I had a title to protect. Despite Memphis being closer, and cheaper, and not Modern, I booked my ticket to Vancouver. I always love (and seem to do well at) Canadian GPs. It also didn’t hurt that Vancouver was 30 degrees warmer than Montreal (54F for you Americans).
After the Pro Tour, I had decided that I didn’t want to play fair anymore in Modern. It just wasn’t working out; you try to have answers to be able to interact with the unfair decks but they all attack from different angles despite often doing similar things, requiring different pieces of hate to fight.
I know many other Pros have talked about this at length, but this is ultimately the fatal flaw in Modern right now, and I frankly don’t really see a viable solution. General answers exist, but while they make up some ground, you change your matchup to, at best, 50% post-board against the unfair decks, which is not enough to make up for the fact that you are 30% pre-board. A card like [card]Stony Silence[/card] can make you 70% to win post-board, enabling the matchup to actually be favourable. Of course, no one really has fun in a game with [card]Stony Silence[/card], since you either win without needing to do much (as Abzan/UWR/MonoWhite[card]Nightmare[/card]), or lose without being able to do much at all (Affinity/Tron/TradingPostCrack).
Since I had played a bunch of games with the Amulet deck, it had a great win% at the PT, it was fun to play, and I learnt how NOT to play it by watching Tom Martell’s videos, I decided to play it. I really had liked the plan against Abzan, where you sideboard into a bunch of threats and just grind them out. In my test games, I had never really found Sigarda to be necessary if you just used Titan to find [card]Khalni Garden[/card] appropriately, or had a Leyline in play. I also thought that Infect would be more played, and Zoo less played than Sam Black and Justin Cohen predicted for the PT, so I changed [card]Pyroclasm[/card]s to [card]Firespout[/card]s and added a [card]Chalice of the Void[/card] and a [card]Dismember[/card] to the board. Twin was the one matchup I really didn’t want to face, because I felt that was the only deck that could really support [card]Blood Moon[/card]. The combination of counter magic, tap effects for your Titans, [card]Blood Moon[/card], as well as having a relatively fast combo themselves mean that Twin is just inherently good against you. I decided that trying to play a couple more sideboard cards to beat them was a losing proposition and that basically giving up the matchup was a better plan.
Here is the list I registered. If I could do it again, I think I would change the [card]Swan Song[/card] in the board into another [card]Nature’s Claim[/card]. I would also try to add another Vesuva to the deck, likely instead of the 2nd [card]Cavern of Souls[/card]. I don’t quite understand why there was only 1 Vesuva in the deck. It is just a great land, and it’s possible that even 2 is too few for what it does. Think of Vesuva like the [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] of this deck, when you have a good land you want to copy, it cascades that effect and lets you copy it to get its effect again. I lost quite a few games from drawing the one copy when I needed to search it out(including my top 4 match), and won quite a few games from drawing it to copy a great land I already had in play. Vesuva can also copy a basic land under [card]Blood Moon[/card], allowing you to copy their Island and then [card]Hive Mind[/card] them out, or to copy your Forest (if you are lucky enough to draw it) to enable [card]Primeval Titan[/card]. You can even play it copying nothing just for the land drop, and if there is an opposing Urborg, this can be a way to tap it for mana right away (since if it doesn’t copy anything it comes into play untapped).
Amulet Bloom by Alexander Hayne
1 Boros Garrison
2 Cavern of Souls
4 Gemstone Mine
1 Golgari Rot Farm
3 Gruul Turf
1 Khalni Garden
1 Mana Confluence
1 Radiant Fountain
1 Selesnya Sanctuary
4 Simic Growth Chamber
1 Slayers’ Stronghold
1 Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion
1 Tendo Ice Bridge
3 Tolaria West
4 Amulet of Vigor
4 Ancient Stirrings
3 Hive Mind
2 Pact of Negation
4 Serum Visions
1 Slaughter Pact
4 Summer Bloom
4 Summoner’s Pact
2 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
4 Primeval Titan
1 Simian Spirit Guide
3 Leyline of Sanctity
1 Hornet Queen
1 Chalice of the Void
1 Nature’s Claim
1 Swan Song
1 Ghost Quarter
I, like the others before me, strongly recommend against playing this deck without any practice. I would do some reading on the deck, goldfish a ton of games, and practice against Infect (to learn speed) and Abzan(to learn grinding), at the very least. One of my big strengths is that I learn very quickly, so despite not playing very much with the deck I was able to play it relatively optimally, though I definitely would say I piloted it below 90% efficiency.
For those who have never seen the deck before, the whole point of the deck is to abuse the lands we have available in Modern, particularly the Ravnica bounce lands. With Amulet, instead of costing you mana, they gain you a mana the turn you play them. With [card]Summer Bloom[/card] and Azuza, you have many available land drops to bounce and replay. Combine the two camps, and you have a way to generate a lot of mana very quickly. A turn 1 [card]Amulet of Vigor[/card], followed by turn 2 bounce land, add 2 mana, bounce itself, then cast [card]Summer Bloom[/card], play it and add 2, bounce itself repeated 3 times is 6 mana. And then comes the Titan!
The deck can also be very resilient. While the flashy turn 1 or 2 Titans are what most people notice, 2 bouncelands, 2 normal lands, [card]Summer Bloom[/card], Titan is a turn 3 Titan by itself. In many ways, you are just a ramp deck that happens to have a finisher that has a toolbox built in. [card]Tolaria West[/card] can be used to transmute for removal, counter magic, another Titan, or a utility land that you need depending on the situation, and [card]Primeval Titan[/card] can find one + a bounce land to return it to your hand. Hence Titans can chain into more Titans. One could even say this deck is a Giant party!
Going into the tournament, I predicted that I would either do extremely well or extremely poorly, based on how lucky I got with my deck and how prepared everyone was for it. Thankfully, it was the former and I managed to secure my 6th GP top 8, and the first one in Modern, giving me top 8s in Modern, Legacy, Standard, Block, Limited, and Team Limited.
Round 4, coming off my 3 byes, I was in the feature match against Josh Utter Leyton, a friend and GP roommate. He was seeking revenge from our last encounter in Vancouver, but wouldn’t find it in our match which involved him mulliganing to 3 cards in the second and final game.
I would stay in the feature match area until after my first loss, in round 8, to Sebastian Denno, a Pro Tour regular from Vancouver. He was on Infect, won the die roll, and we proceeded to play 3 games but only 9 total turns. Both games I lost, I was going to win or be in a dominant position had I been on the play (and I can only imagine the same for him for the game I won). In another of my matches in the swiss, I was the beneficiary of being on the play where I would have lost were I on the draw, and in the top 4 I also got to experience being on the draw costing me the match. I think that Modern is definitely a format where the Play/Draw matters more than others, because it is often 2 uninterative decks racing past each other to the finish line. When both decks, or at least one, can interact with the other, it becomes less of a race and that is where “the Magic happens.” Modern has more ‘racing against each other’ decks and less interactive decks than any other format.
Round 9 I was paired against another friend in Jesse Moulton. We played 2 very intense back-and-forth games that lasted a total of 40 minutes before we started game 3, and it wasn’t looking good for me. I managed to stabilize and was able to cast a Titan and attack with it on turn 4 of extra turns, and on turn 5 Jesse asked me if we should draw or one of us should concede. I showed him the [card]Summoner’s Pact[/card] I had in hand to kill him (by finding a second Titan) if he didn’t have anything, and he very graciously conceded. I did not expect the concession, though if the positions were reversed I would also have given it. I could not have been more happy when he ran the tables Day 2 and still made the Top 8, qualifying him for his first Pro Tour. Congrats and well deserved, Jesse!
After a long and grueling Day 1, my head still swirling with various lines and puzzles from previous rounds, I enjoyed a lovely sushi dinner courtesy of Mr. Martell. One of the reasons I love visiting Vancouver, besides the weather, the site location right by the water, and the people, is the food.
Day 2 began much too early, and this time my opponent, Eugene Hwang, who I had dispatched in the previous GP Vancouver top 8, got his revenge with his [card]Splinter Twin[/card] deck. I went a total of 2-1 against Twin in the event, which is definitely above expectation. I also expect that if Amulet gains in popularity, many such wins won’t happen as the Twin players become more familiar with how to play against the deck. However, Eugene knew what he was doing, including ‘killing’ me on turn 3 game 1 on the play with his main deck [card]Blood Moon[/card].
I then had the best draw I had all tournament, with a turn 2 kill against an unfortunate Abzan opponent, and a close game 2 that I won after gaining enough life with [card]Radiant Fountain[/card] to survive a bunch of [card]Lingering Souls[/card] hits long enough to draw a Titan.
However, the rest of Day 2 wouldn’t be kind to me, with me facing Affinity with [card]Blood Moon[/card]s, Storm with [card]Blood Moon[/card]s, and what I like to call “Mono White [card]Nightmare[/card].” I think, if you wanted to build a Modern deck with the sole purpose of beating Amulet, you would play that deck splashing 4 [card]Blood Moon[/card], but with no other changes. That match was caught on coverage, but the funniest board state I had was against Storm, where the board was my opponent with 4 lands, [card]Blood Moon[/card], and [card]Pyromancer Ascension[/card] with 0 counters, at 14 life, versus my 8 lands (one of which was basic Forest), [card]Chalice of the Void[/card] with 2 counters, and a [card]Simian Spirit Guide[/card]. My ape buddy managed to do another 8 damage before my opponent activated the Ascension and Echoing Truth-ed my Chalice with the copy. Game 3 was decided when I managed to assemble [card]Hive Mind[/card] + [card]Summoner’s Pact[/card] when my opponent had already blown through his 2 copies of [card]Manamorphose[/card] in hand, or else I would have had the pleasure of being Stormed out with my [card]Hive Mind[/card] copying all of his spells. Sometimes these things happen with this deck, the games are very different than so called ‘normal’ Magic.
After making the top 8, I was paired in the mirror match against Stephen Speck, someone who has much more experience piloting the deck than I do. I had never played a mirror match before, though I felt that I was likely favoured by virtue of being on the play. He then proceeded to use all 9 cards to kill me(play and attack with Titan) on his second turn with [card]Pact of Negation[/card] backup.
Turn 1: [card]Gemstone Mine[/card], Amulet (2 cards used)
Turn 2: Bounceland, [card]Summer Bloom[/card], [card]Summer Bloom[/card], [card]Tolaria West[/card] (adding mana then being bounced to transmute->Pact->Titan) 6 total cards used
His last 3 cards being [card]Pact of Negation[/card] and 2 [card]Simian Spirit Guide[/card]s (because after attacking with a hasty Titan, he was left with 7 mana in play, and needing to pay for [card]Pact of Negation[/card] and [card]Summoner’s Pact[/card] on his next turn)
I, of course, had the turn 3 Titan with mana to attack for 20, forcing him to chump. Instead, it was countered and I died. Along with Stephen’s kills on camera against Pascal in their win-and-in match, there might be enough evidence to indicate he is not a real human being, or perhaps the next incarnation of Shahar.
I managed to win game 2 when he mulliganed to 5 despite my best efforts (I miscounted my mana by one and ended up taking a very bad line because of it), and won a close Game 3 to take the match.
Against Robbie, the 2nd seed, and his Affinity deck, I knew I was the underdog. Had I been the higher seed, I would have felt favoured, but being on the draw in these racing match ups is very bad news. As expected, he had me out-raced by a turn when I only had a turn 4 Titan, and he poisoned me out turn 4. I considered transmuting for [card]Slaughter Pact[/card] or using Vesuva to copy his [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card], but I decided that I wasn’t going to win that way, and that my best chance was him not having a 4th land in game 1 and surviving until my 4th turn. Game 2, I unfortunately drew my Vesuva and so I couldn’t find it with [card]Primeval Titan[/card] to protect myself, and could only find [card]Ghost Quarter[/card], which would allow me to live another turn to play [card]Hornet Queen[/card] in my hand unless he drew a 0 or 1cc artifact. Unfortunately, he did, and so my dreams of being back-to-back GP Vancouver champion died.
Ultimately, while I did do very well at the tournament, my thoughts on Modern as a format haven’t changed much, and I still feel more in the PV camp that believes Modern is inherently broken as a format, and likely unfixable. However, that assumes that you want Modern to be a good top tier competitive format, which it doesn’t have to be. I think continuing to have Modern GPs is perfectly fine, but that at the Pro Tour it shouldn’t continue. The cost to the people who love the format is too high, and bans will have to continue, not only to shake things up, but also to prevent any one deck from gaining true dominance. Commander or Legacy fans would also suffer if either were to become a PT format, as when fun becomes eclipsed by the desire to win, and “Gentleman’s agreements” get tossed out the window, these formats become much less wide open and begin to become degenerate as Modern has.
Dan Lanthier, for winning the whole thing
Tom Martell, for winning a match
Brian Kibler, for teaching me the ways of honest men and honest creatures
Paul Cheon, for being Paul (Paul Paul Paul Paul)
David Ochoa, for the eats
Jesse Moulton, for no reason I can think of off the top of my head
Jordan, for helping with the last couple cards I was missing
Pascal Maynard, for not making top 8 a 4th time in a row. Come on, I expect better!
KYT, for not showing up
Mani Davoudi, for not bringing me toys
Paul Cheon, for not recognizing when Tom was OBVIOUSLY the wolf
Josh Utter Leyton, for joking about [card]Aven Mindcensor[/card], and mulling to 3. Some things you just don’t joke about.
Jesse Hamption, for not being good enough to win a Commander side event
Me, for most likely missing someone important in these shout-outs