Constructed Criticism – The New Affinity

Wednesday, September 29th – I finally came across an article that sparked a new fire in me. Last week, Patrick Chapin discussed a Mono-White Artifact deck that actually got my blood flowing. Where is Affinity’s place in Standard?

After attempting to brew up some Standard goodness over the last few weeks, I haven’t found a whole lot of ideas I’ve really liked. While I haven’t done any playtesting yet, since I haven’t had access to the cards or time to proxy up some spicy brews, I’ve been reading pretty much every article I can get my hands on to learn as much as possible about the new format. Prospects for both Limited and Constructed for Scars of Mirrodin excite me, and I’m constantly searching for a way to break both formats.

While it might be more difficult to break Limited than Constructed, I think there are always small edges you can gain in Limited by finding value in cards people tend to disregard. The surprise factor found in a trick that people don’t expect, or in an ability that is under-utilized can be invaluable. That is how people win tournaments, and I’m definitely looking for this set’s sleepers. I’ve only played a single draft so far, but I had an awesome time and definitely gained a new respect for infect. That ability is, in a word: frightening.

It is really hard to compare infect (poison) to anything I’ve ever played against before, but all of the creatures have virtually double the power when dealing damage to players. Additionally, cards with proliferate gain incredible value after your opponent has gained a counter, giving you the ability to win without dealing them more than a single point of poison damage. While infect is a powerful ability, you are a bit vulnerable to things that produce -1/-1 counters. Trigon of Contagion is especially brutal, since most creatures with infect are small by design, and you’ll often lose two or three creatures to a single card.

Since it only takes ten poison counters to kill you, a deck truly dedicated to infect effectively starts the opponent at ten life. While your creatures are a bit smaller in combat, all of them leave a lasting impression with their wither effect. The only real

to infect is that it effectively nullifies your ability to draft creatures

infect. Once you start attacking the life total as well as accumulating poison counters, you’re dealing ten

damage than you’d normally have to. This will also give your opponent more information and more time to decide which creatures to block and which ones to let through. Draft infect or don’t. Mixing is definitely bad value.

Enough about Limited. There’s a particular deck I really want to discuss in Standard. I finally came across an article that sparked a new fire in me. Last week, Patrick Chapin discussed a Mono-White Artifact deck that actually got my blood flowing. After reading the article, I hopped onto Facebook and posted the following message:

“Quest for the Holy Relic is the new Sovereigns-Conscription.”

I was convinced that the combo was awesome, and after a short burst of comments, I found out that a lot of other people really liked the idea as well. In case you don’t have Premium, here’s the decklist he posted:

While this list is probably not perfect, it does have a lot of great things going for it.

For one, they’ve finally printed an equipment card that’s worth the investment of Quest for the Holy Relic.

For two, you’re making the best use out of the free artifact creatures, Memnite and Ornithopter, by combining them with Tempered Steel and Steel Overseer. They combo well with Glint Hawk and Myrsmith, too, creating a wonderful synergy that acts as the backbone to all of your strategies.

The Quest for the Holy Relic combo with Argentum Armor can put away a lot of decks in a hurry. With so many cheap and free creatures, expect to have it out very early, removing your opponent’s important permanents while smashing their brains in. Mono-Green and blue-based decks will have a problem dealing with this combo, simply because neither have a great answer to it.

The problem with Quest for the Holy Relic is the same as that with Sovereigns of Lost Alara and Eldrazi Conscription: in that you can sometimes just draw all of your Argentum Armors and not have them do anything. Fortunately for Mythic, you could use Jace, the Mind Sculptor to shuffle them back in. This variant on that strategy has nothing like that, so that means every Quest becomes a horrendously dead card after you’ve drawn your only copy of Argentum Armor.

In order to ease this pain, I might recommend starting by increasing the counts of both of these cards by one — maxing out on Quests and giving yourself a little breathing room should you ever draw a copy of the equipment in your opening hand. For starters, I’m not sold on every card in the maindeck and think there can be some small changes made to allow you to make this combo more reliable.

Etched Champion is a great asset to the deck, and I think it’ll be an amazing card for this archetype as time goes by. Once you play the fifth creature for Quest for the Holy Relic, you don’t want all of your hard work to go to waste, so attaching your Argentum Armor to Etched Champion is pretty obnoxious for most people to deal with. If you want to cut something, I don’t recommend cutting this guy until you try him out. There are very few strategies that can easily deal with him, and even then, most strategies will have to cast Day of Judgment in order to kill him, which is pretty problematic card for us anyway.

Another strength the deck has is its ability to abuse the Memnites and Ornithopters. With Steel Overseer, Tempered Steel, Myrsmith, and Glint Hawk, you should be able to assemble a formidable army very quickly. This army should easily be able to overtake another aggressive deck, since most of your cards act as a shell around an engine. Even if you don’t get your Quest plan online, you can still overwhelm just about anyone by making all of your creatures very large.

Consistency is another strength this deck has, since you virtually lack the ability to get color-screwed. Being monocolor can be very advantageous, and this also allows you to play four copies each of Dread Statuary (who is an artifact creature) and Tectonic Edge, giving your land-heavy draws a bit of value. You’ll almost always be able to have white mana on the first turn for Quest, since you’re playing fourteen Plains, and casting the double white on Tempered Steel should rarely be a problem.

While you have a few cool interactions like Lodestone Golem and Tectonic Edge, the deck lacks the ability to interact with a few different strategies. Decks containing Day of Judgment could really wreck you, since it’s in the deck’s nature to overextend. While Lodestone Golem and Tectonic Edge can help fight this (and Glint Hawk to bounce a creature now and then), I don’t foresee you putting up much of a fight against an opposing draw containing multiple sweeper effects.

While playing only a single color makes your deck more consistent, it limits your ability to interact with certain decks. Adding a secondary color to the deck could help limit this vulnerability, giving you access to both card advantage and countermagic.

Blue seems like the perfect fit, giving you access to Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Mana Leak, Riddlesmith, Trinket Mage, and possibly a few other solid cards. This addition, while potentially slowing you down a bit, could boost the percentages for those harder matchups, making this “the deck” for the upcoming Standard.

While I don’t have a perfect list by any means, here’s something I’ve been working on. I’m sure the manabase could be better, but I wanted to make Glacial Fortress enter the battlefield untapped more often than not, and the deck doesn’t have a lot of tough color requirements. The new U/W dual land, Seachrome Coast, is a fantastic addition to this archetype, since the deck rarely wants more than four lands in play anyway. Giving you the ability to Quest on the first turn, as well as eventually play a blue spell, is something a dual land hasn’t been able to do in Standard for quite a while.

If I were to splash blue in the deck, it’d look something like this:

Blue adds another dimension to the deck, but I’m still not sure if it’s worth it. Aggro decks have traditionally been kold to Day of Judgment, and the Mono-White version is no different.

The real question you have to figure out is whether or not adding blue to the deck actually adds more than it takes away. Is the variability of defense worth the decrease in consistency? You’re also losing the ability to play Tectonic Edge and Dread Statuary, which is a bummer, but you get Celestial Colonnade in their stead.

While I wasn’t quite able to fit Mana Leak into the maindeck of this list, I don’t think you need it for very many matchups.

Trinket Mage is a pretty awesome addition to the deck and gives you a few more options in deckbuilding, and there are a decent number of cards you could mix around, since you have a small tutor package. Trinket Mage also effectively counts as an artifact creature because it can tutor up Memnite or Ornithopter and cast it, so him not being an artifact creature himself shouldn’t be an issue. It costs one less mana than Lodestone Golem and can snag a Brittle Effigy in a pinch, as well as a Mox Opal to help you ramp.

Unified Will out of the sideboard could be any of a few different counterspells, but I chose this one specifically because you should almost always have more creatures out than your opponent for the matchups where you need a counterspell. Unified Will is pretty amazing, since most control decks have creature-based finishers, and Negate just doesn’t cut it anymore. Mana Leak could be added to the maindeck, but I’m just not sure where you could place it without decreasing the consistency of the deck, which is already being affected by adding another color.

I’ve also been looking to fit Jace, the Mind Sculptor into the deck, since he can do some interesting things when combined with eight free creatures. If you plan on playing Jace, then I’d play a few fetchlands in place of some of the basic lands to have something to shuffle the chaff away.

The deck does have a few redundant draws, and Jace could definitely help out in that regard, but having a four-drop that isn’t a creature or an artifact might not make the grade here. With that said, I’m sure he’ll eventually make the cut, since he is just too good. Since the rotation, he’s only gotten better with Maelstrom Pulse, Blightning, and Oblivion Ring all leaving the format.

As I’ve said, I haven’t tested with either list yet, but I’m excited about the prospect of both. After all, Standard should be much more fun now that Bloodbraid Elf isn’t the format. While there are still plenty of powerful cards, Mana Leak makes them all much more manageable. Cascade was just an unfair ability, and I’m very happy it’s no longer in Standard.

I hope to figure out some other sweet combos in the next few weeks before the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Nashville, but the 2010’s (State Champs) should give everyone a decent idea of what works and what doesn’t. While I’m unsure as to just what the format will look like, these few fire starters seem promising, and I’m really looking forward to battling.

As always, thanks for reading.
strong sad on MOL