Feature Article — Tarmogoyf Affinity in Extended

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The Extended Pro Tour kicks off this weekend… and you can be sure that some folk will run with the Overpowering Robots of Doom. Affinity has cast a long shadow over many a format, but does it still have the metaphorical grapes to run with the big dogs (and bigger Goyfs)? John “The Cak” Pelcak, a man with an affinity for Affinity, takes us through the motions.

Pro Tour: Valencia is coming up soon, and for those of you who are unsure about which deck to play, stay tuned.

For my first Extended article ever, I figured I probably should start off with something I actually know a decent amount about.

So what is that, you say?

Let me start by telling you a little something about my history with the deck we all know as “Affinity.” My first encounter with the deck was Regionals, way back when Disciple of the Vault and Skullclamp were both legal in the format. I lost playing for the slot to qualify for Nationals… but come on, Skullclamp?! Some kid got the slot playing Lightning Rifts and Astral Slides. That’s just not right.

My next encounter with the deck was Worlds ‘05. After two days of play I was 8-4 and needed to post a 5-0-1 or possibly 5-1 to make Top 8. The deck I decided to run for Extended Day 3? You guessed it: Affinity. It was basically the conventional Affinity list at the time, with Terrarions maindeck and Furnace Dragons out of the sideboard for the mirror. I rode the deck to victories over Nicolai Herzog, Gadiel Szliefer, Rogier Maaten, and Terry Soh, ultimately losing to the Das Hopper in the final round to finish 19th.

Fast forward to GP: Dallas earlier this year. It was a relatively new Extended format in which the most popular decks were Counterbalance Tog, Aggro Loam, Boros/Zoo variants, TEPS, and Tron. I was having a difficult time deciding what to play, but in the end I decided to go with the little robots that could. I didn’t think it was the best deck at the time, but I knew people weren’t going to be prepared for it. Here’s the list I ran…

3 Ornithopter
4 Arcbound Worker
4 Arcbound Ravager
4 Frogmite
4 Myr Enforcer

4 Chromatic Star
4 Pithing Needle
4 Cranial Plating
4 Shrapnel Blast
1 Fire / Ice
4 Thoughtcast

4 Seat of the Synod
4 Great Furnace
4 Vault of Whispers
4 Blinkmoth Nexus
2 Darksteel Citadel
1 City of Brass
1 Glimmervoid

4 Cabal Therapy
3 Darkblast
1 Fire / Ice
4 Tormod’s Crypt
3 Stifle

If I could go back and change anything about the deck for the tournament, I wouldn’t change a single thing. The deck performed amazing for me, and the number of artifacts and colored cards were balanced very nicely. At one point in the tournament I was 12-0 and eventually lost in the semifinals, in the closest match I’ve ever played, to Paul Cheon.

So how has the Extended format changed since then?

First of all there are two additional sets, being Future Sight and Tenth Edition. Future Sight offers us one of the best two-drops of all time in Tarmogoyf, which will surely have a huge impact on the format and it already has been on Magic Online. The set also contains interesting cards like Pact of Negation, Slaughter Pact, Tolaria West, Narcomoeba, and maybe even Street Wraith for dredge decks.

Tenth Edition also has some interesting additions in Aura of Silence, Incinerate, Goblin Lore, Mogg Fanatic, Squee, Root Maze, and Treetop Village (I’m sure there are more cards I’m forgetting).

First of all, Tarmogoyf will most likely be the most played card at the Pro Tour. Zoo will play it, Boros will cease to exist because of it, some Psychatog decks will play it, Aggro Loam decks will play it, The Rock will play it, and, well… Affinity can play it.

But is it worth it?

If you play Tarmogoyf in Affinity, you would have to cut either Shrapnel Blast or Thoughtcast. You need to play a certain amount of artifacts for the deck to run smoothly, which I have found to be some number around 45. You cannot play 4 of each Shrapnel Blast, Thoughtcast, and Goyf Master Flex. The deck just becomes too clunky at that point, and you won’t have as many blistering fast starts, which is the only reason the deck is still viable.

Another thing about Tarmogoyf in this deck is that if your opponent’s graveyard doesn’t fill up, it’s at best a two-mana ¾, and usually a 2/3. You don’t have many cards that actually go to your graveyard. Sure, you can get artifacts and lands easily, but once again if you play the Goyf, you have to cut the only sorcery or the only instant in the deck. I’m just not sure if it’s worth it.

Another possibility is to have him coming off the bench. He can be another solid answer to the deck’s main concern (Kataki, War’s Wage), and he also is very solid against Zoo, which will be popular for sure. You could board in Goyf and take out Shrapnel Blasts against aggro, which is a solid game plan.

Root Maze is another card that caught my attention at first glace. The deck is fast enough for it to not be that negatively affected by the Maze, but I think the format is going to definitely be leaning towards aggro so the Maze might not be an intelligent main deck selection.

Depending on how the format shifts before Pro Tour: Valencia, here’s the version of Affinity I would play if I chose to play Green in the deck…

Let’s talk about some of the changes I made to the deck.

First of all, I really don’t like the idea of playing the full number of Goyfs maindeck. If you draw two of them and your opponent’s graveyard isn’t filling up, you’re in trouble. You also never really want to play Goyf turn 2 anyway, so three seems like the correct number, with the fourth coming out of the sideboard for aggro matchups and decks with Kataki. Cutting the Red also left us with two additional main deck slots. This is where I was having trouble finding something that fit the deck’s needs.

I always fancied the idea of playing Tormod’s Crypt main deck in Affinity. To be honest, this might be the time to do it. With the addition of Narcomoeba and Bridge from Below, Dredge will definitely be one of the best decks in the format, not to mention the popularity that Aggro Loam will continue to have. Even if your opponent’s deck isn’t graveyard-based, it still powers out your Affinity spells quickly. Don’t forget about Goyf either, as many people will be playing him so just in case you don’t draw yours you can make theirs smaller. I really want to add more Crypts to the main deck, but you can’t really afford to draw multiples against aggro decks.

The last change I made to the maindeck was swapping a Darksteel Citadel for another Glimmervoid. Shrapnel Blast was good for many reasons, but the most overlooked attribute it had was not having to cast it early in the game. It didn’t matter if your opening hand contained no Red mana and Shrapnel Blast, you had plenty of turns to draw the Red mana. With Tarmogoyf now in its place, you can’t hold on to that guy until the last couple of turns of the game. The format is just too fast for that. If he’s in your opening hand you want to cast him by at least turn 4 or he isn’t going to have that big of an affect on the game against most decks.

The sideboard also has an addition in the form of Root Maze. I really don’t know how good this card is, but it seems like it could be the nuts. Four may be a requirement later on. It shines against all the slower controlling decks like the Rock, Tron, and it seems very good against Ichorid decks.

Frank Karsten recently wrote an article about the current Magic Online Extended metagame. The Top 5 decks were in order: Counter/Top (a bye for Affinity), Desire, Loam, BridgeOrid, and RDWithGoyf. You have game against all of those decks… and I would also like to pint out none of them play Kataki.

Although it does need to be taken into account that the reason Zoo isn’t as popular on Magic Online is because people can’t afford to build it. So expect Zoo to be one of the most popular decks at the PT, which is a tough match for Affinity. Tarmogoyf will help you against it immensely.

With the loss of Red in the deck, you lose many of your answers to the deck’s main problem: Kataki. You do, however, gain Tarmogoyf, which they also have to answer even if they do have the Kataki. The Goyf will be gigantic if they have the Kataki eating all your permanents.

Here are some pros and cons to the new list:


* Tarmogoyf gives Cranial Plating another target, so you will have fewer draws involving too many Platings and not enough creatures.

* Tarmogoyf also gives you a creature that isn’t an artifact. This doesn’t seem that important, but it really is. It can’t be killed by Ancient Grudge, and it gives you another answer to Kataki. The deck just becomes a little more resilient to all the hate out there.

* The Green also gives the deck access to Root Maze out of the sideboard. This card can be crippling against some decks, while barely affecting your side out the board. The downside to this card is drawing it late game is pretty lame.

* Tormod’s Crypt maindeck might be the tech for the tournament… just keep it on the d/l.


* Shrapnel Blast is five damage for two mana. No other card in the history of Magic can match that kind of damage/mana ratio. Shrapnel Blast is also the deck’s only finisher. Decks that can gain control the board will not have to fear losing to the Blast anymore.

* Tarmogoyf can sometimes be terrible because it is so hard to fill up your graveyard. You have to rely on your opponents for that part of the plan.

* Playing Tormod’s Crypt maindeck in combination with Tarmogoyf will lead to some awkward draws. I don’t think that situation will come up too often, and the Crypt can always just be a zero-mana artifact that speeds up your Affinity cards.

* I really liked Fire / Ice in this deck even though I only had one in my list. It gave you another answer to Kataki, and it randomly won games because people never expected it.

Do I really think this deck is a solid bet for the PT? Of course I do, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about it. Affinity is the fastest aggro deck in the format, so ignore it at your peril.

I think that just about does it for this time. My next article should be something about Lorwyn Limited, so check in sometime soon!

Thanks for reading,

The Cak