Bloodbraid Elf and Jace, the Mind Sculptor were let loose on the Modern landscape this week, and players are still trying to build the best homes for their old friends. “Bloodbraid Elf is a slam-dunk in Jund… but can I play her in Titan Shift?” “Is discarding my own Jace to Disrupting Shoal the best way to counter my opponent’s Jace?”
While your opponents are tinkering with their new toys, it may be best to approach this unsettled Modern format with a tried-and-true linear aggressive deck. You can try Bogles, which recently earned Dan Ward a trophy in Toronto and is making minor waves on Magic Online. You can follow Chantelle’s advice from last week: pick up Grishoalbrand and throw lands at your opponents with Borborygmos Enraged. Or you can try a deck that refuses to give up its piece of the Modern pie: Affinity.
“Affinity,” as many will point out, is a bit of a misnomer. While this deck is stylistically similar to the Frogmite decks of Mirrodin block Standard, Thoughtcast is the only card with the Affinity mechanic that you’ll find in these lists, and it isn’t even a key player. Instead, Modern Affinity relies on cheap creatures and mana acceleration to play out must-answer threats and end the game as soon as possible.
To get you started, here’s an Affinity list that made Top 8 at our Modern 1K last weekend:
Wesley Higbee’s Affinity | Top 8, Modern 1K, 2/17/18
4 Arcbound Ravager
2 Etched Champion
2 Master of Etherium
4 Signal Pest
4 Steel Overseer
4 Vault Skirge
4 Galvanic Blast
4 Cranial Plating
4 Mox Opal
4 Springleaf Drum
1 Welding Jar
4 Blinkmoth Nexus
4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Inkmoth Nexus
1 Spire of Industry
One thing about Affinity that hasn’t changed over the years is its main threat: Arcbound Ravager. This two-mana 1/1 may look pretty harmless, but its ability to gain counters and move them onto a creature with Infect or lifelink can quickly swing games in your favor. Ravager is also a crucial sacrifice outlet that helps Affinity players retain value in the face of Modern’s ubiquitous one-mana removal spells.
Other key players in Affinity include Steel Overseer, which can buff an entire team of tiny artifact creatures, and Etched Champion, which can break through board stalls if Metalcraft is on line. (Etched Champion stands to gain value with Bloodbraid Elf back in the picture, and I expect to see additional copies of it in Affinity lists if Jund starts making a comeback.) Additionally, Cranial Plating can turn even the smallest Ornithopter into a threat or make an Inkmoth Nexus lethal.
The Support Cards
Affinity plays more like a combo deck than a typical aggro deck. When considering a seven-card hand, you’ll want to map out your first several turns and ensure that you have enough enablers to get to your payoff. These include zero-mana creatures like Ornithopter and Memnite and mana accelerators like Mox Opal and Springleaf Drum. Keep in mind that Mox Opal doesn’t produce mana unless you have two other artifacts in play, and you can always chain together two Opals to power out a threat if necessary.
Mox Opal and Springleaf Drum are especially crucial in games when you’re playing Etched Champion. In addition to helping power out the three-mana threat ahead of schedule, your mana-producing artifacts are likely to stick around and continue enabling Metalcraft to protect your Champion long after your artifact creatures have been wiped away with creature removal. While mana rocks may seem like good Ravager sacrifice targets later in the game, you may want to leave on the battlefield if you have an Etched Champion in play and suspect that your opponent has removal.
Affinity’s mana base also adds to its speed and resilience. The twin Nexus lands, Inkmoth and Blinkmoth, can gain counters from Arcbound Ravager or Steel Overseer or pick up a Cranial Plating when necessary, and Darksteel Citadel helps get Metalcraft on line as early as possible. I’ve also been testing out a single Sea Gate Wreckage in my list, and I like being able to draw extra cards when I’ve run out of gas.
What About Kolaghan’s Command?
Affinity is a powerful strategy, but other Modern decks make sure to keep it in check with artifact hate. With Bloodbraid Elf threatening to bring Jund back to the forefront and speculation about how Jace might slot into a Grixis Control strategy, there’s been much talk of Kolaghan’s Command threatening to wipe Affinity off the map. While K. Command can be a two-for-one in many situations, a timely Arcbound Ravager sacrifice play can often mitigate its harmful effects. Take it from Affinity aficionado Frank Karsten:
Affinity is a well-oiled, speedy machine ready to go under Modern’s most powerful four-drops. It’s also a great investment: the deck has remained almost unchanged for the duration of its time in Modern, making it an ideal deck to practice over time. Even if you don’t think Affinity is your thing, there’s a lot to be gained from learning its ins and outs – as a cornerstone of the Modern format, it’s always present in some numbers at local and premier-level Modern tournaments alike, so playing the deck may better prepare you to play against it. Give Affinity a try, and you may be well on your way to Modern mastery.
Header design: Justin Treadway
Header image: “Arcbound Ravager” by Kev Walker