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By: blau, Mr. Awesome
Mar 11 2010 1:17am
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The Usual Suspects

Arcbound RavagerDisciple of the VaultSkullclampSeat of the SynodCranial PlatingVault of WhispersShrapnel Blast

There are many mechanics that players will say are “broken.”  Affinity gets a lot of hate and it is an undeserved hate.  I can feel many of you reaching for the “back” button on your screen right now, but hear me out on this.  I will admit that during the days of “affinities” reign of terror in standard, I, too, gave it much hate.  I use the word “affinity” in quotes because let’s really look at the mechanic and the deck that spawned the hate.  Here’s Gabriel Nassif's “affinity” deck that made top 8 at worlds in 2004.

Gabriel Nassif 2004 World's Top 8
3 Blinkmoth Nexus 4 Arcbound Ravager SIDEBOARD
3 Glimmervoid 4 Arcbound Worker 4 Annul
4 Great Furnace 4 Disciple of the Vault 4 Furnace Dragon
4 Seat of the Synod 4 Frogmite 4 Seething Song
4 Vault of Whispers 4 Ornithopter 3 Serum Visions
  2 Somber Hovergaurd  
4 Chrome Mox    
4 Cranial Plating    
4 Shrapnel Blast    
4 Thoughtcast    
4 Welding Jar    

Notice anything odd about it?  The cards that bring all the power to the deck (Disciple of the Vault, Arcbound Ravager, Skullclamp, Seat of the Synod, Valut of Whispers) don’t have affinity.  It only plays three spells with the word “affinity” on them:  Frogmite, Somber Hovergaurd, and Thoughtcast.  (Yes, it also has Furnace Dragon in the side, I'm looking at the mainboard)  That’s it?  These four cards are what made the affinity mechanic broken?  Most decks didn't even run Somber Hoverguard, so we're really talking about just three cards.  The deck actually has a misleading name.  During the days of this deck, I still played paper magic.  For some reason the name “affinity” for this deck never caught on in my region.  We called it “Ravager.”  The reason for this was because there were rogue players, like me, who actually ran dedicated affinity decks.  This is a more current version I use in the casual room of my affinity deck:

Creature Based Affinity
3 Darksteel Citadel 2 Broodstar SIDEBOARD
3 Glimmervoid 4 Frogmite 4 Æther Spellbomb
4 Great Furnace 3 Myr Enforcer 2 Assert Authority
4 Seat of the Synod 4 Myr Retriever 4 Irradiate
4 Vault of Whispers 3 Ornithopter 2 Locket of Yesterdays
  2 Qumulox 3 Thirst for Knowledge
2 Assert Authority 2 Somber Hoverguard  
3 Mana Leak    
4 Shrapnel Blast 2 Cranial Plating  
4 Thoughtcast 4 Pyrite Spellbomb  
  3 Welding Jar  

A brief look at this deck will show that is primarily creature based, which was the goal.  I wanted to showcase the fun creatures of Affinity, namely Qumulox.  I have mad love for this guy.  5/4 flier on turn three or four is always a beautiful thing.  It's not easy to pull off, but I still like him more than Broodstar.  The other noticeable thing is that the real power in this deck is from Cranial Plating and Shrapnel Blast.  Neither of these cards has Affinity either, but benefit from cheap artifacts.

The Heart of the Issue

I was playing a game, wasn’t paying attention, and I kept a hand I shouldn’t have.  By Turn 3 I had this in play.  Great Furnace, Vault of Whispers, Ornithopter, and Cranial Plating.   I played the second Great Furnace in my hand leaving the rest of my hand useless because it contained all blue cards.  I had drawn a Myr Enforcer for the turn.  I used 2 mana to equip the Ornithopter and then paid 1 to play the Enforcer.  This prompted my opponent to say, “You’re lame for playing affinity.  You should play cards that aren’t banned.”  He then conceded.

Despite his comments making little sense, I pondered why he conceded.  Was the Enforcer the real problem?  He said “affinity” and that was the only card with affinity.  A 4/4 on Turn 3 was the problem?  Woolly Thoctar is a 5/4 and lands on Turn 2 (most of the time) and attacks on Turn 3 for 5 damage.  My guess is that he was angry at the 6/2 Ornithopter.  If I hadn’t played the Enforcer it would have been 5/2.  Is a flying 5/2 somehow less offensive?  Its 6/2 status was due to cheap artifacts, not affinity.  The saddest part of this whole thing was that this guy was playing blue/black and had all his lands untapped, but for some reason, apparently, had no answers to creatures in his deck.

Assert Authority Somber Hoverguard
Blinkmoth Infusion Scale of Chiss-Goria
Broodstar Thoughtcast
Chromescale Drake Tooth of Chiss-Goria
Into Thin Air Dross Golem
Mycosynth Golem Oxidda Golem
Myr Enforcer Razor Golem
Quicksilver Behemoth Spire Golem
Qumulox Tangle Golem

Here is a list of the 20 cards with the word “affinity” on them.  A majority of them are simply unplayable (I’m looking at you Blinkmoth Infusion).  It’s hard to look at cards like Chromescale Drake and Into Thin Air and say, “It has affinity!  It’s so broken!”  If anything, the affinity cards are extremely well balanced.  Most of them even require colored mana to use them.  The last five don’t even have affinity for artifacts.  They have affinity for basic lands, which makes them much better than the others, in my opinion, since you don’t need anything extra in play to cast them.

Frogmite and Enforcer are pretty much the only creatures to see play, and I already talked about my thoughts on Myr Enforcer, so let’s look at Frogmite.  By themselves these cards are inconsequential.  They only cause problems when a player has multiple copies in hand.  Most of the time, though, it goes like this:
      Turn 1: Artifact land
      Turn 2: Artifact land, pay 2 -> play Frogmite.

A 2/2 for 2 mana on Turn 2 with no abilities is better known as a Grizzly Bear.  Not much of a threat to any deck.  In fact, I have never had anyone concede after I played a Turn 2 Grizzly Bear, but tapping out for a Frogmite gets most people to concede.  Even if you can get Frogmite out on Turn 1, the process to do so would leave your hand mostly empty and set you up to be devastated if your opponent has any removal.  Also a 2/2 on Turn 1 that can attack on Turn 2 is not exactly rare these days.  The list of creatures that can deal 2 damage on Turn 2 is pretty big.  The only other reason to play a Frogmite on Turn 1 would be to facilitate a storm combo.  Since I’m talking about extended, and the storm cards in extended are not that great, it is pretty clear that storm is not the way to go on this.  If I am playing Classic and I’m playing storm, I’m going to be doing a lot more than just playing a Frogmite on Turn 2.  My opponent should be dead by Turn 2.

That brings us to Thoughtcast.  It has a base mana cost of 4U.  To get it to its cheapest value, you need four artifacts in play AND blue mana.  That's fairly conditional.  On top of that, with the cost reduction it basically reads, “U: draw two cards at sorcery speed.”  It doesn’t even have the common courtesy to be an instant.  Yes, it can be played on Turn 1, assuming you have some Moxes and mana accel in hand.  However, that goes back to my earlier statement, the spell is not good because of affinity, it’s good because of cheap artifacts.  If you were playing more expensive artifacts, this card would be terrible.  Case in point, I run it in my Tribal Golems deck and frequently find it clogging my hand because I can't cast it.  I either don't have enough artifacts in play to reduce the cost (seriously who would pay 5 mana to draw 2 cards) or I am missing the blue mana.

Obviously the biggest fuel behind affinity’s power are the artifact lands.  Without the artifact lands this mechanic would fall on its face and die.  Ever tried making an affinity deck without artifact lands?  Just the deck construction alone will make you instantly reconsider that idea.  I’m not going to go into great detail on the “messed up” quality of artifact land because Aaron Foreythe, the current head of WOTC R&D, already wrote a great article about it.  In it he mentions the exact same cards I mention hear, but without the detailed explanation of why none of them are actually broken.  You can read that article for yourself HERE.  I highly recommend it.  It gets to the heart of the artifact land problem and really helps explain the beating the affinity mechanic has taken.
My point to all of this is that the affinity mechanic and the name affinity have taken a lot of bad press, and it’s bad press it doesn’t deserve.  I think we should all just ease off affinity a bit and learn to appreciate a really cool mechanic.  I also advise all of you to give it a try.  Build an “affinity” deck that doesn’t have Ravager in it and see just how much fun the deck can be.


I especially like the part by Kuriboh (not verified) at Thu, 03/11/2010 - 02:30
Kuriboh's picture

I especially like the part where your opponent says "You should play cards that aren’t banned." Lol?

lol i so relate by Anonymous (not verified) at Thu, 03/11/2010 - 02:40
Anonymous's picture

i have an old deck i like to play once in a great idea. not that great of a deck, but it often works for me and it's always a blast to play when things are running smoothly.
it's a soulscour/memnarch/platinum angel deck. . .aims to hit soulscour (7WWW) by turn 5, and it's actualy able to get there quite a bit.
so i run nothing but artifact lands, and i also run thoughtcast. i play NOTHING else with the word affinity, or anything else that even remotely goes with affinity decks (well i do run thirst for knowledge).
yet i can't tell you how many games people have conceded the second i cast thoughtcast. . .usually leaving some snide remark on how i'm a loser for playing a tourney deck in the casual room. . .or how stupid i am for playing broken cards.
lol makes me chuckle every time. . .i don't get bent out of shape over it. . .hehe i guess running a deck that aims to destroy everything on your opponent's board while walking away unscathed, then bringing out a memnarch to steal any lands they play. . .you gotta have tough skin.
but i do relate so much to this article. . .so many people see artifact lands, and ANY card with the word "affinity" on it, and they automatically think "broken".

That's just the way the by StealthBadger at Thu, 03/11/2010 - 08:03
StealthBadger's picture

That's just the way the casual room rolls though. It happens whenever you play a card that's seen tournament success. I can't tell you how many times opponents have conceded to me casting gifts ungiven. If they'd just let it resolve, then the resulting pile (involving toshiro umezawa and strangling soot) would probably not seem all that threatening. Ah well.

Personally, i won't concede to affinity until they actually do the standard broken affinity things (i.e. when i've lost the game anyway), as you never know what's going to be in there!

In pauper, if you see a turn by JMason (not verified) at Thu, 03/11/2010 - 06:58
JMason's picture

In pauper, if you see a turn 2 frogmite, and if you can't kill it right there, and if you're playing a deck that needs to win by combat damage, then conceding is a reasonable response. You argue that affinity is not broken, but the reality is that unless I kill that frogmite now I am going to lose, because the affinity deck is just going to spew out cards too fast.

In a tournament context affinity is fine because you take it into account when you select your deck. In casual you are very unlikely to be prepared for it.

Also, for every rogue deck that isn't affinity which drops a t2 frogmite, there are 99 actual affinity decks that do that. I can't distinguish you from affinity. And I think that's the problem, I don't mind losing to something new and interesting, but I have lost to the speed of affinity decks so many times that I can't bring any enthusiasm to the experience any longer.

You are correct there, in by blau at Thu, 03/11/2010 - 10:21
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You are correct there, in that, as I mentioned in the article, having mutliple copies of Enforcer or Frogmite in hand can cause real problems. If there is any real arguement to make about the "brokeness" of the mechanic it comes from the placing of it on two colorless creatures. I think that would be the major mistake WOTC made. Affinity seems to be more balanced and less broken when there is a colored mana cost to be paid, ie Thoughtcast, Somber Hoverguard... Blinkmoth Infusion. I think if WOTC could do Mirrodin over, I bet they would add a colored cost to Frogmite and Enforcer. I say this because that would avoide things like this, which I have both seen and done in Pauper. p.s. I play affinity in pauper.
Turn 1: Lotus Petal, Artifact land
Turn 2: Artifact Land, tap 1 for Frogmite, play second Frogmite FREE, play third Frogmite FREE, tap 1 Myr Enforcer.

That's a pretty good sign my opponent is about to lose. Especially when I play a turn 3 cranial plating. But this is understanding that I had a perfect hand that contained multiples of the best cards in my deck. The odds are low on that. But I do see your point. However, I think we should look at the norms and not the extremes.

The thing is, if you by JMason (not verified) at Thu, 03/11/2010 - 10:44
JMason's picture

The thing is, if you knowingly bring a deck that is going to be perceived as boring by most casual players then you must expect quitters (and griefers). On the plus side, at least affinity has a fast clock, I get worse feeling of dread when I meet sloooooooow control decks like mbc and esper blink in the cas room.

Unless you played competitive by one million words at Thu, 03/11/2010 - 09:57
one million words's picture

Unless you played competitive Standard back in the bad old days, you cannot understand just how sick everyone was of Affinity. In tournaments and playtesting, competitive players played thousands and thousands of games against Affinity.

Seeing someone play artifact lands into Frogmite today is like having had years of severe migraines, and finally having recovered - then having the feeling of one starting again. Maybe it won't be a full-on migraine, but why would you even want to chance it.

Wizards banned large chunks of the Affinity engine in Block, Standard, Extended and Legacy for a reason.

Well as I said, I did play by blau at Thu, 03/11/2010 - 10:38
blau's picture

Well as I said, I did play during the days of "affinity." Yes, it can bring back bad memories, but that's no reason to hate on it today.

As for your statement about WOTC banning "large chunks" of the deck (using the world's deck posted here):
Block: Yes, lage chunks of it were banned in block. The largest chunk being the lands. That was done, as explained by the DCI, because to just ban Discple and Ravager would not address the issue of KCI and Second Sunrise.

Standard: The same cards in block were banned in standard for exactly the same reasons.

Extended: Aether Vile and Skullclamp were not banned because of affinity. They were banned because they were in over 80% of decks. Disciple of the Vault is not a large chunk of the affinity deck.

Legacy: no part of the affinity deck is banned in legacy. Skullclamp is banned, but, again, according to the DCI that was because it was showing up in too many decks and was overpowered (see Elfclamp).

I had to check these bannings from memory as WOTC is blocked here at work. However, I believe I am correct on all of these.

You know, I used to think by urzishra (not verified) at Thu, 03/11/2010 - 14:58
urzishra's picture

You know, I used to think like this, and even though I got burned out of Magic probably because of Affinity, I just didn't really get sick of it. Everyone in my Meta was playing White Control during that standard season (So I'm kind of sick of Cycling and Exalted Angel to be honest.)

I played affinity because it was a competitive deck that you could build pretty much by buying 2 precons. (at least the pre-ravager affinity deck) Post-Ravager still wasn't that big of deal to acquire.. basically you just took out Broodstar and added Ravager and adjusted it a bit to get those Skullclamps in.

I won a lot of tournaments in that time because it basically combined all the elements that I loved about magic. It was a semi-combo aggressive deck that was super powerful if left unchecked and just had bomb draws. I don't know if there has been many decks like it since (I don't really keep up with competitive standard, was faeries even close?)

I have to say, I'm not sure Affinity is the be all end all deck it once was. It'd roll over to even vague control elements.

nice article I do love by JustSin at Thu, 03/11/2010 - 10:55
JustSin's picture

nice article I do love affinity as well and have ran it without the expensive tourney pieces, but please a little centering goes a long way for formating :P

Affinity by Anonymous (not verified) at Thu, 03/11/2010 - 14:09
Anonymous's picture

The affinity mechanic is not degenerate by itself, but the real mistake was to print the lands. AND in the common slot. So now every Affinity deck can have up to 24 uncounterable mini dark rituals here, with a drawback (play only one per turn) that won't matter after you flood your battlefield with artifacts.

oh well, nvm, Forsythe's by Anonymous (not verified) at Thu, 03/11/2010 - 14:11
Anonymous's picture

oh well, nvm, Forsythe's article has already been linked.

Pretty light on content. by Anonymous (not verified) at Thu, 03/11/2010 - 15:10
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Pretty light on content.

I dont concede to affinity by me, myself and i (not verified) at Thu, 03/11/2010 - 16:23
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I dont concede to affinity decks in casual room, but once they drop the cranial plating its over. Its like playing vs loxodon warhammer, dam near impossible to beat unless you have a hand full of answers. Almost all my decks play at least 6 pieces of art/enchant removal maindeck for the casual room though.

The reason why people think by Raddman at Thu, 03/11/2010 - 18:42
Raddman's picture

The reason why people think playing affinity is lame is the same reason people believe playing RDW is lame. It doesn't take all that much skill level to pilot. The article is trying to serve a purpose that has a great idea but it practically unobtainable.

Here is why. "That's just the way the casual room rolls though."

I guarantee you, if you run affinity in a tournament were there is any type of entry fee, your opponent will not concede for you playing that particular deck.

The logic that people concede because of affinity in the casual room is no different than why they concede because you play discard or blue counters or LD.

And so what if you get flamed for playing the deck. If you are in a tournament and they flame you, just put a smiley face in the chat box, say GG and know you just owned their face.

In classic, affinity has been almost non-existant, not because people got upset from other playing it, but because it just simply isn't good enough.

In pauper, affinity is hardly unbeatable and once you weather their early storm that rest of the game is usually smooth sailing from the non-affinity player.

You bought the cards, you have the right to play them.

Affinity by Willythenilly (not verified) at Thu, 03/11/2010 - 20:25
Willythenilly's picture

Well, I have played against Pauper affinity before and it's just not fun. Drop a couple land and you don't have to pay for anything. How is that not broken? It's highly unlikely that someone hAs the answers for all those artifacts in pauper.

Dust to Dust. by Thatic at Thu, 03/11/2010 - 20:45
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Dust to Dust.

I dont concede to affinity by Anonymous (not verified) at Thu, 03/11/2010 - 20:41
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In the casual room my answer to affinity was turn 3 or 4 blazing archon. I play reanimator decks, like affinity, I also dont make many friends in the casual room.

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