Strategy & Sideboard Guide: Storm

When you cast this spell, copy it for each spell cast before it this turn. You may choose new targets for the copies.” 

From Mind’s Desire in Vintage, to Tendrils of Agony in Legacy, and Grapeshot in Modern, Storm cards are repeatedly the go-to payoff for combo decks across every format. Their simplicity and power level make them one-card-win-conditions in decks looking to draw lots of cards and casts lots of spells in one turn. In Modern, the deck has somewhat of an underdog story-line, overcoming numerous bannings and enduring multiple iterations to remain a tier deck. Its fan base is relentless and their innovations have kept Storm a consistent percentage of the meta.

Image result for cabal ritual mtg

The mechanic was introduced in the small expansion set Scourge back in 2003, created by then-lead designer Brian Tinsman. Here’s the intro deck to showcase the new Storm mechanic called, “Storm Surge.”

 

storm surge

The deck list really gives you some insight into what WotC was expecting from the mechanic. Many of the Storm cards featured in this list are fairly defensive like Wing Shards and Hindering Touch. The article showcasing the deck goes into some examples on how to take advantage of the mechanic by playing a couple of spells, and then giving a creature +3/+6 until the end of the turn with Astral Steel, not exactly what we’d consider a very powerful Storm turn today. The article even suggests that if you’re looking to modify the deck, you could cut the blue cards all together for more small white creatures, which is ridiculous since Mind’s Desire is the most powerful card in the deck!

It’s clear that WotC didn’t fully understand what they had created and with eternal formats foaming at the mouth for these Storm cards,  Mind’s Desire was preemptively restricted in Type-1 (Vintage). The issue with Mind’s Desire of course is that you could Mind’s Desire into other copies and chain them together. Type-2 (Standard) decks took full advantage of cards like Brain Freeze in Early Harvest decks while Tendrils of Agony slotted perfectly into Dark Ritual/Yawgmoth’s Will decks in older formats. Before Storm cards were printed, “Storm” decks relied on Quirion Dryad and Psychatog to “one-shot” an opponent with a single attack. Now that they had access to Storm cards, they no longer needed to rely on creatures to kill their opponent.

With Empty the Warrens and Grapeshot printed as attempted ‘fixed’ versions of the mechanic, Modern now had its own Storm cards to utilize. It was an early all-star in the young fomat with two copies making top 8 of the first Modern Pro Tour.

Here is one of those lists from Pro Tour Philadelphia in 2011:

proststorm

This has to be one of the most banned decks I have ever seen. The mainboard features all of Modern’s once powerful cantrips as well as the Splinter Twin and Punishing Fire combo in the sideboard. It’s no wonder a deck like this quickly became dominant, consistently breaking WotC’s very stern “turn 4 win” rule. Due to its capability to win before turn 4 and meta dominance, WotC banned Ponder, Preordain, and Rite of Flame. Over the next six years, Storm would also see Seething Song and Gitaxian Probe go.

After years of multiple bannings it seemed that Storm would never return as a tier 1 deck ever again, that is, until they printed Baral, Chief of Compliance. By banning all the best rituals, Storm players were forced to “build their own Dark Rituals” with cost reducing creatures. Now that they had access to 8 of them, Storm players could take the worst rituals Modern had to offer and make the deck whole. With the added consistency of Gifts Ungiven, the deck quickly became a tier one deck once again and closely resembles the versions you see today.

Gifts-Ungiven

The deck cares very little about what their opponent is doing. Like a game of solitaire, Storm prefers when it can play as though no one is sitting across from them and focus solely on executing its own game-plan. The deck requires a large number of redundant cards which leaves little room for spells that interact with the opponent. Storm decks these days will typically play one Repeal in the mainboard to deal with pesky permanents and a couple Remands which can be used as tempo plays against the opponent or used on their own Grapeshot during a combo turn.

An ideal game might start a little something like this:

Turn 1: Land, Cantrip (Serum Visions/Opt/Sleight of Hand)

Turn 2: Land, Mana Bear (Baral, Chief of Compliance/Goblin Electromancer)

On turn 3, if the Storm player still has their mana creature, there is a very good chance that they can win. With every ritual netting an extra mana than they normally would, 3 lands is all that is needed to cast 15+ spells and win with Grapeshot. If the Storm player can’t go off on turn 3 and passes with mana up, expect a Gifts Ungiven on your end step to give them enough gas going into turn 4. The Gifts package will often look like this:

 giftspackage

In almost every situation you should give the Storm player the Manamorphose and the Past in Flames. Denying them as much mana as possible is the only way to strangle their resources and hope that they fizzle. If they untap on turn 4 with their mana creature, after a Gifts Ungiven, your pile choice most likely wont matter as the fail rate at that point is very low. After numerous cantrips and rituals, a Past in Flames to do it all over again, Grapeshot becomes very easily lethal.

With zero interaction the deck is very capable of killing on turn 3 and is probably the most consistent turn 4 kill in Modern. Thankfully,  Rock decks have some great tools to help fight this strategy.

baralchiefofcompliance-730x280

As with many of Modern’s spell based strategies, our discard is our best tool in the match-up. Storm players need a high volume of cards to go off in a turn and discard can ensure that they not only have fewer resources, but also have the worst of all the options left over. Most of the cards are very redundant and usually the rituals and cantrips will be bad takes. The best cards to take with discard are the mana creatures, Gifts Ungiven, or Past in Flames, especially if you have a Scavenging Ooze in play. You may think the mana creatures are bad takes since we have so much removal for them, but the reality is that Storm players know this and may sandbag the creatures until the turn they combo. If they play Baral on turn 4  with 2 lands up there’s a good chance they can go off and win even through removal. You can try to disrupt the combo at this point but the 4th land unused could represent a Remand or as much instant speed rituals as they can cast while still having the cost reduction available. The stack could end up looking like this:

 baral push

At the end of the sequence they’ve gotten their value and are still poised to win that turn, while the removal spell you were hoping would stop your opponent only minorly inconvenienced them. If a combo player attempts to go off in situation, I find that the best time to try and use your removal is when they are essentially out of resources. An example of this kind of situation would be if a Storm player plays a Past in Flames with one mana available, relying on Baral’s cost reduction to recast rituals from their graveyard. In this scenario a removal spell can be well timed to choke them on castable cards in the hopes that they fizzle. Of course all of this can be avoided if you can strip the mana creatures before they’re a problem and is the reason they’re fine targets for your discard.

The discard won’t matter much if you can’t capitalize on the tempo with a fast clock. This is why the best start any Rock deck can have against Storm involves turn 1 discard into turn 2 Tarmogoyf. Pressuring their life total is so incredibly important because all the opponent needs to get back into it is a late game Gifts Ungiven or Past in Flames to win on the spot.

I remember many games played against Storm where I prioritized holding up Abrupt Decay over playing a Grim Flayer, or decided to hold up Fatal Push instead of attacking with Raging Ravine. I took these lines out of fear that my opponent could go off if I went shields down. What this line actually does is allow my opponent the time needed to assemble their combo. I cannot stress enough how important it is to be aggressive in this match. Playing it “safe” is really just playing into the hands of the Storm player.

The squeeze between stripping their resources and attacking their life total needs to be simultaneous to be effective. You need to get your Storm opponent into a situation where they feel like they have to go for it when they’re uncomfortable doing so. Most of my game 1 wins against Storm are accomplished by making them feel like they have to go for it and end up casting a Grapeshot that kills some of my creatures instead of me. Following up with more pressure, especially something like Scavenging Ooze, after they’ve failed to kill you and filled their graveyard to the brim, is the perfect way to hammer the final nail in the coffin. Scavenging Ooze is no doubt the best creature you can draw in the match. It doesn’t pressure the opponent the way Tarmogoyf can but the graveyard interaction can make it very difficult for the Storm player to use Past in Flames, which is almost necessary game 1 to accumulate enough Storm to win with Grapeshot.

Post-sideboard, we can trade out our weaker interaction for more discard and graveyard hate. Let’s look at Abzan first. Here’s an Abzan Traverse list that got second at Grand Prix Sao Paulo in the hands of Leonardo Giucci.

guicci abzan

Out:

 stormzanout

In:

 stormzanin

This list has a lot of excellent cards for the match-up. Being a Traverse decks means we get to bring in some meaningful silver bullets that could buy us a lot of time or just win on the spot.

The Bojuka Bog will likely be more impactful than the Ghost Quarter and is a great piece of graveyard hate that we can search up with Traverse. The Bog also has the advantage of being essentially an uncounterable, unbounceable piece of interaction. Surgical Extractions are more great pieces of graveyard hate that can strip entire win conditions from decks. In conjunction with discard, Extraction can take out playsets of impactful cards from our opponent’s deck.

Eidolon of Rhetoric is perfect for these matches by grinding the game to a halt, forcing the opponent to play at a less than preferable pace. Gaddock Teeg is another great silver bullet since he stops Past in Flames, Gifts Ungiven, Empty the Warrens, and stops some of Storm’s interaction like Repeal.

Last but not least we’re gonna bring in Maelstrom Pulse as a safety valve for Empty Warrens. Just 8-10 tokens can be enough to win or at least to buy them a lot of turns outside of our Trampling threats. Having Maelstrom Pulse in our deck gives us an out to clear an Empty.

Coming out we have Liliana the Last Hope, whose modes aren’t terribly relevant in this match. We’re also taking out Path to Exile since it’s our worst removal spell in the match. While removal is necessary to deal with the important mana creatures, this is the kind of interaction we tend to get flooded on since they don’t have a ton of targets. Our Storm opponent most likely has a plan to take some of these creatures out after sideboarding anyway, making our removal even more limiting. Our Pushes, Decays, Liliana edicts, and Pulse should be enough of this kind of interaction that we can cut the Path. The last cut is a couple of Lingering Souls. The threat can be very slow and often not worth the mana investment on turn 3.

Next let’s look a this Jund list that went 6-1 in the most recent Modern Challenge in the hands of Reid Duke.

stormjund

Out:

stormjndout

In:

stormjndin

Reid has a smattering of one of’s that we get to bring in for this match-up. Obviously Damping Sphere can be annoying for our opponent. While not synergizing well with the Bloodbraid Elves, it does a fine job of slowing our opponent down and could buy us a number of precious turns.

Nihil Spellbomb and Grafdigger’s Cage are fine pieces of graveyard hate to help our Scavenging Oozes. Cage only turns off Past in Flames but often times that is the one card that wins them the game as a late top deck.

The extra Thoughtseize and Collective Brutality are exactly the kind of interaction we’ll be looking for after sideboarding and we’re happy to bring them in.

Much like Abzan, we want enough removal to ensure we see it when we need it but not be flooded with it. For this reason we’re taking out the Dreadbore, Terminate, and Fatal Push. Lastly, and perhaps controversially, I’m also interested in cutting both Kolaghan’s Command. There are very few matches in Modern where Kolaghan’s Command doesn’t have relevant text but I believe this might be one of those. An instant speed Raven’s Crime and Shock for 3 mana is not really something I’m terribly interested in.

Both of these decks could also consider their sweepers depending on how “all in” the opponent wants be on Empty the Warrens. Anger of the Gods, Flaying Tendrils, Damnation, Engineered Explosives are all fine answers next to Maelstrom Pulse that can help clean up tokens.

Pyromancers-Ascenscion-banner

After sideboarding Storm is looking to slow their game-plan down and go head to head with our attrition. Pieces of the Puzzle can help rebuild after discard and enable Pyromancer’s Ascension. Ascension is brought in to get more value out of their spells on fewer resources. Expect to also see Empty the Warrens to help win outside of Grapeshot, and some number of removal for Scavenging Ooze.

Coming out, Storm players will go down on mana creatures since they can be unreliable against G/B and pivot towards a Storm deck that can win without them. They will also most likely drop the Remands, a couple of the Gifts Ungiven since they can be clunky without the mana creatures, and then a blend of one of’s.

The deck will be much more grindy and willing to go long with an Empty the Warrens win over a Grapeshot one. They know that without the mana creatures and the pressure of our hand disruption putting them on fewer resources, games won with Grapeshot will be less likely. Instead, They’ll be looking to build a small Storm count and go off with a medium Empty the Warrens. This could happen as early as turn 2 with a Ritual into 2-3 other spells and an Empty the Warrens for 6-8 Goblins. That amount of goblins will certainly stretch our removal thin and put us under a lot of pressure. If it doesn’t win on its own, it will buy enough time to rebuild and go for another.

Past-in-Flames

It seems that no matter how many times WotC tries to take Storm down a peg, it relentlessly finds its way back to the top of the meta. For some reason, WotC won’t ban any of the payoffs regardless of their distaste for the mechanic. Even after banning most of the good enablers for the deck, cards like Grapeshot and Empty the Warrens continue to be build-around win conditions that can be taken advantage of.

Maro, head of R&D, even created a scale based on the likelihood of a mechanic returning to future sets. The scale is known as the “Storm Scale” ranging from 1, being very likely to return, and 10, meaning most likely never to return. Not surprisingly, the Storm mechanic has repeatedly been dubbed a 10. Grapeshot and Empty the Warrens were supposed to be the fixed Storms cards, but it seems no Storm card is safe from exploitation. Unless WotC actually decides to ban Grapeshot and Empty the Warrens, expect to fight the decks looking to abuse them.

Strategy & Sideboard Guide: Affinity

From trinket to trauma

Affinity’s history is a dark one plagued with bannings and memories of one of the worst eras in Magic’s history. Yet, through all the targeted hate that has been printed for it, through all the bannings, and through all problems it’s caused the game, it continues to be a tier 1 force to be reckoned with.

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2002 was one of the best years for Magic. Odyssey was great and the over-powered train wreck of Urza’s block and Necropotence was in the rear view mirror. For the first time in Magic’s history, no changes to any banned or restricted lists were made for a complete year. Unfortunately, this was just the calm before the storm.

Mirrodin was released in 2003 and featured a world totally composed of metal. All of the animals, buildings, and terrain were made of machines and alloys. The five artifact lands showcased the metal landscape and animals that thrived there previewed a new key word, Affinity.

The idea was that the more artifacts you controlled, the more attracted these creatures would be to the area. Frogmites love tasty Blinkmoths. If there are a lot of artifacts, it could be a feeding ground or a new home. This explains the Frogmite’s affinity and attraction to areas saturated with artifacts. With enough artifacts, it takes no convincing, the Frogmite is a 0 mana 2/2. An artifact barren area is a tough sell though and it will instead cost you 4 mana for the same 2/2.

There weren’t a lot of these Affinity cards but a deck existed to exploit them nonetheless. The new artifact lands acted as free “Ancient Tombs” to easily power out Frogmite for 0-2 mana or Mry Enforcer for 3-4 mana.

The payoff for these cheap artifacts?

Atog.

The little monster loves munching on artifacts, and cheap artifacts meant cheap pumps to the Atog. Disciple of the Vault acted as a sort of aristocrat that punished the opponent any time Atog had a snack or the opponent used a removal spell. This allowed the deck to attack from two different angles. One was the aggro deck that attacked with free 2/2’s and large Atogs with a Shrapnel Blast finish. The other was to sit back and combo off by draining the opponent through Disciple and sacrificing permanents to Atog.

 td82_ravager

Matters only worsened when the next set, Darksteel, was released. The set didn’t have much to offer the other decks trying to compete against Affinity in Standard and only served the bolster Affinity itself. Skullclamp, Arcbound Ravager, and other support cards like Arcbound Worker and Aether Vial made the deck impossible to beat.

The ability to combo off with Disciple and Ravager while re-fueling your hand with Skullclamp was too much to overcome. WotC was forced to ban Skullclamp.

Taking its place was Cranial Plating. Not a bad runner-up if you ask me. Even after Skullclamp was banned in June of 2004, Affinity made up over 30% of the day 2 decks and 62.5% of the top 8 at Grand Prix New Jersey later the same year.

Event attendance dropped into the abyss and many people walked away from the game all together. WotC tried to fix the problem, but it was too little too late for many people. Just before they rotated from Standard, WotC banned Aether Vial, Arcbound Ravager, Disciple of the Vault, and the artifact land cycle.

Skullclamp and the artifact land cycle were banned in Modern at its conception and have never seen the light of day in the format. Even without these very powerful cards, Affinity was instantly a tier 1 deck in the new format. In the very first Modern Grand Prix, two Affinity lists made the top 8.

Its Modern debut showcased new inclusions like Mox Opal, Etched Champion, and Inkmoth Nexus with the return to Mirrodin and Steel Overseer from M11. With every set’s release, colorless cards are evaluated for their strength and compatibility with the deck.

The Affinity decks today don’t even play cards with the keyword Affinity anymore, aside from the fringe Thoughtcast builds. Nonetheless the deck still retains the name with all the baggage and history that’s associated with it.

cranial-plating-627x280

While the deck has seen many cards come and go, the strategy has stayed mainly the same: win through speed. Affinity is capable of playing out most of the cards in hand on turn 1 which can be pretty hard for many decks to keep up with. A pretty decent start for the deck can go something like this:

Turn 1: Darksteel Citadel, Ornithopter, Mox Opal, tap Citadel for Springleaf Drum, tap Drum and Ornithopter for Vault Skirge paying 2 life, tap Opal for Signal Pest.

As ridiculous as that is, it’s all a set up for turn 2, the turn you should really fear. All the 0-1 costing spells are just the fuel for the 2 drops that will actually win the game: Ravager, Plating, Overseer, etc….

Turn 2: Inkmoth Nexus, tap Nexus and Citadel for Plating, tap Opal to equip Plating to Vault Skirge, attack for 10 in the air.

This isn’t even the strongest start the deck can have, which is just silly. It’s hard to stabilize when you’re at 10 or less life going into your second turn. There’s a lot of permanents on the table at this point so I want to go over some cards specifically so you can feel more confident when wondering where to aim your Push or Bolt.

BannerMoxOpal

Steel Overseer: I asked my friend who was playing Hardened Scales Affinity how Steel Overseer had been for him in testing and this was his response:

“I don’t know. Every time I play it, it gets immediately killed or countered.”

This is a pretty understandable reaction for an opponent staring down an Overseer. The card just gets out of hand fast. Every turn this monster is left unchecked will add 4 to 5 permanent power to the board. That’s a pretty hard rate to race. When this card comes down, be ready to kill it or be killed by it.

Cranial Plating: Plating can add a ton of power to the board. It’s pretty annoying to die to an 0/2 Ornithopter that all of a sudden is an 8/2 flyer. Any creature the Affinity player draws, even 0/2’s, are instantly threats that need to be dealt with. Don’t overlook the BB activation cost. Affinity can produce the colored mana if it needs to and can make your removal look embarrassing as it trades heads mid-combat. This is one of the few payoffs you can’t kill, so you’ll need to have them discard it or have a Decay or Pulse in hand.

Etched Champion: Personally, I think protection from colors is dumb. While I believe cards like Blood Moon are fair game since they punish greedy deck building, cards like Choke or cards with protection from colors punish you for simply playing Magic. Protection from all colors is especially egregious.  Just as True Name Nemesis is a pest in the Legacy format with few answers to get rid of it, Etched Champion is the same way in Modern.

In 2017 I had made it all the way to the finals of the Kansas SCG State Championships piloting this Abzan deck and had to face Affinity. I felt pretty good about the match and even had a ton of cards to bring in out of the sideboard. What I lost to was 4 mainboard Champions. Typically you won’t see those kinds of numbers mainboard but boy was it good against me. Even if I drew my sweepers or all of my Stony Silences, I was dead to the onslaught of Champions.

Maindeck, Liliana of the Veil‘s edict ability is the only way to kill a Champion with Metalcraft, which is a difficult thing to do since Affinity always has small creatures hanging around. You basically have to strip this card with discard or snag it with a non-damage based sweeper to have a chance.

Signal Pest: The card doesn’t seem like much, even when it’s attacking as an 0/1. The deception here is that it’s never actually attacking for 0 damage. It’s attacking for however many other creatures are attacking. On a board with Vault Skirge and Ornithopter, the Signal Pest is actually adding 2 damage to an attack, making it the most formidable creature in that moment. Always count up the number of other creatures that would be attacking when evaluating the Pest’s impact. If you wait until attackers are declared, the damage is already done. For this reason the innocuous 0/1 certainly deserves your targeted hate.

Oh, and by the way, I hate to burst your bubble but it’s actually not a screaming baby chicken depicted in the art. The “screeching chicken” is actually it’s claw and it’s head is directly below it.

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Arcbound Ravager: I saved the best for last. It’s the card that started it all and is a staple in all eternal artifact based decks. While modern-day Affinity decks no longer play the Aristocrat strategy with cards like Disciple of the Vault, the card is still extremely good at becoming a large threat while making your removal fruitless. That’s the real power of this card. Every time you go to kill a creature, the Ravager is able to move its power around the board. For this reason, I find that the best time to kill a Ravager is on my opponents turn, after combat. They may just let it die and move the counter to another creature, or they may sacrifice some useless artifacts hanging around before sacrificing itself. The timing of this sequence makes it so that you have better information going into your turn to know what you need to kill next. If the Ravager dumped 4 counters on a Vault Skirge, you now know where to aim your next removal spell. This timing also ensures you don’t take any unnecessary damage. If you try to hit the Ravager during your turn or anytime on their turn before combat, you’ll risk additional power being put onto another creature that you can’t kill at the moment and can then attack you with.

The combo potential for the card isn’t completely dead either. Its main combo now is with Inkmoth Nexus. If you’re not paying attention and your shields are left down, a Ravager can sacrifice the entire board and then sacrifice itself to its own ability and put all that power on an Infect flyer. The combo can one-shot you out of nowhere and win the game on the spot. The way to stop this combo is to wait until the final moment when they go to put the counters on the Nexus, after the Ravager has sacrificed itself, and then kill the Nexus. If you try to hit the Ravager mid combo, they will just continue with the removal spell on the stack. It seems that after 15 years, the Ravager is still a force to be reckoned with.

The only other payoff is Galvanic Blast, which has taken the place of Shrapnel Blast over years with its reduced cost and more widely accepted casting requirement of Metalcraft. The rest of the cards like Memnite, Vault Skirge, Ornithopter, Springleaf Drum, and Mox Opal help set the stage for the payoffs. For the most part, it will be the usual suspects above, but every now and again you’ll see cards like Master of Etherium or Karn, Scion of Urza as well.

At the end of the day, this is a creature matchup. All of your removal is good here, so long as you know how to sequence it and what to prioritize. The Platings and Champions need to be hit with discard spells when possible since they are the most difficult cards to get rid of after resolution. Save your instant speed removal for the creature lands if you can since they dodge the sorcery speed removal and sweepers. The rest of the cards are pretty harmless without the payoffs so be sure to take care of those threats first.

Most G/B decks have very impactful cards in the sideboard that can help with the match. Let’s look at Abzan first.

new abzan.png

Out:

 abzan out aff

In:

 abzan aff in

Stony Silence is absolutely insane in this match. The card even stops mana abilities, something WotC doesn’t allow too often. This means that while it stops Overseer, Plating, and Ravager, it also stops Opal, Drum, and Citadel. The main downfall of the card is that sometimes it doesn’t impact the board enough if it’s drawn too late. To have an impact, it really has to come down on turn 2 or risk allowing the Affinity deck to get value off their 2 drops.

The sweepers are great here as well. Damnation is a great catch-all and Flaying Tendrils will get the job done most of the time. It’s important to note that Tendrils DOES kill a Metalcrafted Champion. Unlike the damage based sweepers, the minus sweepers ignore protection. On top of that the card is colorless despite its black mana cost.

Liliana, the Last Hope is great recurring removal in this match. Almost all of the Affinity creatures have 1 toughness meaning Liliana can gun them down every turn.

While Liliana of the Veil has the potential to answer a Metalcraft Champion, it’s just too narrow. Often times the Affinity deck will have more than enough fodder to sacrifice and they’ll almost never have cards in hand by the time she comes down. For this same reason, some of the discard needs to come out too. Thoughtseize is simply unnecessary when Inquisition of Kozilek hits every card in the deck. Saving some life is also a nice bonus against Affinity’s aggression.

Abzan’s best card in this match is Lingering Souls. The card trades with almost all of Affinity’s creatures and is the perfect spell to stonewall its numerous flyers.

Next lets look at how Jund adjusts to the matchup. I’ll use my most recent IQ Top 8 list.

slow jund

Out:

 jund aff out sb

In:

 jund aff sb

Jund has more shatter effects than Abzan which gives them more live draws at any stage of the game. While already having access to Kolaghan’s Command in the mainboard, the deck also gains Ancient Grudge from the sideboard. The card is a clean answer to anything and is a terrific two-for-one.

The conditional sweepers like Engineered Explosives and Anger of the Gods will answer most creatures coming from Affinity while Damnation will take them all. Remember that Anger of the Gods is damage based, so it will not kill a Champion with Metalcraft.

Kalitas could be switched out for Huntmaster here, but I see the two as fairly equal to each other in the match-up with perhaps a slight edge to Huntmaster for having the ability to kill creatures if it flips.

Just as with Abzan, Liliana of the Veils aren’t at their best here, as well as some of the discard.

While this version has terrific cards for the match-up in the mainboard like Olivia Voldaren and Grim Lavamancer, if you’re playing the Bloodbraid versions, you’ll want to trade them out if you can. The card is a bit clunky in the match and bringing in more recurring removal like Lavamancer, Olivia, or Liliana, the Last Hope would be better.

For either Jund or Abzan, if you’re stuck with too much to take out and not enough to put in, you could also consider Fulminator Mage as it’s a great answer to any of the 8 creature lands in the Affinity deck.

 affinity sb

Affinity has a whole range of sideboard options since the deck has access to all 5 colors, while simultaneously being a prominently colorless deck. Mana producers like Mox Opal, Glimmervoid, Spire of Industry, and Spring Leaf Drum allow the deck to have a functioning 5 color sideboard. Having access to all colors means it gets to play cards like Blood Moon, Spell Pierce, Thoughtseize, and Dispatch all in the same sideboard.

For Abzan, expect to see some Ghirapur Aether Grids. The powerful enchantment allows the deck to utilize its artifacts out from under a Stony Silence. The ability being activated is the enchantment’s, so Stony Silence won’t do anything to stop it. Whipflare is a great answer to Lingering souls and other X/2’s that you may also run into.

For both G/B decks, expect them to bring in extra Champions if they have any. Blood Moon will probably come in as well in an attempt to snag a “free win.” While I think cards like Rest in Peace, Dispatch, and Welding Jar are a bit narrow, you may run into them every now and again.

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Affinity is in constant ebb and flow in the Modern meta. When people are prepared for it, the hate can often be too strong to overcome and the deck becomes suppressed to near non-existence in the meta. When people start cutting their second Ancient Grudge or leave their Stony Silences at home, Affinity suddenly wins a Grand Prix.

The tools are available to Modern to beat this menace so long as you’re respecting its possible presence at any given time. WotC has printed a lot of strong artifact hate over recent years as a sort of extension of the olive branch for Mirrodin block. Stony Silence’s flavor text says it perfectly:

Let Moss grow over gargoyles

-Gavony saying meaning “forget painful memories”

Never assume this deck will be absent from a tournament and never leave home without your hate. The time you don’t bring your Ancient Grudges and Stony Silences, will be the time the deck shows you what it can really do when left unchecked.