Ancestral Memories: Arcbound Evolution

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You might have already guessed it but today I’ll be continuing with my trip detailing the evolution of Affinity. With the ban hammer having fallen to crush Ravager Affinity out of Standard, we shall now explore the next generation of the deck which appeared briefly in Extended before ultimately taking its place in the Legacy hierarchy.

To those wondering, no, Affinity will never be a Vintage deck even though Turn 1 Mox Sapphire, Mox Jet, Black Lotus, Lightning Greaves, Frogmite, sac Lotus for Cranial Plating, Equip Frogmite, play a Chalice of the Void for 0 and bash for 8 first turn seems fun.

So following the March banning of half the Ravager Affinity deck, the Arcbound Ravager decided to go work the odd job to support his family, he started at JC Penney, then moved on to Starbucks till he finally landed a greeter gig at Wal-Mart. (P.S. Derfington, comic suggestion for JTMS and Mystic’s lives after Standard.)

Turns out none of those jobs fit the Ravager and instead he wanted to be loved by Magic players again. So almost eight months after being banned from Standard, arrived Pro Tour Columbus and extended season. At this point all cards related to Affinity had been stripped away from the public consciousness and of the 285 players who arrived in Columbus, only eight decided to sleeve up the once powerhouse Standard deck.

As it turns out, no format was safe from the Ravager’s wrath.

Eventual winner Pierre Canali, a Pro Tour rookie, made short work of the field on Day 1, propelling himself to an undefeated record and on Day 2, recorded only three loses, all to his Top 8 competitors. In the Top 8 he avenged two of his loses before finally facing off against Future Magic Hall of Famer, Shuhei Nakamura, where he swept the finals in three games, amongst several misplays. For reference here is Canali’s deck list for the event:

In case you were wondering, Skullclamp was banned in Extended as well so that is the reason for its absence from the deck. Going through the deck, the only two non-Affinity cards to appear in the main deck are a singleton copy of City of Brass as well as four copies of Meddling Mage.

Extended season for that Pro Tour spanned from Tempest all the way to the end of the current Block, at the time, Kamigawa. Many of the cards from Urza’s Block were banned which opened the door for Affinity but the power level of the deck is still quite clear when you can transplant 55 of the 60 cards available in Mirrodin Block and take down a Pro Tour having access to some of the best sets available in Magic.

I didn’t go over it in my previous article but Aether Vial was also a card that saw lots of play in creature decks, as well as Affinity. At the time Goblins got potentially the greatest use out of the card but with Extended, the Vial was a legitimate threat, allowing a player to Vial in a card such as Meddling Mage, which had the potential to lock an opponent out, while circumventing the color restrictions.

A difference to note between the Standard environment and Extended environment, is that Disciple of the Vault is much more valuable in Extended, as there were many potential answers to the Artifact menace, including cards like Energy Flux and Ensnaring Bridge. This made the combo of Ravager and Disciple, the greatest threat Affinity had access to, as seen in the Top 8 coverage, it was the only out Canali had to many of his opponent’s threats and answers.

But even this Pro Tour win, was a tiny blip on the Magic landscape. As the Extended season came and went, Affinity again became relegated in shame, as the cards were of no use.

Come the next Extended season, Wizards took preemptive action to quash Affinity once again, by banning both Aether Vial but more importantly Disciple of the Vault. The banning of Vial was not specifically directed at Affinity as it was quite popular in circumventing color restrictions. The Disciple was the dagger, Wizards intent to use to stab Affinity in the heart.

That Pro Tour Season, Affinity did make appearances, but at a reduced power level and would soon be forgotten as a deck for good, the only way to truly beat it, was to have Wizards strip away the pieces. Now there were a few who had dreams of returning Affinity to its rightful place on top of the heap in Legacy but there were so many answers people could find that the deck was incapable of attaining even a broken down shell of its former glory.

As a quick interruption to this story, after Standard, Extended and Eternal there is one last format that had not addressed Affinity: Block. It seems odd to address a format which had already rotated three years prior but in 2006, Wizards came back to Mirrodin block and proceeded to ban nine cards from the Affinity deck; Vial, Disciple, Ravager & the 6 Artifact Lands.

Was this Wizards way of trolling Affinity, till it disappeared for good? Was there still that much hatred from players, Wizards felt the need to build a new coffin to nail shut?

The answer is no, even Wizards’ level of disdain for Affinity was not that high, though even to this day, it certainly is close. The reason for the Block Banning was that, the Magic Invitational that year would feature Block constructed play and Wizards wanted to assure than Affinity would not be a deck, so it retroactively banned the cards in a dead format for one tournament.

Which fast forwards us all the way to today. In the years since the bans, Affinity received a few cards here and there along the way to make people’s thoughts of playing a version of the deck in Legacy a possibility. There have surely been numerous iterations of the deck but I want to focus on the key cards that were printed since Mirrodin that appear in Legacy Affinity decks and their impact.

Springleaf Drum, Lorwyn, September 2008

This happens to be one of the sole Legacy Affinity card that is counterable by Mental Misstep, sorry Arcbound Worker but you don’t really make the cut. The Drum happens to be the most important, post-Ravager Affinity card printed. It was the first card to allow Affinity to begin slashing the amount of lands played, the other is more restrictive and can be found farther down the list.

It is true that the Drum requires a creature before you can go mana crazy, but between Ornithopter, Memnite and Frogmite, there are plenty of early creatures available to aid your mana fixing needs. Which provides the other important point of the card, it lets Affinity, circumvent Wasteland as too often a one land artifact hand can be crushed by an opponent’s turn 1 Wasteland of that land.

Master of Etherium, Shards of Alara, 2009

This is what Cranial Plating with a back end looks like. The mana commitment is the same amount, though it requires one blue instead of colorless and provides the added bonus of pumping all your creatures in play, which is important when playing a deck that relies on a “Sea of Dudes”.

Memnite, Scars of Mirrodin, 2010

This guy, is the equivalent to Legacy Affinity, as Dryad Arbor is to every deck that plays it. As well, before his printing, the Drum was an alright card but with his printing Affinity now had access to eight reliable zero drops, sorry Phyrexian Walker, you may have had your moment of fame in Fruity Pebbles but you are no longer relevant. Note: Fruity Pebbles is a deck name, not the cereal. Sorry if I got your hopes up.

His importance, lies in the ability to increase the Artifact count for the Master and the Plating, as well as providing a first turn solution to activating the Drum. And all of this is coupled with the fact, that he is a creature that can beat your opponent.

Mox Opal, Scars of Mirrodin, 2010

Hello, Mox Diamond with only a small drawback.
What’s that, you have an Arcbound Ravager in play.
Hello, Mox Diamond with no drawback!

There is the caveat that the Opal requires Metalcraft to work but unless you’re playing some sort of Slag Fiend Affinity, any three permanents you control will activate Metalcraft. With that out of the way, what was the one drawback I was referring to? The Opal is legendary, meaning that having two is a liability, unless you have a sac outlet like Ravager to help. I could go longer but no one really needs an explanation of why free of any colored mana is good right?

Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, Mirroding Besieged, 2011

Hello Late Game!

The knock against, Affinity was that the deck was always a one trick pony. It dumps its hand and if you can contain it, you win. Well Tezzeret is the late game answer the deck needed. He generates card advantage and after only one turn is capable of going ultimate for lethal, barring some major screw up. He further circumvents any Creature/Artifact hate your opponent’s deck will be packing while allowing you to win, even in the face of an Ensnaring Bridge or Humility. And he costs four, which means turn 2 Tezzeret is a very real possibility and will make for a very quick game, if your opponent does not have an immediate answer.

Honorable Mention

Darksteel Relic – Zero casting costs Artifacts are fantastic and this can tap with the Drum to … wait, that’s not right … okay so it can be used to increase Artifact counts and … hey, Phyrexian Walker in comparison to this … relic? … you’re a boss and we love you again. Naw, just kidding you both suck.

Etched Champion – Metalcraft isn’t hard to achieve and equipped with a Plating can prove lethal. At worse he continuously blocks Tarmogoyf.

Ethersworn Canonist – Usually a sideboard card, but can provide such a powerful effect, no one would question you being promoted to the main board.

Signal Pest – Coming down first or second turn, this card can help provide a beating and wears a Plating very nicely.

Tidehollow Sculler – Main deck hand disruption which has a 2/2 body on it. The card is effective but its colors may not gel with those of every Affinity deck.

Let me know what you think of the article in the comments, I’ll read every one and until next time: Have FUN Playing Magic!

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