Last weekend myself and a group of Columbus players made the trek to Richmond, Virginia to tackle the Star City Games invitational. Unfortunately, few of us were able to make day two of the event. We liked our Standard deck, but predicting what would excel was difficult. It was fun to prepare for the event, but I had little intention of running the same deck back the next day. Instead I opted to wait for Sunday to play a sweet one at the Premiere 5k Invitational.
U/W Gifts Tron
Aren’t all of those singletons just the greatest? For those not familiar with this archetype, the deck is essentially a grindy control deck that can steal wins via the Gifts Ungiven/Unburial Rites interaction (snagging Elesh Norn or Iona). The strategy has a long history with many pros including LSV playing it back in the day; however, I was first turned onto the strategy by Reid Duke. He opted to play a list at Grand Prix Richmond last year, and I was hooked.
I put the deck together shortly after that event, and since then it has been my deck of choice in Modern. In Richmond, I was able to run the list all the way to 3rd place, and I decided to jot down some notes about it.
How Does the Deck Operate?
As I mentioned above, Gifts Tron is not a blisteringly fast deck. Many view it as a combo deck, but in all reality it is a control deck with the ability to combo an opponent out of the game. With a few specific matchups aside, the deck is a card advantage engine with the best inevitability of any of the would be control decks in Modern. How many of the other control decks (blue moon, UWR, etc.) have Emrakul at the top of their curve? None of them, that’s who. The deck, as with any Gifts Ungiven deck, requires a working knowledge of what to search for at any specific time. Certain packages like searching for three wrath effects are fairly obvious, but recognizing why there are Snow-Covered lands in the deck is a bit trickier. The answer is because Blood Moon is a real card, and you can search for four basic lands in the matchups where it’s a factor. My suggestion is to test the deck a lot if you plan to run it effectively. Here are some bulleted thoughts on playing the deck.
- Sequencing with this deck is very important, and the first lesson one should learn with this deck is that assembling the Urza lands is generally not that important. Eventually you will have all three, but there are no Karns to be forced out on turn 3. You should work on finding out which matchups it is right to play a tron piece or to play a more ambiguous land first. It is also common to use Expedition Maps to find colored sources, specifically Celestial Colonnades to close out games.
- Most opponents assume that the deck is cold to Blood Moon. Luckily, this is not true. With the printing of Flooded Strand, the deck can now run up to four basic lands. Additionally, the artifacts help to give access to both colors. As long as you are diligent you can play around it with relative ease. Even better, you can bait your opponents into casting it at suboptimal times for themselves.
- It is important to pay attention to your outs and avenues to victory. Despite being a control deck, there are certain matchups where the combo is a definitive KO. Elesh Norn is essentially an auto win if landed against affinity and infect. Additionally, depending on board state, it can spell the end for hexproof and merfolk. Iona is generally an auto win against 8 rack, burn (with R/B lists being outliers) Storm, and any mono-color strategy (Skred red for example). This does not mean that all of the matches listed are necessarily good matches, nor does it mean that these cards aren’t good in other matches. You should test and work on knowing when you are slamming Gifts Ungiven for Unburial Rites + creature as soon as possible or if you are playing for the long game.
- My favorite way to close out a game with this list involves using Gifts Ungiven when you have 15 (or one land away from) mana. You can essentially begin to chain Gifts by searching for Emrakul, Gifts Ungiven, Thirst for Knowledge, and Sphinx’s Revelation. Generally your opponent will not be able to give you Emrakul. They will also not want you to draw 9 or more cards with Sphinx’s Revelation, so they will give you Gifts and Thirst. Emrakul will shuffle everything back into your deck, and you are free to cast Gifts again. Once you begin doing this and casting many Thirst for Knowledges, you will quickly have too many cards for your opponent to get back into the game.
- As a control deck, this list has game against a large number of archetypes. We can generally get past most creature decks, as having access to maindeck wrath effects helps immensely. Additionally, a large number of the midrange strategies are weak to the amount of card advantage this deck has. Liliana of the Veil is a difficult card to deal with, but things like Siege Rhino are laughably average. The best matchups are other draw go decks. UWR and blue moon have nothing to compete with Emrakul as an over the top threat. Where it gets tricky are the combo decks. Dedicated UR Splinter Twin, Storm, Infect, and Scapeshift are all difficult to win matchups, especially game one. The sideboard can help a lot, but be aware of this if you decide to pick this deck up in a combo heavy meta.
Overall none of this should be too difficult to grasp. Modern is so wide open that it consistently rewards players for knowing their strategy well. This deck is a powerful and fun option, but you must test and learn it if you hope to get anywhere with it.
The SCG Premiere 5k
I wanted to offer a quick rundown of the matchups I faced at the IQ. I have been enjoying SCG’s addition of a dedicated Modern event weekly. These tournaments tend to have a fair amount of high level players (especially at the Invitational) while also offering a ton of deck diversity. This event did not disappoint on that level. Here is a quick list of decks I faced.
R1: Temur Twin 1-0
R2: Blue Moon 2-0
R3: Jund Burn 3-0
R4: Collected Company Zoo 4-0
This deck was really sweet, and I believe he wrote a small write-up on Reddit about it.
R5: Merfolk 4-1
R6: Sultai Control 5-1
R7: Merfolk 6-1
R8: Intentional Draw 6-1-1
Top 8: Merfolk 7-1-1
Top 4: Infect 7-2-1
There were a ton of merfolk lists running around, and two of them managed to top 8. The matchup is a hard one to gauge because it is very draw dependent, and I managed to go 2-1 against it on the day. Overall you will see that the wins match my description of the deck above. Temur Twin isn’t really a dedicated combo deck as it attempts to win by attacking as well. This deck is pretty good when the opponent is attempting to just attack. Unfortunately I had to face infect in the top four. I was able to get game one by resolving Elesh Norn on turn four, but my next few draws were not nearly fast enough.
This is one of the most fun strategies available in Modern. If you like casting huge creatures, drawing a ton of cards, and having a ton of mana available then this just might be the right strategy for you. It is also pretty nice because it is a relatively cheap deck to construct. The most expensive cards outside of the lands are singletons. I will be sleeving this up again at the various upcoming state events, let me know if you decided to/how you did!
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