he other evening I was watching the awesome Avatar: The Last Airbender with my kids when there was a pounding at the front door. When I answered it, who was standing there?
"Scott Johns! What are you doing out here in Virginia? Come inside, take a load off."
"We don't have time," he says, breathing heavy like he's been running. Suddenly I notice there's someone standing behind him. He steps to the side just a tad, revealing a large man in an overcoat, baseball hat pulled down, and shadows obscuring his face.
I make a wild guess. "Is that... Aaron Forsythe?"
"Call him... Guido. Don't worry about him, though. I'm here to ask you for something, and we hope you agree to it. We need you to do the feature for Kithkin week, a Single Card Strategy column."
"We hope you'll agree to it," chimes in Guido from behind.
The air between us grows thick with menace. Suddenly my warm living room with kids and children's programming feels too far away. "Of-of course I'll do it."
Guido grunts. Scott looks relieved as he pulls out a contract for me to sign.
"Are you sure you don't want to come inside for a minute? I can offer you... well, milk or Sunny Delight. I don't think the kids would mind."
Scott shakes his head. "No thanks, man. We've still got a long way to go tonight."
Guido clears his throat and puts his hand on Scott's shoulder. "I'm a little parched," he whispers. "A Sunny D would be helpful." I fetch him a bottle, and he tips his hat to me as they trot out into the night.
Kithkin, huh? Scanning through the list of Kithkin cards, I realize I have set myself up for a trap. Single Card Strategy is a fun column to write when given a card that has a lot of depth to it. The Kithkin are cool and all, but they aren't exactly designed to be tricky or complex. They're fast, they attack, and they kill your opponent dead, dead, dead. There's no subtlety, no wacky stuff.
The only Kithkin that jumped out to me was Kithkin Mourncaller. Drawing cards is cool, right? After sketching out deck kernels around Fecundity and Nantuko Husk, there just wasn't enough meat to dig into.
In my mind's eye I see Guido lurking in the shadows... gulp! What to do?
Calm down, Smith... calm down... think... expand your horizons...
... and the shadows give way to light! I open my eyes.
Of course. There are some clever Kithkin cards, nineteen of them to be exact. Only they're not just Kithkin... they're Elves, Treefolk, Giants, they're every creature type at once.
Ah, the changelings! They're my escape hatch from a date with Guido and his baseball bat. In honor of Kithkin Week, we're going to do a Single Card Strategy on the largest Kithkin of all—Changeling Titan! Let's dig into all the wonderful things you can do with this giant uncommon from Lorwyn.
Do you enjoy building tribal decks, but find your tribe of choice to be filled with small creatures that are rather unimpressive late game when your opponent is dropping huge monsters on the board? Perhaps your Cleric deck needs someone to hold the ground while your Shepherd of Rot
works its magic? Changeling Titan
can do the job and
be a Zombie too. Finish things off by sacrificing him to Starlit Sanctum
for a seven-point life swing. What about your Wizard deck? Surely you could use a large body to clog up the Red Zone while your Wizards plot and scheme. Slivers are another tribe of creatures that tend to be rather puny in size, and having a 7/7 Sliver hit the board and gain all the other nice Slivery abilities can make for a really scary creature. Pair him up with Essence Sliver
and you can race any beatdown deck. What about with Battering Sliver
and Fury Sliver
to give him trample and double strike?
I've tooled around with Haakon, Stromgald Scourge, especially now that you've got the awesome combo with Nameless Inversion available to you. While those two cards work fine together all by themselves, why stop there? There are not a lot of actual Knights available for a dedicated Haakon deck that are worth the trouble, but how about a 7/7 Knight that won't stay dead?
Goldmeadow Stalwart, Flamekin Bladewhirl, and Wren's Run Vanquisher are all great cheap beatdown creatures but they require you reveal a card of their creature type when you play them or you have to pay more mana. It's tempting to try and play them all together, so tap into the Changeling cards higher up the mana curve to fulfill that requirement. Changeling Titan seems like the perfect complement to the deck; if your early beatdown doesn't go the distance and your opponent's larger creatures slows down the assault, Changeling Titan can hit the board and go toe-to-toe with just about anyone.
The Ogres from Kamigawa are a rather thin tribe that often requires Demons to be most effective, yet everyone knows Demons can be nasty to traffic with. Changeling Titan can be a pain-free Demon for your Ogre deck! Speaking of Kamigawa, the Snakes tribe could certainly use some beef, and Changeling Titan can also make use of "class" tribe boosts such as being a Shaman for Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro, a Warrior for Sosuke, Son of Seshiro, and of course being a Snake for Seshiro the Anointed. He's also not a bad sacrifice target for Patron of the Orochi's Snake offering ability.
Keep in mind that Changeling Titan doesn't have to be stay in play for his size to be relevant. You can drop him with no other creatures and still get the benefit from Pandemonium, or sacrifice him to Greater Good to draw seven cards. Cards like Sutured Ghoul love to have large men in the graveyard.
Lastly, don't forget about Changeling Titan and the other changelings when tooling around with the Magic Online Tribal Wars formats.
The champion mechanic is often thought of as a drawback, since it requires a creature in play if you want to play your champion and have him stick. Few things feel as bad as ripping a champion off the top of your deck after the board has been cleared with a Wrath of God or Damnation. On the flip side though, champions are quite good before said Wrath or Damnation gets played, hiding away a creature that will pop back into play and command the board once the champion dies. Imagine dropping a turn-three or -four Loxodon Hierarch, attacking with it the next turn, and during your second main phase dropping Changeling Titan, championing the Hierarch. Just about any creature with a comes-into-play effect is a perfect pairing for the champion mechanic, getting another use from them if the champion dies. The beauty of Changeling Titan is that, if your opponent doesn't handle him the game is likely over anyway. Champion Wall of Blossoms, Carven Caryatid or Coiling Oracle to draw another card later. If you had to play an early Llanowar Sentinel (recently reprinted in Tenth!), Champion him and if the Titan gets killed, you can spend your available mana to go get some Sentinel friends and put them into play.
Things can get downright silly if you champion a Karmic Guide, Gravedigger, Pit Keeper, or even a Strongarm Thug. If your opponent kills the Titan these creatures come back into play and brings him right back to champion them again. How many times can your opponent handle a 7/7 creature that keeps coming back? Use Eternal Witness to do the same thing, or get back some other card. Also, keep in mind that the Champion mechanic doesn't target, so use it to cover up a creature set to die next turn due to vanishing or fading, even if it can't be targeted! Imagine attacking a few times with Blastoderm or Calciderm and then championing it with a 7/7 beatstick. Similarly, what if you've instantly animated a Mulldrifter from the graveyard with Makeshift Mannequin to draw two cards? Untap and play Changeling Titan and champion the Mulldrifter.
There are a few cards that have effects both when they come into play and leave play that get even more of a workout in conjunction with the champion mechanic. Keldon Marauders, Aven Riftwatcher, Deadwood Treefolk, and Sundering Titan all get downright silly alongside cards like Changeling Titan.
If you're a fan of Epochrasite you may have noticed your opponent tends to not cooperate in killing the little bugger if he's not playing an aggressive deck. Cover it up with Changeling Titan and if they kill the Titan, the Epochrasite comes back as a 4/4.
Sometimes the champion mechanic's self-sacrificing ability can be helpful. Maybe you need a seventh card to reach threshold, so you can play Changeling Titan and sacrifice it. Perhaps you need one more creature to get Oversold Cemetery going. Maybe you want to trigger a recover ability like Garza's Assassin to get the card back to your hand. You might need a quick 7 points of life from Proper Burial. Changeling Titan can trigger Vengeful Dead to do that last point of life around the board.
Driving Down Costs
The mana cost on Changeling Titan
is just about perfect. Only one colored mana makes him easily splashable, and the balance of the cost in colorless is easily discounted by many cards that make it easier to play certain types of creatures. The most fearsome of these would likely be Goblin Warchief
, letting you play the Titan for just four mana and giving it haste—POW! Use the Titan as a cheap, intermediate Dragon in your Dragonspeaker Shaman
deck. It can be the Elemental that comes out of your Smokebraider
deck before you start dropping Incarnations left and right. If you've got two Stinkdrinker Daredevil
s in play, the Titan only costs one green mana! He fits right in whatever Urza's Incubator
deck you've got cooking.
While it's obvious that Changeling Titan's got a ton of synergies and tricks you can tap into, the bottom line is this—he's a gigantic and reasonably costed uncommon creature, perfect both for budget decks and creative deckbuilders. You've also got to admit the artwork is fantastic and quite funny, and you can enjoy it much better when it's on the board than when it's sitting in a deckbox in the bottom of your closet. He's a Titan for Pete's sake—you gotta give him a shot!
Here are a few decks to hopefully spark some ideas of your own.
I tried to keep the cards in this deck relatively easy to find. If you've got the cards you could certainly add power to it with Thoughtseize and Tarmogoyf, but I don't think you really need to. This deck makes full use of Changeling Titan's champion mechanic, with the ideal combo of championing Gravedigger so if the Titan is killed, Gravedigger comes into play and brings him right back to your hand. Phyrexian Rager's not a bad target either, letting you draw another card for your troubles. Spike Feeder can hand off a counter to make your Titan even bigger before it's removed from the game. Of course, championing a Mournwhelk can really make it painful for your opponent to kill off the Titan. Makeshift Mannequin is a sleeper card from Lorwyn that cropped up in some winning decks at this year's States / Champs (including Kenny Mayer's winning deck from my home state of Virginia), and the Titan's champion mechanic is a good way to reuse the reanimated creature without targeting it and triggering the Mannequin's sacrifice.
The mana base is hardly budget, but Zoo decks require speed and consistency, so if you want to go this route you need to invest in the dual lands. The rest of the cards should be relatively easy to acquire. There are 24 Kithkin, Elementals, and Elves in the deck so you should always be able to play the Stalwart, Bladewhirl, and Vanquisher at a discount. The Blades of Velis Vel can really pack a punch in the initial assault, and you've got Crib Swap and Fiery Justice to clear the path. At the top of the curve you've got Berserkers and Titans to bat clean up. After you play your initial cheap creatures, hold back any subsequent ones you draw in case your opponent clears the board, since you'll need a creature out there in order to play your champions.
Elves are generally tiny (Vanquisher aside) so they can certainly use a Big Brother Elf to give them a hand. The Elf tribe is quite good for the champions since it's pretty easy to keep an extra Elf out there. Even if your opponent spoils your plans by playing Wrath of God the turn before you're about to drop the Titan, you can do things like play end-of-turn Gilt-Leaf Ambush to have two Elves out there to champion. If you want to splash black, Prowess of the Fair helps even more.
If you've been playing since Visions you've no doubt tinkered around with Chimeras. Trying to add parts to a 2/2 is risky with Shocks and Incinerates running around. Previously I've even tried Mistform Ultimus, but a 3/3 is rather small too. How about a 7/7 Chimera? No we're talking! An 11/11 flying, trampling Chimera sounds much more impressive than a 4/4 or 6/6. Is giving that bad boy a Loxodon Warhammer going over the top? Of course it is! That's what casual is all about. I've always been fond of Oversold Cemetery, and I thought it made a perfect fit alongside a bunch of self-sacrificing artifact creatures.
There's a knock at my back door. Outside Guido stands in the shadows, baseball cap pulled low.
"How's it coming with the Kithkin feature?" he asks in a whisper.
"Pretty good, I think... I picked the biggest one to write about."
Guido nods, apparently a fan of the fatties. He asks for another Sunny D and I quickly get one for him. He drinks it down in one gulp, crushes the plastic bottle and hands it to me before disappearing into the shadows.
I close the door and lean against it, relieved. Whew!