Play what you know.
These four words have been the cornerstone of deck selection in the Modern format for what seems like it’s entire existence. With a format as rich and diverse as this one, the last thing you want is to sit down across from your opponent and have no idea how the next three turns are going to play out relative to your own gameplan. An intimate knowledge of the intricacies of a matchup can sometimes outweigh any benefit in metagaming, something that isn’t true for any other format. The question of course becomes, where do you find your lane?
The year is 2013. A young, perhaps naïve, wannabe competitive Magic player has just been introduced to the newest Magic format and is trying to decide on a deck. I’m not quite sure what the exact circumstances were that led me to it, but almost immediately I was drawn to Melira Pod. Perhaps it was that I already owned Birthing Pods from playing Standard, or maybe it was that a local player had just recently Top 8d a GP with the deck. Nevertheless, it didn’t take me long to fall in love.
The play patterns were so unique, and every game felt different. Whenever I drew the namesake card, I was immediately overwhelmed with the number of possible decision trees that could lead to either victory or defeat, and the frequency of which I would pick the wrong path kept me coming back for more. I remember playing the deck week in and week out, goldfishing at home to try and create mental shortcuts that I could benefit from when time was a consideration. It felt like solving a puzzle, and as I played more and more, I started to understand where the pieces would fall into place. I would encounter familiar situations that I now knew how to navigate and if I ever became tempted to deviate to a different archetype, I would realize that even if pod wasn’t the right choice, it was the right choice for me.
But this article isn’t about pod, and as I’m sure most of you are aware the deck was banished from legality in the wake of 2015, leaving many Modern players, including myself, lost once again. Luckily for me, it didn’t take long to find a new passion. Pro Tour Fate Reforged followed, and Sam Black and Justin Cohen had innovated a fringe deck and declared it a player in the modern metagame.
Enter: Amulet Bloom.
Amulet Bloom – Justin Cohen
I was glued to my monitor. Having never seen anything like this before, the things the two of them were doing on coverage were mind boggling. After consuming every piece of on-camera content I could, I immediately proxied up the deck and began the same process that I had to slog through only two short years prior. The decks, although vastly different, actually rewarded a very similar mindset. Its easy to see the correlation between activating a Birthing Pod and resolving a Primeval Titan trigger, or transmuting a Tolaria West. Both decks had decision trees, a toolbox, and opportunities to snowball in either direction depending on the choices you make, only this time, the number of options felt exponentially larger.
Working on the deck was delightful, and over the following months I had convinced my good friend Tariq Patel to work on the deck as well. Together we learned so much about what the deck could do. How you can play an inevitable long game to compliment your explosive capabilities. How the impact of one bullet card can swing a matchup due to the consistency of all the tutor effects. Tariq was able to top 8 a StarCityGames Invitational, losing a mirror in the quarterfinals and I had Top 32’d the same event due to a somewhat poor Standard record in the split format.
Alas, history tends to repeat itself, and just as I was feeling to understand the deck to its fullest extent, the egregiously broken Summer Bloom was banned at the start of 2016, directly preceding a Modern Pro Tour. Unfortunately for the still young, and still naïve boy that I was, I was qualified for that Pro Tour and was tossed into the depths of Atlanta with the Eldrazi of Zendikar without much more than a paddle.
I’ll save you the gruesome details of that event (Hint: I didn’t play Eye of Ugin).
The next six months were rough for me in Modern. I had no idea what to do as every other time I was in this situation fate seemed to just throw me a bone. I was hopping from deck to deck trying to find something that appealed to me. Without any sense of commitment though, my results were not good and that just created more uncertainty. A feeling I’m sure many Modern players are familiar with. I needed to find my lane, something to latch onto and really hammer out the minute details of. I guess the answer should’ve been easier than I thought.
Amulet Titan – Kevin Grove
Kevin Grove finished 9th place at Grand Prix Lille with a modified Amulet “Bloom” deck featuring four copies of Sakura-Tribe Scout over the late sorcery. Immediately I was pleasantly surprised. The scout, when it lives, wasn’t THAT much worse than Summer Bloom, and in the matchups where that was particularly relevant, it was actually not trivial to take off the battlefield. I was sold, and why shouldn’t I have been? Is it really that unreasonable that the deck went from “most powerful deck in the format” to merely “a solid deck that has lot of game?” Because that was all I needed. Just any amount of rational to justify its capability; any reason for me to say it’s a good idea for me to play the deck that I know over a different option.
So, I worked on the deck. Started fine-tuning the numbers, tightening up the manabase and figuring out which cards were now the best. The first event that I played the deck in was that years WMCQ finishing 6-3 losing to two maindeck Blood Moon decks, perhaps a foreshadow of things to come. Throughout the event I got a multitude of questions about the deck’s viability, but the things I was doing were still undeniably powerful. After that, I had convinced my good friend Matthew Dilks to adopt the deck as well and together we took our snakes and titans to Columbus once again for a StarCityGames Open.
Unfortunately, neither of us made Top 8. Matthew got close, losing back-to-back win and ins. That being said, my feature match in conjunction with my deck tech sparked some rumblings in the almost extinct Amulet community. People were interested, and I was interested in being the guide.
It’s ironic, but the banning of Summer Bloom made me learn things about the deck that I think I wouldn’t have learned as quickly otherwise. Perhaps it’s because I had to play the deck on “hard mode”, but this new era of Amulet really solidified to me that the this is not a combo deck, it’s a toolbox deck. Just like my past love — Birthing Pod. Sure, you have the explosive draws, and as Modern becomes more and more degenerate, it’s important to have access to those, but the vast majority of your games involve using your multitude of tutors to engineer a gameplan that leaves your opponent with no way to beat your inevitability.
Early on, the importance of certain heuristics that I still currently stand by became apparent. Azusa, Lost but Seeking became your best ramp spell, and although questioned at some point, I would now never leave home without four copies in my 60. In addition, the importance of green mana on turn one became clear. Back when your most powerful card cost two mana, you could afford powerful tapped lands like Temple of Mystery and maybe even Halimar Depths, but now I don’t believe that is a reality.
I think if there’s anything you should take away from my story of becoming Amulet Guy it’s to never underestimate yourself in this game. Often we dismiss our own ideas in favour of the hive mind, “maybe someone smarter or better has previously tried that and failed.”
But I liked my deck so much, that I tried it all, and forced it to work. And then I came out the other side with a better understanding of deckbuilding, how to work in this game and faith in my own ideas. The ladder being something that’s hard to maintain in a game so fickle as Magic.
Amulet Titan – Edgar Magalhaes
This all culminated in the result that really sparked my fire in competitive Magic once again. A 12th place finish at the Modern Grand Prix Toronto in 2018. I had been playing the deck throughout 2017, testing and tuning and discussing with others, and putting up some reasonable results, but this was the tournament where I first felt like we had done something great. The near miss hurt, but throughout the tournament I got rewarded repeatedly for little innovations. More untapped green lands made scout more powerful. Explore to bridge the gap and keep the manabase clean over the tough-to-cast Serum Visions made mulliganing less painful. Unfortunately, the Blood Moon menace got me twice and I was unable to take the tournament down but I was extremely happy with the result.
The rest of 2018 has been a delight. I was able to pick up two Team SCG Open Top 8s, one playing Amulet and one with teammate Daryl Ayers playing the deck, as well as win two FaceToFaceGames.com Opens and the F2F Toronto Ultimate Showdown. All with a total record of 33-12 across three Grand Prix. Every new innovation feels like it pushed the deck closer and close to tier-one and the most recent technology of Trinket Mage felt like the final hurdle we needed to jump through to get there.
Amulet Titan – Edgar Magalhaes
Maybe history is going to repeat itself once again. With Modern in its current state, there is a lot of talk of possible bans and Ancient Stirrings is for sure one of the candidates. I think if that happens, the deck will be unable to survive, but we will jump over that hurdle when we get there.
Hopefully a much older and likely still as naïve someone will have to find a new toolbox, but until then this is the only deck I see myself playing and honestly I couldn’t be more happy about it.