Hey everyone! This week I'll be playing in GP Boston/Worcester and I couldn't be more excited. I grew up about 40 minutes from the GP site so this is a great chance to catch up with old friends and play some Magic. The format is Modern and while I have not really played much Modern since Pro Tour Born of the Gods in Valencia, the format really hasn't changed that much. Modern is a format that rewards you for playing a deck that you know inside and out, so today I'm going to talk about one of my favorite decks in Modern, Affinity.
Affinity hasn't changed very much over the years. It started out as a super aggressive artifact deck that finished off the opponent with burn. The deck itself wasn't fast enough to win with creatures, so it had a few four and five damage burn spells to finish the job. Here is the deck I used to win a PTQ back in 2012.
This is definitely not a list you are likely to see at the top of the standings at a PTQ or GP these days. Remember, this list was created back when Modern was a brand new format. There were rarely any Ancient Grudges back then, so we could freely go all-in with our Arcbound Ravage without fear. Times have certainly changed. Once this deck was on the radar, players began to fill their sideboards with extra Affinity hate. The deck had to adapt.
Here is my current list for Affinity:
As you can see, the deck hasn't really changed that much, but the few changes that have been made are quite significant. First, the Steel Overseer went from one copy to four. Playing anything under four copies of that card seems kind of crazy if you think about it. It's one of the best cards in the deck and just makes all of your zero and one-drops better. I have no idea why only one copy was played, as the card makes the deck much more resilient to spells such as Zealous Persecution, Electrolyze, and Pyroclasm.
Shrapnel Blast was the card to go. Five damage is a lot, but when you are playing against opponents with Ancient Grudge, Creeping Corrosion, and Shattering Spree, it can be really hard to keep an artifact on the board. A second color was added to the deck to make it more resilient to all of the hate. Thoughtcast is the perfect card to refill your hand to counteract those Ancient Grudges. In a deck such as this one, casting it for only one blue mana is never a problem.
Here's an explanation of the card choices:The Creatures
We have four Arcbound Ravager, four Vault Skirge, four Signal Pest, four Ornithopter, and two Memnite. These are the cards that are the backbone of the deck and can never change. The zero-drops are very important to the deck. You need them to accelerate your mana with Springleaf Drum in the early game. These guys are great at feeding your Ravager and help you to get your explosive draws with Steel Overseer and Signal Pest.
The next most important creatures are the evasion guys: four Signal Pest and four Vault Skirge. These are the creatures that you will be doing the most damage with. They are great at wielding a Cranial Plating and are also excellent targets for your Modular with Ravager.
The last of the creatures are Steel Overseer, Etched Champion, and Master of Etherium. These guys are your haymakers and what you want to be drawing in the later stages of the game. Steel Overseer can be excellent but it actually pretty slow. A two mana 1/1 creature is not something you want to play as-is, and it has such a huge target on its back that you will rarely be able to untap with it. It is painfully slow against combo decks such as Splinter Twin or Storm, especially on the draw. That said it is still one of the most powerful cards in the deck so I'm choosing to run four of them.
Etched Champion is a very metagame dependent card. It's excellent against highly interactive decks such as Jund, Junk, and Control variants, but awful against decks that do not care about your creatures like Combo decks, the mirror, and burn. There are quite a few decks that just can't beat an Etched Champion with a Cranial Plating on it but three mana is a bit pricey in a deck like this, so I am only playing three copies. One thing to keep in mind is that Spellskite can block this guy all day and there are some decks such as Birthing Pod and Splinter Twin that play Spellskite in their maindeck.
Master of Etherium is the ultimate haymaker. It can create huge blowouts and affects the board immediately. The most important function for the Master is to pump your evasion creatures, but this guy is a huge threat by himself as well. He will usually have to be chump blocked every turn. His downside is he is a terrible topdeck if you have nothing on the board and sometimes there will be games where you draw no colored mana, making Master of Etherium difficult to cast. For those reasons, I only included one copy in the deck.
Finally, we have Arcbound Ravager. While Arcbound Ravager isn't what it used to be (it was much more broken back when damage stacked), it's still very good. Having a Ravager in play will make your opponent's combat math difficult because he will always have to consider if you can just go all in and kill out of nowhere with modular. Having two in play is even better. You can sacrifice one to the other and move the modular counter to something else, a trick that was very common back in Darksteel Standard. One thing that's important to remember when playing with this card is that Spellskite is able to Redirect the modular counters to itself. I frequently see people forget about that and lose to gigantic Spellskites. While you must choose a target for modular, you don't actually have to use it. So when your opponent chooses to Redirect the counters to the Spellskite, while the target will be changed, you don't choose whether or not to put the counters on it until it resolves. You can simply choose not to give it counters.The spells
The most obvious four-of in this deck is Cranial Plating. Plating is the card that makes Affinity what it is. It was probably a mistake for WotC to even print and certainly deserved to be banned in Standard. Two mana to cast and one to equip is so absurdly cheap making this card absolutely bonkers. Its second activated ability allows you to attach the Plating on to a creature at instant speed. If you have double black open in combat, a Plating will turn each of your creatures into a lethal threat.
Galvanic Blast is kind of a necessary evil. There are only two in the deck, so you will generally not draw them every game, but they can be very important. They can act as creature removal when you need it but it is also very common to deal four to the face. It's a crucial card against combo decks that rely on creatures to go off, like Splinter Twin and Pod variants. While there are only two in the deck, combo players will always have to play around them which will usually buy you the turns you need to win the game.
Thoughtcast, as I've previously mentioned, is pretty much in the deck for one reason: To refill your hand after your opponent has dealt with all of your threats. While it's a great card, it can be a bit awkward, especially in opening hands that contain no colored sources. While Thoughtcast is not crucial to the deck, it's always a good utility spell.The Manabase
This deck is extremely land light but there are eight cards that act as lands but are also artifacts to feed your Plating and Ravager: Mox Opal and Springleaf Drum. The Opal is an excellent card in the deck and is capable at creating explosive starts for you, even turn two Etched Champions or Cranial Plating plus equip. The new legend rules allow you to cast one, use it, sacrifice it to your Ravager, and then cast another one. The card has become much better since this new rule took effect. Springleaf Drum is another great accelerant in the deck and can always be sacrificed to your Ravager in games where you draw too much land.
I'm not really sure what I was thinking back in 2012 when I only played three Inkmoth Nexus. These days I would never play less than a playset of them. Both Inkmoth and Blinkmoth are crucial to this deck for many reasons. They are evasion creatures that can provide mana if you need them to. They have great synergy with each other as Blinkmoth can pump either itself, other Blinkmoths, or Inkmoths. It is sometimes a little awkward to attack with both infect damage and regular damage, but there will be times when you will be able to kill someone in one attack for ten infect damage, either with modular counters or with a Cranial Plating.
I'm not really sure why WotC decided to ban all of the artifact lands except for Darksteel Citadel, but as long as it's legal in Modern, you can bet I'll be playing a playset of them in Affinity. While their main purpose is to help out Plating and Ravager, they also provide good synergy with Glimmervoid. It's nice to know that you have some insurance after something like a Creeping Corrosion or Shatterstorm.The Sideboard
The four Glimmervoids, Mox Opals, and Springleaf Drums can produce any color of mana which provides the Affinity deck with a very flexible sideboard. While most Affinity decks stick to just red and blue, it's nice to have the option to play every color. Thoughtseize is a common sideboard card in Affinity decks and is probably the most flexible sideboard card of all. It's great against decks that rely on one combo to win, such as Scapeshift or Splinter Twin. I've also seen affinity decks run Dispatch, Nature's Claim and Illness in the Ranks. It's pretty nice to have all of those options available to you.
While the Affinity deck has one of the most flexible sideboards ever, it's actually pretty hard to sideboard with the deck. You really can't cut your core cards because they are just so important to your strategy and cutting artifacts can definitely hurt your game plan. You never want to draw a hand of all Spell Pierces, Thoughtcasts, Thoughtseizes and no artifacts. For that reason you really can't bring in many cards per matchup. I usually like to side out Galvanic Blasts in matchups where they are nothing but four damage to the face. Steel Overseer is often too slow against some decks, especially on the draw, so I like siding those out too. Finally, Memnite is the worst creature against opposing creature decks because it has no evasion and is only a 1/1, so that is a card I usually consider siding out too.
As for actual card choices, my favorite sideboard card is Wear // Tear. While this card is pretty good against random artifacts and enchantments, it's mostly there against decks with Stony Silence. Stony Silence is the ultimate hate card against us and if it's played on turn two then we usually can't win. It shuts down our Drums, Opals, and Citadels meaning that half of our lands won't even tap for mana! Cranial Plating becomes useless and Steel Overseer and Arcbound Ravagers turn into vanilla 1/1s for two mana. We definitely need answers to this card but luckily Wear // Tear has the added bonus of being a 2 for one sometimes.
The deck's toughest matchup is Splinter Twin. They are about a half a turn faster than us and we have very few ways to interact with them. In that matchup, you want the extra removal and Torpor Orb. If Twin is very popular in your meta then Illness in the Ranks is another great choice.
Blood Moon is a card that I feel is necessary but sometimes hurts us more than it hurts our opponents. We have no good answer to Tron other than racing them before they get Tron active, so Blood Moon is necessary there, but it shuts down our manalands which can be a problem. The same is true against other decks where Blood Moon is awesome, like UWR Control and other three color midrange decks. I have been thinking about taking Blood Moon out of the deck for a while but it can be such a blowout at times, especially if you can cast one on turn two.
Relic of Progenitus is a versatile sideboard card. It can Nullify a Tarmogoyf for a turn which can give you a chance to race, and it hoses random graveyard strategies, like Living End or Dredge. Spell Pierce and Thoughtseize are answers to a lot of different things. They are great at countering removal or answering a key card in combo decks. The Future
Ensoul Artifact is a new card from M15 that can see play in Affinity. It's not an artifact and actually needs an artifact to be in play to work, so if we were to add this card we could only cut either Thoughtcast or Galvanic Blast. You can turn any of your little creatures into serious threats, or a Darksteel Citadel into a 5/5 Indestructible creature. It's aggressively costed at two mana, but honestly the card may be too cute and may not be better than what we already have. Turning 0/1s into 5/5s does seem powerful, so it's definitely worth trying out.
Affinity is still a strong choice for the Modern season and despite all of the hate out there it is still putting up results. If you like aggressive decks and doing combat math then this may be the deck for you. Thanks for reading and see you at GP Boston/Worcester!
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