Urzatron has a special place in my heart, and no Urzatron deck more so than UW Urzatron.
I have been playing with Urza's lands since they were reprinted in Eighth Edition. Their promise of limitless power captured the heart and mind of a young magician. This cycle of three lands, Urza's Mine, Urza's Power Plant, and Urza's Tower, produce a mere one colorless mana each, but when all three are assembled they all become super charged; the former two lands produce two mana each while the latter produces three mana. This sort of mana-generating power is unrivaled aside from broken cards with names like "Tolarian Academy" and "Mishra's Workshop," though perhaps Ancient Tomb is a closer comparison. Urza's lands were originally printed back in Antiquities, and they are living fossils from that era of Magic's history. The only drawback to these lands is that they produce colorless mana, a problem that can be solved through good deckbuilding.
My favorite Tron deck of all is UW Urzatron, which operates much like a typical UW Control deck. It plays all the typical control standbys - card drawing, Counterspells, and removal - but it supports them with a rocket-fuel injected manabase. The main factor constricting the actions of any deck, particularly a powerful control deck, is access to mana. This deck breaks the rules by playing Urzatron. Things start off slow and fair, but Tron being assembled is like hitting the nitro boost and leaving the competition in the dust as you cross the finish line. When you hit Tron, your hand just explodes onto the table.
In the early days, playing UW Urzatron meant doing things the hard way. The deck had no source of land tutoring to speak of, so it simply dug through the deck with the raw power of card drawing. Fact or Fiction was a favorite in Extended Tron decks, while Thirst for Knowledge is a historic Tron standby that still lives on in Modern today. Remand is another useful tool because it provides card velocity in terms of digging through the deck. The more cards a Tron deck sees, the more likely it is to assemble the Urzatron combo. That is the general theory underlying every Urzatron deck.
Times are not so tough anymore. Some things have gotten a lot better for Urzatron since the early days. First came Tolaria West, which gave the Tron deck unprecedented tutoring access to Urza's lands. Having what essentially amounted to "wild card" Urza's lands made the deck much more consistent. I combined the transmuting power of Tolaria West with the card velocity theory to produce this UW Tron deck in an old Extended format, which brought me to a Grand Prix finals:
Tolaria West still lives on in Modern, and it's a useful tool for Monoblue Tron decks, but there have been even better tools printed for Urzatron
Expedition Map changed the game by giving Tron easy, colorless access to Urza's lands starting as early as turn two. While not as flexible as Tolaria West, Expedition Map is faster, more aggressive, and more importantly much easier to use as a tutoring spell when it matters most. Expedition Map also offers synergy with Thirst for Knowledge and even Academy Ruins.
A historically popular card in blue Urzatron decks is Gifts Ungiven. It is useful for tutoring out lands of different names, particularly when paired with something like Life from the Loam. Blue Tron decks without green would use Gifts Ungiven with Crucible of Worlds, which would take a lot more work than Life from the Loam. It would often be paired with Arcbound Reclaimer or Academy Ruins, but this proved worthwhile. Gifts Ungiven also creates value and can tutor for sideboard cards.
The current Modern UW Urzatron deck takes advantage of the Gifts Ungiven / Unburial Rites package, which is far more powerful than what the traditional UW Urzatron decks have had access to. For the unfamiliar, Gifts Ungiven can find just two cards, putting them both into the graveyard. Finding Unburial Rites to be cast with flashback and a creature to be reanimated turns Gifts Ungiven into a one-card reanimation package. The 3U and 3W costs can be conveniently spread out over two turns or done as an eight mana one-shot powered by Urzatron.
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite and Iona, Shield of Emeria
Combined with some of the most powerful creatures in Modern, the Gifts Ungiven combo plan is effective enough that it has become "Plan A" of the deck. Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite is a powerful hoser against creature decks, including creature combo decks like Melira Pod and Splinter Twin. Iona, Shield of Emeria is excellent against hyper-focused Modern decks like combo, many of which do not have answers in two distinct colors. Together, these two creatures answer a vast majority of the format and are powerful enough to serve as the backbone of the deck. In my list I've added one Wurmcoil Engine, which offers similar synergy with Unburial Rites while answering other problems, particularly a resolved Liliana of the Veil.
I like the idea of Urzatron in Modern because it has its own proactive plan but still plays plenty of interaction against the format. I think the recent banning of Deathrite Shaman was great news for UW Urzatron because it signaled the rise of Gifts Ungiven. It has also brought about a decline in Liliana of the Veil, which is a great card against Urzatron. Urzatron is also considered to be strong against Melira Pod, which has proven to be one of the best decks in Modern. Reid Duke played Gifts Tron to the second day of Grand Prix Richmond, and I saw it reach the finals of a Modern Premier Event online last weekend. I am excited to try UW Tron again, which I have not touched in Modern in over two years. It is one of my favorite decks and something I'd love to battle with in a future Modern tournament.
My list takes inspiration from Reid's list, the Magic Online list, and from my own experiences. I also wanted a broad sideboard of singletons so I could take full advantage of Gifts Ungiven. This Gifts Tron archetype is somewhat of a fledgling in this new metagame so I expect it has plenty of room to evolve, but here is where I am at now:
Without further ado, Modern Gifts Tron!
Gifts Tron - Intro
Gifts Tron vs. Ad Nauseam Unlife
Gifts Tron vs. Splinter Twin
Game 2: My six card hand is greedy, but it offers a clear route to victory. I can function with five cards on the draw, so mulliganing my hand might be correct in this spot. My big mistake is when I decline to cast Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite for the third time. I would have forced the Remand and maintained my tempo advantage, but I took my foot off the gas pedal and put myself into a very drawn-out game that I was quite close to losing. In this game I lost sight of the moment and fell into auto-pilot mode. I took the control role against the combo deck when I should have pressed my advantage, kept my opponent on the backfoot, and forced his action. That is how one truly controls a game.
Gifts Tron vs. Splinter Twin, Match 2
Game 1: Rather than sacrificing Expedition Map on turn two I should have held up Remand. I was in no rush to find a land, so I unnecessarily exposed myself. Allowing him to resolve a combo creature puts me on the backfoot, especially when he already has a Spellskite in play to protect from Path to Exile. In the end the game turned out the same way, but chance played a part. There was no reason to make anything easier for my opponent, which is what my play did. By leaving mana up I make my opponent play more carefully and could have potentially bought myself extra time had the scenario turned out differently.
Gifts Tron vs. Golgari Midrange
(Apologies for the sound getting cut off in the middle of game 3)
Game 1: My mistake in this game is not attacking with Celestial Colonnade after attacking him a few times. My opponent would have surely destroyed my land, so I should have ran it right into Tectonic Edge, clearing the way for my Eye of Ugin powered by the Urzatron, and allowing me to cast Emrakul in two turns. While he would have outs in a large creature, either Tarmogoyf or Treetop Village, I was very likely to win the game. Rather than forcing my opponent's action, I put the ball in his court. By giving him the power I threw away my only good line and essentially threw the game. I won because I got lucky drawing the Urza's Tower on the last turn.
Game 2: If I made a mistake here, it was because I kept a greedy hand. In retrospect my hand is probably too greedy considering the sheer amount of discard my opponent plays and I did not fully consider the implications of Abrupt Decay. I do think this hand is quite acceptable against most opponents, but it might have been a bit too extreme for this particular game.
Game 3: My mistake here is not casting Gifts Ungiven in response to him destroying my land. Casting Gifts Ungiven for my Unburial Rites and Wurmcoil Engine is an investment into my graveyard. Eventually I would hit four mana and flashback, probably winning the game with the powerful artifact creature. This play does walk right into Scavenging Ooze to lose the game, but it is a very reasonable line, and ultimately the correct play in this mildly unfavorable game state. I decide to play conservatively, but this walks right into the discard spell he soon casts. I lose this game when I run out of action, but had I made the aggressive Gifts Ungiven play I would have won this game and match.
Gifts Tron performed well for me today, especially considering that it's the first time I've tried it in years. Any shortcomings of the deck today can be attributed to me more so than on the deck itself, and that bodes well for the deck. I think this deck is well positioned in the new metagame without Deathrite Shaman, and it's also poised to capitalize on the fact that players have stopped using dedicated Urzatron hate like Sowing Salt. I like how Gifts Tron can function as a control deck against creature decks while packing a serious punch against combo decks with its hateful sideboard. As usual, the excess mana from Urzatron gives the archetype an edge against other control decks. I will be in the comments answering any questions you may have. If you have your own experiences with Gifts Tron in Modern, please share!