And two weeks passed… and so the metagame formed.
The response to my last article wasn’t as informative as I had hoped – but time tells all. I now have a pretty good idea of what’s out there. After a week and a half of PTQs, the metagame seems to be filled with something we thought we wouldn’t see for a long time since the last time….
The dominance of Blue/Green. Not since Wild Mongrel has Blue/Green triumphed in a format with such dominance. With the absence of Skullclamp, the Green artifact hate can finally keep up and quash the artifact wave. Commonly known as Crystal Witness, or”the Shard deck”, the Blue/Green creation reuses 187 creature effects with bounce. Eternal Witness and Thirst for Knowledge bring a whole new level of card advantage to the format… it is probably the best card advantage available now that Clamp is gone.
Then there was Condescend.
Condescend is one of the best counterspells ever printed. Sure, it’s not Counterspell, Force of Will, or Mana Drain, but it’s probably the next best one after those three. It has long been known that card selection has a close relation to card advantage, and it is sometimes better to Scry two than to draw one. Getting back Condescend with Eternal Witness is just demoralizing to an opponent.
Eternal Witnesses eternally haunt thee.
Eternal Witness is the bread that makes this sandwich – its uses are almost limitless. It is good against just about every deck and always makes you happy when it’s in your opening hand, or when you topdeck it, or well, pretty much whenever. It is not the best card in the deck, but it gets you those cards back after you have used them, so in a way, its all the best cards in the deck put together.
Oh, right… the metagame… I bet you are wondering what else is in it?
Well, lets see… Blue/Green, Green, Other Green, with Blue… oh and there is some Red.
What, no artifacts? No affinity? Where are all the KCI decks that were being hyped up?
Well, when I went to the PTQ in Philly this past weekend, I took a good look around then room. I looked left, I looked right, and then I promptly started to take Oxidizes out of my deck. That’s right – the most efficient artifact killer out there, and I was cutting them from the main. In the end I threw a couple back in, but not the full complement. There simply were not enough artifacts out there; all I saw was a sea of Oxidizes and Viridian Shamans.
What happens when all the artifacts are destroyed? What is a Viridian Shaman to do with its time? Does it paint its nails? Does it even have nails?
At any rate, here is what I saw:
Blue/Green Shard deck – Basically the same deck that came in second at GP: Zurich.
Tooth and Nail – everyone loves this deck. It isn’t bad either, and there are some new variants running around.
Red Dragon – close to the deck from Kobe, with some changes for the new set.
Affinity – very sparse, but some people stuck by their guns and got shot out of the sky.
Blue/White March – Chock full of Marches, Indestructibles, and Pristine Angels.
Mono-Green – Beacon of Creation, Fangren Firstborn, Molder Slug and the turning sideways thereof.
So, to kick things off for the block metagame articles, I am going to start with Affinity.
Yes, Affinity. The deck that is getting shot out of the sky… the former king of the hill. For those of you who just can’t get enough, look to the light – there is a way. It is not mission impossible… it’s Affinity Impossible.
4 Great Furnace
4 Vault of Whispers
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Blinkmoth Nexus
4 Myr Servitor
4 Shrapnel Blast
4 Disciple of the Vault
4 Moriok Rigger
4 Magma Jet
2 Grab the Reins
2 Myr Enforcer
4 Arcbound Worker
4 Arcbound Ravager
This deck attempts the impossible – winning in a format full of hate. How can it do this? By being quick and deadly… you see, Affinity was always a very threatening archetype even before the printing of Skullclamp. Atog was the large driving force of the deck back then, but now it had two aides – Arcbound Ravager and Moriok Rigger. With these three quick kill cards combines with Disciple of the Vault and Shrapnel Blast, Affinity can once again kill with ease. By putting all of its artifact eggs in a non-artifact basket, Affinity can protect itself from all the hate.
Grab the Reins is one of the more interesting cards in the deck – in a way, this deck reminds me of an old budget deck I wrote about on magicthegathering.com. All the principles still hold true, and this deck can be very deadly, killing on turn 4 without too much trouble. Even back when I was testing against Ironworks, this affinity deck would sometimes win out of sheer speed.
One of the cards that will be most questioned in this decklist is Myr Servitor. Now, the Servitor is more of my preference rather than a must have, but I would recommend some kind of one-drop artifact, that should be a creature. I’ve had suggestions of Myr Moonvessel and Clockwork Beetle and those are fine suggestions, but in the end I thought the servitors interaction with Ravager and Atog were too sweet to pass up. Sure, you just have to get lucky and draw two for them to work, but even if you only draw one, you were just looking for something to pump your affinity anyhow.
Moriok Rigger is one of the most deadly cards in the deck. Its ability will make it quite large in a short period of time. Either you or your opponent will be putting artifacts in the graveyard – most likely both of you. Keep in mind the Rigger gets the bonus from your opponents’ artifacts going to the graveyard as well.
There are a couple things missing from this deck that you might have been expecting to see – the most obvious of which is Cranial Plating. To be frank, after playing with the Plating, I just hated it in this deck with the current environment. Yes, it can sometimes be a +5 to the attack, but more often it’s a waste of time and mana just to trade with an Oxidize. It invests your prime beating time into one artifact basket that gets shattered into smithereens before you can say Tel-Jilad Justice.
Another notable missing card is one of the many Blue card drawers available – namely Thoughtcast or Serum Visions. I took all the Blue out of the deck for the sake of consistency. Instead of Thoughtcast, I am instead employing the use of Magma Jet. The Jet removes annoying blockers while getting you the cards you need. Also, it can go to the dome if your only shot is to go for the kill. There is no feeling like Jetting them at seven and seeing a Shrapnel Blast in the top two cards of your deck. The last little quirk is the use of Seat of the Synod over Darksteel Citadel – it is strictly for sideboard purposes – I would recommend having some Somber Hoverguards in there against the Green menace. If I was going to have Blue in the deck – they would be in long before Thoughtcast.
Anyhow – let’s get to the creamy goodness of this cookie… Here are the matchups:
Vs Mono Green:
Might as well start with the tough ones first right? Well here is what you can expect. Oxidize, Viridian Shaman, Tel-Jilad Justice, and Molder Slug. If that doesn’t scare you, than you are a tried and true affinity player. Go balls to the wall and try to bash their face in with attacks from large Atogs, Riggers, and Ravagers (if you have a backup artifact attacker to receive Modular mid-attack when Oxidize strikes). Grab the Reins will be particularly effective with the Ray of Command, ability if they ever leave a large non-troll blocker back. How fun would it be to use their Fangren Firstborn to put a +1/+1 counter on all of your modular guys?
You will need to burn them out for the last few points guaranteed, so try to save your Shrapnel Blasts for the job. Using your Magma Jets to kill Fangren Firstborns is recommended, however. If they start going crazy with Beacon of Creation, then just try to plow through them. If you get Green in a position where they must block, then you got a shot to win. Atog and Myr Servitors are quite good at holding off their attackers, so use them wisely. Sideboarding in cards like Welding Jar might help against the extra artifact hate they might bring in. Having some flyers like Somber Hoverguards or Ornithopter handy might not be the worst idea in the world either.
Vs Green/Blue Shard:
This deck is a true hater – they will never run out of evil things to do to you because they reuse their threats with Crystal Shard if you give them enough time. The solution? Don’t give them enough time. The secret to beating this deck is knowing that their only real way to deal with a non-artifact creature is Echoing Truth, unless they are packing Duplicant or Triskelion, both of which are rather mid-game cards. Apply pressure almost to the point of recklessness and watch them tap out to deal with your threats… then hit them with the burn when they cannot Condescend. Both this and the Mono-Green matchup are tough as nails, but they are not unwinnable by any means. Boarding in Somber Hoverguards might be a good idea here.
Vs Tooth and Nail:
Post Post Post. While Tooth and Nail builds its nasty mana base, try to beat them down for as much as possible – their likely response will be to Oxidize and cast Eternal Witness getting back Oxidize. Just try to plow through as much damage as you can before they can cast Tooth and Nail. I might even sac a bunch of things to my Atog even if it wasn’t lethal, because after they cast Tooth and Nail, you better have enough burn to kill them, or nothing else is going to matter except perhaps Grab the Reins. Many Tooth decks these days do not run Darksteel Colossus, so they are much harder to stop once they get going. The Mephidross Vampire/Trike combo has become a popular one against creature decks. Your best weapon is your speed. Your next answer is to kill them faster. Sideboarding in some more Grab the Reins might not hurt either.
Vs Big Red:
This deck is a rather good matchup for you. While they used to be dragon-centric, the Furnace Dragon is extremely difficult for Red to support. In order for the to compete in a metagame full of Blue/Green and artifact hate, they must take more of a burn standpoint on the deck rather than a dragon variation. They will still have access to a couple dragons, but this version of Affinity is geared to be deadly too quickly for it to really come up much. You will likely win with a large Atog, Rigger, or Ravager, and there will be nothing they can do about it. Once they start burning your creatures you know you are golden.
Vs: Blue/White March:
This matchup really only comes down to two cards – March of the Machines and Pristine Angel. Everything else is just filler. You might want to keep an eye on your Blinkmoth Nexus mana – you might need to load it up via Ravager at any given point. They have a really hard time dealing with that outside of using an Angel to block it. It also gives you a blocker for Angel if they have no instants. Even if they play out a March, sometimes you can just kill them with Disciple by playing out your lands and letting them die. The use of four Glimmervoid and four Nexus help you maintain some mana after it happens.
When they play out Pristine Angel on you, then you better start getting tricky. I generally wouldn’t recommend trying to Shrapnel Blast it after they attack or anything, they generally have plenty of instants to make you frown. Instead, chuck the Blast at their face and see if they are still smiling. Basically you have to win the Angel race the hard way… luckily they start the race after you are most of the way to the finish line.
I wouldn’t worry too much about the mirror matchup, considering the low-density of Affinity decks, but if you do happen to bump into one, your Riggers will likely crush them. I think everyone has played enough Affinity on Affinity to understand how things work – it’s a bit different with Skullclamp gone, but it effectively comes down to who get more disciples.
Overall, if you are going to play Affinity, get prepared to face a sea of hate. If that’s your kind of thing and you really enjoy playing this deck, then go for it. This build is probably one of your best chances. Who cares if they kill all your artifacts if that’s what you wanted to do anyhow?
Next week, I’ll probably talk about Tooth and Nail, until then, may your Affinity equal seven.