Modern Musings: Mono Blue Affinity Guide
We all have our pet decks, and mine is Affinity, the once great titan of Modern, which crumbled to dust with the banning of Mox Opal several years back. My poor judge-foil copies have been silent ever since, but the deck is not dead: an aggressive iteration has been on the fringes of playability ever since MH2.
Loaded up with draw spells that only cost a single blue, Mono-U Affinity is an aggressive archetype that seeks to finish the game before it begins in earnest, utilizing Urza's Saga for larger-than-thou Karnstructs, and finding the perfect 1-mana value artifacts to close out the game. Burn trying to race you? There’s a Shadowspear for that. Murktide managed to land a big dragon? What a lovely target for your Aether Spellbomb. Need one more damage to sneak through? The Gingerbrute’s your gingerman. While there are many lists out there, this is the one I’ve settled on for grinding leagues:
Generally, the idea is to play out our hand as efficiently as possible. This means that T1 can either be 7 cards on the field, or a simple Bridge and pass. You want to know the different forms of removal available to your opponent, as that will determine what your weakest link is. If your opponent is in black or red, your low cost creatures should generally be held back, whereas if your opponent is in white, they’ll be trying to exile your Sagas and Drums. The deck is fairly linear, and succeeds in quickly overwhelming slower decks, and slowing down other aggro decks. I can’t count the number of times that my Saga has grabbed a Gingerbrute that I immediately equipped with a neglected Cranial Plating to win the game, racing past gigantic threats. Thought Monitor and Thoughtcast are also amazing hits, finding more threats that can drown your opponents in card advantage. The deck is fun to pilot, as there are always a few tricky lines that can juke your opponents if they aren’t paying attention.
In terms of matchups, the deck is strong against Murktide, and has favorable matchups against GLS, Rhinos, and Living End. In each case, we present an aggressive game plan that easily races them, and usually we have enough tech to cause them huge problems. Between large Construct tokens, small threats with Cranial Plating attached, and mana values too big for Fatal Push to deal with, eventually something will connect. Post-board, we have to be on the lookout for the specialized artifact hate, but generally, each of these decks can only deal with a threat or two, and we have far more than that.
The Burn matchup in particular feels great – we instead opt to be the control player, and the moment an Urza's Saga lands, the end is in sight. Between large tokens as blockers and being able to tutor up a Shadowspear (or Welding Jar to keep it safe), Burn simply can’t outrace us most of the time. Deflecting Palm is the main threat, but so long as we play safely, we can navigate that pitfall.
The deck does have some glaring weaknesses, however. Hammertime is almost always a loss, as we have nearly zero interaction, and even post-board, we can only hope to stall them long enough to get some counter-magic going. Amulet Titan is another difficult matchup, as they simply move too fast for us. Our best weapon is usually a well timed Aether Spellbomb, but those only delay them a turn or two at best. Meanwhile, they have interaction, and post-board, Force of Vigor makes our lives even more difficult. Not having a tutorable hate target means that we have to draw our Damping Spheres, and hope for the best.
Our sideboard has our countermagic, additional graveyard hate, and most interestingly, Cursed Totem. For 2 mana, we shut down all creature activated abilities, including mana abilities. This is useful against Yawgmoth, Stoneforge Mystic, and Asmo food decks, and can considerably slow your opponent’s game plan down. It’s not on everyone’s radar either, and can catch many opponents off-guard. Always keep an eye on your opponent’s creatures in game 1, and if they have 2+ threats with activated abilities, ensure you side in Cursed Totem.
-You can race out a T1 Urza's Saga if you have a Springleaf Drum, a non-tapland, and a 0-drop in hand. Be careful however – this can backfire against decks with Prismatic Ending or March of Otherworldly Light!
-Generally you want to save your 0-drops for the turn you race everything out. In a format with Ledger Shredder, you want to overwhelm your opponents with small cards that aren’t worth countering, then build into large Affinity drops like Sojourner’s Companion and Thought Monitor. Smart opponents will know to remove smaller creatures systematically, but this rarely occurs in practice – it feels bad to Counterspell the Ornithopter, so most opponents don’t.
-Once Saga’s third ability resolves, your opponent cannot respond until the artifact is on the field. This means that searching up a Pithing Needle can stop your opponent’s Engineered Explosives, Welding Jar can protect your creatures, and Springleaf Drum can activate blue mana for counterspells. Again, it’s common sense, but the amount of times my opponents have let me search with their finger on the trigger of a spell, only for me to nullify it, are too many to count.
Affinity is not the Tier 1 deck that it has been, but it’s still a great aggressive deck that has allowed me to grind out several leagues, 5-0ing multiple times, and can be great in the correct meta. The positive matchup against Murktide in particular means that the deck can carry you quite far.
Questions regarding affinity opening hands? Spicy new tech ideas? Talk to me @Melitius!