In Modern, the times of good blue cantrips have long been over. PonderPonder, PreordainPreordain and Gitaxian ProbeGitaxian Probe rest in peace on the ban list while the real MVPs in Ancient StirringsAncient Stirrings and Faithless LootingFaithless Looting continue to power up one busted synergy deck after another.
Yet people still cling to their bad blue cantrips in decks that should not touch those. In Modern, your mana in the early turns is very crucial, and if you aren’t using it optimally, you’re doing it wrong.
Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think UR Phoenix is a bad deck because it runs Serum VisionsSerum Visions or that it should cut the card. I think Phoenix is quite a good deck, and in that one specifically Serum VisionsSerum Visions isn’t just a cantrip that increases consistency, it’s also an enabler – a combo piece if you will – towards their strategy of chaining cantrips to power up their “spells matter”-cards.
Though I will say that even in that deck, despite the advantages of being more consistent and seeing your sideboard cards more often, you do run the risk of spinning cantrips into more cantrips and spend too much mana in the early game not developing or getting anywhere.

A switch to Bauble

The moment Grixis Shadow got it right

 

Mishra’s Bauble from Iconic MastersI remember a couple of years ago when Grixis Death’s ShadowDeath’s Shadow started to emerge as a real contender, I always scratched my head at the inclusion of Serum VisionsSerum Visions and the omission of Mishra’s BaubleMishra’s Bauble. After all, the Baubles had served me well in other Death’s ShadowDeath’s Shadow decks, and spending mana to just make your library a little smaller seemed out of character for a deck as focused on mana efficiency and optimization as Grixis Shadow.
I tried out Mishra’s BaubleMishra’s Bauble and liked them a decent amount. But ultimately, the deck wasn’t really my play style, so I moved off it before testing out that idea much.

These days it makes me happy that Grixis Shadow decks look like this:

Grixis Shadow by Ben Friedman

Creatures (17)
Death’s Shadow
Gurmag Angler
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
Snapcaster Mage
Street Wraith

Spells (26)
Dismember
Fatal Push
Inquisition of Kozilek
Mishra’s Bauble
Stubborn Denial
Temur Battle Rage
Thought Scour
Thoughtseize
Lands (17)
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Island
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Steam Vents
Swamp
Watery Grave

Sideboard (15)
Abrade
Collective Brutality
Disdainful Stroke
Engineered Explosives
Kolaghan’s Command
Leyline of the Void
Liliana, the Last Hope

This build was constructed by Ben Friedman and played by Sam Pardee to the finals of GP Calgary. As you can see, this list completely foregoes any copies of sorcery speed cantrips and instead sports the full set of Baubles, which in conjunction with fetchlands and Thought ScourThought Scour can still act as card selection. However, this comes at the cost of 0 mana which is, scientifically speaking, infinitely less than 1.
Earlier, whenever I’d play against Grixis Shadow, I’d always hope and pray that they spent their turn 1 doing something insignificant, like cast a Serum VisionsSerum Visions so that I could resolve my key spell, have my creature undisrupted and such.
Nowadays, basically nothing can happen on turn 1 that gives me relief. Either they will cast a discard spell and pick apart my great plans, or they’ll pass the turn, leaving up Stubborn DenialStubborn Denial or Fatal PushFatal Push with the option to Thought ScourThought Scour if they don’t need to interact. There’s no longer a good way for me to play with their mana because they no longer waste it on sorcery speed do-nothings.

The kanister philophy

A case for Serum Visions in Amulet Titan

Primeval Titan from Iconic Masters

Primeval Titan from Iconic Masters

Recently, the waves have been going high in the Amulet community. While Edgar Magalhaes and friends have spent month after month tuning the Amulet Titan builds over on the SCG circuit, Piotr “kanister” Glogowski has had other ideas. His career basically started with Amulet Titan, and now he has returned to the deck, determined to make it more consistent than before.
Kanisters idea of reintroducing Hive MindHive Mind has stuck on both sides, as it is currently the best flex slot to up your winrates against decks like Tron that can easily handle Primeval TitanPrimeval Titan. But his addition of Serum VisionsSerum Visions has sparked some controversy.
Kanister‘s argument is that Amulet Titan suffers from a lot of consistency issues. You only have 9 sources for turn 1 Sakura-Tribe ScoutSakura-Tribe Scout, and most of the time you’re at the mercy of how your draw pans out. Adding both Botanical SanctumBotanical Sanctum and Serum VisionsSerum Visions fixes these issues, at the cost of some tutor options for Tolaria WestTolaria West and Primeval TitanPrimeval Titan.
This is a list he advocated:

Amulet Titan by kanister

Creatures (10)
Azusa, Lost but Seeking
Primeval Titan
Sakura-Tribe Scout

Spells (22)
Ancient Stirrings
Serum Visions
Pact of Negation
Slaughter Pact
Summoner’s Pact
Amulet of Vigor
Coalition Relic
Hive Mind
Lands (28)
Bojuka Bog
Boros Garrison
Botanical Sanctum
Forest
Gemstone Mine
Golgari Rot Farm
Gruul Turf
Khalni Garden
Radiant Fountain
Selesnya Sanctuary
Simic Growth Chamber
Slayers’ Stronghold
Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion
Tolaria West
Vesuva

Sideboard (15)
Radiant Fountain
Coalition Relic
Cavern of Souls
Chameleon Colossus
Dismember
Engineered Explosives
Ghost Quarter
Hornet Queen
Ramunap Excavator
Reclamation Sage
Spell Pierce
Tireless Tracker

In order to make room for the extra cantrips, he cut down on the ramp spells, maindeck Engineered ExplosivesEngineered Explosives and Walking BallistaWalking Ballista. In order to fit the extra blue sources, he shaved a bounce land, a Forest and moved some utility lands to the sideboard.

I don’t doubt that this deck provides lots of games where you get to lead on Botanical SanctumBotanical Sanctum into Serum VisionsSerum Visions and your deck feels so much smoother, but I do have my gripes with this approach.

Public Service Announcement

Do NOT splash for Serum Visions

 Coalition Relic from Masters 25

Coalition Relic from Masters 25Since Amulet Titan is already interested in several copies of Simic Growth ChamberSimic Growth Chamber, Tolaria WestTolaria West and Gemstone MineGemstone Mine, adding Serum VisionsSerum Visions isn’t exactly a splash per se.

The presence of these lands is why you can so effortlessly slide Hive MindHive Mind into your deck.
For Serum VisionsSerum Visions, some of these blue sources might just be too slow. After all, if you don’t have Amulet of VigorAmulet of Vigor, Simic Growth ChamberSimic Growth Chamber won’t let you play Serum VisionsSerum Visions before turn 3, at which point, are you really that interested in cycling and scrying 2? How about if you consider that you could’ve just had a Coalition RelicCoalition Relic instead?
Because my main issue with the cantrip isn’t actually the mana base (you could make similar arguments for Sakura-Tribe ScoutSakura-Tribe Scout), it’s actually that you cut down on ramp spells in order to make room for it. How do you expect to be able to consistently find those crucial ramp spells in your top 3 cards when you already cut 3-4 copies of them? How about also getting to that bounce-land you shaved from the mana base? You can’t use Serum VisionsSerum Visions to get you everything you want.

I discussed in a recent article how I consider “consistency” to be essentially equal to speed. And with occasional inability to play Serum VisionsSerum Visions coupled with the overall reduction of ramp spells, I believe that Serum VisionsSerum Visions actually makes you less consistent.
I do realize that this a very controversial statement. Call it a hot take if you will. After all, people add Serum VisionsSerum Visions to make their decks more consistent. But I think that if adding the card is too much of a hurdle, draw a card and scry 2 simply doesn’t cut it. And I think this is one of those cases.

Also, any 1-of you cut will hamper the power level of the deck in certain match-ups. And Amulet Titan is a deck that can easily benefit from mulligans a lot (especially with open decklists and the London mulligan rule), but Serum VisionsSerum Visions will essentially be a surprise card in your opening hand, making it harder to justify whether or not you should actually keep.

I also like the white splash for sideboard cards, and the mana for that does get slightly worse if you also add the Serum VisionsSerum Visions. In this case, I will side with Edgar Magalhaes. My latest build of the deck happened to be very close to his, and I am quite content with this list.

Amulet Titan by Simon Nielsen

Creatures (13)
Sakura-Tribe Scout
Azusa, Lost but Seeking
Primeval Titan
Walking Ballista

Spells (19)
Amulet of Vigor
Ancient Stirrings
Coalition Relic
Hive Mind
Summoner’s Pact
Engineered Explosives
Pact of Negation
Lands (28)
Boros Garrison
Bojuka Bog
Forest
Gemstone Mine
Kabira Crossroads
Khalni Garden
Selesnya Sanctuary
Simic Growth Chamber
Slayers’ Stronghold
Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion
Tolaria West
Vesuva
Ghost Quarter
Botanical Sanctum

Sideboard (15)
Path to Exile
Negate
Emrakul, the Promised End
Ramunap Excavator
Reclamation Sage
Tireless Tracker
Pact of Negation
Engineered Explosives
Hornet Queen
Celestial Purge
Cavern of Souls

BUY DECK

Ultimately I decided that Amulet is a bit too medium to make up for how hard it is to play, so I abandoned it for the Mythic Championship which is happening this very weekend.
Instead I have settled on a new, exciting deck and I am both nervous and hopeful to play with it in this tournament. And no, that deck does not contain Serum VisionsSerum Visions!

 

This article was written by Simon Nielsen in a media collaboration with mtgmintcard.com