There Is Only One Good Primeval Titan Deck In Modern

GerryT thinks TitanShift isn’t the best way to use Primeval Titan anymore! Get his Simic Titan list and sideboarding guide!

Primeval Titan, illustrated by Aleksi Briclot

For a while, I’ve been saying that a Primeval Titan deck with Arboreal Grazer, Castle Garenbrig, and Once Upon a Time would be able to set up Turn 3 Titans with regularity. The obvious home for that pack was in Valakut decks and it didn’t take long for Tommy Ashton (aka stainerson) to win a Magic Online Modern Challenge with that package. 

At Grand Prix Portland, I hopped in a Modern PTQ, with this as my weapon.

With Search for Tomorrow or Arboreal Grazer on Turn 1 and Explore or Sakura-Tribe Elder on Turn 2, there were several paths to playing Primeval Titan on Turn 3 thanks to Castle Garenbrig. Barring Castle Garenbrig, you could cast Hour of Promise on Turn 3. 

The power of those draws meant that I didn’t need to play any interaction in the maindeck. Primeval Titan would often come with Zombies and there were always 0/3s and 1/1s to block with early. The Dwarven Mine I spent an hour looking for was excellent as well. 

Primeval Titan Castle Garenbrig

There were games where I didn’t draw enough lands or any threats but the majority of games I cast Turn 3 Primeval Titan. Tommy cut all the interaction in the maindeck, which led to me wondering why we were red at all considering that Field of the Dead beat most people. At the end of the day, I was intrigued by the idea of cutting red and wanted to see how much mileage I could get from a manabase that didn’t require a bunch of Mountains

I started brewing up Mono-Green Titan decks at dinner and then someone showed me this the next day. 

It was both enlightening and confusing. Why play Azusa, Lost but Seeking and Simic Growth Chamber but not Amulet of Vigor? Isn’t Simic Growth Chamber weird in a deck with Field of the Dead? Why Oko, Thief of Crowns maindeck? 

Soon, it was all over Magic Online.

The winner’s metagame of that MOCS was all Urza, Primeval Titan, Urza’s Tower, and Goblin Guide. My experience in the Modern Leagues has been playing against a lot of Bant decks, both Stoneforge Mystic variants and harder control variants with fewer creatures.

Most of the Simic Titan lists have moved away from Azusa, Lost but Seeking and the Urza decks typically had Ashiok, Dream Render in their sideboard. The more I played with the deck, the more Azusas I wanted. You’re incentivized to play as many lands as possible to enable Explore and Arboreal Grazer, so Azusa typically got you to six mana. 

Slowly, these lists have been moving away from what I liked about them in the first place, which was the ability to play a Turn 3 Primeval Titan as consistently as possible. 

Is this a bad Amulet Titan or Valakut deck? Nope, this is a good Field of the Dead deck, which is a stronger strategy in Modern than trying to be a good Primeval Titan deck. You can win without drawing or resolving Primeval Titan and that counts for a lot. Nearly each of your cards contributes toward triggering Field of the Dead. There don’t need to be any flashy combo kills because very few people are trying to combo kill us. Instead, you should be trying to bury your opponent with Zombies.

If you play Sakura-Tribe Scout and Arboreal Grazer, you’ll want thirteen green sources that can enter the battlefield untapped. With the help of Once Upon a Time, those numbers should be sufficient but note that there will be times you’d prefer to find a threat or Simic Growth Chamber from Once Upon a Time instead. Three Simic Growth Chambers is a fine number except if you’re also playing four copies of Azusa, Lost but Seeking. At that point, you’ll want all four bouncelands and could even consider a fifth. 

; ; Sakura-Tribe Scout Simic Growth Chamber Azusa, Lost but Seeking

There is variance in playing with Sakura-Tribe Scout and Azusa, Lost but Seeking instead of more traditional ramp spells, especially in such high numbers. Sakura-Tribe Elder will always turn into a land whereas the others require you to naturally draw your lands. If you only draw four lands, the majority of your cards won’t do anything.

I tried to rectify this by playing more lands and especially more bouncelands but it’s not perfect. Because of those potential issues, I’m willing to believe a slower, more consistent version could be the better choice at some point. We’re still in a world where we can’t wait until Turn 4 to do something meaningful, so I’ll continue advocating for Turn 3 Titans.

Having extra land drop creatures post-Primeval Titan is very powerful. You can usually search for two Field of the Deads and bury your opponent but sometimes you need to get Simic Growth Chamber and Tolaria West and want nine mana on the next turn. Maybe your opponent had Primeval Titan first and you need to catch back up in Zombie production. Bouncing a Simic Growth Chamber with itself and replaying it multiple times is a surefire way of accomplishing it. 

Field of the Dead Hour of Promise

Very few people are playing Hour of Promise and that seems like a mistake. The deck is threat-light and certainly wants something to do besides Primeval Titan. Sometimes you’re able to ramp twice but don’t have Castle Garenbrig, so you’ll only have five mana. At that point, Hour of Promise is the best thing you’re going to get. 

Instead of Hour of Promise, the masses have adopted Oko, Thief of Crowns in order to increase their threat density. There’s no question that Oko, Thief of Crowns is one of the best cards in Modern but you don’t have to play it just because you’re blue and green. You could make an argument for saving sideboard slots by playing it maindeck but it interferes with your primary game plan. There are some decks where you want access to Oko maindeck but those are few and far between. Plus, it’s mostly a luxury, not a necessity, so stick with Plan A.

I would caution against playing fancy Summoner’s Pact targets in the maindeck because getting Primeval Titan is almost always correct. Still, there are arguments for playing Mystic Snake and/or Craterhoof Behemoth because of how unique they are. Mystic Snake has shown up in some Magic Online decklists and I noticed a few spots I would have been happy using Summoner’s Pact to search for it. 

Mystic Snake Summoner's Pact Craterhoof Behemoth

On the other hand, Craterhoof Behemoth is a new suggestion from @tangrams that I haven’t gotten a chance to play with quite yet. At first glance, it seems win-more because the scenarios you envision it killing your opponent involve spots where already have Primeval Titan and Field of the Dead going. There are plenty of game states where you haven’t found Primeval Titan yet or they killed it and your Zombie production is anemic. Given how many 0/3s, 1/2s, 1/1s, and 2/2s you might have on your side of the battlefield at any given time, it’s easy to envision scenarios where Craterhoof Behemoth would win you games that Primeval Titan otherwise wouldn’t. 

Matchups like Mono-Green Tron, various Urza decks, and the mirror would be improved by having access to Craterhoof Behemoth and there were also several situations it could have bailed me out of awkward spots against Bant Stoneblade. 

Cavern of Souls is incredible. Both Simic Urza and the aforementioned Bant decks want to counter your Primeval Titans and Cavern of Souls removes their main source of interaction. With multiple copies of Cavern of Souls, you have access to a strong trump against the best means of interacting with Primeval Titan, plus you have more ways to cast Sakura-Tribe Scout and Arboreal Grazer on Turn 1. 

Cavern of Souls

Playing multiple Caverns means you can’t play Search for Tomorrow but this deck wants differently named lands and you run out of basics quickly. You start to feel that, especially when playing Sakura-Tribe Elder.

I don’t expect any two manabases for Simic Titan to look the same since there are so many options. I’ve heavily considered and tried a second Tolaria West, another Island, a couple of copies of Gemstone Caverns, the fourth Cavern of Souls, Westvale Abbey, and more.

The extra Island makes sense for variation of differently named lands you can search for with Misty Rainforest but is very close to a colorless land. Another Cavern of Souls might be necessary, even if it means you might have two copies early just because of how vital it is against decks with counterspells. 

Gemstone Caverns might actually be busted. I started by trying one and it was just enough of a small sample size that I didn’t feel comfortable advocating for it in the decklist. The next time I try the deck, I’ll be playing two copies to see how that feels but I assume it’s very good. It doesn’t curve one, three, six like the rest of the deck but could be a stand-in for Castle Garenbrig by allowing you to have six mana on Turn 3 after two ramp spells. 

Gemstone Caverns Tolaria West Westvale Abbey

Typically the first Tolaria West will be good enough in grindy matchups but it’s a fine natural draw most of the time. I wouldn’t be mad at a second copy but it’s not entirely necessary. Westvale Abbey is a great way to lock up the game against aggressive decks but there aren’t many of those around that won’t lose to a Radiant Fountain.

There’s a case for more bouncelands and/or playing bouncelands with different names. My list has thirteen blue sources, so you rarely struggle to find them. Shaving on those numbers could be detrimental in sideboarded games but you could probably swap a Simic Growth Chamber for a Gruul Turf and not notice any difference. 

People have been sideboarding in Damping Sphere against me, which doesn’t seem correct. It can weaken Simic Growth Chamber and Castle Garenbrig, plus make Summoner’s Pact into Primeval Titan slightly awkward, but that’s all. Maybe as a situational Stone Rain, Damping Sphere is better than some of the other possible cards but only very rarely. 

VS Mono-Green Tron


Explore Explore Explore Radiant Fountain


Oko, Thief of Crowns Oko, Thief of Crowns Oko, Thief of Crowns Ramunap Excavator

For a while, I had Disdainful Stroke to help with this matchup and the mirror but with Cavern of Souls becoming more common, I didn’t even want to bring in Disdainful Stroke for Primeval Titan. Additionally, Ashiok, Dream Render is a stronger piece of hate for mirror matches in general. 

Oko is solid for dealing with Wurmcoil Engine and also makes it awkward for your opponent to cast Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Karn, the Great Creator

This is one of the matchups where I’d prefer more help but feel naturally favored regardless. 

VS Grixis Death’s Shadow


Arboreal Grazer Arboreal Grazer Arboreal Grazer Summoner's Pact Pact of Negation Ghost Quarter


Oko, Thief of Crowns Oko, Thief of Crowns Oko, Thief of Crowns Tireless Tracker Dismember Dismember

There are two ways the games play out in this matchup, which is either they disrupt you a bunch or put you on a fast clock. The disruption plan tends to lose to Field of the Dead, so we’re not super-worried about it, hence the lack of Veil of Summers. However, the beatdown plan is terrifying, which leads me to believe I shouldn’t be siding out Arboreal Grazers in anticipation of the games being more grindy. It all depends on your opponent and their playstyle. 

VS Eldrazi Tron


Arboreal Grazer Arboreal Grazer Arboreal Grazer Summoner's Pact Summoner's Pact Pact of Negation Radiant Fountain Cavern of Souls


Oko, Thief of Crowns Oko, Thief of Crowns Oko, Thief of Crowns Dismember Dismember Tireless Tracker Ramunap Excavator Reclamation Sage

The Eldrazi Tron matchup is similar to the Death’s Shadow matchups. You’re far more scared of a quick clock than their lock pieces. Chalice of the Void on zero is very annoying at times, especially because it limits your threat density, but we have to sideboard out some of the Pacts to mitigate its effect. 

VS Simic Urza


Arboreal Grazer Arboreal Grazer Arboreal Grazer Summoner's Pact Radiant Fountain Ghost Quarter


Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Tireless Tracker Bojuka Bog

Midrange decks are supposed to be the dream matchup for any Primeval Titan but Simic Urza is like Jund with clean mana, a fast clock, and countermagic, and it never runs out of gas. They also don’t have to play any spot removal maindeck. 

Between Cavern of Souls and Mystical Disputes, you should be a favorite but Urza will never go down without a fight. Even an army of Zombies from Field of the Dead can repeatedly die to Emry, Lurker of the Loch recurring Engineered Explosives. Thankfully, most versions of Urza have been shaving that package, so Field of the Dead is going to be incredible most of the time. 

VS Burn


Oracle of Mul Daya Pact of Negation Explore Field of the Dead


Oko, Thief of Crowns Oko, Thief of Crowns Oko, Thief of Crowns Reclamation Sage

Amulet players would typically sideboard out their Sakura-Tribe Scouts because of how easily it dies to Searing Blaze but that doesn’t strike me as a downside. It forces them to interact early at a minuscule cost to you, which means they have to wait a turn before playing something like Eidolon of the Great Revel

Originally, I had more hate for Burn but continually didn’t need the help, mostly thanks to Arboreal Grazer and the speed of the deck in general. With Oko and Radiant Fountain, you’re well set up to beat them. 

VS Bant Stoneblade


Arboreal Grazer Arboreal Grazer Arboreal Grazer Explore Explore Explore Summoner's Pact Summoner's Pact Pact of Negation Ghost Quarter Radiant Fountain


Oko, Thief of Crowns Oko, Thief of Crowns Oko, Thief of Crowns Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Tireless Tracker Dismember Dismember Reclamation Sage

Everything I said about Eldrazi Tron and Death’s Shadow is relevant here. Sword of Feast and Famine is a huge problem but a timely Dismember can easily win you the game if they’re not careful. Mystical Dispute helps a ton here because most of their best cards get tagged by it. 

You should be scared of their clock but if you can assemble Cavern of Souls and Primeval Titan by Turn 4, you should be good. There’s a lot dancing around even past that point thanks to them being able to interact with Field of Ruin and Oko but you should be able to push through it. 

VS Simic Titan


Radiant Fountain Blast Zone Pact of Negation Explore Explore Explore


Ashiok, Dream Render Ashiok, Dream Render Ramunap Excavator Oko, Thief of Crowns Oko, Thief of Crowns Oko, Thief of Crowns

If people are playing Sakura-Tribe Elder instead of Azusa, Lost but Seeking, Ashiok, Dream Render becomes as good of a mirror breaker as you could possibly hope for.

Oko is for neutering Primeval Titans and Ramunap Excavator allows you to recur Ghost Quarters to fight Field of the Dead

You will probably notice that I cut Okos from the maindeck and sideboard them in against the majority of the matchups listed here. This is only a sampling of the more popular decks in the format and there are several decks, such as Dredge, where you won’t want Oko. Also, it doesn’t contribute to the main gameplan and most of the games are different post-sideboard when your opponents get things like Disdainful Stroke to disrupt you. 

This deck has the raw power of any normal Primeval Titan deck but also rewards meticulously managing your resources and sequencing. Not only is it among the best decks in Modern at the moment, it’s incredibly fun to play.