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Intellectual Offering — Titania, Protector of Argoth
In the myriad of planes I traverse, I am afforded the singular opportunity to see the full range of approaches that the different colors of magic take to similar strategies. While green mages have the greatest affinity for finding new lands, using their resources, reviving the land, and repeating the process, some red mages and even black mages are getting in on the action.
The most notable comparison here is between the great mage Titania, referred to as the Protector of Argoth in the records, the twins, Mina and Denn Wildborn, and a strange beast known only as The Gitrog Monster. I will leave any direct comparison amongst these three to my colleague, Joseph Schultz who is known in the field for conducting excellent analysis to this effect. I only bring this up to illustrate the fact that each new plane brings new tools to the practitioners of various strategies. Sometimes that manifests itself in the form of a new color finding affinity for the strategy. Other times it’s simply the addition of new spells to an old strategy, thus making it significantly more potent.
Most recently I have seen an influx of lands and spells from the plane of Amonkhet. It seems that there was some kind of great cataclysm there so sudden it was over in a matter of hours. While this seems unlikely to me without the intervention of an extremely powerful planeswalker, the fact of the matter is that this plane is extremely rich in unique lands due to it being primarily covered in desert. I believe this influx gives a new advantage to those who count themselves disciples of Titania, Protector of Argoth. With such an abundance of new spell technology the only difficulty I foresee is choosing what spells (or lands) one should exclude from one’s library. It is this conflict that I will examine in this treatise.
It’s not easy being green….or is it?
As always, I made study of the most recent records of the libraries of the followers of Titania. The first item of note was that often (ok specifically 54% of the time) they sought the inclusion and mastery of the spell Song of the Dryads. This is a relatively simple spell to understand the rationale behind: foremost it can often cut a commander from leading enemy forces. It also can deal with the most troublesome of a foe’s permanent spells, even those that green mages struggle most to handle, such as other planeswalkers allied to their opponent, or those permanents possessing indestructibility. I think these are all good reasons to learn a spell, but I think they’re also rather narrow. Green mages have some of the greatest flexibility when it comes to not just destroying, but exiling artifacts and enchantments, so indestructability should be of little consequence. Green mages should also be familiar with how to leverage their creatures to handle opposing planeswalkers. It seems then that the only true reason to include this spell is for its almost unique ability to handle opposing commanders. But even then it fails if your opponent has any multitude of answers.
In my previous notes I have recorded a behavior noted there as the Precon Effect. My older notes may be hard to decipher (or unknown to the current reader) so to reiterate this effect can be summarized as:
“The inclusion of a spell or permanent in one’s library simply because the first mages to publish the contents of their libraries did so.”
This effect causes a positive feedback loop where the inclusion of a spell is continuously increased through iterative applications of the above behavior, and since high inclusion generally indicates positive correlation to success of a particular spell, the higher the inclusion rate goes, the worse the effect.
I remind the reader of this because I believe that the inclusion of Song of the Dryads in Titania libraries is an example of this effect in action. While on the surface the spell seems powerful, its uses can generally be covered by other spells that would have better overall synergy with the strategy. Another good indicator that this particular spell is the result of precon effect is the fact that it has a 17% greater inclusion rate here than in the libraries of other green mages. If this spell is truly as powerful as we are led to believe, why is it not more ubiquitous? In short it is my finding that while Song of the Dryads is powerful, it is also redundant. We will be filling this precious space with other spells (or lands in this particular case).
A Confused Legacy
On the topic of spells that are likely being included due to Precon Effect, I would like to take a look at the use of Reclamation Sage. Let’s begin with the numbers: 54% of libraries include this spell, however this is only a 4% greater rate than those of other green commanders. Again, as I said at the onset of this publication, I think that this card isn’t inherently bad. As a creature it represents a good return-on-investment as it combines the spell-effect naturalize with a creature of decent size to fend off opposing forces. While those are pretty good stats in general, Titania’s strategy isn’t in dire need of random artifact/enchanment removal. I believe that, were Titania here in person today, she would suggest that there are more efficient ways to achieve this effect that may better support her overall long-term strategies (such as summoning creatures like the Acidic Slime that have potent neurotoxins, causing death with a single touch, and fending off those with less disposable troops.)
Additionally, I think that this card again represents a holdover from those original libraries of Titania followers, despite only having a 4% greater inclusion rate than other green commanders’ libraries. Why then, do I believe this? I have seen the root cause of this issue: there has been a conflation of the original archives of Titania, with those chronicling the tales of Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury. Freyalise, an elf, has strong affinity for the elves of Llanowar. As such her library is full of elves of all kinds, as they are known for synergizing strongly when in groups (c.f. Demons who prefer solitude). Thus this intermingling of libraries, while baffling, is to blame for the inclusion of Reclamation Sage.
Too Much of a Good Thing
My final note on the libraries of Titania (and her followers) is that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. I am referring here to the fact that, while exploring new lands is the primary focus of this strategy, the creature known as Lotus Cobra has never proven to be an asset in this manner. It is quite potent in its ability to produce mana, but as every new mage quickly learns, mana does not equate to lands. I don’t think that those including the snake in their libraries are that novice that they believe it allows them to find additional lands. I believe instead that they are simply misguided in thinking that the goal of their strategy is to produce excessive quantities of green mana. If that were the case I’d think their overall library would be much more similar to those of Omnath, Locus of Mana and include all the largest spells/creatures.
Of course, I recognize that Lotus Cobra creates additional mana for all the lands that this strategy produces. I just don’t think that generating mana alone is enough to include it. Titania and her followers should have no problem generating enough mana to execute their strategy. Maybe I’m just set in my ways, but effects like this that produce temporary mana, or “rituals” as they’re colloquially referred to, always seem overrated to me, and the most prone to create results-oriented evaluations. Yes, you may have been able to accelerate ahead of your opponents when you summon Lotus Cobra, but I’d much prefer to fly under the scrying glass and avoid drawing so much attention to myself until I’m truly ready to launch my final assault.
As per usual my suggestions on this topic aren’t limited to the removal of spells. This time around my recommendations are less about bringing the obscure to light, and more about how fantastic the recent discovery of the plane of Amonkhet has been for this particular strategy.
What’s Old is New Again
First, and most obviously the addition of the Ramunap Excavator will have a massive impact for those who follow the teachings of Titania. This is the only spell, that mages know to date, that perfectly replicates the incredibly powerful effects of the Crucible of Worlds artifact. Crucible is one of the most impactful cards in Titania’s library, allowing for the looping of powerful lands such as Strip Mine, Glacial Chasm, and any of those lands referred to in the common jargon as “fetches”. The fact that the second copy of this spell is animate brings its own benefits. For example, since over 50% of those who follow Titania are already learning to cast Green Sun’s Zenith, the likelihood that you will now be able to quickly tutor for your Crucible effect is incredible. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that this will actually become the primary source of recursion for lands in this strategy, as it will also be more widely available than Crucible which has not been seen on a plane in the multiverse for quite some time now.
While Excavator adds a redundancy to Titania’s arsenal, Scavenger Grounds brings a whole new functionality to the strategy. This is a land, that sacrifices itself (technically it sacrifices deserts but we’ll look at that later), to clear all graveyards. I feel like that is enough said. This is a colorless Bojuka Bog for a strategy that actively wants to put its lands into the graveyard. Exiling graveyards is something that green can generally do with its creatures who are known to consume the dead and decaying, and sometimes it gets pseudo-graveyard hate in the form of recycling those spells into their owner’s library (ok c’mon though, what even is the flavor of that?!). But those are unsatisfying means to an end, at least for me. I search for the perfect synergy in a library. I want each spell to flow into the greater theme. Generally such creatures force a disjointedness into a strategy that irks me. Scavenger Grounds solves that problem in the most elegant way imaginable and for that I love it. The only possible downside to this card is that it does exile all graveyards so there’s some potential to lose out on our own graveyard recursion. I personally think this is a low price to pay to have such a powerful effect included naturally in the deck.
I myself once visited Amonkhet. I was there mostly for my own research, and avoided contact with the locals. I quickly discovered that the deserts of Amonkhet are extremely inhospitable. In their heart I stood atop a massive dune with nothing but sand stretching to the horizon, the sky like an all-encompassing blue tent and to my surprise had found respite. A place so removed that it was as if I was no longer on the plane itself. The Endless Sands of Amonkhet add yet another self-sacrificing land to the mix for Titania. It has the utility to both save critical creatures (Ramunap Excavator I’m looking at you) from effects like Wrath of God, or just allow for additional triggering of summoned creatures’ enters-the-battlefield abilities. As an additional upside this is a second desert to add to Scavenger Grounds’ utility.
Finally the summary of this thesis, my own idealized Titania library. I will note that I have excluded even Acidic Slime from my list as I have found that the small amount of artifact and enchantment removal I have in the deck is sufficient in a way that simply adding slime wouldn’t change:
Until next time.