This week on Modern musings I’m going to walk you through my journey to try and brew a competitively viable Trinisphere deck and the lessons I learned while trying to do it.

What does Trinisphere do?

The effect is deceptively simple for how many rules headaches this card has caused.  “As long as Trinisphere is untapped, each spell that would cost less than three mana to cast costs three mana to cast.”  What makes this card tricky is that it kind of counter-intuitively applies its effect last.  For example, if you had Thalia out with Trinisphere and your opponent wanted to cast a serum visions, how much would the serum visions cost?  One might be tempted to answer that it would cost 3U, but because Trinisphere is kind of a unique effect, it applies after any increases or reductions to a spell’s cost making the serum visions cost a cool 2U.    


Brewing with Trinisphere  

The first question that would run through my mind when reading this article is: why Trinisphere?  The answer lies in the simple fact that Trinisphere is a pretty unique effect and no one has ever done it in modern before.  Those two reasons are pretty strong motivators by themselves when it comes to deck building.  If you need more convincing though, Trinisphere acts similarly to a Rule of Law or Thalia, Guardian of Thraben in that it punishes decks that want to run a ton of cheap spells by forcing them to basically only be able to play one a turn.  The difference between the two cards is that with Trinisphere, if you don’t have three mana, you don’t get to cast spells.  


When I first started thinking about writing this article, I sat down and brainstormed about what would be a good way to build a deck with Trinisphere in it.  I came up with four tenets that any theoretical deck would have to follow to be able to play Trinisphere.  

  • It must be able to get around the Trinisphere effect to gain an advantage over the opponent
  • It must be able to play Trinisphere before turn 3
  • Once Trinisphere is down, it must be able to end the game in a timely fashion
  • The deck must be able to function without Trinisphere

These tenets deserve some explaining, as the reasons for them might not be immediately obvious.  The first tenet is simply stating that, as with any symmetrical effect, your deck must thrive under the effect or be relatively unaffected by it.  The reasoning behind the second tenet is that an effect like Trinisphere that hinders a player’s mana is most effective in the early stages in the game where players are playing their lower costing spells to set up for better future turns.  The third tenet is saying that whatever deck utilizes Trinisphere needs to be able end the game before the opponent can recover.  The fourth tenet is there because Trinisphere doesn’t really have a similar redundant effect, so the deck needs to be able to win if it doesn’t draw Trinisphere.  One could argue that cards like Thalia and Thorn of Amethyst are similar effects, but as I explained earlier, they don’t really synergize with Trinisphere the way you would want them to and can make your Trinisphere come down later than you want.  


Finding Cards and Synergies   

This is the real meat and potatoes of the brewing process, finding cards that synergize with what you’re trying to do. Let’s start with trying to play Trinisphere before turn 3.  This immediately pushes the deck into red or green, which are the fast mana colors.  

Lets take a look at what red has to offer us:

Some spicy cards for sure, and I think that land destruction goes especially well with Trinisphere, and can create a soft lock of sorts.  Blood Moon is a card that I think is the closest card to Trinisphere in modern in terms of the effect that it has on the game.  Blood Moon can make your opponent’s lands worthless and like Trinisphere, there are a certain number of decks that have a very hard time beating it.

What does green have to offer?

Green has naturally complementing cards to red in the land destruction department and superior cards in the ramp department, no surprise there.  If we put red and green together we get something like this:

It feels like Trinisphere is a very natural addition to the ponza deck and it fulfills all the tenets I set for a deck to be able to use Trinisphere effectively.  But I wonder, what other combinations are there?

Other Colors

Since we need to be playing Trinisphere early, we still need either red or green as a base color.  That being said, I think R/W is probably the next best colour combination and would probably look something like this:

The only thing I’m unsure about in this list is the Desperate Ritual, I think that it could just as easily be some combination of Blessed Alliances and/or Timely Reinforcements.  I think that Ajani Vengeant shines brightly in this deck, though I’m not sure about running more than 2 since he doesn’t technically win the game by himself.

Finally I have a deck that a bit more on the fun side than competitive utilising blue:

One of my favourite standard decks of all time is Owling Mine, and this an iteration of that deck, with Trinisphere taped to it.  Full disclaimer, I haven’t tested this one, so I’m not sure if its any good, but Trinisphere does keep the opponent from just dumping their hand when they get an un-tap step.  It seems good in theory, but I haven’t seen if it pans out yet.

Failed Avenues

When I was doing research for this article and thinking about how to abuse Trinisphere, the first thing that came to mind was trying to abuse the fact that Trinisphere turns off when it’s tapped.  This proved to be way more difficult than I imagined for a couple of reasons.  First there aren’t too many cards that allow you to both tap and un-tap an artifact on the same card.  Secondly, the ability to tap and un-tap Trinisphere needed to be activated twice in one turn, once to tap it to turn it off for your turn, then again to turn it on for your opponents.  This meant that any abilities that caused the card to tap were basically out.  The only card that seemed to fit all of these requirements was Clock of Omens.  Clock meant that you only have to have 3 artifacts on board to ensure trinisphere was always off for you and on for your opponent.  I was actually pretty thrilled to figure out such a smooth way to do it until I realised that there was really not much else to do with Clock of omens.  There are some combos with the card, but I found myself deep in magical christmasland trying to make them possible, most either require a ton of mana going in, or  too much setup.  I really wanted this to work, but in the end I scrapped the idea because simply required too many pieces for too little payoff.

Roads not Taken

There was one avenue of abusing Trinisphere that I didn’t really explore, and that is using AEther Vial to bypass the cost.  Its possible that this might be a better avenue than ponza is, but for the life of me I couldn’t think of one.  All of the hate-bear decks seem to probably be better off without it, so maybe there is a need to create a new archetype.  I hope that by me putting this out there, it might inspire others to find a way to make it work.


That’s all for this week, tune in next time when I share my final prison brew for a while, a flavorful competitive Esper deck utilizing Runed Halo that I’m calling Alcatraz.

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