Over the last few weeks TitanShift has emerged as the most-played deck on Magic Online, preying on the likes of Eldrazi Tron, Grixis Death's Shadow, and other midrange decks. It's fairly easy to pilot compared to other decks in Modern, is incredibly powerful, and has a positive matchup against many of the other most-played decks in the format. With all of these factors, it's the most important matchup to be ready for when preparing for #SCGKY this weekend or your local Modern events. So today I'm going to go over all sorts of different cards that you can add to your maindeck or sideboard to help with your TitanShift matchup.
First, though, let's take a look at what a typical TitanShift deck looks like right now.
Collins Mullen is one of the most experienced TitanShift pilots out there, and his decklist from the StarCityGames.com® Invitational Qualifier a few weeks ago looks good to me.
One of the most important things about TitanShift decks is that they don't have room for an abundance of interaction in the maindeck; you can see Collins only has three Lightning Bolts, and that is something you want to be able to exploit. Modern is currently a slower format than many people who aren't on top of the format may realize, and having a deck that can take advantage of the lack of interaction from TitanShift and have a faster clock than it can still be challenging.
The slower format is the biggest reason why TitanShift is on top of the metagame right now, and if you can't win before they do you'll need to have some disruption. So here's a list of cards in the format that TitanShift can struggle with, ones you may want to add to your maindeck or sideboard.
My go-to card for anti-TitanShift in my maindeck of Collected Company decks is Aven Mindcensor. What I really like about this card is it's a good hate card for U/R Gifts Storm against Gifts Ungiven and can catch any opponent with fetchlands off-guard. Although it's still possible for TitanShift to win with Aven Mindcensor on the table, it's really difficult for them and they have to get quite fortunate.
Leonin Arbiter is similar to Aven Mindcensor, but I don't like it as much in this matchup. If you don't have a fast enough clock, then TitanShift can pretty easily pay two mana to search their library before casting an Hour of Promise or Scapeshift. The biggest benefit to Leonin Arbiter is that it gets much better in multiples, unlike Aven Mindcensor. Unfortunately, both of these creatures are very fragile and can die to a single Lightning Bolt.
That is, of course, unless you have a Mark of Asylum on the battlefield. It's the perfect way to keep your creatures alive, as TitanShift primarily uses damage-based sources to keep your threats at bay, whether that's Lightning Bolt, Anger of the Gods, or Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle itself.
If you don't have the creatures that need protecting and only need to protect yourself, then Leyline of Sanctity is your go-to card. As you can see above, Collins Mullen has four Leyline of Sanctity in his sideboard for the mirror match, and it's even castable thanks to Prismatic Omen. Leyline of Sanctity is a good card to have access to in general, as it has plenty of other applications in the format as well.
If you want the same protection from Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle like Leyline of Sanctity provides but also want to be protected from Death's Shadow, maybe Runed Halo is for you. Again, Runed Halo won't protect your creatures, just like Leyline of Sanctity.
If you want to gain hexproof at instant speed from a Chord of Calling, I have the Soldier for you. Just like the other creatures, Aegis of the Gods is very fragile, but when paired with Mark of Asylum, it can stick around for a while. Even just stopping all of the triggers from a Scapeshift after it resolves and they are all sent at your face can be very valuable.
If you need to protect creatures and yourself, Gideon's Intervention is the end-all, be all. It does come at a cost, as four mana is nothing to sneeze at in Modern, but naming Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle with this enchantment will keep you and your creatures alive.
Blue has a few different options, but they boil down to two different strategies. The first strategy is to counter the big payoff threats from the TitanShift deck. There are plenty of different options, with my preferred method being Disdainful Stroke. However, different decks can use different counterspells more effectively. It doesn't matter how many counterspells you have if you don't have a clock, however, as the TitanShift player can simply draw Valakut, the Molten Pinnacles and end the game by making land drops.
The other strategy for a blue deck is to fight TitanShift's manabase, most notably with Spreading Seas. Spreading Seas is a wonderful option against most every deck in the format, and you'll usually find it as a four-of in most blue-based control decks as well. Sea's Claim, on the other hand, isn't played nearly as much since it doesn't replace itself, but it can do wonders when paired with Spreading Seas to lock opponents out of the game.
Now, I need a disclaimer here. Although this may not be a traditional opinion, discard is not a good plan against TitanShift and I wouldn't recommend adding it to your sideboard plan for this matchup in particular. The biggest positive that Hour of Promise has made to the TitanShift deck has been to make it almost immune to discard spells due to the density of top-end threats now available. Sure, a well-timed discard spell or two backed up by a fast clock will most likely do it, but discard spells are much less effective than they were in the past against TitanShift decks.
As a discard and land-destruction spell in one, Smallpox, on the other hand, is a wonderful card against TitanShift. If you can design your deck so there isn't a drawback on your end, then Smallpox is a nice weapon to have in this matchup.
If Smallpox is too easy of a card to put in your sideboard and you need more of a challenge, let me introduce you to Death Cloud. It's an incredibly hard card to put into any deck, but if you can cast it for, say, X=3, TitanShift will have a rough time coming back from it.
While still playable in a blue deck, Shadow of Doubt is basically a "counterspell" that can be used from a mono-black deck. It's best to save a Shadow of Doubt for an Hour of Promise or Scapeshift, usually, but personally I really like casting it the turn when Search from Tomorrow comes off suspend to not only counter the Search from Tomorrow but also not allow them to cast other ramp spells that turn.
Although red has most of the land destruction in Modern, Fulminator Mage is an option for black decks, such as Abzan, that needs some extra help in this matchup. The biggest benefit from Fulminator Mage is that you can reuse it easily with the help of Kolaghan's Command or Liliana, the Last Hope.
If you're lucky enough to get a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle in your opponent's graveyard, such as from a Fulminator Mage, then you can use these versatile graveyard hate cards to exile the remaining Valakuts from your opponent's library. This is one of the oldest tricks in the book, and your TitanShift opponent will certainly try to play around this by waiting as long as possible to expose Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle to a land destruction spell, but when this works, it's golden.
And we've gotten to it, the single best card in the format against TitanShift. If you're playing a red deck that can support it, there's no reason not to be playing Blood Moon in the format right now (I'm looking at you, U/R Gifts Storm). Almost every single deck in the format has a weakness to Blood Moon in some form or another. I mean, even Burn gets shut off from casting some of their spells with a Blood Moon on the battlefield! I'd look for any way to be able to play this powerful enchantment right now.
Since TitanShift's gameplan is to get as many lands on the battlefield as possible, the best way to counteract that is to destroy their lands. Obviously the best thing to target with a land destruction spell will almost always be Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, but if you have access to Blood Moon as well, then you may want to target their basic Forests.
Crumble to Dust goes above and beyond normal land destruction spells, and it's well worth the extra mana in this matchup. Of course the dream is being able to take out all of your opponent's Valakut, the Molten Pinnacles with this card, but I wouldn't always save it for that, since your opponent has the ability to kill you in one turn with a Scapeshift, so don't fret about only being able to exile your opponent's Stomping Grounds or Cinder Glades.
Depending on your build of red, consider Tunnel Ignus. It's a good source of chip damage throughout the game and shuts off Scapeshift entirely. It's most likely a must-answer threat that TitanShift will have to get off the battlefield before they can win the game.
Green doesn't have very many options for cards to bring in against TitanShift, and the ones green does have access to will mostly attack the manabase. Beast Within will usually be used as a Stone Rain that gives your opponent a Beast token, but it can also be used to destroy a Prismatic Omen or Primeval Titan as well. Also, being an instant can be game-saving, because if an opponent casts Scapeshift and gets six total Mountains, you can use Beast Within to destroy one of the Mountains, which will prevent all of the triggers from dealing damage except for the Mountain you destroyed.
Another land destruction card, Acidic Slime can be found with Eldritch Evolution or Chord of Calling as well as simply being cast. Just like Beast Within, Acidic Slime can also destroy Prismatic Omen to help slow down TitanShift, but I wouldn't rely on the deathtouch ability to be able to take down a Primeval Titan.
Primal Command is certainly on the expensive side as far as land destruction is concerned, and instead of dealing with the land permanently, it only puts the land on top of their library. Thankfully, that's not all you get for your five-mana investment, as you can also either gain seven life to try to stay out of Scapeshift range or search your library for a creature that will help end the game or slow them down. Casting a Primal Command that puts an Acidic Slime in your hand isn't exactly a nice thing to do.
Maybe the most powerful land destruction spell in the format, Mwonvuli Acid-Moss not only destroys an opponent's land but also ramps you. I could see this being a quality sideboard option for the TitanShift mirror, as well as a card TitanShift could use against control.
Strictly colorless cards don't have a ton of options against TitanShift, which is the big reason why the deck preys on Eldrazi Tron. Warping Wail is a nice option to have to be able to counter any sorcery from TitanShift, of which there are many. Against TitanShift, Warping Wail is basically the same thing as Negate, and is best saved for Hour of Promise or Scapeshift if possible.
Colorless decks have their own versions of Leyline of Sanctity, but they are expensive mana-wise and don't have much overlap for help against other decks. Orbs of Warding is an interesting one, as it can also stop both of U/R Gift Storm's win conditions as well, but five mana is simply too much for that matchup for it to be reliable.
Seriously, Jester's Cap is an option. It's not a joke! It's certainly best with having turn 3 Tron, but there are many decks in the format that Jester's Cap can cripple. In this matchup, you want to exile three of their Valakut, the Molten Pinnacles from their library, but there are other applications in the format. U/R Gifts Storm, U/W Control, and Ad Nauseam may have three or fewer win conditions in their deck, depending on their sideboard configuration. Living End traditionally only plays three of their namesake card. Even taking out Duskwatch Recruiter and Walking Ballista from certain builds of Counters Company or Primeval Titans from Amulet Titan can cripple their decks. I know it isn't pretty, but it's an option to keep in mind.
In this matchup Tectonic Edge is a much more reliable card than Ghost Quarter simply because of the sheer amount of basic lands that TitanShift plays, but with enough Ghost Quarters, you can shut them down. Both of these lands are best when paired with an exile-from-graveyard effect such as Surgical Extraction or Extirpate. One of these cards usually isn't going to be enough, so we need more than that.
And if you need more Ghost Quarters or Tectonic Edges, I have the card for you. Again, this plan is very slow, but if you're rebuying Tectonic Edge each turn that may be enough. This isn't the best plan, but colorless decks are lacking in the "good plans against TitanShift" category.
On to #SCGKY!
So what's your plan in beating TitanShift for #SCGKY this weekend? No matter what deck you play, you need to be ready for the matchup, as it will most likely be the most-played deck of the weekend. If it's not, then U/R Gifts Storm will probably hold that title because it's fast enough to reliably win before TitanShift and has the ability to play Blood Moon in the sideboard. It's basically the perfect anti-TitanShift deck, and TitanShift's overwhelming prevalence in recent weeks of the Modern metagame has prompted the swift rise of U/R Gifts Storm, which also won the last Modern Open in Richmond.
Modern is in a wonderful cycle right now where the top decks are rising and falling depending on what people are tuning their decks to beat, and picking the right deck for the right weekend is critical. I can't wait for #SCGKY this weekend to find out the next evolution in the metagame!