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By: Joe Fiorini, Joseph G Fiorini
Jul 13 2015 12:02am
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DO THE ROBOT!

I've been a busy guy lately. Those who know me personally know that in the last month, I've moved residences, and I've been working like mad. My usual late-night Vintage sessions and Daily Events have taken a bit of a back-seat to another long-forgotten pastime - SLEEP! Seriously, this past weekend I went to bed early and slept each night. Sometimes, that's important! 

Missing those events that I usually try to participate in got me thinking. I decided that I should make some decks for other formats, to increase the chances of me finding a Daily Event in a time period that fits my schedule. I decided to get back into Pauper, because let's face it, it's by far the most affordable format! 

The first time that I was dabbling with Pauper, I was playing Reanimator and Blue Delver. Both of those decks are really sweet, but this time around I wanted something new to me to jam games with. The deck I decided to play is Affinity! And unlike its Modern counterpart, the Pauper version of this deck has several cards in it that actually have the Affinity keyword ability! Here's what I started with:

 

 

This is the list that I downloaded to get me started. I jammed some matches with it, and I was winning most of them. Of course, that was just in Tournament Practice, I haven't had time for any actual events yet. The deck is solid, and downright explosive at times! Once a critical mass of artifacts is on the battlefield, it's nothing for this deck to vomit the entire content of its hand on the table.

As any seasoned player can tell you, dumping your entire hand on the battlefield can be a double-edged sword. This type of over-extending can put you in danger of being hit with sweeper-effects, as well as the fact that it announces to your opponents that you're out of gas. While there aren't cards like Vandalblast and Shatterstorm in pauper, there are plenty of cards like Crypt Rats that can clear an entire board of creatures, and gain a massive swing in card advantage.

Luckily, the kindly folks at Wizards R&D decided that Affinity players deserve to get to play four copies of a card that's effectively 2/3 of an Ancestral Recall.  If you haven't guessed by now, the card I'm swooning over is:

Thoughtcast

Thoughtcast!

I'll get real with you folks for a minute here, the real reason I love Pauper is that you get to play some VERY powerful cards. I've played with Thoughtcast in Vintage and it felt very close to being too good. Of course, as insane as Thoughtcast and the Affinity creatures like Frogmite and Myr Enforcer are, the cards that really tie the room together are these six pieces of real estate:

Seat of the SynodAncient DenTree of TalesGreat FurnaceVault of WhispersDarksteel Citadel

 

The six artifact lands shown above have been banned in Standard before. They were the core of one of the most oppressive Standard decks of all time, Ravager Affinity. Although I did not play Magic during that era, everything that I've heard about it made it seem like a train wreck. The motto was "play Affinity, or go home". Very few decks could beat it at the time, and those that could beat it sometimes weren't that good at it from what I've read. I once looked up the tournament results from the Vermont State Champs (my home state) during that time, and there was A LOT of Affinity in that top eight! I think it was seven Affinity decks, if I'm not mistaken. Yikes!

When combined with cards that have affinity for artifacts, each of these lands effectively break the rules of mana development. It's almost as if each land taps for two mana, as they each reduce the casting cost of the card with affinity by one colorless mana. In practice, it isn't quite that simple, as some cards with affinity have a pip or two of colored mana in their mana cost, but I'm sure you get the point. Two copies of Seat of the Synod can cast a Frogmite with its CMC of four, which is neat. If that was as good as it gets though, nobody would likely bother with this deck. The real tipping point of degeneracy comes once just a few more artifacts have been plopped onto the playing space.

A quick aside, I've mentioned before that lands that make (or effectively make) more than one mana create a kind of virtual card advantage for their controller. I discussed this concept in my article on R/G Tron in Modern, and the same theory applies to Mishra's Workshop decks. The same theory is at work here. A 4/4 like Myr Enforcer would cost four mana in a world where all things are even. This is why we say a 5/5 at CMC four has a "good rate", In Affinity, we're casting 4/4's for two all the time, and sometimes they're 4/4's for zero! These cheap beaters are the meat and potatoes of Pauper Affinity.

Imagine a turn-one Seat of the Synod followed by a Springleaf Drum. On turn two, there are two artifacts, then you simply play another artifact land and you're at three. You can tap one land and cast Frogmite, and now you're at four. You can use the Springleaf Drum with the Frogmite to make another mana if you wish, or use your other artifact land for mana. The thing is, once you play that Frogmite, you've hit four artifacts. Any other Frogmites that you have in your hand from then on are effectively CMC ZERO. In this example, it's turn two, and you have an artifact count of four and as many as five cards in left in your hand (if you're on the draw, but you'd have four still if you were on the play and hadn't had to mulligan). You could still cast a copy of Thoughtcast, you could be casting another Frogmite for free, the point is that you can play quite a few spells at this point.

Turn three, you could start getting into Myr Enforcer territory. You may not have seven artifacts out, but you could play it at a significant discount. It's important to remember that these examples that I've given aren't really "nut draws". They're good, by all means, but they happen a lot. To me, a nut draw is when you draw multiple Thoughtcasts and those in turn allow you to draw and play out several Enforcers. There isn't much in life that is more satisfying than dropping multiple Enforcer's into play for free!

Myr Enforcer

This is the artifact synergy that the deck is based around and named for. This is Affinity. It's as busted now as it was all those years ago, and it is a ton of fun to play. 

Atog Fling

But wait! There's More!!!

The other reasons to play affinity are varied. There are the metalcraft creatures like Carapace Forger, which I have nicknamed "The Affinity Tarmogoyf. It's almost always a 4/4 for two, so it reminds me of Goyf quite a bit. Some builds of affinity use different metalcraft creatures or even some of the colored affinity creatures like Somber Hoverguard

Somber Hoverguard Carapace Forger Rusted Relic

The other explosive and highly-swingy play that Pauper Affinity has in its tool belt is the classic Atog/Fling combo-kill. This combo is as deadly as it is potentially risky. It's really tempting to just Fling your Atog at someone as soon as it would be lethal, but it does open you up to a lot of blowouts. 

I've read an article about this combo, and the author didn't play this combo as they didn't feel it was important at the time. I'm not a Pauper expert, but with all of the potential board-stalls in a format such as Pauper, I feel that this combo gives the deck reach that it wouldn't otherwise have!

Atog itself can apply a lot of pressure, and just having one on the table seems to force opponents to play differently. With an Atog out, opponents always leave back blockers if they have them. It's hard to race a creature that can swell to ten times its size in one turn! Plus, my opponents always seem to hold up mana for removal or counters for a Fling rather than build their own board state. This causes them to be on the back foot much of the time. 

I like this combo a lot, I think it's an important part of this deck, and if I absolutely HAD to cut something, I'd cut Fling well before I'd cut Atog. Even without the ability to "combo out", the fear that an Atog creates makes it worth the slot it takes up.

Since building and playing with the Affinity deck, I have done some Tinkering with the list to create something tuned the way I like it. I'm not sure if what I've built is better, the same, or maybe even weaker than the stock Affinity lists that people use. To find that out, I'll have to keep testing the decks that I've built. 

Let's take a look at a couple tweaked versions, and then discuss my changes.

 

 

If you notice, the deck isn't very much different. In the sideboard, I ponied up for some Gorilla Shamans, as they are incredible in the mirror match. Being able to Smash all of your opponent's artifact lands for one mana must be backbreaking. I still have two Ancient Grudge in the board as well, so this list is well-suited to killing artifacts!

The big change in the main deck is the addition of four copies of Lotus Petal. I haven't tested this card enough to fully form my opinion, but so far it has led to some really crazy starts! The casting cost of zero means that you get to have your artifact-count grow faster, which in turn allows you to drop multiple threats sooner.

The downside to Lotus Petal is the same as in any format: it's card-disadvantage. Lotus Petal is like a land that you can only use once, but at least it breaks the one-land-per-turn rule. In a deck like this that wants to burn up and cycle through as many cards as it can, sometimes playing Petals can be a liability.

It's important for all players to note that in Magic, you can begin to cast a spell before you pay for it. I was always taught to tap my lands for mana first, but you don't need to do that. The great thing about this (and this applies to Lotus Petal in particular) is that you can cast a spell with a discount of X, and use a Lotus Petal to pay for the spell without making it cost more. For example, If you have three Lotus Petals on the board and nothing else, you can cast a Frogmite and pay the one mana with a Petal. This is really important to know and to utilize as it comes up often.

All in all, I've really liked having the Lotus Petals in my deck. There's only been a few times where I have drawn one and it screwed me over, and there have been plenty of times where it allowed me to get ahead on board so quickly that my opponents couldn't catch up. The times that I drew it and it wasn't good were times where drawing any mana source would have been bad. As long as the amount of mana-sources I have isn't too high, than the petals won't cause mana flooding. 

The true test of the effectiveness of Lotus Petal will come when I jam enough matches to convince myself one way or the other. At this point, I'm leaning toward it being a good choice. This deck already has to play plenty of color-fixing due to it being a four-color list, and that is another point scored for Lotus Petal

The last build of Affinity that I want to show you is also very similar, but it uses black instead of white as its fourth color.

 

 

 

 

This build goes down to only three copies of Lotus Petal. The idea here is to play enough to occasionally allow an explosive start without having as many games where I draw more than one. Since I'm basically counting Lotus Petals as lands, I don't want to draw too many lands, or worse, only Lotus Petal as my mana source!

In this list, I made sure that I had seven cards that drew me more than one card: four Thoughtcast and three Perilous Research. Normal Affinity decks play 17 lands, four of each of their colors and one Darksteel Citadel. I went with 16 lands and three Petals for a total of 19 mana sources. The first list I made had 20 total including four Lotus Petals, so this list has one less mana source in all. Hopefully this prevents flooding and still allows me to fix my colors and beat face.

SIDEBOARD

Gorilla Shaman

The sideboard has my anti-Boggles card, Serene Heart. That seems decent against a deck with so many enchantments. If Boggles was more popular, I'd play more. As it is, I don't see that deck very much at all. Diabolic Edict is a great removal spell that is also good against hexproof creatures. 

Rounding out my removal package are my sweet-looking textless Doom Blades. These might be better as other cards, namely Edicts, but let's face it - textless cards are freakin' awesome!

The rest of the sideboard is pretty normal. There's some anti-artifact cards, some anti-blue cards, and three Electrickerys for token decks and weenie decks of all different stripes. 

Pyroblast

Bring me in against Delver, boss!

The only card this deck loses access to Ray of Revelation out of the sideboard. This would make the deck weak to enchantments, but I replaced it with Serene Heart which should do the trick nicely.

I don't know if black is the better fourth color for this type of deck.  I do think that it opens up some great removal spells.I'll be testing both of these lists whenever possible, so look for me in the Pauper queues!!!

Thanks for joining me on this Pauper adventure, stay tuned for more content soon!