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Budget Magic: $99 Real Affinity (Modern)

Dumêlang, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Over the years, the term "Affinity" has morphed into a generic phrase for pretty much any aggressive deck playing a bunch of artifact creatures. But 20 years ago, back during the heyday of original Mirrodin block, "Affinity" referred to a deck built around the actual affinity-for-artifacts mechanic. Back then, the deck was fueled by artifact lands (which were swiftly banned), allowing it to power out cards like Myr Enforcer, Frogmite, and Thoughtcast on the cheap. Well now, thanks to Modern Horizons 2, real Affinity is back! Not only do we have a bunch of new artifact lands, but we also got some powerful new affinity payoffs in Thought Monitor and Sojourner's Companion! Can a real Affinity deck built around the actual affinity-for-artifacts mechanic compete in 2021 Modern on a $100 budget? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Real Affinity

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The Deck

Real Affinity is an almost combo-feeling aggro deck. Our goal is to flood the board with cheap artifacts (with the help of a bunch of Modern Horizon 2's new artifact lands), which will allow us to play affinity cards like Sojourner's Companion, Myr Enforcer, and Thought Monitor on the cheap (or even for free). To win the game, we either overwhelm our opponent with a massive board or sneak in for the kill with just one or two attacks with a creature wearing Cranial Plating or Nettlecyst.

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While it might seem strange to start with our mana base, it's the new artifact lands that make our affinity plan work. Thanks to a bunch of Modern Horizon 2's bridges, Darksteel Citadel, and Blinkmoth Nexus, all of our lands are either artifacts or, in the case of Blinkmoth Nexus, can become artifacts. The power of these cards is that they are essentially Ancient Tombs when we are casting affinity cards since they tap for a mana but also reduce the cost of our affinity cards by being artifacts. Of course, this power does come with a drawback: cards like Stony Silence, Collector Ouphe, and Karn, the Great Creator turn into one-sided Armageddons since they'll make it so we won't be able to tap our lands for mana. Thankfully, these cards aren't too heavily played at the moment. Regardless, having an all-artifact mana base is incredibly powerful in an affinity deck, helping us get off to super-explosive starts by flooding the board with artifacts.

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Speaking of flooding the board with artifacts, we also have a bunch of zero-cost artifacts. While Memnite and Ornithopter aren't especially powerful cards in a vacuum, they are a lot better than they look when you consider that just having them sit on the battlefield reduces the cost on our affinity payoffs and helps to support our Cranial Plating / Nettlecyst plan for finishing the game.

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The same is mostly true of Mishra's Bauble, Welding Jar, and Springleaf Drum—all of these cards are in our deck mostly to add an artifact to the battlefield on the cheap. Mishra's Bauble and Welding Jar are especially powerful because they help to ramp out our affinity payoffs in the early game; then, we can cash them in for a bit more value later in the game, when we have enough artifacts on the battlefield, with Mishra's Bauble drawing us a card and Welding Jar saving one of our artifacts from removal. Meanwhile, Springleaf Drum takes advantage of the fact that we have underpowered creatures in our deck like Ornithopter that we don't mind tapping for mana, all while upping our artifact count. 

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So, what affinity cards are we looking to cast for free with the help of our artifact lands and Ornithopters? First up is Frogmite, which, as a 2/2, sort of walks the line between an affinity payoff and a free artifact support card. Frogmite often can hit the battlefield on Turn 1 or 2, and while a 2/2 isn't likely to win the game in Modern, it does help with our go-wide plan. At the same time, it adds another artifact to the battlefield to help us get to our real payoffs: Myr Enforcer and Sojourner's Companion. If we can get seven artifacts on the battlefield, Myr Enforcer and Sojourner's Companion become free 4/4s, which is pretty powerful, especially when we're casting them on Turn 2 or 3. Sojourner's Companion technically is the better of the two since we can cycle it for an artifact land, but in general, we only use the cycling ability if we are desperate for mana since we'd rather have the 4/4 body. 

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While dumping our hand of Frogmites and Myr Enforcers is great, just one or two of these threats isn't likely to be enough to finish the game, which is where our affinity card draw comes in. Thoughtcast and Thought Monitor essentially are just one-mana draw-twos once our deck gets going, helping to make sure that we can build a big enough board to actually kill our opponent. Thought Monitor is especially insane since it leaves behind a 2/2 flying artifact body, making it sort of like an expensive, flying Frogmite that also draws us two cards. Some of our best Real Affinity games come from chaining these cards together, generating an absurd amount of cheap card advantage that is hard for most opponents to keep up with.

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While we do win a reasonable amount of games just by flooding the board with random affinity dorks, we also have some extremely powerful equipment to speed up the process in Cranial Plating and Nettlecyst. Thanks to our all-artifact mana base, it's pretty common that these cards are giving the equipped creature +10 power or more—enough that we can stick them on an Ornithopter or Thought Monitor and win with just one or two attacks. While Nettlecyst and Cranial Plating are very similar, they both have different upsides. Cranial Plating is especially scary thanks to the ability to attach it at instant speed, which allows us to attack with a big board of creatures, wait until our opponent blocks, and then stick Cranial Plating on an unblocked creature for an absurd amount of damage. Meanwhile, Nettlecyst is mostly a slower, more expensive Cranial Plating, but it also doubles as a massive threat thanks to living weapon, usually coming down as a 6/6 or more on Turn 3 and regularly growing to a 10/10 or more. Plus, if our Germ token dies, we can always move it onto another creature. Most importantly, the addition of Nettlecyst means that we essentially have six copies of Cranial Plating in our deck, greatly increasing the odds that we'll see at least one every game.

Playing the Deck

Honestly, there's not a ton to say about Real Affinity. The plan is straightforward: play a bunch of artifacts, play a bunch of powerful affinity creatures, overwhelm the opponent, and win the game quickly. I will warn you that if you do decide to pick up the deck, you'll likely spend a lot of time counting the number of artifacts you have on the battlefield. 

Don't underestimate the amount of damage that Cranial Plating and Nettlecyst can deal. Thanks to artifact land it's usually more than you think.

We got punished one game for playing a Memnite before playing Springleaf Drum, which allowed our opponent to kill the Memnite with the Springleaf Drum on the stack, putting us down a mana and fizzling what would have been a strong turn. In general, it's best to have the Springleaf Drum on the battlefield first and then cast the Memnite or Ornithopter, so that even if the opponent has removal, we'll at least be able to tap the free artifact creature for mana before it dies. 

As we saw against Enchantress, there are some cards our deck can't really beat, with Stony Silence (assuming it comes down early in the game) being at the top of the list. While it is theoretically possible that we could win by playing a bunch of zero-mana artifacts and then casting things like Myr Enforcer and Sojourner's Companion even without the ability to use our lands, the odds are so, so slim that I usually just scoop. 


Record-wise, we went 4-1 with Real Affinity, but that was an above-average run from the deck. While I was testing and tuning the deck, I was winning around 50% of the time, which is still solid for a $100 budget deck in Modern, but I think we ran a bit hot while recording. 

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, I'm pretty happy with where the main deck landed but still not 100% sold on the sideboard. It's possible that we should play fewer artifact lands and add things like Glimmervoid and Spire of Industry to the deck. The drawback is that our deck would be less explosive. The upside is that we'd be able to play basically anything we wanted in the sideboard, which would allow for better answers to Stony Silence and friends, shoring up one of our deck's biggest weaknesses. At the same time, Stony Silence isn't an especially popular sideboard card at the moment, so it's possible that we just hope to dodge decks like Enchantress until the meta shifts and more people start playing artifact hate.

So, should you play Real Affinity in Modern? I think the answer is yes! The deck felt like a solid budget option. While you will get blown out by hate on occasion, the deck is super explosive and able to race a lot of the top-tier decks in Modern. If you played any of the past versions of Affinity we've played on Budget Magic (like Fling Affinity or Manaless Affinity), you should have a lot of the non–Modern Horizons 2 cards for Real Affinity, making it easy to put together. If you like being aggressive, playing artifacts and free spells, and drawing cards, Real Affinity might be the perfect Modern budget deck for you!

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To get Real Affinity down near $50, we need to cut Mishra's Bauble, by far the most expensive card in our deck. While a bit slower, Chromatic Star is a reasonable replacement at a fraction of the cost. Otherwise, we switch around the sideboard a bit, adding Metallic Rebuke and Disenchant over Damping Sphere, and we're good to go!

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Finally, for our non-budget list, one card seems insane in the deck: Urza's Saga. While the new enchantment land has proven itself to be one of the best (if not the best) card from Modern Horizons 2 and is showing up across archetypes, it seems absolutely perfect for our deck since we naturally have a bunch of artifacts to tutor up, and the Construct token it can make with its second lore counter will be massive in our deck. Otherwise, we get a few additional changes to the mana base and a couple of sideboard upgrades, but in reality, Urza's Saga is the real reason to upgrade the deck.


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

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