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Hartford was surreal. Not only did I make it to the finals of a Grand Prix, I managed do it playing my latest pet deck: Amulet Titan. If you watched coverage of the event, you may have heard me talk about how much time I’ve put into practicing the deck because it’s so difficult to play well. I can understand not wanting to put that level of work into a deck, especially when there are other more mainstream and consistently successful options, but to me, it was worth it.
The deck is surprisingly consistent at being able to enact its game plan of resolving a Primeval Titan, and once that happens you unlock a toolbox that is capable of answering what seems like any problem. The deck rewards you for intimately knowing matchups, and frequently works itself out of seemingly impossible situations. If you like playing with a toolbox, attacking with big creatures, puzzles, or just making all your land drops, this deck might be for you. If you want an easy deck you can quickly learn to go get some easy wins, go no further.
Now that I’ve hyped up the deck, let’s take a quick look at how it operates. The deck has a three part game plan. Step one is to achieve enough mana to cast your Primeval Titan.
These cards all work toward that goal. It’s worth noting that while Amulet of Vigor is an accelerant, it works differently from the others. The rest of the cards listed let you power out your lands faster. While Amulet doesn’t provide permanent ramp, what it does is really powerful. In conjunction with the or Ravnica bouncelands it lets you get a pseudo-ritual effect that combines with Azusa and Sakura-Tribe Scout to make even more mana.
Once you can produce the necessary mana to cast your Titan, you’re ready for the next step. This step is to find and cast your Titan. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to have one in hand already, but if not there are ways to go get them.
“Ancient Stirrings doesn’t find Primeval Titan!” You might be saying to yourself. But it does find Tolaria West. Tolaria West can then find Summoner’s Pact, and Summoner’s Pact can then go on to find your win condition.
Once your Titan is in play, you have to figure out how to win with it. In TitanShift, your path to victory is pretty cut and dry, but the same is not true of Amulet. Simply resolving the card gives you a lot of options. Sometimes you need to tutor up utility lands in order to stabilize the board or protect your Titan. If you have an Amulet in play, it is usually correct to get Boros Garrison and Slayers’ Stronghold so that you can attack. If there’s not an Amulet, it’s usually best to get Tolaria West and a Simic Growth Chamber. Simic Growth Chamber’s trigger lets you pick up Tolaria West, which in turn tutors for every relevant card other than Amulet. Once you have access to all your tools, you can usually pick one to clean up any problems, or keep playing threats until the game ends.
Now that the basics are out of the way I want to answer some questions I’ve been getting a lot about the list.
Why No Jace?
While my list has changed a lot over the past year, it has been close to this configuration since a little after the unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. With the possibility to play him on turn 2, I had to try it. Unfortunately, I quickly found that while he is super fun to play with, he requires you to warp your mana and is only good in the matchups that are already favorable. While I won the majority of games I untapped with Jace in play, most times I drew him, he just sat in my hand.
Why So Many Basics?
Once Jace was back out of the deck, the most notable innovation was to up the number of basics in the deck. I used to only play two Forests and now I’m up to four. The increased number of basics is pretty important right now. Having so many Forests makes it much easier to fight through Blood Moons out of non-Ponza decks. It also mitigates the effect of all the Field of Ruins control decks are playing. Since the majority of my losses have come to the cards Blood Moon and Grapeshot, lowering the amount of times I will lose to one of these cards seems good.
Why Reclamation Sage?
Most lists have Courser of Kruphix in this slot. I tried it out, and the card was good but never impressive. I saw that Matthias Hunt had a main-deck Sage at a recent event and it seemed like a great replacement. It is the most boarded in card, and playing it main freed up a slot in my sideboard. I only played two matches all weekend where I wouldn’t have brought in Reclamation Sage anyway, so it was pretty nice having access to it game 1.
Why the Firespout/Kozilek’s Return Split?
Firespout is better against Humans but Kozilek’s Return interacts favorably with Ancient Stirrings and is better against Affinity. A lot of people are on multiple Firespouts to beat Humans, which I appreciate, but Return isn’t bad in the matchup and is just a better card in the deck.
Spell Pierce vs. Swan Song
The deck historically ran Swan Song, but lately people are switching over to Spell Pierce. While the change aligned with the introduction of Jace, I think it’s possible that we should have always been on Pierce. Swan Song is awkward because this is not a pure combo deck. Amulet often functions as a midrange deck, and giving your opponent a creature to attack you with can be a liability. Even though Pierce falls off in the late game, your answers open up more at that point anyway. It is also worth noting that if KCI continues to see play, Pierce actually interacts with their deck while Swan Song does not.
4th Azusa vs. 1st Wayward Swordtooth
This has been a hot topic in the Amulet community. Playing four copies of a legend comes with obvious downsides. I’m not arguing with anybody about that nor the fact that late in the game Swordtooth is a way better topdeck. I get why people like the idea of the card, but the play patterns with it in the early turns are so much worse than Azusa. Azusa is the closest thing the deck gets to Summer Bloom, and I fully believe that you are weakening your deck by not playing four.
Why Play This Deck Over TitanShift?
You know how they say that there’s no such thing as a bad question? Well, this is a bad question. Despite the fact that both decks play Primeval Titan, the two decks are very different. But if we were to compare them, TitanShift is way more linear, and it has a consistent game plan that it does a good job enacting. Amulet is less linear and as a result a bit less consistent, but it is also more powerful, generally being a turn faster than a Shift. It also is better at interacting with the opponent, which is especially relevant if you’re playing against a combo deck.
A While Ago a Lotus Bloom Version Popped Up. Thoughts?
MTGO grinder PuntThenWhine has put a lot of work into this version of the deck and has had a lot of success with it. Lotus Bloom does mean that your ability to make a Titan on turn 3 goes up. It probably also has a better matchup versus Hollow One. But this comes at the cost of not playing Sakura-Tribe Scout and being worse against artifact hate. Sakura-Tribe Scout is a really subtly powerful card in this deck due to the tricks it can do with instant-speed land drops. I wouldn’t want to give that up, and the Lotus Bloom version is less explosive and I would miss the blisteringly fast starts of this version.
How I Feel About Some Popular Matchups
Hollow One: Good. A lot of people tend to disagree, but I like this matchup. Assuming that you survive the first wave of Flameblade Adept attacks it’s fairly easy to take over. They have no way of dealing with a 6/6 and Bojuka Bog can really mess them up. I have found the games I lose in this matchup are because I make a mistake or I discarded all of my lands to Burning Inquiry.
Affinity: Very good. This matchup is scary when learning the deck, but once you figure it out it’s pretty fun. Their deck is very aggressive and sometimes they just run you over, but they don’t have much interaction. Engineered Explosives on 2 is backbreaking against their deck. Ghost Quarter can deal with creaturelands. Walking Ballista can then mop up the rest. Post-board they usually have Thoughtseize, which is a minor inconvenience, but you get to bring in board wipes as well as Hornet Queen, which usually brings the game to a standstill.
Humans: Good. At first I lost this matchup a lot. I still don’t think it’s great game 1, but post-board they have a hard time killing you quickly enough through your interaction. The games they win make you look like a joke, but if you find a starting hand capable of a turn-3 Titan or sweeper, it’s usually lights-out.
Jund: Very good. Hand disruption is not good against your deck if it isn’t backed by a sufficient clock and your threats are way bigger than theirs. Despite the matchup being heavily favorable, you do need to learn what you’re doing. It is important to be mindful of Fulminator Mage and Liliana edicts.
Bogles: Very good. I dropped one game against this deck in three rounds at the Grand Prix. Engineered Explosives is a messed up Magic card against this deck.
Control: Good. These matchups are super interesting. I don’t feel good about Jeskai versions with main-deck Geist in addition to their burn spells, but I feel good against the slower, true control builds. The games go long and you have to fight through multiple Ghost Quarters and Field of Ruins but the deck is currently built to minimize their impact. Your threats are way more powerful than theirs and once you resolve one Titan you can keep playing them until the control deck can’t answer them. Something important to consider in this matchup is that Vesuva can copy their lands, specifically Celestial Colonnade and Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin, which are both wonderful in your deck too.
Storm: Very bad. There are five decks in Modern I currently have a losing win percentage against and this is one of them. The matchup is certainly winnable, but a lot of times they Remand your threat, untap, and kill you.
Ponza: The worst. I said before the GP that if I got paired against this deck, it would at least guarantee me time to eat.
Tron: Good. But you have to mulligan aggressively. Main-deck Ghost Quarter really helps, but when they’re able to assemble Tron anyway through one or two Ghost Quarters they make this deck (and most others) look like a joke. If your local meta is infested with this deck, play Ramunap Excavator in your 75.
Any Tips for People Learning the Deck?
- Be patient. This deck is not easy. A lot of it is very unintuitive.
- Try to keep a bounceland in your hand in case you draw Amulet and Azusa.
- After playing Azusa, prioritize playing lands without triggers to avoid her dying before your additional land drops.
- In the dark, don’t keep hands that don’t accelerate you. I am typically looking for a hand that can produce 6 mana on turn 3—they don’t necessarily need to have a Titan. Be willing to mulligan to 5 or 6 looking for better hands.
- A lot of the time, focusing on how not to die is better than figuring out how to win. If you maneuver the game to keep yourself alive for long enough, you will usually find yourself ahead.
- Most matchups are fine or favorable despite how it might seem initially. Be willing to try things until you find what works and understand that it takes time to learn what to priorize in each matchup. It’s not always a race. You play an excellent midrange game.
- If your opponent is tapped out, try to give your Titan haste. If they have removal mana available, get Simic Growth Chamber and Tolaria West instead so that you can find another Titan if need be.
- Ensnaring Bridge can be beat by attacking with Plant Tokens and using Slayers’ Stronghold before damage, as well as Walking Ballista.
- Multiple copies of Amulet of Vigor stack. This is apparently unintuitive. But because it works this way the deck is capable of a (rare) turn-2 kill. There are multiple sequences that lead there, but they all require two or more Amulets.
With two Amulets out, a bounceland produces 4 mana. You can use that mana to play Explore or Azusa, which will both let you get to 6 mana. At that point you can play Primeval Titan to get Boros Garrison and Slayer’s Stronghold, which you can activate twice. At this point it doesn’t matter what land you bounce as long as it’s not the Garrison. You can then attack with the Titan, getting Vesuva as a copy of Boros Garrison and Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion. With three Amulets out, you can play all four Titans. It’s overkill but also what I did in my round 15 match.
- Sideboarding takes some getting used too. I don’t have a sideboard guide posted anywhere yet, but I will try to work on one. If you reach out to me, I will gladly share it once it’s finished. In the meantime here’s some general guidelines. Feel free to cut down to 26 lands in most matchups. This is kind of my go-to. My next common thing is to board down on Explore. While the card is good, it’s not necessary in a lot of matches. Cutting Sakura-Tribe Scout does something similar, but lessens your odds of a turn-3 Titan. If you are expecting a lot of artifact hate you can cut Amulets and play a slower game. I mainly do this versus Jund and Grixis Shadow. I used to do this against control but have since stopped despite them typically being heavy on answers for the card.
- Expect to time out while getting used to the play patterns. Taking the time to think out your decisions will be more valuable in the long run than rushing, though it might burn through tix.
- If you play on MTGO, be aware that Amulet of Vigor, Vesuva, and Cavern of Souls are all bugged.
- Amulet: If you have two copies of Amulet out, MTGO will try to automatically place all of the untap triggers if nothing else is left to be placed on the stack. You can avoid this by having any other trigger (such as a bounce) be the last trigger you place on the stack. This bug will stop you from getting to activate Slayer’s Stronghold an extra time if you are not careful, which can cost you games.
- Cavern: You must name the first creature type on a card. This is currently not relevant, but lists sometimes play Tireless Tracker, which sometimes makes Scout the correct name in real life but not online.
- Vesuva: Still works by the pre-Rivals rules. This would be extremely advantageous except you will get your account suspended if you abuse this… so you might want to avoid that.
Hopefully those tips will be helpful to any new Amulet players! Before I let you all go, for anybody wondering about my run itself, here are the decks I faced:
Rd 1: Bye
Rd 2: Bye
Rd 3: 2-0 vs. Hollow One
Rd 4: 2-1 vs. Humans
Rd 5: 2-0 vs. Affinity
Rd 6: 2-0 vs. Jund
Rd 7: 0-2 vs. Hollow One (sometimes Burning Inquiry discards all of your lands)
Rd 8: 2-1 vs. Affinity
Rd 9: 2-0 vs. Titanshift
Rd 10: 2-0 vs. Bogles (Paired up)
Rd 11: 2-0 vs. U/W Control
Rd 12: 2-1 vs. Hollow One (punted that loss)
Rd 13: 2-0 vs. U/W/R Control
Rd 14: 0-2 vs. Tron
Rd 15: 2-0 vs. Affinity
Quarterfinals: 2-1 vs Bogles
Semifinals: 2-0 vs Bogles
Finals: 1-2 vs KCI Combo
It’s interesting that I didn’t see more variety. It didn’t quite feel like a Modern tournament. This could be good, though. If Modern begins to homogenize some, then it’s easier to tune the sideboard. One of the great things about this deck is that even if the sideboard doesn’t end up perfect, the cards are just generically powerful and often that’s good enough.
People watching my matches told me that I had lots of insane plays but honestly I’ve spent so much time on the deck lately that most plays don’t feel particularly exceptional at this point. There were a few plays that did stand out to me, though.
In my round 8 match, I was able to Dismember an Arcbound Ravager, then in response to the modular trigger targeting a creature I was able to Kozilek’s Return the entire board away. Getting to 7-for-2 your opponent always feels great. Especially when you follow it up with a Walking Ballista and then a Hornet Queen.
The next exciting moment was killing my second control opponent entirely with Walking Ballista. It attacked twice and then pinged six times for the win.
The last was definitely the first game of round 15 where I got to attack for 40 on turn 2. It may have been overkill, but it definitely got me in the right mindset to play the second game of our match where I was able to stabilize with a Hornet Queen while at 2 life.
Again, if you like puzzles, doing big splashy things, or just playing with lands, please give this deck a shot. If anybody needs help with the deck, feel free to reach out on Twitter or at events. When I’m not prepping for my first Pro Tour, I’ll be working on that sideboard guide I promised. I’ll gladly share. And remember, “when nature calls, run.”