Crucible of Words – An Affinity for Winning? by Cyrus Bales

Crucible of Words – How do you solve a problem like a Mindsculptor? By Cyrus Bales


With GB Nats behind, we look forward to the Modern format. First off though, I’d like to congratulate everyone who achieved their goals this weekend, whether that’s making the National team, getting your first pro point or even just a positive record over the weekend.

This week I’m going to talk about the subject on everyone’s lips, the Modern format. I’m obviously very interested in the format since I’m going to Pro Tour Philadelphia. I probably know more about the format than most since I’ve been spending most of my time concentrating on it, even to the point of neglecting some of my practice for Nationals it seems.

So, what have I found out? With just under two weeks of intensive testing to go, it seems the most powerful deck in a vacuum is clearly Affinity. Affinity was a monster during it’s time in Standard, and Steel decks this year have done rather well in Standard, the Modern build is a merge between the two, much like the Extended deck. The banning of artifact lands hasn’t hurt the deck much, since with Springleaf Drum, Mox Opal and Darksteel Citadel, you have enough artifact mana to often have all your permanents in play adding to your Cranial Plating count. The deck is looking to clock by turn three, which puts it on at least the same speed as the combo decks, and with Disciple of the Vault being legal, it’s incredibly easy to finish off your opponent.

Now, I said Affinity was the most powerful in a vacuum, however there are certainly ways to beat. First off, any deck with white should be packing four Kataki, War’s Wage in their sideboard. This card is incredible at shutting down Affinity and is the single greatest tool available to beat Affinity. There are many white decks that can run this, Bant, Zoo, Junk, Boros and many of the control lists, which definitely skews the potency of Affinity since these decks will make up a large portion of the field. The second strategy for beating Affinity comes from the red colour pie, Shattering Spree, Smash to Smithereens and Pyroclasm/Slagstorm/Firespout. Red decks have enough removal to stop an early pump effect like Signal Pest, and the artifact removal to cripple a board on turn 2-3. The cheap damage sweepers are especially good against Affinity since they rely on a host of small inexpensive creatures Frogmite, Ornithopter, Memnite, Vault Skirge and Disciple of the vault. So, these red decks have the ability to answer Affinity quite well, and for burn decks pressing a clock, a Smash to Smithereens gives the deck effectively eight Searing Blaze, which is obviously detrimental to Affinity. Whilst cards like Creeping Corrosion and Shatterstorm are legal, they are too expensive to make a dent in the Affinity deck’s plan.

Affinity, whilst powerful, has a lot of obstacles to overcome, fortunately for them, it has the tools to at least try this. Galvanic Blast in hand against a white deck means you only need to keep up one mana up to stop Kataki from demolishing your board. Thoughtseize is a fantastic card that can snipe away hate cards before they ever hit the stack, and Spellskite causes the red answers to be much less effective. The strength of being able to run cards from any colour is a definite boon to fighting against the hate, and provides you with your own hate cards like Ethersworn Canonist who fits beautifully into your strategy.

A lot of people seem to be undervaluing the strength of Affinity; it gives an opponent only 2-3 turns to draw your hate card and can punish people for mulliganing to find those hate cards thanks to Thoughtseize and blasting Kataki in games two and three. The deck can just explode out, and even after you deal with a pump effect, they still have damage to beat you down and can refuel with one mana Divinations. In a world of shock lands and fetches, those 2-6 life points you expend will often be fatal, but you rarely have a choice either way.

Here’s a rough Modern Affinity list that is in the direction I think the deck should be heading:

4 Signal Pest
4 Memnite
3 Ornithopter
4 Arcbound Ravager
4 Frogmite
4 Master of Etherium
2 Vault Skirge
2 Disciple of the Vault
3 Mox Opal
3 Springleaf Drum
4 Cranial Plating
2 Galvanic Blast
4 Thoughtcast
4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Blinkmoth Nexus
4 Inkmoth Nexus
4 City of Brass
1 Tendo Ice Bridge
4 Thoughtseize
4 Ethersworn Canonist
2 Disciple of the Vault
2 Galvanic Blast
3 Spellskite

It looks pretty unexciting, just some guys and pump effects, but the damage mounts up incredibly quickly, and in most games, your opponent only has one removal spell in the first 2-3 turns, so a second pump effect is usually game over. The sideboard is reaction to hate cards, and a little bit of hate in the form of Canonist. We tested a weaker build the other day and discovered it was destroying Cloud Post and Bant decks pre-board without any difficulty, meaning they are all in on their sideboard plan. If people like Gavin Verhey are underestimating Affinity, it’s probably going to be an excellent choice for PT Philadelphia, since you have to have hate cards to stop it from being the best strategy.

As for me, I’m not sure what I’m playing just yet, but I know for sure it’s either Affinity, something white, or something red.

Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing.



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