Mono-Green or Black-Green Tron?

by Zen Takahashi on 23 January 2018, Tuesday

Zen Takahashi

 

Mono-Green or Black-Green Tron?

 


Hello everybody!

At the last individual Modern Grand Prix, Tron had a dominating performance, putting three people into Top 8 and two more into Top 16. Between these five top-performing Tron players, three played the Mono-Green version – including Platinum Pro and former PT Champion Steve Rubin, while the other two played Black-Green Tron – including No one ranked player in the world and reigning PT Champion Seth Manfield.

 

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


Today, I will be going over these two versions of Tron and outline their similarities and differences, their strengths and weaknesses, and the particular metagame that is best suited for each version. 

For reference, I will be using the two Platinum Pros' decklists:

 


 



Key Similarities and Differences

 

Fatal Push Dismember



Their main deck is mostly the same, as there is very little flexibility in card choices in Tron. In fact, the only real differences between most decklists is the number of Relic of Progenitus
 they play, whether they play Fatal Push or Dismember as their removal, and whether they want a full playset of Oblivion Stone or shave the fourth copy for an All Is Dust

 

Oblivion Stone All is Dust


Both Seth and Steve opted to play the full playset of Oblivion Stone – which I wholeheartedly agree with. While All Is Dust can be played on turn three and is not vulnerable to Stony Silence, it is too much of a liability against Affinity, Eldrazi Tron, and Lantern – which are all relatively popular at the moment. Stony Silence is also not nearly as popular as it used to be. In a format as open as Modern, I prefer more well-rounded cards for the main deck, as you simply do not what you might play against.

 

 

Relic of Progenitus


As for card choices they differed on in the main deck, Seth chose to play three Relic of Progenitus, while Steve preferred to play just one, making space for an additional Walking Ballista and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. This choice is not related to the version they opted to play, but rather how much graveyard decks they expected to play against. Of the five players who made Top 16 with Tron, Seth was the only one who chose to play three copies of Relic of Progenitus, while Steve and the three other players opted for less Relic of Progenitus for more threats – with two players going as far as playing no Relics and putting in a single copy of Emrakul, the Promised End

The other choice they differed on was their spot removal – with Seth playing Fatal Push while Steve played Dismember. Since Seth is splashing black, he also has three Green/Black dual lands – playing a split of two Llanowar Wastes, one Blooming Marsh and two Forests, while Steve just played the full five Forests. 

 

Collective Brutality Thoughtseize


The key difference between the two versions come in the sideboard, where Seth gets to play a playset of Collective Brutality and two Thoughtseize. On the other hand, Steve has to settle for more narrow/less broad answers, as he plays a combination of one- and two-offs to cover different bases – such as Ratchet Bomb, Warping Wail, Spatial Contortion and Crucible of Worlds

 

Grafdigger's Cage Ravenous Trap


Steve also chose to play Grafdigger's Cage over Ravenous Trap. While the former is worse against graveyard decks like Dredge and Living End, it acts as a hedge against Collected Company/Chord of Calling decks, whereas Seth does not need to hedge this way because he already has Collective Brutality for those matchups. 

Overall, their main deck is almost identical, while the key differences between the two versions come in the sideboard – where Black-Green Tron gets to play the six black discard spells, while Mono-Green Tron instead plays a combination of narrower answers. 



Strengths of Mono-Green Tron

 

Nature's Claim Thragtusk


The main advantage of Mono-Green Tron is that it is much more consistent – as it is close to being a colorless deck. In Steve's list, he only has nine cards that require colored mana, with six more in the sideboard – though there's no matchup where he would bring in both Nature's Claim and Thragtusk. This means that even in post-board games, he is going to have a maximum of about twelve to thirteen colored cards.

 

Chromatic Star Chromatic Sphere Forest


This is crucial, as Tron has few colored sources. In fact, it only has thirteen – the eight Chromatic Star effects, and five Forests. The former are also only one-offs, and you often want to sacrifice them aggressively. You also never want to spend an Expedition Map or Sylvan Scrying to find a colored land just to cast your spells, as it is so important that you hit the three Urza lands, and once you do, you would much rather search for Sanctum of Ugin or Ghost Quarter

While on the appearance the black splash may look "free," in reality it is far from it. With such few colored sources, eight of which are one-offs, the marginal cost of each colored card you add to the deck increases exponentially. The Mono Green version has a low enough amount of colored cards that this is mostly not an issue – but that is not the case with the Black-Green version. 



Weaknesses of Mono-Green Tron

As mentioned before, the main deck is largely the same – with the exception of the choice of spot removal. While Dismember is decent, it is quite a lot worse than Fatal Push. The life loss on Dismember is a major liability, especially against the aggressive creature decks where spot removal is at its best. 

 

Death's Shadow Gurmag Angler Tasigur, the Golden Fang


Not being able to kill Death's Shadow is also significant, as the card continues to be one of the key threats to the format. A relevant upside to Dismember though is its ability to kill Delve creatures, such as Gurmag Angler and Tasigur, the Golden Fang


The biggest difference between the two versions comes in the sideboard - where the Black-Green version gets access to the six discard spells, while the Mono-Green version has to play more narrow/less broad answers. Generally, in Modern, the reactive cards are quite powerful, yet narrow. However, by being Mono Green – which may be the color with the least powerful sideboard options, you are stuck with having narrow sideboard cards, but they are also not even that powerful.

 

Ratchet Bomb Spatial Contortion


Cards such as Ratchet Bomb and Spatial Contortion are relatively narrow but do not have the same impact that many other sideboard cards in Modern have. Overall, this is a significant detriment, as you are not able to cover all your bases – yet you also do not have access to the best answers to some of your toughest matchups. 




Strengths of Black-Green Tron

As previously mentioned, Fatal Push is a relatively large upgrade to Dismember. Not costing life and being able to kill Death's Shadow and Tarmogoyf is significant, as Tron wants to buy as much time as possible while it sets up its lands so that it can then start going over the top with large threats. 


The most significant advantage that the Black-Green version has over the Mono-Green version is the access to the six discard spells in the sideboard. Tron is a very consistent turn four deck, which makes it well positioned against any deck that is slower than that, such as fair decks, but is poorly-positioned against any deck that is faster than that, such as combo decks. 

The black discard spells are some of the best cards you can have against the combo decks, and they are also broad – which means they are good against almost all the combo decks in the format. Compare this to the Mono-Green version, which does not have any full answers, yet none of their sideboard cards are notable powerful. Getting to upgrade those narrow answers for broad solutions significantly helps improve the deck's chances against some of its worst matchups.


In addition to improving the deck's matchup against combo decks, the addition of four Collective Brutality also dramatically improves its Burn matchup. Burn has historically been a terrible matchup for Tron, and the deck continues to be one of the most popular decks in the format. Having access to a whole playset of Collective Brutality, in addition to the three Thragtusk, actually turns the matchup around all the way to being about even or slightly favorable post-board. 



Weaknesses of Black-Green Tron

 

Ancient Stirrings Sylvan Scrying


The main disadvantage of Black-Green Tron is that it is much less consistent – as it is very much a colored deck. In Seth's list, he has eleven cards that require colored mana, with twelve more in the sideboard – that is significantly more than the Mono-Green version. Since Ancient Stirrings and Sylvan Scrying can never be cut, in matchups where he brings in the discard spells, that is up to fifteen colored spells in his deck! 

As explained before, Tron has few colored sources – thirteen to be exact, eight of which are the Chromatic Star effects that can only be used once. Although you never want to spend an Expedition Map or Sylvan Scrying to find a colored land just to cast your spells, in the Black-Green version, you often will have to – especially in post-board games. This comes at a big cost as the deck's primary game plan is to try to hit the three Urza lands as quickly as possible, so having to use one of your search effects just for a colored land is a massive loss in tempo and time. 

 

Blooming Marsh Oblivion Stone Llanowar Wastes


The other disadvantage to Black-Green Tron is it has a more painful mana base. Ideally, you want to minimise the amount of damage you take from your lands so that you can buy yourself as much time as possible. However, you cannot play too many copies of Blooming Marsh as you often need your fourth land to come into play untapped so you can cast Ugin, the Spirit Dragon or use Oblivion Stone straight away. 

Therefore, you have to play some amount of Llanowar Wastes. Since the deck is mainly colorless, you usually do not have to take too much damage from it – but sometimes with a draw that involves a lot of colored cards, you will take a bunch of damage during the game – and that can be the difference between winning and losing against a deck like Burn. 




Which Version Suits Which Metagame

I believe that Black-Green Tron is better against combo decks due to its access to the discard spells. The addition of Collective Brutality also dramatically improves its matchup against Burn – which otherwise has historically been one of Tron's worst matchups. Therefore, the Black-Green version is better positioned in a metagame that is slightly hostile for Tron. 

However, if there is a large number of combo decks and Burn, then I would look to play another deck – as while the discard spells do improve the matchup a lot, they are still unfavorable matchups. 

 

Crucible of Worlds Ghost Quarter


Mono-Green Tron is better in a field where there are more control decks and graveyard-based decks, i.e., in a metagame that is full of Tron's traditionally good matchups. The Mono Green version is more consistent, so if your unfavorable matchups are not popular, then you do not have to sacrifice consistency to improve your chances against those decks. 

You are also slightly favored in the mirror due to having access to Crucible of Worlds with Ghost Quarter. You could also afford to play more Ghost Quarters if you wanted to as your mana base can support it – and in this metagame, you probably will want to add another copy. 


Overall, in an open field like a Grand Prix, I probably prefer the Black-Green version as it covers more bases and gives you a better chance against a wider range of decks. However, in a smaller tournament where you can better predict the metagame, like a Pro Tour or even your local FNM, then I would prefer the Mono-Green version if you are confident that Tron would be well positioned. 

I hope you enjoyed this article as I went over the two versions of Tron – Mono-Green, and Black-Green - and outlined their similarities and differences, their strengths and weaknesses and the particular metagame that is best suited for each version. This will likely be my final article before the Pro Tour, as I am currently spending a month traveling throughout Europe – visiting Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, the UK and Spain :) 

Until next time!

Zen Takahashi
@mtgzen on Twitter 

 




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