When you set goals for yourself and work hard towards them, it's only natural to assume that once you achieve those goals that you will be satisfied. That your hunger for what you set out to accomplish would be satiated and you would feel full.
The fact of the matter is that tastes change over time, and once you taste the sweet fruits of your labor it only makes you want more.
Last weekend I finally accomplished something that I set as a goal for myself beginning with last year. I have wanted to Top Eight an Invitational for so long. I have battled in many Opens and Invitationals over the years. I have numerous Top Eights and wins on the Open Series. But when it came to the sixteen-round split-format Invitational, I always fell short.
The more likely story that you would hear would be about how CVM bricked out of another Invitational and then crushed the Standard or Legacy Open that same weekend.
Going into the Season Two Invitational, I already knew which Modern deck I was going to be on. I have been quite vocal about just how busted I feel that Amulet Bloom is and even wrote an extensive article last week about matchups and sideboard options. There are already so many cards you're locked into playing that you can't really innovate too much with the list. Figuring out the 58th-60th cards in the maindeck and having the right sideboard configuration is definitely important, but much less so than actually getting the reps in with the deck and learning all of the sequences.
At this point, I've played a lot of Amulet Bloom and I still find myself missing things. In game two against Josh Ravitz I just flat-out missed lethal by locking myself into activating my Slayers' Stronghold (copied by Vesuva) twice on autopilot when I didn't need to. Against Ali Aintrazi, in our marathon game two, I could have simply bounced my Slayers' Stronghold the turn he ticked up his Karn Liberated to give myself a chance to win, or even simply copyied it with my Vesuva a billion turns earlier rather than copy a Boros Garrison.
Some big misakes, some small, Amulet Bloom is a rare type of deck that will reward you for playing it flawlessly but punish you severely for misplaying. I think that's what drew me to the deck. Well, that and the fact that you get to attack with Primeval Titan on turn two a downright unhealthy amount of the time.
That being said, here is the list that I played for Modern in the Season Two Invitational.
I was very happy with the list and will likely be playing something very near it this coming weekend at GP Charlotte. With the results of the Season Two Invitational and Modern Open in Columbus showing the world that G/R Tron and Amulet Bloom are real decks that plan on taking over the format, I expect there to be a slight reaction. Thankfully, outside of Ghost Quarter the cards that attack G/R Tron effectively aren't that big of a deal for us. Blood Moon is our biggest issue but G/R Tron can beat that card quite easily, so I don't really see that being the card of choice. Cards like Sowing Salt and Stony Silence are great against G/R Tron but quite bad against Amulet Bloom.
Here are some of the changes I have in mind that I will be working on for Charlotte:
First off, I think that I want a second basic land in the deck. Ghost Quarter is going to be seeing much more play, and I would like to have some extra “insurance” against it. It's not something that's going to make the card bad against us, but it will still allow us to actually try and put together a game-plan when we're getting Ghost Quartered. I'm not sure if it should be a Forest or an Island though. If it's a second Forest it will let us still Primeval Titan under a Blood Moon, but if it's an Island it will let us Serum Visions under a Blood Moon.
It's possible that the second Cavern of Souls is the slot for this second basic land. I don't really think that we can cut any of our true five-color lands, and all of the other utility lands serve specific purposes while the second Cavern of Souls is just insurance against control decks.
Another option is to just play a 28th land like Tariq Patel did with his Amulet Bloom deck. The problem with going down this route is that it cuts into my second change.
While playing throughout the tournament, there were quite a few times that I was one mana short of doing some pretty broken things. In matchups where I'm trying to combo off before they can do anything, like in the mirror or against G/R Tron, I wished that I had access to Simian Spirit Guide. It's also good against Ghost Quarter in tandem with the second basic land as it just helps our game-plan of getting to six mana.
I've played Simian Spirit Guide before and was unhappy with it, but I think that it's likely needed as we move forward. We can always just side it out against the grindy decks when we go with our creature package, so my prior dislike can be mitigated here.
The morning of the tournament, I had a Sigarda, Host of Herons in my sideboard and a Ghost Quarter in my maindeck as a 28th land but ended up changing that at the last minute. I had been wanting to try out Dragonlord Dromoka and my gut said that there could possibly be a bunch of different Delver decks. With that in mind, I ended up cutting the Sigarda and moved the Ghost Quarter to the sideboard and put a Dragonlord Dromoka into the maindeck.
I sided it out against almost every deck and never actually cast it.
I didn't play against any Delver decks, which obviously correlates to my experience with the card, but even still I think that a Primeval Titan is going to be just as good and Hive Mind will usually just kill them anyway.
Dragonlord Dromoka can become a Simian Spirit Guide, but I don't want to run just one. I think two or three is going to be the right number, so we have to figure out what else to cut. I think that an Azusa, Lost but Seeking can potentially go, but outside of that I'm stumped. I don't really want to cut a Serum Visions or an Ancient Stirring and the numbers on everything else are pretty stuck.
Maybe 61 cards? I doubt it.
As for the sideboard, I think that we want Sigarda back. She's probably just as good as the third Thragtusk. Although I would much rather have the five life against Burn, having a Hexproof threat against G/R Tron is pretty valuable since they can't really remove it outside of an Oblivion Stone or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, and it's still a great threat against the B/G/X decks.
Tariq Patel had a full set of Ratchet Bombs in his sideboard, which does seem quite interesting. It can be played proactively against a Blood Moon and can even get onto the battlefield after they land one. It's also decent as a way to sweep all of the two-drops out of Jund and can be used effectively against something like Affinity or G/W Hexproof. It's very similar to Engineered Explosives, except that we need to play them in multiples since we can't tutor for it with Tolaria West like we can with Engineered Explosives.
It's important to note that neither Tariq nor I had Swan Song still in our sideboard, which is one of the few cards that can be used to interact in the mirror since it can counter a Summer Bloom. It's important to note that dying to the 2/2 Swan Token is a reality though, since the games that don't involve putting a Primeval Titan onto the battlefield in the first few turns are usually long grind-fests.
One thing that I do want to try is Goblin Rabblemaster in the sideboard. This seems like a pretty sweet way to combat Blood Moon in decks that aren't Splinter Twin. A three-drop red threat could give us some insurance against Blood Moon, and it might even prove itself useful against control decks if they happen to start cropping back up.
I played Chromatic Lantern as a way to combat Blood Moon, but thankfully I never had a Blood Moon put onto the battlefield against me. I can imagine that moving forward we're going to see it more often, so having a plan for the card is going to be quite important.
I also played Chalice of the Void in my sideboard, which is think is going to be necessary for Charlotte. With Amulet Bloom and G/R Tron doing so well and putting some pressure on the Jund and Collected Company decks, I think that there is a window for Infect to try and make a run for it at Charlotte. Infect is pretty favored against both G/R Tron and Amulet Bloom, and I like having access to Chalice of the Void against them.
I'm not quite sure what list I'm going to go with exactly for Charlotte, but I do plan on continuing to work with Amulet Bloom, at least until they finally ban Summer Bloom.
As for the Standard portion, I was considering both G/R Dragons and G/R Devotion for the event. I knew that Brad and BBD had been working on the Devotion deck, and I had been putting in some work with G/R Dragons, but ultimately ended up on the same 75 as the two of them.
- 3 Deathmist Raptor
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 3 Genesis Hydra
- 2 Hornet Queen
- 4 Rattleclaw Mystic
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 4 Whisperwood Elemental
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 3 Dragonlord Atarka
- 3 Polukranos, World Eater
My thought process for deciding to playing G/R Devotion over Dragons was as follows.
- Both G/R Dragons and G/R Devotion have good game against Abzan Control, however G/R Devotion is better-positioned against them.
- Both are poorly positioned against U/B Control and Esper Dragons, but I felt that the Abzan decks were pushing those decks out.
- G/R Dragons is better against Atarka Red than G/R Devotion, but not by much
I felt that the top three decks for the event were going to be Abzan, Atarka Red, and G/R Dragons. The standard build of G/R Dragons (Courser/Caryatid) is very hard to find edges against in the straight-up mirror. Draconic Roar and Roast are quite bad, and playing cards like Arbor Colossus without something like Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx to take advantage of it just isn't good enough.
Basically, I didn't want to cannibalize my G/R Dragons sideboard to prepare for the mirror when I could play a deck like G/R Devotion that's comparable against the rest of the field (possibly even better if Abzan shows up in droves) and is already good against G/R Dragons on the merits of having more Dragonlord Atarkas, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx's explosiveness, and the almost-unbeatable Hornet Queen.
Plus, I would get to play Hornet Queen in both formats!
I was buzzed about that.
It's a pretty lengthy thought process, but I felt like it all made sense.
Brad did have to go and win the SSL the week before with his deck, so there were a lot of G/R Devotion decks. Thankfully I was pretty lucky and only got paired against it twice and managed to scrape by with a 1-1 record by beating Brad in a 75 card mirror match where some great luck and a slip-up by him gave me the game. The mirror felt just as bad as the G/W Devotion mirror from GP Miami. The die roll, and just having an Elvish Mystic, is so important.
That being said, if you're not battling Modern in Charlotte this weekend for the Grand Prix, I wholeheartedly endorse this deck. I mean, did you see me get to Genesis Hydra for 22 against Brad? It's pretty fun!
As I alluded to at the beginning of this article, finally reaching my goal of getting into the Top Eight of an Invitational was quite sweet, but it left me wanting more. When the finals was over and I had been swept by Ali, all I wanted to do was make some changes to my deck and play in another tournament. I'm sad that I didn't win, but I'm not sad about getting second place.
I'm hungry for first.
See you all in Charlotte!