mtg icon Magic: The Gathering
mtg icon Magic: The Gathering

Pauper Affinity Deck Primer

Affinity has been one of the top decks in Pauper for a very long time. The deck has survived countless bans (most recently; Atog & Disciple of the vault) and yet it is still one of the best strategies in the format. This article will take an in-depth look at the current configuration of the deck, go over the important card choices, discuss some tips and tricks and provide a sideboard guide against the other top decks of the Pauper format!

Current Decklist

grixis affinity
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Game Plan

As the deck’s name suggests, the strategy is to use the keyword ability Affinity to “cheat” creatures into play for reduced costs (possibly even free in later turns) and accumulate card advantage with efficient draw spells to overrun the opponent. Now, we will look at the fundamentals of this deck and how it can achieve those conditions.


First, let’s take a look at the manabase since it’s the foundation of most magic decks. In order to best take an advantage of the Affinity mechanic, all lands we play are artifact lands. We have a combination of tapped dual lands and single color untapped lands. The duals come with the disadvantage of entering the battlefield tapped but gain indestructible which helps a lot versus common sideboard cards such as Gorilla Shaman to prevent all your lands from being blown up. Before the printing of the dual artifact lands in MH1, one of the main methods to beat Affinity was destroying their lands until they ran out of them (It is still possible now with exile effects, but they are not that prevalent as they are mostly only in White decks, for example Dust to dust). Due to these tapped artifact duals, Affinity is now more resilient to destroy effects artifact effects. We still also play the original untapped artifact lands so the deck doesn’t struggle in the early game especially on the draw but in a much smaller quantity compared to pre-MH1.


Affinity’s main threats are the ones that best take advantage of the Affinity mechanic (Frogmite and Myr Enforcer). They are not the strongest creatures when you look only at their stats, but they shine in this deck due to the mana-cost reduction. This allows you to spend your mana on card advantage first and then cast all your creatures for cheaper after you draw them.

Frogmite‘s 2/2 stat-line with no evasion is not ideal but if you get them early for free they serve a vital role when playing against fast decks like Kuldotha Red which is the most played deck right now. Versus Kuldotha, Frogmite helps to stabilizing faster, control the board early and hopefully eventually gaining some life back with Reckoner's bargain. The matchup against Kuldotha is a lot harder if your list is off Frogmite.

Aside from the main Affinity threats, we also play a singleton copies of Kenku Artificer and Gurmag Angler. Artificer can make an indestructible land into a flying 3/3 (it keeps indestructible) which some decks struggle against or can’t even get rid of it. The reason we only play 1 is due to the 3 mana-cost being a bit too steep sometimes. Gurmag Angler is just pretty free as a 1-of. The card takes place of a 5th big creature together with Myr Enforcers. The deck is able to fill the graveyard quite fast with its’ sacrifice card advantage spells but some hands could get a bit awkward if you drew multiple copies of Gurmag, so for that reason we have only one.

Card Advantage

Another reason Affinity is so strong is its’ ability to accumulate a lot of cards. The deck takes advantage of another Affinity card Thoughtcast that lets you draw 2 cards for as cheap as one single blue mana. Deadly Dispute and Reckoner's Bargain with the combination of Ichor Wellspring or Chromatic star allow you to draw 3 cards for 2 mana while also gaining life or creating a treasure token. With these cards, Affinity is able to get ahead of the opponent early and bury them in late game as well.

Removal and Interaction

The deck’s main and only removal spell Galvanic Blast also takes an advantage of artifacts with the ability metalcraft. Achieving metalcraft is really easy with Affinity. It is able to kill the majority of creatures in the format with an obvious exception being Dimir terrors threats. It is also quite commonly pointed at the opponent’s face to finish them off in the form of a burn spell.

The other card that could be counted as a removal spell is Krark-Clan Shaman. It can be used as a board wipe when the game stalls for a few turns because of a big board-state. It is best against small creature as it can kill them with only sacrificing one or two artifacts (for example tokens from Kuldotha Rebirth). Be aware that it only deals damage to non-flying creatures.

Metallic Rebuke is our catch-all counterspell to deal with anything we want to prevent our opponent from resolving. It can get a bit tough to get it online fast but with the right combination of cards you are able to cast it by turn 2.


Now I will go over individual sideboard card choices; why are they in the sideboard and when do they come in.


The text on this card is straightforward – we want it when we expect problematic red cards like Gorilla Shaman or Red decks that we need to slow down such as Kuldotha Red.


Following the same principle as Hydroblast, Pyroblast comes in vs Blue decks. Since there are more Blue decks than Red decks in current Pauper, Pyroblast is sided in more often than Hydroblast. Out of the top decks, Pyroblast is best utilized against Faeries, Dimir Terror, Azorius Gates and Familiars. Most lists play 3 copies of Pyroblast but due to the increase of Mono Blue Faeries in recent events, I currently play 4.

Gorilla Shaman

Gorilla Shaman is basically only wanted for mirror matches but Affinity is one the most played decks so having a few copies of this card is very helpful. For only 1 mana, you can Stone Rain any of their untapped (single colored) artifact lands at instant speed. You get to develop your board while stripping the opponent off their resources. This provides you with a huge early advantage that can be hard for them to overcome.

Nihil Spellbomb

A good card against most grindy matchups. Most of the grindy decks in the format use the graveyard to their advantage in some sense. For example, Affinity uses Blood Fountain to get back creatures and Dimir Terror cheats big creatures for reduced costs like Gurmag Angler and Tolarian Terror. Nihil Spellbomb lets us deny those strategies while also replacing itself by drawing a card. This is exactly what we want in those matchups. A single copy is enough because you don’t often want to draw more than one in a given game.

Krark-Clan Shaman

While we do play a few of these in the main-deck, we add another copy of Krark-Clan Shaman in the sideboard to bring in against annoying creature tokens. The main deck we want it against is Kuldotha Red but it is also very strong against Bogles since the damage doesn’t target so it can kill a Slippery Bogle or Gladecover Scout before it spirals out of control with enchantments.


Negate is a good catch-all card against hard to deal with non-creature spells. The most common card that comes to mind we want it against is Dust to Dust or potentially other non-creature spells that we can’t afford to resolve. Not all lists play Negate, and those who do normally play 2 but I didn’t feel it was as useful as 4th Pyroblast in this meta.

Chainer’s Edict

Chainer's Edict is a clean and efficient removal spell against Tolarian Terror and other big creatures Galvanic Blast cannot kill. It also majorly helps against Bogles.

Tips and Tricks

  • Reckoner's bargain can stabilize you against aggro decks by gaining life when you sacrifice your big creatures to it.
  • If you are in a situation when you have 4 artifacts, a single non-Blue land and a Chromatic Star you can announce to cast Thoughtcast and sacrifice the star to filter your mana into Blue and cast it only for a single Blue mana this way.

Sideboard Guide

Now let’s a look at my Affinity sideboard guide with extra tips on how to navigate the matchups!

Kuldotha Red

+4 Hydroblast-2 Blood Fountain
+1 Krark-Clan Shaman-1 Makeshift Munitions
-1 Metallic Rebuke
-1 Kenku Artificer

In this matchup, we want to stabilize as fast as possible to prevent the opponent from killing us. We have a better card advantage engine than them so we should be winning the long game. Krark-Clan Shaman is an all-star in this matchup being able to kill all their threats without much cost. Reckoner's bargain can gain you up to 7 life when you sacrifice a Myr enforcer with it – make sure to try to save it for this interaction since it will make their game-plan of burning you a lot more difficult. Prioritize to keep fast hands rather than slow durdle hands that don’t do much in the early turns because that is where the outcome of the game is mostly decided.

Dimir Terror

+4 Pyroblast
-4 Galvanic Blast
+2 Chainer's edict-2 Krark-Clan Shaman
+1 Nihil Spellbomb-1 Makeshift Munitions

Blood Fountain is the best card in this matchup, it lets us buy back 2 creatures which line up quite well at blocking their threats. Prioritize making sure it resolves by playing around Spell pierce or baiting out a Counterspell on other less relevant spells.

Affinity (Mirror)

+4 Hydroblast
-4 Frogmite
+2 Gorilla Shaman-2 Krark-Clan Shaman
+1 Nihil Spellbomb-1 Makeshift Munitions

The mirror-match tends to get very grindy. Most of our threats trade one for one so accumulating more cards is a good way to gain an upper hand on the opponent. Gorilla Shaman is very strong since it can deprive the opponent of mana while we can still develop our board and cards. Hydroblast comes in to counter their Gorilla shamans but it can also be used to save a creature from a Galvanic Blast.

Mono Blue Faeries

+4 Pyroblast-2 Krark-Clan Shaman
-2 Metallic Rebuke

Try to keep hands that can interact with them early, because you can get locked under a Ninja of the deep hours really fast. Faeries plays a lot of Counterspells but is often limited on mana. When you want your cards to resolve, try to cast multiple spells in one turn or on their endstep to force them to tap out before the spells you care about resolving most are cast.


+4 Pyroblast
-3 Frogmite
+1 Nihil Spellbomb-2 Krark-Clan Shaman
+1 Negate-1 Makeshift Munitions

You want to win as fast as possible before they can get their card draw engine setup, because it is better than ours. Make killing Sunscape Familiar your priority, because it is their best and only enabler. Post-board be wary of Dust to dust – they usually play a full set of 4 in their sideboard. It is also good to counter their card advantage creatures like Mulldrifter and Archaeomancer, because they can get additional benefits from being able to flicker them.

Mono White Aggro

+1 Krark-Clan Shaman-1 Blood Fountain
Try to not let Mono White get a wide board. Their cards let them block for days and eventually they will setup a kill with flying 1/1s and Guardians' Pledge. Remember that Krark-Clan Shaman doesn’t kill their flying threats, but they still play a lot of non-flying creatures, which Krark-Clan Shaman can help clean up.

Naya Gates

No Changes

Put all your effort into not giving them time to setup a clock with Basilisk gate. It’s their only meaningful way of killing you fast. Aside from that most of our threats are bigger than theirs so it should not be that hard to get in damage and apply pressure.

Orzhov Midrange

No Changes

Like us, Orzhov also has good card generation so this matchup becomes quite grindy. We don’t care about most of their small creatures but Goliath Paladin is scary. We have a hard time getting rid off it and they have an easy way of getting the initiative back. Try to get under them so Goliath Paladin is not as beneficial for them otherwise they will outrun you with large creatures.

Gruul Midrange

+2 Chainer's edict-1 Krark-Clan Shaman
-1 Makeshift Munitions

We don’t have many sideboard cards for this matchup, but Chainer's edict is slightly better than the cards we board out. We are able to kill most of their creatures with Galvanic blasts but they are able to play them early to provide fast pressure. The creature we are scared of the most it Avenging hunter because it can easily steal the game on its’ own and become hard to kill if left on the board for a single turn.

Fog Tron

+4 Pyroblast-2 Krark-Clan Shaman
+1 Negate-2 Blood Fountain
+1 Nihil Spellbomb-1 Reckoner's Bargain
-1 Kenku Artificer

Fog Tron is favored in the matchup. Focus on killing them fast before they can cast their important spells and lock you out of the game. Pyroblast counters a lot of their important spells including: Mystical Teachings, Ghostly Flicker, Mnemonic Wall and Mulldrifter. Nihil Spellbomb is also worth bringing in to interact with their graveyard combos.


+1 Krark-Clan Shaman-1 Kenku artificer
+1 Negate-1 Makeshift munitions

Against Walls, you want to stop them from generating mana which in turn limits their card engines before it can get out of hand. Focus your removal on their mana positive creatures (Overgrown Battlement and Axebane Guardian) to keep them short on mana for their payoffs and not allow them to setup their infinite combos. Krark-Clan Shaman can wipe the whole board if it gets out of control which often just shuts them out of the game, being unable to rebuild in time before you kill them.


+2 Chainer's edict
-4 Galvanic Blast
+1 Negate
+1 Krark-Clan Shaman

This matchup is quite straightforward. Try to kill their creatures before they get too big, though this is obviously difficult pre-board as our only effective removal are 2 Krark-Clan Shaman due to all their creatures having Hexproof. Post-board the games are similar, try to keep hands that can interact with them at least slightly while also being able to provide pressure. Be aware that they often board into Freewind Falcon which we can kill only with Chainer's edict.

The end

Thank you for reading the guide to this point! I hope it helped you with learning this powerful deck. Good luck in your future games! If you liked this article you can also follow me on twitter!

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