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[Magical Musing] Titanshift in the Current Meta

Written by Shawn

 

Overview

Some players have asked me about Titanshift so I just wanted to write a short summary of the deck. To give some background, I have played some version of Scapeshift since 2014. I think there’s nothing more fun than using your lands to either kill your opponent or clearing their board.

 

The power of Titanshift (as opposed to RUG or Bring to Light) is two-fold: 1) it punishes fair, mid-range/control strategies by turning off their creature removal and going over the top with Scapeshift (to outright win the game) or Primeval Titan (to inevitably win the game); and 2) it is extremely consistent – with 28 lands you can make all of your land drops and in the late game, your lands become Lightning Bolts with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and/or zombies with Field of the Dead for extra utility.

 

 

This is the list that I used to win the SML Open 3.

 

Lands (28)
Stomping Ground
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
Wooded Foothills
Cinder Glade
Mountain
Snow-Covered Mountain
Field of the Dead
Forest
Misty Rainforest
Snow-Covered Forest
Sheltered Thicket
Verdant Catacombs
Windswept Heath

Creatures (10)
Primeval Titan
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Courser of Kruphix
Obstinate Baloth

Sorceries (16)
Scapeshift
Search for Tomorrow
Farseek
Explore
Hour of Promise
Mwonvuli Acid-Moss

Instants (6)
Lightning Bolt
Summoner’s Pact
Sideboard (15)
Anger of the Gods
Damping Sphere
Obstinate Baloth
Collector Ouphe
Force of Vigor
Tireless Tracker
Reclamation Sage

 

With the banning of Faithless Looting and the rise of Stoneforge Mystic and Wrenn and Six mid-range decks playing lots of removals, many of Titanshift’s bad matchups were minimized. I thought that Titanshift could dodge the faster matchups (Burn, Prowess, Hardened Scales, Zoo, Infect, Humans, etc.) because mid-range would beat them while playing a deck that does not at all care about Batterskull or Swords, and also Wrenn and Six’s plus and minus abilities. I would not play this deck in a meta of faster, linear decks as Titanshift is routinely a Turn 4/5 “win” deck.

 

Matchup Theory

For better or worse, I don’t have a 1-for-1 sideboard guide. However, I have some theories on how to correctly approach the bigger archetypes in Modern. These are just my observations so please take with a grain of salt.

 

UW Control: Steady pressure from continuous land drops triggering Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle or Field of the Dead will pressure the opponent to play to the board and punish them once they tap out with your haymakers (Primeval Titan or Scapeshift). In post-board games, they tend to take out removals, so we bring in your anti-control cards of choice. I would bring in a few copies of Obstinate Baloth if they are playing an aggressive version of Jeskai.

Out: Creature removal (Lightning Bolt, Anger of the Gods, Sweltering Suns, etc.)

In: Creatures and anti-control cards of your choice (Tireless Tracker, Veil of Summer, Thragtusk, Carnage Tyrant). Reclamation Sage if they are playing Stoneforge Mystic, Runed Halo, Leyline of Sanctity.

 

Jund: Jund players want to force a topdeck game and Titanshift can happily oblige. Sideboarding is similar to UW Control. Lightning Bolt is mediocre and Obstinate Baloth is great against Liliana of the Veil and Kolaghan’s Command. I dream of the day the Jund player casts Fulminator Mage and targets a land while I cantrip with Veil of Summer and show them the real power of value. I tend to not mulligan any hand with lands and spells as Titanshift needs to have a critical mass of both to function properly.

Out: Creature removal (Lightning Bolt, Anger of the Gods, Sweltering Suns, etc.) and other bad topdecks (Khalni Heart Expedition, Prismatic Omen)

In: Creatures, planeswalkers and mid-range threats

 

Tron: Luckily Karn Liberated’s minus ability is not that impactful against us as we mostly ramp during the early turns. The only problem is they do not take damage off their lands, so Lightning Bolt is essentially a “ramp” spell since you need one less land to finish them. Wurmcoil Engine can be nullified a turn with Sakura-Tribe Elder as they don’t gain life when you block and sacrifice with it. I would bring in some artifact hate. I think Collector Ouphe is reasonable too since it turns off their cantrips and Oblivion Stone.

Out: Value creatures like main deck Obstinate Baloth and Courser of Kruphix. Also some creature removal (it may be correct to keep some copies of Lightning Bolt in to put them below 18).

In: Collector Ouphe, Force of Vigor (maybe?)

 

Burn: Not a great matchup. Instead of interacting with them, we need to go faster. Cards like Hour of Promise, Mwonvuli Acid-Moss, and Explore can be cut for speedbumps like Obstinate Baloth, Thragtusk. We should even consider Collector Ouphe since it can block and Reclamation Sage since it blocks and kills an Eidolon of the Great Revel. Anger of the Gods is not great either but sometimes you need to bring these suboptimal cards in depending on your main deck clunk.

Out: Anything slowing the clock down or not interacting with their board (some Primeval Titan, Field of the Dead, Explore). If I’m playing Prismatic Omen and Khalni Heart Expedition I would keep them in as they increase the chances of a Turn 4 win.

In: All your life gain and maybe even Collector Ouphe, Reclamation Sage to block or Anger of the Gods to sweep the board. Not great but that’s what we got to work with.

 

Urza Thopter: I don’t have much experience in this matchup but I think it is pretty reasonable. Of course, if they go infinite then that’s game but if they don’t Titanshift doesn’t really mind the opponent gaining incidental life nor a few thopters. Our sideboard with the addition of Collector Ouphe and Force of Vigor backed up with Reclamation Sage gives us plenty of options to keep them off balance in finding their combo before Scapeshifting for the win.

Out: Creature removal and value creatures like main deck Obstinate Baloth and Courser of Kruphix.

In: Collector Ouphe, Force of Vigor, Reclamation Sage.

 

WB Taxes/Eldrazi Taxes: Sparing any broken starts like Turn 2 Thought-Knot Seer into Turn 3 Reality Smasher, the matchup is manageable. Play around Leonin Arbiter by fetching early and often, and Aven Mindcensor in post-board games by not wasting creature removal on annoying (but not threatening) creatures like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. I like to use Farseeks early in the game to avoid paying taxes for a late Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and also save my Sakura-Triber Elders to block Thought-Knot Seer in the later stages of the game.

Out: Because of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and other search restrictions, I like to take out Summoner’s Pact (since it makes Primeval Titan cost 7 mana) and Scapeshift (since getting to 7 lands can be difficult and Primeval Titan basically finishes the game once he enters).

In: I like Obstinate Baloth against Thought-Knot Seer and Eldrazi Displacer decks. Anger of the Gods and other creature removals are also great. Reclamation Sage can hit Aether Vial, Tidehollow Sculler as well as any equipment from Stoneforge Mystic, and even blocks relatively well.

 

Cards to Expect

These are the common sideboard hate cards that you need to pay especially close attention (in no particular order). Some are for your direct game plan, others are answers for your sideboard choices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have any questions or ideas on any version of Scapeshift, reach out to me on the SML WeChat group!

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. The announcement for SML Open #4 (Standard) will be released soon and we hope it will be as exciting as Open #3!

 

 

Shawn

Shanghai MTG League

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