Last week, I wrote about the various interesting Modern brews that I tested for the Pro Tour. Unfortunately, all of them eventually ended up in the reject pile, and I registered Affinity for the Modern part of the event. Affinity is not particularly innovative, but certainly capable of explosive, synergistic starts. Moreover, I had a bunch of prior experience with the deck. With Affinity, I knew how to mulligan, how to sideboard, and how to sequence my cards. I believe that such experience is very important in Modern.

My familiarity with Affinity stemmed in part from my recent 14th place finish at Grand Prix Antwerp. If you are interested in Affinity and haven’t read that report yet, then I recommend checking it out before continuing. I changed around a few cards since, but my general ideas about the archetype are still the same.

Here’s my deck list:

Frank Karsten’s Pro Tour Born of the Gods Affinity

[ccDeck]4 Blinkmoth Nexus
4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Glimmervoid
4 Inkmoth Nexus
1 Island
4 Mox Opal
4 Springleaf Drum
3 Memnite
4 Ornithopter
4 Signal Pest
4 Vault Skirge
4 Cranial Plating
4 Arcbound Ravager
4 Steel Overseer
2 Master of Etherium
2 Etched Champion
2 Galvanic Blast
2 Thoughtcast
—–Sideboard—–
3 Ancient Grudge
2 Etched Champion
2 Spellskite
2 Thoughtseize
1 Blood Moon
1 Dismember
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Whipflare
1 Illness in the Ranks[/ccDeck]

My Modern record with the deck was 5-4-1. In the last round, I ID’d with Reid Duke to guarantee a Top 50 finish, as neither of us could reach Top 25 with a win. I did beat him in the games that we played for fun, though.

There was one other player on Team ChannelFireball who went with Affinity: Bennie Beatdowns. He had a few different card choices, which I will discuss later, but first let me show his list:

Ben Lundquist’s PTBNG Affinity

[ccDeck]4 Blinkmoth Nexus
4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Glimmervoid
4 Inkmoth Nexus
4 Mox Opal
4 Springleaf Drum
4 Memnite
4 Ornithopter
4 Signal Pest
4 Vault Skirge
4 Cranial Plating
4 Arcbound Ravager
4 Steel Overseer
2 Master of Etherium
2 Galvanic Blast
4 Thoughtcast
—–Sideboard—–
3 Ancient Grudge
3 Etched Champion
2 Spellskite
2 Thoughtseize
1 Blood Moon
1 Dismember
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Whipflare[/ccDeck]

Ben’s Modern record with this deck was 7-3.

The highest finishing Affinity player at the Pro Tour was Christian Seibold. This was his list:

Christian Seibold’s PTBNG Affinity

[ccDeck]4 Blinkmoth Nexus
4 Darksteel Citadel
3 Glimmervoid
4 Inkmoth Nexus
1 Island
4 Mox Opal
4 Springleaf Drum
3 Memnite
4 Ornithopter
4 Signal Pest
4 Vault Skirge
4 Arcbound Ravager
4 Cranial Plating
3 Steel Overseer
3 Etched Champion
1 Master of Etherium
1 Galvanic Blast
4 Thoughtcast
1 Welding Jar
—–Sideboard—–
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Etched Champion
1 Master of Etherium
2 Spellskite
2 Thoughtseize
1 Blood Moon
1 Galvanic Blast
2 Relic of Progenitus
1 Spell Pierce
1 Torpor Orb
1 Whipflare[/ccDeck]

In Modern, Christian went 7-2-1 during the Swiss rounds before losing in the quarterfinals.

The cards on which these builds disagreed:

glimmervoid island

 

 

 

 

 

 

My deck has 17 lands with 4 [ccProd]Glimmervoid[/ccProd] and 1 Island. Ben’s deck has 16 land with 4 Glimmervoid and 0 Island. Christian’s deck has 16 land with 3 Glimmervoid and 1 Island. I have been happy with the 17th land because, in my experience, you mulligan or miss your second land drop too often without it, and I’ll stick with 17 going forward. If you insist on running 16 land, then you should add a [ccProd]Thoughtcast[/ccProd] to compensate.

memnite

My deck has 3 Memnite, whereas Ben’s deck runs 4 and Christian’s deck contains 3. Ben’s reasoning for playing 4 was that he wanted to maximize his explosive draws. This is reasonable, but there’s also the downside that you’ll draw double Memnite way more often. One Memnite is fine because it turns on [ccProd]Springleaf Drum[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Mox Opal[/ccProd], but a board filled with Memnites doesn’t match up very well against an opposing Wild Nacatl. I think 3 copies is a good compromise, although I consider 4 a reasonable choice as well.

steel overseer

My deck runs 4 Steel Overseer, while Ben has 4 and Christian has 3. Steel Overseer does not get better in multiples, it is too slow in certain matchups, and is the worst 2-drop in the deck. So, there are arguments to be made in favor of cutting the fourth copy. Nevertheless, the deck needs a sufficiently high concentration of “big” spells. You can only play 4 [ccProd]Arcbound Ravager[/ccProd] and 4 [ccProd]Cranial Plating[/ccProd], and I didn’t want to go below 14 (4 Ravager, 4 Plating, 4 Overseer, 2 Master), especially in a format where opponents play [ccProd]Path to Exile[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd].

etched champion master of etherium

 

 

 

 

 

 

My deck runs 2 [ccProd]Master of Etherium[/ccProd] and 2 Etched Champion, while Ben has 2 Master and 0 Champion and Christian has 1 Master and 3 Champion.

The Masters are needed for the same reason as Steel Overseer: you need to have enough cards in your deck that can turn [ccProd]Ornithopter[/ccProd], [ccProd]Vault Skirge[/ccProd], [ccProd]Blinkmoth Nexus[/ccProd], etc. into real threats. Master is not great against decks with Path to Exile, and three mana is sometimes a whole lot, but it presents a fast clock against combo decks and is quite important in the mirror match. Ben and I both agreed that 2 Master was a good number. During the Pro Tour, I was always happy to draw one.

Etched Champion also costs 3 mana, but fills a different role: it is a sideboard card that is already placed in the main deck. Etched Champion is one of your key cards against decks like Zoo that try to play a fair game with creatures and removal spells. However, it is bad in many other matchups, such as the mirror match or non-interactive combo decks. Accordingly, it be better suited as a sideboard card, but you can only have 15 cards in your board. By replacing maindeck cards that you frequently board out (e.g., the 3rd [ccProd]Thoughtcast[/ccProd]) by cards that would frequently be boarded in (e.g., Etched Champion), you free up space in your sideboard for additional dedicated hate cards. This concept was made clear to me by Grand Prix Brisbane 2013 winner Justin Robb, and it convinced me to run 2 Etched Champion in my main deck. The remaining 2 copies were in my sideboard, because I wanted to have access to 4 Etched Champion against decks like Zoo. However, Zoo had an abysmal showing at the Pro Tour, and if it becomes less popular as a result, then I could see cutting an Etched Champion from the deck.

galvanic blast thoughtcast

 

 

 

 

 

 

My deck had 2 Galvanic Blast and 2 Thoughtcast, while Ben had 2 Galvanic Blast and 4 Thoughtcast and Christian had 1 Galvanic Blast (plus one more in the sideboard) and 4 Thoughtcast.

Galvanic Blast is great at breaking up creature-based combos or powerful synergies. Deceiver Exarch; Melira, Sylvok Outcast; Glistener Elf; or Steel Overseer come to mind. In many other matchups, however, I’d rather have an artifact that can turn on my [ccProd]Mox Opal[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Cranial Plating[/ccProd] than a Galvanic Blast. Playing 2 copies of Galvanic Blast maindeck was again a case of running sideboard cards in the main.

I’m not a big fan of Thoughtcast, as I’d rather get on the board quickly than draw cards in an aggressive deck, but I believe a few copies are needed to find enough lands and business spells. I’ve been happy with two copies. I don’t like four because drawing multiple Thoughtcast often leads to a slow, clunky game, especially if you didn’t draw a blue mana source in your opening hand.

welding jar

Too often a do-nothing. Ben and I tested it and decided to not run it, but Christian still had a singleton Welding Jar in his main deck. Sure, it can be great against decks with Lightning Bolt or Abrupt Decay, allowing you to untap with Steel Overseer or get a hit in with Cranial Plating, but in other matchups (particularly non-interactive combo decks) it just sits there. For me, the final nail in the coffin were post-sideboarded games in which I drew Welding Jar while my opponent had [ccProd]Stony Silence[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Spellskite[/ccProd] in play. If Springleaf Drum allowed us to tap Welding Jar for mana, I might have run it over Memnite, but we don’t live in that world.

ancient grudge

It’s the prime sideboard card in the mirror match. I have 3, Ben has 3, and Christian has 2. Ben and I tested [ccProd]Hurkyl’s Recall[/ccProd] too, but discovered that [ccProd]Ancient Grudge[/ccProd] was frequently better, as opponents could too easily rebuild after a single Hurkyl’s Recall, especially when their Ancient Grudge shut down out our damage clock.

I regret having a 3rd artifact hate card in my sideboard. On the morning of the Pro Tour, I actually discussed with Ben whether or not we should change the 3rd Ancient Grudge to something else, as we were only planning to bring it in against other Affinity decks. In the end, we stuck with 3 copies, anticipating Affinity to make up 8-10% of the field, but it turned out to be less than that: Only 5.55% of the field was made up by Affinity players. Looking back, I would rather have had something else.

There are various cards that could replace the 3rd Ancient Grudge. [ccProd]Torpor Orb[/ccProd] is one option, as Splinter Twin was quite popular. An extra [ccProd]Spellskite[/ccProd] is another; it’s good against Splinter Twin, Bogles, and Infect, and even absorbs [ccProd]Slayers’ Stronghold[/ccProd] from [ccProd]Amulet of Vigor[/ccProd] decks. Finally, there is [ccProd]Rule of Law[/ccProd]. This is a great card against Storm, Ad Nauseam, and Living End, and I prefer it over Ethersworn Canonist because it doesn’t get hit by [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd], [ccProd]Shatterstorm[/ccProd], [ccProd]Slaughter Pact[/ccProd], [ccProd]Hurkyl’s Recall[/ccProd], or [ccProd]Ingot Chewer[/ccProd]. Anticipating an uptick in combo decks in the upcoming weeks, I’d go with Rule of Law for now.

grafdiggers cage relic of progenitus tormod's crypt

 

 

 

 

 

 

To hate out graveyard decks, Ben and I had 1 Grafdigger’s Cage and 1 Tormod’s Crypt, while Christian had 2 Relic of Progenitus. The impact of Grafdigger’s Cage can be huge because it shuts down Melira/[ccProd]Kitchen Finks[/ccProd] recursion and prevents Pod players from searching out [ccProd]Kataki, War’s Wage[/ccProd] with [ccProd]Birthing Pod[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Chord of Calling[/ccProd], so I wanted to have at least 1 Cage in the sideboard.

Anticipating a resurgence in graveyard-based combo decks, I wanted another hate card in my sideboard, preferably one that does work against Living End and Pyromancer Ascension. I eventually settled on Tormod’s Crypt. Relic of Progenitus is nice, too, but we’re not looking for card advantage, and having to keep a mana open every turn is a huge downside. Two months ago, I was boarding in Relic of Progenitus against Jund to hate on [ccProd]Deathrite Shaman[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Tarmogoyf[/ccProd], but that was not a consideration anymore. Tormod’s Crypt was a nice singleton.

illness in the ranks torpor orb

 

 

 

 

 

 

To hate out Splinter Twin decks, I had 1 [ccProd]Illness in the Ranks[/ccProd], Christian had 1 [ccProd]Torpor Orb[/ccProd], and Ben had neither. The reason why I had Illness in the Ranks over Torpor Orb is that it cannot be hit by Ancient Grudge. While Torpor Orb is easier to cast, has synergy with Mox Opal and Cranial Plating, and stops [ccProd]Snapcaster Mage[/ccProd] in case opponents go for a fair tempo plan, it is too easily destroyed by the artifact hate cards that opponents are bringing in anyway. It is much harder for them to get Illness in the Ranks off the table. Kind of the same reason why I prefer Rule of Law over Ethersworn Canonist. Moreover, Illness in the Ranks has random utility against W/B Token decks.

dismember

[ccProd]Dismember[/ccProd] is a great card against Splinter Twin, Birthing Pod, Affinity, and other decks based around powerful creature interactions. The advantage it has over Galvanic Blast is that you can cast it in response to Splinter Twin even if Pestermite has tapped down your only red source. Ben and I both had 1 Dismember in the sideboard, and it was fine. Christian had 1 [ccProd]Spell Piece[/ccProd] instead, which is also nice and versatile, but it is hard to counter Splinter Twin when Pestermite is locking you out of colored mana. As long as Splinter Twin remains one of the top decks, I prefer to have access to Dismember instead.

Sideboard plans against the top 20 Modern decks

Sideboarding is almost always a matter of minor tweaks, as you cannot break up the artifact synergies too much. There is a limited amount of cards that you can even consider taking out. You can board out Galvanic Blast if you don’t need to kill combo creatures (including stuff like Steel Overseer under the heading of “combo”). You can board out Etched Champion if your opponents are not planning on blocking or destroying your cards. Master of Etherium can come out if you expect an onslaught of cheap spot removal. Signal Pest is not great if you plan on playing more defensively than aggressively, or against decks with Kataki, War’s Wage; Orzhov Pontiff; or 1/1 flyers. You can always board out 1 Memnite, 1 Ornithopter, 1 Thoughtcast, and/or 1 Steel Overseer if you need to make room. Steel Overseer in particular is weak against decks with Stony Silence and/or Electrolyze.

The detailed sideboard plans below assume that you are running my Pro Tour list and replaced 1 Ancient Grudge by 1 Rule of Law in the sideboard. These plans are guidelines only, and small adjustments can be made depending on whether you play first or draw first: For example, I frequently cut the 17th land when I’m on the draw and not playing against a deck with access to Stony Silence or Kataki, War’s Wage. Island can come out against decks without Path to Exile or Ghost Quarter, and Glimmervoid can come out when I’m not adding colored sideboard cards.

Zoo

In

+2 [ccProd]Etched Champion
+2 [ccProd]Spellskite

Out
-2 [ccProd]Galvanic Blast
-2 [ccProd]Signal Pest
(Against Tribal Zoo on the play, also +1 Blood Moon -1 Master of Etherium)

From my playtesting experience, I believe that Zoo is a good matchup. You are roughly 70% before boarding, and 45% after boarding when facing 3 artifact hate cards. Mox Opal and Springleaf Drum allow you to deploy threats more quickly than they can answer them, and Etched Champion equipped with Cranial Plating can finish them off in two blows.

Melira Pod

Out
-2 [ccProd]Signal Pest[/ccProd]
-1 [ccProd]Memnite[/ccProd]

In
+1 [ccProd]Dismember[/ccProd]
+1 [ccProd]Whipflare[/ccProd]
+1 [ccProd]Grafdigger’s Cage[/ccProd]

Affinity

Out
-2 [ccProd]Etched Champion[/ccProd]
-3 [ccProd]Signal Pest[/ccProd]

In
+2 [ccProd]Ancient Grudge[/ccProd]
+2 [ccProd]Spellskite[/ccProd]
+1 [ccProd]Dismember[/ccProd]

Splinter Twin

Out
-2 [ccProd]Etched Champion[/ccProd]
-1 [ccProd]Ornithopter[/ccProd]
-2 [ccProd]Steel Overseer[/ccProd]
-1 [ccProd]Thoughtcast[/ccProd]

In
+2 [ccProd]Spellskite[/ccProd]
+1 [ccProd]Illness in the Ranks[/ccProd]
+1 [ccProd]Dismember[/ccProd]
+2 [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd]

UWR

Out
-4 [ccProd]Steel Overseer[/ccProd]
-2 [ccProd]Galvanic Blast[/ccProd]

In
+2 [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd]
+1 [ccProd]Blood Moon[/ccProd]
+2 [ccProd]Etched Champion[/ccProd]
+1 [ccProd]Spellskite[/ccProd]

Scapeshift

Out
-2 [ccProd]Etched Champion[/ccProd]
-2 [ccProd]Galvanic Blast[/ccProd]

In
+1 [ccProd]Blood Moon[/ccProd]
+2 [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd]
+1 [ccProd]Spellskite[/ccProd]

Bogles

Out
-2 [ccProd]Galvanic Blast[/ccProd]
(On the play, also +1 Whipflare -1 Memnite)

In
+2 [ccProd]Spellskite[/ccProd]

Storm

Out
-2 [ccProd]Etched Champion[/ccProd]
-2 [ccProd]Thoughtcast[/ccProd]
-1 [ccProd]Steel Overseer[/ccProd]

In
+2 [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd]
+1 [ccProd]Tormod’s Crypt[/ccProd]
+1 [ccProd]Grafdigger’s Cage[/ccProd]
+1 [ccProd]Rule of Law[/ccProd]

Jund

Out
-2 [ccProd]Galvanic Blast[/ccProd]
-2 [ccProd]Master of Etherium[/ccProd]
-1 [ccProd]Memnite[/ccProd]
-1 [ccProd]Steel Overseer[/ccProd]

In
+2 [ccProd]Etched Champion[/ccProd]
+2 [ccProd]Spellskite[/ccProd]
+2 [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd]

Amulet

Out
-2 [ccProd]Etched Champion[/ccProd]
-2 [ccProd]Galvanic Blast[/ccProd]
-1 [ccProd]Steel Overseer[/ccProd]
-2 [ccProd]Thoughtcast[/ccProd]

In
+1 [ccProd]Blood Moon[/ccProd]
+2 [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd]
+2 [ccProd]Spellskite[/ccProd]
+2 [ccProd]Ancient Grudge[/ccProd]

Burn

Out
-1 [ccProd]Ornithopter[/ccProd]
-1 [ccProd]Thoughtcast[/ccProd]

In
+2 [ccProd]Spellskite[/ccProd]

Tron

Out
-2 [ccProd]Etched Champion[/ccProd]
-2 [ccProd]Galvanic Blast[/ccProd]
-1 [ccProd]Steel Overseer[/ccProd]

In
+1 [ccProd]Blood Moon[/ccProd]
+2 [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd]
+2 [ccProd]Ancient Grudge[/ccProd]

Kiki-Pod

Out
-1 [ccProd]Memnite[/ccProd]
-1 [ccProd]Thoughtcast[/ccProd]
-1 [ccProd]Master of Etherium[/ccProd]

In
+1 [ccProd]Dismember[/ccProd]
+1 [ccProd]Whipflare[/ccProd]
+1 [ccProd]Grafdigger’s Cag[/ccProd]e

Merfolk

Out
-2 [ccProd]Thoughtcast[/ccProd]
-2 [ccProd]Master of Etherium[/ccProd]
-1 [ccProd]Memnite[/ccProd]

In
+1 [ccProd]Dismember[/ccProd]
+1 [ccProd]Whipflare[/ccProd]
+1 [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd]
+2 [ccProd]Etched Champion[/ccProd]

Infect

Out
-4 [ccProd]Signal Pest[/ccProd]

In
+2 [ccProd]Spellskite[/ccProd]
+1 [ccProd]Dismember[/ccProd]
+1 [ccProd]Whipflare[/ccProd]

Living End

Out
-2 [ccProd]Galvanic Blast[/ccProd]
-1 [ccProd]Etched Champion[/ccProd]
-1 [ccProd]Ornithopter[/ccProd]

In
+2 [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd]
+1 [ccProd]Tormod’s Crypt[/ccProd]
+1 [ccProd]Rule of Law[/ccProd]

W/B Tokens

Out
-4 [ccProd]Signal Pest[/ccProd]

In
+1 [ccProd]Illness in the Ranks[/ccProd]
+1 [ccProd]Whipflare[/ccProd]
+2 [ccProd]Etched Champion[/ccProd]

Faeries

Out
-4 [ccProd]Signal Pest[/ccProd]

In
+2 [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd]
+2 [ccProd]Etched Champion[/ccProd]

Blue Moon

Out

-2 [ccProd]Galvanic Blast[/ccProd]
-1 [ccProd]Steel Overseer[/ccProd]

In
+1 [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd]
+1 [ccProd]Etched Champion[/ccProd]
+1 [ccProd]Ancient Grudge[/ccProd]

Ad Nauseam

Out

-2 [ccProd]Etched Champion[/ccProd]
-1 [ccProd]Galvanic Blast[/ccProd]

In
+2 [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd]
+1 [ccProd]Rule of Law[/ccProd]

If you have any questions/comments, either post below or talk to me on Twitter at @karsten_frank. Good luck to those of you who are going to play Affinity in the Grand Prix this weekend!