If you thought Caw Blade was broken, then you have no idea....
Affinity. If you were playing the game in 2004-05 you know just how broken it was. Magic was a mess back then. Players were already up in arms and a little off-balance from the card frame changes. They were jarring and tough for entrenched players to deal with, and to make it worse the artifact frames were printed improperly in Mirrodin; and somehow no one caught it before they were packaged and sent out to stores. They were printed such a light shade of gray that it was tough to distinguish them from white cards. This caused issues both in play and just simply sorting your collection. Once players overcame all these aesthetic differences, they were "treated" to an environment so obviously broken that a respectable percentage of players just left the game for a bit. In the end, Wizards of the Coast had to ban an unprecedented eight cards to get the ship back on course. It was a tough time for the game to say the least.
Commenting on the state of the game and the bannings, Aaron Forsythe said this:
One of the most damning statements that can be made about a game is that it is not fun, and that's exactly what we've been hearing lately about Standard. Sure, ever since Affinity first showed up after the release of Mirrodin (and more so after it was revamped and supercharged with the release of Darksteel), people complained about it. I have plenty of anecdotal evidence in my inbox of people quitting Magic, threatening to quit, or stepping away from Standard for some amount of time because of the dark cloud of Affinity—and believe me, each of those emails made me unhappy—but recently the evidence of the general public's disdain for what the format looks like has gone from anecdotal to measurable. With some of the biggest Standard events of the year—Regionals, Nationals, and Worlds—on the horizon, how many more players could we continue to frustrate and alienate?
We know what to do if a format is horribly unbalanced, but what do we do when it is equally unfun? As much as I'd like to hire clowns to make balloon animals at every Friday Night Magic, we're stuck using more traditional means of damage control—the Banned and Restricted Lists.
So yeah, clowns and balloon animals. It was bad.
That brings us back to Pauper. In this format the lack of Arcbound Ravager (and the banning of Cranial Plating) means that while a tier one archetype, Affinity does not overwhelm the format. It gives us the idea of the power of the artifact lands and the fun that Wizards probably intended when they created them in a vacuum.
Welcome to Pauper Affinity 201.
The Professor has covered this archetype in a YouTube lesson that was listed in your syllabus as required viewing. Go watch his video, become a patron (because he is awesome), and then come back to class where we will discuss it - Go ahead, I'll wait.
Great, your back! Let's get started. What? Who am I? I'm geena the TA for the class and a graduate student at the Tolarian Academy. Now that we have been properly introduced, on with the lesson....
What is "Affinity"?
Affinity is a keyword ability that allows spells to be cast for one less mana for every item you already have in play that the spell "has an affinity" for. In most cases this ability reads "Affinity for artifacts" (and that is what this deck is built around), but there are cases where Affinity cares about other things such as a basic land type. This particular deck is built around the Mirrodin artifact lands. Having all of your lands as artifacts gives the build's Affinity spells an insane base to work from.
The Affinity archetype is explosive! The idea here is to play your Affinity spells for free (or close to free) and power out a ridiculous amount of threats by turn two or three. This can result in two different play strategies depending on what cards you draw and get into play. We will take a look at both. Just a quick note that my build differs slightly from the Professor's, so take a look at his list as well and choose your favorite - or combine the two into something new!
This is the first of the two potential roads you may go down in a game. if you get a great opening hand this is by far the most direct path to victory. With the perfect initial draw, you can find yourself with three 2/2 creatures on the ground by the end of turn one. If this is the case, your job is attack, attack, attack and let the card draw in the deck keep you ahead of your opponent.
Here is an example of the ideal turn one play:
Play a land. Let's say Seat of the Synod. Artifact Count:1
Play an Ornithopter. Artifact Count: 2
Play Springleaf Drum. Artifact Count: 3
Tap Springleaf Drum, tap Ornithopter, play Chromatic Sphere. Artifact Count: 4
Play three Frogmite. For free.
Don't worry, you haven't used everything early. That's just how Affinity rolls. Keeping with the lucky draws, by turn three you can have four Myr Enforcers on the board to maintain the attack.
So lets just assume you aren't that lucky all the time, or you are playing another fast deck. If this is the case, you should keep putting things on the ground to build a board presence that keeps you from being overrun. Card draw becomes important here and this deck is full of it.
Our first card draw engine is all Thoughtcast. Set up your artifacts and you will be drawing two cards for one blue mana. Pretty good, but you can also go Ichor Wellspring + Perilous Research and you draw 4 cards for three mana. Either way you should always have plenty of gas to stay on the offensive or at least maintain your board state. When you draw both an Atog + Fling the win is in sight. Count your artifacts and then pop the combo for lethal damage and watch the opponent scoop.
It is worth the warning that you need to be very careful if you are playing an opponent in blue. Countermagic will wreck your game. If you are playing against blue, side in the two Negates and hold your mana open on the turn that you execute the combo to counter their counter. You also need to make sure you are doing this for lethal damage since you will be destroying your board state.
One more concept and we are through. Two cards in this build utilize the Metalcraft ability. These cards, similar to their Affinity cousins, care about the number of artifacts in play as well, but instead of reducing the casting cost of a spell it gives an additional benefit to the spells you cast.
In this deck, we have two examples of the Metalcraft ability. The first, Auriok Sunchaser is a 1/1 flyer for a casting cost of 2, a pretty typical creature until Metalcraft kicks in. If you have three or more artifacts in play, the Sunchaser gets +2/+2 becoming a potent 3/3 threat. The other example, Galvanic Blast is one of the best burn spells in Pauper. When active, Metalcraft allows this spell to deal 4 damage for one red mana. Remember, the great thing about this build is its land base. Since you are running all artifact lands you can pretty much count on the Metalcraft bonus and the efficiency it provides. Use it to your advantage.
So that's all for today. I hope you have a better understanding of Affinity and the Great Disaster of 2005. Pass the attendance list to the front and left before you leave. Class dismissed!
As always my full deck list can be found over on TappedOut. Let me know what you think of my build - and my apologies to The Professor. Join me tomorrow as we conclude Pauper Week with an original deck brew where we all can become heroes....