In my preparation for the World Championships I vowed to start with a clean slate for the Modern format. In each premier level Modern tournament I’ve played, I prepped with a strong bias toward and against certain decks—favoring decks like Jund and being staunchly opposed to playing something like UWR Control or Burn. It isn’t like I played those decks in major events and had a bad experience, but they aren’t really my style and don’t feel powerful.
If you play a lot of decks in playtesting, even if you aren’t trying to learn those decks inside and out for the purpose of playing them, you still learn how those decks operate, their weaknesses, subtle interactions, and you can get a feel for how players are likely to construct their sideboard. If you tested Birthing Pod, you might come to the conclusion that Kataki, War’s Wage is a better sideboard card against Affinity than Stony Silence. Later, as an Affinity player paired against a Birthing Pod deck, you can rule Stony Silence out of their play range and possibly play around Kataki in the games. It’s small value, but if you play a wide range of decks, it will come up nearly every round that you have extra information you otherwise wouldn’t have had if you had spent all your time playing just your own deck.
My plan was to try everything, and I failed in that plan.
The first deck I decided to try was Affinity, and once I picked it up I refused to put it down. It made sense to start there because it’s one of the decks that would take the least amount of time to test and dismiss. I felt like I would be able to quickly identify whether the deck wasn’t powerful or consistent enough. The first day I practiced with it, I won nearly every match I played, and I did so in ways that impressed me. I noticed that when I had weak hands, it was still hard to hinder the swarm aspect of the deck, and I noticed that when I had a good hand and my opponent had a good hand, I would still win. When I played against Jund, their game plan was something like turn-1 Lightning Bolt, turn-2 Terminate, turn-3 Kolaghan’s Command killing two of my creatures, and turn-4 Olivia Voldaren or Huntmaster of the Fells . But they would just lose on that turn 4. Even some of my medium strength hands would beat perfect draws from other decks. I was sold.
I saw the coverage of Grand Prix Singapore and the finals was an Affinity mirror match where one player (the winner) had three Ancient Grudge sideboarded for the mirror, and the second had three copies of Wear // Tear for the mirror and presumably Stony Silence.
I thought that because the finals was a mirror match, clearly, the deck is a great choice right now, and it’s such a great choice that the winner was prepared for the mirror. The more I played online, the more I won. I reached a point in my prep where I was asking others for advice with questions like “Affinity is the best deck, it’s clearly the best deck, should I even continue to prepare for Modern, or focus my time on the other formats?”
It was even more extreme since the winners list from that Grand Prix was just awesome. I wanted to pay my dues and try to improve on Affinity—experimenting with Atog plus Temur Battle Rage, Hangerback Walker, and Thoughtcast, but each time I tried to change a card I was unhappy and reverted back to the original build. It seemed that Hitomi Masaaki built a stellar list from the start.
Hangarback Walker was especially bad for me and I think it would be a considerable error to maindeck it. It suffers from not being very good if you draw a lot of high-end cards and not being good if it’s the only expensive card you draw in a game. It has its uses in the mirror or against Jund, but in general it is low-powered, low-impact, and pretty much just awful.
Affinity is already a glass cannon deck—a delicate mix of lands, cards that do nothing except enable good draws (Ornithopter, Mox Opal, Springleaf Drum), and game winners (Cranial Plating, Arcbound Ravager, Steel Overseer). If you ever draw too many of one of these types of cards and not enough of the others, you’re forced to mulligan or flounder around with a weak draw. Ideally the perfect opening hand has about 2 of each.
This is a bad hand and I would be inclined to mulligan.
This is the deck list I played at Worlds to 31st in the Modern portion, except I made room for 2 copies of Ghirapur Aether Grid in the sideboard over 2 Ancient Grudge. Moving forward I think this list is an excellent choice for any Modern tournament, including Porto Alegre.