Affinity for artifacts. Three small words that terrorized an entire Standard format’s worth of players. The deck was so strong that it went through numerous bannings. First went Skullclamp and then the overwhelming majority of the deck soon followed suit. Arcbound Ravager may have broken the deck clean in half on its printing, but what really gave the deck legs was a handful of other cards. Artifact lands, Frogmite, Myr Enforcer, and Thoughtcast brought the beats quickly and effectively with the help of some rare buddies. And guess what? They’re all Pauper legal.

Pauper Affinity (MTGO League 5-0 by murilobds)

Creatures (17)
Carapace Forger
Gearseeker Serpent
Myr Enforcer

Spells (26)
Galvanic Blast
Temur Battle Rage
Metallic Rebuke
Chromatic Star
Flayer Husk
Springleaf Drum
Prophetic Prism
Lands (17)
Ancient Den
Darksteel Citadel
Great Furnace
Seat of the Synod
Tree of Tales

Sideboard (15)
Gorilla Shaman
Krark-Clan Shaman
Relic of Progenitus
Feed the Clan
Ray of Revelation

While the deck has very much changed from its days in Mirrodin-era Standard, all the core cards are present. One card you may notice isn’t being run that was a major all-star in the list alongside Ravager is Disciple of the Vault. You’d think that with having sacrifice outlets still in the form of Atogs that these would be good. The difference with the Pauper version is that it focuses more on an all-in attack with a number of big creatures rather than relying on one dude. With Atog and the likes of Fling and Temur Battle Rage, this can still happen, but is less likely. The modern additions of metalcraft cards like Galvanic Blast and Carapace Forger make sacrificing everything much less desirable overall.

Even though the deck varies greatly from the original list, it is much more a true Affinity deck, unlike its Modern cousin which is largely Affinity in name alone. What’s more, the deck has had very little change over the last couple years. A couple of newer cards have made it into lists with the introduction of cards like Metallic Rebuke and Gearseeker Serpent but the deck is still by and large the same it was the last time it had a bunch of awesome cards put out for it during the Scars of Mirrodin block. The fact that it remains mostly as it was in the time when Storm was legal is a testament to the strength of the deck.

The basic plan of the deck is very simple. You play out artifact lands and cheap artifacts like Flayer Husk, Springleaf Drum, and Chromatic Star to quickly build your artifact count. Once you do that, you start spitting out numerous large creatures from your hand at either a ridiculously cheap rate or for free provided you have enough artifacts on the board. From there you swing out for huge amounts of damage while refilling your hand with Thoughtcast and sacrificing your Stars and Spheres. When an opponent has tapped out and you have an Atog, you can also sacrifice most if not all of your artifacts to the monster with the best smile around to throw it straight at your opponent with the Fling or overtake their small creature with Temur Battle Rage for a nice clean victory.

Unlike many other decks, Affinity lacks a number of flex slots. The deck is tightly built, and while you’ll certainly see some innovation from time to time, it’s more often than not going to be in the sideboard than in the maindeck. In this list, Metallic Rebuke is a good example of a flex spot—some lists run it while others don’t. By and large, though, you’ll find that roughly nine tenths of the deck will be the same.

People do sometimes find ways to innovate it though. Over the years, lists often ran the combo of Ichor Wellspring with Perilous Research. Occasionally, despite no longer being a mainstay in the list anymore, Disciple appears in a Grixis build alongside Reckless Fireweaver to create crazy amounts of damage. One thing the deck does not have access to if you’re looking to play the deck is Cranial Plating. Banned quickly in the format for good reason, having it in the deck would clearly push it to a whole new level of power.

If you play Pauper as a format, you’ll notice that the archetype comes and goes from the metagame quite a bit. While in the past it’s shown up strongly in leagues and in the old days of MTGO league data being released, the deck would appear quite a bit, putting it straight into the top tier for the longest time. These days, a cursory look at MTGGoldfish indicates that its presence has dropped. Looking at events like the Challenges and the SCG Classic reflects this as well, with low placings and rare victories. The reason for this is much the same as it is in Modern, which is that the ability for the deck to do well often depends on the amount of hate that’s appearing in the metagame. When people aren’t prepared for Affinity, it can completely wreak havoc. But thankfully, all it takes is a well-timed Gorilla Shaman, Ancient Grudge, or Gleeful Sabotage to cripple the deck and keep it in check.

That does not mean it isn’t still a good deck, however, and numerous players have put up strong numbers with the list. Do know that the low number of lands in the deck can backfire and make hands more difficult to keep. But when it goes well you’ll find yourself overtaking your opponents with immense ease.

Over the next couple weeks I’ll be doing a couple non-Pauper related articles correlating with Magic’s 25th anniversary and GP Orlando where I’ll be slinging some Standard in the main event, but once that is over and done I’ll be back to talk more about the kinds of cards you can expect to see and run in different builds of the deck as well as sideboarding possibilities. In the meantime, fire up those artifacts and welcome our metal overlords into your heart.

Kendra has been playing Magic since Urza block and never looked back. Playing a variety of formats and being known for championing Pauper in particular, the Elf Queen can be found hanging out on Twitter as well as streaming on Twitch, always seeking to better the community at large.

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