Preorder MTG The Lost Caverns of Ixalan today!
   Sign In
Create Account

Winning with Affinity in Modern: A PTQ Report (1st)


Last Thursday, James and I decided to make the trip down to New York City to play in one of the first Modern PTQs of the season. I settled on playing Affinity early because I had never played the format before and I had some experience playing Affinity years ago. The deck couldn’t have changed that much, right? Of course, there aren’t any cards with Affinity in it, but what else would you call it? Metalcraft? That’s dumb.

It was supposed to snow Friday night into Saturday morning, so we decided to drive down on Friday afternoon, stay at my brother’s place in Jersey City, and take the subway to King’s Games in the morning. We made it to Jersey, got plenty of sleep, and left promptly at 8:15 A.M. to give ourselves plenty of time to make it to the PTQ.

Making it to Brooklyn from Jersey City ended up being pretty difficult. We had to make three transfers and walk fifteen minutes in the snow. It didn’t help that we missed two of the trains by about ten seconds. As we were waiting for the last train in the snow, I noticed that it was already 9:25, so I thought we were going to miss the PTQ. Ten minutes later, the train finally came, and we were on our way.

I sat down with James and started writing out my decklist in fear that I wouldn’t have any time to write it out when I got there. As I was writing, a guy came up to us and asked us if we were going to the PTQ. He was from New Jersey and had no idea where he was going. We ended up chatting about what we were playing, and we made it to the PTQ with ten minutes to spare.

I was very happy about our decision to drive down the night before—the snow was really bad, and the roads were awful. My friends from Boston said they were going to start driving to NYC Saturday morning, and they were nowhere in sight. Round 1 wasn’t posted until at least 10:30. There were roughly a hundred players, which meant we’d be playing seven rounds of Swiss.

Here’s the list I registered:

Round 1– Andrew Denniser with Jund

I played first and had a fast start of Signal Pest and some guys. He played a Dark Confidant on turn two, and I Galvanic Blasted it and played more creatures. On turn three, the best he could do was play a Kitchen Finks. The 2 life he gained didn’t matter, and I ran him over on the next turn.

I sided in two Spellskites for two Shrapnel Blasts. The Shrapnel Blasts are pretty slow, and the Spellskites helped to dodge removal on my important cards like Cranial Plating. I really thought about the bringing in the Blood Moons, but I decided not to because my opponent had quite a few basics in play.

Game 2, my opponent played two Ancient Grudges, two Maelstrom Pulses, two Terminates, and an Olivia Voldaren. With that amount of removal, it was impossible for me to stay in the game.

Game 3, I kept a pretty good hand with an Arcbound Ravager and an Etched Champion. I lead with Mox Opal, land, and two artifact creatures with hopes of playing Etched Champion on turn two. My opponent lead with Inquisition of Kozilek, and he made me discard my Ravager instead of the Etched Champion. I played the Champion, then drew and played another. I won soon after—my opponent could never deal with the Etched Champions. Afterward, his friend asked him why he chose Ravager instead of Champion, and he responded, “If I drew one of my Creeping Corrosions, I could have dealt with Etched Champion easily, so I took the Ravager.” It turned out he was playing only two Creeping Corrosions in his deck. My opponent relying on drawing one of his two hosers seems like the wrong way to go, and he lost because of it. Had he just taken the Etched Champion, the game would have been totally different.

Round 2– Terrance Shields with Jund

I mulliganed to six in Game 1, and I kept a slow, but good hand. I had two Etched Champions in play but couldn’t attack into his 5/6 Tarmogoyf, Kitchen Finks, Bloodbraid Elf, and Burning-Tree Shaman. At one point, he attacked with everything, and I blocked the ’Goyf with an Ornithopter, the Finks and Elf with my two Etched Champions, and then I Shrapnel Blasted his Shaman, sacrificing the Ornithopter, taking no damage, and practically destroying his team. I still couldn’t attack because he could swing back for much more, so we just sat there for a while casting creatures. I finally drew a Cranial Plating, equipped the Etched Champion, and attacked for 10. He had no answer and lost the next turn.

I sideboarded the same way I did in Round 1. I had to mulligan to five in Game 2, and my opponent went to six. I had a very fast start, and my opponent was stuck on two lands for a while, but he was still able to play a few Tarmogoyfs for defense. I eventually won with an Etched Champion equipped with a Cranial Plating.

Round 3– Ben Green with W/U Tron

In this match, my opponent put his deck down on the table in a way that I could see most of his sideboard. All I could see were white cards, which meant he could have been playing a number of decks, but still, players need to be careful about what information they give to their opponents. There was absolutely no reason for him to randomly flash his sideboard to me.

In this match, I drew incredibly well. I had two Cranial Platings both games, and my opponent couldn’t deal. Game 2, I sideboarded in four Blood Moon and two Spellskite and took out four Galvanic Blast and two Shrapnel Blast. The only interesting thing that happened was when I had the choice of playing either a Blood Moon or a Cranial Plating. He had two lands untapped, so he most likely had a Mana Leak or a Condescend. I lead with Plating instead of Blood Moon. Both are a must-counter for W/U Tron, but the Blood Moon is more likely game over. He ended up not even having a counter, and he just Path to Exiled my equipped creature instead. On his third turn, he tapped out for Timely Reinforcements, so I was given the window to resolve Blood Moon while he had only nonbasics in play. He revealed his hand of Wrath of Gods and Paths, and then he conceded.

Round 4– Peter Smutko with Boros

Peter is the friend I met on the train, so each of us knew what the other was playing. We made jokes about how the train must have been lucky because we were both 3–0 at that point.

I lost the die roll, and Peter led with Steppe Lynx, Plated Geopede, and two Grim Lavamancers. He killed all of my creatures and just ran me over.

I brought in two Whipflare and two Spellskite for two Steelshaper's Gift and two Vault Skirge. The Steelshaper's Gifts were really slow against him, and Vault Skirge is the worst creature. Spellskite could at least block things and absorb removal from my better creatures and Cranial Plating.

I had a fast start for Game 2 and brought him to a low life total before he stabilized with Volcanic Fallout. I still had a Ravager with 3 counters and a few man lands, so I took that game down easily.

In Game 3, I kept a risky hand of Memnite, two Signal Pest, Vault Skirge, Whipflare, Ravager, and Blinkmoth Nexus. I started with a Pest and Memnite, then missed on land and played Vault Skirge. I was attacking for 4 a turn, but he eventually drew Volcanic Fallout to blow me out. I never drew a colored mana source for the Whipflare. Looking back, I should have mulliganed. The hand had no colored mana and only a single land. Although I could cast most of the spells in my hand, the hand wasn’t capable of winning the game without a colored mana source, and it wasn’t worth taking the risk of not drawing land.

I lost the match, bringing my record to 3–1.

Round 5– Anthony Boccardi with Splinter Twin

Game 1, he went for the win on turn four, but I had the Galvanic Blast to blow him out. Then, on turn five, he played a second Deceiver Exarch, tapping my Cranial Plating creature, preventing me from winning that turn. On his turn six, he ran out Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, and I didn’t have a second burn spell, so I died.

I brought in two Spellskite and one Torpor Orb and took out two Steelshaper's Gift and a Vault Skirge. The Gifts are really slow here, and I can’t side out removal, so this way seemed best.

Game 2, he drew two Ancient Grudges, but I was still able to run him over with multiple Cranial Platings.

I’m not happy with how Game 3 went. I made quite a few mistakes in this game. His board was two Spellskite, two Deceiver Exarch, and Pestermite. My board was two Etched Champions and some random creatures. I also had two Blinkmoth Nexuses and an Inkmoth Nexus in play. I had enough removal in my hand that I could kill the Spellskites and still be able to kill whatever thing he put his Splinter Twin on. The first mistake I made was not killing the Spellskites early. If I killed them right away, I could have attacked with my Etched Champions earlier. The next thing is that I kept tapping my mana wrong so I couldn’t pump my Blinkmoth Nexus. I assumed he would block with his Pestermite, so I didn’t think pumping would be relevant. He ended up not blocking, so because of my incorrect tapping, I missed out on damage. The third thing is that I kept attacking with my Inkmoth Nexus for no reason. I was not on the poison plan, so there was no reason to attack when I could have held mana back to cast Shrapnel Blast to kill those Spellskites.

I was very lucky—my opponent kept not drawing Twin or Kiki-Jiki, then eventually, I drew a Spellskite to put the game out of reach for him. I felt very lucky to win there. My opponent actually drew really well—with two Ancient Grudges, Firespout, and Flame Slash. After I pulled this one out, I needed only one more win to draw into the Top 8.

Round 6– Jake Gans with Caw-Blade

I got blown out Game 1 with my opponent playing Squadron Hawks, Snapcaster Mages, Vendilion Clique, and multiple Sword of Feast and Famine. I sided in two Whipflare and two Ancient Grudge for three Shrapnel Blast and a Vault Skirge.

Game 2 was a grind. We both drew well and played out multiple threats. At one point, he played a Sword of Feast and Famine, and I Ancient Grudged it. Many turns went by, and we kept playing threats. Jake started to take control of the game with a Moorland Haunt. Then, he played a Sword of Fire and Ice, equipped it, activated a Mutavault, and attacked with all of his creatures for lethal. I casually tapped a Glimmervoid and flashed back Ancient Grudge. My opponent clearly forgot that I had it in my graveyard. I went to 1 life and won on my next turn. My opponent was visibly frustrated by his mistake. He kept a very slow hand in Game 3, while I drew very well and won easily.

In this match, I made the mistake of not realizing how good Blood Moon was in the matchup. He had a lot of basics in his deck, but he also had Mutavaults, Celestial Colonnade, and Moorland Haunt. I definitely should have brought them in, but unfortunately, I didn’t realize that until after my Top 4 match.

Round 7– Matt Westbrook with Mono-Blue Delver

My tiebreakers were excellent, so I had no problem drawing into the Top 8.

I felt very lucky to have drawn into the Top 8, especially with the poor plays in Round 5 and my opponent punting in Round 6. I bought an iced coffee and mentally prepared myself for the Top 8.

Top 8– Luis Neiman with Mono-Blue Faeries

Luis drew very poorly in our match. It also didn’t help that I drew incredibly well. He mulliganed to five in the first game, and the only cards I saw out of him were a Spell Snare and a Vedalken Shackles. I put him on mono-blue Delver or a Next-Level Blue deck and sideboarded in two Ancient Grudge for two Shrapnel Blast.

In Game 2, my opponent drew a little better. He played a Sower of Temptation on my Signal Pest and then a Threads of Disloyalty on my Memnite, but then I played two Cranial Platings, forcing him to chump-block with his Sower. I then started double-equipping my man lands and attacking. He traded one with a Scion of Oona, but then he drew no more answers, so I was able to take it down.

Had we gone to Game 3, the Whipflares would have come in for the third Shrapnel Blast and maybe a Vault Skirge.

Top 4– Oliver Simon with Caw-Blade

I won the die roll but had to mulligan my hand of Cranial Plating, Shrapnel Blast, Inkmoth, Blinkmoth, Springleaf Drum, and two more lands. My six-card hand was not great but keepable: two Etched Champion, Glimmervoid, Mox Opal, and two Vault Skirge. I missed my second land-drop but then drew a land a turn later. I was able to resolve two Etched Champions and ride them to victory.

I sided in the Whipflares because he had a bunch of little guys, and Whipflare seemed like a potential blowout card. I didn’t side in Blood Moon, but I definitely should have. My reasoning at the time was that his deck could be aggressive—he could have multiple Squadron Hawks, Snapcasters, and Kitchen Finks that by the time I cast a Blood Moon, he’d be too far ahead. It was definitely a mistake—he had so many man lands as well as Seachrome Coast, Mystic Gate, Hallowed Fountain, and Moorland Haunt.

I drew pretty well in Game 2, but he stabilized with Path to Exiles, Disenchants, and Snapcaster Mage to cast them again. He eventually resolved an Elspeth, and I died.

Game 3, I mulliganed my hand of Memnite, Blinkmoth, three Inkmoth, Shrapnel Blast, and Springleaf Drum. My six-card hand was Steel Overseer, Springleaf Drum, Inkmoth, Blinkmoth, Darksteel Citadel, and Mox Opal. The hand was very much like the first, and it didn’t have much action, but I couldn’t mulligan to five with that hand, so I kept.

I drew a Ravager on turn two, so I was given the choice of leading with a Steel Overseer or the Ravager. He led with Island, so he was representing Spell Snare. I decided to lead with Overseer, and he did have the Spell Snare. Leading with the Overseer was definitely a mistake, because he of course tapped out to play Squadron Hawk on turn two, which meant I was free to resolve anything I wanted. The Steel Overseer is way better in this matchup, so I definitely should have played Ravager first.

The game was a grind with us trading creatures and him playing Paths on my guys. I eventually resolved an Etched Champion and a Cranial Plating, and the game ended in my favor shortly after.

Finals– Yong Li Liang with R/U/G Delver

Yong said that he wasn’t sure if he could go to the Pro Tour. I told him I was going for sure and asked him if he’d concede to me. He thought about it for a while and then said he wanted to play for the bragging rights. We agreed to a split of the winner receiving the plane ticket and the loser keeping two booster boxes.

We played out three long, close games. He ended up taking down the match. Before he scooped up his cards, he said that he didn’t know if he could go to the Pro Tour, and he’d hate to see the plane ticket go to the waste. He then conceded to me.


Overall, I thought the maindeck was excellent, and there really aren’t any changes to be made to it. I would like to put two Welding Jars in the maindeck. It’s an excellent card against removal, and sometimes you just need to save your Cranial Plating. It’s also a 0-drop artifact, so it helps you make your metalcraft early. The most underwhelming card in the maindeck is Arcbound Ravager, so I’d be happy to cut two Ravagers for two Welding Jars.

As for the sideboard, I would cut all of the Ethersworn Canonists. Storm is not popular enough to run four cards dedicated to hate it. Additionally, Canonist is not even that good against Storm. They play enough removal, so most of the time, Canonist doesn’t even do anything.

Spellskites are amazing against Jund and any deck packing a lot of removal. It’s also fine against Splinter Twin, which is a matchup that could use the help. I would be happy to add a third to the sideboard. I’d also like to add a third Ancient Grudge—Affinity is more popular now than ever, so it’s better to have another card for the mirror.

I also wanted to try out Surgical Extraction. It’s good against Ancient Grudge, and it can also be fine against various combo decks.

If I were to play in a PTQ this weekend, my sideboard would probably be something like this:

3 Spellskite

2 Whipflare

4 Blood Moon

3 Ancient Grudge

1 Torpor Orb

2 Surgical Extraction

It felt great to win the tournament even though I technically would have lost the last round. I think Yong did the right thing if he couldn’t go to the Pro Tour, and he got a few booster boxes, so it seemed to be well worth it for him. I’m excited that I’m going to play in back-to-back Pro Tours. With 9 Pro Points already this season, I have a decent shot of making the gravy train this year. I was overall very happy with the deck and would play Affinity again in a heartbeat.

Join me next week for more discussion on the Modern format. Thanks for reading, and see you next week!

Follow me on Twitter @AllWeDoIsWinMTG

Limited time 30% buy trade in bonus buylist