The Amulet archetype has had it rough.
At first, it was discounted as a “pile of cards.” Then, once it was picked up by better players who understood the intricacies of the deck, people realized it was broken. From there, it had a great showing at Pro Tour Fate Reforged. Not long after, people realized it was unacceptable to consistently die on turn 2, and Summer Bloom was banned.
Since then, Modern has changed and cycled. It wasn’t until a year ago that “Bloomless Titan” started making appearances again, mostly on Magic Online.
Despite Tron’s uptick and decks like Ponza becoming more mainstream, people worked tirelessly to break it.
To add to it, Damping Sphere was printed, and Field of Ruin found itself a home as a 4-of in U/W Control, sometimes alongside a Ghost Quarter. It really doesn’t sound like this would be the time to bring back a lands-matters deck.
So why did I spend weeks testing it?
Despite only one card being printed recently that has made it into the archetype (Walking Ballista, not Zacama, Primal Calamity, but I’ll get to that), and numerous factors working against the deck, it’s surprisingly well positioned and more importantly, powerful and resilient enough to be a contender in Modern right now.
The cards and strategies that work against the Amulet deck just aren’t good enough.
Field of Ruin will slow you down, but it will cost your opponent approximately half a turn. If you play smart and protect your lands appropriately (namely Slayers’ Stronghold and Boros Garrison) you can maneuver around Field of Ruin. You can tutor for Ghost Quarter against Tron, which allows you to race Karn Liberated. Sakura-Tribe Scout is a key card to protecting your lands against both Field of Ruin and land destruction strategies. Damping Sphere can be tough to beat, but as it’s not seeing play as a 4-of in any tiered decks, it’s not as frightening.
Not only has the format completely changed, but Modern as a whole has slowed down since the last time Amulet Bloom was in force. The hate you face is less direct and more beatable.
While most of the format is spending its turns playing creatures one turn at a time, this deck is tutoring for something meaningful most turns. The deck is a toolbox, and there are not many cards you can’t tutor for in some way.
After weeks of testing, this is the deck list I’d register:
No “Big Creature” Slot
The consensus in the community was to play one of Hornet Queen, Dragonlord Atarka, or Zacama, Primal Calamity in the main as an “out” to different situations. Our team decided against this for a few reasons.
The Zacama is useful, but costs too much mana. Ironically, the ramp deck that casts Primeval Titan 2-4 turns ahead of schedule can struggle to make 9 mana sometimes. Zacama can get stuck in your hand. I think she’s third out of the three to consider.
Dragonlord Atarka is great at targeting planeswalkers, but in general worse at fighting creature decks than Hornet Queen. The main planeswalkers seeing play in Modern are Jace, Teferi, and both Lilianas. None of these are threatening enough to warrant Dragonlord Atarka right now. But Atarka is easier to cast and 8/8 is a truly beefy statline. Atarka is second.
Hornet Queen is the closest to making it into future deck lists, and comfortably the best of the three. The card is good against Reflector Mage, great against creature, midrange, and control strategies. It struggles against combo decks and a Phantasmal Image can be a blowout, so be aware when sideboarding it in. Triple-green is easy once you’re hitting 7 mana, although you have to Cavern for Insect sometimes. So what did she get replaced with?
2 Trinket Mage
A past problem was not being able to tutor for an Amulet. Now you can directly tutor for not only your first, but also a second. Trinket Mage: It attacks, it blocks, and it’s here to kill people.
2 Cavern of Souls, 3 Forest
This one was pretty contested, but I’ll give my 2 cents. The only matchup where your Forests are being taxed is U/W Control with four Path to Exile and four Field of Ruin. But it’s also the matchup where you want to naturally draw Cavern of Souls the most. Spending a Tolaria West to transmute for Cavern is “fine,” but by drawing one (therefore not telegraphing it as your sixth land) your Primeval Titan is much more threatening. Not once have I failed to find the 4th Forest and had it be relevant.
3 Spell Pierce (Sideboard)
Here’s a list of things Swan Song misses that you care about; Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Krark-Clan Ironworks, Damping Sphere, Oblivion Stone, Karn Liberated, Ensnaring Bridge.
Play Spell Pierce. Sometimes they’ll be able to pay for it, but they usually won’. Games in Modern don’t go as long as you think if your plan A is to kill them on turns 3-5.
Playing the Deck
In general, people’s eyes tend to glaze over when playing against Amulet. Somewhere between “I’m casting this Summoner’s Pact” and “I think you’re dead” people just tune out.
When playing Amulet, your Plan A is cast and resolve a Primeval Titan. This involves getting 6 mana. How you do it depends on what cards you draw.
If you play a turn-1 Sakura-Tribe Scout, you go from 1 mana on turn 1 to 3 mana on turn 2, then to 5 mana on turn 3 into a turn-4 Titan.
If you play an Azusa on turn 3 and play two more lands, you untap with five lands, play your sixth, and play Primeval Titan.
Explore is pretty simple, getting you 1 extra mana the turn after you play it.
Amulet of Vigor makes every bounceland add 2 when you play it, so you usually play it when you have 4 mana so that your bounceland becomes your 5th and 6th mana.
These effects interact well with each other, particularly during a multiple Amulet draw. All of the quick kills involve at least two Amulets, but realistically the deck functions as a ramp deck when you’re not attacking for 20 on turn 2.
If you equate Sakura-Tribe Scout to a suspend 1 explore, Azusa as an Explosive Vegetation, Explore as a Rampant Growth, and Amulet as a Dark Ritual, the cards start to look less weird and the deck construction starts to make more sense.
So okay—you’ve got your Primeval Titan. What now?
Once you have a Primeval Titan trigger, what you get will depend on a few things—usually how many Amulets you have in play and the deck you’re against.
If you have zero Amulets, your lands will come into play tapped and you’ll have no additional mana.
If you need another Titan, get Simic Growth Chamber and Tolaria West. If you need more mana the following turn, get lands that make lots of mana. If you need to stop what your opponent is doing, get any of the utility lands (Radiant Fountain, Khalni Garden, Bojuka Bog, Ghost Quarter).
If you have one Amulet, your lands will come into play untapped, so you can get Boros Garrison plus Slayers’ Stronghold for a hasty 8 damage and another Primeval Titan trigger if it’s safe. If you’re against something like U/W Control and your Titan isn’t going to be able to attack, you can get Simic Growth Chamber and Tolaria West, bounce the Tolaria West after tapping it for mana, and immediately transmute it for Summoner’s Pact to save yourself some mana the following turn.
If you have two Amulets, your lands will come into play untapped twice, which means that you can activate Slayers’ Stronghold twice for +4/+0, get Vesuva (to copy Boros Garrison) and Sunhome for the full 20 with trample and haste. You’ll also have more mana in general with two Amulets in play, which means that you can do more things, like cast multiple Primeval Titans in a single turn. Two Amulets is the minimum to present lethal before turn 4—this is why Trinket Mage is so important.
If you have three Amulets (Magical Christmas Land), each Titan gives you another Titan by getting 9 mana with Simic Growth Chamber and Tolaria West, which equals transmute and Titan mana. The last one will give the rest haste and you’ll do ~48 damage.
You’ll be able to weave various lands into these sequences, get multiple triggers out of any of the utility lands, or use the non-Boros-Garrison lands together to make R and W when you can’t use Garrison for whatever reason.
If you’re picking up the deck, I recommend goldfishing it extensively to work out what each Titan trigger means and what the most common lines are, so when you have to deviate you’ll understand what piece you’re missing or have to compensate for because you drew it.
So why didn’t I play it at GP Hong Kong?
Through all of the iterations Modern has been through over the past year, its ability to reward experience over raw deck power has wavered.
In March of this year, playing a deck based on experience as opposed to one of Humans, Hollow One, or Tron was almost incorrect. But as we’ve withstood the ebb and flow of the format, Modern has cycled to a point where experience is being rewarded again. Of course, that isn’t to say that you can play any 75 cards and expect to do well with them.
In testing for this event, I tested exclusively online. And when it came down to it, I didn’t feel comfortable playing Amulet on paper. This decision accounted for things like taking too long to make decisions, or even being unable to make optimal decisions under pressure of an IRL event. The thought of manually accounting for Pacts, land drops, and Karoo land triggers without having done so for a few years was why I sought out my comfort zone.
In retrospect, I regret making such a conservative decision, but at the time it seemed right.
The person I tested with for this event put up a 7-0-1 Day 1 finish, and an 11-3-1 finish overall with the Amulet list posted in this article.
I don’t think that I can stress enough that you probably shouldn’t take this deck cold to a competitive REL paper event.
But once you understand the deck, your knowledge and experience will reward you.