Last week my Pick of the Week for Grand Prix Pittsburgh was Amulet Bloom and I stand by that pick, but for those of you who aren’t ready to commit to playing such a difficult deck or want to stay one step ahead, I figured I would select a deck that beats last week’s pick. Do you want to play the best deck in the format or a deck that beats the best deck in the format? Well, if you’re more inclined to want the latter then the deck for you is Splinter Twin.
YUANJI 50, MTGO Modern League
Look no further than the finals of Pro Tour Fate Reforged if you want to see a perfect example of why Splinter Twin has always been advantaged against Amulet Bloom. Boil it down to the basics and you’re playing against a deck attempting to resolve a 6-mana spell, which is exactly the position you want to be in when you put 4 Remand in your deck. On top of that, you can even use Deceiver Exarch defensively to either tap down a key land or to tap a Primeval Titan on your way to slamming a Splinter Twin.
Cheap counterspells like Remand are probably what an Amulet Bloom deck fears the most, and it puts the deck in a difficult position. They either have to hope to win the game before the Twin player can sit on their countermagic, stitch together a Pact of Negation for backup before Twin has a big turn, or hope that a longer game favors them and the Twin player misses multiple land drops. The first of these options is incredibly unlikely to be viable, the second and third are largely based on luck. They can’t reasonably expect to play a long game against a deck that has a 4-mana combo kill which can be set up at instant speed, and the Splinter Twin deck thrives on long games with Snapcaster Mage and Cryptic Command.
I think game 1 is unfavorable for Amulet and it only gets worse after that. The Twin deck is already inherently advantaged, now add Blood Moon to the mix and it gets even worse. It’s crazy when you realize that the Amulet deck barely even improves at all after sideboard and the Twin deck improves massively. Blood Moon is a joke—if you resolve it you win outright. Yes, they have a basic Forest in the main and sometimes they even have a basic Forest in the sideboard so they could try to draw into Nature’s Claim or Seal of Primordium. In a majority of games this won’t happen—they either won’t draw a Forest, or they will draw a Forest but won’t draw one of their few answer cards. Couple that with the fact that the Twin deck can just Spell Snare Seal of Primordium or Dispel Nature’s Claim. We’re talking about a nightmare matchup here.
The beauty of this deck choice is you aren’t making some calculated metagame gambit where you hope the most popular and successful deck is Amulet and the edge you gain is by getting paired against that deck often, you’re playing Splinter Twin! It’s been the consensus best deck in the format for ages and as long as Deceiver Exarch and Splinter Twin are both legal it will be a tier-1 deck choice. The best part about the Splinter Twin deck is when you play against another combo deck, you have cheap counters and a quick combo kill yourself. But when you decide the opponent could have access to Path to Exile or Abrupt Decay you have removal and card advantage in the form of Lightning Bolt, Snapcaster Mage, and even Desolate Lighthouse. The deck is so successful because it changes gears between broken combo deck and durable control deck seamlessly based on what the opponent is trying to do.
If you do play Splinter Twin, it’s best to play good old-fashioned Blue/Red Twin and not outsmart yourself by playing TarmoTwin. I could envision a metagame in which the Tarmogoyfs are worth the splash, but I think Splinter Twin is a strong enough choice that I would rather put people to the test with my plan A than concern myself with being tricksy. I feel similarly about Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. It’s cute, cool, and neat, but it’s just lacking the raw power you want and it doesn’t fit your combo plan or your control plan all that well. Stick to the nuts and bolts ABC magic and your results will thank you. It’s been good enough to win the Pro Tour not one but two times, and there’s no reason to believe it’s not good enough to win Grand Prix Pittsburgh.