Quote from SwissRolls »
I've too thought about going crazy and playing stars and spheres. I think it's definitely something to explore but I fear it just makes us a worse green tron. We are MUCH weaker to Stony silence and Chalice of the void if we go into the 10+ 1 Mana artifacts. I do think if we go down that route you might as well go all in and play the 3-4 relics main too. This should allow us to cut down even more lands and probably play 21+-1
Doing that though will probably cut back the usefulness of condescend as we'll probably be more focused on quick Tron, rather than delaying till we can out grind anyone with our Tron Mana. However the useful of Karn Liberated goes up in our deck if we do this. He wins a lot of games if just played on turn 3.
I definitely agree that we are weaker to Stony Silence and Chalice of the Void, just like Green Tron always has been. However, we are much better equipped to deal with that kind of hate both because we have Repeal and because we in general function much better without tron than Green Tron. But playing stars/spheres makes us weaker to hate so that's something to keep in mind for sure.
The difference between stars/spheres and Relic of Progenitus is pretty big though. In most U Tron lists relic is an appealing card because it's a 1cmc spell which cycles and sometimes provides some interaction. However, when we already play a total of 12 1cmc spells, the need for main deck relics diminishes. Providing blue mana is in general much more important than grave hate.
We use stars/spheres a bit differently than Green Tron. In Green Tron you usually just want to cycle them as soon as possible, but we have the option to leave them uncracked until we actually need the blue mana, i.e. on our opponent's turn. This means that sequencing and timing is far from obvious. I guess another way to put it is that we are forced to decide if we want to crack on our turn to look for lands or to wait until our opponent's turn, but so far I haven't felt limited by it in any way.
Regarding number of lands. As long as we play the core cards (Repeal, Remand, Condescend and Thirst for Knowledge) I doubt we want to go lower than 23 lands. We still want to go T2 blue spell most of the time and that requires hitting at least our first 2 land drops without having to crack a star/sphere main phase to find the second land.
Empirical results so far
I've run virtually the exact list that I posted recently through several leagues and so far I'm very impressed. The only difference is that I swapped the third Repeal for a fourth Remand, swapped Trinket Mage for a second copy of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and swapped the Pithing Needle in the sideboard for a Spell Pierce. Remember that these are roughly the cards I would play instead of the 8 1cmc spells:
4 Chromatic Star
4 Chromatic Sphere
2 Talisman of Dominance
2 Karn, Scion of Urza
1 Karn, the Great Creator
1 Trinket Mage
1 Dismember or Warping Wail
These changes in no way limit us to more sorcery speed game play. On the contrary, as we're not relying on 3/4 mana sorcery speed spells anymore, we're less limited on how and when we cast our spells this list.
I've tried to push the limit in terms of what hands to keep, e.g. one-landers, for testing purposes, but I can't say that I've felt punished as much as I thought I would. Basically I feel like I can keep a larger percentage of hands.
What about hate cards? What about opposing Stony Silence, Karn, the Great Creator and Chalice of the Void? The red prison matchup continues to be extremely good. This is because they are incredibly weak to Remand and Condescend and multiple cards which are almost dead in the matchup, i.e. Ensnaring Bridge and Blood Moon. In theory there are games where they go Chalice on 1 turn 1 and get us, but if we're worried about remember that we do have access to a total of 3 Engineered Explosives. Karn, the Great Creator is a 4 mana spell and usually isn't a problem for us to deal with. Stony Silence is not a problem if it comes from UW Control both because they usually can't follow up with fast pressure and because we can afford to board out some number of stars/spheres for game 2. There probably will be games where the hate gets me though, and I accept that fact.
I can't emphasize just how good 3x Engineered Explosives have been vs any creature deck. They replace Spatial Contortion, a highly mediocre card which we're usually forced to play. Playing it for x=2 is so easy with stars/spheres and the additional River of Tears that for example the Humans matchup has felt really good.
In general the deck has felt A LOT more consistent in terms of assembling tron, not only because I see more cards of my deck earlier, but also because I can keep more hands which lack a blue land but has tron lands. This is why I've opted to play 2 copies of Mindslaver and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, the overall strongest payoffs.
This list is very different from a lot of other lists I've tried, mainly because it has 2 4-ofs instead of a lot of 1-ofs. It is a change to the core of the deck and thus changes how the deck usually plays out. The current 75 are not final by any means and there probably will be changes. It's possible that the full 4 of both star and sphere is too much and I believe you can play anything from 0 to 8 depending on personal preferences.
I would encourage everyone to try this because it's just a very different take on U Tron. Even if you might not end up liking it, it's still nice to get a new perspective. I understand that playing stars/spheres is kind of a taboo in U Tron because it's what Green Tron does and it might seem like weird timing to try this kind of Karn-less list nowadays when everyone seems to play it. But this is one of the best lists I've tried so far and I will continue to explore it further.
Sorry for the long post but I felt like I wanted to provide the full story. Cheers!