After four Crimson Vow challenges Pauper is in an unenviable spot. Grixis Affinity took home six Top 8 slots on Saturday and another six on Sunday. Over the course of the weekend 22 players took Grixis Affinity to a Top 32 finish – 11 on each day. The next most popular deck was Dimir Faeries with 4 appearances in the Top 32 on Saturday and none on Sunday.
Folks, this ain’t good.
This chart showcases every deck that has at least 3 appearances in the Top 32 this season or a Top 8 finish. Affinity is almost 29% of the metagame while no other deck has reached 8% Top 32 volume. Affinity is approaching if it has not already reached Splinter Twin status and things are not going to get much better.
Affinity has been around Pauper since the beginning and was the subject of the format’s initial banlist in Cranial Plating. Even after Atog was released as a common on Magic Online in 2011, the deck was merely another good choice for specific metagames. The Artifact Lands, which caused huge problems in other formats, were largely held in check by copious artifact removal headlined by Gorilla Shaman. Running Affinity always meant risking your board development in the face of a turn two or three Mox Monkey. As has been noted several times, the printing of the Modern Horizons 2 Bridge cycle made Affinity far more consistent in the face of hate. While Chatterstorm got a ton of press, Affinity was a strong contender during the reign of squirrels as well.
Now Affinity is not only remarkably consistent with regards to developing its board thanks to dual lands (that, by the way, effectively tap for more than two mana every turn), they also can present a fantastic natural clock in Myr Enforcer, a combo clock in Atog, and multiple combo-kill angles with Atog and Fling or Atog and Disciple of the Vault. It has one of the best removal spells in Galvanic Blast and access to some of the format’s best draw spells in Thoughtcast and Deadly Dispute – that latter of which is basically mana neutral in the deck. And let’s not get started on Blood Fountain which is basically a Sol Ring you can cash in for two creatures in the midgame.
Realistically, what deck can keep up with that?
Normally this is where we could talk about sideboard options. Cards like Dust to Dust and Deglamer have some utility but Fangren Marauder cannot stop Disciple from killing you – on the Fangren player’s turn your Disciple triggers will resolve before their Marauder triggers and well, we know how that ends. Without effective countermeasures, the deck will continue to add tools at a rate other decks cannot match. Affinity cannot continue to exist in its current form as there is no real way to fight the deck except to try and race.
I’m not going to get into the weeds about what should be banned as I’ve already made my opinion well known. We’re past the time for observing, for trying to figure out if something can reliably keep Affinity in check. After months, we know it’s the best deck by a fairly clear margin. There’s only one path forward and the people in Renton have to be the ones to walk it.