Shrapnel Blast is pretty sweet too.
I’m sure a lot of people have seen the immediate impact that [mtg_card]Hangarback Walker[/mtg_card] has had on Standard, and there have been murmurs of it being a broken card in Modern Affinity as well. I’m not the type to play the kind of decks that would play Hangarback in Standard, but I’ve been known to cast a [mtg_card]Cranial Plating[/mtg_card] or two in Modern, and when I considered what I wanted to play at the Charlotte Open, it seemed like I was pulling from my Standard binder a lot more than usual.
As I sat in my room and pondered my deck choice for the weekend, I had a few options presented to me. Merfolk, while appealing, was a deck that I didn’t have a whole lot of time spent playing. Affinity was my other choice, but even then I had multiple routes I could take with the deck. It occurred to me that I could go the safe route and play the tried-and-true list, or I could go the sweet route. “Do I want to just concede my matchups to [mtg_card]Splinter Twin[/mtg_card] and Infect and play [mtg_card]Shrapnel Blast[/mtg_card]?” These matchups are already miserably bad for the deck as it is, and I had been trying to combat that with things like mainboarded [mtg_card]Spellskite[/mtg_card]s and stuff, but it just felt like it wasn’t giving me enough of an edge to really be worth considering anymore. Affinity isn’t the type of deck that you can reasonably achieve 50/50 matchups against everything. All of these things were registering to me as I absentmindedly flipped through my binder hoping to find a decent answer. And then I saw them. I had Hangarbacks and [mtg_card]Shrapnel Blast[/mtg_card]s sleeved into my binder from a few days prior when I thought about playing them in Standard.
As I sat thinking about the implications of playing these cards in my deck, and the cuts I would have to make to be able to fit both of them, I realized just how little I had to give up. So I wasn’t playing [mtg_card]Spellskite[/mtg_card]s or [mtg_card]Welding Jar[/mtg_card]s in the main anymore, but I got to have hands where I could just randomly kill my opponent from 10 at instant speed. It was very similar to a list that Mary Jacobson was playing years ago when Modern first came out as a format at GP Lincoln. She was playing 4 [mtg_card]Shrapnel Blast[/mtg_card]s, and 4 [mtg_card]Galvanic Blast[/mtg_card]s. I always thought the deck was sweet, and now was the time to give it a shot since we had a really cool and interactive new toy.
I’m going to post both my list and Mary’s list mostly just to illustrate the similarities. Obviously I have some newer sideboard tech because new cards have come out since her list, but the idea is pretty much the same: Kill your opponent as quickly as possible.
|Shrapnel Blast Affinity
4 [mtg_card]Vault Skirge[/mtg_card]
4 [mtg_card]Arcbound Ravager[/mtg_card]
4 [mtg_card]Signal Pest[/mtg_card]
3 [mtg_card]Hangarback Walker[/mtg_card]
3 [mtg_card]Etched Champion[/mtg_card]
4 [mtg_card]Cranial Plating[/mtg_card]
4 [mtg_card]Springleaf Drum[/mtg_card]
4 [mtg_card]Galvanic Blast[/mtg_card]
4 [mtg_card]Shrapnel Blast[/mtg_card]
4 [mtg_card]Mox Opal[/mtg_card]
4 [mtg_card]Darksteel Citadel[/mtg_card]
4 [mtg_card]Blinkmoth Nexus[/mtg_card]
4 [mtg_card]Inkmoth Nexus[/mtg_card]
3 [mtg_card]Ghirapur Aether Grid[/mtg_card]
3 [mtg_card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/mtg_card]
2 [mtg_card]Grafdigger’s Cage[/mtg_card]
2 [mtg_card]Ancient Grudge[/mtg_card]
2 [mtg_card]Blood Moon[/mtg_card]
1 [mtg_card]Etched Champion[/mtg_card]
Despite being absolutely infatuated with her deck the first time I saw it, I now know that there were some fundamental problems with the list. Cutting Ravagers in any amount in basically any Affinity list is wrong, the card is so integral to the deck that I couldn’t imagine playing less than the full four. I do, however, like playing more than one basic land. It made more sense in her list than it would have in mine (since I have a lot of colored spells in my sideboard and she didn’t) but even if it’s wrong, I think [mtg_card]Path to Exile[/mtg_card] is a beating when you play your basic. Your opponent can basically acknowledge that their [mtg_card]Path to Exile[/mtg_card] has basically become [mtg_card]Swords to Plowshares[/mtg_card].
While I didn’t get to live the dream and Ravager a bunch of counters onto my Hangarback this weekend, (Spoiler alert: when you try to play one of those cards while the other one is on board, your opponent ALWAYS has a response that rhymes with Wightling Wolt.) I did get to have some other really interesting interactions where [mtg_card]Shrapnel Blast[/mtg_card]ing my opponent at end of turn and getting two or three thopters presented lethal. If you think people hate doing Ravager combat math, they’re going to hate you even more once you reveal that they now have to do another layer of combat math when you play Hangarback.
I started out strong at 3-0, and unfortunately lost my feature match to hit 3-1 before even more unfortunately having my deck stolen in between rounds, but despite that I think the deck had a really unique and powerful angle with which to attack the metagame. You weren’t trying to interact with your opponent’s plan nearly as much as you would in a postboard game with a normal Affinity list, and likewise your opponent’s hate cards didn’t matter as much because you could play around things like [mtg_card]Ancient Grudge[/mtg_card] pretty easily by holding up [mtg_card]Shrapnel Blast[/mtg_card].
Hangarbro really put in some overtime in my games, specifically games where opponent’s couldn’t decide whether they should be bolting him or not. Even letting him sit on 1 counter seemed miserable for them since they were effectively 2 for 1’ing themselves if they killed him. The look of frustration from my opponent was something I came to be familiar with whenever I played the card. He really did everything I needed the rest of the cards in the deck to do; he was a great sac target, he forced my opponents to attack in ways that respected his ability to become hasty 1/1 flyers, and he overall just left my opponents with a lot more ways to misplay, which is something that Arcbound Ravager has been notorious for doing for years. So thanks, Hangarbro, for holding down the fort while I fist pumped my way to victory. You are the real MVP, here’s a Natty Ice and a collared Polo.
With Modern season winding down, I’m a little disappointed that I won’t be able to put a ton of hours into testing the list, but I do look forward to cocking the shotgun and seeing if I can hit my target for next season.