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Peasant Magic - 05.03.04
Return of the Peasants

Affinity Part II

Return of the Peasants - Affinity Part II

Okay, okay, I know it has been a while and I am out of excuses. Before I go on and outline recent thoughts, revelations, changes, and, of course, my article I have a few people I want to thank for making this article possible. Nick S. - Thanks for always being there for me personally and also for always reminding me that I need to keep working on PEZ. Also, thank you for keeping me up at night trying to come up with ways to abuse Kobolds - it is true torture. Nick V. and Will/Bill - Thanks for giving me another perspective, showing me that my articles are read and do make a difference, and also for encouraging me to write more of them. For others who have written me and sent me e-mails, I am sorry I haven't responded to as many as I had intended. Although I may have let some of you down, send me another e-mail and give me another chance.


Thoughts, Revelations, and Changes

Looking over past articles, I always note misconceptions, errors, and inconsistencies that I would have liked to correct. Indeed, reviewing my old articles is a very humbling endeavor. No one is perfect and sometimes I haven't put in the extra work or extra thought that I should. At the risk of sounding like the president, this is not an apology. One of the things that Nick pointed out to me is that even in these circumstances there is always something valuable, something to be learned. A vigilant reader, he points out, can always find a few gems in my article and expand upon them to create truly interesting, fun, and competitive decks (at least one such creation of his will be highlighted when I get to Skullclamp decks).

Over the next few months, I will endeavor to examine the decks that are currently part of my test circuit - many of which I have written about before. This week I will start with Affinity, where I made the most errors in my analysis. I will then spend time examining, in no particular order, MBC, Black Aggro/Control, Black Land Destruction, White Weenie, Fog Machine/Life Machine, Red/Green B.B., Accelerated Stompy, Sligh, Ponza, FrozenTides, Blue/Red Super Wall, Stupid Red Burn, Elf Clamp (and other Clamp based decks), and a few others that escape my memory right now. Some of these decks won't need a full article so they may be combined. This task will, of course, be interrupted with a review of Fifth Dawn and perhaps more alterations if the set gives us cards worth making serious changes to existing decks. I will also begin by trying to be more explicit when describing the current state of development of each of the decks and ideas I write about.

Affinity Revisited

A number of misconceptions were involved in my Affinity article. Upon my review of the article it is difficult to point out all the individual instances in any coherent way. Instead I will start with my current version of Affinity, which has gone through a lot of testing.

4 Ornithopter
3 Atog
4 Frogmite
4 Myr Enforcer
4 Tooth of Chiss-Goria
4 Bonesplitter
3 Pyrite Spellbomb
3 Welding Jar
4 Lotus Petal
3 Shrapnel Blast
3 Shadow Rift
4 Thoughtcast
4 Chromatic Sphere
1 Mishra's Factory
4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Great Furnace
Upon perusal of this deck list, a few obvious inconsistencies can be found with my previous article. Perhaps the most glaring is the lack of Sol Ring.

I had suggested Sol Ring as a critical card for Affinity decks. On face, the reasoning is sound; Sol Ring essentially provides 3 mana for an investment of 1 mana. In reality, Sol Ring is a useless card if drawn after turn 3 and Affinity decks retain the ability to have explosive early turns even without this Uncommon. In my previous builds with 14-16 lands and the Sol Rings there was too much mana available and too few threats. In this version, there is often too little land, a calculation would indicate that the deck would like to run 15 lands, but the deck can still retain full ability even after a mulligan and the Affinity ability naturally skews the mathematics of mana. As the deck has gone through testing it has revealed that it would like additional mana sources and it is likely that further testing will reveal that it wants an additional land. Sol Ring may be able to fill this spots, and there are Uncommon slots available, but it has been revealed that it is not a critical card to the deck. It should be noted that a number of Affinity players have suggested that even 12 lands may be one too many and this is true on a good draw but the chance of a good draw decreases dramatically with fewer lands.

Another difference between this deck and my previous article is the inclusion of Thoughtcast. I had argued that while Affinity would begin topdecking early it was no different than any other aggressive creature based deck in PEZ. This is false. Other creature based decks in PEZ generally start with a minimum creature base of 20, Affinity typically runs a much smaller number. Because of this it is much less likely for Affinity to draw into additional threats than it is for the more traditional beat down builds. In fact, 4 Thoughtcast are insufficient for the full drawing needs of Affinity. To this end, the deck employs both Shadow Rift and Chromatic Sphere. Both of these spells serve a specific role in the deck, granting evasion and smoothing mana issues respectively, but testing has revealed that aggressive use of these spells for card drawing, even when such use doesn't serve their primary goal, is critical to success. Card drawing for Affinity should be considered a necessity instead of an option.

You will of course note that this deck runs 2 colors, and in my previous article I treated the two color builds as secondary. The fact that PEZ has so stringently reinforced reliance on mono-color decks perhaps blinded me to the possibility of serious multi-color builds as did my assertion that Affinity was a Tier 2 deck. The fact is that running 2 colors accelerates Affinity much more than it hampers it and Affinity decks certainly deserve respect as a Tier 1 build.

Lastly, I want to comment on how to play Affinity. I have already noted that it is critical to make aggressive use of any card drawing options available. The occasional exception to this is use of the Spellbombs. While many players prefer the Aether Spellbomb, for PEZ the Pyrite Spellbomb is clearly superior. This is partially because most PEZ threats are of the weenie variety but also because the Pyrite Spellbomb can deal damage to the dome and the deck is clearly an aggressive variant of Affinity. The other critical card to understand is the Atog. Many players look at this drop to win the game immediately. To this end they will hold back evasion granting instants and other such nonsense. The real strength of the 'Tog isn't when he attacks for massive damage but the threat he represents. Playing a 'Tog and forcing opponents to block him and attempt to burn him produces a win just as surely as if he gets through with no blockers. Making slots available for evasion for the 'Tog, however, just waters down the deck and detracts from its real focus and from consistency. Likewise, the insane threat of the Atog makes him a much better choice than the weaker Somber Hoverguard. The Atog is simply more resilient and it is the difference between a nuclear bomb and a soldier with a rifle - they can both kill but you have to worry much more about the bomb.

Moving on, I think that it becomes important to look at what other builds Affinity may have to offer. In Type II we see that the standard build has become Ravager Affinity. While PEZ decks obviously can't play the amazing Arcbound Ravager the deck does suggest two PEZ alternatives. First, these decks place a great deal of reliance on another amazing card: Skullclamp. The Clamp is one of the most powerful cards to be introduced to PEZ in a long time and the card drawing it offers fulfills a critical need for Affinity. The second aspect of Ravager Affinity decks that may be introduced to PEZ is use of the Disciple of the Vault - a card I generally dismissed as substandard in my previous article. It is important to note that building a deck with either of these cards requires us to start from scratch with Affinity rather than seeking a plug and play mentality. Exchanging Skullclamp for Shrapnel Blast in the above build would be useless and dropping 'Thopters or some other card for Disciple of the Vault would produce similarly limited results.

Affinity Clamp

My Affinity Clamp deck is in the earliest phases of testing and consideration. The obvious place to start the build, however, is by modifying the creature base. First, many more creatures need to be made available to the deck since it will likely burn through them quickly with the Skullclamp. Secondly, the creature mix needs to be changed to allow for creatures that can be sacrificed to the clamp. Here is my initial build:

4 Myr Moonvessel
4 Arcbound Worker
1 Arcbound Slith
3 Arcbound Stinger
4 Frogmite
4 Myr Enforcer
4 Thoughtcast
4 Tooth of Chiss-Goria
4 Bonesplitter
2 Welding Jar
3 Chromatic Sphere
4 Skullclamp
4 Lotus Petal
4 Vault of Whispers
4 Great Furnace
4 Seat of the Synod
3 Darksteel Citadel
The creature component of the deck went from 15 to 20 and most of these have 1 on the backside. Likewise, the amount of land also increased in order to help power multiple uses of the Clamp. So far the deck seems to gain a consistency advantage from the Skullclamp while it losses removal and direct damage that often allow Affinity to end games a turn early. Even so this type of deck may well prove playable with additional tweaking and testing, especially with the increased growth potential of the Frogmites and Enforcers.

Affinity Vault or Disciples of Affinity

This type of deck is much less attractive for me. My most basic tenant of deck building is that all decks should pick a specific theme and then pursue that theme with single minded dedication. For Affinity decks the theme is clearly beat down. While it may be possible to build a dedicated deck around Disciple of the Vault the simple fact is that such a deck would be packed to the gills with Artifacts and as such it would likely make little sense to exclude Affinity creatures. At the point at which Affinity creatures enter the deck, however, it would seem most natural to eschew the antics of the Disciple in order to pursue a beatdown theme. Thus, the deck automatically runs up against a personal deck building blind spot of mine. This may mean that my build will continue to be sup-optimal until someone else takes it where it needs to go or does the testing with a mind full of hopeful possibilities.

4 Krark-Clan Shaman
3 Atog
4 Disciple of the Vault
4 Arcbound Worker
1 Arcbound Slith
4 Frogmite
3 Myr Enforcer
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Tooth of Chiss-Goria
4 Scale of Chiss-Goria
4 Thoughtcast
4 Aether Vial
4 Lotus Petal
4 Vault of Whispers
4 Great Furnace
4 Seat of the Synod
1 Mishra's Factory
While my earlier comments would truthfully indicate that there are some card choices of which I am not sure, there are some aspects of the deck that I like a lot. The first revolves around Krark-Clan Shaman. This card is potentially amazing against a wide range of PEZ decks and is great as a sideboard, or even main deck, card in other Affinity builds. This build is perhaps built around the Shaman as much as the Disciple. It is for this reason that the Scale of Chiss-Goria is included instead of Equipment based pump. My reading of the rules indicates that while a massive Shaman explosion would kill the Disciple, it wouldn't stop the Disciple from triggering for each sacrificed Artifact, and a more controlled explosion could clear the board of blockers to allow an Arcbound pumped Frogmite or Enforcer through.

The second aspect revolves around the other innovation of Ravager Affinity. Aether Vial is not a strong choice for regular PEZ Affinity where there are no creatures that share a common casting cost. Here, however, are multiple one drop creatures that can easily take advantage of the Vial. Secondly, combat tricks with the Vial pose a number of interesting choices to make combat more interesting for your opponent. While non-PEZ decks will find 4 Vials too many, this deck needs the additional help smoothing color issues and the Krark-Clan Shaman also makes them more interesting.

Where Else Can Affinity Go

While my test version of Affinity is strong I think players may find it well worth their effort to investigate the Krark-Clan Shaman more. Likewise, combining Erratic Explosion with Affinity may be interesting because of the High casting cost of Affinity spells. Also, while I was wrong to suggest that Affinity decks needed powerful creature Enchantments to make them playable, I still believe that many of these cards could provide interesting avenues for deck building.

To sum up the changes in my stance on Affinity bear the following in mind. First, look beyond the Sol Ring as a method to enhance Affinity. Second, multi-color Affinity holds a greater amount of potential than mono-color builds. Third, card drawing from powerful spells like Thoughtcast must be included in Affinity. Lastly, good Affinity builds should be considered as Tier 1 decks and not Tier 2. I still don't believe that they approach the best deck but they are at least as strong as the diverse creature based decks in PEZ.

I believe that this article marks a renewed commitment to quality on my part but at the very least I am fully confident that I have left you with some true gems of insight that can get you started on your own projects and ideas. Remember that I hope you all feel free to e-mail me and to join the PEZ discussions at Pojo, Card Shark, Brainburst, and Yahoo. Also, if you are in the Milwaukee area e-mail me so we can expand our current PEZ playgroup.

Jason Chapman - chaps_man@hotmail.com
 

Jason Chapman - chaps_man@hotmail.com
 


 

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