So, you want to win at Modern? I don’t actually have a secret formula to help you do that, but I do have a lot of experience playing what I think is the most powerful and unfair deck in the format. I also just discovered that the RPTQs are Modern and there is a Modern GP next month. I also happen to miss writing about Magic, so here I am.
Modern is a very powerful format and you can do a lot of unfair things. Don’t be the guy trying to grind out a fair advantage over a lot of turns. Do broken things and punish people.
Unfortunately, my start with the deck was, shall we say, not the best.
The deck is just weird. The lines are very technical and unique to the deck, so you can’t rely on your experience of piloting other combo decks to inform your play. I was a hot mess—I felt so clueless with the deck that I actually just gave up. I later learned that Justin Cohen used my videos to teach new pilots how to play the deck, because I stumbled through each major mistake you can make.
Following those videos, I wrote a high-level primer that still largely holds true today.
Since then, I piloted the deck at GP Charlotte in June and to a WMCQ victory in August. I am very convinced that it is fundamentally broken and needs to be banned. Until that happens, you should have some fun crushing your opponents.
Let’s start with my current deck list.
Amulet Bloom Combo
This is the first in a series of deep dives into specific aspects of the deck that will turn you from clueless to competent in piloting Amulet. I’m starting with the heart of the deck—the combo pseudo-kill. This is why you are sleeving up the 75.
You don’t actually deal 20 damage to them in one turn with your primary combo, so it isn’t a true kill, but it usually leaves your opponent with one turn before dying. It happens as early as turn 2, and can also come up later in the game. This interaction is the main draw of Amulet, so make sure you get every percentage point you can out of the draws when you have it.
Turn 2: The “Pseudo-Kill”
The mechanics of this are:
- Play Amulet (turn 1 or turn 2).
- Cast Summer Bloom.
- Play a bounceland 3 times (tapping for 6 mana) by bouncing itself.
- Cast Primeval Titan (Summoner’s Pact optional) to get Boros Garrison and Slayer’s Stronghold.
- Give Titan haste and attack for 8, getting a bounceland and a Tolaria West. Bounce Tolaria West to your hand, to transmute for Summoner’s Pact for another Titan.
Now we’ve pseudo-killed them, because not many decks are equipped to handle a turn-2 Primeval Titan with haste that ramps and comes with built-in redundancy. Still, there are some things to keep in mind here.
First, it doesn’t matter if you cast the Amulet on turn 1 or turn 2, as the mana from your bounce land gives you the mana to cast Summer Bloom, which in turn is conveniently exactly enough mana for Primeval Titan. This leaves you able to play a tapped land on turn 1 or cast one of your library manipulation spells to find a missing piece of the combo.
Your second order of business is to decide what land to leave in play from your initial burst of mana with Summer Bloom. When you make your third land drop, you’ll have a bounceland and another land in play, both tapped. You can bounce either one to your hand. I usually leave my bounceland in play to maximize my mana for turn 2, but sometimes you’ll want to leave the other land in play—commonly: you happened to have Slayer’s Stronghold in your opening hand. You need to get a Vesuva to copy it so you can attack with your Titan, so make sure you don’t accidentally bounce the Stronghold.
Now it’s time to search. 90% of the time you will want to attack with your Titan this turn, so you are going to get a Boros Garrison and a Slayer’s Stronghold. This lets you give your Titan haste, but now you have to bounce a land. I usually pick up the Stronghold here. I leave myself 4 mana (from 2 bouncelands). There might be specific cards or reasons why I would leave a different land in play instead, but those are edge cases.
This allows you tap both to produce UUG and immediately transmute Tolaria West. Since you can only transmute at sorcery speed, you can’t attack with your Titan and then do this line in combat, since you need to tap both Tolaria West and the Growth Chamber for mana and then bounce the transmute land.
Why would you ever not attack? The main reason is because of cards like Path to Exile. If your opponent has a white mana available and you don’t have any other action in your hand, you don’t want to leave yourself stranded if they have Path. Just start your Tolaria West chain now. If they don’t have Path, you miss out on one attack—no big deal. If they do have it, you are winning a game you would otherwise lose. Transmute for Summoner’s Pact and pat yourself on the back for maximizing your estimated value.
I also want to point out an important line you will sometimes have to take against Twin. Imagine you attempt your pseudo-kill on turn 3 instead of turn 2. In this scenario, during your upkeep on turn 3, your Twin opponent plays a Pestermite tapping your land, and you went off using your other mana (something you can easily do). If you take the Stronghold line, you’ll put them to 12 and then just lose to Splinter Twin. If you feel like you are winning, transmute for a Slaughter Pact (as long as you have a black mana source in play). This slows you down one turn, but makes it so much harder for them to kill you.
We’ve considered other lines, but decide it’s time to rumble with Titan. It is time to do the Pact check.
- Did you cast Summoner’s Pact to get yourself the Titan?
- If so, let’s not die to that Pact.
- First, put a dice on your library so you don’t just forget the Pact cost trigger.
- Then figure out how to survive them messing with you.
- Leave yourself with sufficient mana in play to survive hindrances like Spreading Seas or Blood Moon.
So far, I’ve never died to a Pact, because I take extreme caution to protect myself when I’ve felt like that is the only way I could lose (I often just search up two Forests with my attacking Primeval Titan). Against a deck like Merfolk (Spreading Seas) or Jund (Fulminator Mage), I always make sure to have 3 green mana sources in play so I won’t lose if they take out one of my lands. Remember that Fulminator Mage takes away 2 mana (by destroying a bounceland), so you need to have 3 green mana sources and 6 lands in play to be safe. Spreading Seas just takes away 1 mana (turning a bounceland into an Island), so 3 green sources with 5 total lands is enough. Against Blood Moon, you need to go get both Forests, so it is a little more painful, but it’s an affordable insurance policy.
Don’t just blindly protect yourself—ask yourself how far ahead you are. If you are barely hanging on, you probably can’t afford to search for these insurance lands. You will need to get the Radiant Fountain/bounceland combo or find Cavern of Souls (much more likely when it is a turn-3 or 4 pseudo-kill, because it’s unlikely you have to interact with anyone that much on turn 2) because losing to their land interaction is less of a threat than just losing to the rest of their deck. You need to have a lot of practice with the deck to decide which path is the bigger threat to your victory and play accordingly.
We’ve now completed our attack with Titan. Maybe we got some extra green mana sources, or maybe we found our Cavern of Souls, but more likely we set up a Titan chain by getting a bounceland and Tolaria West.
In any case, we’ve completed our turn-2 pseudo-kill.