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LAYING DOWN THE LAW TOM LAW 29/08/2016

GP Lille awaits ...

With the end of the last pro point season ending for me in GP Stockholm, I turned my attention to the new year with the aim of following in Kayure’s footsteps and hitting at least Silver level pro. The first GP of the new ‘Magic’ year happening in Europe was Rimini which I unfortunately had to miss so I looked further to GP Lille where the format was coincidentally the same as the current PPTQ season; Modern. Approaching Modern is quite difficult due to the diversity of viable decks so entering into the GP I focused on finding a proactive strategy that didn’t care what my opponent brought to the table. To this end, I chose to play Affinity because it has explosive starts that most decks in the format aren’t able to deal with and it can fight through a fair amount of hate provided it isn’t Stony Silence or Shatterstorm. This ended up being a fine choice in particular because the weeks leading up to the GP there was a lot of hype surrounding Dredge leading to many people trimming artifact hate in favour of graveyard hate.

Here’s the list I ran in Lille to a 12-3 finish and 3 pro points to start the season on a high.

4 Springleaf Drum

4 Mox Opal

4 Ornithopter

3 Memnite

4 Signal Pest

4 Vault Skirge

4 Steel Overseer

4 Arcbound Ravager

2 Etched Champion

3 Master of Etherium

4 Cranial Plating

3 Galvanic Blast

4 Blinkmoth Nexus

3 Glimmervoid

4 Inkmoth Nexus

4 Darksteel Citadel

1 Island

1 Mountain

 

2 Ancient Grudge

1 Chalice of the Void

1 Dismember

2 Etched Champion

2 Ghirapur Aether Grid

1 Grafdigger's Cage

1 Sea Gate Wreckage

1 Spellskite

1 Stubborn Denial

1 Thoughtseize

1 Tormod's Crypt

1 Whipflare

 

Affinity lists now are quite streamlined and there are only a few choices you need to make depending on the metagame which you expect. The following 50 cards are what I consider to be ‘locked’ for an Affinity main deck.

4 Springleaf Drum

4 Mox Opal

4 Ornithopter

3 Memnite

4 Signal Pest

4 Vault Skirge

4 Steel Overseer

4 Arcbound Ravager

4 Cranial Plating

4 Blinkmoth Nexus

3 Glimmervoid

4 Inkmoth Nexus

4 Darksteel Citadel

 

This leaves you with 10 slots to tune depending on what you think will be prevalent and how you like to play the deck. Typically the 10 slots are divided into 5 ‘haymakers’, 3 coloured spells and 2 lands.

In the ‘haymaker’ slot you have a few different choices; Master of Etherium for a faster clock, Etched Champion if you believe there are a lot of 3 colour control decks, Ensoul Artifact, which is similar to Master of Etherium but is much worse in a metagame where there are a lot of bounce or exile effects, and Tarmogoyf, which plays as a solid beater that doesn’t rely on your artifacts so it becomes better if you are expecting a lot of artifact hate.

In the coloured spells slot there are a lot of options, with the most popular being Galvanic Blast and Thoughtcast. During Eldrazi Winter there were also versions running Dispatch and currently you might even see Thoughtseize or Spell Pierce in this slot. I think this slot is to personal taste more than anything. I like to have ways to interact with my opponent’s creatures or dealing those last few points rather than trying to protect myself or drawing extra cards to out value my opponents. Affinity, in particular for game 1, is a deck which just wants to do its own thing and care as little as possible about what the opponent is trying to do.

The final 2 slots are for lands to take the land count up to 17 although it isn’t unheard of to see decks running only 16 if they are running a Welding Jar instead or if they are running fewer ‘haymakers’. For me, I chose to run 2 basics because of the prevalence of Path to Exile and Ghost Quarter so I played more targets for the land search.

For GP Lille I made the following choices:

2 Etched Champion

3 Master of Etherium

3 Galvanic Blast

1 Island

1 Mountain

 

If you are preparing for a tournament with Affinity then I’d strongly recommend reading most, if not all, of the articles on the deck by Frank Karsten and get familiar with how various opening hands play out. I’ve devised a few scenarios and pitted them to the other Team Axion guys to see what they would do in these situations.

 

Scenario 1

 

Jund. Post-board on the draw.

 

Sideboarding

Out: 1 Memnite, 1 Signal Pest, 1 Steel Overseer, 1 Mountain, 1 Galvanic Blast, 1 Master of Etherium

In: 1 Dismember, 2 Etched Champion, 1 Sea Gate Wreckage, 1 Spellskite, 1 Thoughtseize

 

Mulliganed to this:

 Hand 1

 

Henry: Keep, Etched Champion is easily your best card and you have it turn 2 and 3, they probably have a discard spell because it is Jund and they will probably take a Champion but then you still have a Champion.

 

Tom: I agree with Henry here, the Jund matchup revolves quite heavily around Etched Champion as your way to blank all of their targeted removal. This hand can get one down on turn 2 and still have enough artifacts to ensure Champion has protection through all removal except a Grudge. You even have a manland and a spare creature just in case they try to edict you with Liliana of the Veil.

 

Scenario 2

 

Unknown opponent. On the draw game 1.

 

Hand:

 Hand 2

 

George: Snap Keep, this hand is the nuttery butteries.

 

Tom: This hand is very close to perfect. If you draw a land in one of your first two draw steps then you’re well set up with both Cranial Plating and Master of Etherium. However, there is a small thought in the back of my mind when keeping this hand because if your opponent is playing a Lightning Bolt deck then they can in theory completely invalidate this hand by Bolting one of your zero-drop creatures unless you draw a land. All in all, almost exactly what you want and I wouldn’t mulligan this but it is worth considering that Bolt can disrupt your sequencing.

 

Scenario 3.

 

Jeskai Nahiri. Post-board on the play.

 

Sideboarding

Out: 1 Memnite, 1 Signal Pest, 1 Steel Overseer, 1 Darksteel Citadel, 1 Galvanic Blast, 1 Master of Etherium

In: 1 Stubborn Denial, 2 Etched Champion, 1 Sea Gate Wreckage, 1 Spellskite, 1 Thoughtseize

 

Hand:

 Hand 3

Kayure: Mulligan, this hand is too land heavy and threat light.

 

Tom: This is a very close one. I’m inclined to keep this but I wouldn’t disagree with mulliganing either. The match-up doesn't usually end very quickly because Jeskai has a lot of interaction that removes your early pressure so you end up having to win through attrition with Etched Champions and manlands. This hand has both of these components and it also has a Sea-Gate Wreckage to let you get ahead on cards. Additionally, having lands which aren’t shut down by Stony Silence is a minor bonus but realistically if they land a turn 2 Stony Silence things will always be difficult.

 

Scenario 4.

 

Mirror. Post-board on the draw.

 

Sideboarding

Out: 2 Etched Champion, 4 Signal Pest, 1 Island

In: 2 Ancient Grudge, 2 Ghirapur Aether Grid, 1 Dismember, 1 Spellskite, 1 Sea Gate Wreckage

 

Hand:

 Hand 4

Joao: I'm not well versed in the mirror, but I think this is a keep. You can make 2 guys on turn 1 and you have a Blast for a turn 1 or 2 Steel Overseer. Provided you hit a 2nd land or Mox Opal in 2 draws (which seems reasonable), you have a turn 2 Grid or Blast plus Skirge into turn 3 Grid plus an activation. Unless they have their own Grid or Arcbound Ravager, this hand seems great in making their board mostly irrelevant.

 

Tom: Again, agree with most of what is said here and Joao correctly identifies that Steel Overseer is probably the most important card in the mirror match and being able to remove it is key, however, Ghirapur Aether Grid trumps this provided you can get it down before your opponent can stick a Steel Overseer.

 

In summary, I think Affinity is always a fine choice in any large tournament and it is very flexible to accommodate what you expect in a metagame. When picking up the deck I would goldfish a few hands just to get a feel for the power of the openers available to you and also to get your sequencing correct. As a rule of thumb, any hand with no pay-off cards are generally unkeepable even if you are able to dump your whole hand on the table on turn 1. If those cards are just a bunch of Drums, Memnites or Ornithopters you aren’t going to get there without drawing a Plating, Ravager, Overseer or Master (or other key cards in the matchup, such as Etched Champion or Aether Grid).

 

About Tom Law:

Tom has been playing Magic since Odyssey block but took a break between Time Spiral and Dark Ascension. His personal aim in Magic is to become a permanent fixture on the Pro Tour. Similarly, his goal for Team Axion is for it to one day be uttered in the same breath as Channel Fireball or EUreka. His vision for the team when formed was to achieve this through improvement not just for themselves but also thise those around so that Team Axion Now can pull and push each other forward. This is why many members of the team still work fairly closely with their own local “satellite” teams.