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Budget Magic: Fling Affinity (Modern)


Moghrey mie, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! A couple of years ago, we played a Modern Budget Magic deck called Artifact Blast, a mono-red artifact aggro deck looking to chip in for early damage and then finish the game with Shrapnel Blast and Galvanic Blast for massive chunks of direct damage. Well, today's deck—Fling Affinity—is sort of a very updated version of the deck. This past week, I realized that some of the most powerful Affinity cards in Magic's history are now budget-friendly. Arcbound Ravager was $50 a copy when we played Artifact Blast; it's now $6. Likewise, Steel Overseer was $25 two years ago and is now almost a bulk rare thanks to a Core Set 2020 reprint! This means budget Affinity gets a huge, huge boost of power. Plus, thanks to the MDFC lands in Zendikar Rising, we can finally play a Fling in the deck in the form of Kazuul's Fury. Using Fling to finish the game is an old Pauper Affinity trick, but it comes with a big problem: Fling is an extremely inconsistent card, doing nothing unless we have a creature big enough to Fling for lethal. Kazuul's Fury solves this problem by being a Fling that is also a land, which allows us to play the full four copies in our deck without sacrificing much consistency (the only real drawback is playing a tapped land). Mashing all of these forces together leads to today's Fling Affinity deck, which looks to get in early damage with creatures and then close out the game with direct damage by throwing our biggest threat at our opponent's face! How much do these upgrades matter? Can we actually get a Kazuul's Fury kill in Modern?  Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Fling Affinity

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The Deck

Fling Affinity is an artifact aggro deck. The goal is to get in for combat damage early in the game by flooding the board with artifacts and then use direct damage like Kazuul's Fury, Galvanic Blast, and Shrapnel Blast to close out the game. The deck has both a go-tall and a go-wide plan, which are united by both wanting a bunch of cheap artifacts (or cheap artifact creatures) on the battlefield.

Going Tall

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Let's start with the biggest addition to the deck: Arcbound Ravager! It wasn't that long ago that the two-drop was $50 a copy. Today, thanks to a Secret Lair reprinting (and also shifts in the Modern meta, with Mox Opal being banned), it's down to $6—cheap enough that we can play the full four copies in our deck and easily come in under our $100 budget. Along with Cranial Plating, Arcbound Ravager is essential to our go-tall plan. Arcbound Ravager allows us to sacrifice our entire board of artifacts to grow one massive threat, hit our opponent, and then (hopefully) Fling that threat at our opponent's face with Kazuul's Fury to close out the game. Cranial Plating does something similar, giving the equipped creature +1/+0 for each artifact we control, which—in conjunction with a deck full of cheap or even free artifacts—is very scary. It's pretty common for a single Cranial Plating to offer at least +5/+0, and it's not impossible for it to grow a creature into a 10-power threat (which is enough that one attack and Kazuul's Fury can 20 our opponent!).

Going Wide

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Part of the power of Fling Affinity is that we aren't limited to just trying to build one massive threat and riding it to victory. Along with our go-tall plan, we also have an equally powerful go-wide plan, primarily powered by Steel Overseer (another new addition to the deck that dropped from over $20 to $2 thanks to a Core Set 2020 reprinting) and Signal Pest. Rather than helping us build one massive threat, these cards allow us to flood the board with cheap and free artifact creatures, which are often low powered, and turn them into real threats by growing them with +1/+1 counters or battle cry. 

Cheap Artifact Creatures

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For either the go-wide or the go-tall plan to work, we need as many cheap artifact creatures on the battlefield as possible to grow Arcbound Ravager and Cranial Plating or to grow with Steel Overseer and Signal Pest. For this, we turn to two zero-drops and two one-stops. Memnite and Ornithopter aren't especially powerful creatures, but since they cost zero mana, they help us flood the board with threats quickly. Ornithopter is one of our best creatures to pick up Cranial Plating thanks to flying, while Memnite is great sacrifice fodder for Arcbound Ravager and can also grow into a real threat with the help of Steel Overseer. Meanwhile, in the one-drop slot are Bomat Courier and Vault Skirge. Bomat Courier helps to take advantage of the fact that we can typically empty our hand super quickly since we have a bunch of zero-drops and none of our non-lands cost more than two mana. This allows us to (hopefully) play Bomat Courier on Turn 1, get in a few attacks, and then sacrifice it to refill our hand. Meanwhile, Vault Skirge is technically a two-drop, but we almost always cast it for one mana and two life thanks to its Phyrexian mana cost. Much like Ornithopter, it's one of our best creatures to go tall with since it has not just flying but also lifelink. Speaking of lifelink, it can be essential against other aggro decks. Against a deck like Burn, if we can use Arcbound Ravager and Steel Overseer to grow Vault Skirge large enough to avoid dying to Lightning Bolt or Searing Blaze, it often wins the game all by itself by smashing in for lifelinking damage to keep our life total out of the danger zone.

The Burn

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One of the sweetest aspects of Fling Affinity is that we don't need to get our opponent all the way down to zero life with combat damage. Instead, if we can get our opponent down to somewhere in the neighborhood of eight to 10 life, we should be able to use some combination of Galvanic Blast, Shrapnel Blast, and Kazuul's Fury to win the game. Galvanic Blast and Shrapnel Blast are just extremely above-the-curve burn spells for a deck overloaded with cheap artifacts, with Galvanic Blast offering an obscene four damage for one mana and Shrapnel Blast offering five damage for two mana (and the sacrifice of one of our random artifacts). Along with closing out the game by hitting our opponent's face, these cards also help to clear blockers out of the way in the early game.

As for Kazuul's Fury, it's one of the cards I'm most excited about in the deck. Thanks to Arcbound Ravager and Cranial Plating, it's pretty easy for our deck to grow a creature to eight or 10 power, which is usually enough that we can get in one attack for half of our opponent's life total, and then use Kazuul's Fury to Fling the threat at our opponent's face for lethal. As I mentioned in the intro, being an MDFC is huge. There just isn't enough room in Affinity to play an inconsistent burn spell like Fling in the spell slot (especially when we already have access to powerful and consistent burn spells like Shrapnel Blast), but Kazuul's Fury is sort of a freeroll (outside of coming into play tapped, which is admittedly a cost in an extremely aggressive deck like ours), making it an easy way to add a bit of extra finishing power to the deck. Plus, winning with a Fling is super fun!

Other Stuff

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Otherwise, we also have four copies of Springleaf Drum, which is essentially another free artifact, assuming we have a tappable creature on the battlefield when we cast it. (Springleaf Drum costs one, and then we can immediately use it to make a mana to gain back the mana that we spend to cast it.) While nowhere near as explosive as Mox Opal, Springleaf Drum still facilitates some explosive starts where we can play a zero-drop like Memnite or Ornithopter on Turn 1, follow it up with Springleaf Drum, tap our summoning-sick zero-drop to make a mana, and then play something like Bomat Courier or Signal Pest, adding three cheap artifacts to the battlefield on Turn 1, which we can then hopefully follow up with a payoff like Arcbound Ravager or Steel Overseer on Turn 2.

The Companion

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In all honesty, I didn't set out to make Fling Affinity a Lurrus of the Dream-Den deck. Instead, I built the deck and realized that every permanent in the deck cost two or less mana anyway, so Lurrus of the Dream-Den was another freeroll once I figured out the mana (more on this in a minute). While Lurrus of the Dream-Den doesn't show up in most games, it does offer a lot of value if we run into a grindy control or midrange deck, allowing us to recast cheap artifacts that we sacrifice to Arcbound Ravager or that die to our opponent's removal. 

The Mana

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The mana base is actually a huge source of power for Fling Affinity. Along with Kazuul's Fury, which we already talked about (and counts as a land in our deck), we get Blinkmoth Nexus as a cheap, evasive artifact creature; Darksteel Citadel to up our artifact count; and Glimmervoid and Spire of Industry as cheap five-color lands to help us cast Lurrus of the Dream-Den. Speaking of Glimmervoid, it's another card that simply wasn't available to us back in 2018 when we played Artifact Blast. At the time, it cost nearly $20 a copy. Today, it's down to $2 thanks to another reprinting in Double Masters (and shifts in the Modern meta). 

The Sideboard

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Most of the sideboard is pretty self-evident, but two quick notes. First, thanks to Springleaf Drum, Glimmervoid, and Spire of Industry, it is theoretically possible to splash almost any color that you want in the sideboard, although this isn't something we took advantage of in the budget version of the deck. But keep in mind that if you want to play a Thoughtseize or Metallic Rebuke, the mana can support it (just don't try playing any cards with double-colored mana costs). Secondly, we have two cards in our sideboard that disallow Lurrus of the Dream-Den from being our companion: Ghirapur Aether Grid and Etched Champion. After playing the deck a bunch, I'm happy enough to lose Lurrus of the Dream-Den as our companion in matchups where Ghirapur Aether Grid is important (primarily against decks with Stony Silence–type cards), but it's almost never worth it to lose Lurrus for one Etched Champion. (Both are good in the same matchups—against decks with heavy targeted removal—and having a Lurrus of the Dream-Den in our companion zone is much, much better than having one Etched Champion in the deck). As such, Etched Champion should be cut. We almost never bring it in because of Lurrus.

Playing the Deck

Fling Affinity is trickier to play than it might look, mostly because it requires thinking several turns ahead about what finishers and burn spells we could draw. While we do sometimes just run our opponents over with a fast aggro start, a lot of times, we get off to a fast start, our opponent stabilizes, and we are left trying to figure out how to push through the last points of damage. Do we play aggressively with our creatures and risk dying on the backswing? Do we go into chump-block mode and hope to draw a burn spell? If we chump block, do we take Cranial Plating off the table as a possible out? These seemingly small decisions often end up being important. 

Speaking of the challenges of playing Fling Affinity, Arcbound Ravager is a really tricky card to play with. We saw this in a game against Hardened Scales where, if we had chose to sacrifice our board and dump all of the Arcbound Ravager counters onto an Ornithopter one turn earlier, we might have won the game before our opponent managed to find flying blockers. Of course, sacrificing five or 10 artifacts to go all-in on an Ornithopter is scary—a single removal spell blows us out—but sometimes, it is the correct play. Figuring out when we should be aggressive with Arcbound Ravager and when we should sit back and remain patient is one of the biggest decision points of the deck. 

As for Kazuul's Fury, don't be afraid to play it as a land. While Fling wins are spectacular, we only have 18 total lands in the deck, including Kazuul's Fury, and we generally want two or three lands on the battlefield at any given time. One we get three lands, holding onto Kazuul's Fury and waiting for an opportunity to pick up the Fling win makes sense, but if we only have one or two lands on the battlefield, it's typically correct to play it as a land. 

Wrap-Up

All in all, we went 4-1 with Fling Affinity. The deck felt quite solid. Having access to Arcbound Ravager and Steel Overseer while still easily coming in under budget is a huge, huge boost of power for a budget Affinity deck. Our one loss came to Hardened Scales, which seems like an extremely difficult matchup, mostly because Walking Ballista kills quite literally every creature in our deck. And even in this matchup, we might have had a chance if we had played more aggressively with Arcbound Ravager (saccing our board to go all-in on Ornithopter a turn earlier than we did). 

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck. I'm super happy with the main deck, although the sideboard could probably be improved, both by dropping Etched Champion and by splashing into extra colors to take advantage of our five-color mana base. I'd start with adding Duress (or Thoughtseize, if budget isn't a concern) and maybe a counterspell like Metallic Rebuke. Wear // Tear is another interesting possibility, as a way to deal with Stony Silence (and other artifacts / enchantments) that might allow us to drop Ghirapur Aether Grid and play a 100% Lurrus of the Dream-Den–compliant deck.

So, should you play Fling Affinity? If you are looking for a competitive Modern budget deck, I think the answer is yes. The deck is surprisingly powerful and seems to be able to compete with many of the top decks in the Modern format. For just $78 or 28 tix, you really can't go wrong!

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Fling Affinity isn't the best ultra-budget deck, in part because the version we played for the video only costs $78, so cutting important cards to try to save 25-ish dollars and get the deck down near $50 seems like a waste. As you can see, the ultra-budget build above gets down to $64, mostly by cutting non-basic lands and Lurrus of the Dream-Den, making the deck truly mono-red. Finding a way to cut another $15 is tough though. Arcbound Ravager is the most expensive card in the deck at around $6 a copy, but it's also one of the best cards in the deck. You could get the down down to $50 by cutting two copies, putting two more Shrapnel Blasts in the main deck, and adding more random removal in the sideboard to replace the Shrapnel Blasts, but I'm not sure cutting two copies of one of our best cards to save $12 is worth it in the long run. 

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The non-budget build of Fling Affinity is equally awkward. There isn't really a top-tier version of Affinity in Modern anymore since the Mox Opal banning, which means the closest tier deck is Hardened Scales, which does share some cards with Fling Affinity (Arcbound Ravager and Steel Overseer) but not all that many. That said, if you want to build toward a truly top-tier option, Hardened Scales is the way to go. Our non-budget build mostly stays the course, picking up a few small additions, with Inkmoth Nexus as another artifact creature in the mana base being the biggest, mostly because Inkmoth Nexus can easily one-shot opponents with the help of Cranial Plating or Arcbound Ravager. Otherwise, we get a few sideboard additions, with Rest in Peace, Metallic Rebuke, Thoughtseize, and Wear // Tear. The good news is that the non-budget build only costs $165 (with 56 of those dollars going toward a playset of Inkmoth Nexus), so it isn't all that expensive of an upgrade!

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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