Hello, everyone. My name is Andrew Dang. I placed 67th in Grand Prix Las Vegas playing an Affinity build of my own design with Bomat Courier. I began experimenting with Courier soon after the release of Kaladesh, and initial results led me to believe the card had promise. After nine months of testing and honing my list, I managed to 12-3 the main event in Vegas (with no byes). Today I'll recount the long and arduous journey I embarked on to reinvent Affinity, and what I learned along the way. Before getting into the tournament itself, I'll explain how I arrived at my list and discuss my approach to major matchups.
The main reason Bomat Courier was even remotely on my radar was due to the age-old debate of Thoughtcast vs. Galvanic Blast. For those unfamiliar with this debate, Affinity has always been very tight on colored mana sources, which means a limited number of slots for non-artifacts. Galvanic Blast looks to close out games faster by removing blockers and providing burn-based reach. Whereas the advantage of Thoughtcast is that it makes your longer games more consistent, at the cost of slowing down your deck.
Players have gone back and forth on which card is better positioned, and it can depend on both metagame and personal preference. My thought was to see if Bomat Courier could do a fine enough impression of both cards to take over the slot.
Developing Bomat Affinity
While my current list plays 4 Bomat Courier alongside 4 Galvanic Blast, this was not always the case. I originally began with a standard Master of Etherium list, cutting the four colored slots for Bomat Courier. I found that Bomat Courier would usually average out to be two cards and 2 damage. Imagine all of the upside of Thoughtcast while dealing 2 damage at the cost of just one additional red mana!
After these initial tests, I started to opt for a more aggressive build, even trying Simian Spirit Guide to accelerate the extremely aggressive turn-one hands. This proved to be a bit too reliant on opening with the small threats like Signal Pest and Bomat Courier, and too weak to longer game plans. I wasn't ready to give up yet, though. While the stock lists of Affinity have always merited their place in the Modern meta, after all this testing I felt that the deck could be improved immensely with the introduction of Bomat Courier. So back to the drawing board it was.
Then a good friend of mine recommended trying Galvanic Blasts alongside Bomat Courier. The pairing of reach with the explosive starts of Bomat Courier, mixed in with the normal opening hands of 3-4 artifacts on turn one, proved to be a match made in heaven. Stock Affinity often runs into the problem of the opponent stabilizing with 6-7 life. With the inclusion of Bomat Courier, this was rarely what happened. Instead they would “stabilize” at 3-4, well in range of Galvanic Blast and Blinkmoth Nexus damage.
Bomat Courier is an extremely relevant threat in every stage of the game. Early it gets in chip damage and threatens to draw tons of cards if left alone. Late-game a hasty Courier off the top can attack for lethal with a Cranial Plating, or help swarm around blockers. As it's often a lightning rod for removal, it can also pave the way for your other creatures to break through.
Making Room for Courier
-2 Master of Etherium. Typically I found that Master of Etherium would get destroyed for one mana (aka with Fatal Push). Affinity is extremely concerned with mana efficiency and board development, so losing your three-drop for so little investment from the opponent was a serious problem. Bomat Courier would offer the same trade while leaving two mana open, which could be used to drop more threats or animate a Blinkmoth Nexus.
-1 Steel Overseer. Overseer is typically the worst threat in Affinity. It does nothing the turn it comes down, and usually just dies. Absolutely horrible card—left unattended it can win games, but we are in the format of Fatal Push and Lightning Bolt.
-1 Land. The deck did not really need the additional land as it was too low to the ground, less prone to flooding, and more densely packed with threats.
Here is the final package I registered for the Grand Prix:
Match-ups and Sideboarding
Whether Grixis or Jund, the Death's Shadow matchup plays out pretty similarly, with Jund having a higher threat potential. Either way focus on card advantage while drawing their removal away from the serious threats, aka Etched Champion and Cranial Plating. Ideally Bomat Courier should be the first play of the game, because it allows you to passively generate advantage that can accumulate and take over games.
The name of the game is racing. These games are extremely dependent on whether your opponent fetches and shocks, or has the ability to retain their life total through basics. If so, go for infect kills with Arcbound Ravager and Inkmoth Nexus. If they fetch and shock, go for faster kills with Cranial Plating and Signal Pest combined with Bomat Couriers.
Again this is a race. Your end goal is similar, except these games will typically involve drawing multiple cards off of Bomat Courier. Focus on card advantage and dealing damage in quick succession before they can get Tron online. These lists typically do not play Oblivion Stone, so rain the aggression on them.
This becomes a great matchup with the inclusion of Bomat Courier. Navigation around their namesake card is everything. Keep some creature threats in your hand so that you can discard them as part of Bomat Courier’s effect. Reanimating two Etched Champions and a Vault Skirge while drawing four cards with Bomat Courier feels amazing, not to mention that it will come back to join the party as well. Remember to do this in response to Living End going on the stack and not in response to the cascade trigger, so they can't choose to whiff. This match is also won with Arcbound Ravager.
Dangerous matchup. Galvanic Blasts are used to kill their creatures here, typically the combo pieces. Spot removal won’t be enough for later stages of the game. Go for damage and kill them ASAP.
Drop their life total to 0 or infect them out—your choice, but race is the pace. Decent matchup post-board. Game one is definitely winnable if you can kill their creature(s).
Race, definitely in your favor both pre- and post-board. Watch out for their creatures because those can rack up damage very fast. Vault Skirge makes these games easy. Bomat Courier offers race potential, and fliers are hard for them to deal with.
-2 Steel Overseer (You should be noticing a trend.)
The important thing in the BGx matchup is to make sure your threats connect and don't meet a removal spell without giving you some kind of advantage. The two best tools you have are Cranial Plating, which hits for enormous chunks of damage, and Etched Champion, which can win single-handedly. Don't deploy either of these threats until it's safe. For Champion that means with metalcraft turned on, whereas for Plating you'll want to bait out artifact removal and try to land it when you know it's good for at least one hit.
Bomat Courier will likely open a gap in their defenses due to the threat of card advantage. Play out Steel Overseer or Arcbound Ravager with the idea that these will die. Do not fight too aggressively over their removal unless lethal is one turn away.
(Against Abzan also bring in enchantment removal due to the threat of Stony Silence).
While Steel Overseer is a target for removal, post-board that's the only thing it's good for. The mana investment starts to get steep in the battle for marginal advantages—better to remove their blockers and get in damage where possible.
Incremental damage is important against this style of deck. Their first few turns will be focused on slowing down your plays with small counters and bits of removal while sculpting a better hand. Out of UW Control, their board wipe will typically come down on turn four. Push damage and prioritize card advantage for Bomat Courier.
From Grixis, Kolaghan's Command is the larger threat. However, play so that you can connect with a large attack on turn four, after the initial resolution of Kolaghan's Command. This is typically when their guard is down, or when they deploy their own threat. Hold up the card advantage that Bomat Courier can produce.
Round 1: Living End
Game 2: I start with Bomat Courier. He casts Living End on turn four, after missing a land drop, when I have two Etched Champions and a Vault Skirge in hand. In response, I sacrifice Bomat Courier and attack back for lethal with a Cranial Plating and the Etched Champions.
Round 2: Elves
Game 2: I mulligan to four, and do not see colored mana for my Ethersworn Canonist to slow him down.
Round 3: Burn?
I do not recall what deck he was playing, possibly Burn. Either way the match was short.
Game 1: I have a fast game with Cranial Plating, killing him on turn four.
Round 4: Grixis Death Shadow
Game 2: I am on the draw again, however Cranial Plating pulls most of the aggressive artifact destruction like Kolaghan's Command. Bomat Courier shines in this game as it ends up being based on attrition. He empties my hand with discard spells and kills both my Ravager and Vault Skirge. But with Bomat Courier out on turn one gaining advantage every turn, I'm able to recover by cashing it in for a new hand.
Round 5: Grixis Death Shadow
Game 1: Opponent mulligans to four, with no early discard spells. I land an Etched Champion he can't deal with.
Game 3: Luckily enough I get to play Bomat Courier on turn one, and generate a threat each turn thereafter. He has to deal with the other threats, like Signal Pest and Cranial Plating, and it allows for Bomat Courier to bring me back into the game.
Round 6: Eldrazi Tron
Game 1: Good match-up. I am able to establish the board before he can, and kill him after a Reality Smasher tap-out.
Game 2: Sadly the opponent can’t get on board fast enough as he draws Tron too late with Thought-Knot Seer hitting nothing. I have Cranial Plating and attack for 11 in that turn and he cannot recover.
Round 7: Amulet Titan (Chris Loukopoulos)
Funny story, this match was for a Day 2 win-and-in. I end up getting matched up against one of my friends from our local game store.
Game 1: My hand is amazing but he has three Amulet of Vigors and kills me on turn two with an insane combo of Azuza, Lost but Seeking and three Titans.
Game 2: I am able to get under his threats and kill him quickly after landing a Blood Moon, with him having no green for enchantment removal at the time.
Game 3: He effectively ends the game by popping an Engineered Explosives on two to clear the board. It comes at the cost of destroying two of his own lands (Gemstone Mines), and tapping out. That gives me room to cast a Blood Moon again, which his deck cannot handle.
Round 8: BG Rock
Game 1: He is never able to establish a threat without me removing it. Bomat Courier digs me deeper and chips in damage very well this game. The game ends with Dark Confidant’s flip for three on a Liliana when I have a Blinkmoth Nexus for lethal.
Round 9: Jund Shadow (Hao-Shan Huang)
Game 1: This was an amazing first game, one that I will remember for a very long time. My opponent was an amazing player with very intricate thinking, seeing many turns down the line.
I am able to create pressure on top of the damage that he deals to himself. He has very precise movements and impressive decision making. The board is stalled when I have two Galvanic Blasts, but he is able to turn off metalcraft for one of them. The second is turned back on with my Blinkmoth Nexus and an attack for lethal.
Game 2: He keeps a one-land hand with Mishra's Bauble, Fatal Push, and discard. I have turn-one Bomat Courier, but he respects it and Fatal Pushes it immediately. Next turn he passes without a land, after making me discard my Arcbound Ravager. I have Inkmoth Nexuses plus a Signal Pest to end the game when he misses another land.
Round 10: RG Tron
Game 1: He gets early Tron and Karn Liberated starts annihilating my hand and board.
Game 2: Turn-two Cranial Plating equipped and attacking; he cannot stabilize.
Round 11: Eldrazi Tron
Game 1: He has a slow start, and I can get underneath his threats. By the time he would stabilize he is one turn away from lethal.
Game 2: He keeps a turn-three Tron with Expedition Map, but I kill through poison after he gets Tron and cannot disrupt me enough.
Round 12: Affinity
Games 1 and 2: Both games Bomat Courier gets me enough for lethal infect, after he taps out to play a creature. Game one it's a Master of Etherium with no flier, and game two it's an Arcbound Ravager he taps his Blinkmoth Nexus to cast.
Round 13: Eldrazi Tron
Game 2: I punt like crazy and play into Walking Ballista.
Game 3: I get him to two life but cannot close out the game with his Chalice of the Void on one.
Round 14: Abzan (Lukas Blohan)
Game 2: I have two Cranial Platings with Vault Skirge, but Lingering Souls start to block very well. He punts slightly not leaving enough blockers for the attack back with my Blinkmoth Nexus for lethal.
Round 15: Bant Humans
Game 2: He gets board control and huge Human threats.
Game 3: I mulligan to four with no land, but two Mox Opals, a Bomat Courier and Springleaf Drum. I draw a land two turns in but by that point it is too late. Nevertheless, he has three Path of Exiles for any creature I play and I cannot come back.
Bomat Courier was amazing for me during the whole tournament. It stole several games back after a string of removal had taken care of my more pressing threats. Another thing I noticed was the constant decision-making it forced on both players. Even so much as playing lands in an order to hide the fact that you have access to red mana changes the way you sequence your plays.
I think Bomat Courier should definitely see more play in the future. I took on many strong players and can honestly attribute many of my wins to Bomat. Give it a try, and decide if it is for you.