Affinity in the New Modern

Since the unbanning of Ancestral Vision and Sword of the Meek, Affinity hasn’t been putting up great results. There were no Affinity decks in the Top 8 of the SCG Open Milwaukee or the SCG Open Indianapolis. None of the competitors at the Magic Online Championship even played Affinity. And its metagame share on Magic Online appears to be dropping. So what’s going on? Is Affinity still a reasonable choice for Grand Prix Charlotte or Grand Prix Los Angeles this weekend?

I believe that the answer to that question is “yes.” I admit that Affinity has trouble beating the Thopter Foundry/Sword of the Meek combo and that it fares poorly against the heaps of cheap interaction promoted by Ancestral Vision. But those newly legal cards haven’t claimed a huge portion of the metagame, and Affinity is still one of the best game 1 decks in the format overall. In the last week, I have steadily been going 4-1 in Magic Online leagues with this list:


Frank Karsten

Affinity Deck Picture

Click to modulate.

If I participate at any of the Grand Prix events this weekend, then I will run this list, or at least something close to it. Before explaining my card choices, let me provide my metagame expectation for the upcoming Grand Prix.

The 5 decks that I would expect to have the largest metagame share on Day 2:

  • Abzan Company
  • Burn
  • Infect
  • Jeskai Control
  • Jund

This is informed by recent high-level tournaments and my own perspective on the format. Of course, Modern is much more diverse than these 5 decks. There are plenty of other top contenders, such as Abzan Midrange, Affinity, Red/Green Tron, Scapeshift, or Zoo, and it’s not hard to spout off 20 additional competitive decks (in case you actually want a list: Ad Nauseam, Bogles, Dredgevine, Eldrazi & Taxes, Elves, Goryo’s Vengeance, GR Eldrazi, Grixis Control, Grixis Delver, GW Hatebears, Kiki-Chord, Lantern Control, Living End, Merfolk, Naya Company, Storm, Suicide Zoo, Temur Midrange, Through the Breach, and UW Tron).

But if I had to choose 5 decks that would make up the largest percentage of the field, then I would prepare for the above 5, and this metagame expectation affected my card choices.

Main Deck Card Choices

Right now, there are a lot of people trying to play “fair” with Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, or Terminate. An environment with a lot of Jund and Jeskai is an excellent one for Etched Champion. What’s more, my top 5 contains no decks against which Etched Champion is truly horrendous—there is no combo deck or a colorless deck. Finally, many alternative inclusions (such as Master of Etherium, Ensoul Artifact, or Welding Jar) all line up poorly against Path to Exile and Terminate, so you don’t want too many of those.

My list includes 3 Etched Champion in the main deck, with the 4th in the sideboard. I don’t want the 4th in the main deck for curve reasons: more than 5 three-drops is too many, and I still want at least 2 Master of Etherium to exploit artifact-filled boards. I can see running 2 Etched Champion if you want to make room for something like Thoughtcast, but I’m confident that you want at least 2 in the main deck right now, and by having a 3rd one in the main deck, you effectively gain an extra sideboard slot.

Creature “combos,” either via Glistener Elf or Viscera Seer, appear to be popular strategies right now. Against those decks, having a cheap piece of interaction can be essential, and Galvanic Blast provides that. There are alternative interactive cards that you could run as well (such as Chalice of the Void, Spellskite, or Stubborn Denial) but all of them are unspectacular against Abzan Company and a bit narrower overall, so I prefer Galvanic Blast.

My current main deck contains 3 Galvanic Blast along with a matching basic Mountain. I don’t want the 4th Galvanic Blast because I don’t like drawing multiples in my opening hand—the resulting artifact-light draws tend to match up poorly against creature-light decks. I could see running only 2 Galvanic Blast if you have a slightly different metagame expectation, but I’m certain at least 2 is correct.

Noteworthy Sideboard Choices

I discussed sideboard options and sideboard plans at length in recent articles, and although that was during the Eldrazi winter, much of what I wrote back then still applies today. So I’ll offer a few words on sideboard choices that I consider noteworthy right now.

Abzan Company is one of the decks to beat, and Dredgevine is a new deck to keep in mind. Although Dredgevine didn’t perform well last weekend (and Magnus Lantto, who played it at the Magic Online Championship, said that the power level was a little short) I wouldn’t be surprised if brewers continue their efforts to break Insolent Neonate and Prized Amalgam this weekend.

Against these decks, Grafdigger’s Cage is much more impactful than Relic of Progenitus, so I recommend 2 Grafdigger’s Cage in your sideboard. Living End and Sword of the Meek haven’t been that popular as of late, so I wouldn’t hedge with Relic of Progenitus.

Spellskite has applications against Affinity, Bogles, Infect, Jund, and a few niche decks, but it’s not at its best right now. The reason is that the deck you need it against the most, Infect, has Twisted Image as a clean answer.

If you expect Infect to be super popular, then Melira, Sylvok Outcast would be a better hate card. I haven’t made that jump because I still want to have Spellskite against Kolaghan’s Command decks and various other decks, but I wanted to point it out as a reasonable swap to consider.

Against Jund, Abzan Midrange, and Jeskai Control, you need to grind back. These cards, along with the fourth Etched Champion, allow you to do that. Besides, you need something to board in against them when cutting Galvanic Blast.

Hangarback Walker is not the most high-impact card ever, and I’m not 100% sure it deserves a slot in the sideboard—an extra Thoughtseize could work as well—but the jubilant feeling when my opponent casts Shatterstorm or Creeping Corrosion while I have Hangarback Walker and Arcbound Ravager on the battlefield is priceless.


Affinity is at its best when people don’t respect it and cut their hate. In the Magic Online Championship and the SCG Open Indianapolis Top 8, players still had 3 dedicated artifact hate cards in their sideboard on average (plus several general-purpose creature removal spells). That’s quite a lot. But given that Affinity hasn’t been performing as well lately, this might change. No one will remove all their Affinity hate from their sideboards, but one fewer Ancient Grudge or Stony Silence is realistic to hope for.

If that is indeed the case, then Affinity may be decently positioned this weekend, and I believe my build is a good one for the current metagame. What is etched will never rust.

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