The Aggro Factory
The electronic industry is evolving all the time and humans are gradually being made obsolete by machines. That’s kind of how aggressive decks feel in modern…
As you might have guessed by now I’m going to talk about Affinity today. The deck has been viable since modern became a format, but its popularity has continually declined. The reason for this is simple: linear strategies like Affinity are only tier 1 when they’re under the radar. Once people know that the field at a given event will be 10% Affinity, they can easily prepare for it. Stony Silence, Shatterstorm and Creeping Corrosion are the absolute best (worst if you’re on the Affinity side) but Electrolyze and Spell Snare can also be upped to 4 by some decks to combat Affinity. For instance, a deck like the old Jund was very hard or even impossible to hate out. On the surface, being easily hated out seems like a weakness for a deck, but really it’s just a question of when you choose to play the deck. You need to play the deck when the enemy hate cards are at an all time low and I think the time is now. With great risk comes great reward!
– Stony Silence was used in White sideboards as a crossover card to cover both Affinity and Tron. Due to the absense of Jund and rise of Splinter Twin, Tron is seeing less play now. You will still face it on MTGO, but likely not deep in the tournament at a Grand Prix or Pro Tour. This means that a sideboarded Stony Silence will only come in against Affinity (possibly a copy or two vs. Birthing Pod), and people seem to want more flexible cards in their sideboards rather than those that save just one matchup.
– Shatterstorm and Creeping Corrosion are narrow sideboard cards that deal with only one deck in a format with 15+ viable decks. Decks will turn to cards like Firespout, Anger of the Gods and Engineered Explosives, which are useful against all aggressive strategies. While these cards are certainly fine against Affinity, they are nowhere near as gamebreaking as Shatterstorm or Creeping Corrosion
– Ancient Grudge is mostly found in Jund and Splinter Twin sideboards. Jund occasionaly turns to Rakdos Charm for added flexibility against Storm and Splinter Twin, and that’s good news for Affinity. Splinter Twin utilizes Ancient Grudge to deal with Spellskite and Torpor Orb and provides some handy splash damage against Affinity. With the Tarmo-Twin version gaining popularity, expect to play against 3x Ancient Grudge post-sideboard when paired against it.
– Electrolyze is a card that I hoped would see less play after the unbanning of Wild Nacatl. But with my previous experience piloting UWR control, I can tell you that a certain amount of cantrips are needed in your deck to reliably make your land drops. This will see play as a 3-of going forward.
– Spell Snare is a card that frequently goes from a 4-of and all the way down 0 copies maindeck. The winning decklist at the Pro Tour played 1 copy maindeck. Expect to resolve a lot more Cranial Platings and Arcbound Ravagers if this trend sticks.
Aside from the partial absence of dedicated hate cards, why play Affinity?
Affinity is a deck that can race any combo deck and it is capable of killing its opponent as early as turn 3. In a relatively fast format like modern, it is very important to have a focused and linear gameplan in a big tournament. Forcing your opponent to come up with the right answer is very powerful and will pay off a lot of the time. You’re basically a Zoo deck that plays around cards like Anger of the Gods, Firespout and Kitchen Finks a lot better. In a format where Zoo is on the radar as a big percentage of the expected metagame, this is a very good place to be. I have a hard time believing that all these decks can devote 2-4 slots to only beating Affinity in such a diverse format.
You can even afford to squeeze in some disruption to support your clock. Let’s talk about our options when filling out the colored spells slots in the deck.
– Thoughtcast used to be a mandatory 4-of, but lately people have noticed the awkwardness of seeing two in your opening hand. I’m one of those players and I keep switching between 2 and 3 copies.
– Galvanic Blast is a popular tool for the deck and with good reason. With it you can finish off your opponent, kill his infect creature or disrupt his Splinter Twin combo. The flexibility is there even though it’s “just” a burn spell.
– Thoughtseize is a card you bring in for every problematic matchup, and I’ve now decided to play it main deck. A turn 4 kill with a Thoughtseize in the mix is very difficult for most decks to do something about.
– Spell Pierce is very metagame-dependent. If you play against a lot of Electrolyzes, this card is the real deal. Making your opponent spend the mana to cast his spells and then saying “NO” is very powerful when using a strategy like Affinity.
With the above in mind, this is what I suggest if you were to play a Grand Prix tomorrow:
4 X Ornithopter
3 X Memnite
4 X Signal Pest
4 X Vault Skirge
4 X Arcbound Ravager
4 X Steel Overseer
3 X Etched Champion
4 X Cranial Plating
2 X Thoughtcast
2 X Galvanic Blast
2 X Thoughtseize
1 X Welding Jar
3 X Springleaf Drum
4 X Mox Opal
4 X Darksteel Citadel
4 X Glimmervoid
4 X Inkmoth Nexus
4 X Blinkmoth Nexus
2 X Thoughtcast
2 X Thoughtseize
2 X Galvanic Blast
2 X Tormod’s Crypt
1 X Grafdigger’s Cage
3 X Ancient Grudge
3 X Spellskite
As you may have noticed, we have the option of going to 4 of each of Thoughtcast, Galvanic Blast and Thoughtseize, depending on the matchup. Thoughtcast is great vs. UWR control, Galvanic Blast is premium vs. Splinter Twin[card] while [card]Thoughtseize is your MVP when paired against Scapeshift, Amulet of Vigor combo and all sorts of other combo decks.
We need some help vs. graveyard strategies like Storm, and a Tormod’s Crypt combined with a fast clock is enough most of the time. Spellskite does work against Infect, Splinter Twin and Hexproof and can even absorb removal and burn vs. UWR. Too bad Seething Song is banned in modern. I was totally ready to take you down memory lane and play Seething Song and Furnace Dragon for the mirror. I guess Ancient Grudge will have to do for now.
One last thing before I let you off the hook. Storm needs to disappear from the format. The deck is pretty consistent at winning on turn 3-4 and produces so many one-sided games that it’s depressing. It’s also very cheap compared to other modern decks, meaning it can easily make up for 20% of a metagame. I know I’ve faced it way too often lately on Magic Online. Let’s get rid of Grapeshot and get back to playing Magic instead of Solitaire.
As always, I will be happy to discuss various topics in the comments.
Good luck calculating Ravager math (or watching your opponents fail to) and infecting your opponents on turn 3!
ecobaronen @ MTGO
andiiment at hotmail dot com