With the diverse meta of the Modern format, I am a strong believer in selecting a deck and mastering it. For as long as I have been playing Magic: the Gathering, two things are certain: 1) I love green decks and 2) I love combo decks. Titanshift provides just the right amount of both to tickle my fancy and has been my go-to competitive deck for many years. Now onto what I sleeved up for GP Portland:
Now in order to play this archetype, you need to understand how Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle works. So let us take a closer look at this non-legendary (this will be relevant later) land’s text.
So whenever you play a Mountain, if you have Valakut along with five other Mountains in play, you get to bolt something. You can kill your opponent by making land drops and attacking with Primeval Titan with Valakut in play, but that’s not fun. Let’s say you control seven lands and cast Scapeshift. As the spell resolves, you may sacrifice any number of lands and search for that number in your library. If you sacrifice all seven lands, you may search for one Valakut and six of any Mountains (Stomping Ground, Cinder Glade, Sheltered Thicket, basic Mountain) and put them into play. All the lands are entering the battlefield at the same time, and each Mountain will see the other Mountains as the five you control, triggering Valakut six times (multiplied by three) for a total of eighteen damage! Remember when I mentioned that Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle was non-legendary? If you control eight lands and sacrifice them to Scapeshift, you may search for two Valakuts and six Mountains, triggering Valakut twelve times for a total of thirty-six damage!
There are many variants of the Scapeshift+Valakut archetype, but for my personal preference, Titanshift has the consistency and just the right amount of interaction to protect your gameplan and provide enough time to beat your opponents with your lands. The framework consists of:
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
4 Search for Tomorrow
4 Primeval Titan
2 Summoner’s Pact
4 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
Along with the Sakura-Tribe Elder and Search for Tomorrow, it is recommended that you play seven to eight additional ramp spells. In my current list for the GP, I choose some ramp spells that had additional utility:
1 Explore/3 Farseek – These two are pretty interchangeable and may vary in number. Originally, I played four copies of Farseek, but drawing a card off of Explore may prove useful in the ramp plan along with finding the spells in my flex spots.
1 Wood Elves – This card serves as the fifth Search for Tomorrow, but it also has utility in that it may search for any Forest (basic, Stomping Ground, etc.) and serves as a blocker against more aggressive decks.
2 Hour of Promise – You will never make any zombies off of this card, since your mana base is too tight for you to fit in any deserts. The ability to search for any two lands allows this to serve as your fifth and sixth Primeval Titan. This also allows you to board out Primeval Titans in order to board in more sideboard cards in order to improve your interaction with certain matchups
My Game 1’s are mostly focused on ramping into an early Primeval Titan or cast Scapeshift as soon as possible to deal lethal damage. For my mainboard, I play the following:
3 Lightning Bolt – Versatile spell that may deal with early aggression, interact with planeswalkers, and reduce my opponent to a low enough life total (eighteen or below) for a lethal Scapeshift
1 Sweltering Suns/1 Anger of the Gods – This is mostly for aggressive decks that swing with many creatures. The split between Sweltering Suns and Anger of the Gods allows me to play around Meddling Mage from Humans and to cycle (Sweltering Suns) in the control matchups, since Anger of the Gods does almost nothing in those games.
1 Reclamation Sage – This is meta dependent but a versatile answer to a lot of troubling artifacts and enchantments (Blood Moon is a major one that can appear in a lot of Game 1’s).
2 Prismatic Omen – This enchantment can make your Valakut math super wonky. It reads, “Lands you control are every basic land type in addition to other land types.” The first thing you will notice is that this enchantment mana fixes your lands and allows them to tap for any color. Look a bit further and you will notice that this will allow you to combo a turn earlier, since Valakut will see itself as a basic Mountain (right, it wasn’t a Mountain before) as it enters the battlefield and trigger itself if you control five other Mountains. So if you control six lands with Prismatic Omen in play and cast Scapeshift, you can search for four copies of Valakut and two of any land since they will all enter the battlefield at the same times as Mountains under Prismatic Omen and trigger twenty-four times for a total of seventy-two damage! Now with Hour of Promise, you can search for two Valakuts for a definite four triggers to deal twelve damage (I can write a whole article about Valakut math, which I will probably save for later).
The sideboard philosophy for Titanshift is pretty simple: Play to not lose. In retrospect, that can be applied to almost any deck in Modern, but the main idea here is to board in a way to either speed up your game plan or to prolong the game, giving you enough time to setup for the Valakut win. I am just going to cover some of my matchups from the main event at GP Portland.
Out: 4 Scapeshift
In: 1 Anger of the Gods, 1 Engineered Explosives, 2 Obstinate Baloth
The idea here is to keep the board clear with your removal and sweepers while Obstinate Baloth gives you some breathing room from the early aggression. I expect Spell Quellers to be held back for Scapeshift, so I play around them in casting Hour of Promise and Primeval Titan. I am also keeping the Reclamation Sage in as Spirits has been known to board in Worship in this matchup and being able to destroy their Aether Vial is just the worst case scenario.
Out: 3 Lightning Bolt, 1 Anger of the Gods, 1 Sweltering Suns
In: 2 Relic of Progenitus, 1 Beast Within, 2 Damping Sphere
This is a race to see who gets to cast their haymakers first, so removal and sweepers do nothing here. The two relics allow me to cycle deeper through my deck. Some interaction in the form of Beast Within and Damping Sphere is brought in to get ahead of the race.
Out: 1 Reclamation Sage, 1 Farseek/Explore (Draw/Play)
In: 1 Anger of the Gods, 1 Engineered Explosives
The gameplan is the same as Bant Spirits: Keep the board clear and maintain a consistent plan. There are not as many evasive attackers as in the Bant Spirits matchup, so I do not see a need to bring in Obstinate Baloth. This allows me to be more focused on Plan A and race to Scapeshift/Primeval Titan.
Out: 1 Anger of the Gods, 1 Sweltering Suns, 3 Lightning Bolt, 2 Farseek
In: 2 Tireless Tracker, 3 Obstinate Baloth, 2 Relic of Progenitus
Removal and sweepers do pretty much nothing in this matchup, so I am opting into increasing my creature threat density in Obstinate Baloth and Tireless Tracker, which also serves as a card advantage engine as I make my land drops and cast ramp spells. The two relics serve a dual purpose in cycling through my deck along with making Logic Knot and Snapcaster Mage worse.