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Affinity Struts Its Stuff at GP Chicago

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern

It’s just weeks after Pro Tour Return to Ravnica. I’ve come off a Top 75 cash finish for the first time. An 8-2 record in Modern with Affinity means I’m most certainly running it back. But it seemed apparent that the red version I had was out of date. I was not yearning for the extra reach that red offered, but the card advantage and permission of blue. After talking to Gabriel Nassif about the list he played to a Top 16 finish at Grand Prix Lyon, I decided on the following list:

Replacing the Galvanic Blasts with Thoughtcasts and the maindeck Etched Champions with Master of Etheriums means I should have better game against the field as a whole. Tron has decreased in numbers and Jund players are becoming more familiar with Blood Moon so it seemed like it was time to ditch red. Replacing it with Spell Pierce would offer me a better chance against cards like Creeping Corrosion, Shatterstorm, Vandalblast and Stony Silence, which would otherwise crush my dreams.

We still want removal and have access to Dismember, which will do the trick in a pinch. Rest in Peace is still an important player in shutting down opposing Tarmogoyf, Deathrite Shaman, Gifts Ungiven, Living End or any other graveyard-based strategy. Ancient Grudge has increased in the sideboard to help fight the mirror match. Darkblast can be used in a variety of matchups and serves as a great reusable solution to low toughness aggro-based decks. Torpor Orb is still here to fight off Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker combo decks and Soul Sisters.

After working a couple hours Friday morning I head to my local airport, Bradenton-Sarasota. Normally I go to Tampa because they have cheaper and direct flights to my destinations. But Bradenton just started offering direct flights to Chicago, and three hours later I’m landing in the Windy City. I’m met at the airport by Kitt Holland, my old Tampa roommate and husband of mtgmom.com editor Megan Holland.

After grabbing some local grub, I decide to have some fun and enter a Swiss draft on Magic Online to force the mill deck. Chronic Flooding + Urban Burgeoning + Psychic Spiral = Turn 6 wins. Fun times were had even though I managed to 0-3 that draft. When Pat and Meg returned, we decided to watch a movie. If you haven’t seen Cowboys and Aliens, it’s … interesting.

Day 1

Saturday morning comes too quickly as I’m still somehow tired. We get to the event site at 9 a.m. with enough time to pick up some breakfast. We finish up and head to the site where I meet up with some friends to discuss last-minute changes. Kitt is on Gifts Rock and Pat is on Jund like the rest of the Florida crew that was there. I spent my bye rounds picking up the new foil cards I needed to keep the entire 75 of my deck pimped out. After finishing my pimp status I was ready to battle. Let’s begin!

Rounds 1 and 2 — Bye

Round 3 — USA Delver (Jessy Hefner)

I’m on the play in Game 1, which plays out longer than I would like against Delver but eventually I overrun him. He mulligans down to five in Game 2 and I punish him with a Vault Skirge hooked up with a Cranial Plating.

Overall: 3-0 (2-0)

Round 4 — Affinity (Alexander Hayne)

I’m seeking revenge this match because eventual champion Alexander Hayne knocked me out of Day 1 at Pro Tour Barcelona. I’m on the play in Game 1 and have an unanswered Vault Skirge hooked up with Cranial Plating. He has the Cranial Plating  beating me down in Game 2. But with Hayne tapped out at the end of his turn, I could Dismember his blocker, untap and drop a Cranial Plating with just enough mana to equip an Inkmoth Nexus for lethal poison.

Overall: 4-0 (4-0)

Round 5 — Jund (Andrew Noworaj)

After another win of the die roll, I quickly overrun and kill him. I mulligan to six in Game 2 and fail to bring him below 13 after a overloaded Vandalblast. I go down to five cards in Game 3 before finding a keepable hand.

I have a hard decision early in the game when he Lightning Bolts my Arcbound Ravager with a second Arcbound Ravager on the stack in Turn 3. Knowing the removal in Jund, I make a judgment call to sacrifice all my artifacts to make my Ravager a 3/3. I let the Lightning Bolt resolve and Modular onto my Inkmoth Nexus. Once my second Arcbound Ravager resolves, I sacrifice it to itself to make the Inkmoth Nexus a 5/5. Now presenting a two-turn clock, I have in play a Blinkmoth Nexus and Inkmoth Nexus with a Glimmervoid in my hand.

Then my opponent reveals for his Dark Confidant trigger. Rakdos Charm ……….. Crap! It’s looking bleak, but I am rewarded off the top of my deck with Spell Pierce. I get his Rakdos Charm with it, and thanks to a Golgari Charm two turns later, I’m able to finish him off with Infect.

Overall: 5-0 (6-1)

Round 6 — UW Midrange (Lirek Kulik)

Finally losing a die roll, I have close to the nuts and kill him fast via Cranial Plating. I go “all in” on my Inkmoth Nexus in Game 2. Logically it made perfect sense. He had already played Path to Exile, and I had Spell Pierce for Snapcaster Mage to flashback Path to Exile. His only out to my knowledge was one of his three other Path to Exiles. Obviously he had it and I lost. It was my opponent’s turn to have the nuts in Game 3. Cards he played included Annul, Disenchant, Snapcaster Mage, Mana Leak and Path to Exile. Needless to say I came up quite short.

Overall: 5-1 (7-3)

Round 7 — Affinity (Mark Jaeger)

When my second Steel Overseer hits the table in Game 1, he packs them in. He uses an Ancient Grudge along with legend ruling my Mox Opal in Game 2 to force my Glimmervoid to the graveyard. I never find another land. But I find the pieces in Game 3 to secure a Cranial Plating victory.

Overall: 6-1 (9-4)

Round 8 — Jund (Tyler Kozai)

I twice mulligan to five and cannot overcome the card deficit either time.

Overall: 6-2 (9-6)

Because Day 1 is a nine-round cut, I needed to win the next match to keep my Top 8 chances alive.

Round 9 — UW Midrange (Paul Green)

Not exactly what I was hoping to play against. He’s on the play in Game 1 and has an answer for everything I do via Path to Exile, Ghost Quarter and Snapcaster Mage. I infect him out via Inkmoth Nexus and Cranial Plating in Game 2. He has no answers to my flying robots in Game 3, and I sneak into Day 2.

Overall: 7-2 (11-7)

Day Two

Round 10 — Affinity (David Dulak)

I use my Cranial Plating and Vault Skirge to get far ahead in Game 1. But then I miscount the number of artifacts he has, not realizing he has Cranial Plating in hand. He plays his fifth land, drops Cranial Plating and uses it with Inkmoth Nexus to get me. It was a total punt on my part, and I should have left my Vault Skirge back to block.

My second-turn Master of Etherium goes unanswered in Game 2. I keep a hand lacking colored mana in Game 3 but play a Turn 2 Arcbound Ravager. My first two draw steps are Ancient Grudges. He gets me down to three life before I draw my Springleaf Drum to get red mana and use my Grudges to scrape together a comeback. Over the course of the next five or six turns I put enough damage together via Steel Overseer to kill him before he draws his Galvanic Blast.

Overall: 8-2 (13-8)

Round 11 — Jund (Sean Farlee)

Sean is probably the nicest opponent I faced all weekend. He recognized me from this very site so I hoped he wouldn’t know what I was playing. Game 1 was closer than I had hoped, but I finished him off with a Cranial Plating before he found lethal. I draw double Etched Champion and that’s all she wrote for Game 2.

Overall: 9-2 (15-8)

Round 12 — Spirit Jund (Taylor Atchison)

I had a good start in Game 1, but it came to a halt on the back of his triple Lingering Souls. Unfortunately Game 2 is much of the same, but with double [cards]Abrupt Decay[/card], Ancient Grudge and Lingering Souls. Too much for me to handle, and I’m out of contention for Top 8.

Overall: 9-3 (15-10)

Round 13 — Jund (Ben Friedman)

I get an active Steel Overseer online that he eventually falls victim to in Game 1. I get two Etched Champions in play in Game 2 and he does not draw his Shatterstorm.

Overall: 10-3 (17-10)

Round 14 — Jund (Lucas Siow)

He goes down to five cards in Game 1 and I easily beat him. I mulligan to six and get a reasonable hand in Game 2 while he keeps his seven. But it turns out he drew nothing but lands and didn’t have much of a chance.

Overall: 11-3 (19-10)

Round 15 — Junk (Brian Kibler)

We figured out we cannot guarantee ourselves into Top 32 and decide the winner will Top 16 while the loser makes Top 64.

I keep an OK six-card hand in Game 1, but he has the dreaded Lingering Souls twice over. After he pumps them with Wilt-Leaf Liege, I die very quickly. I get him down to 10 life in Game 2 before losing everything to a Creeping Corrosion. I sandbagged a single Cranial Plating, hoping to squeeze the last 10 damage out, but that meets a Stony Silence the following turn, along with a Lingering Souls. I draw an Etched Champion, and he draws a Wilt-Leaf Liege. I topdeck Dismember to take care of the Liege, only for his next turn to contain Baneslayer Angel. That’s all she wrote.

Overall: 11-4 (19-12)

Final standings are posted and I’m in 35th. Three slots short of 32nd. Oh well, I’ll take the Pro Point and $200.

Draft Practice

The main event is over, but I’m far from finished playing Magic. I team up with Kitt Holland and Timothy Landale to take on Shuhei Nakamura, LSV and Martin Juza in a team draft. I end up with a solid URb deck splashing for Rakdos’s Return, Stab Wound and Ultimate Price. I go 2-1 losing to Shuhei because of mana issues. Landale goes 2-1 and Kitt goes 0-3. LSV points out the pattern that every time we team draft I end up going 2-1 or better and still lose. It is what it is. If you draft with the best you can only get better.

Upon finishing the draft we manage to catch the finals of the GP before heading out to dinner. Our vehicle has Kitt, Meg, LSV, Kibler, Ochoa and me. A pretty awesome mixture of people, we find one of the few places without a wait in Chicago at a local Italian eatery. The wait for the food is long, but we are rewarded with more than generous portions. Stories are told of tournaments past as I get more acquainted with the pros at our table.

Monday morning soon arrives and it’s time to go home. It’s the first time since I was a child that it was cold enough outside to freeze the car doors shut. The cold is something I actually enjoy being from Canada. Ah, the little things.

Moving Forward

When Modern first became a format, Affinity was a much different deck. Fast decks could win without a tuned ban list, and the deck was designed to kill much faster back then. I’m not saying an adjustment to Affinity needs to be made to increase its speed. But the surge of popularity in Lingering Souls has become a problem for the deck as a whole. A great solution for this would be to go over the tokens, literally.

If I was to play in a Modern tournament tomorrow I would probably play the following:

This is a very familiar Affinity list tuned to take advantage of Fatal Frenzy and Fling. Fling is a little more valuable because you can respond to kill spells with it, but Fatal Frenzy has a cost of three so it gets around Spell Snare from and doesn’t require you to sacrifice until end of the turn. Since Lingering Souls creates a big problem for pushing through damage, we can now go straight to the head.

The only other small adjustment I made was switching out Springleaf Drum for Chromatic Star. The logic is to simply get more value out of the mana fixer so you get to draw a card when you sacrifice it to Atog or Arcbound Ravager. With only only seven colored spells in the deck, you shouldn’t miss the drum too much. Digging a little deeper is sometimes the difference between a win and a loss.

Happy Holidays,

John Cuvelier
Gosu. On MTGO
@JCuvelier on Twitter
#Cuvi2012 #Cuvi2013

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