I didn’t catch on how good [c]Pact of Negation[/c] is with Platinum Angel in play. It makes [c]Force of Will[/c] look like a bad card. [c]Tolaria West[/c] can transmute for a Pact in a pinch, and you can grab it with a Map, making it pretty easy to secure more counterspell backup in a pinch.

We’re looking at Modern, so let’s talk cost.

The list is already cheap out of the box. Shoktroopa’s list runs just $108 online and proves it is worth every penny. We can cut some costs without sacrificing too much, but some key money cards have to stick around.

One [c]Oblivion Stone[/c] should stay in the 75, as should two [c]Wurmcoil Engine[/c]s. We can drop Oboro for an island in a pinch, and switch out the [c]Remand[/c]s for [c]Mana Leak[/c]s or possibly [c]Spell Snare[/c]s. Most of the other cards aren’t too spendy, though when you’re adding $1 here and $2 there, it can add up, especially if you’re used to Pauper prices. Still, if the deck appeals to you and you want to break into Modern, you would be hard-pressed to find a deck that packs as much punch for the dollar. And hey, if you can think of one, tell me about it!

On the Play

How did these lists fare in practice? Let’s take a look!


I mixed them up to switch off between Modern and Pauper lists, so you can get a better idea of how each plays. Skip around as you see fit. As I alluded to previously, I had much more fun playing the Modern list than the Pauper list. I did have some weird Pauper match-ups (and difficult ones for this list), so that could have something to do with it. If you have experience with either list and can weigh in on play mistakes or your own experiences, please do share!

Next week on Paupers and Kings

I’ve got some fun Soul Sisters lists lined up for next week’s article. As always, if you have ideas for Pauper / Modern crossovers or favorite lists to share, please do.

Until next week, may your angels always be platinum.