Modern PPTQ PrimeTime: 1st with Titanshift
Welcome back to my blog here on Snapcardster. I was actually planning on writing about my favorite Modern deck at the moment even before I won a PPTQ this weekend playing the deck. I guess sometimes you can have your cake and eat it too!
I have a long history of playing this card and doing rather well in premier events. In 2015 I managed to qualify for Pro Tour Origins playing a Temur version of the deck (http://www.mtgtop8.com/event?e=9367&d=253664&f=MO) and one year later I found myself in the finals of the Danish World Magic Cup Qualifier with a sweet four-color version featuring a playset of Bring to Light. Unfortunately, a timely Slaughter Games ended my undefeated run through the tournament.
What I really loved about the blue version of Scapeshift is the way you play out like a control deck and finish the game with just one spell. I talked to a friend about this topic numerous times, and we both agreed that it all boils down to whether Remand is good or bad in the metagame. Back then it was very good with numerous midrange decks, blue decks, Tron and mirror matches to be expected at a tournament. But now when people are playing Death’s Shadow, Aether Vial decks, Burn, Affinity and have Cavern of Souls in their decks, Remand is just not great anymore. So I wanted to keep the strengths of the archetype and get rid of the weaknesses and ended up working on a Red/Green version instead. You kill faster, can still ignore most board states and are very threat dense to overpower decks with discard spells and counter magic.
After a lot of testing, I ended up not playing the deck at Grand Prix Copenhagen because of a bad Death’s Shadow matchup and no good solution to that on my radar. I tested a white splash for Nahiri, the Harbinger and Path to Exile and a black splash for Fatal Push and Abrupt Decay, but lost too many percentages to the rest of the field. After getting some inspiration from Danish Gold Pro Simon Nielsen about how to hedge a little in deckbuilding without giving up too much against all other decks, I finally arrived at this list:
#1 PPTQ: RG TitanShift by Andreas Petersen
1 Arid Mesa
3 Cinder Glade
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Sheltered Thicket
4 Stomping Ground
4 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
1 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills
3 Lightning Bolt
4 Search for Tomorrow
2 Summoner’s Pact
2 Sweltering Suns
2 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
4 Primeval Titan
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
2 Chameleon Colossus
4 Obstinate Baloth
3 Nature’s Claim
1 Reclamation Sage
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Anger of the Gods
People like Chandra, Torch of Defiance in this slot, but I can’t see why. It’s a very good turn 3 play on an empty board, but in my testing that happens very rarely. In most games I get to kill a small creature and lose my Chandra. I was still interested in having some quality four-mana plays that could help me bridge the gap between ramp spells and end game, being both a decent proactive threat and with the ability to buy some time. Three chump blockers to buy turns vs. Death’s Shadow while also being able to block fliers and Etched Champion equipped with Cranial Plating vs. Affinity was all I needed out of my four-drop. Being a good defensive card with the ability to pressure Midrange and Control decks are a lot of good quality in one card.
I play 15(!) ramp spells in this deck to maximize the amount of games I win on turn four. Having three ramp spells and a Scapeshift is not unrealistic at all, and by playing 15 instead of 11 I’m maximising my chances. Rather than playing answers to prolong the game, I like just racing my opponent most of the time.
This is a small upgrade from Amonkhet to Anger of the Gods. When your opponent is not playing a creature deck, you have the ability to cycle this sweeper. Given that those decks tend to be a little slow, you should have the time more often than not.
I took a page out of Simon Nielsen’s playbook and added one Roast in the main deck and one in the sideboard to combat undercosted black creatures. I cut one Lightning Bolt from the main deck and haven’t missed it at all. You become a little worse vs. Burn, Affinity and Thalia, but you gain valuable percentage points vs. Death’s Shadow which I would expect to face on the top tables at any premier tournaments.
In my sideboard I decided to cut two Thragtusk for Chameleon Colossus. My plan vs. Midrange and Control is to sideboard out six red removal spells for six big creatures, so that plan got a little worse with this swap. I also lose two lifegain creatures vs. Burn, so maybe this change is not improving the deck overall. Anyway, the Colossus can blank an opposing Shadow, Angler or Tasigur while having the ability to swing for lethal if they don’t have a Snapcaster Mage to block. However, with Esper Shadow being more and more popular, getting my Colossus Path to Exile‘d when I think I’m keeping his huge Death’s Shadow in check is a bad feeling. I’m not sold on these slots going forward.
I’m not going to write about all my matches from the event, because they were rather unexciting. Instead I will give you my gameplan and mindset going into these matches and how I think you maximize your chance of beating these decks.
Round 1: Abzan Midrange
As long as you get to ramp a time or two, you have great topdecks to win the game. He will need a combination of discard spells, Tarmogoyf and Liliana of the Veil to beat you. People seem to have left Fulminator Mage at home these days, so this is probably your best matchup in all of Modern.
Round 2: Esper Shadow
This matchup is extremely hard as they can combine cheap disruption with a fast clock. With the tweaks I did, I have a chance of drawing my key cards and buy myself time to cast a Primeval Titan which should be game over most of the time. I would prefer not to play against this archetype.
Round 3: Amulet Titan
It was very cool seeing my opponent do well with this deck. With an Amulet of Vigor combined with Azusa, Lost but Seeking, this deck can still go absolutely nuts and win out of nowhere. However, the games where the deck fails to resolve or gets its Amulet killed, I’m much more sceptical. We got to play five games vs. each other (this round and the semis), and Amulet (or the fact that it died or wasn’t drawn) was the deciding factor in all of them.
Round 4: Big Naya Zoo
What seems to be a very straight forward matchup is actually quite tricky for one simple fact. Do they have Blood Moon or not in the sideboard? Do I blindly sideboard in my Reclamation Sage and Nature’s Claim? Since I won game one, I neglected to, but I can definitely see myself bringing in at least the Reclamation Sage to hedge a little. I think it’s very important to think about these things even though I won the match without seeing the Blood Moon. I think I would’ve sideboarded differently if I lost game one.
Round 5: Blue Steel
This is a cute deck that can snowball you out of the game if you don’t have either a Lightning Bolt or sweeper early on. His one drops are not very effective against my deck, and his overall card quality isn’t the best, so if I manage to remove a creature or two in the beginning while progressing my own game plan, I feel favoured in the matchup.
Round 6: Mono W Hatebears
First of all, this matchup isn’t as bad as it looks. When you lose to it, it will look like a complete massacre, but in reality that only happens once in awhile. They will need three or four pieces of the following to reliably blow you out: Æther Vial, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Leonin Arbiter, Ghost Quarter, Tectonic Edge, and even then you can still overcome that. Drawing a Lightning Bolt with some ramp spells and a Scapeshift will win you the game more often than not. Sometimes Sweltering Suns is a three-for-one he will not come back from. The Hatebears deck is very good at punishing you when you miss land drops, so of course there will be those games as well.
You are not able to race in this matchup unless he has a slow hand, so the main plan is to either kill a lord with Lightning Bolt or sweep his board with Sweltering Suns or Anger of the Gods. It’s always tricky when you need a combination of removal spells, lands, ramp AND Scapeshift or Primeval Titan. With four sweepers and two Grafdigger’s Cage to shut down Collected Company, I really like games two and three vs. Elves.
Semifinals: Amulet Titan
Finals: Esper Shadow
The future is bright for R/G TitanShift. I haven’t decided if I’m going to Grand Prix Birmingham next month yet, but I will definitely play the deck if I am. I will check online decklists every day to see if Fulminator Mage plus Surgical Extraction is making a comeback, and I will ponder about a better balance of having game vs. Death’s Shadow and maintaining great matchups overall. Chameleon Colossus, I’m looking at you.