Drafting Affinity in Modern Masters – Shared Discovery by Rob Wagner
Hi all! Modern Masters draft has come to Magic Online and I thought I’d give it a try. After enjoying the set in real life last week, looking at the value of a Modern Masters draft, I was much less wary wading into online drafts. I was even more comforted by the so-called “Phantom” 8-person queues, which use Cube tickets (of which I have infinite) and 2 regular tickets (each worth $1) and the prizes being more cube tickets (this is why I have infinite) and a Modern Masters booster for first place.
Remembering my Affinity deck from last week (see below for more details) I was captivated by some of the amazing things it could do – both in terms of speed and resilience. I focused on what made the deck good and collected my thoughts. Here is what I think is important to look out for to draft a good Affinity deck:
4-6 Faerie Mechanist or Sanctum Gargoyle
You preferably want a mix, but at least 2 of each if possible. These are both first-pickable cards, and are the glue that holds the deck together. Every other card in the deck is played to optimise the power of these two cards. There are very few cards I would take over these and none outside of the rare and mythic slot. If you know that you’re forcing the Affinity deck then be on the lookout for these and pass none of them. If you get passed them often then Affinity is open and you should be drafting it.
These are so strong because the card advantage they offer is both quality and board-affecting – you get a good card in your hand (rather than a land) and you get a 2 power flier on the battlefield. Contrast this with something like Petals of Insight which takes 5 mana but doesn’t do anything to affect the board. Even drawing two more cards doesn’t make up for the difference in card quality. Ideally I would have 2 Sanctum Gargoyle and 4 Faerie Mechanist.
If it’s so strong to be playing a Faerie Mechanist as early as possible, then what better way of doing it than by making turn 2 Etherium Sculptor every game? Casting Mechanist on turn is very strong as it sets you up quickly and gives you the beginnings of the loop.
I’m saying three in particular, though I think you can get away with two but four is too many. You really do want to make one on turn two if you can, and having two in play can be excellent if you have gas in hand, but three is almost entirely redundant. You’re playing these because they give you 5-10 mana in an average game, not because of the body.
2-3 Frogmite, 2 Myr Enforcer
The guys who put the “Affinity” in Affinity; though even in their absence the deck is called Affinity, never call the deck Robots! I actually pick up Frogmite earlier because it’s much easier to cast without an Etherium Sculptor.
Putting many creatures onto the battlefield quickly really overwhelms many players, who use their time suspending an Errant Ephemeron and other such nonsense. A 2/2 is about the right size for Modern Masters, and a 4/4 is often unbeatable.
3+ 1-drops, 1-2 Spellbombs
If we want to cast the affinity guys early and really spam the board using the mana we generate from Etherium Sculptor, then what better to do it with than 1 mana artifacts? The big ones here are Court Homunculus, Arcbound Worker and Aether Spellbomb. Court Homunculus looks immediately better than Worker, but remember that you always have to pay the mana for the Homunculus whereas Worker can be cast for free off an Etherium Sculptor.
Of the two Spellbombs I prefer Aether Spellbomb over Pyrite Spellbomb. I think that “in a vacuum” the Red Spellbomb is a better card, but the Affinity deck should be heavily White-Blue and you rarely get Red mana. This is a format that highly rewards playing two colours since a lot of decks are pretty aggressive and you want to be casting your spells on time.
3 Non-Artifact Spells Maximum
Absolutely maximum. No, really. I guess you could do 4 if they were all incredibly powerful but I know that many people will be trying to justify cards that aren’t good enough. If I had 3 strong non-Artifacts then I would play Arcbound Worker over Mulldrifter in this deck because the synergy is so important.
Three Example 3-0 decks
I used the following to go 3-0 in Phantom Single-Elimination drafts on Magic Online and was very happy with each of them. As you can see, Auriok Salvagers goes quite a long way around the table (although don’t all of the good cards for this deck?).
This one I had a good mix of the key cards as listed above, though would prefer another Sculptor over one of the Frogmites. 2 Aether Spellbombs really glue the deck together as ways of “re-buying” my Mechanists and Gargoyles for their enters-the-battlefield abilities and were (in the words of Neil Rigby) “incredibly powerful” with my Auriok Salvagers.
This one had not enough of the bomb commons and too many non-artifact cards but had some very aggressive curves starting with the Homunuculi. Fyi I only drew Sword of Light and Shadow once and it rotted in my hand for several turns until I could safely play it, but then my mono-green opponent immediately conceded from disgust.
This was probably the best version of the deck, though the curve was a little high. 4 of the bomb commons (plus a Salvagers as a kind of Gargoyle), 3 Sculptors, 2 1-drops, 2 Spellbombs, 3 Frogmites, 2 Myr Enforcers; it’s like I’d followed my own advice when drafting this deck! Myr Retriever isn’t an aggressive card but does very strong things alongside Sanctum Gargoyles as you can let both die simultaneously, then return Gargoyle to hand and bring the Retriever back alongside it when you have your turn. It costs 6 mana (4 if you have one Sculptor in play, 2 if you have two) but you fog 2 creatures for 0 cards every turn.
The Affinity deck can be incredibly powerful, and if you’re the only one drafting it you should get the best deck. The cards are all so specific that you should be the only person who is interested in any of them.
The deck is built around the bomb common cards – Sanctum Gargoyle and Faerie Mechanist and the rest of the deck should be maximising their potential; Etherium Sculptor to cast them early and often, Frogmite and Myr Enforcer to increase the pressure and be able to draw spells you can cast in the same turn as the bomb common, 1-drops and Spellbombs to cast your Affinity creatures early and support the pressure enabled by the bomb commons.
It’s not unusual to have 6-10 power of creatures on the battlefield by turn 3 before you begin chaining Faerie Mechanists into one another and really take over the game. Some opening hands can look really explosive, and some can look really underwhelming. The beauty of the deck is that it has incredibly aggressive draws and it has incredibly resilient draws, but it never has the wrong one at the wrong time – because there’s never a wrong time to spam the board with robots!
Bonus! – Full pick order of playables, with Rares/Mythics
A few notes though – this isn’t sensitive to what you’ve drafted already. Additionally, remember the rule about non-artifact cards else you fail to maximise the synergy of your deck.
(rare) Vedalken Shackles
(rare) Elspeth, Knight-Errant
(rare) Meloku, the Clouded Mirror
(rare) Sword of Fire and Ice
(rare) Auriok Salvagers
(rare) Cryptic Command
(rare) Arcbound Ravager
(rare) Adarkar Valkyrie
(rare) Yosei, the Morning Star
(rare) Keiga, the Tide Star
(rare) Sword of Light and Shadow
(rare) Glen Elendra Archmage
(rare) Figure of Destiny
Path to Exile
(rare) Vendilion Clique
Thirst for Knowledge
(rare) Blinkmoth Nexus
Stir the Pride
Relic of Progenitus
(rare) Ethersworn Canonist
Bound in Silence
Gleam of Resistance
Test of Faith
Enjoy killing all the humans with Affinity in draft – what are your experiences with the deck, am I doing it very differently to yourself?
@DrRobWagner on Twitter