I started playing Magic in 2009 when a college friend’s roommate asked if I was interested playing a casual game.
I was aware of what the game was because there used to be a Wizards of the Coast store in the Woodfield Mall when I was a kid, but I hadn’t actually learned how the game was played up until talking to this guy. I began playing competitively in 2010 and have never turned back since.
I have been to two Pro Tours and been on the grind at numerous GP’s and Star City Opens, Classics and Invitationals, with results varying from top 8s to top 64s. When I’m not slinging paper on the weekends I work full time for Ebates.com, as well as taking a full course load to finish my Political Science degree. Then, it is off to law school, ladies and gentlemen.
Now that introductions are out of the way, let’s get to the better part of this article and talk about what is secretly one of, if not the, best deck in Modern: Titanshift.
Let me give you some history of my experience with Primeval Titan and why I am qualified to make a statement about the deck’s current place in Modern’s top tier. My days with good ol’ Primeval Titan began with Extended, back when I should have been playing Caw-Blade or Fairies in that format. For reference, that list looked like this:
The Extended version is pretty similar to what we are doing today, minus a better mana base and some other key ramp cards. Even before Extended tournaments were going away for good, there were a number of very good players registering Valakuts and running through PTQs across the country. Although I was not one of those qualified players as I was just starting to find my groove among the better players in the crowd, I fully understood the power of Scapeshift and Primeval Titan. This was also the list that was more consistent, but had little play against a field of combo decks. Its Wargate counterpart played no Mountains and was a complete control deck, featuring a full set of Cryptic Commands and Prismatic Omen. It would eventually win with Celestial Colonnade, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, or the one-of copy of Scapeshift with Prismatic Omen in play.
My friend Primeval Titan and his dominance led to the version of Amulet Titan that ended with the banning of Summer Bloom. While I understood that the deck needed to be neutered in the worst way, (C’mon, I was casting turn two Titans and hitting people for eight while ramping for four mana) this was a very good deck that my friend Josh Revord had told me to sleeve up for the Star City Invitational in Columbus, where two Amulet Titan decks finished in the Top 8. I finished a respectable 38th after taking early losses to Brad Nelson, Ryan Overturf and Logan Mize in Standard and losing to Josh Ravitz in Modern. If I could go back, I would still play this deck again. Here’s the decklist of this beauty:
Let’s fast forward to the deck that has me on the leaderboard for the NRG Championship Series and is probably what I will be registering for the RPTQ next month to try to get to the Pro Tour for the third time. Allow me to introduce you to TitanShift:
TitanShift, by Keenan Davidson, 5th-8th place, NRG CT, Oct. 7, 2017
As my editor has already talked enough about the deck overall, I will go more in-depth on specific card choices and why I don’t play others.
Obstinate Baloth over the Wood Elves
I am in the camp that Wood Elves’ purpose as the 13th ramp spell is not necessary, and can be swapped out accordingly with what you feel is the best for your expected match-ups. I always tend to lead towards Obstinate Baloth, as Burn is one of this deck’s worst matchups and this allows us to gain what might be the necessary amount of life to combo them out Game 1 before you are burned out. Other options I have tinkered with include a main deck Reclamation Sage or a Thragtusk. I lean the most towards Baloth because it also serves a purpose against the BG/X decks that play Liliana. Baloth can be a surprise to them in Game 1 as well as a way to get her off the board to stop shredding your hand.
Prismatic Omen over Chandra, Torch of Defiance
This one really varies across Titanshift players, as Omen allows for a faster kill but Chandra can help grind in those B/G/X matches as well as killing pesky Thought-Knot Seers. I dislike Chandra as she does not allow you to play lands off her exile ability. The end goal is to have the requisite amount of lands in play to kill your opponent with a Scapeshift or through natural land drops, and Chandra doesn’t really help with that.
Another big downside for me is she does not survive pressure from attacks the turn after she comes down, which leads to only getting one use out of her and not being able to get the most out of her in this slot. Prismatic Omen allows you to go off one turn sooner, and who doesn’t want to 72 their opponent in one shot?
No Explore/Khalni Heart Expedition
As far as consistency goes, KHE is a piece that makes the deck go from 0 to 100 in the early game, but is also a terrible top deck in games where you are looking for action. Explore can be good in the early and late game as you do draw an additional card, but it does not guarantee the ramp needed to go off early, which is why I decided to leave it out of my 75.
Yes, I know this is a spicy one. After losing to B/G/x in one the top 8 of a CTQ, I was looking for a card that was able to generate card advantage, could not be attacked down by creatures, and could be only dealt with by one of only a few commonly played answers.
Tireless Tracker is an insane card for what it does, but it is not always good in the Scapeshift deck unless it’s drawn early and not immediately killed. Looking through Ixalan spoilers, I came across Vance’s Blasting Cannons, which seemed like a solution to my problem as it gave me a card and could also turn into a damage source. Then I read the rest of the card, which to my disappointment stated you needed to cast the card from exile, not allowing me to play lands. At this point, I remembered the Khans of Tarkir four-mana enchantment and scoured through Gatherer to read its text. I was rewarded with excitement as the enchantment allowed me to play lands off the exile, which is all I needed to see to register at least one copy in my 75.
Regardless of the exact configuration of the deck, four Primeval Titan is the starting point for my Modern decklists now and in the foreseeable future. But I am looking forward to writing more articles for Nerd Rage Gaming — even if they don’t include my favorite 6/6 giant — and hope to see more of you guys at the Nerd Rage Gaming Championship Series Events. Hopefully you guys will see my name climbing further up the leaderboard and ending up in the championship at the end of the year. Thanks for reading and I hope to see you guys at an event soon.
Keenan Davidson is a two-time Pro Tour competitor and Midwest grinder from the Madison, Wis. area.