Thirst for Knowledge – Primeval Titan in Standard

Grand Prix GP Columbus July 30-August 1, 2010
Wednesday, July 14th – Although it’s true that Fauna Shaman has been getting the most coverage of all the M11 cards, I think that it would be a much better idea for us to take a look at the best card in M11, Primeval Titan.

Although it’s true that Fauna Shaman has been getting the most coverage of all the M11 cards, I think that it would be a much better idea for us to take a look at the best card in M11, Primeval Titan. I wish I had some really cool Prerelease stories for you all this week, but I did not get to attend on this time around. And, as a result, I am bringing you some – *gasp* – decklists this week. Some will be updates to existing Standard decks, and others will be some experiments trying to abuse the power of this absurd creature.

Primeval Titan does something very powerful in this game: it allows you to tutor your library for silver bullets while also bringing a sizable body along with it. Now, in the past this has usually meant something like Trinket Mage, which was only a 2/2 and had a narrow restriction on what it was that you could find with it. Granted, that card was only three mana instead if six, but it also wasn’t a 6/6 trampler in Green. The important thing to remember about Primeval Titan is that he is not only mana ramp, but he is a strong tutor engine and large enough to best a Baneslayer Angel in combat. That, in and of itself, is quite important.

But the better question, of course, is how can we make the best use of the Titan? Quite obviously two decks spring to mind immediately: Valakut and Turboland. In the Valakut deck, Primeval Titan would quickly and easily allow you to tutor for your combo and, failing to do it (because they Tectonic Edge them after you get a trigger or two), can bash for 6. Some have said that maybe Primeval Titan is still worse than Rampaging Baloths in that deck, but I can’t understand the reasoning. Primeval Titan is always a “do-something” whereas Baloths are sometimes “no-nothings.” I mean, they will both always be 6/6 tramplers, but one will allow you to get the lands you need to win and the other requires lands in order to be good. Titan focuses the deck more on its combo, and I personally feel that is a good change for the archetype.

A list:

Not a whole lot has changed here, but it’s worth mentioning that Cultivate is a strict upgrade to Harrow overall, and Primeval Titan allows us to cut back on those terrible Expedition Maps. I mean, sure, we’re paying more mana for our Valakuts, but we’re also getting two right away as well as a 6/6 body that will let us dome the opponent for 12 on our next attack (and 18 if he is unblocked!). I think I can live with that.

The single Mystifying Maze I think is probably very reasonable, as it gives us more outs to cards like Baneslayer Angel in game 1 and also saves us a lot of time when we’re trying to race with Valakut. It can also obviously be tutored with Primeval Titan, and so I see no reason that we can’t find a slot for it aside from mana restrictions. If that becomes a problem, it could probably just be a Mountain or something, but from what I can see the potential upside is worth it.

The sideboard is kind of bland, but this deck has always had a boring sideboard. Pyroclasms for Noble Hierarch decks, Combusts for Baneslayer Angels, etc. Naturalize has always been present for troublesome enchantments, but now that Leyline of Sanctity is legal I have a feeling that you will need to be playing Naturalize if you want your deck to even function properly. I mean, sure, you could use Valakut to burn their blockers and swing with your 6/6, but not being able to just outright kill your opponents kind of sucks.

I don’t think Primeval Titan makes this archetype that much better than it was, but I will admit that the strategy looks really good for post-rotation, not to mention that now it has the tools to actually be a decent deck. I’d expect to see more of it, since now it has a much faster clock, but I’d refrain from doing too much sideboarding for it at the moment. Give it some time.

Next, let’s look at a potential list for Turboland:

Now, there’s a LOT of ways to build this deck, and this is just one of them. What I’m trying to illustrate here, however, is merely that Primeval Titan doesn’t even require a whole lot of work to be good. You don’t need to build an entire deck around him to make him powerful. In the Turboland deck, a deck built around the idea of landfall and the ability of Avenger of Zendikar, you don’t need to wrack your brain to figure out why he has a place. Enabling landfall every turn (and twice, no less) is so absurd that I can’t imagine not playing him in the deck. The best part? His trigger goes on the stack and resolves before your plants deal their combat damage, so on every attack they are at least two power larger than the previous turn. Add a Time Warp to that and that’s game, boys.

The sideboard, as always, can be whatever you need. However, the red deck is very good against this archetype and it stands to reason that many players will take advantage of the great boon that M11 has brought us: Leyline of Sanctity. Yeah, we obviously can’t cast it if we draw it, but considering that just landing one is good enough to win most games I can’t complain. Without Overgrown Battlements maindeck it might still be a challenge to beat a Goblin Guide on the first turn, but it’s a whole lot better than what would happen if we were staring down Lightning Bolts and Burst Lightnings.

All in all, I’d say that Turboland remains the best deck for the M11 format. I mean, I may be very wrong, but this deck is still so good that it is hard to imagine another deck matching it in synergy and power level (aside from Jund, which is still the “best” deck despite everything, although it sometimes is hard to see). Primeval Titan simply turbo-charges it (pun intended, although I’m no LSV), and making one of the best decks better is just asking for trouble. I’m curious to see how the Red deck reacts to this, as being currently unable to beat the White Leyline seems really rough. Maybe it’s time for a Green splash?

With the two obvious decks out of the way, what about the fringe decks? First I’d like to bring up Eldrazi Ramp, the Green versions of those Mono White Eldrazi Control decks. Here’s my take with the inclusion of our M11 friend:

It may well be that you’ve never even seen a deck like this, and that wouldn’t surprise me. However, the reason I bring it up is to point out that Primeval Titan plays very well in decks like these because he allows you to fetch pretty much any type of utility land you could ever desire: from Eye of Ugin, Eldrazi Temple, and duals like Sunpetal Grove to utility lands like Khalni Garden (for when you need a blocker), Mystifying Maze, and Tectonic Edge. Oh, and the occasional manland, too, which never hurts. In short, this may not be a very powerful archetype, but being able to tutor all of Standard’s best lands (save ones like Sejiri Steppe and Kabira Crossroads in this particular list) is something to take note of.

In a deck like this it is possible to start casting Titans as early as turn 4, which puts you to eight lands at that point. If the two you fetch with the Titan are Eldrazi lands, well….you can play turn 5 Ulamogs and Kozileks, and turn 6 or 7 Emrakuls. Even if this deck is horrible, the potential to do something that absurd is hard to ignore. The scary part? It’s not even that hard to do. Awkward.

Now, last but not least, a final deck, suggested by Evan Erwin, that I’m going to try and bring to life. Take a look:

The goal of this deck is simple: get to seven mana and have either a Primeval Titan or a Garruk in play and cast Destructive Force, leveling the field and setting yourself very far ahead. Although a Primeval Titan is obviously much better than a Garruk, the scenario where they just Path your Titan after you’ve Forced is still awkward, and Garruk is clearly much better there. Having both isn’t unheard of, either, and so you’ll find yourself often casting Force with lots of confidence.

Again, this strategy isn’t totally sound, but it’s worth considering. If you cast Destructive Force on turn 5 or 6 on average, you’re looking at setting your opponents back to 0-1 lands while you’ll not only have two still but you’ll also be able to swing with Titan or untap them with Garruk to get back to “four” mana within the same turn. Post-board, following up the next turn with a Ruinblaster seems sick, and I find it hard to believe that many decks in Standard could beat that.

Turboland might be an issue since it will have just as many lands as you will, but I think this is more or less “how it goes.” After all, what can you do? Burst or Bolt Oracle? I think that’s about as good an option as you’re going to get, although I’ll admit that even resetting their land count to 3 would be enough to win if you had Beast tokens and 6/6 tramplers beating in.

Cutting a long story short, Primeval Titan is very good. Like, stupid good. For a color that got the shaft for so long, Green has made out very well over the last two years. Primeval Titan is somewhat of a testament to that, as his power level is so far above and beyond the rest of the cycle (expect for Grave Titan, who is almost as sick). Wherever he finds a home, I’m confident that he’ll do some real damage, and these four lists are just some starting points. Feel free to share whatever you come up with in the forums, as I’m sure there are lots of other ways to abuse him (for example, none of my lists featured even a single Knight of the Reliquary). Have at it!

Until next time…

Chris Jobin

Team RIW
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