Oh joy of joys, and exaltations aplenty! The Block season is upon us! Let us rejoice, for the metagame is diverse.
Well, it is if you’re a fan of the Green spells.
After lengthy examination, it seems that MD5 throws up the following competitive sweetmeats:
Tooth and Nail
U/W Angel Control
Some form of Ironworks abortion
I think the above list is a good benchmark from which to expand. If I’ve missed out anything obvious, I heartily apologize. So, let us ponder the various matchups as we attempt to see-
What’s that you’re saying? … Affinity? Never heard of it. What does it mean?
<Handed an Arcbound Ravager. Reads the card. Handed Disciple of the Vault. Reads the card.>
Nah, it’ll never work… Why do I think that, you ask? Well, the main card is an artifact. Hell, the bloody deck is an artifact. The big decks above almost all contain a myriad of artifact hatred. Oxidize, Detonate, Tel-Jilad Justice, Viridian Shaman, Molder Slug… You’ll be battered to zero permanents before you can say ‘March of the what-now?’
Stick with the Green spells, Bucko. You know it makes sense.
If I received a dollar each time someone said”Affinity has been hated out of the metagame”, I’d be Dave frigging Williams. Victims of their own success, Affinity decks have been rightfully feared since the Block began. Fast, consistent, devastating and deadly.
But nowadays, their chances are scoffed and derided. Apparently, Ravager is as likely to win as a dolphin at a dog show.
So what’s changed?
“People play tons of artifact hate maindeck! They have Oxidize, Detonate, Tel-Jilad Justice, in multiples! And they can re-use them!”
My answer to this is a simple one…
The history of our fine game is littered with successful aggressive decks that should be shut down by their respective metagames. Look at the Goblin menace in the current Standard. Everyone knows their strength, everyone designs and tests with the red menace in mind, and everyone knows (and can exploit) their inherent weaknesses. There’s COP Red, Pulse of the Fields, Pyroclasm, Ravenous Baloth, Silver Knight, Worship, Exalted Angel, Vine Trellis, Starstorm, Infest, Wrath of God, Smother, Terror…
Check out the top eight decks from French Nationals. Goblins A-Go-Go.
In Odyssey Block and Odyssey Standard, Blue/Green Madness was the bludgeoning deck of choice. People knew the dangers of the Mongrel and his mad pals, people designed entire decks to wreak carnage on the beatdown strategist. There was Mono Black Control, there was the scum-fest that was Wake… and yet those flying Wurms brought home the bacon time and time again. The mirror match for Blue/Green was usually won by the player with the most consistent aggro build. Some weak-minded folk played Unsummon main, some played Merfolk Looter… but still, if the beatdown machine was well oiled then the wheel kept turning.
And now Affinity decks face a similar peril. Artifact killers in spades, oh my!
Well SOD IT, say I!
Play your Ravagers with pride!
“But Craig,” I hear you bleat,”we’re scared! We fear the field of evil we’ll undoubtedly face if we run the aggro deck of choice! We feel powerless in the face of such destruction. We’re wavering, unsure of what to do! Surely Affinity can’t be strong when there are other, more resilient options available to us.”
You know what?
If you’re scared of the hate, then don’t play Affinity.
Not because you shouldn’t, mind… but because you can’t.
“How dare you say we can’t play Affinity! We’ve been playing it with some success for quite a while, thank you very much! We know what to cast and when to cast it, when to swing and when to sac things!”
Oh, I don’t doubt for a second that you know the correct plays. I’m sure you’ve tested the deck until the moon burst, until the Holy Budde Himself, our Kai-In-The-Sky, broke down and wept though exhaustion.
But it takes nerve to be the beatdown.
And quite frankly, I don’t think you’ve got the grapes.
Aggro decks, traditionally, get a bad press. I know I’ve touched on this topic before, but it’s worth repeating. Apparently, any banjo-playing inbred can throw Goblins at someone until they die in a pool of vomit. However, leaving aside this argument, there’s still one thing that the aggressive strategist needs over the control player, one undeniable fact and facet of the game for which the beatdown gets little recognition…
You need balls to be the beatdown.
Balls the size of Boston.
To successfully pilot an aggressive deck, you need to disregard your opponent and his signalled responses. So what if there’s a single Green open, and your opponent sits smiling with a fistful of cards? Equip that Cranial Plating, make that Enforcer, sack your board to the Ravager. Challenge your opponent to have the answers. Call his bluff, make him play his spells. Win the game, and win it quickly. Laugh in the face of the lightning.
To be the beatdown means throwing caution to the wind. Of course, there are provisos: commit yourself to the board, but don’t over-commit. Make pertinent threats that need speedy answers. When the answer comes – and it will – make more threats that need yet more answers. At every stage of the game, ask yourself the following: Will I win if my opponent can’t deal with what I have? If the answer is yes, then determine how long that victory will take. If it will be a quick victory, then simply send the guys sideways. If your foe has ten turns to stabilise, then apply more pressure.
But never, ever be scared to bring down the beats. Make them find and use their answers. If you fear their responses, you won’t be playing to the fullness of your aggressive capacity. If you suspect they have a trick up their sleeve, then force their hand immediately. If they telegraph an answer, if they leave mana open to represent the card that wrecks you… make them cast it anyway. Do not give them time to dig for their gold.
But of course, you know this. It’s basic beatdown common sense. But still, at it’s heart, lies an eternal truth about our crazy card-flipping battle royale:
- Do not fear the strategy of the opposition.
- Stick to your guns, and your game.
- Play with courage.
- Play with conviction.
- And above all, have confidence in both your deck and your ability.
Timidity kills, folks.
If you can’t even have courage in your deck choice, how can you expect to play without fear?
Of course, I’m sure that there are many other reasons for avoiding Affinity. Hell, Tooth and Nail is a blast to play, and winning through an Ironworks Combo feels so deliciously wicked. But if the only reason you’re not playing Affinity is that you can’t face the shift in the metagame, then it’s not the deck for you. In playing it, you’d have the correct tools… but you’d be too weak for the job.
In conclusion, I say to those who doubt that Affinity has a significant chance, those Affinity past-masters who flee from the hate they undoubtedly fear, those that think that the Disciple is dead and the Ravager has ravaged his last…
Don’t count on it.
Because when the dust clears, the fearless will prevail.
Thanks for listening.
Scouseboy on Magic Online