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Budget Magic: $77 Standard Affinity (Standard, Magic Arena)


Fastyr mie, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Back in Core Set 2020, Wizards gave us a classic Modern Affinity payoff in Steel Overseer. Then, more recently, in Throne of Eldraine, Wizards gave us what is essentially a Standard-legal version of Cranial Plating in the form of All That Glitters. Can these two powerful payoffs, combined with a bunch of cheap artifacts to make a deck modeled after Modern Affinity, work in Throne of Eldraine Standard on a budget? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Standard Affinity (Standard, Magic Arena)

The Deck

Standard Affinity is basically an artifact-based aggro deck but with a surprising ability to play a long game if necessary thanks to cards like Mystic Forge and Emry, Lurker of the Loch. That said, our primary plan is to kill our opponent quickly by flooding the board with cheap artifact creatures and using Steel Overseer and All that Glitters to turn them into massive threats.

Aggro Payoffs

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Steel Overseer and All That Glitters are the core of the aggro portion of our deck. Steel Overseer has, at various times, been a staple in Modern Affinity and Hardened Scales decks, while All That Glitters is basically a one-shot enchantment version of one of the best cards in Modern Affinity: Cranial Plating. These cards allow us to play a bunch of cheap, underpowered artifact creatures and then turn them into meaningful threats very early in the game. Steel Overseer is at its best when we can play a bunch of one-drop artifact creatures for it to pump with +1/+1 counters. Meanwhile, while All That Glitters also wants a bunch of artifacts on the battlefield, it also likes us to have at least one evasive threat to enchant and turn into a threat that can close out the game in just a couple of attacks.

The One-Drops

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While it probably sounds funny, Gingerbrute is legitimately one of the best cards in our deck. It's a one-mana creature for Steel Overseer, haste allows it to get in for damage out of the blue, and the ability to become (mostly) unblockable makes it our best creature to enchant with All That Glitters. On Turn 1, it can start chipping away for hasty damage, and then if the game goes long, our primary plan becomes to stall out, flood the board with random artifacts, and eventually get an All That Glitters or two on a Gingerbrute to win the game with just a single attack. While it doesn't happen often, Gingerbrute also gives us a strange sort of nut draw. If we can play it on Turn 1 and have multiple copies of All That Glitters, Gingerbrute itself can kill our opponent as early as Turn 4!

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Inquisitive Puppet and Locthwain Gargoyle are our filler one-drops. They are in the deck because we basically want any one-mana artifact creature to support Steel Overseer and All That Glitters, although they come with the drawback of having zero power, which means unless we draw one (or more) of our payoffs, they mostly do nothing in the early game. In theory, we can turn Inquisitive Puppet into a 1/1 Human at any time, although we usually don't do this too aggressively since it removes an artifact from the battlefield (although Inquisitive Puppet chump blocking twice is helpful when we get into late-game stall-out mode). Meanwhile, Locthwain Gargoyle is a pretty decent blocker against aggressive decks, and then in the late game, it can turn into a decent All That Glitters target since we can send it to the air for four mana. Basically, on their own, both Inquisitive Puppet and Locthwain Gargoyle are pretty middling cards, but they are a necessary evil to make sure that our powerful payoffs actually work.

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Stonecoil Serpent is really strong in our deck. If we need it to be, it can be a 1/1 for one, but in the late game, when we have a bunch of mana, it often ends up a 6/6 or 7/7. Plus, it has an oddly effective combination of abilities. While not as good as Gingerbrute, Stonecoil Serpent is a fine All That Glitters target thanks to trample offering some form of evasion, reach sometimes ending up catching opponents by surprise and eating an attacker, and protection from multicolored meaning it can't be stolen by Oko, Thief of Crowns, bounced by Teferi, Time Raveler, or killed by cards like Assassin's Trophy or Knight of Autumn. While Stonecoil Serpent isn't especially efficient at any point on the curve, the combination of flexibility and a bunch of decent abilities makes it a very good card in our deck nonetheless. 

Going Long

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While our primary plan is to win the game quickly with our aggressive artifact creatures and payoffs, one of the biggest upsides of Standard Affinity is that it's an aggro deck that can also play the long game. Mystic Forge is one of the biggest reasons why. Our deck has a massive 30 cards that we can cast from our library with a Mystic Forge on the battlefield, which means we often (essentially) draw two or three extra cards each turn in the late game once we have Mystic Forge on the battlefield. This makes Mystic Forge a great way to rebuild after a wrath or to fight thought decks with a lot of removal.

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Since all of our big payoffs require a deck full of artifacts to work, there is a high cost to playing any non-artifact cards in our deck. Emry, Lurker of the Loch is worth the cost. Since we have so many cheap artifacts, Emry almost always costs just a single mana, and then she essentially draws us an extra card each turn by allowing us to cast an artifact from our graveyard. Against aggro, we can loop Gingerbrute each turn to gain three life, while against control, we can get back cards like Mystic Forge and Arcanist's Owl for even more card advantage. While it is true that Emry dies a lot, she really only needs to sit on the battlefield for a couple of turns to be more than worth her cost.

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Our final go-long piece is Arcanist's Owl, which is a solid card all around. A 3/3 flier for four mana is already a fine deal, and Arcanist's Owl replaces itself when it enters the battlefield by grabbing us an artifact or enchantment from among the top four cards of our library, which makes Arcanist's Owl a great way to find All That Glitters to close out the game in one big attack. Speaking of All That Glitters, the fact that Arcanist's Owl flies is a huge upside, not just making it a fine, evasive target for [[All That Glitters] but also giving us a way to block annoying threats like Rankle, Master of Pranks.

Other Stuff

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Finally, we have Corridor Monitor, which is surprisingly synergistic in our deck. Its main purpose is to untap Steel Overseer, allowing us to activate its team-pumping ability twice in a single turn, which leads to some really explosive starts where, if we can play Steel Overseer on Turn 2, we can end Turn 3 with 12 power across four artifact bodies, which is enough to kill a lot of slower decks before they get the mana to cast their wraths or expensive targeted removal. Apart from Steel Overseer, both Emry, Lurker of the Loch (to cast another artifact from our graveyard) and Mystic Forge (to exile another dead card from the top of our deck) are good targets for Corridor Monitor's untap ability. Worst case, it gives us another artifact creature on the battlefield to grow our All That Glitters and grow from Steel Overseer

The Mana

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In an effort to keep the price of the deck down both in paper and on Magic Arena, in Standard Affinity, we're playing what I like to call the limited mana base: all basic lands. Normally, this is a horrible idea in a two-color deck, but because most of our cards are colorless and can be cast with whatever lands we happen to have on the battlefield, it can work for Standard Affinity specifically. That said, if you have a playset of Hallowed Fountain, you should 100% run it over some of the basics. On the other hand, I don't believe that dual lands that enter the battlefield tapped are worth it in Standard Affinity; curving out is too important. We'd rather deal with some games where we are missing blue for Emry, Lurker of the Loch or white for All That Glitters than deal with playing off-curve in most games.

Wrap-Up

All in all, we finished with a solid 3-2 record with Standard Affinity, taking down Golos, Sultai Midrange, and UB Mill while dropping really close three-game matches to a Golos Fae of Wishes deck and Esper Stax. Esper Stax specifically is a tough matchup, mostly because Doom Foretold offers a main-deck way to deal with our Mystic Forge, which is our main plan for beating wrath-heavy decks like Esper Stax.

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, apart from the lack of Hallowed Fountain, I'm really happy with how it turned out. On the other hand, the sideboard is still in flux. It has a lot of non-artifact cards, which leads to some awkward moments with Emry, Lurker of the Loch and Mystic Forge. In general, I try to sideboard as lightly as possible, bringing in no more than four or five non-artifact cards. And if we end up needing several non-artifact sideboard cards, it's often worth cutting a copy of Emry, Lurker of the Loch and even Mystic Forge since they become much less consistent as we trade in artifacts for non-artifacts.

As for playing the deck. Plan A is to win quickly with one-drops, All That Glitters, and Steel Overseer. Be wary of putting All That Glitters on a non-evasive creature. It's often better to wait and try to get All That Glitters on a Gingerbrute or Arcanist's Owl than waste it on a Inquisitive Puppet that will end up getting chump-blocked by Zombie tokens. If Plan A doesn't work out, we generally go into card-advantage / stall-out mode, with our main goal being to build up a big board of random artifacts and then even eventually play a hasty Gingerbrute to enchant with an All That Glitters or two and win with one hasty surprise attack.

In the end, Standard Affinity feels like a surprisingly solid budget option. Our matches really showed off the deck's ability to go long, and even our two losses were hard-fought three-game matches where our opponent had multiple wraths. If you like aggro decks that can win on Turn 3 but also on Turn 12, Standard Affinity is likely one of the best budget options for Throne of Eldraine Standard!

The original build of Standard Affinity had 22 rares (although just 16 in the main deck) and zero mythics. With a bit of work, we can get the deck down to 12 total rares by cutting all of the rares from the sideboard (although losing Deputy of Detention as a way to deal with a horde of Zombie tokens from Field of the Dead hurts) and trimming back on some of our main-deck rares. As far as the main deck is concerned, our only rares are Stonecoil Serpent, Emry, Lurker of the Loch, Mystic Forge, and Steel Overseer, all of which are essential to our plan (Stonecoil Serpent seems like the easiest to cut, until you realize there literally isn't a replacement artifact one-drop in the format that isn't already in our deck). To get to 12 rares, we ended up dropping two Stonecoil, one Emry, and one Mystic Forge, replacing them with the fourth Corridor Monitor and three copies of Shambling Suit. While these subtractions do hurt our go-long plan a bit, we really only need one Emry, Lurker of the Loch and one Mystic Forge on the battlefield, so hopefully, three will be enough. Meanwhile, Shambling Suit offers another nice piece for our aggro plan, although its lack of evasion and three toughness mean that it ends up trading down more often than we'd like.

One of the upsides of Standard Affinity is that the non-budget build really isn't that expensive, coming in at just $125. All we really need to do is upgrade is the mana, by adding a playset of Hallowed Fountain and a few castles (since they are mostly a freeroll). Otherwise, the deck is basically the same as the one we played in the videos, with a handful of sideboard changes.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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