Playing Tron Taught Me to Love the Mulligan

I played Tron this past weekend at SCG Cleveland and while I went 6-3 to narrowly miss day 2, the deck taught me a lot about magic over the course of it. I had never really prepped or played modern outside of a few instances where I had simply borrowed a proactive deck and played with little to no practice or experience. For Cleveland I really wanted to learn a deck and put up a real showing in the format instead of fumbling my way through things, so I borrowed the deck on MTGO to run it through a league, I read several articles on the deck and its sideboard plans, and I employed VTCLA to coach me through the fundamentals of the matchup for each major archetype in modern. As much as many people disparage Tron as an “easy” deck, Tron helped reinforce some fundamentals I haven’t worked on in a long while, and these lessons are valuable not just in the modern format, but across all of magic.

Play the game

This sounds like a given, but modern in particular will punish you harshly in non-games. If you spend your early turns not advancing your gameplan, many modern decks have no problem making you look dead and foolish on turn 3 or 4. Tron in particular looks pretty laughable if you just keep “lands and spells” because your deck relies so hard on the three Urza lands. People jokingly say that if your hand can’t make turn 3 Tron, mulligan it. They’re not far off! While it is a bit of tongue in cheek hyperbole, most of your cards simply don’t do anything if you can’t assemble Tron. Spells that cost upwards of 7 mana are laughably difficult to cast in modern if you’re playing them fairly, so it’s very important that you play them unfairly. If your hand doesn’t play magic, you shouldn’t keep it. There is however more to the Tron Formula™ than just making tron, because assembling your synergy and doing the wrong things with it still leads to you not really playing the game.

Focus on what matters

This may sound like an obvious lesson, and one that I harp on relatively frequently, but Tron really takes this point and distills it down. There are very few ways Tron can interact or be interacted with by design, but this just means those points of interaction are incredibly important. Tron doesn’t have cheap interaction in game 1, and even post-board most lists cap out at 3-4 spot removal spells. One of the things that Tron needs to do first and foremost is assemble the necessary lands to cast its spells. Beyond that, however, Tron also needs to focus on the right spells for any given matchup. For Tron this can be very polarizing, but I think that helps reinforce the lesson at hand. Tron’s cards can be very binary, so it can be very punishing if you sequence or mulligan poorly and cast the wrong spells for a matchup. Ugin isn’t going to do anything against Hardened Scales, and UW Control is largely going to ignore your Wurmcoil Engine. If you’re not doing the thing that matters in a matchup, you’re going to have a bad time, and Tron really helps teach that discipline in focus. If your hand isn’t capable of achieving what matters in the game at hand, or doesn’t have good odds to draw into that capability:

Just mulligan

No, seriously. Magic really lets you just take any card in your hand and before the game has even started cast it as “shuffle your hand into your deck and draw that many cards. Shuffle this into your library.” You may be down a card, but a rebuy on your hand is incredble, and you can do this as many times as you want. No lands? Just mulligan! All lands? Just mulligan! Hand can’t achieve what matters in the matchup? Just mulligan! Tron really taught me the value of this free spell because Tron’s play patterns are very binary, and the deck punishes you particularly hard if you keep hands that don’t actually do anything. Taking game actions doesn’t mean you achieved anything. You may have played magic, but you were never in that game. I think a lot of people are overly risk adverse in mulligans because they don’t want to start the game down a card, but I’d rather play on less cards and have a shot at winning the game.

Okay but what if I’m not playing Tron?

This is the best part, you can mulligan in any deck! While not every deck or format has things laid out as explicitly as Tron in modern, whenever you look at an opening hand you should be asking yourself “Can this hand do what matters in this matchup?” If the answer is no, you shouldn’t be keeping the hand. Tron can be fairly “obvious” about this point, but for any deck you aim to play competitively you should be learning what matters in each matchup. Just doing “something” isn’t enough to win a game of Magic. People will talk about decks that mulligan well or mulligan poorly, but honestly how well a deck mulligans is more a factor of deck selection than mulligan decisions. No matter how badly a deck mulligans, a mulligan is better than playing a game where you didn’t have a chance in the first place.

As a final note, because many have already asked: I will be doing some deckbuilding articles for War of the Spark standard coming up. I do want to wait until we have the full set, but I promise I’ll get you all a deckbuilding article next week. As always you can find me on twitter@yoman_5, you can find my stream at twitch.tv/yoman5, and you can always reach out to me on the GAM Podcast Patreon Discord.

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