Today I’m writing about GP Manchester – specifically a side event – Championship Modern. I turned up with Amulet Combo, a deck made (slightly) famous by Matthias Hunt.
He has already explained the basics of the deck, so I’m going to assume you know how it works in this article.
Here’s my decklist, I will go through some of the card choices with you.
[deck]4 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
4 Primeval Titan
3 Simian Spirit Guide
2 Pact of Negation
4 Serum Visions
1 Slaughter Pact
4 Summer Bloom
4 Summoner’s Pact
2 Hive Mind
4 Amulet of Vigor
1 Boros Garrison
1 Cavern of Souls
2 City of Brass
4 Gemstone Mine
3 Gruul Turf
1 Kabira Crossroads
1 Kessig Wolf Run
1 Khalni Garden
2 Selesnya Sanctuary
4 Simic Growth Chamber
1 Slayers’ Stronghold
2 Tendo Ice Bridge
3 Tolaria West
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Path to Exile
1 Slaughter Pact
4 Seal of Primordium
1 Chalice of the Void
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Ghost Quarter[/deck]
The Changes To Amulet Combo
OK so the main differences between my list to the many others you’ll see are:
[card]Khalni Garden[/card] + [card]Kabira Crossroads[/card] vs 2 [card]Glimmerpost[/card] – So, I tested [card]Glimmerpost[/card] for a few games. I do like that they come into play untapped. It was also the first time I had 28 land in my deck rather than 27. I was much happier at 28, and decided that would be the land count I’d run.
However, after testing online, I was just hating the Jund matchup. As a result, I brought in a [card]Bojuka Bog[/card] (to fight Goyf) into the main with [card]Kabira Crossroads[/card]. Then after looking at it closely, I’d realised that [card]Khalni Garden[/card] just did more in that same slot, offering a chump blocker, something to sac to [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card], and produced green mana. [card]Bojuka Bog[/card] back to the sideboard, and [card]Glimmerpost[/card]s out.
I wanted a card that was much better when we’re not king of the world. Kessig can be searched up with no Amulet in play, and be effective the next turn. With [card]Khalni Garden[/card] now in the main – swinging with a Titan and fetching Kessig + Gardens means the opponent has 2 threats to deal with.
[card]Path to Exile[/card] vs a 3rd [card]Firespout[/card] – I found that Twin was a bit frustrating and difficult to beat, and Zoo has some 4 toughness guys. In addition, I had the Jund matchup in mind. I didn’t like [card]Firespout[/card] being used to kill a Bob – Path does it for less mana, and can also take out the dreaded [card]Tarmogoyf[/card].
[card]Crucible of Worlds[/card] vs 3rd [card]Hive Mind[/card] – Guess what I was thinking here – JUND. The opponent’s Liliana forces you to discard, so you can ditch a bounceland. In your turn, you play it from the graveyard, and bounce itself back to your hand. You’ve lost your land drop for the turn, but Lili is doing nothing to your hand size.
In addition, it’s great against [card]Tectonic Edge[/card] and [card]Fulminator Mage[/card] when you’re trying to get to 6 mana. Whilst that is all great in theory, I’ve not drawn into it often. Further testing is needed.
[card]Simian Spirit Guide[/card] (SSG) vs [card]Ancient Stirrings[/card] – I played with Stirrings for many moons, but SSG just gives you the crazy hands – and who doesn’t like a bit of crazy! Often when you are searching for stuff, it’s actually [card]Summer Bloom[/card] or kill-cards you need, and Stirrings can’t find those. SSG can make you a full turn quicker in certain situations. It’s a decent card, but the first to go if you want to try something new.
Moving onto the sunny day itself now! This is the first time I’d played a large event (more than 30 players, more than 5 rounds), and I have to say, it’s hard work! My memory of the matchups is not 100%, so I’ll try highlight the key points, what to look for in your hand and what to sideboard.
Round 1 vs Melira Pod
OK, so the first round was against Melira Pod. Luckily for me, I’d seen him shuffle and saw a lonely [card]Kitchen Fink[/card]s. I put him on Pod straight away, and decided I needed a fast hand.
Any hand without either [card]Summer Bloom[/card] or Azusa would be mulliganed, and sufficient lands need to be in hand too (a [card]Summer Bloom[/card] without land is pretty useless). Amulet is not key, as they have main deck hate, and a Titan hand is better than a [card]Hive Mind[/card] hand (they can pay for Pacts quite easily).
Sideboard here would be:
-2 [card]Hive Mind[/card]
-2 [card]Pact of Negation[/card]
-1 [card]Cavern of Souls[/card]
-1 [card]Azusa, Lost but Seeking[/card]
-1 [card]Simian Spirit Guide[/card]
+1 [card]Bog/Quarter[/card] (Bog vs witness, Quarter vs [card]Gavony Township[/card])
+1 [card]Slaughter Pact[/card]
Notice how I’ve left out Seals – you don’t need to take them off POD that much. Instead keep them off key creatures and be quick. [card]Thoughtseize[/card] can be an issue, but they don’t put a lot of pressure on. Keep the board as clear as you can and you’ll win the match.
The first game went to plan, being too quick and dropping a Titan. I would always recommend chaining up [card]Tolaria West[/card] with [card]Simic Growth Chamber[/card] here. If they answer Titan, get another. If you’re scared of their combo, go get a [card]Slaughter Pact[/card].
In game 2, I was extremely lucky. I went with the [card]Tolaria West[/card] + Simic off a Titan attack, and transmuted for a [card]Slaughter Pact[/card], as they had a Finks in play and cards in hand. The opponent then killed my Titan… I was left with nothing, oops!
I topped a [card]Firespout[/card], cleared the way and [card]Slaughter Pact[/card]-ed the Finks to finish it off entirely, and so we both were in topdeck mode. I found a Titan before he could find anything of use, and I was 2-0 up.
Round 2 vs I’m not sure yet…
So, I talked about crazy hands earlier – well, it happened here. Turn 1 – SSG played an Amulet. Simic Growth bounced itself, giving 2 mana, and playing a Bloom. I bounced 3 more times and played a Titan, fetched [card]Slayer’s Stronghold[/card] + [card]Boros Garrison[/card], swing for 8 and grab 2 more land.
Opponent smiles and shows his mate the board. The guy sat next to me says “So, you like playing Solitare then!” I pass the turn, the opponent plays a [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card] for a laugh then concedes.
I wish he hadn’t have Probed though, I was now scared he was on Storm. It’s a bad matchup made worse by [card]Blood Moon[/card].
+1 Bojuka bog
-1 Khalni Garden
-1 Slaugher Pact
-2 Hive Mind
-2 Pact of Negation
Turns out, he was Twin. The Seals stopped him combo-ing, but I wouldn’t normally choose that route. Creature kill is better than enchantment kill against Twin, especially if they don’t have [card]Blood Moon[/card] in their 75. Why? Well, if they’d don’t draw Twin, and just go beatdown, Seal becomes a dead draw. The creature kill is always relevant.
[card]Firespout[/card] though, isn’t good here. They’re instant speed, and [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] + [card]Deceiver Exarch[/card] dodge it.
G2 went longer, but the Seal kept him off combo and eventually I managed to resolve a Titan and win.
Round 3 vs Pod
This was another blow out, not much to say. In Game 2, an [card]Aven Mindcensor[/card] tries to upset us. However, the 28 lands in the deck make it hard to miss from a Titan. It makes [card]Summoner’s Pact[/card] not an option, but the Titan is still a 6/6 trample, so we’re still good.
Another 2-0 win against a really nice guy, we’re all having fun so far today!
Round 4 vs Affinity
This was a matchup I was fearing. They’re quicker than us most of the time. In G1, he kept a hand of 3 lands, 2 Ravager, 1 Plating and an [card]Ornithopter[/card]. It sounds scary, but it’s just too slow. They deal 4 damage on turn 3, so it means I have until turn 4-5 to either win or solidify. I was quicker than him, and took an easy win.
-2 Pact of Negation,
-1 Cavern of souls
+1 Engineered Explosives
+ 2 Firespout
+ 3 Seals
+ 1 Ghost Quarter
[card]Slaughter Pact[/card] is an option, but I was worried he played a [card]Blood Moon[/card] in his list. He didn’t, so -2 Seal came out game 3 for a [card]Slaughter Pact[/card] and a Path.
G3, I mulled to this – [card]Khlani Garden[/card], [card]Forest[/card], G Pact, Titan, Amulet, Amulet. So as you can see; it’s a hasted Titan on T3 if I draw a bounce land. If I don’t, it’s just pants.
I kept it, because I didn’t see myself drawing something better with 5, and there’s 9 bouncelands in the deck. I played the [card]Forest[/card] and Amulet and passed. He started nice and fast, dropping some guys.
Turn 2, I draw another Amulet! I play both (so 3 in play) and passed back.
Next top deck, I draw a [card]Serum Visions[/card] and he puts me 1 turn away from lethal.
I topdeck the sacred bounceland… Pact for Azusa, make some mana, play a Titan, make more mana, transmute a [card]Tolaria West[/card] (off the Titan search), get a G Pact, make another Titan, get another Tolaria + bounce, make another Titan (at this stage, with all the bounce triggers, I have 21 mana) – I search up the [card]Slayer’s Stronghold[/card] and [card]Boros Garrison[/card], use the 3 Amulet triggers to give all 3 haste and swing (I then fetch 5 bounce lands, make 30 mana and grab [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card] to give +28 dmg to the already 24 swinging total).
I had 3 draws to find the bounceland, and sure enough, it came on the 3rd.
Round 5 – Melira Pod
This guy was 1 of the nicest players I’ve met, great fun playing him. He had good knowledge of my deck, and that made for an interesting game. But, I was just too quick. Turn 2 Titan in G1.
In Game 2, a Titan does some work, and gets him close to lethal. He has a turn to find an answer, but I have just searched Kessig + Khalni. He needs to kill my titan AND the token. He has a [card]Chord of Calling[/card] for 4, so can fetch [card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card], make a Titan, or a Redcap and kill the token. Either way, he’s lost. Thanks Kessig + Khalni, my new inclusions win me a game :D
Round 6 – UWR Control
I knew he was playing UWR control as I was sat next to him on the round before. So, I’m looking for [card]Hive Mind[/card] hands, [card]Tolaria West[/card]s for utility and [card]Cavern of Souls[/card]. You don’t need to throw out an Amulet and hope a [card]Summer Bloom[/card] resolves. Keep the slower hands.
He just played lands in the first 3 turns, so I decided to follow suite. At the end of my T3, he drops a [card]Vendilion Clique[/card], and moves a card away. Slightly annoying, and now I’m on a clock. However, I have a good hand. I transmute the [card]Tolaria West[/card] into a [card]Cavern of Souls[/card], and instantly he’s in trouble.
It’s turn 6 before I can land the Titan though, and at that point, I’m down to 9 life and he still has the Clique. So, I search up [card]Kabira Crossroads[/card] + [card]Vesuva[/card] for 4 life. Next turn I drop an Azusa, swing with the Titan, get 2 bounce lands and start bouncing the Kabira/Vesuva with Azusa for life.
The next 3-4 turns continue, he has Paths, I play a G-Pact. He has Snapcaster (for Path), I have U Pact. He swings, I bounce Kabira and replay it as gaining 10 life this game.
I’m battling to keep threats on the board and keep out of Bolt range, he’s battling to stop me. Eventually a Titan gets a Kessig rather than a bounceland, and when the Titan is dealt with, the Azusa is left to run in and deal lethal with the Kessig.
-3 Simian Spirit Guide
-2 Azusa, lost but Seeking
-1 Khalni Gardens
+1 Chalice of the Void
+1 Ghost Quarter
+1 Crucible of Worlds
G2, he misses some land drops. I play out high impact spells – turn 4 I get a Chalice on 2. The following turn, I play a [card]Thragtusk[/card] which he Paths (and comments on how annoying it is)! I then swing with the 3/3 token, and he drops a [card]Restoration Angel[/card] to block. I have U-Pact in hand, but I let it resolve – he’s now tapped out. I play [card]Hive Mind[/card] followed by G-pact and win on turn 6.
Round 7 vs U-Tron / Gifts
G1 we both play slow, as we should. Again, look for the more controlling hands that have options, not aggressive fast hands. I have a B-Pact in hand all game, and when he gifts at end of my turn 4, and reanimates Iona on turn 5, he calls green. I wait until my turn, he’s tapped out… I play a B-Pact, and remove SSG to play a Titan. It’s still not over, but the value I get from the Titan is enough to get me across the line.
G2, I sideboard similar to the UWR Control match, but bring in Bog for Crossroads, and bring an extra [card]Slaughter Pact[/card] for another Azusa. Retrospectively, that should have been a Path instead.
In this game, he misses some land drops again, and I don’t. But, I don’t want to give him stuff to do. [card]Remand[/card] and [card]Repeal[/card] both let him draw, so I just do nothing.
It may have been turn 6-7 before any action happens. I get a Titan in play (thanks, [card]Cavern of Souls[/card]) and fetch a [card]Ghost Quarter[/card] and [card]Bojuka Bog[/card]. He gifts for value, and I give him a path and a tron land. He paths my Titan, but I can grab another. He plays his 2nd tron land, and I [card]Ghost Quarter[/card].
We’re back to square one, but I have mana open. I get another Titan into play, this time he gifts for Iona and reanimate. He reanimates, and after much thinking, calls “black”. It’s a great play, because I’ve topdecked both slaughter pacts. Luckily, I’ve got Kessig and just swing and pump up Titan when he blocks on his Iona. I get more lands, which means more Titans, and eventually get across the line.
Round 8 – Melira Pod
I was 7-0 but the opponent I was playing was on 6-0-1, so I still needed a win. I was feeling the pressure, as this was new territory for me (infact, at 5-0, every game was new territory).
Luckily for me though, I’m playing against Pod again, and my nerves quickly calm down. A few deep breathes help me a bit further, but when a [card]Sin Collector[/card] rips my [card]Summoner’s Pact[/card] and leaves me with a hand of nothing, my legs start shaking under the table again!
But in the end, Titan is just too strong for Melira, and I get across the line when I next find a Titan.
Don’t tell the missus
I win the tournament having dropped just 1 game all day. Having hoped for a 5-3 or better record at the start of the day, I left 8-0 and a few boosters better off! It’s the first Modern tournament of any size I’ve played in, and I was delighted to do so well.
The main thing I learnt throughout my first major tournament – don’t tell your significant other if you win – mine had spent the winnings on new shoes before I had even got home!
I would finally like to add that the event was an excellent day out. I had a lot of fun thanks to my opponents – met some really great people. The judges also added to the positive atmosphere, and without them, the event just doesn’t happen.
Happy gaming folks :)