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The Modern Age With AJ Hale

With Modern being the hottest format, we're super excited to be offering a new modern segment in our regular newsletters! Here's the first installment of 'The Modern Age' by AJ Hale!

The modern format is beginning to kick into overdrive! Grand Prix Richmond had over 4000 players in attendance, and with Modern Pro Tours and Pro Tour qualifier seasons part of the magic calendar; this format is really taken a hold!

The current meta has certainly become dominated by the various Birthing Pod decks since the demise of Jund (the loss of Deathrite Shaman has certainly dented the decks power level). The pod decks are divided into the Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and the Melira, Sylvok Outcast versions. Both are able to pull off combo wins, the Kiki version creating infinite attackers with Restoration Angel/Zealous Conscripts and the Melira version hosts both infinite damage and life gain with the interaction of Melira and Kitchen Finks/Murderous Redcap. While both decks offer combo finishes. they can also get it done with their creatures just heading to the red zone. The deck has so many ways to find the tools it needs to win with Birthing Pod and Chord of Calling give the deck un-parralled access to the solutions it may need. The decks main weakness is when it’s bereft of Birthing Pod and Chord of Calling, sometimes the deck can just stall out.

So if Pod is at the top of the food chain then isn’t the rest of the article about the deck? Maybe another time… The modern deck I want to talk about is one I feel is pretty well positioned against Pod and the other unfair decks in the format and the one that I believe is the premiere aggro deck in the format…Affinity.

This deck has a very special place in my heart, it took me to my only top four at a Pro-Tour Qualifier and I’ve played various versions of it for years. While the deck is pretty far from its origins (it contains only one card with the Affinity ability) in terms of cards it still retains the same spirit, a quick aggressive deck that can often empty its opening hand on turn one. The deck fared very well in the pod dominated field at Grand Prix Richmond placing two players into the top four.

This last weekend at the Vagabond Takapuna Eternal Series – Dark Confidant Challenge, Affinity once again proved its merit and took Ka Wing Lau to finals and the win over Marius Grossmann who played UWR Tempo. Here is Ka Wings list:

Affinity by Ka Wing Lau
1st Place Eternal Series – Dark Confidant Challenge 22/3/14

1x Spellskite
2x Memnite
2x Etched Champion
2x Master of Etherium
3x Steel Overseer
4x Vault Skirge
4x Arcbound Ravager
4x Signal Pest
4x Ornithopter

4x Cranial Plating
3x Galvanic Blast
3x Springleaf Drum
4x Thoughtcast
4x Mox Opal

1x Island
3x Glimmervoid
4x Inkmoth Nexus
4x Blinkmoth Nexus
4x Darksteel Citadel

1x Dispatch
1x Pithing Needle
1x Ancient Grudge
1x Spellskite
1x Ethersworn Canonist
1x Grafdigger’s Cage
2x Whipflare
2x Blood Moon
2x Welding Jar
3x Torpor Orb

So breaking down the main deck, what makes it tick?

Cranial Plating
This card is often the power behind this deck. The deck is 
able to spam out a lot of artifact creatures between MemniteOrnithopter and Vault Skirge. Cranial Plating can make almost any creature in the deck lethal. Equipping it to an Etched Champion or an Inkmoth Nexus will rapidly run your opponent out of options. Affinity as a deck may change but it is unlikely it will ever lose Cranial Plating.

Mox Opal & Springleaf Drum

These allow you have some of the most busted opening hands with Affinity. Both cards allow you to chain spells and with the change to the Legendary rule, Mox Opalhas gotten better allowing you to chain multiple copies. Any combination of these will allow you have a full board before your opponent can even crack their first fetchland.

Master of Etherium & Steel Overseer

This duo gives the deck some extra punch in the mid game. If the Overseer gets active, even Ornithopter can get into the redzone without the help of a Cranial Plating. Master of Etherium is a great anthem effect for your team and will generally out power almost any other creature in the modern format.

Arcbound Ravager

While numbers on this card often rise and fall, it has always made the main deck. It helps blank your opponent’s removal and allows for some great tricks in combination with Inkmoth Nexus (dumping all your counters on an Inkmoth can allow for some quick poison kills). Ka Wing definitely believes in its power and packs the full number of copies.

There are a number of other cards I could talk about but many of them are staples for the deck, of interest is the main deck Spellskite. This card has become one of the all-stars of the format. It can re-direct a Lightning Bolt or Splinter Twin with ease. Having one main deck seems a great decision on Ka Wings part.

The Sideboard nicely rounds out the deck. Blood Moon is one of the game breaking sideboard cards to rise to prominence post Grand Prix Richmond and the Pro-Tour. Affinity can easily work around the colour requirements with Mox Opal andSpringleaf Drum (although it does cancel out its Nexus plan). Torpor Orb and Pithing Needle are great answers to the pod decks; Torpor Orb simply shuts off all of their combo options. Welding Jar is a card I often included in my main deck while Ka Wing has it in the board. It’s a favourite of mine acting as a free counter spell for your opponents removal. It can act to protect your team at instant speed; it represents excellent value out of the sideboard.

While I have a lot of love for this deck, it isn’t plain sailing for Affinity players. Much like Dredge in Vintage, Affinity has to face a number of hate cards specifically aimed at the deck. Cards like Kataki, Wars WageStony SilenceHarmonic Sliver,Shatterstorm and Hurkyl’s Recall all make life difficult for the deck. However with the exception of Pod decks who can search up their sideboard cards, you will often just be able to kill your opponent before they can find and cast them. The eight manlands in the deck provide you with a lot of durability and as mentioned previously,Arcbound Ravager can often blank a lot of removal. Kataki is a significant issue but the main deck Galvanic Blast can easily deal with the legend.

One of Affinity’s greatest allies is that while it is a tier one deck; many players tend to forget about it and fail to have enough sideboard options to effectively deal with it. With the rise of decks like Pod and Splinter Twin, Affinity is well placed to take home wins, just ask Ka Wing!

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