Primer on Primers

A deck primer is an overview of a deck’s purpose, strategy, general build, suggestions for metas, breakdown of matches, etc. I’ll walk you through everything you need to know if you’re looking for a new deck to play.

U/W Gifts Tron

Over the last two weeks, I analyzed 4 different midrange decks in the Spikiest fashion. Today I want to talk about something a little less serious. Mind you, when I say less serious, it doesn’t mean it’s a casual deck. This deck can be competitive, it just needs the right meta.

A Different Kind of Tron

U/W Tron, or Gifts Tron, as you may have guessed, uses the set of 3 Urza’s Lands, also known as ‘UrzaTron,’ to generate tons of mana. Compared to a similar deck, U/W Tron is a stark contrast to R/G Tron. R/G Tron tries to assemble it’s mana by turn 3 to generate 7 mana and cast game ending threats. Differently, U/W Tron is a blue-based control deck that plays a slow game which means a turn 3 ‘tron’ assembly isn’t as necessary. It just slowly builds to have the mana to cast very, very large, game ending threats that are normally unplayable in Modern.

Like any blue control deck, U/W Tron uses counters and removal to maintain control, as well as a number of maindeck board wipes (Yes, you read that right).

However, the main difference comes in the form of Gifts Ungiven. This card is amazing when built around. Basically, you force your opponent to give you what you need with redundancy. For instance, if I needed a board wipe, I could fetch: Snapcaster Mage, Supreme Verdict, Wrath of God and Day of Judgment. I WILL get what I want. It also runs Talisman of Progress and Azorius Signet to convert Tron mana into colored mana.

Let’s look at a list before we get much more in-depth.

Creating a Monster

Here is the list that Owen Turtenwald took to the Modern Masters 2015 Grand Prix:

As you can see, this is a blue control deck at heart. It just so happens to use Tron to cast its win conditions. A notable card is Thirst for Knowledge. Since it runs 8 artifacts, it’s a good choice for card draw. Let’s break down some of the other choices in the deck..

Army of One

What does the deck run with Gifts Ungiven?

Gifts Ungiven incentivizes us to run one-ofs in the deck. They are either there for redundancy, like the board wipe package, or for fetching a hand full of game ending threats. Other one-ofs, like lands, and the talisman are also for Gifts fetching purposes.

Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite presents a board wipe versus a lot of decks and she’s a very large creature that buffs whatever else you may have on the board.

Iona, Shield of Emeria Attempts to lock the opponent out of the game. Name the color they need to remove her and GG.

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon can board wipe with his -X and both of his other abilities generate large amounts of advantage. Very hard to answer. Once we’re in a post Eldrazi world in April Ugin will be on top again.

Mindslaver is just a fun card to play. Who doesn’t want to control your opponent? There is a combo in the deck to lock your opponent out for the rest of the game as well. I’ll explain it in some detail in a later section.

Unburial Rites can reanimate any creature you’re forced to throw away with Gifts. There’s a combo with this I’ll explain down the road as well.

Wombo Combos

At this point, the deck gets really insane. Not only are there combos that put you so far ahead your opponent might concede, there are instant win combos as well.

The Instant Reanimator Combo

For this combo, you cast Gifts, and fetch ONLY Unburial Rites+Iona, Shield of Emeria. This guarantees that both cards go to the graveyard and now you can reanimate Iona, Shield of Emeria.

The Mindslaver Combo

For this combo, you need to have 12 mana available. Once you do, you lock your opponent out of the rest of the game by using Mindslaver+Academy Ruins. Now you get to have fun controlling them from then on, forcing them to tap all their mana, making them kill their own creatures, etc. At that point you win with a threat of your own or by milling them out since you will draw Mindslaver each turn, after placing it on top of the library with Ruins and they will draw a new card.

Forcing the Mindslaver Combo

With Gifts Ungiven, you can force your opponent to give you the Mindslaver combo. You cast gifts and fetch:

After you fetch in this way, there are five possible combinations of cards the opponent can choose to give you.

  1. Mindslaver+Academy Ruins - This is the combo.
  2. Mindslaver+Expedition Map - Map for the second Academy Ruins in your deck.
  3. Mindslaver+Crucible of Worlds - Play Crucible, then play the Academy Ruins in the grave that you were forced to throw away.
  4. Academy Ruins+Expedition Map/Crucible - Play Ruins to put the Mindslaver back on top of your library.
  5. Expedition Map+Crucible of Worlds - Use Map to find Ruins, or Crucible to play Ruins from graveyard, then place Mindslaver on top of library.

Other Viable Cards

In this section, I’ll go over a few options that you can keep in mind for when you tune your deck for the meta you’re going to play in. Playing the right 75 means doing a little research. It’s important to know that there’s a difference between MTGO, FNM, Grand Prix, etc. You’ll need to take the time to know which cards to take out but this should be a good starting point to know how to address certain decks.

Cyclonic Rift is a great all-purpose bounce. For 2 mana, it’s nice, but it’s best when you overload it. You almost always have the mana to do so which can buy you multiple turns if you’re in a meta with a lot of aggro decks.

Detention Sphere can be great in a creature heavy meta, also works wonders against tokens. If you’ve got it, it will most likely reside in the sideboard. As a nice benefit, it can also target Emrakul, the Aeons torn. He can’t be the target of colored spells. This is a permanent targeting another permanent. You also gain a similar benefit when playing against Reality Smasher.

Hallowed Burial is another board wipe you could incorporate. Putting creatures on bottom of library gets around on-death effects such as with Voice of Resurgence.

Karn Liberated is very powerful. However it’s not in the 75 currently because it’s decidedly better when cast early, like in R/G Tron. In U/W Tron, Tron isn’t always assembled on turn 3 or 4, so it’s not a great choice.

Martial Coup is another board wipe that can be used offensively. You’ll have more than enough mana. Again, keep in mind what meta you’re going into and make sure that what you’re taking out is a good choice.

Noxious Revival is similar to Snapcaster Mage, except you must pay 2 life, and skip your next draw step. This won’t make it most of the time, but the more grindy the matchups the better it is to have redundancy.

Oblivion Stone is a great card, but it loses some of it’s luster since U/W Tron can’t assemble Tron as quickly as R/G Tron. If you’ve got a pretty slow meta, then it may be worth it.

Sphinx’s Revelation has a very prohibitive Mana Cost, run 1, if any. Great way to stabilize. Fills your hand and gains tons of life. Also, instant speed. Again, this is best in a meta with a lot of grindy and slow matchups.

Sundering Titan can be good, but any 3 color deck will generally have at least 2 colors of removal. Cut them off Path and they can still Terminate/Dismember/Etc. I’d recommend staying away from it.

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is an extremely powerful game ender. Exiles 3 permanents, including lands. If you’re playing against a lot of Jund/Abzan Ulamog is a great card to have.

Batterskull is great in a meta without Grixis.

Wurmcoil Engine is bigger than your average beater and hard to remove. Great Choice. Truly shines against aggro and burn, but its benefits are large enough to warrant a mainboard inclusion.

Sideboard Choices

Knowing how to sideboard is very important. On average, over half of Magic games are played with cards sideboarded in. Part of the art of effectively sideboarding after game one is being knowledgeable about your opponent’s deck. Any serious Modern player will do their research about many types of decks so they know how to exploit their weaknesses. There’s a real reason decks are referred to as ‘the 75.’ You should think of your deck as 75 cards that can play against the field. Here’s some options for what you could include in your build of U/W Tron.

Celestial Purge is a useful card, with a somewhat strict usage. In the right matchups, it’s a no-downsides exile.Very common format targets include Liliana of the Veil, Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Blood Moon, Leyline of the Void, etc. It’s a great card to include because it’s just so versatile.

Spellskite is a great card that hates on many decks. It also synergizes with our build because you can throw it away for Thirst for Knowledge. It was primarily used as Splinter Twin (R.I.P.) hate, but it is still great against infect, burn and hexproof auras. It’s good against scapeshift as well since all Valakut triggers are simultaneous, you can pay 2 life for each redirection, ending up with a loss of 12 life instead of 18.

Tormod’s Crypt is a one sided graveyard exile which is relevant because there are some graveyard synergies in our deck. It’s great against decks that need their graveyard like Grixis variants, Living End, and some control decks to take away their Snapcaster Mage targets.

Timely Reinforcements is great against aggro. You’ll always start behind and can get both effects. The same can be said against burn. Timely can cripple them. In games where you can reanimate Norn, these tokens can put in a lot of work.

Disenchant is here because affinity is a popular deck. You should include at least two or three of these. Since the deck lacks red mana, Disenchant is the best option. Luckily, it also doubles as enchantment hate.

Suppression Field can also useful against Affinity (for Arcbound Ravager, Cranial Plating, and Manlands), Living End (for cyclers), Abzan Company (for Viscera Seer), and it’s also great against decks with planeswalkers.

Rule of Law is a very specific hate card for Storm and Living End, but it’s only needed if these decks are giving you trouble.

Torpor Orb shuts down Abzan Company with their infinite persist combos, as well as random fringe decks like Allies. It does shut off our Snapcasters, but that’s ok if it stops their entire deck.

Leyline of Sanctity stops Burn decks from targeting you, and it also stops discard from decks like Grixis, Jund, and 8Rack.

Bribery can be a useful card for Tron mirrors, and possibly useful against midrange decks.

Crucible of Worlds can be in sideboard to counter land destruction, but some players like in the main deck to force the Mindslaver combo as described above.

Dispel is a great option against Burn and also can help win counter wars vs other control decks.

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is one of the biggest creatures in Magic, only a few cards can answer him: Oblivion Ring, Detention Sphere, and Olivia Voldaren are the few off the top of my head. If you have the mana, it’s likely a win more card, but can be useful if your match clock is running out. It’s a much faster kill than Mindslaver.

Negate is another option that’s useful against Burn, control mirrors, midrange decks, and even Tron mirrors.

Rest for the Weary is pretty much specifically Burn hate. I would play a more versatile hate card in most metas.

Tectonic Edge and Ghost Quarter are great against decks with greedy mana, such as Jund, Abzan, Jeskai control, Scapeshift, etc.

Terastodon could also see play in the Maindeck but it depends on what decks you’re fighting against. It’s a great Unburial Rites target that can swing the game in your favor, provided you can kill the three 3/3 tokens that are given to the opponent. This can also be used to destroy lands if needed and would be good against other tron decks.

To build a proper sideboard, you can either try and predict the field with a tool like mtgtop8.com or if you know what your meta is like, say at your normal Friday Night Magic, you know what hate cards you’ll need. Some players prefer multiples of the same cards, some prefer multiple versatile one-of hate cards, it’s up to you.

Matchup Analysis

Knowing how to handle various matchups is crucial. It’s necessary to know how your opponents’ decks work so you can do your best to beat them. Here’s some tips and some sideboard decisions.

Affinity

Favorable Matchup

Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite will be your best win condition. She completely nukes their board and they have no way to deal with her.

In Out
1 Disenchant 1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
1 Suppression Field 1 Remand

Hexproof Auras/Bogles

Slightly Unfavorable Matchup

Iona, Shield of Emeria is your best win condition in this matchup. When you play her, name white to prevent them from casting Path to Exile while you beat on them with your flyer.

In Out
1 Disenchant 4 Path to Exile
1 Timely Reinforcements  
2 Negate  

Board wipes can be significantly worse with their Totem Armor, but are still better in the deck than the sideboard.

Burn

Favorable Matchup

To win, you need to reanimate Iona naming red, as fast as possible and keep their early threats off the board with Path, Remand, and board wipes.

In Out
1 Timely Reinforcements 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Rest for the Weary 1 Day of Judgment
2 Dispel 1 Supreme Verdict
  1 Wrath of God

Griselbrand Reanimator/Glass Cannon Vengeance

Even Matchup

In this matchup, you want Iona, Shield of Emeria naming black to stop them from casting Goryo’s Vengeance. Even though Through the Breach is also a threat, it’s a much narrower card since they need the threat in hand as well.

Remand is also great if they try to combo and it can invalidate their Simian Spirit Guides.

In Out
2 Celestial Purge 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
2 Negate 1 Day of Judgment
  1 Supreme Verdict
  1 Wrath of God

Infect

Unfavorable Matchup

Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite is your win card here. It utterly destroys their entire deck and they have no outs. It’s a free win, if you can stick it. However, it’s unfavorable, because of its speed and if they have Vines of Vastwood to stop your removal, you will lose.

In Out
2 Dispel 1 Wrath of God
1 Negate 1 Day of Judgment
  1 Supreme Verdict

Jund/Abzan

Slightly Favorable Matchup

Reanimate Iona, Shield of Emeria as quick as possible, naming black for Jund to keep them off Terminate, Slaughter Pact, or whatever else they may choose to run. If it’s Abzan, name white to keep them off of Path to Exile.

This matchup gets grindy with Liliana of the Veil and Scavenging Ooze doing good work for them. Ooze can stop our combo by eating our cards in the graveyard at the right time. Do not combo if they have an Ooze and green mana available. One last thing to watch for, is Abrupt Decays and Kolaghan’s Command targeting our Signets and Talismans to try and cut us off of colored mana.

In Out
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Timely Reinforcements 3 Remand
2 Celestial Purge  

Both of these decks also get destroyed by Emrakul, they have no answer to it. Overall, it’s not hard, just very Grindy.

Merfolk

Unfavorable Matchup

This matchup is unfavorable, because their Islandwalk gets enabled without them having to worry about Spreading Seas. That being said, Iona naming blue is your best chance to win the game if you can get it out.

Here’s a few things to know. If they draw Spreading Seas, it can cut you off your Tron mana. Also, board wipes are great here, but Norn doesn’t really do enough once they get rolling with a few Lords.

In Out
1 Disenchant 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Timely Reinforcements 1 Remand

Jeskai Control

Highly Favorable Matchup

This is the classic Control vs. Control, except you’re the bigger deck. You have harder to answer threats, and you have more mana to win the counter wars.

They only thing to worry about is Cryptic Command and/or Ajani Vengeant tapping down your threats.

In Out
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Timely Reinforcements 1 Wrath of God
3 Dispel 1 Day of Judgment
2 Negate 1 Supreme Verdict
1 Tectonic Edge 4 Path to Exile

Wrap up

Well, this was a lengthy article, but there’s enough information here to get you started playing this deck and do reasonably well after some testing.

Next week, I’ll detail some decks that have no true win con, they’re the ultimate attrition decks.

Thanks for reading!

A photo of Cody Revels Cody Revels

Cody Revels is an IT Professional who enjoys playing Magic in his spare time. He’s a competitive player who has enjoyed relative success at a local level and hopes to attend a Pro Tour one day. His favorite thing about Magic is the Modern Format and the friends he’s made.