Welcome to a deck primer on Affinity in 7 Point Highlander! In this article we will take a deep dive into Affinity, which is a representative of the Mox Aggro Archetype in Highlander. Here you will find my thoughts on the deck’s enablers, acceleration, mana base, pay offs and we’ll talk about its Resiliency and give you some tips for sideboarding.
Before we get into it, huge shout out to Jacob Golding for doing the hard work in the early stages of development and gave me a list to start working with. We got a great look at his list in this video at CanCon’s National Highlander Championship 2018.
In the summer of 2016 I flipped through my new partner’s binder, marvelling at the extensive range of foil artifacts. “Have you ever played Modern before?” she said as I reflected light off her German WPN promo Signal Pest. I started playing magic only a couple of years prior and it was straight from kitchen table to Legacy then eventually to Australian 7 Point Highlander so I was completely in the dark about Modern. In a stroke of good timing for her and me I had just received my tax return and I was looking to impress so I organised to buy her out of her unused Affinity pieces and began my foray into Modern.
At that time I was blown away by how diverse and fair Modern was in comparison to Legacy and I found a new love in turning little creatures sideways. Shortly before the Mox Opal ban the Affinity aficionados saw the writing on the wall and many (including me) decided to sell out of their $100 cards in anticipation of a huge price drop, the good timing continued for me as at that point I was deciding if I was going to play Modern in the future, this seemed to be the perfect exit point.
However, some machines refuse to accept their own obsolescence and my desire to smash face with those little robots moved over into 7 Point Highlander. There are a few different ways to build Affinity in 7ph and I will note them at the end, but this is the Primer for my current build of the deck.
When considering porting decks from 4-of formats to singleton, the decks that benefit the most are the ones with a lot of redundancy. To say that a lot of powerful artifacts have been printed in the last 25+ years of MTG is an understatement, and because of that the core of the deck remains consistent.
All the familiar enablers are here in Signal Pest, Memnite, Ornithopter and Vault Skirge. These creatures mainly exist in the deck because they are cheap artifact creatures that allow to flood the board and allow for your payoff cards to really devastate your opponent within the first 5 turns. Filling out the curve of cheap (mostly underpowered threats) is Bomat Courier, Stonecoil Serpent and Gingerbrute, which were honestly mostly fine in some builds of Modern Affinity anyway.
Something that I am bringing to the Highlander version is the group of “mana dorks”. A seemingly contentious opinion with other Highlander Affinity players, I like having a few creatures that help share the load when you don’t have fast mana. I agree that there may be an amount that is too many and perhaps I am pushing it but the ability to lock in your lead by emptying your hand early is invaluable in the current dawdley meta.
The Acceleration (and how to abuse it)
One of the strongest arguments to playing artifact strategies is the fast mana, in this list I am devoting 6 points to Mana Crypt, Sol Ring and Mishra’s Workshop. These cards alongside Mox Opal and Springleaf Drum as well as Sol Lands in Ancient Tomb, City of Traitors and Crystal Vein make your deck explode out of the gate, allowing you to play most (if not all) your cards in the first 3 turns.
I am currently playing Winter Orb mainboard although there is an argument to playing it in the sideboard. Slamming this sucker turn 3 after you have put 10 power of creatures on the board is a high I have been trying to chase since I first cast it.
As I further elaborate on below, the wheels have the added benefit of “combo-ing” with your cost reducing effects and fast mana, it’s not at all unlikely you will win the game the turn you cast a Wheel of Fortune or crack a Memory Jar
The Lords (or Payoffs)
Flooding the board with small creatures is fun and all but what pushes the deck over the top is the lords and payoffs. All of these spells have proven themselves time and time again in testing and events, with the exception of newcomer Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge, which has been fruitful in testing but has not yet truly earned his slot.
This deck is NOT designed to go long, but I have included a few spells in case it does and much more in the sideboard when the matchup calls for it. Trying to find the perfect number of “go long cards” between main and sideboard should be constantly updated based on your expected meta. If you want more “go fast” cards I can recommend cards like Frogmite and Chief of the Foundry, although I have found this is a good spread and those cards are not necessarily needed.
The Mana Base
If you want to make your opponent wince, play a Magus of the Moon in the sideboard of your 5 colour manabase! Being nearly Mono Brown, the actual colour requirements of this deck is light but very important.
- We are playing 5 rainbow lands (including the one-shot land Aether Hub), I have found this to be adequate.
- The 2 best creature lands for this deck in Blinkmoth Nexus and Mishra’s Factory
- 2 utility lands and 4 sol lands
- I am only playing 4 of 6 artifact lands, this is a controversial decision but the benefit of having extra artifacts on the battlefield has not been worth the pain of having a Null Rod effect resolve and not being able to cast your spells
- A couple of basics and a dual land to round it out the numbers
Damn, these cards are good
Some cards don’t need much explanation except to say, “they are just really good”. Skullclamp is one of my favourite pointed cards in highlander right now for fair card draw, with the added benefit of just buffing your huge Vault Skirge or Arcbound Ravager.
If you don’t know why Smuggler’s Copter is fantastic, you’re really missing out but Fleetwheel Cruiser is a lesser known threat that has been a long love of mine as a pseudo Reality Smasher with relevant card type.
Unlike Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge, Scrapyard Recombiner is a newish card that has passed the testing phase, this is by far a “construct tribal” deck but the tutor targets are diverse and usually back breaking for your opponent.
Companions and Considerations
I am immensely impressed with veteran of the format Luke Mulchay’s take on Umori Artifacts and since it has immediately put up results I can confirm that it is a real direction if you wanted to go down that route (the Noxious Gearhulk really gets me excited).
There is also a fantastic list from user Adrian Preston in the 7 Point Highlander Discord. Adrian took down a recent webcam event with his UW take on artifact aggro.
Note: Due to the ever-changing meta of Highlander, decklists and sideboards tend to be quite fluid. In this guide I will not give “side in this, side out that” explanations but this guide will be more focused on the philosophy of sideboarding with this deck, so you can take the ideas and use them to assist your decisions on sideboarding without shoehorning yourself into my decisions.
Current sideboard at time of writing:
- Aethersphere Harvester
- Defense Grid
- Ethersworn Canonist
- Experimental Frenzy
- Ghirapur Aether Grid
- Hazoret the Fervent
- Karn, Scion of Urza
- Magus of the Moon
- Padeem, Consul of Innovation
- Phyrexian Revoker
- Relic of Progenitus
- Thorn of Amethyst
- Tormod’s Crypt
Question 1: Should I be going faster, or slower?
Midrange and Control, especially post-board, is almost certainly your hardest matchups. There are a lot of sideboard cards devoted to this fact. If you are preparing to go long Experimental Frenzy and Karn, Scion of Urza are easy inclusions to help you see more cards than Game 1 requires. Padeem, Consul of Innovation is less good against boardwipe effects but better against shatter effects whereas Hazoret the Fervent is great against board wipes but bad against exile-based removal so pay attention to your opponent’s colours when sideboarding. Paying attention to your opponents mana choices Game 1 can also help you decide whether or not to side in Magus of the Moon.
Combo and other Aggro decks can usually be out-goldfished so siding out wheel effects and siding in taxing effects can usually trip your opponent up enough to allow you to gain the advantage in the very early turns. Whip Flare and Aetherphere Harvester are great aggro-mirror-breakers and Tormod’s Crypt, Relic of Progenitus, Ethersworn Canonist and Thorn of Amethyst can annoy your combo opponent while you equip your Cranial Plating to your Traxos, Scourge of Kroog.
Question 2: What is my opponent siding in?
This can be a tricky question to answer but if predicted correctly you can muddle your way through Game 2 without being locked under a Stony Silence or left empty handed after a devastating Fiery Confluence.
Your opponent can (and should) be playing Null Rod in any colour but Null Rod does not stop you from attacking so you can make the impact less, well, impactful if you side out cards like Steel Overseer and Scrapyard Recombiner. Instead of trying to kill a Null Rod I will just ask myself if this opening hand can beat a Null Rod. Otherwise, praying your opponent doesn’t have it works too.
If your opponent is playing Green or White you should be considering siding in Ghirapur Aether Grid to kill Kataki, War’s Wage and Collector Ouphe. The Grid also works under Stony Silence and Null Rod if only to give that pesky Welding Jar and Sol Ring relevant text while you are attacking.
If your opponent is playing Red and Black it might be more likely to see cards like Fiery Confluence, Damnation, Kolaghan’s Command and even Vandalblast. In this case Hazoret the Fervent and Padeem, Consul of Innovation give you hard to deal with threats that can turn the game in your favour themselves.
Question 3: How do I make room for all this?
This question can mostly be solved by answering Question 1. If you want to go fast you should side out cards listed in The Resiliency such as Spellskite, Wheel of Fortune and The Antiquities War however in slower match ups you should side out cards that can backfire on you if met with spot removal like auras All That Glitters and Ensoul Artifact.
The rest is up to you! If you want to pick up Affinity in Highlander hopefully this primer is a good place to start. If you have any further questions or feedback you can contact me via twitter or though the 7 Point Highlander Discord.