Greetings, drones and dronettes, and welcome to another segment of Under the Hood, the series where I take a look into the mechanics of Magic and have a good old poke around! This time, my target is one that is difficult to escape from in the modern (heh, modern) age: Affinity.
Affinity (most commonly used as short term for ‘affinity to artifacts’, but I’ll cover that shortly) is a cost reduction mechanic that was first introduced in mirrodin (and most likely, never again). It was used to create a feel of symbiosis between artifacts that occurred on Mirrodin, each artifact played is more powerful than it seems as it aids in powering out other things. While it goes a long way to do this, I feel other artifact synergy cards do it better, such as ones with Metalcraft (a future Under the Hood, perhaps?).
As mentioned previously, Affinity as a mechanic was introduced in Mirrodin block. It came in two flavours; Affinity for a land type (Such as Oxidda Golem), or the infinitely more broken Affinity for Artifacts (featuring backbreaking tempo powerhouses like Broodstar or Somber Hoverguard).
The mechanic saw instant use in standard before Arcbound Ravager even existed to the public, using Atog sacrifice engines to turn the wheel. The deck used the artifact lands in bulk to churn out threats quickly such as Frogmite or Myr Enforcer, churn through the deck with cheap card advantage, and then sacrifice them all in the presence of Disciple of the vault to deliver a difficult-to-interact-with, instant-speed haymaker. With the introduction of Ravager to the scene, the deck worked moderately the same, except quicker and with now-Modern staple Arcbound Ravager as beatdown backup. Oh, and this was in the same short standard stint as Skullclamp. It took a while for the power of affinity to be deemed too much, but they eventually saw their demise after months in the sun, when they got banned shortly following fifth dawn.
Modern is an interesting story – while a deck called Affinity exists (even though their staple land cycle of Ancient Den et al are banned), the currently accepted iteration doesn’t actually use any affinity cards. It uses Arcbound Ravager and a critical mass of artifacts, but over time the vanilla beaters have been phased out for more aggressive options such as Vault Skirge or Signal Pest. Legacy and Vintage boast a similar story; while Ravager decks exist (the most popular deck of the current vintage climate being Ravager Shops), none of the affinity cards seem too broken in any of the more powerful formats. A curious case.
Implications in EDH
In a stunning show of events affinity, despite being perhaps one of the most broken mechanics of all time (up there alongsides dredge or storm, both of whom have a great showing in EDH) just doesn’t have it all together. Allow me to elaborate:
In the competitive scene heavily undercosted tempo beaters just don’t get it done. Myr Enforcers and Oxidda Golems just don’t get there when life totals are doubled and nobody is looking to do a beatdown plan, and those looking to do the beating often go much bigger than 4/4.
At more casual tables some of them show promise; I can see heavily blue artifact-based decks wanting a great deal of this stuff, with proper time to create a critical mass of artifact some of the cards (most of the juicy ones discussed later) into undeniable powerhouses. If in need of a stallbreaker, Broodstar often gets you there where something like a Consecrated Sphinx might not (you know, overlooking the crushing card advantage effect). And, while not an allstar, a surprise Furnace Dragon in a red build could go a long way to crush artifact decks. If the red deck runs scrapyard-style with artifact sac outlets like Krark-Clan Ironworks (or say, Arcbound Ravager) it could be an absolute blowout to cast this for cheap, eat all of your artifacts, then reanimate them later while rock suites across the board are devastated.
As far as practical affinity cards go, look no further than Thoughtcast. A solid Divination variant, dropping this card after you’ve vomited your hand of artifacts allows you to continue churning through your library, like Treasure Cruise but without the need for a full graveyard (and without the pure power! Don’t get me wrong, drawing 3 is much much more potent than drawing 2 – but the speed at which this can be fired off for 1 in the right deck is very respectful).
Mycosynth Golem – with the right critical mass of artifacts, this card is terrifying. Its prohibitively high mana cost makes it an unlikely drop in the early game, if it resolves (and survives) you can drop your hand like it’s hot. The affinity cards have been costed with affinity in mind, but powerful artifacts like Darksteel Forge, Blightsteel colossus or hell, even something like Walking Ballista are not. With a high enough affinity count (which is likely, given your ability to cast this card), no artifact is too expensive! The key uses for this (In my mind) includes the quick setting up of mana intensive combos that heavily feature artifacts, like the Darksteel Forge/Nevinyrral’s Disk lock, or infinite mana through Rings of Brighthearth and Basalt Monolith.
While it may have become a relic of the past, Blinkmoth Infusion takes my vote for greatest potential from a card. With a heavy suite of mana rocks, this card is a great way to reload on mana during a combo turn. Now it seems a tad superfluous to the recent addition of Paradox Engine, firing this off on the cheap and perhaps copying it (with something like a Melek, Or Twincast is even in colour without splashing), this could be a potent shot in the arm to a combo deck looking to keep the engine running.
As has become tradition here at Under the Hood, allow me to present:
Undoubtedly one of the most expensive mechanic tribal decks I’ve ever built, it’s also perhaps the spikiest. Leading on from the train of thought earlier mused on with Mycosynth Golem, I started to dream up a combo deck subtracting some of the hard consistency for a more varied gameplan.
I chose Memnarch for the commander as A) he himself is an artifact, so benefits from Mycosynth Golem. B) he offers an outlet for infinite mana, being able to permanently be in a situation where he can straight up steal every permanent on the board at instant speed.
The deck itself is a Johnny paradise, featuring a mix of powerful artifact synergy staples to achieve its end goal. Some games you’ll achieve a Forge/Disk lock, some games you’ll use one of the multiple avenues to infinite mana (at least 4 from what I can count, but more can easily emerge as the deck sees play) and Stroke of Genius a table to death. You may even be able to tempo out with affinity creatures with the right aggressive draw. Sometimes you’ll even cast an Enter the Infinite and leverage the Mycosynth Golem‘s ability to achieve multiples of these at once! While yes, I believe that this deck would be better dropping one or two of these game plans, the aim here is not to create a competitive deck, but a deck that enables the maximum amount of crazy plays to happen!
What I’m a huge fan of here is the variance on display. While it does feature powerful combos, pretty much the rest of the deck is card draw and protection, allowing the win condition to be pieced together over time until something flashy sticks. Yes, people might need to read Broodstar, some people may get caught off guard by the cheeky Vedalken Shackles in the list, and sometimes Isochron Scepter/Counterspell (especially backed up with Unwinding Clock) will be all you need to control the game. This deck looks like on hell of a power trip, with flashy plays oozing from every top deck.
That just about covers me for now guys! What do you think? Affinity is too good? Praying for its return? Be sure to let me know, and drop us a like on Facebook if you’re hungry for more! For now though, Unmistakable out.