Amulet Bloom primer: part 2

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This is the second part of the Modern Amulet Bloom primer. Please find deck description, decklist and card choices in the first part here.

Importance of the flexible game plan

Putting Modern format and Amulet Bloom aside for a moment, I’d like to mention one feature that most of the “best” decks in any format have. Such decks are considered “the best” not only because they play the best cards or have the best synergies, but also because they can play against different decks differently. If an opposing deck is weak to a particular strategy, they are able to capitalize on the weakness. The flexibility also allows such “best” decks not to focus on one strategy, and therefore, it is hard to beat such deck with specific cards.

For example, let’s take a look at Dark Jeskai in current Standard format. The deck can play fast aggro game by hitting in the air with Mantis Riders and killing blockers with Crackling Dooms. It can also out grind opponents with card advantage from Dig Through Time, Jace and Ojutai’s Command. By choosing either aggro or control plan, Dark Jeskai can beat both decks that are weak to aggro (Eldrazi Ramp) and weak to control (Abzan Aggro). On the other hand, it doesn’t rely on specific strategy to win: if the opposing deck can invalidate aggro plan (by lifegain/spot removal/mass removal) or control plan (by being fast or by having better long game), Jeskai may simply choose another plan and win.

As I mentioned in part 1, Amulet Bloom can play different roles depending on matchups. It can be aggro, control, midrange and combo depending on what’s the best against the deck it plays against. Therefore Amulet Bloom can win against any deck in the format, as long as you understand your strategy against every popular matchup.

Against Twin Exarch

Ok, let’s start with the bane of Amulet Bloom. Splinter Twin is one of the reasons why Amulet of Vigor is still legal in Modern. Twin Exarch is capable of killing you quickly and disrupt Amulet’s plan. After the sideboard, you’ll get another problem to handle: Blood Moon, a spell that says “2R: destroy target Amulet Bloom player”. Game one you need to pray and hope they won’t be able to assemble their combo quickly enough. Another prayer is needed to get Titan online and kill them as soon as possible. Be combo deck, your best draw beats their best draw.

Sideboarding:

UR Twin

-1 Azusa, -2 Sleight of Hand, -1 Khalni Garden, -1 Stirrings, -1 Gruul Turf, -1 Engineered Explosives, -1 Hive Mind

+2 Seal of Primordium, +1 Nature’s Claim, +2 Dismember, +2 Swan Song, +1 Cavern of Souls

Grixis Twin

-1 Azusa, -2 Sleight of Hand, -1 Fountain, -1 Stirrings, -1 Gruul Turf, -1 Engineered Explosives, -1 Hive Mind

+2 Seal of Primordium, +1 Nature’s Claim, +2 Dismember, +2 Swan Song, +1 Cavern of Souls

After sideboard you actually have enough disruption for both Twin Exarch combo and Blood Moon. The best strategy here is to play conservatively, always leave mana for counterspell/claim and play around tap creatures. Play Seal of Primordium as soon as you can, Seal guarantees you won’t lose to combo or to Blood Moon. It is typically correct to transmute to Cavern of Souls to ensure your Titan resolves. They will try to go off at some point, and you should be ready with your removal and counterspells. Then untap and win the game.

My testing showed that Grixis Twin is much easier to play against than UR version. This is surprising since Grixis has diverse disruption package and can actually kill a resolved Titan with Terminate. In fact, Grixis is less likely to assemble fast combo and tend to have wrong answers for our threats, they also play less Blood Moons. Anyways, both matchups are hard but winnable.

Typical Titan targets: Slaughter Pact, Pact of Negation, Cavern of Souls (here and below I shortcut the search Tolaria West + Bounce land -> Pact/EE and will only mention the last piece you find).

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Against Jund/Abzan

BGx decks are the only matchups where you should not mulligan aggressively and value card quantity, not card quality. It is also ok to keep slow hands against them, a hand with 7 lands is actually a reasonable keep if it has either Khalni Garden or Tolaria West (such hands completely invalidate their discard). The way you lose is when they discard a couple of critical cards from your hand and then play fast Tarmogoyf/Tasigur to kill you in 3-4 turns. They are also pretty good at killing first couple Titans you play, but that only helps them if they have relevant clock. So, try to play Titan sooner and protect it.

Sideboarding:

-2 Hive Mind, -1 Cavern of Souls, -1 Slaughter Pact, -1 Pact of Negation, -2 Sleight of Hand

+3 Leyline of Sanctity, +1 Hornet Queen, +1 Ghost Quarter, +2 Dismember

After sideboard, just keep playing ramp/control deck. Leylines allow you to deliver early Titan reliably, Hornet Queen is awesome at stopping clock and gives you infinite time to get the Titan. Use Dismember aggressively, without clock they cannot kill you. Remember, the longer the game goes, the more likely you win it. Be very careful with Pacts, always play around Fulminator Mage and ensure you’ll be able to pay for pact if opponent plays Fulminator the next turn. Hive Mind combo is weak here because it is hard to assemble it early and later in the game they can pay for both green and black pact easily.

Typical Titan targets: Summoner’s Pact, Khalni Garden (chump blocks and protects from Liliana of the Veil), Engineered Explosives.

Against Affinity

This matchup is pure race game 1. Playing early Titan doesn’t guarantee you win; they can simply kill you the turn after. Do your math when you search stuff with Titan, the best thing to find is Engineered Explosives for 2, but oftentimes it’s better to get Radiant Fountain or Slaughter Pact in order not to die immediately. If you have a lot of Affinity in your metagame, I recommend playing Ghost Quarter in maindeck, it helps against Inkmoth Nexus kills. Also remember that Vesuva can copy a Nexus to block any creature they have.

Sideboarding:

-2 Hive Mind, -1 Pact of Negation, -1 Cavern of Souls, -1 Ancient Stirrings, -1 Sleight of Hand, -1 Forest

+2 Seal of Primordium, +1 Nature’s Claim, +2 Pyroclasm, +1 Hornet Queen, +1 Ghost Quarter

After sideboard you have much more removal spells and Hornet Queen, they ensure you’ll survive long enough for Titans to take over the game. Affinity tend to play 1 Blood Moon in sideboard, it is better to play around it if you are ahead, and don’t crack that Seal of Primordium without a good reason. Similarly to Jund matchup, oftentimes it is correct to fetch Hornet Queen first even if you don’t have Titan or another Summoner’s Pact to follow up; you’ll be able to draw Titan later on after you stabilize the board.

Typical Titan targets: Engineered Explosives, Ghost Quarter, Vesuva copying opposing Nexus.

Against Burn

Yet another matchup with race in game 1. They have no disruption and you’ll almost always get 1-2 lands from Goblin Guides, so comboing off is easier here than against other matchups. You don’t really want more than 1 Titan, they will try to double Lightning Bolt it but you should be ready with Pact of Negation. Hive Mind kill is ok but remember they’ll have a window in upkeep to finish you off with instant burn spells. In this situation you may copy their burn spells and throw them to their face, it is sometimes very relevant if they play Lightning Helix or if they lost a lot of lives to Eidolon of the Great Revel. Speaking of Eidolon, it is the main threat game one; it makes all your cantrips way worse. It is a legit reason to side some cantrips out in order to reduce the damage.

Sideboarding:

-1 Cavern of Souls, -1 Pact of Negation, -3 Sleight of Hand, -1 Ancient Stirrings, -1 Engineered Explosives

+3 Leyline, +2 Pyroclasm, +1 Swan Song, +1 Nature’s Claim

Leylines turn half of their deck off, Pyroclasms help against the other half. I would leave EE in against burn decks that play Wild Nacatl. Nature’s Claim kills Eidolon and may also kill our own Amulet/Leyline in response to Destructive Revelry in order to gain 6 lives. The matchup gets easier after sideboard, it is still race but this race is almost always in your favor.

Typical Titan targets: Radiant Fountain, Vesuva copying Radiant Fountain, bouncelands bouncing Radiant Fountain, Slayer’s Stronghold. Please remember you cannot search Radiant Fountain and Vesuva copying Fountain at the same time, Vesuva only copies whatever’s already in the battlefield.

Against GR Tron

In a game of 2 ramp decks the one that plays the first big spell usually wins. Amulet Bloom has an advantage because it is faster and its threats are better: Titan beats Wurmcoil Engine if you got Sunhome; Hive Mind combo is better than Karn because it just kills immediately. You’re capable of deploying your big stuff early on, so go ahead and do it before them. As long as you can counter their Karn, everything should be fine.

Sideboarding:

-1 Cavern of Souls, -1 Radiant Fountain, -1 Engineered Explosives, -1 Slaughter Pact

+1 Ghost Quarter, +2 Seal of Primordium, +1 Nature’s Claim

After sideboard, search for Ghost Quarter at the very first opportunity. Keeping Tron decks off the UrzaTron is the first priority. Artifact removal helps against Chalice of the Void and also is randomly good against Wurmcoil and Oblivion Stone. Again, ensure you have counterspell for Karn and let your deck do its job.

Typical Titan Targets: Pact of Negation, Ghost Quarter, Slayer’s Stronghold.

Against Infect

Infect is another scary matchup that every Amulet Bloom player’s afraid of. No doubt it is not an easy deck to play against; it is yet another Modern deck that’s capable of winning very quickly. The good thing is that it has almost no disruption and it doesn’t always have the fastest kill. Amulet can kill as quickly as Infect and also can disrupt the opponent’s plan by Slaughter Pact, Engineered Explosives and Ghost Quarter.

Sideboarding:

-1 Cavern of Souls, -1 Radiant Fountain, -2 Pact of Negation, -1 Sleight of Hand, -1 Ancient Stirrings

+2 Pyroclasm, +2 Dismember, +1 Ghost Quarter, +1 Swan Song

Game 2 and game 3 you have more relevant disruption which should buy you enough time to cast Titan or Hive Mind. I’m not sure about siding in artifact removal against Inkmoth Nexus and Spellskite, if you see more than 1 Spellskite game 2 then side Seals in. Again, the matchup is not easy, but you have reasonable chance of winning. I actually think it is better than Twin Exarch matchup. Mulligan aggressively here and race them.

Typical Titan’s targets: Slaughter Pact, Ghost Quarter

Against Amulet Bloom

Ah, the dreaded mirror match. It is hard to play against the best deck in a format. In game 1 whoever resolves the Titan first wins. Titan gives the player a way to deal with the opponent’s Titan and every turn another answer comes from the library. Amulet is important here but Summer Bloom and Azusa are way more important.

Sideboarding:

-2 Hive Mind, -1 Khalni Garden, -1 Radiant Fountain, -1 Engineered Explosives

+2 Swan Song, +1 Ghost Quarter, +1 Nature’s Claim, +1 Cavern of Souls

Hive Mind does almost nothing in this matchup, both players have billions of mana of all colors. After sideboard, players get tools to counter Summer Bloom, deal with Amulet and also hold Ghost Quarter ready to beat Amulet + Bloom combo. All of that makes games go longer but essentially whoever resolves first Titan wins again. Be that guy.

Typical Titan’s targets: Pact of Negation, Ghost Quarter

Amulet Bloom is not the easiest deck to play. Every turn there are plenty of complicated decisions. It is very easy to make a wrong decision and then lose 5 turns after that decision was made. Fortunately, this deck really rewards practice, most of the decisions will be easier to make if you play the deck long enough. In your practice, actively look for things you may have done wrong. Good rule of thumb is this: if you resolved a Titan with Amulet in play and lost the game, usually it is because you did something wrong. If it happens in a practice game, go ahead and challenge every single play you’ve made after Titan hit the battlefield, at least one of them must be incorrect.

I will be playing the deck in upcoming Grand Prix Pittsburgh. You may find me at the Kirwan’s Game Store booth, feel free to stop by to say hi or to talk about Amulet or other things.

Play Magic and be nice!

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Denis Ulanov

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