I finally got a chance to play my RPTQ online last weekend. Without a local RPTQ in Denver this season, I couldn’t find a reasonable place to travel. And so I took my trusty Arcbound Ravagers into battle online last Saturday.

Affinity had felt well-positioned for a while in Modern, but people have started to catch on. These days you run into more interaction than before. Midrange decks are somewhat viable these days, and even the Tron decks have stuff like Fatal Push or Warping Wail. Adjusting to this metagame shift, I swapped out the Mountain and Galvanic Blasts for Island and Thoughtcasts.

Rather than play four of the draw spell, I tried a couple copies of Ensoul Artifact. It was pretty good, helping to speed up the clock in non-interactive races. It’s kind of an extra copy of Cranial Plating, though obviously much worse against removal. I’m not sure it’s great right now, especially if removal is as heavy as it now seems to be. But I had some success surprising opponents in my testing, and decided to roll with it in the RPTQ.

Here’s what I played:

Affinity

Creatures (26)
Memnite
Ornithopter
Signal Pest
Vault Skirge
Steel Overseer
Arcbound Ravager
Master of Etherium

Spells (17)
Mox Opal
Springleaf Drum
Cranial Plating
Thoughtcast
Ensoul Artifact
Welding Jar
Lands (17)
Inkmoth Nexus
Blinkmoth Nexus
Darksteel Citadel
Spire of Industry
Glimmervoid
Island

Sideboard (15)
Ancient Grudge
Ghirapur Aether Grid
Rule of Law
Grafdigger’s Cage
Thoughtseize
Stubborn Denial
Dismember
Etched Champion
Ceremonious Rejection
Whipflare

I was expecting to see a lot of Storm and various shades of Tron, Death’s Shadow, and a smattering of every other conceivable deck. Neither my matchups nor my draws were kind, and I dropped after a swift 0-3 start. My first round felt winnable, against White-Black Eldrazi and Taxes, but I clicked through a couple Arcbound Ravager activations that cost me the first game and I mulliganed into oblivion in the second. It would only get worse from there.

Round two I ran into a Dredge deck that put a lot of Conflagrates in their graveyard. I won a game but couldn’t quite finish either of the other two. Dredge is a tough matchup, and I’ve been happy to see less of it now that Golgari Grave-Troll is back where it belongs on the banned list. My last gasp came up short in round three, as I lost two quick games to Ad Nauseam after they suspended two Lotus Blooms on turn one of each game. Yuck.

That’s Modern, though. I ran into three random decks and came out on the wrong side of all of them. I never drew Cranial Plating in any game, and it’s hard to win in Modern if you don’t draw your best cards. I felt like there wasn’t much I could do, and that’s just how things go. I haven’t had much luck in RPTQs, but at least I’ve managed to play in three of the four this year and snagged one top eight.

Going forward, I’m excited to see how the Modern metagame develops as we head into Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan. I suspect Affinity may be back on the downswing, especially if Jeskai is coming back to prominence. Is Storm really as broken as it seems? Has Aether Vial finally proven itself dominant in the format? Will Wizards eat their words and be forced to ban something before the Pro Tour? I suspect not, but the competitive eye is honing in on the fragile format.

Brendan McNamara (MTGO: eestlinc, Twitter: @brendanistan) used to play Magic in the old days. His favorite combo was Armageddon plus Zuran Orb. After running out of money to buy cards and friends who were willing to put up with that combo, he left the game. But like disco, he was bound to come back eventually. Now he’s a lawyer by day and a Dimir agent by night.

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