Hi! I’m Thien Nguyen and I’m a grinder from Boston MA. I’m also the guy that top 8’d GP Pittsburgh with Titan Shift..
Out of all the Constructed formats, Modern is the one I’m the least excited about. The unpredictability of the format makes it so hard to playtest for and getting edges is really difficult. I have been playing my Titan Shift deck since May of 2014. I have been making alterations to the deck with the introduction of every new set. It most recently saw success in the hands of my friend Oliver Tiu when he 4-0’d with it this month at the 2016 Magic World Championship.
I have a WMCQ this weekend and here is where I am currently at with the deck:
Titan Shift – Thien Nguyen
It is a powerful deck with a very consistent turn 4 kill (or virtual kill with turn 4 Titan). It’s resilient to discard because of a critical mass of win conditions. There’s a lot of redundancy so the range of keepable hands is high. It is one of the best decks against midrange decks and control decks. It has a lot of game against the other archetypes given its raw power.
Deviation from Oliver Tiu’s Deck
Oliver’s main from worlds was what I gave him and his only deviation was going down to 3 Khalni Heart Expeditions (KHE) and going up to 4 Lightning Bolts. Ironically enough the 4th KHE would’ve been fantastic at Worlds.
I decided to play Courser over Anger of the Gods just because of their roles in the deck. Anger is mainly there to stop aggro decks and heavy creature decks. Courser provides a similar function where he is good against aggro decks. The trade off ultimately came down to Anger being too volatile. There were games where Anger would be a 10 or a 1. Courser is consistently a 5 or 6 and can be a 10 in many matchups. He has applications in both aggro matchups and the midrange/control matchups.
For the board I decided to cut the Tireless Tracker for another Anger of the Gods. Without the extra Anger of the Gods in the main I believe it was pertinent to make room in the board. It is a complete house against the Company, Tribal, and Dredge decks with applications in other matchups as well. Tireless Tracker is incredibly powerful against the midrange and control decks but this deck is already built to be good against them. Tireless Tracker’s best application is as win condition against the card Blood Moon where he is an all-star threat that can generate a lot of advantage.
Midrange (Jund, Junk, GB, Mardu)
Black discard attrition decks that use creatures to try and disruption to try and kill you. This is one of the deck’s best matchups because it has so much inevitability and can go over the top of these decks very well. The most important card they can employ is Tarmogoyf. Early discard backed by a Tarmogoyf will end the game quickly.
Board out 3 KHE and 3 Lightning Bolt
KHE is one of the few cards they can interact with. Even though the card is incredibly powerful it’s imperative that our ramp spells will always ramp a land. It’s also the only ramp spell that won’t allow us to turn 3 Obstinate Baloth if we need to. Obstinate Baloth is a powerful threat and can be discarded to Liliana and Kolaghan’s Command. It is a creature that matches every non-Tarmogoyf creature and it will give you multiple turns between the life gain and the body. The Engineered Explosives are brought in to deal with the array of threats these decks have. A lot of threats sit at 2 mana (Dark Confidant, Grim Flayer, Tarmogoyf, and Scavenging Ooze) and it can also deal with Lingering Souls very efficiently. Watch out for Crumble to Dust, even though it’s a 1 or 2 of in Jund and Mardu decks stripping away all the Valakuts changes the texture of the game in a way where our inevitability is stripped away. My suggestion is to hold onto Valakuts as long as possible until you get a win condition or multiples and Explores so you can play 2 at a time. If you’re absolutely forced to play the Valakut in order to advance your game and play spells, cross your fingers.
Control (UWx, Gifts)
This matchup is all about resolving threats. One of the good things about it is that the control decks don’t apply much pressure and they have a slew of dead cards in the matchup. Players might get trigger happy because they have the combo and the opponent is building up a lot of card advantage from Ancestral Visions. In these situations just continue to draw cards and play lands. Don’t go for it until you have a window of opportunity to resolve multiple win conditions in one turn or you get to a critical mass where you play win conditions every turn. Being able to play win conditions through Mana Leak is big. This matchup is pretty good.
Board out 4 Lightning Bolts
Lightning Bolt is actively pretty bad in the matchup. Obstinate Baloth provides a solid body that requires a counterspell or a Path to Exile to deal with. It can close the game out quickly and requires a valuable resource in order for it to be stopped. There’s a non-zero chance the opponent will board in Leyline of Sanctity. While this might be very speculative the extra Lightning Bolt isn’t very good in the matchup so having a chance to hit a Leyline is big.
In this matchup you can take one of two roles and it’s dependent on whether or not you were on the play. If you’re on the play you should use your ramp spells as quickly as possible and try to turn 4 your opponent. Game 1s are pretty rough and if you can avoid the turn 3 kill then racing is ideal. On the draw you should prioritize interaction and the ability to stabilize. The Courser gives this plan a lot of game. In the main it’s not possible for Burn to remove him without 2 spells and he can recoup a lot of life. In a pinch you can Scapeshift to gain life equal to the amount of lands you sacrifice. This matchup is close but Burn is slightly favored.
Board out 3 KHE 3 Scapeshift 1 Farseek
The game is all about stabilizing. Burning off their early creatures and playing an Obstinate Baloth goes a long way but it’s not always a guarantee. Always watch out for Skullcrack and Atarka’s Command. Scapeshift is powerful and we can definitely steal games if they stumble but ultimately it can’t be deployed fast enough to beat them so we need to use all the tools we have to maintain our life. Chalice of the Void will do a ton of work and shut off a huge portion of their game. There’s still a real possibility that they can close out the game with runner Boros Charms and/or Atarka’s Commands.
Big mana decks tend to be a problem for them. The redundancy and speed of this deck makes it very hard for Bant Eldrazi to disrupt or go under. Turn 2 Thought-Knot Seers are backbreaking against everything but a turn 3 Thought-Knot Seer is not as menacing. Try and have redundant win conditions against them and you should be all set.
Board out 3 KHE
Board in 3 Obstinate Baloth
They bring in Stubborn Denials. Make sure you can get your ramp spells in as fast as possible. They are pretty cold to Primeval Titan. Obstinate Baloth can block Thought-Knot Seer. You can also target a Reality Smasher with a Lightning Bolt and then discard Obstinate Baloth to block it. While a 2-1 in your opponent’s favor isn’t ideal, buying yourself 2 or 3 turns is well worth the card disadvantage.
Dredge plays a highly uninteractive strategy. While their resilient threats are powerful against the midrange and control decks, it doesn’t do much against Titan Shift. Game one ramping and playing win conditions should allow you to win the game pretty straightforward. Just watch out for Conflagrate.
Board out 4 Lightning Bolts
Board in 2 Anger of the Gods 2 Obsitnate Baloth
Post board their game plan is the same but now there’s Gnaw to the Bone to gain them 20+ life. Obstinate Baloth can beat Prized Amalgam and Bloodghast in combat. The off chance your opponent is playing Burning Inquiry you have a non-zero chance of ambushing an Obstinate Baloth for free. Anger of the Gods slows down any clock that they can try to put out and good Dredge players will try to play around it by not triggering Bloodghast’s landfall. This is fine for the Titan Shift pilot because the longer the game goes on the more favored Titan Shift is. Obstinate Baloth and Courser of Kruphix play very well in this drawn out game and they are also immune to Anger of the Gods.
Merfolk uses their lords to power out a small contingent of creatures that are boosted to large proportions. Merfolk can’t put on pressure fast enough Game 1 and they lack any form of disruption outside of Spreading Seas (negligible because of the amount of lands that Titan Shift gets).
Board out 3 KHE 2 Farseek (on draw)/2 Explore (on play)
The post board games play out pretty similarly. Even though they have counterspells they’re still very much a tap out deck. Hands where the opponent has Aether Vial and counterspells means they have a smaller critical mass of creatures. Using Anger of the Gods and Engineered Explosives to get rid of all their creatures is a great way to slow them down. Engineered Explosives can also get rid of Spreading Seas so it’s very tough for the Merfolk player.
Infect is the bane of combo decks. Infect is incredibly fast and hard to disrupt. It is one of the worst matchups. I have won Game 1s back when I was playing Anger in the main because getting a 2 for 1 when they lead with Hierarch was really strong. That being said it’s pretty rare.
It’s all about killing off their Infect creatures. You have to keep a hand with at least 2 pieces of interaction otherwise you’ll just get rolled over. You don’t want to draw too many win conditions and Infect doesn’t do enough damage to itself to ensure a Scapeshift is always lethal. The game is all about getting them to 0 Infect creatures in play and not being overzealous with our own lives in a way where they can ambush us with a Dryad Arbor and a bunch of pump spells. Chalice on 1 should take away a lot of the play our opponent has but it will not end the game.
Suicide Zoo is deck that has gained a ton of popularity recently. It has one of the fastest goldfishes in Modern. Game 1 is all about getting a turn 4 kill and being able to Lightning Bolt off non-Death Shadow threats long enough. This is not a good matchup and will require being crafty to get the win.
Board out 3 KHE 2 Scapeshift
Similar to other aggro matchups you just don’t want to saturate your hand with win conditions. Drawing 2 is usually a death sentence. Engineered Explosives guarantees you can kill all their threats regardless of how large the Death Shadow gets. Chalice of the Void on 1 basically stops the opponent from playing any more creatures than what he/she has committed into play. Ideally you would want a hand that has either Chalice or Explosives but barring that, a hand with Lightning Bolt and a turn 4 kill will suffice half of the time.
This plays out similarly to Burn because it’s a close matchup and it can be completely changed depending on play or draw. The key is to stabilize but Affinity has a lot of inherently powerful cards in Arcbound Ravager and Cranial Plating that can steal games from nowhere.
The game revolves around stopping their most important threats. Memnites and Ornithopters are hardly worth consideration when they aren’t combined with Arcbound Ravager or Cranial Plating. Besides not wanting too many win conditions with Scapeshift, Affinity will often bring in Blood Moons rendering our Scapeshifts useless. Playing the control route and knowing which creatures to remove is key. Also you can just have ramp spells, Anger of the Gods, and Primeval Titan on turn 4 and cruise control to the win.
Abzan Coco, Kiki Evolution/Chord
These matchups play out similarly and these heavy creature decks are usually good matchups because of their lack of interaction and their need for a critical mass of creatures in order to execute their game plan. Lightning Bolt on their turn 1 mana creature will usually ensure the other player is set back multiple turns. One way they can steal a game is if you Summoner’s Pact for a Titan and they Eldritch Evolution into a Magus of the Moon. They don’t have many solutions to a Primeval Titan and if they burn an Eldritch Evolution in order to do so then you’ll be fine as long as you make sure you fetch 2 basic Forests.
Board out 2 KHE 2 Courser of Kruphix
Courser of Kruphix’s life gain isn’t relevant. Its body is good but the opposing decks aren’t trying to go under you. Anger of the Gods is a slam dunk against all of those archetypes. Sudden Shock works similarly to slow the opposing game plan and can stop either combo.
Outside of Infect this is the other deck that other combo decks don’t want to sit across. A very powerful combo where one of the pieces shuts down other combo decks is really difficult. Taking Game 1 is really hard but it’s possible. Getting a turn 4 where they don’t have a Lotus Bloom is the best way. If they have the Angel’s Grace you just need to hope they don’t have the mana to also Ad Nauseum that turn.
You want to disrupt their fast mana. Engineered Explosives on 0 will give you the chance to take out all their Lotus Blooms (Not ideal but relevant sometimes). Nature’s Claim gets rid of Phyrexian Unlife and Leyline of Sanctity. The hope is to Chalice for 1 to stop Angel’s Grace and a lot of their draw spells.
It has lost a lot of favor in the past few months but remains a part of the format. Turn 3 Karn can be rough but outside of that, your ramp spells start netting you lands right away. Game 1 they have a really hard time stopping what you’re doing. Turn 3 Wurmcoil can be a factor but ultimately you can just Scapeshift for another land or you can kill the Wurmcoil with Valakut triggers from the Primeval Titan.
Board out 3 Lightning Bolt
Lightning Bolt doesn’t do much in the match outside of dealing 3 to the opponent and then Scapeshifting with 7 lands. It can also kill off Karns that have -3ed. Nature’s Claim lets us destroy Expedition Maps on the draw which is huge. Tron will bring in Warping Wails but getting a Scapeshift countered isn’t the end of the world. Use the same caution as the midrange and control decks that have access to Crumble to Dust. The difference is even with 2 Valakuts in hand, Exploring and playing both might not be the best because they can tutor for Ghost Quarter and then use Crumble to Dust.
This matchup is favorable. Having a higher critical mass of ramp spells means that your path to a turn 4 win is much more consistent than theirs. They do have Simian Spirit Guide to power out a turn 3 Breach but those games are a small fraction of the total games.
Board out 2 Lightning Bolt
Board in 2 Sudden Shock
All our cards except for Lightning Bolt is good. Sudden Shock will do the same thing which is go to the face for enough points to ensure a 7 land Scapeshift. The upside is that Sudden Shock can also pick off a Sakura-Tribe Elder the opponent has been used to sacrificing end of turn. Obstinate Baloths are a moot point in this matchup because it’s all about ramping and win conditions so you can leave them in the board even if the opponent brings in theirs.
Scapeshift (Mirror, BTL, RUG, Prismatic Omen)
The matchups vary greatly. Being on the play really does help tremendously in these matchups. If an opponent draws multiple Cryptic Commands then the matchup is pretty bad. If our opponent doesn’t get one in the top 13 cards of the deck then the matchup goes much more smoothly. It’s a close matchup but we don’t have the luxury of a sideboard.
Board out 2 Lightning Bolt
Board in 2 Sudden Shock
Game 1 is just a race to see who can put their foot on the pedal faster. If they don’t have a Rancor, Sakura-Tribe Elders act as Time Walks. Being on the draw is bad but they’re not nearly as bad as the other aggro decks of Modern.Engineered Explosives will blow up the vast majority of their auras. Unfortunately totem armor will protect the creature. Chalice of the Voids shuts off the vast majority of their spells. Nature’s Claim has the dual purpose of slowing down the opponent and also getting rid of Leyline of Sanctities.
It’s pretty straightforward but I have seen people mess up on sequencing. I’m going to list a few things to keep in mind. Don’t be afraid to get Mountains. The deck has the count it does because it’s rare to run out and not being able to finish off an opponent. You can always fetch Valakuts to amplify Mountains if you’re getting low on them. If you have 2 Valakuts and no win conditions play the first and get to the Mountain threshold before playing the second. Having multiple Valakuts out is nice but not being able to activate them is a problem and you would rather be closer to using it once per turn a turn sooner than twice a turn a turn later. Hands with a Scapeshift are where you’re more inclined to get multiple Forests. People always ask me which ramp spell to play on turn 2. It’s contingent on your hand. You should only play Explore if you have multiple lands in hand and you can guarantee that you can make future land drops. You should play KHE if you have to play a tapped land on turn 3. You should play Sakura-Tribe Elder in matchups where stopping the damage that turn is relevant. In all other scenarios you play Farseek.
Good luck at your events!