Inner Workings: Bloomless Titan
In each installment of the Inner Workings series, we'll examine a different Modern archetype to find out what makes it tick. This time, it's the turn of Bloomless Titan, the heir of the explosive ramp deck that used to perform a grand juggling act with bounce lands, Amulets and Titans.
Once upon a time, there was Bloom Titan. It was a ramp-based combo deck that exploited the always alluring Amulet of Vigor to turn the apparent downside of the Ravnica bounce lands into an advantage. Amulet is able to overcome all "enters tapped" clauses, thus making the bounce lands a legit source of double colored mana as soon as they hit the battlefield. But they also require a land go back to your hand, so what if you bounce the bounce land itself and then drop it again, boosting your mana more and more via the Amulet's further untappings? Of course, you'd need to circumvent the "one land drop per turn" rule, and the best way to do that in the Modern pool until two years ago was definitely Summer Bloom.
Three additional lands per turn meant you could cast Summer Bloom on turn two with the bounce land from your regular land drop, provided you had an Amulet out in turn one, then use the six extra mana from the following iterations of your bounce land to cast Primeval Titan. This, in turn, results in more lands entering the battlefield, including the ones that give your big guy haste and the capacity of dealing 16 trampling damage (a separate but similar archetype used all that mana to cast Hive Mind and a Pact, which is more immediately lethal but less versatile). The whole routine was ultimately deemed a bit too consistent, so in January 2016, this particular Summer was officially brought to an end.
While never returning to its former top-tier status, the archetype didn't go extinct. All the pieces were still available, after all; they had just been moved a bit forward along the curve. Cue the cheekily baptized Bloomless Titan, also known as Amulet Titan, a name that collectively references the two most powerful cards left in the deck after Summer Bloom's departure.
Eric Quiroga - Bloomless Titan - PPTQ @ Battleground Gaming
|1Hornet Queen||1Kozilek's Return||3Obstinate Baloth|
|1Ruric Thar, the Unbowed||2Seal of Primordium||3Spell Pierce|
So, here's the mana trick as it's played now. Amulet of Vigor untaps Simic Growth Chamber (or one of its sisters, but the deck is primarily Simic) as it enters the battlefield, allowing it to be tapped for mana before it's returned to hand. Then Azusa, Lost but Seeking allows players to repeat the process two more times. Azusa effectively replaces Summer Bloom, although she provides one fewer iteration while costing one more mana and being extremely fragile, hence the general nerf to the consistency of the archetype.
Sakura-Tribe Scout is a solid, if easily boltable one-drop that tries to restore the ramp to its lost splendor, while Explore works toward the same goal for a single turn, but at least it's not susceptible to creature removal. They're both subject to sideboard switch in game two, with Explore being better against grindy decks, while the Scout is a pretty terrible late-game draw.
The Finishing Move
The deck's main objective is to drop a Primeval Titan, or "Prime Time" as the green Giant is nicknamed and exploit its own trigger to fetch both Slayers' Stronghold and the Boros Garrison, thus sending the Titan into the opponent's side of the table right away. This in turn triggers more land fetching, with Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion boosting the Titan's damage output to a frequently fatal degree (one thing this archetype has always accomplished is making a lot of obscure, unplayed cards like these feel formidable).
Of course, the whole strategy is framed around a ramp shell, with the Titan only making it more effective in supplying large quantities of mana, so a scalable creature like Walking Ballista immediately becomes an alternate wincon, or more frequently a way to deal those elusive last few points of damage without the need to attack.
Zacama, Primal Calamity is new tech, essentially a bombastic finisher that doubles as an answer to problematic permanents or as a means to rebuild an endangered life total. The bonus land untapping this big Dino offers plays directly into the kind of ramp the deck is putting in place, ensuring quite a few activations of its abilities from the get-go. Not as popular as the Ballista, but an interesting, Timmy-like option nonetheless. And once again, something that no other deck would ever take into consideration.
The archetype is characterized by its excellent tutors and diggers. Ancient Stirrings is able to search for Amulets, or one of the bounce lands, or a utility land, but also for solutions like Engineered Explosives and Kozilek's Return.
Summoner's Pact is mostly meant to tutor up a Titan, while Tolaria West, here finding its most specialized home, can transmute into any land, the Explosives, and, more crucially, a Pact. In fact, Tolaria West is the key to the process to chain all the Titans together, by using the first's trigger to fetch the blue-based land and Simic Growth Chamber, tapping both for mana before returning Tolaria to hand with the mana to pay for the transmute cost already in the pool. The strong presence of Tolaria copies in the list is the main reason why blue sources are so critical in what might have otherwise looked like an overwhelmingly green build.
The engine and its consequences don't leave much room for any kind of removal suite, so the deck must do with a limited amount of tutorable silver bullets. Engineered Explosives is in particular a universal answer that both Ancient Stirrings searches for and Tolaria West tutors up, and is sustained by the deck's capability to generate all colors of mana to fuel sunburst.
Similarly, Pact of Negation is a Tolaria-friendly counterspell, and the upkeep cost is only partially annoying for a deck that's able to churn out so much mana on a semi-regular basis. It's also a heritage from the versions of the older archetype that would run Hive Mind, which is sometimes still encountered as a secondary wincon or a transformative sideboard option.
Reclamation Sage is called into action by Summoner's Pact, to solve all the noncreature problems on the battlefield. Qasali Pridemage is a sensible alternative, maindecked or otherwise, to fight Torpor Orb, which is seeing a newly increased sideboard presence due to the Humans lists going strong in the meta.
The Mana Base
Bloomless Titan is a land deck of sorts, relying on the Ravnica bounce lands to do the heavy lifting in conjunction with Amulet of Vigor, but also banking on additional-drop enablers like Azusa and Sakura-Tribe Scout when it's more about building long-term resources rather than reveling in single-turn explosiveness. The result is a list that comes close to being comprised of 50 percent lands, so it feels only natural to include several utility lands in the function of silver bullets: Cavern of Souls against counterspells, Bojuka Bog against graveyard strategies, Ghost Quarter against other power lands.
A few other singleton lands benefit from the Amulet's presence, like chump-blocker producer Khalni Garden and the catchall Vesuva, both of which also profit from the chance of being bounced back to hand to repeat their ETB routines, something that's also true for the life generated with Radiant Fountain (or, alternatively, Kabira Crossroads), and for the counters of Gemstone Mine, which is now free to turn out mana of any color without a termination date.
With the deck being able to provide large amounts of mana in all the five colors, the sideboard options become limitless. Firespout and Kozilek's Return are board control elements of choice to slow down aggro builds, the latter having the advantage of responding to Ancient Stirrings' call.
Dismember and Spell Pierce reinforce the answer department. Seal of Primordium is the main backup killer of enchantments and artifacts, capitalizing on the potential excess mana. Abrade remains here a terrific option, as per usual.
More lifegaining is competence of Obstinate Baloth, though Thragtusk and Batterskull are also commonly found. Ruric Thar, the Unbowed punishes creature-light archetypes, and Hornet Queen is both a reliable finisher and protection against swarms. Carnage Tyrant gets sided-in against control, a role that could be filled by Sigarda, Host of Herons and Dragonlord Dromoka as well.
Among other variants, Tireless Tracker and Chameleon Colossus play into the deck's affinity to land drops and mana production to turn it into more of a midrange build, especially when the combo appears too disrupted by game-two hate.
All in all, it's a deck that can be pretty difficult and stressful to play, requiring a deep knowledge and confident handling of all its intricacies. The devotion it has received post-ban has been rewarded with the occasional significant result, like the recent Top 8 placement at Grand Prix São Paulo. Amulet Titan might still have some life in it, and it's constantly improving the details of its lineup, looking for cards that can take it closer to the resilience and consistency of its late progenitor. At the same time, though, the meta around it evolves in directions that may not be too friendly to the Amulet players.
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