Between rounds, Stephen Speck approached me and said, “Please stop pairing me against Twin. It’s been three in a row!” He said, “I can beat any other deck in the format!” So, because it’s clearly within my power to make such things real, I made sure Speck was paired against Pascal Maynard, piloting Splinter Twin.
This is a rematch from the semifinals of Grand Prix Omaha. Speck lamented, “I got my fair hands out of the way against you in Omaha, so now I’ll get my unfair ones.” He laughed.
Speck is on the same deck from Omaha, Amulet Bloom. Now the Amulet hipster—as the player who Top 8’ed with it before the Pro Tour—Speck knows this deck inside and out. It aims to do the most silly things capable in Modern—like a turn-one Primeval Titan—but it’s more-common turn-four Primeval Titan is often good enough.
Maynard has kept his colors from Omaha, but swapped the archetype—replacing his aggressive Goblin Guide–fueled Delver deck with Splinter Twin. Maynard is currently playing for his fourth Grand Prix Top 8 in a row. And the last one, in Mexico City, Maynard just flat-out won.
Speck is less experienced, but is no slouch either. He just started playing competitive Magic in September, and he’s now playing for his second Top 8.
This match-up comes down to some key cards. The first is Blood Moon. A resolved Blood Moon usually spells lights out for the basically mono-non-basic-land Amulet Bloom. The second is, well, Primeval Titan or Hive Mind—assuming it gets accelerated the way Speck intends. That will also likely put Maynard’s lights out.
So many players play Amulet Bloom in hopes of seeing the magic. In game one, we got to feel the rush. Steven Speck was enthralled.
On the play, Speck removed Simian Spirit Guide to cast Amulet of Vigor. Then he played Simic Growth Chamber and untapped it, and tapped again for two mana before bouncing it back to his hand. He played a Summer Bloom and re-laid the Growth Chamber three times in a row, netting two mana each go-round.
With the six mana he cast Primeval Titan. On turn one. When it came down, it fetched a Boros Garrison and a Slayers' Stronghold. Thanks to the Amulet of Vigor untap, Speck gave his Titan +2/+0 and haste. He rumbled in for 8, and threatened to kill the next turn by fetching Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion.
“You’re at 12,” Speck said as he passed. Then Pascal Maynard got his first turn. He was real mad.
“Draw a card . . . and I will scoop.” That was game one.
Having learned about this deck in his last Top 8, Maynard had a strong sideboard strategy. Out went two Snapcaster Mage, Mountain, four Lightning Bolts, Grim Lavamancer and Electrolyze. In came Ancient Grudge, two Spreading Seas, two Blood Moon, Dispel, Negate, Spellskite, Vendilion Clique.
If he can resolve the Blood Moon, he could take this match with aplomb.
“I’ll play, so that I have a chance of winning,” Maynard said. “This time, I kind of know what your cards do,” he said to Speck. They both laughed.
Maynard countered Speck’s Summer Bloom while getting a Maynard got a Pestermite on the board. Maynard then bounced the Seal of Primordium with the Cryptic Command and landed the all-important Blood Moon. Nary a Forest in sight, Speck had no mana to replay the only card that could kill the red enchantment.
So instead of dying to “infinite faeries,” Speck committed seppuku with the Pact.
Pascal evened up the scores.
Both decks got to showcase their optimal plays in the match up, so what would happen in the third game? Well, folks, if it’s once in a blue moon when Amulet Bloom presents an unstoppable kill in a match, what’s it called when it happens twice?
Speck hit the top of his library hard before his first card. When he did, he went wide-eyed and his hands started shaking.
On Speck’s second turn, after a first-turn Amulet Bloom, he laid a Simic Growth Chamber and cast Summer Bloom. Maynard knew better and had a Spell Snare ready. But Speck also knew better and countered it with Pact of Negation. The Bloom resolved, netting six mana, and Speck had a Hive Mind and a Summoner's Pact. The Hive Mind gave a copy of the Pact to Maynard, and on his upkeep he couldn’t pay the piper.
Speck relished a moment that might never happen again.
“Is this real life?!” Speck exclaimed. He was ecstatic. Even one of the game’s most experienced Amulet Bloom players had not seen a match like this in a long time. It was very clear Maynard hadn’t either.
Both players were pretty astonished, but Speck was on the happier part of the astonishment. He started laughing uncontrollably. No one around could blame him. With this miraculous win, he was a virtual lock for the Top 8.