What’s with all these robots?!
Welcome to Affinity, an artifact deck that goes by many names, most notably Robots. Affinity gets its namesake from the mechanic, affinity. The mechanic comes from the Mirrodin block, which had cards like Frogmite, Thoughtcast, and Myr Enforcer that featured the mechanic. Much like delve, the mechanic reduces the casting cost of the spell for each artifact you control. Therefore, if a player was to control four artifacts, they may cast Thoughtcast for one Blue mana as opposed to the 4U cmc (converted mana cost). The modern deck name has changed to Robots because, generally, the deck only plays one card, Thoughtcast, with the Affinity mechanic.
Where do the Robots play?
The robots are a tier one deck in the Modern format. It is one of the few modern decks that combines aggro, tempo, and combo efficiently while maintaining consistency. Affinity is stocked with very low costing creatures backed up with cards like Thoughtcast, to draw cards, Galvanic Blast, to kill creatures or burn out opponents, and Ensoul Artifact, because who doesn’t want a 5/5 Ornithopter on turn one?! The deck is very wrath resistant (the robots just keep on coming) and is highly resilient to spot removal like Abrupt Decay due to Arcbound Ravager (we’ll talk about him later). If the deck is left unchecked, turn 2-4 kills are very common. If Affinity encounters disruption, it can win anytime between 3-6. After turn 6, robots tend to limp along like Infect without a Glistener Elf. However, the deck still wins consistently and will reward strong pilots with high win percentages.
What do the Robots play?
Let’s go over each card that causes this post-Mirrodin block win machine of a deck work. We will first discuss the mana base because you need to be able to cast your robots.
An excellent card in a deck designed to have artifacts. Glimmervoid adds one mana of any color to our mana pool as long as we control an artifact. With the amount of acceleration we have access to, this card stays on the battlefield for as long as we want it to. Pair it with a Darksteel Citadel and we can never have to sacrifice Glimmervoid.
This card needs no introduction. Essentially a one shot kill with a cranial plating attached, Inkmoth Nexus is vital to Affinity’s strategy. This card is an alternate win condition if Affinity is not just beating down the opponent and is very wrath-resistant. A playset belongs in every Robots deck.
A mediocre man land and a nice way to pump up Inkmoth Nexus, Blinkmoth Nexus takes the number two spot in our man land package. We use all of his abilities, which makes him yet another must have for the deck.
Darksteel Citadel is an interesting card to say the least. A free indestructible land is always nice. Leading with a Citadel allows the deck to cast lots of spells on turn one if our hand has access to Mox Opal. But we’ll get into that later. For the time being, Darksteel Citadel pumps our creatures via Cranial Plating and can be a 5/5 indestructible beater with Ensoul Artifact. The amount of variety and uses makes Darksteel Citadel a must have. You’ll want a playset.
This is the card. The best card in the deck. Essentially a free land, Mox Opal taps for any color of mana if we have metalcraft. This allows the pilot to Thoughtcast, Ensoul Artifact, Galvanic Blast, or just push out another creature with startling efficiency. Mox Opal is the deck’s best card and is always a welcoming sight to see in our opening hand. A playset is a must for every Robot deck.
These cards vary and are up to the deck’s pilot. Essentially, Affinity needs to have a way to answer hate cards. This will be discussed more in the sideboard. Sometimes we cannot rely on our lands to produce colored mana, just how we can’t always rely on having a Mox Opal. Here is how we deal with this.
Excellent card in a deck that lacks lands that produce colored mana (most run 4-5). Springleaf Drum allows for our deck to consistently pump out our little creatures, equip Cranial Plating at instant speed, cast Thoughtcast on turn one, and generally make valuable plays. Springleaf Drum is a must have in my deck.
This card just keeps on giving. The deck has a possibility to cast this on turn one. If you think of all the cards that see play in Modern that are very huge beaters on turn one, nothing compares to the possibility of a 5/5 flyer. Generally, this play requires a Mox Opal, Darksteel Citadel, and an Ornithopter or Memnite. I personally always slap it on Ornithopter if I can due to the value of a 5/5 flyer. In control match-ups, Path to Exile is the only answer to a 5/5 Darksteel Citadel. This card makes Affinity unpredictable and adds another element to the deck. This is a must play. I play 3 copies in my main board, but I have seen lists play any variation between 2-4. 3 is a fine balance.
The win-con. The best card in the deck. Ladies and Gentlemen of Magic, I present to you the crown jewel of Affinity. Cranial Plating makes the deck literally insane! Not only is it a 2cmc 1 equip costing artifact that can make your creatures have 9 to 10 power, but it can be moved at instant speed during combat! Affinity loves to slap this baby on an Etched Champion and watch as our opponents struggle to understand how on earth they are going to deal with this (anything aside from board wipes cannot). Another strong interaction is attaching Cranial Plating to an Inkmoth Nexus and “one-shotting” players who do not have any way to deal with it, killing them with infect. I play 4 copies, although I have seen players play 3. I just don’t understand why you would cut the best card in the deck. I will always play 4 copies.
This card is mediocre. I am honestly not ever happy with it. However, Galvanic Blast is strong against decks like Zoo, Storm, Merfolk, and Jund. It is one of the only ways the main board can interact with its opposition. I like the card when it kills Goblin Electromancer, Tarmogoyf, Lord of Atlantis, and Liliana or Dark Confidant. But if these creatures aren’t present, it is the first card I take out of the deck. I play 3 copies in my mainboard. Some play 4, some play 2, some don’t even play the card. It is very meta-dependent. If you are going to a Grand Prix, I would play this card. If you are going to your LGS to battle at super casual modern night, I would probably not, because generally you aren’t facing those problematic cards. I give it a grade of “meh.”
~We already talked about Mox Opal, but honestly it could belong in this list of utility. I just included it in the mana portion due to the fact that the card is literally an extra land for free. Keep in mind that all of these cards in the utility portion are possible due to the inclusion of Mox Opal.~
Finally! Creatures! These bad boys are the living, breathing aspect of Affinity that makes the deck work. Let’s get started. Keep in mind that this is all my opinion. Affinity can run a variety of creatures. These are the ones I chose to include in my 75.
Zero cmc creatures are a fun way to begin. These guys enable metal craft on turn one that can lead to an ensoul or a Cranial Plating. Very good cards. I prefer Ornithopter because he can chump block all the good flying creatures in Modern, so I chose to include more. I put in two Memnites because, well, I needed to have 6 zero cmc and honestly would not include them if I could play 6 Ornithopter. So definitely play a playset of Ornithopter and 2-4 Memnite, depending on your personal preference.
This card is an engine. It allows our zero power guys to hit for one and can help us “get there” with Inkmoth Nexus. Signal Pest almost always draws a spot removal spell out of our opponent’s hand because, once you lose to it, you never will again. I play a playset, and you should to.
This guy is an alternate win con. He is a living, breathing, last resort cranial plating. Once your opponent declares blockers, he eats everything and puts counters on Inkmoth Nexus to one shot, makes Etched Champion huge, and can just be another threat that draws out a removal spell. I play 4. I have seen lists that opt to not play Arcbound Ravager in order to achieve a more linear strategy due to the lack of synergy with Cranial Plating. I think he does just fine.
If you want to talk about a guy that gets out of hand really quick, look no further than Steel Overseer. If left unchecked, all of your guys become threats. Such good synergy. Tap him to put +1/+1 counters on all your artifact creatures. Insane. He is definitely a force to be reckoned with. I play 3. Some lists do not play any and some lists play a playset. It just depends on how you choose to structure your affinity. Personally, I like 3 because I do not always want him in my opening hand, but he is definitely a great top-deck.
This guy is likely to never leave play if he enters successfully, making him a great target for Ensoul Artifact or Cranial Plating. Etched Champion has protection from all colors if you have Metalcraft, (which makes Cranial Plating a better card for the Champion, over Ensoul.) which we generally always have. 3cmc is a little much, but our deck can handle it. I play 2, some play 4, some play none. I like 2 in the main board because we have better game ones versus control and extremely good game 1 versus burn. This is a fantastic card and is a must play in my opinion.
This guy is your way to gain back life. He is a flyer for one generic and one black Phyrexian mana that has lifelink. Equip with Cranial Plating, enchant with Ensoul Artifact, or Modular with Arcbound Ravager for maximum value. You’ll want a plate because he honestly is the premiere way to keep yourself from dying in the mirror match-ups or burn matches.
Master of Etherium is a good choice if you just simply want a guy with built in Cranial Plating. I do not run him because I prefer Steel Overseer. Plus, he is a 3cmc. I want to have my mana costs as low as possible. Also, an early Pyroclasm could just destroy you if he is in play.
Welding Jar protects your creatures but honestly isn’t a creature. I don’t play it because I would rather sacrifice my creatures in response to death to Arcbound Ravager.
Frogmite is a 2/2 for 4cmc with the Affinity mechanic. I just do not like it. I would rather be playing an Ornithopter than a Frogmite. He is a 2/2 free creature though if you have 4 artifacts, so that could be nice.
What about the Sideboard?
I will not spend a lot of time on the sideboard because every good player should tailor their list to their local meta. This is what I play in my sideboard.
Back to Nature destroys all enchantments. I like 2 in the main for the Bogles matchup.
Whipflare is a beast and wraths our opponents while keeping us alive. A great card to bring in against Delver.
Hurkyl‘s Recall is excellent against the mirror match. Return all artifacts to their owners hands, then replay them all on your turn after watching your opponent discard all their value creatures. Fantastic card.
Dismember is good at killing problematic creatures and devastates cards like Tarmogoyf, Lord of Atlantis, Goblin Electromancer, and many others (most of the time). I like it.
In conclusion, Robots is a fantastic deck for a player that loves to turn creatures sideways. All the creatures in the deck are valuable, therefore causing the deck to have so many different lines of play. All in all, a strong pilot of Robots should be able to pick up more than a couple wins here and there and honestly, who doesn’t love winning? (or Robots?!)
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