At a Modern tournament, it’s pretty common to hear the delighted stories of midrange players beating Tron, and also to hear their sighs when they lose to Tron. When Jund players lose to Tron, I let them sulk and give their bad beat stories. When they beat Tron, I like to ask what the Tron opponents’ opening hands/mulligans were like.
I started to see a pattern in this small sample size of Tron players keeping really slow or non-functional hands in the games where Jund or other midrange decks beat Tron. People like to make fun of Tron as a deck for being low on decision points, but in reality a lot of the decision-making is front-loaded to your mulligans. This is even more true with the scry rule, because a single card can take a hand from a 0/10 to a 10/10. Once you’ve kept a hand, a lot of the same lines occur. You find Tron first, then you cast your big mana payoffs.
The most important thing to consider when deciding to keep or mulligan with Tron is whether or not you can assemble Tron within a reasonable timeframe. In the dark, I consider turn three-four “reasonable” but that can change if you know the matchup and/or are on the play/draw in certain matchups.
In this article I’ll go over a bunch of different hands, and why you should or shouldn’t keep them. Hopefully you’ll finish with a better understanding of why you beat or lost to Tron. Note that I’m discussing all of these hands as if you were on the play and you didn’t know what your opponent was playing. In a real tournament, you’ll have to consider what your opponent is playing if you have that information. As you look at each hand, consider whether you would keep it or mulligan, and if you keep, how you would sequence your first 2-3 turns.
This is the decklist used for the sample hands:
Andrew Gordon- Tron
This hand is very likely to assemble Tron on turn 4 with the following sequence:
T1: Chromatic Sphere
T2: Crack Sphere for G, cast Ancient Stirrings [Relying on Stirrings to find any non-Mine Tron piece in this case is reasonable; if you need a specific Tron piece, Stirrings is less reliable]. Play whatever Tron piece you find off Stirrings, and cast Map (or don’t). Whether or not you play the Map depends on whether your opponent is more likely to have a way to remove it when it’s in play or counter it, or remove it from your hand via discard. Either way you don’t get to assemble Tron and use all your mana until T4.
T3: Cast and use the map, or use it if you played it the previous turn, and play the land you searched up.
T4: You can play the Ghost Quarter and get to eight mana for playing and using O-Stone, or you may have found a Chromatic Star/Sphere on one of the previous turns when you had open mana, which would let you play World Breaker this turn.
Note also that leading with Ancient Stirrings here gives you more information on what you will use the Map. The obvious situation is finding a Power Plant off the Stirrings, and so knowing you need a Tower from the Map. If you Map first, you are blind searching one of the other lands with the Map.
This hand is unable to assemble Tron. One reason this hand is a mulligan is that I almost entirely ignore having payoff cards and focus on assembling Tron. Yes, you lose some games where you get Tron but have nothing to do with it, but you have far more live draws with Tron active than without.
The other problem is that there’s no way to assemble Tron with the cards in your hand. You should never keep 7s that require a topdecked Tron piece. The deck mulligans too well to lose games by keeping hands like these.
To assemble Tron by turn four, you have to have two things go right: draw a Chromatic Star/Sphere (drawing a forest after turn 2 delays Tron past turn 4) by turn three, and hit your third Tron piece with Ancient Stirrings. Consider this sequence, ignoring topdecks:
T1: Mine, Map
T2: GQ, crack Map for Power Plant
When you get to turn 3, you have to have top-decked one of the following in two draw steps: Tower, Chromatic Star/Sphere, Expedition Map. The tiebreaker for this hand is also that even if you assemble Tron on turn four, you are unable to cast any of your payoffs.
This hand is pretty similar to hand three. You need too many things to go right to assemble Tron by turn 4 with the cards available to us. Consider the following sequence.
T1: Power Plant, Star
T2: Crack Star, play Tower (need to draw Stirrings or Scrying to be able to assemble Tron by turn 3)
T3: Live draws on this turn include Map, or Star/Sphere into Stirrings/Scrying to assemble Tron.
Again you are relying on your first two draw steps giving you exactly what you need or you will do nothing in the first four turns of the game, which in Modern is usually the same as losing. You can delay cracking the Star for a turn, giving you an extra shot at Stirrings/Scryings, but that also delays when you will assemble Tron.
This hand is not ideal, but is guaranteed to assemble Tron on turn 4 with the following sequence:
T1: Power Plant
T2: Forest, Scrying (for Mine)
T3: Mine, Scrying
T4: Tower + payoff of choice.
Sometimes a turn four Karn or Wurmcoil is not good enough, but more often than not on the play it will be. Having a green source in your hand also provides some cushion if you are disrupted, e.g., your Scrying is Thoughtseized or Spell Snared. It means you can draw an Ancient Stirrings/Scrying and be able to cast it for the final Tron piece.
If you’re ever worried about mulliganing too much and getting stuck with unplayable 6s and lower, just look at this hand: Urza’s Mine, Dismember, Expedition Map, Urza’s Tower, Urza’s Power Plant, Karn Liberated. That’s a six-card hand, and it’s miles better than any of the 7s we’ve looked at so far.
Or look at this five-card hand, where you only need one thing to go right (Stirrings finds Power Plant or Mine) to assemble Tron by turn four: Chromatic Sphere, Oblivion Stone, Ancient Stirrings, Urza’s Tower, Expedition Map.
Yes, sometimes you will mulligan to four and your hand will suck and you’ll lose without casting any spells. But that can happen almost as often if you are keeping bad 7s that can’t assemble Tron. Tron mulligans better than almost any other constructed deck. It only needs four cards to function at peak efficiency, which is not close to true for other decks. A Jund hand with two lands, a Tarmogoyf and a Dark Confidant is not nearly as powerful as Tron with each Tron land and a Karn.