Considering how good a fit it is for the sort of nonsense we get up to on Arena Boys, it’s surprising that it’s taken us so long to play with Primal Amulet. When alert viewer Corell got in touch to suggest a deck based around Primal Amulet and The Mirari Conjecture—and featured Jaya Ballard for good measure—it’s safe to say we were very interested.
Doming someone for 20 with one card is something we’ve already jumped through hoops to do, and if it was that much fun, then we were excited to do it again, this time with a kicked Fight with Fire plus any spell-copying effect. Take the Jeskai Control shell of a few months ago, cut some of the good cards for splashy rares and mythics, and yep, you’ve got yourself another Arena Boys special.
4 Hallowed Fountain 4 Steam Vents 4 Sacred Foundry 4 Glacial Fortress 4 Sulfur Falls 4 Clifftop Retreat 3 Jaya Ballard 4 Revitalize 2 Ritual of Rejuvenation 3 Fight with Fire 2 Absorb 4 Deafening Clarion 4 Chemister's Insight 4 Primal Amulet/Primal Wellspring 2 Cleansing Nova 3 The Mirari Conjecture 1 Settle the Wreckage 4 Opt
A lot of the list takes heavy cues from the old Jeskai Control decks that dominated Standard before Orzhov muscled in and pushed Esper to the top of the format. Card draw, life gain, removal—it’s all very standard stuff and doesn’t take too long to explain. Opt, Chemister’s Insight, and Revitalize help to churn through your deck, while Deafening Clarion, Fight with Fire, and Cleansing Nova manage the board.
The real fireworks begin, however, when we start going off-script. Rather than the 5 mana cure for insomnia, Teferi, we’re playing the coolest grandma since Shirley Curry—Jaya Ballard joins the squad to provide cards and mana, plus a value-laden ultimate. Jaya is much more of a utility card than a proactive threat, but she provides a surprising amount of power. In particular, the discard/draw mode is quite strong, more so than you might think.
Primal Amulet cheapens everything from Revitalize to Cleansing Nova, turning good cards like Chemister’s Insight into an instant-speed Divination with upside. It’s incredibly easy to flip, too, in a deck with so many cantrips, and when it does things really start heating up. Copying something as innocuous as a Revitalize is still bonkers—2 mana for two cards and 6 life? In the aggro-dominated best-of-one queues, this sort of play can be the difference between life and death.
Primal Amulet isn’t the only way to copy spells, however—The Mirari Conjecture will also do this as its third chapter. The first will almost always get a card back, while the second usually misses (unless you’ve fired off a Deafening Clarion). That’s all right—use the intervening turn to set up a massive chapter three!
Fight with Fire is, of course, the name of the game. It’s the deck’s only real win condition, and so kicking and copying it is the simplest and most direct route to victory. Seeing as the entire deck is built toward achieving this, however, it’s easier than you might think.
This deck plays like a control deck with a combo finish. Rather than grind them out over infinite turns with looped Teferis or what have you, this deck instead fights through the early turns, stabilizes, and sets up a one-turn kill. I like having proactive ways to end the game in my control decks, and it doesn’t come more proactive than nugging someone for 20 in one go.
A lot of the early turns are about resource management. You have a lot of “incidental” life gain in Revitalize and Ritual of Rejuvenation, but there’s some incentive to hold back cheap cantrips in order to first flip and then double spells with Primal Amulet. If you can afford to, sandbagging your life gain spells for Primal Wellspring is a good idea. Remember the Primal Wellspring, unlike something like Treasure Cove, can be activated as soon as it’s flipped.
Carving out time and space to play The Mirari Conjecture can be difficult in the face of aggro decks. In fact, most of the time I prefer to deploy Jaya as a tap-out 5-drop against aggro. This gives opponents a greater scope for poor decision making, as they may start to make the wrong attacks. Not to mention, she digs deep for that Deafening Clarion that can dig you out of the hole you’re in.
But once deployed, you want to maximize its third chapter. My favorite way to do this is by playing Primal Amulet during the second—this cheapens all your spells and allows you to play even more while they’re being copied. Even if you don’t outright kill them with a Fight with Fire, a good Mirari Conjecture turn should gain a ton of life and draw a ton of cards.
Apart from these weird cards, much of the rest of the deck plays out like a typical control deck. Keep the board nice and clear, your life total nice and high, and your hand nice and full, and your opponent should be nice and dead soon enough!
In all honesty, there’s not too much you can really change in a deck like this. It’s already very focused, and messing with too many elements—either the core control cards or the silly engines and win condition—kind of takes the deck off the rails.
To be clear, this is a worse deck than Teferi-based Jeskai Control. No one’s claiming otherwise. If you want to optimize this deck to its natural endpoint, that’s where you’ll end up, so our optimization process here is still designed to have copied spells as our main way to win games.
With that in mind, I wouldn’t change all that much. Settle the Wreckage hasn’t been great, and might be better as a third Cleansing Nova or even another Absorb. I’d like to experiment with a single Clear the Mind as well, to ensure we have another out against countermagic-heavy lists (Conjecture can return it so you should never deck yourself).
Overall, however, this deck has the classic combo problem of not being hugely flexible. I’m not looking to change too much about this list as a result.
That’s it for this week! Join us next week as we exile our opponents’ entire battlefields in what might be—no joke—the greatest Arena Boys video we’ve ever recorded!