Sarnia Affinity 2.0

I’m back with all the news that’s fit to print about Sarnia Affinity, the control Affinity deck that’s grown in popularity amongst Type Two players ever since it was first unveiled by J.M. Babin at Ontario Provincials. I’ve pretty much taken over”official” Sarnia Affinity deck development post-Provincials, first cleaning it up and putting together a decent sideboard for the first article and now, putting together, testing, and publishing the post-Darksteel edition.

Hi everyone!

I’m back with all the news that’s fit to print about Sarnia Affinity, the control Affinity deck that’s grown in popularity amongst Type Two players ever since it was first unveiled by J.M. Babin at Ontario Provincials. I’ve pretty much taken over”official” Sarnia Affinity deck development post-Provincials, first cleaning it up and putting together a decent sideboard for the first article and now, putting together, testing, and publishing the post-Darksteel edition.

I have to warn you – this article is sweet, but short. The tournament report from last week was pretty long, so I’m giving Ted a break this week and firing off a piece without the usual quota of bad jokes, dumb assertions, and chronically bad similes. There may be a joke or two, but like the last time I touched another man’s buttocks, it’s purely accidental.

So… without further ado… here we go! Something for you to bring to FNM and drop elbows. Wham!

Here’s the updated decklist for Sarnia Affinity 2.0:

Sarnia Affinity 2.0

Main Deck

4 Broodstar

4 Myr Enforcer

4 Mana Leak

4 Chromatic Sphere

4 Pyrite Spellbomb

4 Aether Spellbomb

4 Thoughtcast

4 Thirst for Knowledge

3 Assert Authority

3 Override

2 Talisman of Dominance

4 Glimmervoid

4 Seat of the Synod

4 Great Furnace

4 Vault of Whispers

4 Darksteel Citadel

Sideboard (this is mine, but you should tailor yours for your local metagame)

3 Pyroclasm

3 Terror

3 Echoing Truth

3 Furnace Dragon

3 Persecute

The deck still has all the things that make it great. All the lands are Ancient Tombs, there are twelve Mind Stones, all the creatures are tip-top quality, and you have permission and card drawing to burn. The above updated decklist is my own, as I’ve become the sole developer of the”official” Sarnia version ever since J.M. Babin won Ontario Regionals with it – Jean-Marc has been working on U/W Control. With the popularity of the deck, I’m sure many other people have updated their personalized versions for the new environment, but for all intents and purposes this should be considered the canonical”Sarnia Affinity 2.0″.

Card Analysis & Strategy

Darksteel Citadel

Mmm… indestructalicious.


What exactly does Darksteel Citadel do? Actually, you’d be surprised. First and foremost, the Citadel lets you get out of the blocks against those guys who board in about forty copies of Detonate. Opening up with”Citadel, Chromatic Sphere. Next turn, Glimmervoid” means that you have the mana for Mana Leak on turn 2, and they can’t do anything about it, even with a handful of Echoing Ruins or Detonates. Next turn, you can lay your Seat of the Synod and counter the Detonate, or the Ruin, or just Thirst for Knowledge, grab some replacement land, and let it resolve. In this way, SA 2.0 is very resilient! You can actually easily win games where your opponent has Oxidize, Echoing Ruin, and Detonate in his opening hand. Citadel, Glimmervoid, cantrip spellbombs, start drawing cards, drop a Broodstar.

The other thing that Darksteel Citadel does is protect you from Akroma’s Vengeance. There were a couple of games in testing where a Vengeance was cast and I had enough Glimmervoids and Citadels out to seriously consider cashing in all my cantrips and letting it resolve. The Citadel/Glimmervoid makes it possible to recover from Akroma’s Vengeance. This will be more important for faster Affinity decks that can’t counter the Vengeance, but it helps here, too.

Because Tree of Tales was cut from the deck, I had to change the sideboard around quite a bit, but that’s fine – there are some great new options out there.

Talisman of Dominance

Two. It’s the loneliest number since the number one.

I replaced the two City of Brass in the deck with these, now that the sideboard is down to three colors. They really help you get Blue mana more consistently, and accelerate to third turn Persecutes out of the sideboard. If I find I can safely drop to 20 mana sources without hurting the deck (doubtful, but I am testing), these will likely become Lightning Greaves to combat the increasing numbers of Dark Banishings on the opposing side. City of Brass was a necessary evil in the first iteration of the deck, helping to facilitate the sideboard, but I was always frustrated that it didn’t increase my artifact count like a Seat or Furnace. Talisman gives the best of both worlds, providing two the three needed colors and helping with Affinity.

Echoing Truth

E.T… he makes all of those Soldiers phone home.

The best new sideboard card of the bunch. Echoing Truth replaces Stifle in the sideboard, and does more work than the one-mana instant ever could. Echoing Truth”counters” Decree of Justice in much the same way that Stifle did, but it also deals with Story Circle, which stops you in the late game, and give you a second chance to get rid of an early Exalted Angel, costing the U/W player lots of tempo in the process. It can also save your men from Wrath of God and Wing Shards, a trick that Stifle can’t manage (though it can counter the Storm trigger on Wing Shards, if you’re desperate). A great card for the deck.

Furnace Dragon

Cast this guy and it’s like Shaq hitting the paint. Furnace Dragon is your”tech” for the mirror, and adept at”fouling up” your opponents plans! He’ll assassinate the entire enemy board, so the trick is to play defense until you’re ready to fire the big guy into play and knock out the enemy. SA 2.0 is very good at such defense, luckily for us. The mana looks tricky at first, but with twelve sources in your deck (including the Chromatic Sphere), you will find three Red mana, on average, in the top fifteen cards. With the number of cantrips and card drawers in the deck, this is no problem.

To play Furnace Dragon correctly, you have to remember exactly what it’s going to do. The Big Aristotle is going to remove all artifacts from the game when it comes into play. That means enemy Myr Enforcers are toast, and enemy Broodstars will die. You will want to cantrip any Chromatic Spheres and Spellbombs you have before casting, if you can spare the mana. If you have Glimmervoids, hold back a land or a Spellbomb if you can and play it after you resolve the Dragon – the ‘Voids only die at the end of the turn if you have no artifacts in play. (Your opponents Glimmervoids will be eating… yes, you guessed it… the ol’ dirt sandwich.)

You want to let your opponent possibly get a couple of creatures out, stockpile cards in your hand, counter, bounce, or kill annoying stuff like Disciple of the Vault, Dwarven Blastminer etc, and then drop the Bomb Diggity Dragon to bring the game home. Even if your opponent does run the”Aether Spellbomb your Dragon” (far from a certainty, many people sideboard them out in the mirror) all that means is that you get your Dragon back to use again, and they still lose all their stuff, while you probably keep some Glimmervoids.

Sideboarding Guide + Matchup Analysis

Clamp Bidding (-3 Assert Authority, -3 Override, +3 Terror, +3 Pyroclasm)

There’s a new Tier 1 deck in town. Clamp Bidding is the real deal, and you’ll see it in your area soon, if you haven’t already. The basic decklist is something along the lines of the version posted by Seth Burn in his recent article, and you should be familiar with it.

This matchup is hovering right around 50%. If they don’t draw Skullclamp, you generally win after boarding (the whole Echoing Ruin + Detonate sideboard plan rarely works – they run out of gas), but unfortunately there are four Skullclamps, and it’s likely you’ll be staring one down sooner or later. Skullclamp is like a bad penny – it always turns up. Broodstar and Myr Enforcer are both vulnerable to that annoying Dark Banishing as well, and with the low number of threats in the deck, you really need to make sure they stay alive to put the pressure on. A couple of Lightning Greaves would solve this problem (as well as adding some speed to the deck), but I’m not sure where to fit them in. Stay tuned.

An alternate sideboarding plan removes three Aether Spellbomb instead of three Override, as Goblin threats are very cheap and easy to recast (making the Spellbomb less than optimal), and you do need to stop Bidding from resolving in order to mop things up. I expect this matchup to evolve a lot in the coming months, and as the collective minds of the Magic world at large come up with new sideboarding technologies, my own Clamp Bidding solutions will inch ever closer to whatever turns out to be optimal. This configuration will serve for now.

U/W Control (-4 Aether Spellbomb, -1 Pyrite Spellbomb, -1 Mana Leak, +3 Persecute, +3 Echoing Truth)

This matchup is in your favor. Echoing Truth is a dynamite sideboard card, Assert Authority can remove their Eternal Dragons, and your threats cost almost nothing in the lategame and kill in two or three turns. You card drawing is better and your counterspells are more efficient. The key cards to watch for are March of the Machines, Akroma’s Vengeance, and Wing Shards. Avoiding the last two is just a matter of Persecutes and common sense, but you generally don’t want to name”Blue” with Persecute so it’s harder to keep the more devastating March from hitting the board. Just keep your eyes open and keep a counterspell ready at all times. March of the Machines is the new Akroma’s Vengeance – if it resolves, you lose.

You have a couple of things going for you, though. First, March of the Machines is a very narrow sideboard card. It isn’t nearly as effective against other versions of Affinity that run many Talismans and things like Tooth of Chiss-Goria and Atog, so the chances that U/W decks will be clogging their sideboards with four copies when wading into a field crammed full of Skullclamp weenie decks aren’t too good. Second, March is almost as hard to resolve against you as Vengeance was.

Remember to use Echoing Truth to bounce Soldier tokens and clear out Story Circle, and you’ll be in the clear.

Aggro-Affinity (-3 Assert Authority, -3 Override, +3 Pyroclasm, +3 Furnace Dragon)

Aggro-affinity is anything that tries to be fast while running between 0-4 counters. Some have Atogs, some have Somber Hoverguards (!), some have Disciples of the Vault. Most have Frogmites. You want to turn into the control deck here and take the pressure off, then win the game with your card drawing and massive creatures, or a fat Furnace Dragon. Aggro-affinity decks run out of gas really, really, really fast (I can’t stress this enough) and you should win if they don’t draw (you guessed it) Skullclamp. Even if they have it, just stay alive until Furnace Dragon comes out to say hello. The best two spells to use Mana Leak on are Skullclamp and Myr Enforcer.

This matchup is about 50%. Your sideboard actually depends on what creatures you’re up against. If you don’t see any good targets for Pyroclasm, you probably shouldn’t put it in – an Override or Assert Authority is better. (I recommend you use it on that game-ending Shrapnel Blast.) Also watch out for enemy Furnace Dragons!

Control Affinity a.k.a. The Mirror (-1 Mana Leak, -2 Pyrite Spellbomb, +3 Furnace Dragon)

This matchup is hard to play. The key is to:

a) Have more artifacts than the other guy so your Broodstar is bigger

b) Resolve Furnace Dragon

In order to have more artifacts, you need to draw more cards. For this reason, you’ll want to counter Thirst for Knowledge on occasion if it’s at all convenient. Use your Aether Spellbombs to save your Myr Enforcers when they run into enemy Enforcers. If you suspect that your opponent might be boarding in Dwarven Blastminer, board out Aether Spellbombs instead of Pyrite Spellbombs.

Vs. R/G Landkill (-3 Assert Authority, +3 Terror)

Again, the”ten billion land destruction” plan doesn’t work that well against you, because 20% of your lands can’t be destroyed, you can lead with non-Detonate and non-Oxidize targets, and the R/G deck sometimes simply runs out of gas. The Terrors are for Molder Slug. If it resolves and stays around, you’re not winning unless you already have Broodstar out and swinging. Feel free to use them on other things if you have to, but try to avoid it. You can trade a Spellbomb (on Enforcer) with Ravenous Baloth, fancy stuff like Glissa Sunseeker dies to Pyrite Spellbomb, and none of their other creatures do much of anything, so you should be fine.

Broodstar is the key. Get him out and start beating down. Even with all the landkill and artifact destruction in the world, this deck can’t keep up forever without some savage topdecks. They have no card drawing, and most of their spells trade with your land. So what do they have left to trade with your spells?

Sometimes they get an insane draw and shut you down, sure. But just as often, your deck will be just as unfair – and I’ll take an Affinity nut draw against any other nut draw in the format. Sometimes you get all your land wiped out and sometimes you have three Myr Enforcers on the table on turn 4.

WW Equip (-3 Assert Authority, -3 Override, +3 Terror, +3 Pyroclasm)

If they draw a Skullclamp, all bets are off. If they don’t, you will almost assuredly win after boarding – you have too much removal, your threats are too big, your answers too efficient. The matchup looks to be about 60-65%, but I’ve only played twelve test games, so don’t quote me on that – it’s too early to tell. Just use Pyroclasm like the wrecking ball it is and you’ll be fine. Now that these decks are shying away from running Glorious Anthem (a very annoying card to play against) you should clean up with your removal and smash face.

Some of the WW decks are splashing Red now for Shatter, Detonate, or Echoing Ruin in sideboards. This doesn’t work as well as advertised for the reasons I’ve already outlined – you just can’t stunt Affinity mana growth if they draw a Darksteel Citadel, Glimmervoid, or especially the two in tandem. Many of the same decks also run Shrapnel Blast and artifact lands, so don’t get too low on life. WW can’t deal with an 8/8 Broodstar on turn 5 with counter backup, will never be able to deal with it, and will remain a Tier 2 deck for as long as it exists simply because of that fact.

If you’re interested in experimenting with your sideboard, try to find room to slip a couple of Persecutes into the deck against these monocolored beatdown opponents. I haven’t done much testing with it, but I suspect it might be the right way to go.

Alternate Sideboard Configurations

Just some quick recommendations for how to tailor the sideboard to your local area.

If your area has a lot of Mind’s Desire combo, try Stifle.

If your area has a lot of Urzatron stuff, try Dwarven Blastminer.

If your area has a lot of Elves, try Hibernation (though Pyroclasm/Terrors is just fine, Hibernation/Persecute is a fine sideboard also)

If your area has a lot of B/G Cemetery, try Scrabbling Claws or, alternatively, just counter the Grave Pact and win the game by pounding their face with Broodstar.

If your area has a lot of Zombies or metagame decks with stuff like Emissary of Despair, replace the Terrors with Echoing Decay (you can also use these to”counter” Decree of Justice, and they work great against other aggro decks as well).

Have fun at FNM, folks! I’ll probably be playing this deck as long as it remains Tier 1, so you can expect further updates as the deck rolls with the punches – you have to adapt when everyone is gunning for you. Who knows what surprises Fifth Dawn will bring?

If you have anything to say about Sarnia Affinity or Affinity design in general, or you just want to say”hi”, feel free to email me or chime in on the StarCity forums.

Until next time, may all your money drafts be against ATM machines. Cha-ching!


Geordie Tait

[email protected]


GT__ in #mtgwacky

P.S.: To those of you asking about the status of the anagram game – I’m not sure if I’m going to continue it. A big problem has appeared. You can use the mtgnews.com”Spoiler Generator” to figure out any anagram based on a cardname in seconds, and cardnames are far and away the best candidates for anagramming. I had the”Black Card” contest half done, but I had to scrap it because it’s pointless.

I’m not sure if we’ll be able to run another contest, but I do want to thank all those that participated, and congratulate Andrew Levine on winning the”Green Card” contest. If another contest does get run, I’ll keep my promise and your name will be on the front page, Andrew. For now, you’ll have to be content with this postscriptum.