Mono U Tron: MTGO’s Best Deck

Step 3: Controlling for other variables

Based on everything we have seen so far, Mono U Tron is looking more and more like the real deal. It has a high GWP, a high 4-0 finish rate, and we have reason to believe this isn’t just a relic of having only 25 total appearances in the dataset. But before we break out the blue champagne, we should check a few more variables to make sure that they aren’t explaining Mono U Tron’s performance.

mono u urzatron

The first variable I want to test is “Player”. As any MTGO daily veteran knows, shoktroopa is one of Mono U Tron’s most experienced and consistent pilots. S/he is also responsible for 12 of Mono U Tron’s 25 finishes in this date range. Given how skilled shok is with the deck, this might suggest that they are carrying the deck to victory on their own experience. If so, maybe it’s not the deck that’s good. Maybe it’s just the player.

But it turns out that there is only a very weak correlation between “Player” and either GWP (r=.14) or 4-0/3-1 finish (r=.15). Shoktroopa is responsible for some of the deck’s highest win rates (GWPs of .89 and 1), but also some of its lowest (.55 and .6). By a similar token, other players also had win rates that were just as high (PearceM with another 1) or low (nakadish with a .58). So Mono U Tron’s success doesn’t appear to be related to its pilot at all!

What about event attendance? Maybe Mono U Tron only does well in events with fewer players, but once exposed to a larger event it falls apart. This is a tricky one to test because our dataset doesn’t give you the overall attendance for any given daily. But we do know how many 4-0/3-1 players were in that daily, and we can use that as a reasonable proxy for overall attendance.

Running those regressions, however, we again find no relationship (r=.-02) between event attendance and Mono U Tron’s performance. It has high GWPs at both low and high attendance events, just as it has 4-0 finishes at both low and high attendance ones. At one of the larger dailies with 37 players in the 4-0/3-1 bracket, shok goes 4-0 with a .8 GWP. But shok also goes 3-1 with a .54 GWP at the smallest event in the list with just 23 players at 4-0/3-1. This suggests that event attendance also doesn’t have any effect on Mono U Tron’s finishes.

There is definitely more analysis we can run on this, but at a certain time we need to back off and just enjoy our results. Based on all of our analysis, it looks like Mono U Tron is legitimately special in this metagame. The data doesn’t necessarily tell us why that is the case, but it strongly suggests that it is the case. With all the analysis done, there’s only one thing left to do.

Step 4: Play some Mono U Tron!

Enough math. Let’s look at the decklists. This is a great way to wrap up the analysis both so we can finally see the lists that I’ve been raving about for all this time, and to do an in-depth dive into why these decks might be winning. Because at a certain point, we need to stop looking for our answers in the numbers and start looking for them in the cards. In essence, we are now switching from quantitative methods to more qualitative ones.

The first entry is shoktroopa’s list from a 2/8/2015 daily where shok went 4-0, winning every single game en-route to the finish line.

[d title=”Mono U Tron by shoktroopa (2/8/15)”]
Lands:
1 Academy Ruins
8 Island
1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
1 Tectonic Edge
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower

Creatures:
1 Platinum Angel
1 Snapcaster Mage
2 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Sundering Titan
3 Treasure Mage
1 Wurmcoil Engine

Instants/Sorceries:
4 Condescend
1 Cyclonic Rift
4 Remand
4 Repeal
1 Spell Burst
4 Thirst for Knowledge

Artifacts:
4 Expedition Map
2 Mindslaver
1 Oblivion Stone
3 Talisman of Dominance

Sideboard:
1 Wurmcoil Engine
2 Bottle Gnomes
4 Dismember
1 Ghost Quarter
2 Spell Pierce
2 Spell Snare
2 Squelch
1 Surgical Extraction
[/d]

The second list is by pearcem from a 3/16 daily. Pearce also went 4-0 with a flat GWP of 1.

[d title=”Mono U Tron by pearcem (3/16/15)”]
Lands:
1 Academy Ruins
1 Cavern of Souls
8 Island
1 Tectonic Edge
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower

Creatures:
1 Platinum Angel
1 Sundering Titan
3 Treasure Mage
1 Wurmcoil Engine

Instants/Sorceries:
4 Condescend
4 Remand
3 Repeal
1 Spell Burst
4 Thirst for Knowledge

Artifacts:
4 Expedition Map
2 Mindslaver
1 Oblivion Stone
3 Talisman of Dominance

Plansewalkers:
3 Karn Liberated
2 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Sideboard:
1 Sundering Titan
1 Wurmcoil Engine
2 Aetherize
1 Crucible of Worlds
2 Dismember
2 Negate
1 Relic of Progenitus
2 Spellskite
3 Squelch
[/d]

RepealIf you’ve played Mono U Tron before, you’ve probably been wondering the same thing I have been wondering this whole time: How are these lists good in this metagame? This Tron variant has a notoriously rough matchup against linear aggro and aggro/combo decks like Affinity, Burn, and Infect. And yet, in a metagame that is saturated with these decks, it’s somehow at the top of the pile. One explanation might be a super painless manabase, but that is probably offset by the limited interaction options that Tron pilots have. Repealing a Goblin Guide doesn’t scream “value” to anyone.

That said, I do have one theory about why the deck is so successful right now.

When a player first looks at Mono U Tron, it’s hard to see how this deck beats aggressive strategies. It’s also not always clear what Mono U Tron is all about. Honest answers now; how many of you knew exactly what Mono U Tron’s gameplan and decklist looked like when I first mentioned it in this article? How many of you knew how to beat it? How it plans to win? This isn’t a deck like Ad Nauseam or BW Tokens, decks that aren’t super common but also aren’t that hard to figure out as a first time opponent. Mono U Tron has a lot of intricacies that aren’t obvious at first glance.

This gets to the reason that I believe this deck is so successful; it isn’t very common. That is also to say, the reason this deck is successful is precisely because it only has 25 or so finishes. If it had three times that many finishes, more people would understand how to play against it and beat it; I expect its GWP would drop dramatically.

condescendWe can actually see possible evidence of this in the cards themselves. When you see Urza’s Mine and Island open on your opponent’s side of the board, do you really expect Condescend, Repeal, and/or Spell Burst? Maybe you are wise to Remand in the matchup, but you are almost definitely unprepared for Dismember (wait, blue can’t give -5/-5!) in games 2/3. This makes the deck much harder to play against. Same thing for when you fire off that turn 1 Thoughtseize; what are you supposed to take? A Treasure Mage? A Thirst for Knowledge? These decisions are hard enough against Tier 1 decks; just watch any Pro Tour or Grand Prix for evidence of that at even the highest level of play. But it’s much harder against a deck like Mono U Tron.

That wraps up our deep-dive into MTGO for this week. We are left iwth Mono U Tron, the “best” deck on MTGO – supported by statistics (all disclaimers apply) and explained by looking over the decklists. This is just one example of many ways you can tackle the MTGO dataset and make it do work for you. It also just one of the countless ways you can use statistics to try and understand the format and get better results.

So pack your Mindslavers and Urzatrons and take down some dailies! I’ll be disappointed if I see anything less than a 4-0 finish every day in the next week.

9 thoughts on “Mono U Tron: MTGO’s Best Deck

  1. I’m a bit surprised that a deck with roots as deep as mono-blue Tron falls in the “underplayed” or “ignored” categories, but your data looks sound. Nicely done.

    1. I’m not 100% sure it’s “ignored”, and that’s one of my more speculative points here. But it definitely is underplayed, at least if the 4-0/3-1 finishes are any indication (that gets back at the dataset limitations I mentioned earlier). The only reason I am inclined to believe it is ignored is because some Mono U Tron players have said as much in the past. In that sense, it’s a case of the quantitative data showing evidence of a qualitative phenomenon.

      Hopefully we see more Mono U Tron in the future though! It’s a great deck.

  2. *learns statistics from reading MTGO meta analyses*

    This is actually a really helpful explanation of the data and I’m looking forward to content like this in the future. Maybe I should switch over to mono-U from RG in paper magic just to try it out…

    1. Glad it was helpful!

      One thing I didn’t do was hypothesis testing for the different mean GWPs. This current analysis constructed a confidence interval for the overall population (a pretty broad one), but didn’t then construct a similar interval for each deck. Although MUT has a high GWP, it also might have high variance, and therefore its confidence interval might overlap with the population’s. If so, there wouldn’t be a significant difference between Tron’s GWP and the overall one, even though the average GWP was higher.

      Definitely a followup article idea!

  3. Amazing analysis! And wonderful work on the website so far, it does justice for the Modern format.

    About the deck, I have it in paper and play it sometimes, but am not nearly as good with it as one should, and this is one of the reasons I think are responsible for the deck to not be played more: it’s very hard to pilot. I would compare it to Bloom Titan, and say it’s somewhat inconsistent. When the draws help, the deck is almost unbeatable, but the weak draws are very problematic. However, it is the Modern deck with more inevitability, it simply wrecks Midrange and Control. Combo, unless blazing fast, fall apart as well. The matchups against Twin and Junk are very good, and this is something I believe has correlation with the deck performance, as those two decks are among the most played.

    The weakness of the deck is well-known, aggressive strategies, but it is surprinsingly good against Red based decks. Wurmcoil Engine and Platinum Angel are really hard to deal with. To say the truth, the weakest matchup are those that offer a fast clock with access to Path to Exile, usually Wilted Junk and Zoo.

    All that said, I think the only thing keeping U Tron from reaching the top stages is a great finish on a major tourney like a GP.

    1. This is solidly under the “dataset limitations” issue. We don’t have any of the 2-2 or worse GWPs, which is why I make so many disclaimers throughout the article about the numbers we are using. So we don’t know the conversion rates from the decks that start a daily to the decks that finish it at 4-0/3-1, and we don’t know the (obviously lower) GWPs of the decks that go 2-2 or worse. One day we can hopefully expand the analysis to include those stats, but we need way more data that Wizards currently doesn’t make available.

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