Legacy Affinity – Deck Guide

Decks abusing the affinity mechanic have always been on the outskirts of the Legacy format. Usually, the decks end up looking closer to Vintage Workshops decks rather than more traditional approaches to affinity. With Modern Horizon 2‘s release though, this has changed since that set brought a ton of powerful artifacts and affinity cards along with it. We have seen a number of versions of the artifact decks show up, and I’ve even covered a few of them already. Today, I want to cover one of the decks most true to the affinity name that has been picking up steam lately. Most recently, Magic Online player xfile played this to a Top 32 finish in a Legacy Challenge and I really like a lot of what the deck is doing.

Let’s take a look at the list and what the deck is trying to do.



Legacy Affinity by xfile



Header - The Game Plan

This version of Affinity is more of an aggressively-slanted midrange deck than versions we have seen in other formats. In general, you’re trying to play as many artifacts as you can as quickly as possible. This will enable you to cast Thought Monitors cheaply and start to churn through your deck. While the Thought Monitors provide you with a burst of card advantage, cards like Nettlecyst and, most notably, Urza’s Saga will be paying you off for playing these artifacts by producing massive creatures. Unlike Affinity decks of old, you’re not trying to kill opponents as fast as you can, but rather use sticky threats to grind opponents down while you force them to deal with your massive creatures. For a deck without cards like Brainstorm, this deck can draw a lot of cards, which will make it tough for opponents to keep up.

Let’s take a look at the cards that make this deck work.


Header - Card Choices

Thought Monitor

Along with Urza’s Saga, Thought Monitor is one of the core reasons this deck works. A Thoughtcast that develops your board and facilitates your future synergies is excellent. It works well with every card in the deck (especially Nettlecyst) and it will really fit into any plan you need. The fact that it’s such a cheap source of card advantage most of the time means that cards like Daze aren’t as effective against it. Importantly, the fact that it flies allows you to race opponents that have large Murktide Regents, as you can use Monitor to chump block and crack back with some ground creatures.


Emry, Lurker of the Loch

Since this deck has an aggressive slant, leaning into Emry isn’t exactly where this deck wants to be. However, she is still one of the best card advantage engines that artifact decks can play and having her in play can essentially grind down any opponent trying to play fair. She works particularly well with cards like Thought Monitor, and that combination of cards will ensure that opponents won’t be able to keep up with your ability to draw cards.


Esper Sentinel

Esper Sentinel has shown up a bit since getting printed in MH2, and honestly, I think it should be showing up more. It’s a powerful card that can really make things awkward for opponents that are looking to cantrip their way into their key cards or resolve expensive noncreature spells. In this deck, it’s pretty easy to augment its power with cards like Nettlecyst, which can really help facilitate your game plan once they are unable to pay the tax. It’s not as game-ending as a card like Thalia might be, but costing a full mana less while enabling your plan makes it a key card in the archetype.


Walking BallistaStonecoil Serpent

While these are both pretty different, they are the big mana sinks of the deck. They’re both really nice in conjunction with Thought Monitor, which will help keep the resources flowing as you develop your mana. Walking Ballista is a constant mana sink that you can play early, which is something this deck is really in the market for. It helps keep small creatures in check, while threatening to kill any future creature or planeswalker your opponent might play. While Stonecoil Serpent doesn’t quite have as much utility, it is a great card in the format right now. There are a ton of flyers around right now and getting to eat Dragon’s Rage Channelers for free is really nice. Serpent is particularly nice in conjunction with Nettlecyst, as that will often make a creature that is too large for your opponents to handle.


Etched ChampionArcbound Ravager

Staples of Affinity decks past, these cards can still do a lot of good work. Etched Champion is the original True-Name Nemesis. Since this deck has a fair amount of ways to boost its power/toughness, there are a lot of situations where it will singlehandedly win the game. It’s definitely still a clunky card, though, and with flyers dominating the format, relying on it can be risky, so one copy makes sense here.

Arcbound Ravager has a much different role, as it gives this deck a sort of combo feel. When you have this on board, burn is all but invalidated and blocking becomes a nightmare. Drawing too many of them can be a bit awkward, but I wouldn’t actually be too surprised if playing an extra copy or two would be correct, since it really does a lot of work. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that unlike older Affinity decks, this deck doesn’t have as much random fodder, like Memnite, which, while it gives the deck more resiliency, it makes Ravager worse.


Ethersworn CanonistPhyrexian Revoker

Ethersworn Canonist is a way of stopping certain combo decks full-stop and slowing down most opponents in Legacy while facilitating your artifact plan and not really slowing you down at all. There are some places where it won’t have a huge impact but at the very least it’s enabling your Thought Monitors and is a body to wear things like Nettlecyst. Phyrexian Revoker fits the same space, being a relatively low opportunity cost creature that occasionally meaningfully disrupts opponents.



Another MH2 inclusion that hasn’t seen that much play in the format so far, Nettlecyst is an incredibly powerful version of Cranial Plating that can output incredible amounts of damage very quickly. The fact that unlike Cranial Plating it is a threat all by itself makes it very good against any deck trying to remove your creatures. I don’t think we’ve come close to seeing the potential of the artifact-based cards from MH2 and if the format ever undergoes a serious shakeup, cards like Nettlecyst seem like great cards to take a look at.


Portable Hole

Before Prismatic Ending was printed, Portable Hole looked like it would have a significant impact on Legacy. While Ending mostly occupies that space, Hole fits perfectly here. It add to the artifact count for cards like Thought Monitor and can be recast from the graveyard with Emry if you mill it over or it gets countered.


Retrofitter Foundry

Most Urza’s Saga decks run this as a one-of to search up off of the Saga, but the effect it provides is particularly effective in this style of deck since adding a bunch of artifacts to the board is something this deck is really in the market for. Against grindy decks, Foundry can start to take over the game by itself unless they can remove it in short order. It can be a bit slow against faster decks, but, again, since it fills the board with artifacts to facilitate Nettlecyst and Thought Monitor, it will still do some decent work.


ShadowspearZabaz, the Glimmerwasp

These are the Urza’s Saga toolbox targets. Shadowspear is generally more common in Modern than it is in Legacy, but since this deck has the ability to produce some massive creatures with its Sagas (or just with Nettlecyst), Shadowspear can make racing nearly impossible for opponents. Zabaz is pretty unique to this deck, but it’s a pretty cool inclusion. At worst, it’s a cheap flying creature to search up off of Saga, which is something this deck is pretty interested in. If you have cards like Arcbound Ravager or Walking Ballista lying around, you can set up some pretty powerful situations where moving some counters around can do some good work. It’s ability to destroy itself and move counters is particularly effective with Emry active, which can make combat pretty challenging for opponents.


Mox OpalLotus Petal

As we have seen before with these artifact-based decks, Mox Opal facilitates some of their most powerful starts. It may as well be power in this deck since it has so many artifacts and once you’re going off with Thought Monitor, there are few cards better. Lotus Petal is a much worse version of that, but the extra acceleration does come in handy, especially with Emry in the mix.


Urza's Saga

This is the real draw to the deck, as this is one of the best Urza’s Saga decks in the format. The tokens you make off of this can be massive and there are enough tutor targets to fit a variety of situations (importantly, having Mox Opal means that you won’t lose the mana if that’s what you’re in the market for). Saga will give you the ability to grind down fair opponents and threaten to attack for lethal in short order.


TundraPlains (#264)

This deck is base white with no ways to search up specific lands, so this configuration makes sense. Drawing Island is probably more costly than not having it, so I don’t think I would go that far. I could see swapping the Plains and Tundra numbers, but having basics is generally very good in Legacy, so this looks good to me.


Ancient Tomb

This is one of the most powerful lands in the format and it can allow some of your most powerful starts in Affinity. The combination of Tomb and Saga has become somewhat popular in decks that can support it over the past few months and it gives the deck a potent punch early on. Accelerating into cards like Nettlecyst and Etched Champion is really nice as well, which all makes Tomb an awesome inclusion.


Seat of the SynodAncient Den

These are banned in Modern for a reason, as they facilitate a lot of the more powerful things that Affinity can do. This deck is less all-in than other versions of Affinity, since it’s lacking cards like Frogmite, so running more than the eight that tap for relevant colors isn’t quite as important, though.



This is becoming one of those cards that’s difficult to find exciting new things to say about it since it’s so good in Legacy right now. Bouncing Ragavan, Marit Lage and Emrakul are all important and it even has synergy with cards like Emry and Zabaz, protecting them from removal. The opportunity cost is almost nonexistent and Karakas is an excellent card here (and honestly everywhere right now).


Header - The Sideboard


Killing artifacts and enchantments is good, even if this is a bit vanilla.


Pithing Needle

One of the best Urza’s Saga targets, you can bring it in for a variety of things that are good in Legacy, such as Sneak Attack and Jace, the Mind Sculptor.


Portable HoleSwords to Plowshares

In a lot of these Deck Guides, I’ve mentioned that removal is crucial in this format. I could see a world where you’d rather have four Swords in the board over any number of Portable Hole, but Hole is not only very versatile, but synergizes quite well with the deck.


Surgical ExtractionGrafdigger's Cage

Graveyard hate is essential in Legacy and since this deck doesn’t have Force of Will, turning to Surgical as free interaction is important. Grafdigger’s Cage is far more of a haymaker, but with Urza’s Saga in the deck you functionally have an extra four copies of Cage, albeit slow access.


Thorn of Amethyst

This deck does play blue so it could turn to disruption like Flusterstorm to battle combo, Thorn of Amethyst fits the deck’s plan far better. You can cast it on turn one pretty easily and it doesn’t really disrupt what you’re doing at all.


Header - Tips and Tricks

  • Remember that Nettlecyst is an Equipment, not just a threat, so if you need to add damage that turn, you can play and equip it right away.
  • If you have a way to activate Saga on turn two, leading on Saga turn one can be the best way to get the ball rolling.
  • Karakas can bounce Zabaz to act as a faux Maze of Ith against cards like Marit Lage and Murktide (assuming you can pay the white mana to give it flying).


Header - Sideboard Guide


Izzet Delver

Izzet Delver

Out: 2 Phyrexian Revoker, 2 Ethersworn Canonist

In: 2 Portable Hole, 2 Swords to Plowshares


They don’t have a lot of good interaction for Thought Monitor in the first game, which should give you the ability to grind against them. Murktide is the biggest concern and the best way to try to beat that is get out ahead before they can set up so they’re on the back foot.

Post-board, Swords to Plowshares makes that aspect of the matchup easier, but they might have cards like Meltdown and Null Rod. Portable Hole is good against Null Rod, which is nice, but it can be awkward to play around Meltdown. Be mindful about not only how you sequence you can minimize damage where you can, but also be mindful of the times where you can’t beat it (thus, just play into it).



Bant Control

Bant Control

Out: 2 Portable Hole

In: 1 Pithing Needle, 1 Grafdigger’s Cage


They generally don’t have much in the way of targeted hate for this deck, which is nice. Thought Monitor, Emry, and Saga should provide a lot of sticking power against them, which will be tough for them to keep up with. Uro is problematic though, as it gives them a way to keep up with your card advantage quite easily, so I like bringing in the Cage as a Saga target for those circumstances. Be mindful of running headfirst into cards like Terminus, but also be aware when you can’t really play around it (just like with Meltdown).



Death and Taxes

Death and Taxes

Out: 4 Ethersworn Canonist, 3 Stonecoil Serpent

In: 2 Disenchant, 2 Portable Hole, 2 Swords to Plowshares, 1 Pithing Needle


I think Stonecoil Serpent is too liable to get picked off by Flickerwisp, so I don’t like relying on it. I think the most problematic card for them to resolve is Stoneforge Mystic, but Portable Hole does give you some game against that. Trying to go to the sky with Thought Monitor and Nettlecyst is an effective strategy. Post-board, you have a lot more interaction, so you can really start to grind them down.





Out: 2 Portable Hole, 1 Etched Champion, 2 Retrofitter Foundry, 1 Shadowspear, 2 Emry, Lurker of the Loch

In: 4 Thorn of Amethyst, 3 Surgical Extraction, 1 Pithing Needle


This is a tougher matchup, but Affinity can put out a really fast clock. The only way to really beat them is to race, which Affinity can do well. Revoker and Canonist can slow them down, but only to a smaller degree, but hopefully it’s enough to give you time to kill them. Thorn helps continue to slow them down post-board, but you still need to have racing on the mind.



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