Saturday, I drove down to Worcester, MA with Nik and Tim to play my first Modern event in an exceptionally long time. The best part was that I was excited, like really excited. I hadn’t played much Magic since GP Providence with the exception of a single standard PPTQ–I 3-3’ed–and a handful of MTGO drafts in which I also did poorly. Not only was I about to play Modern, my favorite constructed format, but I was about to pick up Amulet Titan for the first time since Summer Bloom had been banned. I left the scraps of the deck together in a box just in case it became viable again and after watching Bobby Fortanely take the deck to a 12-3 finish at GP Vancouver, I decided the time was now.

Earlier in the week I proxied up the deck, goldfished some opening hands, and played a few games with Tim and Nik, on Jeskai Saheeli and Jund respectively. I was immediately reminded how difficult the deck was to play especially now without the oops-I-win value provided by Summer Bloom. Even with my subpar searches and haphazard decision trees, the deck still felt powerful and I took down a lot of the matches in initial testing. So I overnighted some Sakura-Tribe Scouts (no one I knew had these) and made exactly one change to Bobby’s seventy-five.

Amulet Titan

Lands (27)
Boros Garrison
Botanical Sanctum
Cavern of Souls
Gemstone Mine
Ghost Quarter
Gruul Turf
Khalni Garden
Radiant Fountain
Selesnya Sanctuary
Simic Growth Chamber
Slayers’ Stronghold
Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion
Tolaria West

Creatures (14)
Obstinate Baloth
Walking Ballista
Primeval Titan
Sakura-Tribe Scout
Azusa, Lost but Seeking

Spells (19)
Amulet of Vigor
Engineered Explosives
Pact of Negation
Summoner’s Pact
Ancient Stirrings
Serum Visions
Sleight of Hand
Sideboard (15)
Chalice of the Void
Hornet Queen
Obstinate Baloth
Reclamation Sage
Seal of Primordium
Pact of Negation
Swan Song
Melira, Sylvok Outcast
Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
Sigarda, Host of Herons
Bojuka Bog
Ghost Quarter

In case you don’t obsess over Amulet Titan lists, the change I made was to cut the Batterskull for a Walking Ballista, a piece of tech I picked up from MTGO user fbsson. The Ballista can be picked up via Ancient Stirrings and tutored for with Tolaria West. I imagined the card to be a flexible piece of removal for problematic planewalkers like Liliana of the Veil, hate bears, and could deal the last few elusive points of damage to the opponent. In practice, the card mostly felt clunky. There are certainly corner cases where you’d Tolaria West for the Ballista but for the most part you just want to search up Summoner’s Pacts and play more Titans or fetch Engineered Explosives to help clear out the board.

I put the deck together to play in the TJ’s Titanium series, which ended up being an eight round affair with more than 200 players signed up for the main event. I sat down round one feeling reasonably prepared—I even brought my notebook alongside my Boogie Board to keep accurate notes for writing a report. Turns out I wouldn’t need it. My opponent, a guy named Mike, was on Ad Nauseam. Game one, I durdled with some bounce lands and he killed me. Game two, I’m slightly faster but not as fast as him and die promptly on turn four.

I compose myself after the round, after all it’s something like a 20-80 match-up for Amulet and these things happen.

Round two, I lose to a nice guy named Ben on Merfolk. The games are close and came down to me fetching a Cavern of Souls to play around countermagic instead of an Engineered Explosives to manage the board. I made the wrong choice.

I compose myself again, 0-2 is not a good place to start but I’ve rattled seven round wins before at GP Pittsburgh after starting 0-2.

Round three, I sat across from a guy named Jacob. On turn two, he Busts one of my bounce lands and then plays Blood Moon. I know in my brain’s heart that this tournament just shifted into shitty. I play out the round but given that I can never beat Blue Moon, I lose, sign the slip, and check the drop box.

Afterward I just felt dumb. Dumb for not testing more. Dumb for playing this deck at all when clearly it was not well positioned. Dumb for playing $50 and driving to Worcester when I could have stayed in bed and aimed that money toward a glorious brunch.

When it became clear that my friends were in contention for prizes and that I couldn’t just leave, I signed up for the rebound event. It was $15 and if you won at least two rounds you got 15 packs, which seemed real to me after already being down on the day.

Round one, I sat down and promptly lose to Ad Nauseam again. My opponent actually said something along the lines of “What are you playing? I had no idea what you were doing.” Certainly nothing that can interact with Ad Nauseaum and Angel’s Grace.

Then something happened, I had two actual matches, both against Grixis Control. While I think Amulet is favored in these matchups, it’s certainly not a slam dunk—like say, Blue Moon against Amulet Titan. The games were dynamic, with actual decisions to make, counters to play around, life totals to manage, and Titans to chain together. I managed to 4-0 these games and finish with a consolation prize of two match wins (good for exactly 6 Planeswalker Points thanks to that 1x Multiplier) and a few draft sets to crack before Modern Masters comes out.

My two match wins had salvaged my day, leaving me with the feeling that this whole thing hadn’t been a waste of time. Moreover, the experience left me wanting more. To play more, to write more, to travel more. I certainly want to try out a few other decks before Modern season officially begins but this year I plan on being ready.

In terms of Magic, Shawn Massak is a Modern enthusiast, with a penchant for tier two decks, counterspells, and pre Eighth Edition frames. In terms of life, Shawn lives in Brighton, MA where he works as an employment coordinator for people with disabilities, plays guitar in an indie-pop band, and spends his free time reading comics, complaining about pro-wrestling, and wishing his apartment allowed dogs as pets.

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