Shuffling sixty cards is real work. I’m trying to expand my horizons, and Oklahoma City is an easy trip from Denver, so I hopped out to last weekend’s Modern Grand Prix. I don’t consider myself a Modern player, but I’ve followed the format and dabbled with various decks for the format’s existence. Once I qualified for Pro Tour Fate Reforged, I started to get serious. I’m still not great at Modern, but I feel comfortable and enjoy the games. And despite my meager experience in the format and the ensuing mediocre record, I had a great time doing it.

One of my opponents remarked, while shuffling my deck before the match, that when his opponents don’t double-sleeve their Modern decks, it means they are playing a “cheap” deck like Burn or Affinity. He smiled when I opened the game with Blinkmoth Nexus and Ornithopter. I don’t know about his logic, though. Sixty cards are already too big to hold comfortably, even without the added thickness of double sleeving. Unless my deck is full of Volcanic Islands and Force of Wills, I’m not subjecting myself to the indignity of squishing all those sleeves together while I shuffle. I’m not sure Affinity is a “cheap” deck either. I guess I’ve had my Mox Opals and friends for a few years and don’t pay attention to their market price. I’m sure Jund is more expensive, but you know what? I brought Jund as a backup deck for the Grand Prix and I put those Tarmogoyfs and Liliana of the Veils in single sleeves too. Casthaven all the way.

My schedule leading up to the tournament was all over the place, changing weekly, so I never had the opportunity to test decks. I’ve played Affinity for a year now, but I’m still working on getting enough reps to make the tricky strategic decisions that fully exploit the ridiculous power level of the deck. That makes me hesitant to play it at a Grand Prix, but also eager, so I can get that experience. I was also teetering on Affinity because it had been doing well in recent weeks. When it’s on everyone’s radar, more hate comes out and people are generally prepared for what you do.


Good thing white mana sucks in Modern!

But then there’s Ghirapur Aether Grid! I was actually looking a few months ago for any Modern cards that Affinity could use for repeatable direct damage, to get around situations where you can’t attack effectively. They printed this wonderful gem, Sam Black and Paul Rietzl comfirmed it was good at Worlds, and I was super excited to try it out.

Perhaps as a sign of my growing openness to Modern, I built Jund as a backup deck. Or maybe it’s a sign I finally finished assembling a playset of Tarmogoyfs. Whatever. As of Thursday night before the tournament, I was still undecided. As I started working on my sideboards, picking cards to bring that I might want to use, checking my collection for random stuff like Back to Nature, I noticed something interesting. With the Jund deck, I had no idea what I wanted to do with the sideboard. Sure, I know the top hate cards in those colors, but I didn’t know what the sideboard needed to do. Affinity, though, was easy. I knew exactly what I wanted in different matchups, what cards had the most versatility between them, what I could afford to cut to make room for Ghirapur Aether Grid, etc etc. It made sense.

Here’s what I submitted on Friday night:


Creatures (25)
Signal Pest
Vault Skirge
Arcbound Ravager
Steel Overseer
Etched Champion

Spells (18)
Cranial Plating
Mox Opal
Springleaf Drum
Welding Jar
Galvanic Blast
Lands (17)
Darksteel Citadel
Inkmoth Nexus
Blinkmoth Nexus

Sideboard (15)
Ancient Grudge
Stubborn Denial
Ghirapur Aether Grid
Relic of Progenitus
Grafdigger’s Cage
Slaughter Pact
Nature’s Claim

The main deck is standard fare. I like 17 lands because the deck is very mana-hungry. Often when I lose it is because I was one mana short of winning the game the turn before my opponent won the game. The best five cards in the deck are Arcbound Ravager, Cranial Plating, Mox Opal, Inkmoth Nexus, and Blinkmoth Nexus. Plating and the Nexuses get better with more mana.

Etched Champion is good right now while Master of Etherium is not. Call it the Kolaghan’s Command effect. Incidentally, I think the printing of Kolaghan’s Command made Affinity paradoxically stronger: blue-red decks were already your worst matchup, so who cares if they have black for command maindeck instead of green for Ancient Grudge, or just Electrolyze and Spell Snare and Snapcaster Mage. Affinity benefits by less people playing white mana. Path to Exile, Stony Silence, Kataki, War’s Wage, Lingering Souls. You want to beat Affinity without playing some sort of Izzet deck? Sleeve up those cards.

I made two deviations from my usual Affinity build. One Spellskite went in the main deck. It gives you some chance of beating Splinter Twin and generally messes with a lot of Modern decks. As more of the battle against Affinity moves to the starting sixty, Spellskite is a reasonable countermeasure to make the trip as well. And hey, it can attack through an Ensnaring Bridge! Go go zero power beatdown!


Cutting an island from your deck is always wrong, right?

My other change to the main was also based on sideboarding. The best decks against Affinity are blue based, ranging from Delver of Secrets to Splinter Twin to control. And now Merfolk is a real power thanks to Harbinger of the Tides. Affinity can play a lot of random sideboard hate cards, since almost all your colored mana is rainbow. Enter Choke. Exit basic island from the deck. Running a mountain pushed me to have a third Galvanic Blast over another blue spell like a third Thoughtcast.

I was very pleased with my sideboard choices. Over the seven rounds I played in Oklahoma City, I faced seven different decks and brought in each of my sideboard cards at least once. I beat Infect, Ad Nauseam, and Blue control. I lost to Scapeshift, Storm, Tarmo Twin, and Naya Burn. If I had drawn my sideboard cards I could have won each of those except Twin. I felt very prepared for the field I saw.

Overall I played better than I have in any Modern tournament, and I felt like I knew what I was doing. The experience was great and should serve me well as I hope to compete with sixty card decks from time to time. Plus I got a bonus out of the trip when buddy Shawn Sloan won the Sunday Super Series sealed tournament. I got to watch him play a few rounds before I had to fly home, and it was great to hear he won it all.

Next week, let’s talk Battle for Zendikar!

Carrie O’Hara is Editor-in-Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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