Standard Blackstaff Affinity Deck Guide: Beating Standard with a Stick
Hello Planeswalkers, I am The MTG Hero, and I wanted to continue my exploration of the tier 2 of Standard and continue my efforts to innovate and improve a meta that has grown somewhat stale. Before we jump into it, I have to say that just because a deck is “tier 2” does not necessarily mean it is bad. It just means that it might take a bit more skill and understanding of matchups to pilot than some other decks.
Forgotten Realms brought artifacts a lot of new support that has been overlooked. Recently, I stumbled across an artifact aggro deck that was reminiscent of the Ensoul Artifact deck that almost dominated a Pro Tour and took over standard until it rotated out. I wanted to play it since that was one of my favorite decks back in the day, and I was not disappointed.
The New Cards
The Blackstaff of Waterdeep makes this deck functional. As mentioned, it is comparable to Ensoul Artifact which was a powerful enchantment several years ago and some Affinity players in Modern still like to run it due to how ridiculous it can be in several matchups. Turning a Gingerbrute or a Silver Raven into a large threat with evasion is insane and can end games quickly.
Also, it doesn’t have to target a creature. It can turn any artifact into a 4/4. This gives the deck a way to recover from sweepers and end games against an opponent who is low or out of removal.
Ingenious Smith is certainly a standout. The ability to dig for a card on a body is already powerful, as it allows us to find our support cards like Blackstaff easily. But Smith also grows every turn we play an artifact, making it a solid threat.
Silver Raven may not look like much, but it is a flying threat that can be turn into a huge problem for the opponent when supported by The Blackstaff and All That Glitters. The scry effect is great at finding our support cards.
One thing that drove me nuts about Glass Casket is that if you were not on the play, it was far too slow to deal with a Jaspera Sentinel. This is where Portable Hole steps in. Giving White a 1-mana removal spell really helped. This gives white decks a way to get out on the board and while interacting with the opponent early and taking care of troublesome 1-drops.
This might be my favorite tier 2 deck that I would comfortably register at a big event.
Here it is, Standard Affinity:
This looks solid to me! No wasted space just how I like it. For threats we have Gingerbrute, Silver Raven, and Stonecoil Serpent, which are all serious threats when boosted by a Blackstaff or All that Glitters since they all have some form of evasion or trample.
For removal we have the old reliable in Glass Casket and Giant Killer and Portable Hole. These are fantastic at getting around common place threats like Anax, Seasoned Hallowblade and opposing Stonecoils since they exile.
To buff our threats, we have All that Glitters and The Blackstaff of Waterdeep as mentioned above. A singleton copy of Shadowspear gives us a way to gain life and give a threat trample if it doesn’t already have it. Any of these pump effects make any creature we have a serious threat. The Blackstaff is interesting because it can turn any artifact into a 4/4. So even if we brick, we can turn a Shadowspear or a Glass Casket into a serious threat. I have won several games against Sultai by casting a Casket with no target and then turning it into a 4/4 the following turn and bashing away.
In the sideboard we have a ton of counterspells. This makes our deck very deadly versus slower decks as we can cleanly swap out our removal for ways to interact with the opponent. It may look odd having Weathered Runestone and Drannith Magistrate in the board together as they overlap to a degree. But Magistrate is good against adventure decks where Runestone is not. While Runestone is good against Winota, while Magistrate is useless in that matchup. However, they both overlap against Sultai, which is excellent requiring different types of removal to deal with. Sure, Binding the Old Gods takes care of both, but that is just more reason to have ways of stopping the dreaded Ultimatum.
Cards Not Included
This card is a perfect mix between Birthing Pod and Tinker. Both are powerful effects. But standard just has so much removal right now that I can’t justify playing this card. I tried it in a more midrange build with Emry. But it was far to slow and spent so much time searching and tinkering that it couldn’t win because the opponent would get out on the board and run me over.
Read above in case you missed it.
This was my original answer to control decks. But sadly, I rarely used it. In a large majority of games where I would use its effect, I was already so far behind it couldn’t catch me up and tied up mana so I could rarely double cast both new cards in the same turn so I was in the same situation I would be in only drawing a single card.
Tips and Tricks
As mentioned, The Blackstaff of Waterdeep can turn any artifact into a 4/4, not just creatures.
If you use The Blackstaff on a Stonecoil Serpent it will become a base 4/4 with the additional counter added on top of it. So, a 2/2 Stonecoil becomes a 6/6 with The Blackstaff.
In some cases, it might be correct to play a Stonecoil for 0 if you control multiple Ingenious Smith to get triggers.
Remember: TREASURE VAULT IS AN ARTIFACT.
Matchups and Sideboard Guide
|+2 Weathered Runestone||-3 Giant Killer|
|+2 Disdainful Stroke||-3 Portable Hole|
|+2 Negate||-4 Glass Casket|
|+2 Drannith Magistrate|
|+2 Mystical Dispute|
We are of course the beatdown here. Early on they don’t really do anything other than try to ramp up. We need to capitalize here and beat them down. Watch out for sweepers and get in as much as you can. Post sweeper you can use The Blackstaff or Cave of the Frost Dragon to keep the pressure on.
Post board we bring in Magistrate and Runestone since it stops Ultimatum. We bring in all our counters to stop their troublesome spells so we might not be tapping out as much post-board. To make room for all of these cards, we cut Giant Killer as it is basically useless. Sure, it kills a Yorion or whatever. But we need to be more aggressive. If we are staring down more than one big creature and our opponent isn’t in kill range, then we are losing that game anyway. Equally, Glass Casket and Portable Hole have no real targets, so just cut them.
This matchup can be and usually is difficult. We don’t have any escape spells worth playing to shut them off. Basically, don’t die, try to win the best you can. Post-board Silver Raven is useless. I bring in Both removal spells and Disputes since it is the best counter we have here.
Mono Red is still hanging on as always. In this matchup we play the control deck again if we can. I will always try to save one removal spell for Anax if possible, as it is their biggest threat. Post-board we bring in our two removal spells and Disenchant since it takes out Anax and a flashed in Embercleave.
With this matchup you just control the board the best you can, prioritizing non-human creatures since they trigger Winota. Try to be as controlling as possible. Post-board I cut Silver Raven since it can be blocked by Jaspera Sentinel and Gingerbrute can only really be blocked by the Hamster token.
We bring in all available removal in Giant Killer and Portable Hole. Weathered Runestone shuts down Winota hard, so it is our ace. Generally, I want to have either Runestone or a Giant Killer Ready and I will never tap out with a Giant Killer in hand when they can cast Winota.
|+1 Giant Killer||-4 Silver Raven|
|+1 Portable Hole||-4 Gingerbrute|
|+2 Drannith Magistrate|
Here we really play the control deck because if they cast a Stomp from Bonecrusher Giant and then play the it the following turn, that is basically a 2-for-1 for them. When it trades with a creature of ours, and if they have Edgewall Innkeeper or The Great Henge online, they will win that all day.
Post-board we cut our aggressive 1-drops; they just won’t go the distance here. We bring in our removal, a few counters in Negate, which are surprisingly effective since if we counter an Adventure spell, they lose the ability to cast the creature later, while also handling bigger spells like The Great Henge.
So, what makes this matchup difficult is Prismari Command. It is basically an Instant 2-for-1 making this our hardest matchup. Thankfully, we do have counters and they generally only play two commands. So, it isn’t terrible.
Giant Killer does a great job at taking out the Dragons and Bonecrusher Giants, then tapping them down. Glass Casket and Portable Hole have no real targets. Sure, Casket stops a Bonecrusher, but that’s normally not what is beating me. If we weather the storm early, play a conservative game and deal with their threats effectively, then we can win.
I think this deck is probably one of the better tier 2 decks and my personal choice if I took a non-meta game deck to a tournament. I know a lot of old school affinity players will love this deck. It has speed on its side with cool, unique, and interesting interactions while still interacting with the opponent giving it a tempo feel post board. I don’t know what more you could ask for!
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Until next time Planeswalkers, Hero out!!!