Team Handshake's Amalia Combo Deck for Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor - Deck Tech | Magic: The Gathering


The one simple trick everyone needs to know to win with Amalia ... is practice.

Joking aside, Amalia is a lot of fun for players like me because it has so much intricacy and depth to it. Decks that don’t just play four copies of nine different cards are more fun for me by nature because they involve more variability.

At Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor, Christoffer Larsen, Karl Sarap, and myself all decided to play Amalia (the superior Vampire deck). While we disagreed a little on some of the last few flex slots, most of our lists were very much in step with each other. Since Chris finished in the highest position (3rd/4th), let's use his list as a basis for where people should start with the deck.

Christoffer Larsen's Amalia Combo Decklist from Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor

Creatures

1 Haywire Mite
2 Selfless Savior
3 Lunarch Veteran
Cenote Scout
Wildgrowth Walker
3 Fauna Shaman
4 Prosperous Innkeeper
4 Amalia Benavides Aguirre
1 Extraction Specialist
1 Skyclave Apparition
1 Sentinel of the Nameless City

Instants

4 Chord of Calling
2 Collected Company

Sorceries

1 Thoughtseize
Return to the Ranks

Artifacts

Aetherflux Reservoir

Lands

Plains
Mana Confluence
Razorverge Thicket
Blooming Marsh
Scattered Groves
Temple Garden
Godless Shrine
Overgrown Tomb
Boseiju, Who Endures
Takenuma, Abandoned Mire


Sideboard

1 Selfless Savior
1 Knight of Dusk's Shadow
1 Archon of Emeria
2 Sentinel of the Nameless City
2 Loran of the Third Path
1 Thrun, Breaker of Silence
2 Tamiyo's Safekeeping
2 Fatal Push
2 Thoughtseize
1 Painful Truths

Of course, the Pioneer metagame has continued to shift since the Pro Tour. Especially since Channel Fireball (that very talented, good looking group of individuals) broke it with their Rakdos Vampires list. To give you the best content I can think of, I figure I should go through each piece of the deck so you both know how it works and how to adapt it as the metagame shifts following the Pro Tour!

Amalia Combo explained | MTG Pioneer

Let me start by explaining the combo briefly for the unintiated. You have Amalia, Wildgrowth Walker, and a gain life trigger about to happen. This is what initiates the loop. Amalia explores, which triggers Wildgrowth Walker to gain life, which triggers Amalia to explore. These events would keep repeating except for the clause Amalia has - that when it reaches 20 power it destroys all other creatures. That shuts off the Wildgrowth Walker side of the chain. Interestingly enough, if you somehow bypass Amalia going to 20 power or give the Wildgrowth Walker indestructible, the loop continues indefinitely which causes the game to end in a draw. This notably led to a semi-finals game 7 in the top 4 of Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor for what I believe was the first time ever.

Amalia Benavides AguirreWildgrowth WalkerProsperous Innkeeper

I'll talk about some card choices that stand out from previous Amalia lists.

Amalia Combo: Key cards | MTG Pioneer

  • Haywire Mite: This is a card I can see a lot of people cutting because they do not understand its place. Let me establish a baseline example so we can look back to it as it comes up again later. Amalia explores, which triggers Wildgrowth Walker to gain life, which triggers Amalia to explore. The opponent, being awake and all, sees they have a removal spell. They can take the Amalia out of play or the Wildgrowth Walker. Either one shuts off our combo loop. However Haywire Mite has a clause that gains 2 life upon death, which can be performed in response to an opponent’s response, which will again trigger the combo to go off in response to the original spell. This acts as a shield to disruption while also being a flexible target for Chord of Calling. While you may sideboard it out in several matches, it's advisable to keep it in the main deck.
  • Selfless Savior: This one has impressed me more and more. Originally one copy made it into these lists to abuse the loop so you could force a draw against a bad matchup. It turns out it is a great card that helps cast Return to the Ranks or Chord of Calling. It protects the combo pieces and is excellent on curve. It is a hit for a Collected Company, comes back with Return to the Ranks and is even a death trigger when you need one if you have a flipped Lunarch Veteran out (this comes in very handy letting you trigger your combo against Elesh Norn). Against Red-based removal it is so good we determined a third copy should go in the sideboard to increase our density of this card. While not a great card against decks like Lotus Field, those matchups already tend to be good enough that we can hold this type of card to pitch to a Fauna Shaman if drawn.
  • Three copies of Lunarch Veteran: While many people play stock lists of four copies across the board. Amalia can be triggered by several other methods in this deck. It was determined that 7 instances of lifegain effects was more than sufficient for the deck. Having Prosperous Innkeeper produce a Treasure token as well as being Green for convoking Chord of Calling meant it was the better one to keep in.
  • Two Cenote Scout: I played four at one point. When it explores into a land on turn 1 it feels like the best card ever. When it’s a one mana 2/2 (once upon a time a great rate) it feels a little underpowered with the current power level of Pioneer. However, it is a Green creature for convoking Chord of Calling. The most important aspect of this card is for when you have Wildgrowth Walker and Amalia already on the table without a Prosperous Innkeeper or similar effect. You can then Chord for Cenote Scout to trigger an explore trigger, setting off the Wildgrowth Walker and creating the loop with Amalia. Notably, Christoffer Larsen had drawn his Cenote Scout already and had boarded out the second copy in the top 4 of the Pro Tour. He then found himself in a position where he would have won if he had one copy still in the deck, ultimately tragically losing because it was sitting in the sideboard.
  • Fauna Shaman: This was the real innovation I was able to bring to the Amalia deck. It was not on the map for others and I quickly found out just how important it was to the deck. Amalia decks require Amalia to do anything and with only four copies and only four Chord of Calling to directly find it. There would be lots of games where the deck would fizzle on its own because the Amalias would decide to hide in the bottom of the deck (not very vampirely of them). Fauna Shaman brought extra redundancy and improved the Collected Company hits that weren’t very statistically high at hitting Amalias themselves. We calculated that Collected Company was approximately 40% to hit Amalia or a Fauna Shaman to find it after including those.
  • Scattered Groves: Karl Sarap insisted we include this one. I’ll admit I was overly skeptical of its inclusion. Putting a come into play tapped land into a deck that was powerful because of its speed seemed a little suspicious. After testing with it I cannot believe I almost didn’t play it. The ability to explore into it mid combo, respond mid loop to the explore triggers with cycling to draw the desired card, then continue looping was a huge boon through the Pro Tour. This allowed you to find the necessary disruption spell or anti-disruption spell. Sometimes even finding the Aetherflux Reservoir and just winning on the same turn you start your loop. Basically, do not cut this card and thank Karl when you see him.

Haywire MiteCenote ScoutScattered Groves

Amalia Combo: Sideboard | MTG Pioneer

For sideboarding tips, remember that Collected Company needs a high concentration of creatures it can catch in order to be effective. If you are boarding in all your spells you need to sideboard out Collected Company even if you really like the card. I think 20 hits is a minimum, 24 an average, and 26-28 ideal. Thoughtseize is naturally better on the draw than it is on the play because Thoughtseize can be a catch-up card but it’s a neutral one-for-one in terms of card advantage. If you spend too much time being reactive with Amalia instead of proactively setting up the combo, you can give many Pioneer decks too much time to catch up to you.

Tamiyo’s Safekeeping is an impressively versatile card. In testing we joked about targeting our lands that were being targeted by Field of Ruin. While this didn’t actually happen at all for us on the Pro Tour, this card came in very handy in many other spots. It’s important to remember the life gain part of this can trigger the combo again, in the same way we were using Haywire Mite before. I would often board this in in place of an Innkeeper effect since it doubled as a loop initiator.

A last little tidbit for our readers is the sideboard Thrun. Know that people are expecting to fight off a Aetherflux Reservoir after you combo. Some of my Azorious control opponents even let me start my loop because they knew it would kill off some of my excess creatures and they planned to easily deal with a 21/21 creature. They would hold up Dovin’s Veto for the Reservoir for the rest of the game if need be and not overly mind. So the plan was to hopefully explore into Takenuma, then when exploring stop on a Thrun instead of digging to Reservoir. This let our follow up play be a card that was extremely hard for them to answer and if they managed to answer it we could immediately get it back and play it again. This required them to answer the huge Amalia and then have double sweeper effects for our Thrun. All my opponents were unable to provide the answers to that puzzle and I believe Chris had similar luck with this strategy against Azorious control players.

Conclusion

If you’ve read through all this and internalized it. You’re probably ready to take Amalia out for a spin. Remember that the first mulligan is almost free. Don’t play scared. Be aggressive with your exploring. Maybe most importantly … just have fun.

Autor: Eli Kassis

Eli Kassis is a long-time mainstay of the Pro Tour and a member of Handshake Ultimate Guard. Eli has a particular excellence and appetite for exploring new territory in deckbuilding. Eli's teammates and opponents alike enjoy his company – even at the highest level of competition where stakes and emotions run high, Eli is a completely calming influence. You are statistically quite likely to lose to Eli if you play against him, but you will enjoy the experience, regardless of the result.