So the previous weekend had been kind to me. I won 3 byes for Grand Prix Madrid with Affinity, and planned on picking up a plane ticket to Barcelona with the same deck.
The trip started off innocuously enough. My friend Darrell McDowell picks up Dean Convery and myself at 6 on a Saturday morning, and we head to the airport for our flights to Manchester. The problem is, after Darrell picks myself up, he realises he’s forgotten to phone Dean when we’re outside his house, so Dean is still fast asleep. Brilliant. We wake him up, tell him to get his ass in gear, and I cheekily ask for any Combusts he has. He tells me they’re not handy, and with us being in a rush, I decide against making him look for them. Probably a good call.
We get to the airport, and after checking in, we have to make the most important decision of the day.
Fry up breakfast, or Burger King breakfast?
If I got to rerun the decision, I would totally pick fry up, but we decide what we need is some sausages in a bun. I freak out a little after our gate is called just before we order, but Darrell does his best to talk me down and explain it won’t close for another twenty minutes, and we’re right beside our gate. Fair enough I suppose. Almost unfortunately we didn’t miss our flight, as that would’ve made a great story!
Darrell explains that we need to get the exit seats because he’s seventeen foot tall, and we don’t really complain. I would however be useless if the door needed to be opened, I’m pretty certain I would be catatonic/dead.
We register our lists, and after it’s announced that there are 160 (!) players, we’re off to the races!
Game 1 he wins the roll, and gets 2 Steppe Lynx and Kird Ape out by turn 2, and Fetch land and Knight of the Reliquary on turn 3. I don’t have a slow draw, but I’m certainly on the back foot. I have a Signal Pest Vault Skirge, Ravager and Etched Champion in play on turn 3, with a Springleaf Drum and Steelshaper’s Gift in hand.
His mana base and a couple of nibbles from a Vault Skirge have brought him to 10. I can fetch up a Cranial Plating, but I can only deal 9 damage to him. If I draw a 0 mana artifact I can win, but I brick, so I fetch up the Plating, stick it on a Vault Skirge, and hope he can’t kill me. He has a Kessig Wolf Run in his list, and he’s able to trample through for a lot.
Game 2 I affinity him, and game 3 I mulligan to 5, and attack with a Blinkmoth Nexus on turn 2. He casts Pridemage on turn 2, and Aura of Silence on turn 3. It was a close game.
I feel like a more experienced Affinity player could have taken game 1 there, but I still can’t quite work out how.
I get paired against an Esper list of some form, I never saw a Gifts or Teachings to distinguish.
Game 1 he has no real answers to my threats, and when he goes to Cryptic Command my team on turn 5, I flash him the lethal Galvanic Blast in my hand.
Game 2 he mulligans and keeps a one lander, and doesn’t get there. A sucky way to go out of the PTQ for sure.
I get paired against John Ingham, who’s on BUG Delver.
Game 1 sees me run a Cranial Plating into his one open mana which was a pretty stupid thing to do. I just got carried away with turn 1 Plating, and was slightly worried about him playing a discard spell next turn and taking it. This allows him to grab a foothold in the match, with a Dark Confidant, followed by some Tarmogoyfs. I promptly draw a Cranial Plating, slap it on a Vault Skirge, and the race isn’t very close anymore.
Game 2 I mulligan to 5, and keep Ornithopter, Glimmervoid, Mox Opal, Galvanic Blast, Blood Moon. He Inquisition of Kozileks on his turn 1, and takes Blood Moon. I understand the fear of maybe getting Blood Mooned eventually, but if he takes Mox Opal I actually just can’t do anything real with this hand. I have to draw a couple of lands in the next few turns to slam Blood Moon, which isn’t very reasonable in Affinity, and with him running Aether Vials, he can still get his creatures into play, albeit slower.
I draw a Memnite, and it’s time to bring the beats! He plays an Aether Vial and passes with no land drop. The rest of the game is a bit of a blur, but I do have Etched Champion, Vault Skirge, Memnite and Ornithopter in play in the last turn, with a Cranial Plating on Etched Champion, and he has two lands in play, with 2 Aether Vials, one on 2 and one on 3.
He has a Kitchen Finks in play, and I’m on two life. For some reason unbeknownst to man, I attack with Champion and Vault Skirge, putting him on 3 life. I pretty much said here “Hey, do you like it when your opponent removes a blocker for any potential shenanigans you may have, like triple Slaughter Pact and a Spellstutter Sprite for that lethal Galvanic Blast in your hand?” If I leave back Skirge, there’s no possible way I lose. Luckily, he doesn’t have it, and he shakes my hand. John’s a great guy, we had a good trade after, and I look forward to seeing him again soon.
I’m paired against a really nice guy playing Jund, I forgot your name though so I apologize :(
An interesting situation came up in Game 1, where he has a Tarmogoyf in play, and Blackcleave Cliffs, Forest, Twilight Mire as his lands, all untapped. He reaches for his Twilight Mire, which makes me believe he’s going to Pulse something, but rethinks and passes. I have a Cranial Plating, Mox Opal, 2 Blinkmoth Nexus, Vault Skirge, Ornithopter and Arcbound Ravager, with Glimmervoid in hand. He’s obviously going to kill something in combat, so I play Glimmervoid, attack with Ornithopter and Vault Skirge, he Terminates the Skirge and I’m able to move the Plating over to Ornithopter mid combat.Next turn he Pulses the Plating, and I untap, dump a bunch of counters on a Blinkmoth Nexus off Arcbound Ravager and Galvanic Blast him for lethal.
Game 2 I have a slowish draw with Blood Moon, but he’s playing around it, and when I cast it, he floats three mana and Krosan Grips it. He then casts Bloodbraid Elf into Liliana of the Veil, and he makes me sac one of my guys, I have Ravager and Ornithopter in play. I dump a few counters on the Ornithopter, and kill Liliana. Then he Bloodbraids again, into another Liliana. Sad day.
Game 3 I have a quick draw with Blood Moon, shutting off the black cards in his hand, but he has a basic Forest, so is able to cast a Tarmogoyf. He can’t cast much else though, and I take down the game. A perfect gentleman throughout, and another guy I look forward to playing against again, despite forgetting your name!
I’m paired against Sam Martin, playing Mono White Martyr. I would’ve actually punted a baby to have my Sulfur Elementals back here. Sam was a cool kid, talked a bit of smack, but I can give what I receive ;)
Game 1 he just Martyrs me out before getting some Ascendants with Ranger. I don’t have an Inkmoth and we’re quickly off to game 2.
Game 2 isn’t very different at all, in fact, it’s much worse for me. He casts turn 1 Ascendant, turn 2 Martyr, crack, reveal 5 cards including two Paths and a Wrath of God, and swing for 6 with a Serra Ascendant. I consider scooping on the spot, but I might as well play it out… I scoop a few turns later instead. Sam and I have another good trade after the match, and I’m still not sure if I got sharked or not on cards I had no idea of the value of. He seemed to genuinely be stumped too, but we worked something out. Thanks again dude!
So I’m out of contention, but let’s 6-2 this bad boy anyway.
I’m paired against Barry Horwood playing UR storm.
Game 1 I put some pressure on quickly with a Cranial Plating, Ornithopter and Arcbound Ravager, and he goes for it on his turn 3. He ends up not finding what he needs, and fizzles out with a Grapeshot for 9, 5 of them pointed at my Ravager, and 4 at my Ornithopter. I sac 2 Springleaf Drums and the Ravager, and keep the Ornithopter around, dumping the +1/+1 counters on it, leaving me with Plating, Ornithopter (3/5) and two Blinkmoths.
I equip Plating to Ornithopter, activate a Blinkmoth, and threaten lethal damage for next turn, forcing him to try to find something. He finds nothing, and we’re off to game 2.
Game 2 I have a suspicion he’s transforming, but I don’t follow my intuition (LSV would be ashamed) and just board in the 3 Canonists. He has me slightly worried when he Pestermites on my turn 4, but I can threaten lethal by moving Plating off my tapped guy at instant speed, forcing him to block my Canonist. He untaps, and casts a Pyretic Ritual, but scoops soon thereafter.
I feel like I have Game 1 locked up; I’m on 13 life with two Etched Champions in play, (one tapped) a Memnite, a Vault Skirge, and him on 4 life with , and a Knight of the Reliquary with Sword of Fire and Ice equipped, and 5 lands in play. However, he floats a mana, sacs the land, equips Sword to the Mirran Crusader, and uses his remaining 4 mana to cast Elspeth, and gives the Mirran Crusader +3/+3, dealing me 14, and conveniently being pro black so my Vault Skirge can’t block. Rats. A few things of note this game.
MEGA PUNT ALERT #3
The turn before I die, I have Ornithopter and Memnite. He swung with the Knight (equipped with SoFaI) and I was defintiely chumping, but the question was, with what? I obviously block with Memnite if I consider the prior line of play, but all I saw was the 1 power of Memnite, and decided it was more valuable. Another thing of note is that I could’ve swung with Memnite and a Nexus as well, and left back another Nexus, which is vulnerable to Path to Exile, but doesn’t lose me the game.
I’m paired against Richard Williams, who I think was on Splinter Twin, however, I never saw any distinguishable cards really, as he gets 2 pretty bad draws here, and I do my thing. Richard was a pleasure to play against too, and it was a nice way to top off a fun day, despite not getting the top 8 I wanted.
So overall not a terrible result, but there’s some work to be done. My sideboard was largely turd all day, in my first 4 rounds I boarded in 0 non-Blood Moon cards. I would play some Sulfur Elementals again to try and help the Martyr match up, probably over some Ethersworn Canonists. Storm just isn’t that prevalent it appears, but it’s still nice to have a couple of clutch cards against them. I still don’t like Shrapnel Blast, and I would definitely cut 1 for something going forward. It might be a 3rd Steelshaper’s Gift, it might be a Welding Jar, but Cranial Plating just is that good.
I could see going back down to 15 lands also, but I’ve been pretty happy with 16. Etched Champion is a house currently, and being able to cast him reliably is pretty key. However, he’s not a sacred cow, and if the meta shifts to a more combo oriented field, he can definitely be trimmed.
Speaking of sacred cows, I believe there are only a few. You must run 4 Cranial Plating, 4 Galvanic Blast, and 4 Mox Opal, maybe Signal Pest. That’s it. Everything else is variable to some degree, right down to the land count based on your preference. You can run 4 Inkmoth and 4 Blinkmoth and 3 Citadel (I don’t recommend it) or just plainly swap the Nexus count, which is certainly acceptable if you feel like you want an extra out against something like Martyr, or even if you feel the Inkmoth is more powerful. I believe Blinkmoth is better, but I can understand arguments for both.
There are obviously a lot of cards you have to play, but their numbers are variable, right down to the Memnites, which even I am considering trimming going forward. They just don’t do enough unless they’re backed up with Signal Pest, and when they are, running into a Tarmogoyf is not something you wanna be doing. It is good with a Plating too, but that’s the thing, it’s the absolute worst card in your deck to put a Plating on because it doesn’t have evasion. If you’re putting a Plating on it it’s a lot of the time because you’re blocking, after swinging with a guy that had the Plating. Sometimes it’s because you have no better target for the Plating, which means you are probably losing. Very rarely is it because it will win you the game. If I could run 8 Ornithopters instead, I would.
So yeah, going forward in the PTQ season, I still think Affinity is a very good choice. It has nigh unbeatable nut draws, and gets to run 6-8 (pending preference) Cranial Platings! I would not play any other version of Affinity, as I believe they’re all just worse than the burn/Gift versions. Thoughtcast and Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas are cool and all, but Tezz can’t be cast reliably, and Thoughtcast doesn’t really do enough for you, and would rather cast Steelshaper’s Gift 90% of the time. Dark Confidant is an interesting one though, and fights Ancient Grudge somewhat well. However, I like Marco‘s caw blade list a lot, and will be looking at it too.
As for sideboarding with the deck, the cards I took out most were Memnites, Shrapnel Blasts, and boarded out Signal Pest and Etched Champion once. I board out Memnites for reasons above, Shrapnel Blasts came out on virtue of being the weakest card in the deck in my opinion, Pests came out against Splinter Twin as they just get tapped and do nothing, and Champions came out in non interactive combo match ups, like UR storm, as he’s a little slow there. I don’t have an exact guide though, and change up my plans all the time.
We stay to watch David Murphy lose in the semis of the PTQ, (congrats and commiserations again dude!) then go get some food across the road. It’s beside a rather dodgy looking cafe/club place, with two massive bouncers beckoning us in like sirens beckoning doomed sailors… However, they weren’t nearly as pretty as sirens, so we passed on the oppurtunity. Turns out the kebab place was directly above the club, and the vibrations could be felt in the floor, prompting us all to go slowly insane, which would be further evidenced later…
So Eddie Mucha is like 12 years old. Sean Fitzgerald and I are looking to head out for a few drinks, with Dean Convery and Mark McGovern tagging along and not drinking (it’s because they’re girls or something). Eddie decides he wants to go out, but with him being underage, it’s gonna be tough getting him in somewhere. So seeing as I conveniently look 12, I give him my driver’s licence to use as ID. Sean tells him to memorize the date of birth, and the address. Sean is going to pretend to be a bouncer, and if Eddie doesn’t answer (correctly) instantaneously, Sean says he will slap Eddie.
So he asks for Eddie’s date of birth, and Eddie stutters, which leads to a short slap from Darrell standing behind Eddie. Sean asks for Eddie’s address, and Eddie again stutters… Sean raises his hand behind his head, and backhands Eddie. HARD. I’m pretty sure everyone in the club below us heard the ferocious connection between Sean’s hand and Eddie’s cheek. Eddie quickly changes his mind about going out with us…
I’m rambling on a little now, so I’ll wrap up. Thanks a billion for reading, if you have any questions, just ask below, and I’ll try and get back to you!
Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing.
David Murphy for top 4’ing (his article can be found on here).
Darrell McDowell for driving to and fro the airport.
Dean Convery for playing M:TG 20 questions (who guesses Sanity Grinding!?).
Sean Fitzgerald for being a legend and waiting by himself for me in the club so I got home safely, before my drunken self (apparently) told him to “f**k off home“
Having to get a coach for 3 and a half hours to Bristol after our flight was cancelled due to heavy winds, and waiting another few hours on our flight :/
My drunken self for not buying my round of drinks.
Eddie Mucha for boring me to death with his stupid draft/Modern format and for being 12.
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