While Commander’s grassroots origins make it different from many other Magic formats, it still has a ban list like the rest of them. However, since Commander is not a competitive format with tournament data to back up banning certain cards, some players are unsure why certain offenders end up on the list. Today, we’re going to take a look at Sundering Titan and examine its history, why it’s banned in Commander, and whether it would be safe to take it off the list.
Sundering Titan costs a whopping eight mana, but since when do we hardcast an eight drop? Titan is certainly eight mana worth of value. When it enters the battlefield,, you choose a land with each basic land type, and all of those lands get destroyed. This can allow the Titan to completely obliterate mana bases while adding a significant 7/10 body to the board. It will be hard for your opponent to deal with the Titan since their mana base will be in ruins. Even if they do find a way to deal with it, they end up getting their mana base annihilated all over again!
Full disclosure: Sundering Titan is one of my favorite cards in the entire game. Back in the early-to-mid 2000s, I was that annoying kid at your LGS who always played a land destruction deck. Ramping into Sundering Titan was one of my favorite things to do in Magic. However, I’ll do my best to check my biases at the door here.
Why is Sundering Titan Banned in Commander?
When you first look at the Titan, it may not seem that impressive. After all, you have to choose a basic land of each type. This means that if you have a land with a type that your opponent doesn’t have, you can end up destroying some of your own lands. However, because the Titan’s controller gets to choose the lands, you can make the Titan’s ETB and death trigger fairly one-sided. For example, if there are dual lands in play with basic land types, you can choose the same opposing land more than once to satisfy the Titan’s trigger. In multiplayer EDH, it becomes even easier to keep the Titan from ever touching your lands, as your opponents are very likely to have enough lands for you to choose.
You can also construct your deck in such a way that the Titan can never destroy your lands. In 60-card constructed formats, this has most famously been accomplished in Tron decks. Tron pilots can use their powerful Urza’s lands to cast the Titan on turn four without a single land in play with a basic land type.
While EDH decks have a hard time getting the Tron lands online, the example illustrates the fact that Sundering Titan players can construct their manabase in such a way that the Titan’s impact on them is minimal. Once you can make the Titan’s triggers one-sided, it is insanely powerful.
So far, I’ve really only discussed the “fair” things you can do with the Titan. If the problem was only its impressive power level and ability to reshape the board and turn manabases to rubble, it probably wouldn’t need to be banned. However, like many other cards banned in Commander, the Titan is incredibly easy to abuse. This is generally accomplished by getting multiple triggers out of his ability. This can be accomplished with clone, blink, flicker, and reanimation effects, all of which allow you to loop it over and over again. It triggers every time it enters the battlefield and every time it leaves the battlefield, so these sorts of effects make it very easy for the Titan to take over the game. Restoration Angel and Conjurer’s Closet are a couple of commonly played cards that make the Titan absolutely insane, and they certainly are not the only examples.
Things get even worse, because it is very easy to make it so you can consistently find your Titan. While Commander is a singleton format, an Artifact Creature is one of the easiest things to tutor up. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but the Titan can be searched up by the following heavily played tutors:
- Enlightened Tutor
- Inventor’s Fair
- Kuldotha Forgemaster
- Treasure Mage
- Eladamri’s Call
- Fauna Shaman
- Fierce Empath
- Primal Command
- Tooth and Nail
- Worldly Tutor
Sundering Titan also has a colorless identity, meaning you can play it in every single deck. In short, Sundering Titan is very powerful, there are a plethora of ways to abuse it, there are a multitude of ways to tutor it up, and it can be played in any and every Commander deck.
Should Sundering Titan be Unbanned?
No, it shouldn’t. Sundering Titan is far too easy to tutor up in a singleton format and it’s colorless, so it would appear in most decks if it was legal. This would lead to many games being decided by Sundering Titan, and that would certainly damage Commander’s play experience. To some extent, the format would even warp around the Titan, just as it was in the years before the Titan got banned. Do we really want players to construct the mana base in all of their decks with Sundering Titan in mind? I don’t think we do.
It is not only a nuisance, but it also makes it much harder for new players to get into the format. It is far easier to get your hands on a bunch of basic lands than it is to find a bunch of non-basics the Titan can’t destroy. The Titan not only completely warps games when it gets cast, it also changes the way that everyone builds their decks, and that’s a serious problem.
Jacob has been playing Magic for the better part of 24 years, and he especially loves playing Magic’s Limited formats. He also holds a PhD in history from the University of Oklahoma. In 2015, he started his YouTube channel, “Nizzahon Magic,” where he combines his interests with many videos covering Magic’s competitive history. When he’s not playing Magic or making Magic content, he can be found teaching college-level history courses or caring for a menagerie of pets with his wife.