Despite no updates from the Banned and Restricted announcement this week in Modern, the format remains diverse with plenty of strategies seeing success. We are still seeing an upward trend of Tron and Amulet Titan to combat Simic Urza, which has brought the resurgence of Grixis Death's Shadow and Burn to overrun these slower strategies. Amulet Titan and Simic Urza take time to set up in order to deploy their threats, and you can capitalize on that with focused aggression.
Linear aggressive strategies have been around in Modern since its inception, with one archetype remaining popular throughout: Affinity.
Affinity has been a known player in Modern since the origin of the format and remains one of the most powerful linear strategies around. Affinity is an aggressive archetype that uses various efficient but low-power artifacts to synergise with game-ending two and three-mana spells. A majority of the creatures in Affinity offer some form of evasion, and although it's foundation is colorless, Affinity is able to splash cards across all five colors due to the flexibility of Mox Opal and Springleaf Drum.
Despite falling out of favor in recent times thanks to Karn, the Great Creator, Affinity remains blisteringly quick and powerful. However, as with any popular Modern strategy it comes at a price—an optimal build of Affinity comes to roughly $700 which is the cheapest the archetype has been in a long time. However, over half of this price is down to Mox Opal and Inkmoth Nexus. The core is affordable, allowing us to create an aggressive artifact strategy on a budget. With the release of Throne of Eldraine, we have some new additions which have seen extensive play in competitive Affinity shells.
Gingerbrute did not receive much in the way of hype outside of its flavor within the plane of Eldraine. However, the Golem meets the criteria of being a cheap artifact creature with evasiveness, which Affinity is always in the market for. Gingerbrute offers a pseudo-unblockable ability and can wear a Cranial Plating well, along with All That Glitters which acts like additional copies of the artifact equipment.
There was some initial buzz for All That Glitters in Modern, but only in Bogles. However, it does not add anything on top of what Ethereal Armor already accomplishes. All That Glitters offers more synergy in Affinity as it gets a boost from artifact lands such as Darksteel Citadel, and the mana requirement is easy to achieve.
There are a few different approaches we can take to making Affinity more budget-friendly. First we can look at a traditional Affinity list and remove the most expensive cards such as Mox Opal, Arcbound Ravager and Inkmoth Nexus.
Once a powerhouse in old Block Constructed, Tempered Steel Affinity is quick and piles on the damage fast, just like traditional Affinity. Although there are mana demands with Tempered Steel and other colored spells, we have to lean on creatures such as Ornithopter and Memnite to provide that mana with help from Springleaf Drum and Survivors' Encampment.
The goal is to swarm the board with zero-mana artifact creatures, deploy a Tempered Steel and turn sideways. We also have support in Master of Etherium, which acts as an additional anthem effect. We are not leaning completely on Tempered Steel either—we have access to Gingerbrute as an additional win condition, as it can pile on plenty of damage on its own with a Cranial Plating or All That Glitters. Tempered Steel Affinity offers flexibility in sideboard options, allowing a more reactive gameplan for capitalizing on artifact hate which opponents will side in for game two.
If your long-term goal is to build an optimal version of Affinity, Tempered Steel Affinity is a great starting point as the core is the same as traditional variants of Affinity. You mostly just need Mox Opal, Arcbound Ravager and Inkmoth Nexus to turn this into an optimal version of the strategy. I would focus on Arcbound Ravager and Inkmoth Nexus first as these are cheaper to obtain, especially Ravagers, as there is a foil MCQ Promo which is cheaper than over versions.
Deciding whether to invest in Mox Opal is tricky. It's an excellent accelerator in Affinity, but it always has the chance of becoming banned due to its power level in these and other strategies like Urza. Wizard's Research & Development team has acknowledged Mox Opal's power many times and promised to keep an eye on it. No one's sure whether Mox Opal will be banned or not, but ultimately it is down to you on whether you want an optimal version of Affinity. The archetype is playable without Opal, but it reduces the chance of insanely explosive starts and loses some consistency as a result.
If you want to adopt a more streamlined and less mana-demanding style of Affinity, we have a Mono-White Affinity variant using Venerated Loxodon as an anthem effect.
Inspired by Jim Davis's "Loxobots" build from the SCG Invitational last year, my Mono-White Artifact Stompy build allows a similar strategy without Mox Opals and the disruption Jim ran in his original list. Deploy zero-mana and one-mana threats and use these to convoke out a Venerated Loxodon as early as turn two. You can choose to run Tempered Steel in this list but the addition of Legion's Landing and Toolcraft Exemplar makes the ceiling lower on the enchantment, but no less demanding on your mana. In most cases, Venerated Loxodon will cost one mana and grow your board of small evasive creatures while leaving a compelling body. Even if Venerated Loxodon leaves the field, it has already made its mark by growing your board, so it can be expendable in combat. Meeting the criteria of Legion's Landing is easy, and allows a late-game plan of creating Vampire Tokens which can eventually overwhelm the board and win with Cranial Plating.
Dispatch works well in this list with the number of artifacts we have; however, it's still conditional. Upgrading into Path to Exile over time would remove this limitation if you want to improve on this build. Other creatures to consider include Blade Splicer as it creates an artifact creature and offers synergy with Gingerbrute by making it deadly to block. Ethersworn Canonist is another, as most of the list is artifacts, which means it disrupts your opponents without restricting your play.
Mono-White Artfiact Stompy is far from traditional Affinity but it's still plenty aggressive, so it should provide entertainment at FNMs and steal a handful of wins. Although Karn, the Great Creator is an excellent deterrent against these artifact strategies, you can ignore Karn's passive ability and go aggressive. It will stop activations of Springleaf Drum and Gingerbrute, but it won't prevent damage from Cranial Plating. However, you should deal with Karn swiftly as it will stifle your game plan long term.
If you are unsure how the Modern landscape will shape up competitively or locally, the best approach is to be aggressive. Affinity will always be a playable archetype, despite the amount of artifact hate featured in the format. Although Affinity can be difficult to pilot and sequence, it rewards you for sticking to the archetype by taking games before the opponent has a chance to deploy any of their own threats. Best of all, there are many routes to take your build of the archetype. You can go traditional Affinity, a Tempered Steel strategy or even go into Hardened Scales Affinity if you want to have an insane long game. There's never been a better time to assemble some robots and roll out!
Emma Partlow is a writer and Modern enthusiast based in Suffolk, England. She's been involved in Magic since Khans of Tarkir back in 2014, and loves helping players dive into the game's most diverse format.
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