Blogs Modern

Unexpected Outcomes at Face to Face Calgary

Howdy, I’m Jakob Allan, and this past weekend on October 15th I won Face to Face Calgary piloting Amulet Titan. Since this was my first time winning any comp REL event (in fact it was my first time even top-eighting one), a friend suggested I write up a tournament report to be able to reflect back on this experience in the future and go over my deck building choices, the games I played, and how I feel about the experience overall.

To share a little bit about me, I’m a student at the University of Calgary studying Actuarial Science and I was born and raised in Calgary and the surrounding area. Right after Covid restrictions were lifted in Calgary myself and some friends played a lot of Magic, and it was enough that I got some pretty real burnout that I still think I’m dealing with. However, it’s started to go away and I wanted to get back into playing competitive Modern, so after splitting the the top table at a small qualifier two weeks before this event, getting some reps in with the deck in the weeks that followed, and grilling some of the local players who are more well versed in what the metagame looks like these days (shoutout to @humblegreek for the Hydroid Krasis tech) I was hoping to top 16, beating my personal best record at a face to face event of 17th, luckily for me I blew that goal out of the water while playing in an event I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

The Decklist

While I have a couple modern decks at my disposal, the only one that’s been able to capture my interest is Amulet, so going into this event I was absolutely certain that’s what I’d be playing. The seventy five Magic: The Gathering cards I settled on are the same set of cards I would bring to a random modern weekly in Calgary. 

Since I’m from the Calgary area I definitely had the home-field advantage both in terms of the Calgary metagame and what can be expected from the good tournament players here, which informed a few of my deck building decisions, but also in the general mindset of the event (knowing where the best place to get lunch before the next round starts is very real upside.)

For the decklist itself I settled on something fairly standard. I’ve tried lots of more offbeat choices in my builds over the last few months (Karn, 2+ Colossus, 4 Castle Garenbrig, 1 Valakut, etc.) but I’ve found these ‘cute’ choices to be a little lackluster and I’ve consistently ‘streamlined’ my build with each new iteration. The decklist I registered reflects that, with the only real fluff being the Turntimber Symbiosis in lieu of a second Cultivator Colossus, but I wanted an extra green source so I could be more comfortable cutting the second Castle Garenbrig to put a third Cavern in my main while still keeping both the Bojuka Bog and Crumbling Vestige. I would also count Sakura-Tribe Elder as fluff since I think the card kinda sucks just by itself, however Steve is mandatory when playing the extremely powerful Hydroid Krasis sideboard plan so I made my peace with it. However there is one straight up error in my list, the catacombs should be a misty, I just forgot to make the swap when I added the island and krasis plan….whoops. 

The Sideboard

Speak of the Devil, Hydroid Krasis, the new hotness and so far the card has not disappointed me. Kannister has described Hydroid Krasis as a ‘plan’ and I absolutely agree, and the plan is amazing against a large portion of the modern metagame, which is largely due to Krasis’s flexibility. Krasis draws cards, gains life, and is effectively uncounterable (while not technically true, anyone who throws a counterspell at it knows that it does not feel good to still watch the cast trigger go off.) The package of 3x Krasis and 1x Island is a very neat set of four cards that can come in as a replacement for all four sagas against decks like murktide or scam where I expected to see blood moons but was confident I could out-control them. The Krasis package is also fantastic against control decks, as a way to gain massive card advantage through counterspells and dress down, or against general aggro decks where the life gained from the Krasis can buy some time while the Krasis’s body directly pressures their life total.

Engineered Explosives is a card I’m personally very fond of and I wouldn’t leave home without at least two of them in the sideboard (and there have been times where I’ve jammed one in the main as well.) I was told to expect creativity especially after Yorion got banned so I chose to run the third explosives over a second relic or second endurance to try and hedge a little more for that matchup at the cost of a slightly weaker matchup against the graveyard centric decks. However, the only real graveyard deck I’m used to seeing in Calgary is Murktide, and with the addition of Ledger Shredder I’ve found attacking their yard to be a less productive plan than it was previously.

The rest of the sideboard is fairly standard, two dismembers for Yawg and any random creature decks that pop up (such as Merfolk which I ran into during the semis.) Endurance and Relic to bring in against graveyard based strategies. An extra Boseiju which is a relatively standard inclusion, and something I especially wanted to have in Calgary where big mana is a large part of the metagame. Following the same reasoning as I had for Boseiju I brought three copies of Force of Vigor, hoping to have a little extra going on in my sideboard for the Amulet mirror and any other Urza’s Saga decks. 

The Games

I didn’t take as detailed notes about my games as I could have, so I’ll be discussing what I do remember about the games in addition to my general thoughts on the matchup.

Round One: 1-0, 2-0, 4c Control
We started off the day with my opponent revealing Kaheera as their companion and I immediately had a feeling I would be off to a good start. Against the previous Yorion build I quite consistently went 1-1 and drew, but without Yorion they would be much more likely to run out of gas, and in post board games Hydroid Krasis could put in work.

I don’t remember either of the two games very vividly, but I do remember feeling like there was absolutely no chance I could lose in either of them. In both games my opponent didn’t play a wrenn and six which is obviously not where you want to be with any wrenn and six deck. In game one I played a titan, it got solitude’d, and killed my opponent with a second titan. In game two I just slammed a cultivator colossus and killed my opponent next turn by turning it sideways for sixteen. 

In general I think this matchup is very good for Amulet, but probably shouldn’t play out as well as it did in my games. With three caverns it’s quite easy to force threats in through counterspells, and without Yorion it’s very possible for the 4c deck to run out of solitudes. While this can be mitigated with Leyline binding, that card can be a massive liability with the presence of boseiju. Overall, I think the amulet player will be able to slam threats at a rate the 4c player can’t keep up with, which is why I brought the Krasis in for game two.

Out: 2x Urza’s Saga 1x Bojuka Bog 2x Arboreal Grazer
In: 3x Hydroid Krasis 1x Island 1x Boseiju, Who Endures

I think this plan is fairly self explanatory, the bog doesn’t really do anything, and grazer isn’t necessary in these slower grinder matchups. I cut the two sagas because I didn’t want my lands to be temporary, however I still kept two in case I wanted to grab them off a primeval titan trigger. Saga can also be a bit of a liability against Teferi if they get some tempo by boomeranging your land.

Obviously there was variance present, but after talking to some of the local 4c control players in Calgary, there seemed to be a consensus that the deck is much weaker without Yorion and doesn’t have many good matchups in the current meta, I’m curious to see where it ends up in the future.

Round Two: 2-0, 2-1, Murktide

This round I played against Peter Shmanka, a player commonly seen at top tables in the Calgary metagame and I was fairly confident he would be on Murktide. 

I won the die roll which definitely helps in the Murktide matchup, being able to stick a creature before they can stick a Ragavan is huge and the general extra tempo from going first helps a lot. In game one my opponent was quite low on interaction after mulliganing to six. After putting a cavern naming giant for Primeval Titan I was able to stick it and take us to game two.

Out: 4x Urza’s Saga 1x Expedition Map 1x Azusa, Lost but Seeking 1x Cultivator Colossus
In: 3x Hydroid Krasis 1x Island 1x Boseiju, Who Endures 1x Endurance 1x Relic of Progenitus

In game two my opponent got to do the thing that makes Murktide look good. He got a ledger shredder out early and was going to repeatedly dash a ragavan. My hand was slow but I kept it on the merit of an Endurance which I was hoping to use to ambush viper one of his creatures. Unfortunately my Endurance was subtlety’d and I topped it so my opponent would hit it with his Ragavan, he decided to cast it. I didn’t end up drawing any more gas and died to the beats.

Game three I was back on the play and there was a fantastic showing from Hydroid Krasis. My opponent had a relatively slow draw of a shredder on turn two without easy ways to pump it and I was in the driver’s seat all game. I cast an early Hydroid Krasis for x=6, and two turns later cast a second one for x=10. The turn after that I attempted to kill my opponent with Dryad and Titan before moving to combat, he managed to stop me, but when I swung with the Krasis’s he was unpleasantly surprised to learn that the Jellyfish has trample. 2-0 and off to round three. 

Round Three: 3-0, 2-1, Creativity

This matchup is probably not good, and I am definitely willing to say that a large part of why I did so well this weekend was luck concerning creativity. I played the deck twice in the swiss, winning once, unintentionally drawing the other, and I dodged both creativity players in the top 8, but winning a tournament requires some amount of luck and I think a good chunk of it was here. Anyways, this match specifically!

Game one I once again just did what Amulet does without much interaction from my opponent. I was on the play, turn four titan to swing for ten and he conceded on his turn. I took a strange line where I cast an unnecessary summoner’s pact to try and get another creature in play, trying to avoid the line of ‘ice on my titan, untap creativity to kill it’ . My opponent didn’t have the fire//ice but I felt good about seeing the possible way I could lose. A large part of why I like amulet is getting to have a free hedge against the entire modern metagame by sometimes just killing them, and we saw that here. Creativity has strong ways to interact, with fire//ice, leyline binding and boseiju, who endures and unlike 4c control they present a very powerful and fast threat that means they usually win if the game goes long.

Out: 3x Cavern of Souls 1x Azusa, Lost but Seeking 1x Cultivator Colossus 1x Urza’s Saga
In: 3x Engineered Explosives 1x Endurance 1x Relic of Progenitus 1x Boseiju, Who Endures

I’m not totally sure if this sideboard plan is correct, but I knew I wanted to bring in all three of my explosives (I decided to bring a third one specifically for this matchup), the two pieces of graveyard hate for their reanimator backup plan and boseiju for their leyline binding (and to sometimes punish them if they go for a creativity on a treasure token). The cuts I’m less confident about, and I would probably have better insights for sideboarding in the matchup with more experience. 

Game two was relatively quick and extremely painful, my draw was slow and he iced one of my in-play bounce lands for multiple turns, while I drew all four of my forests. He assembled the wrenn + boseiju lock to start casting sinkholes and I conceded.

Game three was extremely long, I mulliganed down to five and was low on resources, while he kept a very interactive seven. His removal went even with my early plays, and in the late game while he was flooding out I drew a saga. He continued to flood as I made my tokens and when the saga popped I got a relic with it because he had an archon in the bin. At this point I remember making a small misplay. My opponent has one card in hand (that he’s been holding all game so I have a feeling it’s fairly dead, after the game he would inform me it was a sundering titan and he was hoping I’d play a dryad at some point) and I have two constructs in play, relic in play, boseiju in hand, and he has two leyline bindings, one over an explosives and the other over an amulet. My plan was to just keep attacking and keep up my interaction, if he hit a persist I could crack the relic, and if he hit a creativity I could boseiju the binding and pop the explosives. However, on my turn I transmuted a tolaria west so I could kill him with a titan next turn, only keeping up two mana. In my head this was enough to do my boseiju line if he hit creativity, but I just had a bit of a brain fart about also needing to pop the explosives. Thankfully he drew dead for yet another turn and I was able to win on my turn.

Round Four: 3-0-1, 1-1, Creativity

This match was weird, my gameplay and sideboard plan was basically identical to the match I played right before, but the way the games panned out was a little more interesting. Game one was slow, neither of us doing anything particularly powerful until quite late into the game, I had an amulet get binded early in the game which slowed me down significantly, but I eventually managed to get out a primeval titan and connect with it, however it was far from lethal due to my lack of amulets. He managed to remove it and then topdecked an archon, casting it and clearing my board while keeping up one mana to represent activate kiki targeting the archon. I boseiju his binding on my amulet, untap and pact to slam a cultivator colossus with 3 bounce lands in play. I put all 3 in play, and hit no additional lands. At this point I get a little tilted and lose focus, needing to take a little while to find the lethal I still had (a fairly simple dryad into titan for double valakut, dealing twelve for exact lethal.) At the same time my opponent wasn’t exactly sure what was going on and asked for a judge to come to the table just to watch and make sure everything was fine. The entire situation was awkward and ate up quite a bit of time (with no extension since none of the time used was actually due to the judge) but eventually I found my lethal line and we went to game two.

Sideboarding: Same as above

The following two games were pretty straightforward, game two we play a fairly slow back and forth again, but unlike in game one, the turning point came for him when he cast a creativity to put two archons in play. I boseiju one of the treasures he’s targeting but he still gets one archon, and I didn’t draw out of it before it killed me.
In game three time was called as I was passing the turn on turn one, and after reaching turn three we both knew there was zero way the other person could win so we just took the draw. Overall I’m fairly happy with it, the game was mainly slowed down due to my opponent wanting a judge present in game one (which was totally fair) but I think I would have lost that game three if there was more time. So I got an unintentional draw instead of a loss, and the time use wasn’t my fault, seems decent. 

Round Five: 4-0-1, 2-1, Murktide

This round I was up against Andrew Traynor on Murktide, who’s been tearing it up on the F2F circuit for the past little bit using Murktide. In a similar pattern to my first match against Murktide of the day I started off on the play, keeping a seven against a six. My game one against Andrew was a lot closer than my game against Peter though, his hand started off a lot faster, which put me under pressure and caused me to take a potentially risky line while he was low on resources. I wanted to get a creature down so I cast a pact for a dryad, but I only had a single forest in play after passing the turn. I wasn’t sure if he was on blood moon, but I got a read that he was on it when he spent the start of his turn trying to cycle pretty deep, and a couple turns later he did find it but by then it was too late, I simply removed it with Boseiju, resolved a titan and we went to game two.

Sideboarding: Identical to the game against Peter

Once again the mapping for my sideboard against Murktide feels fantastic, every card coming out feels good to bring out, everything coming in feels good, there’s nothing funky about it. Murktide was a matchup I was really targeting for this event and I definitely got rewarded by playing it twice.

Game two sure was a game of Magic: The Gathering, I started off my first two turns putting 3 amulets in play, resolves an early titan, and to try and play around as many things as possible I grabbed double simic growth chamber, made twelve mana, and played a krasis for x=13. I thought it was lights out, even though my cast trigger only dug me into more lands and a single summoner’s pact (leaving me with a hand that contained ten total cards, nine of them being lands and one of them being the pact) I was feeling good. My Krasis was countered, I discarded down (leaving me with two boseiju’s, some bounce lands, and a pact in hand.) On my opponent’s turn he taps out developing his hand and board but I still had my titan from the last turn in play. On my turn, since my opponent was tapped out, I just go for the throat. I pact for dryad, cast it and it gets subtlety’d, I swing with titan to get a tolaria west and bounce it (however I can’t do anything productive with it this turn because I had to pay for my pact.) After passing my Titan was hit with an Unholy heat and I slowly died after drawing no more gas. In hindsight this game wasn’t played super well by me, I should have played a second krasis the turn I played dryad instead of getting greedy, or I should have bogged after getting in with the Titan.

Game three I was back on the play (this weekend I saw a bit of a pattern when it came to being on the play and winning against Murktide.) I don’t remember too much about this game, I just knew I was comfortably in the driver’s seat the entire time. I played an early Krasis as a 6/6 and my opponent lost resources dealing with it, so I was able to play and stick a primeval titan, I got him with the Bojuka Bog and with his unholy heats turned off I was able to ride that single titan to victory (I also had a second titan and a krasis in hand which I chose not to play, preferring to just play the game very patiently and prevent a possible blowout.)

Round Six: 5-0-1, 2-1, Dredge

Yep, Dredge, and going into this match my opponent was the number one seed, being 5-0. My opponent was on an interesting build, he ran four copies of gemstone caverns and actively chose to take the draw in each game (when he could.) In hindsight I wish I asked him more about it, because I don’t think his choice was correct (something that would come up in our games when we met again in the finals.) These games were fast and violent, he wins the die roll and gives me the play. Game one he starts off swinging, casting a thrilling discovery on turn one (using the cavern) after I played turn one amulet, turn two I play a second amulet and a dryad, while he swings and dredges deep again using an Ox of Agonas, on turn three I slam a titan and he dies. 

Out: 2x Cavern of Souls
In: 1x Relic of Progenitus 1x Endurance

Game two looks a lot like game one, I’m given the play, start off with an amulet, he casts turn 1 thrilling discovery (once again using a cavern) putting a lot of power into play. I play turn 2 dryad and a grazer to block and just get another land in play, he brings back an ox again. His dredges are fantastic, he digs deep, hitting all four chills and all four narcomoebas before swinging. He puts me at 4, he’s at 31. On my turn I make a game losing error. I gauged that I needed to clear his board to win (since he no longer had a good way to return his creatures) and his life total was too high to kill him. On my turn I miss a line where I can use gruul turf for both land drops to cast a titan with red floating, this would let me grab valakut + slayers to haste the titan (tapping valakut for white with dryad). I could then get a second valakut + vesuva for six total triggers to kill enough of his board to survive. I missed this line, played a normal land instead of a bounceland, and with only four triggers after getting two valakut when I swung he had exact lethal on the crackback. 

Game three was a lot slower. I took the draw since he had chosen to give me the play, it seemed right in my head but in hindsight I think this was a wrong call by me. I technically declared this at the wrong time and he was able to still board while my choice was binding, which let him sideboard out a cavern. He starts off with a leyline and the game itself is just quite slow, he didn’t have either reunion or thrilling discovery so his hand was a lot slower, but my hand had no titan. After a few turns of medium pressure from him I play an endurance that can’t hit his yard but still blocks, and then untap and draw a titan. I cast the titan, still unsure what exactly I want to do with it, but he just concedes on the spot.

Round 7 5-0-2

I took an intentional draw and then went to get some lunch at my favorite nearby sandwich place (the home turf really coming in clutch) and winded down to get ready for the top 8.

Top 8

I managed to get first seed in the top 8, which is very sweet since Amulet is quite a bit better on the play! I was already elated to get this far, making top 8 and finishing number one in the swiss was an accomplishment I could be proud of, and I had my group of friends there to support both me, and a good friend of mine Lane MacTavish who just managed to squeak into top 8 after beating a different amulet pilot with Tron (a self admitted lucky win since that matchup is generally considered horrific for tron.)  Unfortunately, Lane just squeaking in meant we’d be battling it out in the first round.

The top 8 contained: Amulet, Dredge, Merfolk, Hammer, 2x Creativity, Murktide and Tron.

Quarterfinals: 2-0 vs Tron

This matchup just really really sucks for Tron. Boseiju means Amulet has more interaction in the matchup, and Amulet is naturally just a little bit faster. In addition, some of the Tron cards that are usually solid (O-Stone and Ugin especially) aren’t great against Amulet. My overall feelings about the matchup is Tron has a chance on the play, but is probably toast taking the draw. Being top seed was very helpful here. Game one my hand is pretty slow and Lane assembles Tron, but for the rest of the game his only payoffs are 2 O-Stone and 2 copies of Ugin, eventually I force my way through them, double Boseiju him, and kill him the turn after. 

Out: 3x Cavern of Souls 1x Bojuka Bog
In: 3x Force of Vigor 1x Boseiju, Who Endures

Game two Lane kept a seven, because he’s a competent Tron pilot I know it has to be solid and I make my usual joke about that not being allowed whenever Tron keeps a seven. However it didn’t end up mattering, I boseiju’d him after he drew for turn on turn 3 and he didn’t draw out of it and assemble Tron before I landed a primeval titan and killed him. I felt a bit sad, knocking out my friend in the first round of top 8, but that’s the beats sometimes.

Semifinals: 2-1 vs Merfolk

I did not expect to play against Merfolk for this event, and I especially didn’t expect to face it in the top 8, so congratulations to my opponent on managing to pilot that deck to such a solid position! I don’t actually think this matchup is fantastic, subtlety is a very strong card and tide shaper can be extremely annoying, in addition Dryad of the Ilysian Grove usually has a secret line of text ‘all your opponents creatures are unblockable’ in this matchup. 

Game one was fairly unexciting, my opponent deployed onto the board, on turn 3 I didn’t respect subtlety, pacted for an Azusa, got it subtlety’d and conceded because I couldn’t pay for my pact next turn. I had a feeling he might have it, but it was late in the day and I was just in the mood to jam. In addition, the top four had split prizing so the stakes didn’t feel nearly as high. 

Out: 4x Urza’s Saga, 1x Bojuka Bog
In: 3x Hydroid Krasis 2x Dismember

I did not feel like the island was necessary against Merfolk, they’re probably turning my lands into islands anyway, and the dismembers came in as a way to clear lords and make my life a little easier. Bog came out for obvious reasons, and I cut the sagas because having a saga stone rained by a tide shaper seemed like a very good way to lose the game.

I unfortunately don’t remember games two and three as vividly as I would like to, it was late into the event and I was exhausted, but both games were close until they weren’t. In both games my opponent deployed onto the board fairly quickly, I resolved hydroid krasis to get a little bit of life to buy myself time, and my opponent didn’t have a subtlety when I resolved my large threats and went for the kill. Game two this sequence was fairly easy to complete since I had the extra tempo of being on the play, on the draw this was harder, but a well timed Boseiju on a mutavault bought me just enough time to get there and play the rematch against dredge in the finals.

Finals: 2-0 vs Dredge

Game one wasn’t even close. I learned my lesson from the swiss and chose to take the play. If my opponent had the cavern he’d effectively ‘take it back’ from me, but if he didn’t have the cavern I would just be up on tempo in a matchup that’s absolutely a pure drag race. My opponent keeps a bit of a sketchy six, he did have the cavern, and after my turn one of land + amulet my opponent cast an otherworldly gaze. However his hand ended up being very slow, his two mana pitch to draw was an ox that ate his entire graveyard, and his early dredges just came up with air, so I was able to just go for my win and fairly easily win that race. 

I side boarded the same as I did before, taking out caverns and putting in my two graveyard hate cards. He gives me the play and this time is punished by not having a gemstone caverns, effectively just putting me up on tempo. My opening hand is azusa, titan, 3x saga, amulet, valakut. I’m a believer. Snap keep. I start off with saga + amulet, pass, and my opponent plays a fetch. I draw the second amulet, I play my second saga + amulet and pass. My opponent plays an otherworldly gaze, starts dredging, untaps and casts a reunion, hitting all 4 copies of creeping chill, a narcomoeba, and a silversmote ghoul. On my turn I comically draw the 4th saga, so I’m forced to use my first saga’s final ability to get a relic. I crack it, draw air, play saga three and pass. My opponent basically has nothing going on except 4 power in play with me at 8. He swings, representing lethal next turn, and I still do not have my bounceland. He passes to me. I draw basic forest. I think for a second ‘that enters untapped, I can’t cast titan…I’m dead’ crosses my mind and then I see the line. I tap my saga for mana, and get the third amulet. I play the forest, tapping it and the saga I played last turn for Azusa. I play Vesuva copying my forest, tapping it 3 times with my 3 amulets, I do the same with my Valakut and slam the titan. I get growth chamber and tolaria west, getting the second titan, then the third with the same set of lands, before the final one gave them all haste and I swung to give the entire time doublestrike. The last game of the day, and it was by far the single most powerful turn I got out of the deck all day, what an amazing way to finish off.

Closing Thoughts

It’s still hard to really wrap my head around Saturday, a few weeks before I had honestly considered giving up modern and having my magic experience just be playing commander with friends once a month or so. But F2F Calgary reminded me why I love this game, the thrill of winning a close game because of a creative line you found, the shaky hands you get when round one starts and sets the pace for the day, and most of all I enjoyed the time spent with friends who were cheering me on all day, sharing their stories of bad beats or watching them win alongside me. I think I’ll take a little bit of a break over the next few weeks, there’s school I have to focus on, but I’m excited about playing Modern again and I want to try some weird things with Amulet (I never did give Hanweir it’s fair shot….), and I’m looking forward to more games won, close games lost and times with friends in the following months.

Jakob Allan

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