Friend – “You should probably just play Jund or Zoo.”
Me – “Affinity you say…”
Friend – “What? No I sa-”
Me – “Affinity you say…”
Hi, my name is DJ, I’m a player from Belfast. In fact, these days I’m one of the few. Luminaries and legends such as Conor Holmes and Chris Black have been snared by the evil clutches of good jobs, good pay… and League of Legends. Way to replace one geeky time sink with another fellas. But regardless, I spend a lot of time on MODO now, and you can find me drafting under the wonderfully inventive name of manbearpig90. (If you watch South Park, you’ll get it.)
So introductions out of the way, our journey begins at the announcement of the Modern bannings. Fellow N.I. player Chris Kane and I tested various decks, but everything kept losing to U/R storm. It seemed we had found our deck. The sad thing about Magic Online and the internet however is that information travels fast, and soon enough, people began playing (and winning) with it en masse. Then, people began packing hate, and were prepared for the match up. Previous percentages dwindled with the addition of hate cards, and we decided the deck just wasn’t right anymore. The deck is really powerful, so keep an eye on the meta and people’s sideboards … If it seems like people are skimping on sideboard slots, it may be time to pounce.
So we were back to square one. A week before a Madrid GPT in Dublin, we had no idea what to play; everything seemed to be viable if you were proficient enough with a deck. We didn’t really have time to get techy, so we decided to just jam a bunch of stock decks and see what we liked. Turns out, I’m a hard man to please. I hated everything in the format, apart from Esper Gifts/Teachings – which Dominaria_Robinho was 4-0’ing some dailies with.
Here’s a list for reference.
1 Consume the Meek"> Consume the Meek
2 Cryptic Command"> Cryptic Command
1 Doom Blade"> Doom Blade
4 Esper Charm"> Esper Charm
1 Gifts Ungiven"> Gifts Ungiven
4 Mana Leak"> Mana Leak
1 Mindbreak Trap"> Mindbreak Trap
3 Mystical Teachings"> Mystical Teachings
4 Path to Exile"> Path to Exile
1 Smother"> Smother
3 Spell Snare"> Spell Snare
1 Surgical Extraction"> Surgical Extraction
1 Tribute to Hunger"> Tribute to Hunger
1 White Sun’s Zenith"> White Sun’s Zenith
3 Celestial Colonnade"> Celestial Colonnade
1 Creeping Tar Pit"> Creeping Tar Pit
2 Drowned Catacomb"> Drowned Catacomb
1 Glacial Fortress"> Glacial Fortress
1 Godless Shrine"> Godless Shrine
2 Hallowed Fountain"> Hallowed Fountain
4 Island"> Island
1 Isolated Chapel"> Isolated Chapel
4 Marsh Flats"> Marsh Flats
2 Misty Rainforest"> Misty Rainforest
2 Mystic Gate"> Mystic Gate
1 Plains"> Plains
1 Swamp"> Swamp
2 Watery Grave"> Watery Grave
2 Celestial Purge"> Celestial Purge
1 Disenchant"> Disenchant
2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant"> Elspeth, Knight-Errant
3 Kitchen Finks"> Kitchen Finks
1 Mindbreak Trap"> Mindbreak Trap
2 Nihil Spellbomb"> Nihil Spellbomb
3 Thoughtseize"> Thoughtseize
1 Vendilion Clique"> Vendilion Clique
I would really recommend a Rest for the Weary"> Rest for the Weary over a Tribute to Hunger "> Tribute to Hunger , and some extra gas between turns 1 and 4 of the game, maybe some extra disruption would be handy; you just don’t wanna die before turn 4, where you can try and stabilise and take over the game. However even that is tough – you can just cast Teachings/Gifts and get burned out of the game against Zoo/Affinity. I love casting all these cards in this deck, but it just isn’t there. It’s hard to play control in a format so open, because you need so many answers to so many decks, and you need to avoid drawing things like Doom Blade"> Doom Blade and Rest for the Weary against Storm, whilst avoiding Mindbreak Trap"> Mindbreak Traps and Surgical Extraction"> Surgical Extractions against aggressive decks. It’s a lot of fun to play, just don’t expect to do well unless you’re a master.
I ended up talking to Eddie Mucha, who shipped me Ari Lax‘s affinity list. I liked the look of it, and decided Cranial Plating"> Cranial Plating is one of the best cards in Modern, and having access to more through Steelshaper’s Gift"> Steelshaper’s Gift is absurd. Here’s the list I played for the GPT.
4 Mox Opal"> Mox Opal
4 Galvanic Blast"> Galvanic Blast
4 Cranial Plating"> Cranial Plating
3 Springleaf Drum"> Springleaf Drum
3 Shrapnel Blast"> Shrapnel Blast
1 Steelshaper’s Gift"> Steelshaper’s Gift
4 Ornithopter"> Ornithopter
4 Memnite"> Memnite
4 Signal Pest"> Signal Pest
4 Vault Skirge"> Vault Skirge
4 Arcbound Ravager"> Arcbound Ravager
4 Etched Champion"> Etched Champion
1 Steel Overseer"> Steel Overseer
2 Ancient Grudge"> Ancient Grudge
2 Sulfur Elemental"> Sulfur Elemental
2 Spellskite"> Spellskite
1 Torpor Orb"> Torpor Orb
4 Ethersworn Canonist"> Ethersworn Canonist
4 Blood Moon"> Blood Moon
I cut a Steelshaper’s Gift for a land, as I couldn’t find a second one. I do like the 16th land however, it allows you to cast Etched Champion"> Etched Champion (who is absurd, by the way) that little bit more reliably. I would cut the Steel Overseer"> Steel Overseer for a land otherwise.
I get paired against a UB control deck. I honestly don’t remember much apart from having 3 Memnite"> Memnites and a Signal Pest"> Signal Pest in play on turn 1 of game 1, and him casting nothing other than a Rune Snag"> Rune Snag. I had a Cranial Plating too, so it wasn’t just all in on Pest, I just had the nuts minus a Mox Opal"> Mox Opal.
Game 2 all I remember is winning. Sorry for the brief notes guys, but Affinity has a tendency to just blur everything together, where nothing much interesting happening.
I’m paired against Mark McGovern who is on Melira Pod. I’d never played with or against the deck before this, I just had a vague idea of what was in the decklist from talking to Matej Zatlkaj (obligatory name drop) .
Game 1 I’m able to win after he taps out for a Redcap to nug one of my guys, and I’m able to burn him out after that with some Blasts of different varieties.
Game 2 I keep a 1 land hand with my Torpor Orb"> Torpor Orb after some consideration, with my ” acceleration ” being a Springleaf Drum"> Springleaf Drum, and I only have a Signal Pest – no 0 mana dorks. He tutors up Kataki, and I’m stone cold dead with no more lands.
Game 3 I think I have him with him on 5 poison, an Inkmoth Nexus"> Inkmoth Nexus and a Cranial Plating, with some guys gumming up the ground. He untaps, Pods for a Ranger of Eos"> Ranger of Eos, grabs some Birds of Paradise"> Birds of Paradise, then next turn he tutors up a Reveillark"> Reveillark, and he’s able to assemble the combo easily after that with me having no other real pressure. It’s possible I messed this game up multiple times, but at least I had some experience playing against it now.
Game 1 he’s stuck on 2 lands, and that is.
I’m paired against Dean Convery on Merfolk, and I mega punt game one. I’m on 12 life, with a tapped Arcbound Ravager"> Arcbound Ravager, an untapped Ravager, and a Vault Skirge, with a Cranial Plating in play and unequipped. I’m staring down Lord of Atlantis"> Lord of Atlantis, Merrow Reejerey"> Merrow Reejerey, Merfolk Sovereign"> Merfolk Sovereign and a Cursecatcher"> Cursecatcher. He does some math and alpha strikes.
MEGA PUNT ALERT
I do some maths of my own, and work out I can sac enough artifacts (five, including a Ravager eating a Ravager) , block a Merfolk and survive on 1 life, with 2 lands and a Cranial Plating still in play. So that’s what I do. However, I don’t also chump with my untapped Ravager…
So I survive on one, and luckily he passes with no other play.
MEGA PUNT #2 ALERT
I attack for 7, and think if I Shrapnel Blast in his turn, he sacs his Cursecatcher and I don’t take exactsies on the swing back. A classic case of overthinking. He Mana Leaks and I lose. If I just stick Plating on my Skirge; if he doesn’t have/rip another Lord (which I know he doesn’t have after just passing his last turn with 4 mana open) or rip a Vapor Snag"> Vapor Snag, I survive a crack back, and just win the game on my next swing. Basically I found every line of play that lost me that game. Sweet.
Game 3 is another very interesting game. I keep a hand with not much else other than manlands and Cranial Plating, planning to build the game around it. If he gets a good draw though, I’m just boned, so I probably should’ve shipped it; but I’d rather die than mulligan. He plays Aether Vial"> Aether Vial on turn 1 (goooooooood -_-) and I play around any potential countermagic before slamming my game changing Cranial Plating. He calmly taps 1 blue, and Steel Sabotages it. I stare back at my hand of nothing.
However, I casually peel another Cranial Plating, and win the game soon after. Sweet card!
So at this point it looks like I can get ID’d in, barring any dream crushes. Even with a dream crush, my breakers look good enough to get there anyway.
Naturally, my opponent (Chris Smith) wants to play, which is perfectly fine, just means I gotta earn my place; the way it should be. He’s after some Planeswalker points, so if people are wanting to play for them then Wizards seem to have gotten some things right with their new policies.
Game 1 I have an early Cranial Plating on a Vault Skirge, he assumes the control role and is just playing removal spells, but I have a Shrapnel Blast"> Shrapnel Blast for him when he tries to Lightning Helix"> Lightning Helix the Skirge. He tries to get back into the game by clogging up the ground, but I have another flier to sweep home.
Game 2 he gets stuck on two lands, and I have another absurd draw.
I offer him an ID anyway seeing as he’s after some Planeswalker points, ‘cos I’m obviously a lovely bloke.
So I make top 8 , and the quarters sees me paired against Mark McGovern again. My memory is really hazy here, other than me taking forever over a blocking decision when I was on 9 and having a Vault Skirge with a Plating on it, and him attacking for 8 with an Ethersworn Canonist"> Ethersworn Canonist, and 2 Kitchen Finks"> Kitchen Finks. I didn’t wanna die to a Murderous Redcap"> Murderous Redcap, so I knew I should block, but I didn’t wanna throw away my main route to victory at the same time. I eventually block the Canonist.
Game 3 I Galvanic Blast a turn 1 Bird, and his draw is too slow to keep up thereafter.
In the semis I’m paired against Matt Morrissey on mono white Martyr, which on paper seems like a terrible match up for me. We’re also informed the other semi has just finished, and we’re now playing a pseudo final because Chris Smith is scooping the final. Sweet !
Game 1 he gains a bunch of life with Martyr of Sands"> Martyr of Sands, revealing a hand of 2 Ghostly Prisons, a Proclamation of Rebirth"> Proclamation of Rebirth and a Wrath of God"> Wrath of God. Hmph. I realise normal damage isn’t going to be enough, so I’m going to have to force an Inkmoth with a Plating through at some point. I manage to get one of these hits in whilst he only has one Prison on the table, but the second one creates some problems. I end up drawing runner lands to pay for the second Prison while he doesn’t draw a Path to Exile"> Path to Exile, and we’re off to game 2!
Game 2 he considers a mulligan for a long time, before ultimately deciding on a keep. I keep a pretty quick hand with lots of cheap artifacts, an Ornithopter and a Cranial Plating. He tries to gain enough life to get his Serra Ascendant"> Serra Ascendant online, seeing he kept a one lander in the process with another Prison, a Path and two Wraths. Seems I was in for another tough one if he drew lands. He doesn’t draw enough however, even having to Path his own Ascendant at one point, and I grind him down with Cranial Plating.
So with Chris Smith conceding the final, I had 3 byes for Madrid, woooooo !
So with the Affinity experiment successful, I decide I’ll work on it during the week and play it in the upcoming Manchester PTQ. The only changes I end up making are a Glimmervoid over a Sacred Foundry, (because, well, it’s infintely better, and I’m an idiot for ever playing it over a Glimmervoid) and the second Steelshaper’s Gift over the Steel Overseer. I never really liked the Overseer, his role to me seems to be something akin to Signal Pest/Cranial Plating, and does that job much slower than the other 2 cards.
I like more Cranial Platings, so mise! I would also tweak the sideboard a bit, taking out garbage Spellskites and Sulfur Elemntals (which aren’t garbage, but are narrow, and I didn’t expect a lot of Martyr in Manchester) for an extra Torpor Orb and 3 Combust"> Combust. I prefer Combust as my narrow answer to Twin combo because it works around everything they’re trying to do to protect their combo. Spellskite? Yeah, get outta here. Counter magic? Tough luck! Mutagenic Growth"> Mutagenic Growth…? That’s not a card, so whatever. The problem with the Torpor Orbs and Spellskites are that they get Ancient Grudge"> Ancient Grudged, which they’re bringing in, however Torpor Orb has application against Melira too, and they usually have a tough time dealing with it; a lot of lists don’t run Krosan Grip"> Krosan Grips etc. Maybe 1 Pridemage to be tutored for.
The other card I considered was Welding Jar"> Welding Jar over a Shrapnel Blast. I don’t like Shrapnel Blast a whole lot, it has its applications, but I don’t wanna draw too many of them. They’re always the last card I wanna cast, and it feels super bad when it gets countered, particularly Remand"> Remanded. I liked the Welding Jar when I drew it, it was like a zero mana Spellskite, and it added to some nice Mox Opal draws. However, I decided to stick with the list I knew in Manchester. If you’re unsure of a card that’s not already in your deck going into a big tournament, it’s probably right not to play it. Stick with what you know, not with what you think you know.
Thanks for sharing, thanks for caring. To read Part 2 of this tournament report, just click here.