Monday, 24 October 2022

Laying Grave Titan to Rest


Grave Titan has stood as one of the best creatures in cube for one of the longest stretches of time. It is one of very few creatures that is so powerful that you play it in decks that can cheat out dorks while still being cheap enough to be a card you are happy to cast normally. When cards hold this kind of position for so long you get used to them as benchmarks and their decline is rather harder to spot in cube play than that of cards more on the margins. Titan has likely been on the decline for some years now but due to having such a high starting point it would have stayed well above the threshold for much of it. More recently however I think it has dipped below that threshold and it is time to say goodbye to Grave Titan. When this happens to a once "best in slot" creature it provokes me into at the very least giving serious thought to the matter. I recall fairly recently giving Eternal Witness a eulogy. It is certainly happening at a higher rate than ever now. Elspeth Knight-Errant next on the chopping block! 

So, what has befallen the Titan such that it is no longer the all round bomb it once was? As is always the way in magic there are several factors at play all combining to take the giant down. There is obviously the main and ever present power creep that has not only caught up with the Titan but six drops in general. Most decks are skipping that slot all together in cube these days and very few six drops see play at all. There are also a lot more tools to do what Titan does now, powerful cards and generally ones a bit earlier in the curve and with some more utility to go with it. We are talking Whirler Rogue, Seasoned Pyromancer, Esika's Chariot, etc. Dumping a load of dorks into play is great, it keeps you nice and safe and gives you a lot of options for attacking, sacrificing, buffing, and all that good stuff. It is however the kind of thing you want to do in the midgame so as to stabilize against early aggression rather than as your curve topper. Critically in the case of Titan they do not do what you need your top end to do which is end the game. Titan used to end the game as he would either hit for six to ten or Edict every turn while churning out loads of dorks which closes things out quickly and safely. Now however there is very few cases where Titan is able to just safely swing. There are too many other big tokens and little deathtouch dorks. Titan just winds up getting traded off fairly evenly in combat more often than not. As such he fails to generate that ongoing value or that reliable threat. He is just a lot of stats and bodies in play which is certainly good, just not when it is time to end the game. 

A pair of 2/2 zombies also gets very little done. Lets say I manage to efficiently kill Grave Titan with a one or two mana spot removal spell, which is fairly likely given how good removal now is. We are both a card spent a piece, you have a pair of little tokens and I have four more mana. In cube that mana will do a lot more work than the tokens most of the time. What was once a very powerful threat that would keep you safe while quickly ending the game is now ineffective at ending the game. It is unreliable at generating ongoing value and the EtB value it guarantees you just isn't very exciting any more. Don't get me wrong, the card is still very efficient and has a high power level, it is just no longer quite so suitable. Evasion would really help this to be more threatening. As it is Grave Titan is mostly just stats and just stats are not really how you go about winning in cube. Tarmogoyf has never really shone in cube either and it is the poster boy for just being a stat vessel. So there we have it, the end of a long and prosperous reign of Grave Titan in my cube. Probably one of the cards with most scalps to its name. 

1 comment:

  1. A quick top 10 for (true, i.e. always cost six) six drops in cube;

    10. Grave Titan
    9. Chandra, Awakened Inferno
    8. Elspeth, Sun's Champion
    7. Ugin, the Ineffable
    6. Torrential Gearhulk
    5. Inferno Titan
    4. Massacre Wurm
    3. Primeval Titan
    2. Emissary of Grudges
    1. Vorinclex