Last week , I gave a brief overview of a standard list for Amulet Bloom, how some of the cards interact, and what our normal gameplan is. I'm sure that will help a lot of people get an idea of just what Amulet Bloom is capable of, but most of our matches are played with a sideboard, and when we are doing something this degenerate, there are bound to be cards that people are sideboarding with us in mind.
I've referenced an old article that I wrote about how to build an effective sideboard before, and here I want to use some elements of that strategy in order to figure out what we can expect out of the popular decks and what our plans should be against them.
Modern is quite a diverse format. Much like Legacy, you can play just about anything that you want. This means that listing out the popular decks, or decks that you can relatively expect to come across, can be a bit daunting, but when preparing for an important event, this is something that we should be doing.
My experience with Modern is limited compared to a lot of people, but here is what I would consider the majority of the decks that people play in Modern that I could come across at the Season Two Invitational.
We can see that there are a lot of decks, but having some knowledge about them will be beneficial. Also, when we play a deck like Amulet Bloom that's mostly non-interactive, there are a lot of strategies that we are favored against naturally, or that we can even flat out ignore.
Now that we have a list of the popular decks, we can break them down and look at how the matchup will go, what we can expect them to sideboard against us, and what our sideboard plan should probably look like.
VS B/G/X (Abzan, Jund, B/G)
These decks are headlined by Thoughtseize, Abrupt Decay, Dark Confidant, and Liliana of the Veil. They usually have Tarmogoyf and some number of Scavenging Ooze as well. It's important to note that their creature suite can't really clock us fast enough to put us under extreme pressure, so they usually have to rely on a clock + some amount of disruption.
Because cards like Abrupt Decay and Lightning Bolt are so cheap and efficient, there usually aren't too many cards in these decks that can handle a Primeval Titan. B/G might have Victim of Night, while Abzan will likely have some copies of Path to Exile, and Jund will have some copies of Terminate, but that's about it. Khalni Garden can help protect our Primeval Titans from Liliana of the Veil, and we can always just get Simic Growth Chamber and Tolaria West to transmute for a Pact of Negation or Summoner's Pact to protect or produce another Primeval Titan.
The white cards that they gain from going Abzan are Path to Exile and Lingering Souls primarily in addition to the activation of Gavony Township and oomph of Siege Rhino. The big gain for this archetype by going white is in the sideboard, where they will get cards like Stony Silence and Timely Reinforcements. Conveniently, none of these cards do anything against us. We can still expect to see some number of Fulminator Mage in sideboard games against Abzan and B/G.
The red cards that are gained from going Jund are Lightning Bolt, Terminate, Olivia Voldaren, and Kolaghan's Command. All of these except Lightning Bolt are relevant against us, in addition to the sideboard Blood Moon that GerryT has recently made popular. We can expect Fulminator Mage to also come in from the sideboard against us too.
Our plan against all of these types of strategies are to become more of a Tron style deck rather than a full on combo deck. We want to just make our land drops and play lots of sticky threats. We can be vulnerable to discard, but bringing in Leyline of Sanctity helps with shutting off all of that and the majority of Liliana of the Veil.
Here is a list of cards that could potentially be good against the B/G/X style of Modern deck:
Against these types of decks, I generally sideboard out the Hive Mind package, but still keep the Summoner's Pacts since they are able to find us the creatures that we are sideboarding into. I don't really like taking out more than one land at most here, since our gameplan is to just grind them out with Thragtusk and Hornet Queen.
Thankfully, we still have our Amulet combo intact so we can always just kill our opponents on turn 2.
VS Splinter Twin (U/R, Temur, Grixis)
The Splinter Twin decks are tough matchups. Thankfully, I feel like the B/G/X decks have been leaning on the Twin decks so much that they are becoming less prominent. The games aren't unwinnable, but it's very difficult. We don't really have much interaction, and the Deceiver Exarch/Pestermite part of their combo is naturally insane against us, since they can tap down one of our bouncelands in our upkeep, or even just tap our Primeval Titan before we get to attack with it.
The U/R Twin decks usually have a lot of countermagic, including cards like Dispel and multiple Cryptic Commands. When backed with Snapcaster Mage and a handful of Lightning Bolts, they can just as easily tempo us out if they don't have the combo kill.
U/R Twin will usually have some more counterspells like Negate in addition to some copies of Blood Moon in their sideboard, which adds another difficult angle to combat in the sideboard games. I think that trying to be proactive against them is the best route, so we will want access to cards that we don't have to sit on.
Temur and Grixis are easier matchups than straight U/R, since they aren't 100% focused on trying to combo. Temur is splashing green for access to Tarmogoyf in their maindeck, and cards like Ancient Grudge and Thrun, the Last Troll out of the sideboard. They still have access to Blood Moon and more counterspells, but their maindeck will usually lack the full number of combo pieces, usually only having five creatures and three Splinter Twins.
Grixis goes into black for access to discard like Thoughtseize and Inquisiton of Kozilek. They also gain access to Tasigur, the Golden Fang, which plays a very good Tarmogoyf impersonation while also allowing them to gain card advantage and plays perfectly into the instant speed gameplan of Deceiver Exarch and Pestermite.
Grixis is about as likely to have some Blood Moon's in their sideboard as Temur but will have a little less countermagic and will try to rely on discard to interact with their opponents. It's important to note that Kolaghan's Command gives them a way to interact with our artifacts.
Here is a list of cards that could potentially be good against the Twin decks (U/R, Temur, Grixis).
Against these decks I like taking out the Hive Mind package, since getting a six mana enchantment to resolve through their Mana Leak, Spell Pierce, and/or Negates doesn't really seem all that feasible. Twin variants are definitely a rough matchup, and you should be hoping to dodge them as much as possible when playing this deck.
VS Collected Company (Melira)
The Melira CoCo decks are an homage to the Birthing Pod decks of old. They will usually include some mana accelerants like Birds of Paradise, Noble Hierarch, and Wall of Roots. These will let them take advantage of Chord of Calling and Collected Company to pick and choose which creatures they want, as sort of a tool box - except with a little twist. They have a few "infinite" combos.
Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit and Melira, Sylvok Outcast both act in similar manners in making so that Kitchen Finks and Murderous Redcap come back onto the battlefield from their persist trigger and will end up without the -1/-1 counter on them. Once you have a sacrifice outlet, like Viscera Seer, then you can continually sacrifice a Kitchen Finks or Murderous Redcap to gain infinite life or do infinite damage.
If you have both Anafenza and Melira, then you also get infinite bolster triggers when you sacrifice and loop your creature.
If you have both Anafenza and Melira and just a Murderous Redcap, you can have the Redcap target itself and die, then come back over and over to get infinite bolster triggers.
Much like Amulet Bloom, this deck can be a nightmare to play on MTGO, so practice navigating the triggers.
Melira CoCo can grind decks out with the best of em', since they have a full set of Kitchen Finks and usually some number of Eternal Witness. They are likely to have some number of Thoughtseize and Path to Exile, although the earlier versions of the deck didn't have either in the maindeck.
They can't really interact with us, so it's just all about combing off first. Thankfully, we can even beat their infinite life with a Hive Mind kill, but since they generate so much mana it's likely going to have to involve double Pacting them.
After sideboard, we can expect many Fulminator Mages and lots of Thoughtseizes and Path to Exiles. Games can be grindy, and I think it's likely worse for us than in game 1, but I think that it's close overall.
Here is a list of cards that could be good against the Melira CoCo decks.
We don't really have a lot against them, but something like a timely Pyroclasm can just end the game. If we are able to get a Primeval Titan into play early and protect it, then we are likely to win the game. I think that we have to keep at least some of the Hive Mind combo in so that we have a way to win if they gain infinite life, and I think that we can shave some lands, like Cavern of Souls, that don't really have any utility here.
VS Collected Company (Elves)
The Elves CoCo deck is something that has been growing in popularity online, and I expect it to just keep growing. I wouldn't say that I think that the deck is very good, or extremely well positioned, but cards like Collected Company are fan favorites, and anytime that the Elven tribe is remotely playable there are hordes of people who will pick it up and run with it.
The main gameplan of the deck is to just get as many Elves onto the battlefield as possible, and then find an Ezuri, Renegade Leader with Collected Company or Chord of Calling and use his Overrun ability to crush their opponent.
It's really as simple as that, although they can always just beat down with Elvish Archdruid-enhanced Elves. Cards like Heritage Druid and Elvish Archdruid can generate a large amount of mana, which help fuel the Chord of Callings.
As for sideboarding, we can expect some number of artifact destruction spells from them to try and keep us from comboing. They also have the potential to side Blood Moon if you see a lot of fetchlands in the first game.
Here is a list of cards that could be good against the Elves CoCo deck.
We really don't have much here since we are practically goldfishing against each other. I think that we can cut the Hive Mind combo though, since they can generate a lot of mana to pay for our Summoner's Pacts.
Affinity can goldfish just about as fast as we can, but they really have no defense against an early Primeval Titan. Cranial Plating can change the math in a race, but outside of that, a 6/6 trampling Titan is usually just too much for them to handle. One angle of attack they have is to try and kill us with Inkmoth Nexus, which can put us on a decent clock, but it's still beatable.
As for sideboarding, they might have Blood Moon and will likely have something like Thoughtseize. Being prepared for Blood Moon here is going to be the most important thing, since that can beat us all by itself. This matchup feels real draw dependent, but as long as we can put a Primeval Titan into play ASAP, we should be fine.
Here is a list of cards that could be good against Affinity.
We have quite a few cards that can be impactful here, so finding the right mix in our sideboard will be very important. Since they have Glimmervoid, Mox Opal, and Springleaf Drum, I don't think trying to kill them with Hive Mind is going to be the way to go, so I would likely cut that package and possibly a land.
Infect is another bad matchup. They goldfish just as fast (if not faster) than we do, but our normal combo doesn't outright kill them, which means they get another turn and can just kill us. From my experience playing the deck, games where they don't have double Might of Old Krosa can give us time to win, but when they do, we're just dead in the water.
Be aware that they can sideboard Torpor Orb, which slows us down another turn and can be just enough. They also have to respect the chance that we have Melira, Sylvok Outcast in our deck so they will likely have some Dismembers to try and combat her.
Ultimately, this is another matchup that we want to dodge. Thankfully, due to the popularity of the Melira CoCo deck and the B/G/X decks (particularly Jund), I feel like Infect is in a pretty bad spot right now.
Here are some cards that can be good against Infect.
Our sideboard gameplan is to try and combo them ASAP. Since we have some interactive and hate cards to bring in, I like cutting the Pact of Negations but keeping the Hive Mind combo as an additional way to combo kill them. Lands like Cavern of Souls and Radiant Fountain can come out.
Burn is a very good matchup for us. They don't really have any way to interact with Primeval Titan, and Radiant Fountain with bouncelands is a huge beating. They are able to do a lot of damage to us fairly early, but without a fetchland + shockland manabase we aren't helping them any and will likely have enough time to stabilize and win.
With no discard or countermagic we are free to do our own thing, which is much bigger and badder than their Goblin Guides.
Here are some cards that are good against the Burn deck.
Here is another match where we can cut the Hive Mind kill. They aren't really able to pay for the Pacts, but the rest of our strategy is already so good against them that I'm fine with cutting it. You could also just cut some of the utility lands and the non-green Pacts and keep Hive Mind as a way to kill them. I always cut the Mana Confluence as well so that there is never any temptation to take any damage from our own lands.
VS Amulet Bloom
The mirror match is really all about who can just combo faster and harder. Having double Amulet of Vigor so you can outright kill your opponent is the best way to pull ahead, although just getting the first Primeval Titan into play is more than enough, since you don't have to attack with it and can just get Simic Growth Chamber and Tolaria West and transmute for a Pact of Negation if you have the mana to pay for it.
To be honest, I haven't yet played the mirror, but it is something that I'm going to try and get some games in with this week.
Here are some cards that could be good against the mirror.
I honestly can't really think of anything else that would be good for the mirror. If anyone has any mirror technology, I would love to hear it!
VS G/R Tron
G/R Tron is coming back a bit with being pushed by players like Tom Ross and Owen Turtenwald. It generally has a pretty good matchup against the B/G/x decks, and with Pyroclasm and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon in the maindeck, it's got pretty good game against the Melira and Elves CoCo decks.
It's weak to Burn and Infect, but again, Infect is on the decline.
I think that Amulet Bloom is slightly favored against G/R Tron, but we still have to combo and hit hard and fast. Karn Liberated is tough to beat, so the goal is to get our gameplan online before they get a Karn into play.
Here are some cards that might be good against G/R Tron.
We don't really have much to bring in here since we mainly want to keep all of our combo-orientated cards. We're just trying to goldfish harder and faster than they are.
VS Jeskai Control
They have Path to Exile and a handful of countermagic, which can be problematic, but this is a matchup where Cavern of Souls really shines. They can't really afford to play Blood Moon in the sideboard since they have so many non-basic lands to fix their three-color manabase, which is good news for us!
Cards that are likely good against Jeskai Control:
Our goal in the sideboard games is to just abuse Cavern of Souls as much as we possibly can. If we are able to get a Primeval Titan onto the battlefield, the mana advantage that we gain will likely just be too much for them to overcome.
I like cutting the Hive Mind package here since they will likely have a lot of countermagic.
VS Delver (Grixis, U/R, Jeskai)
Delver decks are back in style, mainly due to the strength of the black cards that are now being played and their interaction with Thought Scour.
Kolaghan's Command, Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Gurmag Angler, Terminate, and discard spells highlight the Grixis Delver strategy. These cards are all great and give them game against most decks, but Primeval Titan is still a monster that requires immediate attention.
After sideboard, the Grixis decks might have Blood Moon, so we have to plan accordingly.
U/R Delver isn't as popular, but with everyone jumping on the Blood Moon wagon as of late, this is the best Delver/Blood Moon deck I think. They don't have any way to interact with a Primeval Titan outside of Vapor Snag, and Hive Mind is dead on the spot.
Jeskai Delver is more of a Geist of Saint Traft deck that happens to have Delver of Secrets in it. Likely no Blood Moons here, since having access to all three colors is extremely important, but they will have access to Snapcaster Mage and Path to Exile, which means the games might just turn into a grind.
Here are some cards that will likely be good against the Delver decks:
Thankfully, none of the Delver decks can really beat a Hornet Queen in addition to Thragtusk and Primeval Titan being difficult to handle. I like to take out the Hive Mind package here so that we can just grind our opponents out. We have to be wary of Blood Moon, but outside of that I feel like we are very well set up against these styles of decks.
This weekend is the Season Two Invitational. It's the first time we've had Modern as a format at an Invitational, and I have grown to love playing Amulet Bloom. There are so many different lines of play that getting in as many reps with the deck as you can is really the best way to learn it and get better at it, but I hope that also having a resource like this will help anyone who is working on the deck currently.
I'm not quite 100% on my decks for this weekend, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if you saw me casting Amulet of Vigor.
For a little something extra, I recorded myself playing in a four round Modern Daily event along with a deck tech that you can check out here. Below is the list that I used in the daily.
See everyone this weekend in Columbus!