Affinity and Banting

I’m Pieter, here are some facts about me:

1) I’ve been competing in Magic tournaments since 2012.

2) I always play Affinity in modern (This comes in handy for large modern tournaments).

3) I joined Team Snap Keep Games for the SCG Invitational this past weekend, and it was excellent.

Split-format tournaments are a weird experience for me.  Modern is always an easy choice since I’ve been playing Affinity for years and really can’t fathom playing a different deck.  Standard is tougher.  I play zero standard outside of the occasional GP or local SCG event, making it tough to be on top of the latest technology without scouring every single decklist.  

Fortunately for me, I missed the second day in the Syracuse Open and was able to borrow everyone’s favorite standard deck, Bant Company.

Bant Company

4 Spell Queller
4 Selfless Spirit
2 Fortified Village
3 Tireless Tracker
3 Duskwatch Recruiter // Krallenhorde Howler
2 Archangel Avacyn // Avacyn, the Purifier
1 Wastes
4 Reflector Mage
2 Eldrazi Displacer
4 Sylvan Advocate
4 Prairie Stream
2 Lumbering Falls
4 Collected Company
4 Dromoka’s Command
4 Evolving Wilds
3 Forest
5 Plains
1 Island
4 Yavimaya Coast

Sideboard

2 Tamiyo, Field Researcher
1 Subjugator Angel
2 Declaration in Stone
1 Tireless Tracker
1 Archangel Avacyn // Avacyn, the Purifier
2 Clash of Wills
1 Tragic Arrogance
2 Nissa, Vastwood Seer // Nissa, Sage Animist
2 Ojutai’s Command
1 Negate

Oops.  I was lucky enough to meld Collected Company with Reflector Mage and Spell Queller enough times to Top 8 the Standard Classic, and felt reasonably comfortable with the deck.  It combines the combat math elements of Affinity with the flash-style aggro-control decks I enjoyed in older standard formats (Delver, UW Flash, etc).  

I learned a few things after playing a tournament with it.

I was a maniac for not playing 4 Duskwatch Recruiter, and Dromoka’s Command felt soft against the Emerge decks.  While Eldrazi Displacer was very powerful in the late game, the mana requirements were awkward, and it was tough to activate twice in a turn.  Nissa was great, as was Tireless Tracker.  Avacyn had a very high ceiling, but most decks were prepared to deal with her, and Selfless Spirit was a huge liability against Liliana.

After seeing the results of GP Portland, we tested with Elder Deep-Fiend, which proved to be incredibly powerful.  After a few games, I tried 2 in the main deck, and it continued to impress.  Personally, I like the deck-building school of “Play 4 of all your good cards,” so we cut the Avacyns and 3 Commands for 4 Deep-Fiends and an extra Company hit.  

We didn’t hit the deck perfectly for the Invitational, but I played the Standard Classic on Sunday and finished 15th at 7-2.

Bant Company

4 Elder Deep-Fiend
4 Spell Queller
3 Selfless Spirit
1 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
4 Tireless Tracker
4 Duskwatch Recruiter // Krallenhorde Howler
4 Reflector Mage
4 Sylvan Advocate
3 Prairie Stream
3 Canopy Vista
2 Lumbering Falls
2 Nissa, Vastwood Seer // Nissa, Sage Animist
4 Collected Company
4 Evolving Wilds
4 Forest
3 Plains
3 Island
4 Yavimaya Coast

Sideboard

2 Tamiyo, Field Researcher
2 Planar Outburst
1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
2 Quarantine Field
2 Clash of Wills
2 Dromoka’s Command
2 Ojutai’s Command
2 Peace of Mind

Long story short, Elder Deep-Fiend is busted, and I won most of my matches with it.  Against the control decks, tapping their lands for 2 turns is usually good enough, and against the creature decks, it allows a very quick pivot in the late game.  In a majority of my mirror matches, I could play defensively until the board stalled out, then tap down all the opponent’s creatures and attack for lethal.

While Banting was very fun, I’m more interested in how to build Affinity for GP Indy this weekend.  

I had a disappointing 4-4 record in Modern at the Invitational, but I do like the current build.

Affinity
1 Swamp
Sideboard

I feel comfortable playing 5 three-drops with 25 mana sources since Affinity is a very mana-hungry deck in the early turns.  Sea Gate Wreckage provides an excellent mana sink once all our permanents are in play, and missing the 12th colored source is less of a problem with only 3 colored spells in the main deck.

Most of the main deck is pretty stock, other than the Wreckage and Spellskite.  I don’t think you absolutely need Spellskite in the starting lineup, but it’s still useful for protecting a threat or disrupting the opponent, and freeing up an extra sideboard spot is important to fit extra graveyard hate.  

Perhaps the most interesting technology is the 2 Bitterblossoms in the sideboard.  I’ve had a lot of successful tournaments since sideboarding the Blossoms a couple months ago, and they’ve always performed well.  Affinity loses a lot of sideboard games where all the creatures get killed, or the opponent plays some offensive hate card like Stony Silence and deals with the single threat cast before it.  Bitterblossom solves both of these problems.  It combos with Signal Pest to provide a quick clock that ignores both Stony and Kataki, and it’s a stream of Plating-wearing threats against Grixis or Jeskai.  The mirror matches that don’t involve one player activating Steel Overseer every turn are about attacking and blocking with 1/1 fliers and Blossom is unkillable outside of the occasional Wear//Tear.

A friend suggested a single Chalice of the Void some time ago, and it’s proven to shut out certain decks completely.  Infect is the best matchup for it and work with Spellskite or Ghirapur Aether Grid to lock them out while attacking with a single threat.  Sometimes you just need an artifact that counters half your opponent’s deck.

The Vandalblast over the second Ancient Grudge has been great as well.  In the mirror, it kills Steel Overseer (the most important card) for one mana and wins the game once it stalls out.  It snipes Expedition Map or Oblivion Stone from Tron, while still handling the leftovers from Wurmcoil Engine.  Imagine drawing this against Lantern.

Moving forward, I’m kinda off Master of Etherium.  It’s good in the mirror and against combo decks, but too often it dies to a Path, Abrupt Decay, Kolaghans Command or Nature’s Claim.  While the two mana threats also die to these, they usually trade up or evenly on mana, making room for our other efficient threats to win.  If they don’t have a removal spell, they’re likely dead anyway.  If we’re cutting Master, we’re also cutting the extra land.  For the main deck configuration, it’s not insane to play 2 Glimmervoid with fewer colored spells, but there are a few matchups where we board into 6+ colored spells, so the Wreckage gets the ax.

The current plan is having 2 Thoughcasts in the additional slots.  For large events like Grand Prix, you can play against literally anything in the early rounds, so it’s tough to choose between 4 Thoughtcast or 4 Galvanic Blast.  While I believe Thoughtcast is very well positioned against the grindy decks currently doing well, it’s still important to have access to creature removal in game 1.  The 2-2 split hedges nicely and both are easy cuts for post-board games.

Affinity

1 Island
Sideboard

Stay tuned for my next article, a breakdown of Affinity’s strategy in various matchups.  Which hands can you keep?  Can you morph into a weird control deck?  How often do you aggressively board in Aether Grid and Bitterblossom?

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