Sunday was a pretty interesting day:
1-0 in the online PTQ. Beat Eggs rather easily. Time to settle in for the only grind I'll get all Modern PTQ season. #coverageownsmysoul— Cedric Phillips (@CedricAPhillips) March 10, 2013
2-0 in the online PTQ. Just beat my friend playing 5c Zoo.Long way to go but let's keep this train rolling!— Cedric Phillips (@CedricAPhillips) March 10, 2013
3-0 in the Online PTQ. First opponent to snap on me. Don't blame me. Blame Karn.— Cedric Phillips (@CedricAPhillips) March 10, 2013
Cedric Phillips (@CedricAPhillips) March 10, 2013
5-0 in the Online PTQ. Beat BW Tokens.#KarnIsBored— Cedric Phillips (@CedricAPhillips) March 10, 2013
7-0 in Online PTQ. Left my Twin opponent with no permanents and no clock at the end of game three. #FlawlessVictory— Cedric Phillips (@CedricAPhillips) March 11, 2013
8-0 in Online PTQ.Jund opponent won a sick game two by dealing with all four of my Wurmcoils on a mulligan to five but KARN DID NOT CARE!— Cedric Phillips (@CedricAPhillips) March 11, 2013
9-0 in the Online PTQ.#CantStopWontStop— Cedric Phillips (@CedricAPhillips) March 11, 2013
10-0 in Online PTQ.Karn > Liliana.#WhyLose?— Cedric Phillips (@CedricAPhillips) March 11, 2013
Lost in the semis to a Twin deck that is hell for Tron (Snapcaster, Cryptic, and VClique).Thanks for all the... fb.me/xPO8bsGy— Cedric Phillips (@CedricAPhillips) March 11, 2013
As you can see, I rolled off ten straight matches before losing in the semifinals of my last PTQ of the season. I wasn't disappointed then, and I'm still not as I write this article. The reality of online PTQs is that they're long tournaments that you have to run good and play better to win. I've rewatched all of my matches from Sunday, and I think my play was as close to flawless as it has ever been in my two months of playing G/R Tron, so I certainly can't be upset with myself over my performance.
Sometimes you just run into a bad matchup.
The U/R Twin deck that I lost to is one that Ofelia (the Magic Online handle of my only defeat) has been piloting for a while now. His version is different than traditional U/R Twin because he has access to a lot of Cryptic Commands, Remands, Vendilion Cliques, and Snapcaster Mages.
U/R Twin is already a pretty close matchup to begin with, but when they have real cards like Cryptic Command, Snapcaster Mage, Remand, and Vendilion Clique instead of garbage like Blood Moon, Spell Pierce and Izzet Charm, winning gets a lot more difficult.
I said it in my final tweet of the day, and I'll say it again:
"That matchup is one that I simply cannot beat unless something goes horribly wrong for my opponent. Ofelia is a very capable Magic player and built his deck to beat a lot of things, but one of them was certainly G/R Tron. Being upset about losing in the semis to such a bad matchup would be completely unreasonable. It was a bad pairing at the worst possible time."
A lot of people have asked me what version of G/R Tron I played on Sunday. It's the exact same version that I have been playing for two months on my stream:
Commonly Asked Questions
First, I want to go over are all of the commonly asked questions.
1) Why aren't you playing Explore?
Let me answer that question by asking you this:
"Would you normally play Explore in a deck that has twenty lands (nineteen of which actually tap for mana)?"
For some reason, I think your answer is no.
G/R Tron is a deck that isn't trying to hit a lot of land drops like Turboland decks before it. This deck is looking to assemble the Urzatron by turn 3 and cast broken spells before the opponent does anything of consequence. Cards like Ancient Stirrings, Sylvan Scrying, and Expedition Map help to expedite that process because they help find the missing pieces(s) of the Urzatron efficiently.
But more importantly, why would one want to assemble the Urzatron on turn 2? Casting Explore on turn 2 is your entire second turn, so you wouldn't be able to cast your Karn Liberated or Wurmcoil Engine until turn 3 anyway.
Do not play Explore.
2) Isn't Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre a good fit in this deck?
It is and it isn't. One thing you should know about G/R Tron is that drawing Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is absolutely terrible in all but a few corner cases (discarding it to Liliana of the Veil or when you have exactly fifteen mana are two of them). The main goal of G/R Tron is to assemble the Urzatron as quickly as possible and then use that seven mana immediately.
Ulamog does not fit into that goal.
There are situations where having an Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre to search for via Eye of Ugin can be useful—the Scapeshift matchup is a time when destroying a permanent can be useful—but it simply doesn't have the immediate impact that Emrakul, the Aeons Torn has upon resolution.
Playing against a U/W Control strategy can be annoying for G/R Tron. Path to Exile makes Wurmcoil Engine look pathetic, Cryptic Command and Remand do a nice job of delaying Karn Liberated, and Snapcaster Mage allows them to reuse all of these effects on that Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre that you're hoping to kill them with.
But one thing that U/W Control decks actually have difficulty doing is closing out a game.
And when you have Emrakul, the Aeons Torn lurking somewhere in your deck and many different ways to find it (Eye of Ugin, Expedition Map, and Sylvan Scrying), it demands that your opponent close out the game sooner rather than later or they'll be in store for the hottest plate of spaghetti this side of Italy.
3) Is that a Llanowar Wastes?
It absolutely is! When I began testing G/R Tron, I found a list that had Slaughter Games in the sideboard to help fix the Scapeshift matchup. I really liked that innovation, and the list that I researched had an Overgrown Tomb to help cast it.
Playing Overgrown Tomb untapped and paying two life against an aggressive deck is like being dunked on by DeAndre Jordan:
It is both painful and embarrassing.
Enter Llanowar Wastes. G/R Tron is a deck that abuses large amounts of colorless mana. There are times when you need a land that taps for green mana, but those are far and few between. When those times arise, cards like Grove of the Burnwillows (who cares about their life total when Karn Liberated is restarting the game) and Llanowar Wastes are ideal since they both tap for colorless mana as well.
There isn't anything flashy about Llanowar Wastes. Hell, the artwork is pretty ugly. But it gets the job done.
Now for a few brief sideboard explanations.
1) Why Combust?
Simply put, when Combust is good, it is great. It takes care of obvious cards:
And non-obvious ones as well:
2) Why Nature's Claim?
The main reason for Nature's Claim is because of Stony Silence. Having a one-mana instant speed answer to the problematic enchantment is a huge step in the right direction. But it actually does so much more in this format:
- Catches a Lotus Bloom during the upkeep of an Eggs player.
- Destroys your own artifact against a Burn player to gain yourself four life (preferably a Chromatic Star to draw a card as well).
- EVERYTHING AGAINST AFFINITY (but most importantly Inkmoth Nexus)!
3) Why Slaughter Games?
I was skeptical when I saw Slaughter Games in a few versions of G/R Tron months ago, but after playing with it for the past two months, it has earned its keep. Here are the matchups you want it and what to name:
- Eggs = Second Sunrise a large part of the time; Lotus Bloom if they don't have any in play or on suspend (this is rare). DO NOT TRY TO SNIPE THEIR WIN CONDITION! THEY PLAY MANY DIFFERENT ONES (Grapeshot, Laboratory Maniac, Pyrite Spellbomb, Banefire)!
- Storm = Grapeshot
- Mono-Blue Tron = Mindslaver
- G/R Tron = Karn Liberated
4) Why Spellskite?
Spellskite is a Modern staple nowadays, but G/R Tron has advantages that a lot of decks don't:
- It can be found via Ancient Stirrings.
- It can be searched for via Eye of Ugin.
The decks that Spellskite comes in against are vast (U/R Twin, Burn, Infect, Bogle, Amulet of Vigor, Scapeshift), but one matchup this card should never come in is against Kiki Pod. Their combo kills involve a way for them combo off without a target to redirect:
4) Why Torpor Orb?
This is one of the best hate cards in the format, as it demands an answer from both Splinter Twin decks and Birthing Pod strategies. Once again, the ability to find this card via Ancient Stirrings really makes it shine.
5) Why an additional Wurmcoil Engine?
There are some matchups where getting to fifteen mana simply isn't realistic (i.e., red-based aggressive strategies). For those matchups, another Wurmcoil Engine is the best threat that you can sideboard in.
I have tried other cards in my sideboard before (Sundering Titan, Firespout, Mindslaver, Surgical Extraction, etc.) but have not had very much success with any outside of Grim Poppet. If you want to cut something for a Grim Poppet to shore up your Birthing Pod matchups (it is large enough to provide a relevant clock while interacting with your opponent in a unique way), I wouldn't fault you for that.
I really wish I would have closed that PTQ on Sunday so I could have headed to San Diego a few months from now to play on the grandest stage in Magic, but I've chosen to cover the game over grinding as many PTQs as possible for the foreseeable future. It is weird to not have qualifying for the Pro Tour be priority number one for me anymore (it has been for the past seven years), but I wouldn't trade the work I do with SCGLive for the world.
There's always another PTQ.
Best of luck to everyone going to Grand Prix San Diego! I'll be in Las Vegas for my best friend's bachelor party (it's ok to be jealous).