Budget Amplifier Combo

Welcome to my first article on The Misplay Website! As alluded to in the previous Budget article, I will be giving you the breakdown of two ways to build Amplifier Combo for under 15k Shiftstone. I’ve played these lists for a total of ~60 ladder games and have had a blast!

Building on a budget is a topic that is near and dear to me. In both Magic and Eternal, I feel like a lot of my growth as a card game player has come from trying to use the cards that I already own in creative ways. I also like to build processes that allow me to learn the most from my experiences, even if my deck itself isn’t optimal. It is important to put yourself in a position so that once you have access to the cards for your optimal build, you already have the reps and foundation that will invoke the deck’s true potential.

Budget Menace Amplifier Combo

The first is something a little more traditional:

4 Bottled Insight (Set11 #97)
4 Hardiness (Set10 #93)
4 Overloader (Set10 #134)
4 Spiny Grenadin (Set11 #6)
3 Backlash (Set1 #200)
2 Beseech the Throne (Set9 #212)
4 Cull the Deck (Set4 #202)
4 Dark Wisp (Set1 #264)
4 Devour (Set1 #261)
4 Strategize (Set3 #165)
2 Pyrotech Explosion (Set10 #143)
4 Realign the Stars (Set10 #147)
2 Scheme (Set1 #213)
1 Diabolic Machinations (Set10 #317)
4 Lumen Shepherd (Set1 #117)
2 Fire Sigil (Set1 #1)
1 Primal Sigil (Set1 #187)
4 Shadow Sigil (Set1 #249)
2 Skycrag Banner (Set2 #186)
4 Seat of Chaos (Set0 #60)
4 Stonescar Painting (Set10 #176)
4 Feln Painting (Set10 #77)
4 Seat of Cunning (Set0 #62)
Possible changes:
  • You can swap some copies of Backlash for Tesseract’s Technique, if you are expecting less Exploits and Rain of Frogs. You can trade Tesseract’s Technique and Devour for 2 new cards in a pinch. Sometimes, another blocker is all you need.
  • I believe 4 copies between Beseech the Throne and Scheme is good. Dealer’s choice on how to split them.
  • You can play the 3rd Pyrotech Explosion or 1st Detonation Cannon if you want more early game interaction. It would probably be at the expense of a Scheme for power efficiency.

This list will have most games play out like traditional Menace Amplify Combo, which is either:

  1. When you have 7 power, just playing out Overloader and Diabolic Machinations.
  2. When you have 5 power, you can play Overloader, Hardiness, Diabolic Machinations (note they can kill your Overloader here, so do at your own risk). Another easy short cut is that you can substitute power 5 for a 2nd Hardiness.

Even though you play less Diabolic Machinations, you make up for it a little by being able to play cards that dig universally. Instead of playing Grenahen and Crafty Occultist (which are off limits due to being a part of a campaign), you have Cull the Deck and Scheme. These cards can get whatever piece you are missing, whether it is the Overloader, Diabolic Machinations (or Realign the Stars), or Hardiness (if you want to be explosive). Grenahen, in particular, misses quite a bit in Normal Amplify Combo and will only find Overloader.

One cool option is getting to play Spiny Grenadin. The Power Burst you get is appropriately named, as the burst of power can allow you to go off with either method a turn sooner. Keep your influence in mind, as typically you want FF P SSS to go off.

The advantage to this list is that you get to go off deterministically with Diabolic Machinations pretty often on turn 7 and still threaten it on turn 5. It also has pretty clear upgrades in the extra Diabolic Machinations and unlocking Stormbreak.

Budget Instinct Amplify Combo

However, this wouldn’t be a Watchwolf92 article if I didn’t give you a spicy list. What if instead of being traditional and budget, I just attack from a different angle. The opponent will look at my factions, think I’m playing some sort of budget Instinct Control list, and then I Amplify Combo them out. I present to you Budget Instinct Amplify Combo:

4 Bottled Insight (Set11 #97)
4 Hardiness (Set10 #93)
4 Overloader (Set10 #134)
4 Spiny Grenadin (Set11 #6)
2 Beseech the Throne (Set9 #212)
4 Powercell (Set10 #141)
4 Strategize (Set3 #165)
4 Temple Scribe (Set1 #502)
4 Twinning Ritual (Set1 #79)
4 Pinnacle of the Reach (Set10 #374)
2 Pyrotech Explosion (Set10 #143)
4 Realign the Stars (Set10 #147)
2 Turn Back Time (Set8 #48)
4 Wisdom of the Elders (Set1 #218)
1 Fire Sigil (Set1 #1)
2 Time Sigil (Set1 #63)
3 Primal Sigil (Set1 #187)
3 Praxis Painting (Set10 #142)
4 Seat of Impulse (Set0 #54)
4 Seat of Fury (Set0 #53)
4 Elysian Banner (Set1 #421)
4 Seat of Wisdom (Set0 #63)

To my knowledge, this is pretty uncharted waters. Instead of using Diabolic Machinations, I try to combo with two Overloaders every time. This is made easier with Twinning Ritual. You also have 8 ways to get Power Burst in Spiny Grenadin and Powercell. You need to get FF T P to go off (although Wisdom of the Elders and Temple Scribe require 2 of their faction if you are still getting the combo together).

Possible changes:
  • The main flex cards you can consider cutting are some Spiny Grenadin, Pinnacle of the Reach, the third Turn Back Time, Beseech the Throne, and Wisdom of the Elders.
  • Amber Lock was my last cut as I didn’t find myself cracking it as often as I would like, but it can help smooth out a less than stellar draw. I believe Pinnacle of the Reach is better, but if you fear the potential of your opponents, this could be a swap.
  • Valley-Clan Sage was in the first 40 games I played with this deck. Nothing feels better than having 100 power, no cards in hand with a Valley-Clan Sage out, knowing you are just going to win. If you think you can successfully get some blocks with it against aggro, be sure to get them back in.
  • Fire Sale is great when your opponents are playing a deck that can’t take advantage of all the extra power. It allows you to usually filter through your deck on turn 4 and go off on turn 5. I could not in good conscience post my final list with this card because I wouldn’t want someone trying the list for the first time to experience so much volatility in their games.
  • Celebration is okay if you want another cheap Amplify card. Play this after you play your Hardinesses, unless you are trying to play around fast spells killing you Overloaders. At the time of writing this, there is a bug where you can’t Realign the Stars for Celebration.
  • I suggest playing this list for 10-20 games before trying to make a change to see what you determine are the actual flex spots.

Other than the fact that I have achieved more turn 4 kills with this list than any of my other Amplify Combo list, I really enjoy that this deck trains you on how to go off without Diabolic Machinations (also known as manual mode).

Here’s the basic rundown:
  • Note: Try to get comfortable with doing the math and calculations. It’s a bit harder than the Diabolic Machinations kills. Try playing against Gauntlet bots and/or just doing some sample situations on a notebook before laddering.
  • The most basic way to win is to play two Overloaders, Hardiness, then either Pyrotech Explosion for lethal or Bottled Insight to get more power and find the kill.
  • Turn Back Time on Hardiness can profit power in some situations. You can sometimes end up in a cute spot where you play your first Hardiness, Realign the Stars for another Hardiness, Turn Back Time the Realign the Stars to get Pyrotech Explosion for the kill.
  • By not playing Diabolic Machinations, you can allow yourself to go down to a really low health total and still win the game in spots where Menace would struggle.
  • If you are going to lose and only found one Overloader, you still have a shot in a lot of games. You can run out the Overloader, Hardiness, then your Bottled Insight’s Amplify will break even power-wise. This gives you a huge degree of filtering at the cost of 1 power. This isn’t quite going off; it’s more like “surfing”. You ride some waves of power up and down and hopefully score the big wave by finding a second Overloader and another Hardiness or Bottled Insight.
  • A good shortcut for playing Bottled Insight is that, with no Echo cards and wanting to keep your hand size the same, you can amplify for 12 minus your cards in hand – so if you have 3 cards in hand including the Bottled Insight, you want to see ‘x9’ on your avatar (12 is the maximum hand size, so amplifying more could make you discard your whole hand). I also highly recommend that you decide which cards you want to keep without clicking anything, and then click every other card going from left to right (or the other way). Every time I have hopped around or clicked as I thought about it has ended in disaster.
  • The edge from playing Instinct instead of Menace and killing out of nowhere is larger than you would think. People will put you on Instinct Midrange or Control, depending on the cards you play.

Remember, being on a budget doesn’t mean that you can’t be competing on the path to Worlds. I started out free to play and was able to get some great finishes before putting a little bit of money into the game. It is all about being creative, building good processes for learning, and always trying your best regardless of how objectively good or bad people may think your cards are. Find the budget card or strategy that lights the fire in you, like Spark Hatcher did for me.

Thanks for reading!

Jonathan Sukenik