10 Extended Decks in 10 Days – Objects Flung at Mirror Are Closer than they Appear

Everyone knows that Affinity won Pro Tour: Columbus, but Mike Clair says that there have been modifications to the deck that make it even faster and more explosive in Extended. This is information you absolutely must have if you expect to succeed this PTQ season.

Arcbound Ravager is your Fairy Godmother…

Osyp Lebedowicz

You know what the best part of testing Affinity is? You get to play Affinity, and you don’t have to play against it.

Here’s the problem with Affinity in Extended: Fling + Cranial Plating. What does this problem mean for you? If you aren’t playing the problematic cards, you’re probably not playing the right list.

Let’s imagine a situation like this:


Turn 1: Darksteel Citadel, Aether Vial go.

Turn 2: Vial on 1, Vault of Whispers, Cranial Plating go. Kick out Disciple of the Vault EOT.

Turn 3: Vial on 2, Great Furnace, Arcbound Ravager off Vial, swing with Disciple for 1+6 = 7, all in on Ravager floating BR (take 6), Fling for 7+1=21. GG.

This is not exactly an uncommon game, though I guess you had to draw a Disciple, Ravager, Fling, Cranial Plating and some lands. Yeah, that’s hard. This isn’t even the most abusive of draws, as it doesn’t break the Affinity mechanic (which this list can also do), and you don’t have something like 15 power on the board by turn 3 (thanks Myr Enforcer!).

I think the major problem with certain Affinity lists, even the Affinity list that Pierre Canali used to win PT: Columbus, is that it gives too much respect to the opposition. Now, to be fair, the Rock was actually a viable metagame choice back when PT: Columbus was being tested for, but still. Somber Hoverguard in a world of Red Deck Wins? Not the most powerful card I can think of.

Anyway, let’s have a look at the list, and discuss how the deck matches up against the field.

4 Arcbound Workers

4 Disciple of the Vault

4 Arcbound Ravagers

3 Atog

4 Frogmite

3 Myr Enforcer

4 Aether Vial

4 Chromatic Sphere

3 Cranial Plating

3 Fling

4 Thoughtcast

2 Blinkmoth Nexus

2 Glimmervoid

4 Great Furnace

4 Darksteel Citadel

4 Seat of the Synod

4 Vault of Whispers


1 Fling

3 Engineered Plague

2 Seal of Removal

2 Welding Jar

3 Cabal Therapy

4 Overload

The main deck is pretty basic – Affinity with 3 Fling. It’s main plan? Destroy you before you can blink. The redundancies in the core 20-creature plan (you know, Ravager and Artifacts with Disciple) give you game against the entire metagame, and the Fling itself is the best defense against plans that involve containing you.

The sideboard is an attempt to answer some of the common threats found in the metagame. Cabal Therapy is the major method of dealing with Pernicious Deed and Energy Flux, as you’ll notice the lack of Kami of Ancient Law. In speaking with the deck’s designer I expressed my concern about the lack of Kami of Ancient Law. He told me that his main method of defeating decks that ran Energy Flux was just to race them with damage. Reanimator, Tog, U/G and Scepter-Chant (all decks that can tutor up Energy Flux) are susceptible to early game rushes, and Fling as a finisher can ensure that a hefty creature will get in there no matter what.

The Overloads are for the mirror, Scepter-Chant, Mind’s Desire and Tog. Seal of Removal is your best answer to Reanimator, while Welding Jar and Engineered Plague round out the toolbox sideboard and are your best answer to decks running Mountains.

So where are the Meddling Mages? Well as above with the Kami of Ancient Laws, the deck had a two-fold difficulty in casting Kami and Meddling Mage: The mana vulnerability and the reliance on turn 1 Aether Vial. Many proponents of Meddling Mage here at Neutral Ground assured me that the loss of Darksteel Citadel is rough but acceptable, but let me be the first to say that this is not the case whatsoever. The RDW matchup can be decided purely on how many Darksteel Citadels you draw to match their Wastelands, and the addition of so many vulnerable lands can be extremely detrimental to your win percentage.

I’ve been playing Affinity for so long now, in so many different formats, that’s it difficult to describe testing or learning how to play the deck. I see various errors in how to win with it however, so let me give some general tips for winning with the deck.

First and foremost, you have to understand when to choose the Combo or Aggro method of winning. The “Combo” is Ravager + Disciple, +Fling if you’re feeling particularly vicious, and works well against any opponent without removal (for the Disciple – the Fling can’t be countered by creature removal as it’s a sacrifice), anytime after the first 4 turns (when you’ve amassed a sizable amount of artifacts), or against a deck that can race you if you try attacking them to death. What this means for your play is that you have to know when it’s right to bring out the Disciple and when it’s worth holding onto her in order to combo an opponent out. Ravager + Disciple + an artifact creature (preferably an attacking artifact creature) is one of the more powerful combos in Extended today, so it’s worth understanding when the Disciple should be played out early (like against control decks without access to Fire / Ice yet) or held on to.

This is a deck that you definitely should not use the “shaving” method of sideboarding to find room for your cards. The reason is that each card works with Ravager, Disciple and Cranial Plating as part of a lethal combination, and removing parts of the combo (like Arcbound Worker) is actively working against the synergy of the deck. For this reason, you really need to understand what cards can be removed.

Atog, for instance, is an anti-control card. It is capable of quick, large bursts of damage and as such is powerful against opponents seeking to extend the game. However, against a deck like Red Deck Wins, Atog is vastly inferior to Arcbound Ravager as the power boost, though larger than Ravager, is not permanent. So in the RDW matchup, it’s correct to devalue the Atogs in order to fit Welding Jars and Plagues, as the matchup is less a race and much more attrition based. Luckily for you, your card advantage is efficient enough that it will allow you to recover from all but the worst of draws.

Also another card that can be boarded out with impunity against the right deck is Myr Enforcer. In a matchup where a lot of one-for-one artifact or creature removal is being utilized, Myr Enforcer is going to cost a lot more than 0-2 mana most of the time. Overload on your lands, Firebolt on Frogmites, Lava Darts on those pesky Workers … Myr Enforcer isn’t going to have many friends when you announce his cost and put him on the stack. With that in mind, it’s probably best to keep those Atogs in against RDW, even if they aren’t that effective, and bring in Plagues and Welding Jars for 2 Flings and Enforcers in order to keep your curve as low as possible. After all, even if you can’t rely on abusing the Affinity mechanic, Fling remains a great way to generate card advantage (stacking damage and Flinging a Grim Lavamancer or morphed Blistering Firecat for instance).

As for the match results, let’s talk turkey…

When I read match results, I care about one thing – what the author thinks the percentages are. Ironically of course, I don’t usually list percentages. The reason is basically I figured out a while back that I wasn’t looking for the difference between 65% and 85% and 35%; I was looking for a general feel of the matchup. So when I list Overall – Favorable, I’m talking about 70% or so for you to win this match. Sure things can go wrong, but overall, you’re going to win this match more times than you aren’t. This is exactly like the old (Type II last year) Affinity (Skullclamp) v. Freshmaker, Affinity was like 70% though some people didn’t realize it, and on any given game you were the likely winner, unless they got the Oxidize->Tel-Jilad Justice->Justice draw.

So when my esteemed editor, whose advice has oscillated between perfect and spot-on since I began my stint here, told me that the matchup section of this article was not fleshed out enough, I decided to do some research and find out what he meant. After reading Mark Young article, I think I have a better idea, since that article was huge and contained a ton of matchup analysis. Personally, and this is my opinion only, I actually don’t find the turn-by-turn analysis to be helpful, in that, if an article focuses on the minutiae contained in each play in the early game of Affinity v. Mind’s Desire, I don’t think I’m learning anything. You mean, play out as many artifacts as possible and try to kill them before turn 4 or so? Gee, thanks. Now I don’t mean this as a dig to Mark, not at all. I have the utmost respect for Mark and I think with a deck like Mind’s Desire it’s probably very helpful to go through mock games and show how certain hands play out. However with a deck like Affinity, I wonder what people are looking for in matchup analysis.

Personally I think the only thing I can help with for the PTQ season when it comes to a discussion of Affinity is a discussion of the fundamental theories behind the deck, why I chose the build I did, why I like certain cards over others, and a theoretical overview of how to win with the deck. What this means is that I can give you a general idea of how the matchups will then play out, hence Overall – Favorable or Unfavorable. It’s not that I’m skimping on the testing, not at all as I’ve played umpteen million games of Affinity, it’s because if I try to give more specific information I think it serves a purpose that ultimately is not going to be helpful to the average player.

Regardless, the below is a bit beefier match result area. Talk to me in the forums about what you’re looking for in this section. Thanks.

Mind’s Desire

Overall – Favorable. Their fundamental is a full turn slower than yours (4 to 3) and Atog/Fling is a consistent Turn 3 kill.

This matchup comes down to a few different things, but mostly (as with every aggro deck against combo) it comes down to how fast you come out of the gates. If you go Turn 1 Aether Vial turn 2 Ravager kick out Disciple, then I as the Mind’s Desire player have a real reason to be nervous. However if your start is Land, Land, Frogmite, untap Ravager, Thoughtcast go, that’s not nearly as impressive (though a great opening against many other decks).

It’s important to mulligan aggressively in this matchup. The Frogmite->Enforcer draw (on say, Turn 3) is almost an auto-win, and this draw can be achieved on six cards very easily, so there’s no argument against mulliganing a boring seven-card hand.

Sideboard – Cabal Therapy and Overload. Cut the Platings as the card really sucks against a deck with Snaps. You can cut the Enforcers on the draw for Overloads, but on the play I may find room in another way or just not run them at all.


Overall – Game 1 is 50/50, you have the advantage after board.

The good news about this matchup is that you get disruption in the form of Cabal Therapy after board, and Seal of Removal is great. The bad news is that they’re just as fast as you, and Akroma has vigilance. Board out the Enforcers to streamline the deck, and cut 1 Plating and 1 Fling for your better cards against this matchup.

If they have Exhume instead of Reanimate, your plans aren’t nearly as effective against six flying damage in the air. This matchup is one of the many reasons I prefer the 2 Blinkmoth Nexi. Not only can you go all-in on a Nexus with Ravager and kill an opposing Akroma, but you can just straight up chump block for 2 turns, which should be more than enough to win the game with a deck as quick as Ravager. This matchup is a very important one to utilize the Disciple damage as early as possible, and you can play her out with impunity on Turn 1 to ensure you get maximum damage out of the little sidekick that could.

The angry pink elephant


Overall – Depends on their board, but favorable Game 1, and you can steal Game 2 or 3.

I’m a straight shooter so I’ll tell ya straight: Pulverize sucks hard for you. You get some Welding Jars after board but if they draw a Pulverize and wreck you with it, don’t blame me for playing with Artifact lands. That said, Game 1 is good for you assuming your draw isn’t the nut low and theirs doesn’t involve a lot of Wastelands, and Games 2 or 3 will definitely involve a huge Ravager and a Welding Jar.

Some things to keep in mind about this matchup are how different the games play out between pre and post sideboarding. Games 2 and 3 RDW has the insane Pulverize against you, which means they have inevitability and you have to be the aggro deck. In Game 1, Affinity is the favorite to win the long game by a country mile as you have card advantage, Plating, and dorks with modular. Also, Darksteel Citadel is probably your second best card in this matchup (Ravager being the 1st) as it survives Wasteland and Pulverize. Try to keep in mind that outside of Volcanic Hammer RDW has nothing but Shocks in their deck, so it’s good to wait until you can play out Frogmite with a Worker and Ravager in play if you can, to ensure that your Frogmite can survive a Shock for little loss. Maximizing resources is an important aspect of this matchup, especially Game 1. Games 2 and 3 your best method of winning is either relying on explosiveness (see the final game of Canali v. Nakamura for instance) or card advantage so you can recover from a Pulverize.


Overall – Same as RDW, unless they have Wish for Pulverize Game 1, in which case it’s slightly worse.

This matchup is good for you. They don’t have a good answer for Ravager except to hurt themselves with Sparksmith, and the multiple Flings are awesome here. The good news about this matchup is that they want to attack (like U/G) and your guys are all bigger, better, and can move their power and toughness around with little effort, making combat a nightmare. Going all in on Ravager is usually your best way to win, but not at the expense of a strong ground force. Free Frogmites are often devastating early, as it prevents attacking with Goblin Warchief and Goblin Piledriver effectively.

The best way to lose this matchup is to screw up with your math and lose a Ravager to Sparksmith… just thought you should know.

I think this matchup is just plain favorable, you shouldn’t lose much. Check out the Top 8 of Columbus if you want a refresher.


Overall – Favorable, cause their deck is a bad version of yours.

Here’s the problem with U/G: it wants to beat down against you. The problem is that your Arcbound Ravager is as big as you want it to be, and you keep your powerups. Plus Intuition costs 3 for Roars, where my Thoughtcasts draw 2 Enforcers and they’re nearly free. U/G has no removal and no disruption so it’s just a pure goldfish, which you should win unless they get the Mongrel->Wurm->Wonder->Roar draw and yours was sort of slow. Blinkmoth Nexus, Fling and Cranial Plating are about as good as it gets here. Board into the 2 Seal of Removals for tempo (it’s a race!) and cut 2 Cranial Platings, since they’ll have bounce, and you should be good to go, just be sure to mulligan slow hands.

A quick aside on mulliganing with Ravager. This is one of the greatest decks to mulligan with in the history of Magic. I’ve gone to five so many times with this deck and won on turn 3, it’s difficult to remember. Keep this in mind – 5 land is not good! You can go to 5 cards, get Aether Vial, Land, and 3 random creatures, and win with ease on turn 4. So remember, mulligan aggressively.


2 words: Thanks. Zvi.

Aether Vial, ’nuff said. They can wish for Rebuild, which is about their only out. Board into Cabal Therapies and Overloads and go to town.

Honestly there’s not much else to say about this one. They have Force Spike and other Counters (yet another reason Vial is insane against them) so it’s important to draw out Counters to make way for your powerful spells. Ravager is your best card in this match as always, so make sure he doesn’t ever get Force Spiked. After turn 2 you should never walk into a Spike if you can help it as the deck is just too mana efficient to allow itself to get Spiked. Thoughtcast is more important than usual here as it allows you to draw enough low-cost threats (thanks Affinity!) to overload their countermagic, even if they have Scepter on counter.


Overall – You’re an aggro deck and they’re plan is to gain a million life on turn 3 or so.

This matchup is bad, as if you didn’t know. Flings are real good against them, so I would board into the fourth, take out the Platings and the Enforcers as they’re too slow, and go for the Therapies in an attempt to disrupt them. Games 2 and 3 you have a real shot, but between one of the two they’ll usually go off.

Fling is important here mostly as an answer to Daru Spiritualist or Task Force. In response to an Aether Vial activation, you can Fling something at the Cleric and try to keep them from going off. Also, Flings speed up the deck so it’s a more effective method of killing them before they can set up the combo.

That’s about all I have. Best wishes for GP: Boston if you’re going. Next week tune in for a detailed account of how I tested for this tournament, and the highlights of the event.

Oh yeah, and if you’re not quite hardcore enough for Boston, enjoy the Super Bowl!

Michael Clair

[email protected]