Foreshadowing and the Future of Affinity

An Article by ButteBlues18 and HKKID

Here's a snippet of the article for those of you who missed the link:

I just got out of the quarterly Events Team meeting that handles the management of the Banned and Restricted Lists, and we've finally decided to put our collective feet down. On March 1st, we will be announcing major changes to the Banned List that should finally correct what has been an egregious problem with Standard over the past year.

I'm not going to go into detail here (nor on the message boards, nor in any e-mail, nor personal phone calls, nor ambushes in dark alleys), simply because we have a process in place for announcing these changes and I'm not about to pull rank. Like I said before, tune in on March 1st. The only reason I'm even bothering to hint at it now is because I want you to know that we are paying attention, we do care, we're not blind to our own mistakes, and we are willing to do whatever it takes to make Magic the most enjoyable, fair, and thought-provoking game there is. The upcoming Standard season of Regionals, Nationals, and Worlds could very well have turned out to be abysmal, and no one wins when that happens.

If we're willing to make a change now, why didn't we do it three months ago? In hindsight maybe we should have. In our defense, we have more data now that points us toward making these decisions, and we wanted to give Kamigawa a reasonable amount of time to impact the metagame before jumping to any conclusions.

I'm sure this news is shocking, but I hope most of you walk away from this article smiling. Better times are ahead.

So, we know something is going to happen, but what? Here's what we think about some of the "recommended" choices provided by members of the site.

1. Banning Arcbound Ravager will help solve the problem

ButteBlues18 - Fiction

Arcbound Ravager, while a very good card, is not at all responsible for the dominance of Affinity in Type II. All Arcbound Ravager does is provide a more resilient Atog effect. Banning the Ravager wouldn't accomplish anything in the long run, and Atog would just become a more important piece of the deck. Ravager is definitely a good card, but it is not the source of the problems with Affinity, and it shouldn't be banned.

The most powerful part of Affinity is easily the overall synergy the cards have with each other. Arcbound Ravager is very synergistic, but is far from being broken.

HKKID - Fact.

Arcbound Ravager is cheap to cast, and gets BIG really fast. He also tends to force your opponent to have an abundance of blockers, or the Ravager counters get moved to the one creature that didn't get blocked. There is also the nice Disciple of the Vault combination kill.

However banning Ravager by himself won't fix the problem at all. Atog is already used in most Affinity decks. Look at the similarites between the two: Atog costs 2 mana, provides an excellent sac outlet for Disciple of the Vault, and MUST be blocked every time he swings. You lose the ability to move the modular counters everywhere, but make up for it with an immunity to Oxidize.

2. Banning Disciple of the Vault is better for the environment overall

ButteBlues18 - Fact

Disciple of the Vault is comparible to Psychatog in terms of general power. Now remember that Psychatog cost 1UB whereas the twisted little Cleric costs a measly B.

Aggro decks are historically known to forego using alternate win conditions in favor of their choice route of fast creatures that hit efficiently. The problem with Disciple of the Vault is that it defies the norm for aggro. Affinity has an alternate win condition that is almost uncounterable and doesn't even require them to attack you. This is plain wrong, as Affinity still has no trouble killing you by attacking. Disciple of the Vault is at the top of the list of cards I believe need banning.

HKKID - Fact

Disciple of the Vault is an absolute powerhouse. The question is always one of order. Versus an aggro deck, the Atog or Ravager goes first, and is followed by a Disciple. The combination kill can then occur in response to whatever sort of unpleasant creature removal your opponent has planned.

Against control, it's a good idea to cast the Disciple first, which lets you go off in response to your Ravager getting Oxidized! Simply put, there is no good method for dealing with a Disciple of the Vault. A 1/1 for B should not be a game breaking creature who is impossible to deal with. That's almost exactly what Disciple of the Vault is. He's above even artifact lands on my list of ban targets.

3. Frogmite and Myr Enforcer NEED to go

ButteBlues18 - Fiction

Quite simply, banning Frogmite and Myr Enforcer in an effort to neuter Affinity would be like trying to castrate a bull with toenail clippers.

The two cards are costed correctly and are smaller than some of the other creatures in Magic's history that came out for a lower cost. (ie. Blastoderm)

HKKID - Fiction

Frogmite is a good, aggressively priced 2/2. Hardly any more broken than Isamaru, Hound of Konda. Even at 3 mana, Myr Enforcer is just an aggressively priced vanilla 4/4 who dies to just about any gang-block or removal spell. I would actually be significantly more worried about Somber Hoverguard and his ability to dodge Oxidize and Viridian Shaman than I would be either Frogmite or Enforcer.

4. Cranial Plating is an issue that needs taken care of

ButteBlues18 - Fiction

The football helmet is definitely something you need to watch out for, especially when paired with Ornithopters or Somber Hoverguards. However, it is not as big of a threat as many people say. Does it increase the speed of some of the kills Affinity delivers? Oh yeah. But is this card the reason for Affinity's dominance on the metagame? No.

That's the true question. Why would anyone want to ban Cranial Plating if it isn't the problem with Affinity? Who knows?

HKKID - Neither

Cranial Plating is definitely a powerful card, especially in conjunction with Blinkmoth Nexus. It has essentially conspired to keep Wrath of God from being playable. On the other hand, Plating relies heavily on having lots of artifact lands in play, and does nothing without a creature to equip it to. There is no particular need to ban it, unless Wizards desires to return Affinity to the days of 10 counterspells and 4 Broodstars.

5. Aether Vial needs to be removed from Type II

ButteBlues18 - Fiction

The Vial is just a decent card. It allows for aggro decks to drop their critters without the fear of a counterspell, but only to an extent. The reason that the Vial appears so powerful is because Affinity's best utility creatures cost 1 or 2 mana. Instant-speed Disciples and blockers may be annoying, but they are not associated with Affinity's power. The Vial actually tends to make Affinity play more controlling and somewhat slower often times too.

HKKID - Fiction

Aether Vial is a good utility spell, but not bannable. It provides an excellent method of accelerating out your 1 and 2 drops, but it is easily destroyed, and is not an aggressive threat by itself. Sure, instant speed critters are powerful, and all the more so if they are free. That's not grounds for a banning. Furthermore, Ravager as a whole is still insanely good without Aether Vial.

6. Eternal Witness is too good

ButteBlues18 - Fiction

Everyone has a card that they just hate. For me, it's definitely the twisted little Cleric, but for some reason, people have lately begun to get angry with one of my favorite staples, Eternal Witness. Why would they do such a thing?

The only answer I can find is that they aren't angry with the Shaman at all. They are angry at green's apparent dominance of the metagame. Currently, 3 of the top 4 decks in Type II use green as a main (or their only) color. Each and every one of these decks is playing 4 Eternal Witness.

We've had good cards in the past, but why all the uproar now? Eternal Witness is one of the few powerful cards in Magic's history that doesn't have to be in a certain style of deck. She can fit in any deck running more than one or two Forests.

Eternal Witness is very powerful, but honestly, she's not extremely powerful, and thus, shouldn't be banned.

HKKID - Fiction

Eternal Witness is a horrible beatdown creature, a poor win condition, and a bad chump blocker. Sure she's played in every deck with green, but so are Viridian Shaman, Sakura Tribe Elder, and Oxidize. These cards are the reason people play green in the fist place! Having a good or powerful ability is not grounds for banning a creature. Creatures get banned because the deck that revolves around them is distorting the entire format.

7. Tooth and Nail needs to be banned

ButteBlues18 - Fiction

*Giggles are heard in the background*

I just can't stop laughing... Tooth and Nail is one of the least "broken" cards in history! The only reason the card sees play is that the Urza lands were reprinted in 8th! Tooth and Nail shouldn't be anywhere near this list.

HKKID - Fiction

I'm not sure how this even made our question list. The absurdity of banning a 9-mana sorcery is beyond comprehension. Even when playing against a Tooth and Nail deck, everybody knows the correct play is to cast Cranial Extraction naming Sundering Titan first. Tooth and Nail isn't the most dangerous spell, even in the deck that bears its name!

8. The Artifact Lands are too good

ButteBlues18 - Neither

The artifact lands are good cards in conjunction with the Affinity mechanic, but other than that, they are mediocre basic lands. Except for cases in Extended (like Teen Titans), the artifact lands are mainly used for their relative power in conjunction with the Affinity mechanic, Disciple of the Vault, and Arcbound Ravager.

Banning the artifact lands would do more than "neuter" or "bring Affinity down a notch"... Banning the artifact lands would make Affinity, as well as some other decks, completely UNPLAYABLE.

For that reason, I really don't want to see them banned.

HKKID - Fact

The surefire way to neuter the power of Affinity is to ban the artifact lands. Every single one of the Ravager cards discussed above, and even some of the ones we havent (such as Thoughtcast), rely on having lots of artifacts in play. Without the lands to provide that steady source of artifacts, the deck falls apart. This does have the "unpleasant" side effect of "killing" decks like KCI, however that deck has not had a serious impact on the standard metagame since Onslaught Block rotated.

One possible solution to the artifact lands which has been seeing a lot of discussion is making them Legendary. This does seem to make sense from a flavor perspective. After all, how many Great Furnaces can there possibly be? It also blends nicely with the Legend heavy Kamigawa block. Unfortunately, while this may be good from a Type 2 perspective, it's bad for Magic overall.

A mass errata would effect the artifact lands in all formats. In Extended, Ravager Affinity is a powerful, but not excessively powerful, deck. Recently a RBU Goblin Welder-based artifact reanimator deck has been showing up as well. You'll never guess what artifacts it uses to feed the Welder.

The artifact lands are insanely broken in Standard. But once they get into the larger cardpools of Extended and beyond, they are comparable to basic lands that die to an Energy Flux.

9. What Needs to be Banned, and in What Order?

ButteBlues18 -

Worth banning
Disciple of the Vault and Arcbound Ravager

Artifact Lands

Don't touch them
Cranial Plating, Aether Vial, Tooth and Nail, and Eternal Witness

As much as I still believe that Arcbound Ravager isn't the key piece to stop in Affinity, the only cards I can honestly see the DCI banning are the Disciple and the Ravager. The artifact lands are only a true threat with Disciple of the Vault around anyways. They also belong to many different decks, not just Affinity.

Cranial Plating, Aether Vial, Tooth and Nail, and Eternal Witness are playable cards, but if the DCI would be insane enough to ban them, I'd eat the moldy stuff in my refrigerator.


1: Artifact Lands
2: Disciple of the Vault and Arcbound Ravager
3: Disciple of the Vault

Banning Disciple of the Vault and Arcbound Ravager is a nice 1-2 punch to the defining deck of Type 2. It does not kill the possiblity of an "Affinity" variety deck being played, however it does make it much more likely that the deck will turn into a Ornithopter - Cranial Plating sort of countermagic based Affinity deck rather than the aggro-combo monstrosity we have now. It also rather pleasantly leaves artifact lands in the format, so that if red wants to play Great Furnace (to feed to Shrapnel Blast) they could be used as they were originally intended to.

Banning just Disciple of the Vault is still a significant blow to Affinity. Without having the ability to "combo out" of a bad position, the artifact deck loses a good deal of its explosive power. However, it does remain a very fast deck, and will likely remain a force in the T2 metagame.

In summary

We hope you have a wonderful Valentine's Day. Expect to see us writing fairly often about Type 2 (as well as other formats), and you can be sure to see an overview on the changes to Type 2 as soon as we get the announcement on March 1st.

See you then!

-Will (ButteBlues18)
-Travis (HKKID)


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