Red-Green Tron Primer (Part 3): Tron vs The World

In this three part series, resident Tron expert James O'Rourke will be giving an in-depth primer on a classic Modern archetype, Tron. Part one provided an overview of the Tron deck. Part two gave us an analysis of Tron's gameplan and how to navigate different match ups. Part three will provide an outline of Tron's key weaknesses, sideboarding tech and tips on mastering Tron.

In Modern, no deck is really safe from the powerful, yet narrow sideboard cards an opponent might bring with just you in mind. Tron is a deck that suffers quite a bit from these sideboard bullets in games two and three. In this article, you can find a list of all of the hate you’re likely to see if you’re playing Tron, or what you might want to consider adding to your sideboard if you want to beat it.

Common Hate

Crumble to Dust Stony Silence Fulminator Mage


Crumble to Dust or Sowing Salt – One of these followed by almost any pressure at all is usually lights out. Going from 20 lands with the possibility of Tron to 16 lands with no hope of ever tapping another tower for three is backbreaking.

Stony Silence – If the Tron player is on the draw this is incredibly crippling, but when on the play this can usually be ignored. Stony turns off your 8 Chromatic Sphere effects, 4 Expedition Map, 3 Oblivion Stone and your Spellskite leaving you with only two ways of removing it (either Karn or Ugin) and up to 15 cards without text. Sometimes your opponents will overvalue the impact of this card and keep a hand with insufficient pressure, allowing you to assemble Tron a few turns behind schedule, but still able to continue your usual game plan.

Fulminator Mage – The most common sideboard card seen from Green/Black/x strategies. It is very annoying but sometimes not impactful enough as you can quite simply search out another copy of the destroyed land which only sets you back a single turn. If they manage to start recurring it with Kolaghan’s Command or Liliana, the Last Hope, then you are in trouble.

Avalanche Riders – Similar to Fulminator Mage, but the body sticks around, which makes this much more of a headache than Fulminator.

Less Effective

Ghost Quarter Blood Moon

Ghost Quarter – While this can be a thorn in your side, it often won’t be much more than that. Your opponent is choosing not to progress their own game plan in favour of delaying yours. Often you’ll be able to use the forest you search up to cast more green spells to catch up on Tron and complete it (usually by Turn 4 if Ghost Quarter is the only interaction you’re facing).

Blood Moon – Non basic manabases? Get rekt Tron! – eh, not really. Unless Blood Moon is followed up with a significant amount of pressure that can’t be interacted with by whichever red sweeper you prefer, it simply just slows you down,. You are still able to use your Chromatic artifacts to create green mana, allowing you to cast Sylvan Scrying and Ancient Stirrings to find more lands (importantly Basic Forest so you have permanent access to your colours). If you hit your land drop every turn and slam a Wurmcoil Engine, you’re probably in business. Oblivion Stone can take out a Blood Moon as early as turn 5 and Karn, World Breaker and Ugin can take it out on turns 7 or 8 respectively. Post board, access to green mana allows you to cast Nature’s Claim, solving the problem.

Ancient Grudge – While Tron plays some artifacts, such as Oblivion Stone and Wurmcoil Engine, an instant speed way to destroy them usually won’t accomplish very much. It is very simple to get to 8 mana, cast and activate Oblivion Stone in the same turn, leaving Ancient Grudge in the dust. Wurmcoil ignores it by making some tokens. These tokens can of course be targets of the flashback Ancient Grudge, but in total they trade both halves of their Ancient Grudge for only two thirds of your Wurmcoil Engine, and a comparable amount of lands tapped for the privilege.

The Mirror

Urza's Powerplant Urza's Mine Urza's Tower

Tron is not a particularly widely played deck and so playing the mirror match is quite rare. These games, when they do show up, are incredibly one sided to whoever can make the first aggressive move. Turn 3 Karn on the play is almost certainly a win, because exiling your opponent’s Tron pieces is so crippling to their development. Sideboarding for this matchup is a bit hit and miss. There are a number of truly dead cards in the mainboard, such as Pyroclasm, which should be replaced by things that have even a minute impact on the game. Warping Wail is an upgrade over a red sweeper because of the possibility of countering your opponent’s vital Sylvan Scrying. The only hate card likely to be brought in in this matchup is Crumble to Dust. If it resolves and the board is clear, the game is almost certainly over in favour of the caster.

Useful tips

Karn Liberated

Karn Liberated

Play patterns

When you play Karn Liberated, in most situations it is ideal to exile a permanent {-3} and then exile a card from your opponent’s hand {+4}. Of course there are exceptions to this. If your opponent is on a combo deck that can go off from a low base (Grishoalbrand etc.) then the usual line is {+4} straight away, or rolling Karn down twice to hit two of their permanents depending on what you think will be most effective.

If you’re ever in a situation where you have multiple Karn Liberated in hand, the first one should almost always exile two permanents if possible. The second follows up by exiling a third permanent to really put the hurt on, or goes straight up to restart the game or tear their hand to shreds while you use something else to win the game.

Some tips on using Karn’s abilities:

  • Sometimes, your best route to victory is to restart the game by ultimating Karn and exiling your own cards in hand by targetting yourself with Karn's {+4} ability. Exiling one of your own threats, such as an Ulamog, might allow you to finish things up in time.

  • Creatures exiled with Karn are not affected by summoning sickness when you put them onto the battlefield when the game is restarted. This is quite unintuitive but an important thing to keep in mind when considering whether you should be aiming to restart the game.

  • Restarting the game resets life totals and so will help you defeat opponents who have gained infinite life.

Oblivion Stone

Oblivion Stone

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Ugin’s {-X} ability bypasses abilities that activate in the graveyard such as Kitchen Fink’s Undying, since it is exiling instead of destroying.

Chromatic Star

Chromatic Star

When Chromatic Star is put into the graveyard from the battlefield for any reason, the draw a card ability triggers. A common cause of this is detonating an Oblivion Stone. This also means that if a Rest in Peace (or similar effect) is in play, you will not draw a card when you sacrifice your Chromatic Star. The same is not true for Chromatic Sphere.

Ulamog the Ceaseless Hunger

Ulamog, the Ceasless Hunger

Ulamog will always kill your opponent in a maximum of 3 turns by exiling their library, unless they’re trying to play Battle of Wits I guess.

Grove of the Burnwillows

Grove of the Burnwillows

Thankfully, tapping Grove is difficult to mess up. It is always assumed you’re tapping it for colourless unless it’s specifically needed. For the sake of clear understanding between you and your opponent, it’s always best to announce how you’re tapping your Groves.


As you can see Tron is a fairly complicated deck with a lot of unique aspects that make it stand out from the crowd in Modern. With recent sets having major impacts on the Modern format, there's always something to be excited about. With the continuation of the artifact themed Kaladesh block, Aether Revolt could have some new toys for Tron.

By James O’Rourke, @Aggrmedian on Twitter

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