Why Inferno Titan is the Best Card in Standard

Concerning:

Inferno Titan ∙ Sun Titan ∙ Frost Titan
Grave Titan ∙ Primeval Titan ∙ … and why Inferno Titan really the best card in Standard!

Well, at least that’s what my Twitter bud @Triphos asked me to say 🙂

But who can say no to someone with a Patsy Walker crafted by Colleen Coover as his Twitter icon?

Anyway, even though seemingly every article on the Magic Internet two weeks ago was about Titans (and then every article this week was about actual Titanic Titan performances) there has been relatively little practical comparison of how the Titans really roll. And by “roll” I mean… How much effective mana do these Titans tally?


Inferno Titan

Let’s break down the Titans. Basically they mirror the Kamigawa Dragon cycle… They all cost six and have the same frame; rather than being 5/5 flying creatures, these are all six mana 6/6 creatures. In addition each Titan has some kind of superpower that 187s the battlefield not just when the Titan comes into play, but every time it attacks!

Yes, you heard it here first.

Sun Titan
We talked about Sun Titan back when it was “merely” the It Girl-to-be come M11 Prerelease time. Now… Actually a contender for the best Titan performer. When we originally wrote about Sun Titan, we didn’t yet know about the competition in the cycle… What about Sun Titan’s 187?

Whenever Sun Titan enters the battlefield or attacks, you may return target permanent card with converted mana cost 3 or less from your graveyard to the battlefield.

This ability has a variable mana effect. It can be as little as one (getting back some kind of one mana doodad that is actually worth one mana) and as much as a free Jace Beleren (probably an immediate mana value of, again, one… But with the promise of more one mana packets of “drawing one card” value). In case you were wondering, buying an untapped land directly into play is worth slightly more than two mana; for reference: Rampant Growth.

It may be worth noting that among all the Titans, Sun Titan’s ability may be the least reliable. That is, if you haven’t got a saucy target in the bin, no dice.

Frost Titan
Originally I was a seller of Frost Titan, but the Big Blue of the Titan Team has grown on me. You may recall that in my first speculative article on TCGPlayer.com I suggested a U/G/R Titan / Destructive Force strategy including Garruk, Jace, some obvious cards like Cultivate and a less obvious duo of Frost Titans.

Well lo and behold!

I mean some of the details are off (Lightning Bolt and Mana Leak over beloved Spreading Seas for instance), but the old girl still has some gas in her.

Okay! What about Frost Titan’s 187 ability?

Whenever Frost Titan enters the battlefield or attacks, tap target permanent. It doesn’t untap during its controller’s next untap step.

Despite the ability to trump another Titan going long, or lock down lands after a Destructive Force, I put Frost Titan’s ability at a value of one mana (about a Twiddle).

It may be worth noting that between the regular keyword abilities like Vigilance and Trample, Deathtouch and “Firebreathing” … Frost Titan probably has the best of the bunch; it is the most durable besides…

Grave Titan
Wow!

How are you supposed to kill a 6/6 Black creature? Yes, yes… Martial Coup or the equivalent still works just fine… But Grave Titan is yet quite the durable army in a one-man package.

And its 187?

Whenever Grave Titan enters the battlefield or attacks, put two 2/2 black Zombie creature tokens onto the battlefield.

This one’s mana is a bit difficult to evaluate on a single-ability basis. Sun Titan is not exactly comparable to known effects, but the value of what you are actually getting back is a fine clue. Frost Titan is like a Twiddle or an activation on an Icy Manipulator… But what makes two 2/2 creatures?

I would shudder at calling it a Grizzly Fate because I don’ t know if anyone would pay five mana just for the two 2/2s (though they are Black, which is a durability upgrade generally). I think that a more reasonable approximation would be WW, though I would be willing to take some input on this.

Inferno Titan
And we return to the best card in Standard!

[not really]

Inferno Titan’s 187 is very familiar to many of us, and hearkens back to one of the most skill-intensive periods in Magic’s history. The aforementioned ability basically attaches an Arc Lightning to a firebreathing 6/6:

Whenever Inferno Titan enters the battlefield or attacks, it deals 3 damage divided as you choose among one, two, or three target creatures and/or players.

So what is this worth?

The easy answer is 2R — exactly the cost of an Arc Lightning. That might be defensible on the basis of Arc Lightning’s rampant popularity back in 1999 and the fact that we would probably pay 2R for the effect now in 2010. [Firestarter: How does Arc Lightning, in your estimation, compare to Staggershock?]

However I think that a more reasonable estimation of its value is R + .5 mana. I feel like two damage is worth about one mana, and this makes three, or one-and-a-half mana worth of value. That you can split it across multiple bodies is gravy.

Primeval Titan
Primeval Titan is probably as good as the hype. Not only does it have Trample (Josh Ravitz’s favorite keyword slapped onto an animal), but this impressive 187:

Whenever Primeval Titan enters the battlefield or attacks, you may search your library for up to two land cards, put them onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle your library.

How much is that one worth?

More than four.

More than “I win” mana according to the Zvi Mowshowitz scale!

Not equal to “I win” mana… More!

Why is it worth more? Is it because we earlier referenced Rampant Growth saying that was worth (unsurprisingly) about two mana? Nothing so fuzzy around the edges my dear students.

Don’t forget that in previous formats we had Block-dominating effects for G3 that weren’t as good as a Primeval Titan’s repeating 187.

Don’t forget that Explosive Vegetation was an absolute monster and that the venerated team in Renton, WA changed the Legend Rule partly because Billy Jensen failed to win the Pro Tour due to Osyp Lebedowicz’s playing Akroma first when Billy otherwise had a highly likelihood of winning. Primeval Titan can do everything we would be willing to pay four mana to do with Explosive Vegetation… But can do even more! Can Primeval Titan get a ho-hum Forest and Mountain like Explosive Vegetation did? Sure? But it is more interesting when it is getting cards like Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, isn’t it? Or perhaps when Valakut is already online a pair of Mountains? Isn’t that kind of like twice as good as Inferno Titan (which we have already decreed the best card in Standard)? Dealing two different packets of three damage instead of splitting up one (as good as that can be)?

Well at least we know why Primeval Titan has the price tag it does.

LOVE
MIKE

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7 comments ↓

#1 MTGBattlefield on 07.31.10 at 6:15 am

Why Inferno Titan is the Best Card in Standard…

Your story has been summoned to the battlefield – Trackback from MTGBattlefield…

#2 net_vagabond on 07.31.10 at 4:52 pm

Primeval Titan seems pretty broken compared to the rest of the Titans that’s for sure. It’s a format defining card and I picked up my four for the long haul on day one.

#3 Dark Vampire on 08.01.10 at 1:29 am

I like the comparison of the Titans using effective mana, especially since I have been trying to gauge how much a card’s effect is worth over the past few weeks. Not only does this show why Primeval Titan can produce a more substantial effect on a game than the other Titans, but it has helped me realize that I need a better set of spells by which to gauge new cards (for example, Explosive Vegetation which I had only found out about today). Also, thank you, Mike, for the clarification on Grave Titan’s ability, I had initially gauged the two 2/2 creatures to be worth about 7.5 mana (2.5 mana for each 2/2 creature and 1.5 virtual mana for the cards they represent), with the caveat that I wouldn’t really want to pay that much for two 2/2’s.

#4 Chironex on 08.02.10 at 11:58 am

I too like this idea of comparing Titan abilities, but I think you made a mistake in your evaluation of Grave Titan by assigning a mana cost with color different from that of the Titan. A better comparison is to the in-color Vampire Lacerator, which is a black 2/2. Now, since lacerator. Historically black has had 2/2 for B with some sort of drawback, so a 2/2 without drawback should at least be B+.5 and possibly more. Thus i would value the overall ability at 1BB at a minimum.

Apart from Sun Titan, the rest all have abilities that compare to in-color spells, and for the most part I agree with those evaluations (Although with lightning bolt in standard how does 2 dmg cost R?). Sun Titan’s ability will often get a non-white effect (like Jace), however since you are presumably playing the color of spells you are returning this is not an issue.

I was wondering, how does the combined mana value of each titan compare to its actual cost? That is, for each Titan, what is the sum mana value of the CiP effect, static ability, and 6/6 stats? Primeval Titan has the highest mana value for the CiP, but I feel like a 6/6 Trample in green has lower value than the other Titans.

#5 poke0003 on 08.02.10 at 1:03 pm

You don’t see a lot of inductive proofs applied to card rankings. 🙂

#6 Lennox on 08.03.10 at 11:45 am

Its good to see the grand unified theory in application.

@Chironex, referencing off-colour cards for the titans’ 187s is fine as colour is generally irrelevant for card comparison outside of the fact colour-intensive cards tend to be discounted on mana. Calling Grave Titan’s ETB WW is no different that saying its worth o2 other than the fact WW indicates double Isamaru.

#7 Innistrad – Bitterheart Witch and Curse of Death’s Hold — Five With Flores on 09.22.11 at 11:55 pm

[…] advantage out by tutoring that way. Think back to Michael Jacobs’s quote about Urabrask, Inferno Titan, and 20 damage as a combination from Facebook / yesterday. Theoretically a card like Urabrask can […]

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