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There are two format-warping forces in THB limited:
- The Graveyard
Traveler’s Amulet is a colorless way to simultaneously take advantage of both these forces. It is a strong addition to most decks in the format. In this article, I will explain to you why Traveler’s Amulet is a powerful card in the format, I will go over some deckbuilding costs the card has, and I will show you what kinds of decks do and don’t want the card.
Oh, and the title of this article? Golden Egg was in a similar position at the beginning of the Throne of Eldraine draft format — just a bit unloved considering all the little things it did in the format context.
With escape being the key mechanic of the format, the graveyard is an extra resource that generates card advantage in Theros Beyond Death. This creates a format warping effect around it. Traveler’s Amulet lets you stock your graveyard early and cheaply without losing card advantage. Thus, the card essentially becomes a 1.2-1.33 for 1.
Amulet can also be a much better topdeck than a land in the late game since it can immediately be that third or fourth card you need to be able to unlock an escape creature in your yard. There aren’t many ways to discard your own lands to help fuel escape late, and amulet helps you get around this issue slightly.
Not only does it help you fuel your graveyard for escape, it also helps you splash for ways of interacting with your opponent’s graveyard. Here is a list of all the cards that interact with your opponent’s graveyard in a relevant fashion:
Most of these are not cards you want to splash. Return to Nature and Erebos’s Intervention are the only cards I’m happy to splash, but there can be some very grindy games in this draft format that may cause you to reconsider a card like Agonizing Remorse, Cling to Dust, or Scavenging Harpy on the splash postboard. Pharika’s Spawn, specifically, can be unbeatable in some matchups, and having access to ways to remove it completely from the game can be the key to winning an otherwise mostly unwinnable matchup.
Amulet is a solid pickup in draft that leaves these options open for you.
Many of the bombs/very strong rares in this format almost all have the same interesting feature – they are not very splashable. Quite a few of the strongest cards in the format are double-pipped cards, meaning that splashing them is not doable unless you are going very deep with Ilysian Caryatids. Another feature of powerful rares in this set is that some of them are really only very strong if they are being played on curve, which means they are not so good on the splash. Here are examples of some cards that fall in either of those categories:
Although this is a little off topic to the rest of the article, I do want to note that this high density of non-splashable bomb-level cards makes it even more important to find the open lane in your draft. Being able to put yourself in the best position to pick up one of these cards in pack 3 or mid pack 2 is going to set your draft decks up for success to maximize their power level. Make sure to be reading the signals as best you can to find the underdrafted colors.
There are some multi-colored rares that are splashable and some other powerful proactive rares/uncommons that are going to be worth splashing if you can support them. I am going to list some of those cards here.
Traveler’s Amulet lets you play this second grouping of cards a little more frequently than you normally would be able to. Keep this in mind during your drafts.
As you can see, this format is full of backbreaking cards that leave you at a loss when you don’t have a way to deal with them. Luckily, almost every bomb in this format has a clean, single-color-pipped answer to it at common. There are also many cards at higher rarities that can deal with opposing bombs.
Drafting Traveler’s Amulet lets you pick some of these cards up as realistic sideboard options (if they aren’t your main colors) when the necessity arises. This format is extremely deep on playables — as the last couple formats have been — which makes your sideboard a much more important tool in draft than it has been in the past.
How Many Amulets Should I play?
I think the perfect number of Traveler’s Amulets is two. You can cut lands one-for-one with amulets up until that point. Anything lower than 15 lands, you are increasing your risk of having no land openers too much (Frank Karsten can do the math on this one).
Having a one-land opener with an amulet is functionally similar to having a two-land opener if your deck’s gameplan is not dependent on getting on the board early. I can see going up to three amulets if you are going deep on splashing in a multicolor green build.
What About Altar of the Pantheon?
Altar of the Pantheon is a perfectly reasonable card to play, but for different reasons than the amulet. The pantheon helps enable devotion payoffs while simultaneously ramping you and splashing. Conversely, the amulet enables escape payoffs while giving you a small amount of card advantage.
I have not found ramp to be an effective strategy in this format – it is much more about card advantage than sticking the biggest threat. Theros has many high-toughness creatures which make it harder for bigger creatures to get profitable trades in.
How Highly Should I Be Picking This Card in Draft?
To answer this question, let’s break down the 10 two color pairs, plus the other archetypes I have witnessed into groups that 1) Don’t want amulet, 2) Don’t mind amulet, or 3) Really like amulet. I will note, this is not an exhaustive lists of viable archetypes in this format – the format is still new, so there will surely be other draftable archetypes that pop up.
Don’t Want Amulet
W/R Heroic Aggro
R/x Aggro (mostly mono red)
Don’t Mind Amulet
These decks wouldn’t mind it in the deck, but wouldn’t miss it if it weren’t there.
U/R Spells on Your Opponent’s Turn
Really Like Amulet
These decks would actively miss amulet if it were not in the deck.
This list shows us that the format is kind of split 50/50 between archetypes that want amulet and those that don’t.
We can expect any particular draft to have around 2-3 of any given common. So seeing that about half the decks don’t want to miss out on this card, but the power level of amulet is not high, I would say we want to pick it somewhere in the 5-7th pick range. It really depends on how your draft has started, and the power level of the other cards in the pack and also how highly others are evaluating this card.
Currently, Traveler’s Amulet is consistently tabling and is a card you can get in the 10-12th pick range. I think we should be bumping it up a bit.
Traveler’s Amulet is Not Free!
Traveler’s Amulet has some serious deckbuilding costs associated with it, and I am going to go over them with you.
Amulet can suck up mana in the early game
Amulet costs 2 total mana to get value out of it, split between its casting cost and activation cost.
There are some decks that want to get on the board very early in this format, namely the WR/WU “white weenie” decks that are playing Sentinel’s Eyes and Pious Wayfarers to get on the early beats, and taking a turn off is not what these decks want to be doing. If you are a hyper-aggressive white deck, then you should probably not be playing amulet in your deck.
Many of the decks in this format are playing a grindy card advantage based game plan. All the black-based decks utilize the graveyard to generate card advantage, and amulet is a perfect addition to these decks.
Green also has Loathsome Chimera & Voracious Typhon as strong escape creatures and it also has Omen of the Hunt and Ilysian Caryatid, which allow you to splash other colors with very little deckbuilding cost.
You may be asking, “Why do I want to play amulet in a deck that is already good at splashing without it?” Good question! In general, cards that help you splash are usually doing just that – helping you splash. You are sacrificing card advantage with the hopes that your powerful cards you are splashing are going to overcome that deficit.
Traveler’s Amulet lets you keep a higher density of impactful spells in your deck because it is replacing itself and will be usually taking up the spot of a land in your deck. It is also fueling escape for the common green creatures you will find in virtually every green deck in the format. You will have less air in your Gx decks because of the amulet.
Amulet is a poor midgame topdeck when you are specifically looking for an untapped land
This is probably the single biggest reason that has held Traveler’s Amulet back in other formats from being a Good+ card. This downside is mitigated by amulet’s late game strength. Amulet is a much much stronger topdeck in the late game in Theros than a land because it gets itself in the graveyard. It then fuels escape, which is something topdecked lands cannot do. It can be the difference between having a game-winning threat on the battlefield instead of it being locked in your yard.
Traveler’s Amulet is a card that is doing a lot of small things that add up to make it a stronger-than-it-seems card in this format. It fuels your graveyard for escape, while allowing you to splash ways to interact with your opponent’s graveyard. It lets you splash powerful cards while also splashing ways to deal with those powerful cards. The drawbacks of amulet are a little less pronounced in a format that can be as grindy as this one.
This card is by no means a first pickable card, but you are probably underrating its power currently, and you should probably be taking it higher in draft than you are.
Hopefully this article not only brought you more awareness to the strength of Traveler’s Amulet, but to what some of my big picture takeaways about THB limited have been so far. Happy drafting!