Tron—it’s not just for Modern anymore.
I suppose a quick introduction is in order. My name is Alex Ullman and you may remember me from such articles as this one and other bad Simpsons jokes. I love Pauper. I’ve been playing the format, in one form or another, for over a dozen years (back when it was supported as a player-run format on Magic Online) and I’ve been writing about the format for the better part of 10 years. I am thrilled to have a chance to write for ChannelFireball.com and share my passion for Pauper.
So back to the subject at hand. Tron, made up of Urza’s Mine, Urza’s Power Plant, and Urza’s Tower, is the backbone of a variety of archetypes in Pauper. When combined, these lands produce 7 colorless mana. This presents a unique resource in Pauper in that there is no other combination of 3 lands that can natively make that much mana. But this power comes with a cost in that Pauper lacks quality colorless spouts.
There are strong colorless cards in Pauper, including Ulamog’s Crusher and Serrated Arrows. But cards in this vein do not have an immediate impact on the game. Instead, they take a turn to do their thing, which is asking a lot in a format where games end as quickly as they do in Pauper. As such, Pauper versions of Tron decks often add cards like Prophetic Prism to help create specific colors of mana.
Remember what I said about Pauper being a fast format? Traditionally, it has a fundamental turn of four. This turn is the time by which defensive decks have set up survival and protection or the turn by which aggressive decks will have won the game. Tron operates in a weird space here. In a perfect world, Tron would use Chromatic Sphere, Chromatic Star, Ancient Stirrings, and Expedition Map to assemble its namesake mana engine by turn 4. But this isn’t reliable, and a key card from Modern—Sylvan Scrying—is missing.
While Pauper does have access to Crop Rotation, it’s risky to play the tutor in a format full of Spellstutter Sprites. Despite this, there are some decks that try to assemble a quick Tron and go over the top of whatever their adversary is trying to accomplish.
There is another way to utilize the UrzaTron in Pauper. As Brian DeMars has noted, you can use Tron as part of a control deck endgame. The ability to do multiple things per turn, starting as early as turn 4, is a great way to pull ahead. In a format where the answers and threats tend to cost under 2 mana, the ability to quite literally go over the top of many strategies is a huge benefit. Some call this deck Teachings Tron, others call it 5-Color Tron. Most, however, call it Murasa Tron.
The advent of this build of Tron came about after Oath of the Gatewatch. This was before Peregrine Drake came to dominate the format and Mulldrifter was one of the best things you could do in the end game. The problem was surviving, as aggressive red and green decks were everywhere. Enter Pulse of Murasa. Now it was possible to evoke Mulldrifter on the third turn and get it back later. Mnemonic Wall allows the deck to to get back the Pulse later on, boosting your life total even higher while setting up an eternal stream of blockers.
Murasa Tron is not the first big mana control deck in Pauper. Before Cloudpost was banned, one of the dominant archetypes in the format was a blue-red control deck that leaned on Mystical Teachings. IzzetPost was able to establish control of a game due to Glimmerpost blunting assaults. With access to Glimmerpost, the deck could spend the first few turns setting up its mana and picking off threats and then jump the curve while also bolstering your life total. Here is a deck that LSV took through the Pauper Daily Events back in 2011:
Pulse of Murasa fills the same role as Glimmerpost while having the advantage of being an extra creature as well. Murasa Tron, like any good control deck, is not a fixed entity. Instead, it has to adjust for the expected metagame. The deck is usually centered in blue and red, but it can branch into black if needed. Normally, it does this when Chainer’s Edict and Evincar’s Justice are better options than Lightning Bolt and Rolling Thunder. Usually Murasa Tron will shift to Chainer’s Edict when decks like hexproof, stacking Slippery Bogle high with Auras, are at their peak. Since that is not a frequent phenomena, the default color for removal remains red.
Murasa Tron is built on a solid mana base. Unlike many Pauper decks, the control build wants to run 23 land even though it has access to Tron. This is because the deck is able to play a regular control game until it achieves its end game. But before a structure can be built, the foundation must be laid, and in Murasa Tron that means all 12 Tron pieces and at least 2 cards like Unknown Shores. Shores (or Shimmering Grotto) are important because they allow you to still cast your spells when your opponents attack Prophetic Prism with Ancient Grudge. After this comes the right mix of Khans of Tarkir gainlands for mana flexibility. The one exception is an Izzet Guildgate since we are at the core a blue-red control deck.
There are very few fixed slots when it comes to spells. 4 copies of Prophetic Prism are mandatory. Not only do they fix mana but they replace themselves and help you cast key spells on the right turn. You want a mix of cheap red removal, usually Flame Slash and Lightning Bolt, depending on whether there are a lot of 4-toughness creatures running around. 2 copies of the namesake Pulse of Murasa are a must, as are at least 3 copies of Mulldrifter and 1 Mnemonic Wall.
The deck also wants a mix of cheap counters that can be used to win counter wars. Condescend is a fantastic option in the early game as it can help set up your draws while stopping a key threat. Later, Condescend acts as a hard counter more often than not thanks to your mana advantage. Mana Leak and Prohibit do similar things, but are more useful in the early stages of the game. Sometimes the format demands Counterspell, and Murasa Tron can support it though it is not the easiest spell to cast.
Murasa Tron also makes use of a light tutor package. Mystical Teachings can act as extra copies of any instant and in the late game can be a slow form of card advantage. The rest of the search is designed to find lands—Impulse can hit lands as well as spells while Expedition Map can hit the right Tron piece. The build below runs a single copy since it is less reliant on hitting Tron early. But it does run a single Crop Rotation for the times when the game becomes a race to hitting your mana engine first.
Finally, Murasa Tron needs a way to end the game. Some builds opt for Ghostly Flicker and Dinrova Horror. This is a lockdown package but requires multiple pieces to work. Instead, Ulamog’s Crusher, Rolling Thunder, and Capsize are all uniquely powerful options that can win the game on their own.
The sideboard presented here is meta specific. Coalition Honor Guard puts in work against Elves, hexproof, and Stompy. Dispel and Pyroblast help to win counter wars while Hydroblast is good defense against Burn. Moment’s Peace helps against aggressive strategies and Thorn of the Black Rose lets the deck steal the monarch from decks that rely on it. Other options include Ancient Grudge for artifacts, Ray of Revelation for enchantments, and extra copies of Electrickery.
Murasa Tron is one of the best decks in Pauper. It can pack nearly any answer in its 60 cards and with its amazing mana engine it can cast them all as well. Murasa Tron rewards studying the metagame and making small tweaks. The cards present today may be outdated next week but are likely to come back into vogue soon enough. If you’re looking to get into Pauper and like taking complete control of a matchup, Murasa Tron is the deck for you.