Welcome back to Budget Legacy. The deck I will be discussing today is a special one, in that it's a unique member of a much larger archetype, but is by far the most successful of the class. Affinity has struggled to compete in Legacy, due to the inconsistency and fragility of typical builds. I actually played Affinity for a short while in 2005 before deciding that it was too vulnerable to hate, and that I could not accept the weak late game. I also wanted to build decks around more powerful manabases, that could more consistently support my favorite play in this format, Chalice of the Void. After years of being an incredibly strong play with many support cards, it has only been in the last few months that players are starting to realize how good this card is and attempting to take advantage of it, or at least have better preparation against it.
Rafael Truchado took the central component of all my Stax and Tomb Aggro decks — Chalice of the Void at one — and built an Affinity deck around it. He eschewed my standard colorless manabase that is now used in all decks of that type, and passed on many of the cards found in standard Legacy Affinity builds, which usually splash Red or Black. He placed first with the deck in a pretty large tournament on February 25th.
Here is a slightly altered version of the deck:
The most expensive cards in this deck are the Chrome Moxes and the Force of Wills. There are also Umezawa's Jittes in the sideboard. Everything else should be pretty easy to obtain. This deck is impressively good for such a small investment.
I have modified the deck somewhat, as I think the original manabase would be too inconsistent for a GP-style event. I also considered making some more changes to the maindeck, such as trying Trinket Mage instead of Cloud of Faeries (since it can fetch Seat of the Synod, Chalice of the Void, or even Chrome Mox, and after boarding gets Tormod's Crypt), but I do not have conclusive results for that change.
If you have played Affinity before, you will certainly be surprised to see some of the cards in this deck. Chalice of the Void? Force of Will? Even Cloud of Faeries is confusing. But like every other archetype in Legacy, the deck had to be redesigned from the ground up to make any sense. No porting from other formats or modifying PT decklists will suffice in this format. The card pool is big, and so players have to be creative.
This is not your typical Affinity build, but it shares many of the same qualities with the decks played in other formats under the name Affinity. It only uses one color (Blue), it does not have any game-ending combos, and it has permission! However, it has very fast starts, it has a highly synergistic core of cards, and it is also vulnerable to a lot of hate. This deck takes advantage of the deep card pool and exploits some of the unique aspects of Legacy.
Supporting Force of Will requires the inclusion of more Blue cards than usual, but they all work towards the game plan of the deck. Force of Will buys time for the deck to resolve Chalice of the Void at one, as well as providing defense against hate cards and giving the deck a much stronger strategy against Combo decks. The Blue creatures, Somber Hoverguard and Cloud of Faeries, support the Blue card count as well as being themselves very cheap flyers that can carry a Cranial Plating, or after boarding perhaps an Umezawa's Jitte. Ornithopter also serves the purpose of carrying equipment, but also boosts Affinity on turn 1, all while being free and blocking Goblin Lackey.
Chalice of the Void has superb synergy with the Affinity mechanic. While the deck has to sacrifice the game-ending combo cards such as Disciple of the Vault to function, the trade off is well worth it as the disruption is much better than the ability to deal a few extra points of damage. You may end up paying only one mana for many of the cards in this deck (Frogmite, Thoughtcast, Somber Hoverguard, or Myr Enforcer), but the Affinity mechanic allows these cards to resolve past a Chalice of the Void at one since their casting costs do not change. This is a beautiful interaction, and is exploited fully in this deck, as even Chalice of the Void itself is an artifact that boosts Affinity. Even Chalice of the Void at zero isn't bad either, as it can stop Tendrils decks from going off, and then be sacrificed to Arcbound Ravager to resolve Chrome Mox or Ornithopter.
Even though these cards change the typical Affinity openings, there is still a lot of power in this deck's early game.
Chrome Mox, Ancient Tomb, and City of Traitors support a wide array of openings for this deck. Chalice of the Void at one on the play (or on the draw after Force of Will) is still as good as it has always been, and is a main strength of this deck. Ornithopter and Chrome Mox boost early affinity counts, allowing the deck to resolve turn one Frogmites. Other than these plays, the deck can simply play an Arcbound Ravager or Cranial Plating. The main strategy of the deck is to resolve as many permanents as possible, and then force unfavorable trades through Arcbound Ravager's ability, or simply do as much damage as possible with Cranial Plating. Getting Thoughtcast, Force of Will, and Chalice of the Void online protects this main plan, and can stop the opponent from resolving key cards.
This is mainly an Aggro deck, but there are some control elements. The deck has 24 creatures, and at high Affinity sixteen of them are free, four cost 1 mana, and four cost two mana. These creatures range in size, but they get really big with a Cranial Plating, so protecting and dealing damage with Cranial Plating allows the smaller creatures to be very effective. The control elements are Chalice of the Void and Force of Will, which are only there to shut down specific parts of the opponent's strategy, and give the deck enough attack steps without having to worry about blockers or removal. Force of Will prevents the deck from losing to faster decks such as combo, and prevents the most damaging cards such as Aether Vial or Pyroclasm from resolving. The sideboard can be changed, but Mana Leak and Umezawa's Jitte are very important cards for the Combo and Aggro matchups, and I would suggest keeping them.
Against Goblins, the deck needs to open with flyers and start hitting with Cranial Plating. If Goblins can reach a stable amount of mana, they can begin to destroy all your creatures with the huge complement of removal in the deck: Mogg Fanatic, Gempalm Incinerator, Siege-Gang Commander, and Goblin Tinkerer or Tin-Street Hooligan can destroy key permanents, and will remove whatever is dealing damage so that Goblins can make another land drop and start exploiting its own synergies. The later into the game Goblins gets, the more likely it is they will be able to respond to flying threats and race you.
Opening with Chalice of the Void at one on the play will usually buy enough time to apply significant pressure to Goblins, but that will not happen the majority of the time. Myr Enforcer and Arcbound Ravager are big enough that they will probably survive the early game, so they are going to be the most useful for combat. Cranial Plating is still a key card for putting the Goblins player on the defensive, but the flyers have low toughness so be prepared to see Gempalm Incinerator cycled.
In the sideboard, Umezawa's Jitte is a strong card in this matchup, as it protects your guys from damage and can kill the important Goblins before they deal too much damage to you. There are other alternatives if this card is too expensive, but it is really so good here that I would advise not cutting it.
Against Threshold, this deck has several significant advantages. First, Chalice of the Void at one is a critical threat that they must stop or they will likely lose the game. Second, they cannot block your flyers effectively, even in the late game when they can actually cast flying blockers, because you can re-equip Cranial Plating to another very cheap creature and attack them again. Finally, when this deck reaches a sufficient number of artifacts in play, all of the cards in the deck are extremely cheap, causing Threshold to lose tempo by countering spells and digging for removal.
Chalice of the Void at one is good any time in this game, not just on turn 1, so plan to play through Daze and possibly another counter to get it to resolve. Be very aggressive with your attack steps, as they will have to choose between answering flyers with removal, or making pumped up ground creatures to block Myr Enforcer and Arcbound Ravager. If you do not have an aggressive early game, mulligan into one because if they can effectively use permission against you, it will be much harder to race them.
Sideboard in Tormod's Crypt and Powder Keg. Both of these cards are excellent against Threshold. Tormod's Crypt will reset their game, and break a stalemate on the ground in your favor if it resolves. Powder Keg will protect both Tormod's Crypt and Cranial Plating from Pithing Needle, and can also kill Nimble Mongoose to help push through damage.
Against Tendrils based combo decks, Chalice of the Void and Force of Will are excellent disruption. The cheap artifacts in the deck provide a very fast clock without blockers, and this should make your disruption even stronger as they will be going off under sub-optimal conditions. They can still go off before you get a chance to deploy a relevant strategy, so make sure your opening hand can stop them from going off right away.
Mana Leak and Tormod's Crypt out of the sideboard offer support the combo matchup even more, and will buy you more attack steps.
Against Control decks, there may be a wide variety of cards you need to side in. Umezawa's Jitte is strong against removal like Pyroclasm, and less prevalent removal such as Infest. Mana Leak is effective against cards like Wrath of God, and will also allow you to keep big control win conditions from resolving. If some decks bring in Null Rod, you need to board in the Echoing Truths to deal with this (this is also one reason why there are Islands in the manabase). Tormod's Crypt will give the deck outs against Genesis, Life from the Loam, and Squee recursion, all of which have been utilized in some control decks to either lock down the game or just cast removal every turn.
Generally, this deck needs to exploit the Affinity mechanic as much as possible in the first two turns, and then after that prevent the opponent from significantly developing their board position. If the opponent survives to a point where they can remove your best threats or execute their own strategy, the power of this deck diminished significantly: all of its threats are on the board, and there is little you can use to bluff with. Furthermore, your best cards are susceptible to artifact removal as well as creature removal, which means your opponent is likely to have the right answers to your threats if they begin to develop a board position.
Even worse, after sideboarding, your opponent is likely to have some very effective hate cards. Pyrokinesis, Pyroclasm, Disenchant / Naturalize / Krosan Grip, and Pernicious Deed are some typical sideboard cards that are devastating against this deck. The deck has some protection against them, as it runs Blue creatures as threats, and has permission to slow down the opposing deck, but the best and ultimately only really effective weapon against these cards is the speed of the deck. Chalice Affinity has to take advantage of its quick disruption and cheap threats and attack the opponent very early, or it will lose to the better engines and strong hate cards that other decks play.
Join me next week for another Budget Legacy deck!
Machinus @ various websites and email servers