Since day 1 of Modern, Affinity has been the boogeyman of the format. The deck is fast, linear, and redundant. The deck also consistently put up big finishes and helped to define the format for years. These are all admirable qualities in a Magic deck.
Let’s start with a positive. Affinity gets to abuse the single most powerful, broken card currently legal in Modern:
There is no other card in Modern as good as Opal is in Affinity and, all things considered, Affinity is arguably the fastest and most consistent aggressive deck in the format.
Back to the Basics of Good Robot Beats
A few quick notes about my list before I go on to why I think Affinity is a great choice right now:
I’ve complained about losing lots of games to mulligans caused by Glimmervoid over the years and have moved past it. I want to be able to keep a wider array of hands that don’t turn one removal spell into a tagged-on Stone Rain.
I’m still a believer in Galvanic Blast and the card has performed admirably for me over the past few weeks in my testing. Going to the dome is real and having a way to interact with opposing creatures also feels important.
I’m so over Master of Etherium at this point. There are so many removal-heavy, Jund-style decks floating around that Etched Champion is back to being an absolute house. I have even been flirting with the idea of playing the 4th in the main deck, although I haven’t pulled the trigger and started the 4th Champion in a tournament yet.
There is nothing too special or off the wall going on there but the concept is tried and true. Try to be faster than the other guy.
If It Weren’t for Sideboards I’d Win Every Time
There is no denying that Affinity is a great deck and yet it has always been held in check by streamlined sideboard cards:
I know, I know… You were excited about being sold on the idea of potentially playing Affinity at an upcoming Modern Grand Prix only to have those hopes and dreams crushed by the cold, hard buzzkill factoid that Stony Silence still exists.
Yet, if these particular sideboard cards didn’t exist as legal options in Modern, Affinity would have been banned years ago. Let that sink in. It is because these devastating sideboard cards exist that Affinity is allowed to ravage on.
The secret to winning with Affinity (besides learning the basic interactions in the deck) is dodging the narrow sideboard hate cards. My win percentage with the deck skyrockets in games where my opponents don’t draw Stony Silence or Shatterstorm!
Therefore, the best time to be playing an Affinity deck in a Modern tournament is at a moment in time when you anticipate people will have the least amount of hateful sideboard cards. The best way to dodge the narrow hate cards is obviously to play against players who simply don’t have many copies of the cards!
Dredge, Making Affinity Look Fair Since Ravnica
People complained about Affinity when it was in Standard. In fact, they complained so much that Wizards had to ban it. Yet, for all the complaining that people have done about losing to Affinity over the years, being helpless against Dredge takes the misery-in-Magic experience to great new heights.
While Affinity may have been a boogeyman from Adam, the current “ghost with the most” has to be Modern Dredge. The new Dredge deck is the current Modern hotness and people are afraid of it.
Dredge and Affinity have a lot in common. Both decks are absurdly powerful game-1 decks that win with a linear approach and are vulnerable to specific sideboard cards. They also share being frustrating to lose to, which means that players sometimes tend to overcompensate with the SB hate.
Dredge has been lighting the world on fire over the course of the past few weekends. The results don’t lie. More and more people will be jumping on the graveyard bandwagon, and players will need to adjust their sideboards.
You only have 15 sideboard slots with which to deal with every narrow combo deck in Modern. It is a tall order and there aren’t enough spots for controlling decks to be prepared for everything. So you hedge against what they expect to have the highest chance of playing against.
I believe there is a phenomenon where players typically fluctuate between the last 3 or so cards in their sideboards depending on how they feel going into the tournament. You all know the drill—in order to make room for more cards against deck X, you have to shave cards for matchups Y and Z.
In my estimation, the deck that people are going to be looking to have more sideboard cards against next week has to be Dredge. I think it is also probable that people might make room for their Dredge hate by shaving cards for Affinity. One thing to consider is that Jund and Jeskai control players know they must draw some hate to have a prayer of interacting and beating Dredge whereas it is more likely to steal a game from Affinity without a hate card.
All of this is, of course, hypothetical, but the logic makes sense to me. If there is a new linear combo deck that people must account for, it can only make things better for the other narrow decks that already exist and earn their keep by dodging specific sideboard cards.
It is also worth noting that I think Affinity likely has the edge in the head-to-head, which isn’t inconsequential! There is still a whole week left to test before the Grand Prix, but Affinity is on my radar. Nothing beats bringing those sweet, sweet robot beats!