Affinity in Modern has been in a sort of lull lately. Little improvements have been made to the archetype as the format has become increasingly more hostile to it. Even when Affinity itself is not a significant threat, people will always be prepared to deal with whatever boon the deck may offer. There are enough relevant artifact-based archetypes (largely thanks to Ancient Stirrings) that artifact hate will always be present and plentiful in sideboards. These combined factors have caused us to see less and less Affinity in recent months—as usual though, Affinity finds a way to persist.
Hardened Scales Affinity isn't a completely new archetype; it's been around for a while now. From memory and what little tidbits I could find, it appears to have garnered more attention in early 2017. That said, it never really gained steam as a real contender and it seems like for the most part no one really considered it as good or better than traditional Affinity. Fast forward to the MOCS playoff on August 11th—three copies of Hardened Scales Affinity went 7-0 after what felt like a multiple-month drought for Affinity at large. So what changed?
Well... maybe nothing. It's possible that this could just be a flash in the pan. Yes, two Pro Tour 25th Anniversary contenders did opt to play this variant of Affinity, which likely brought some extra attention to the archetype, and this strong showing in the MOCS playoff is a good sign. But by no means do we have enough representation to say with any certainty that Hardened Scales is here to stay.
However, I do think it shows some promise. With the format being so hostile towards artifact-based strategies, having access to Nature's Claim and Natural State is a big deal. Traditional Affinity has found ways around Stony Silence before, generally in the form of non-artifact based threats like Ghirapur Aether Grid. Being able to actually answer Stony Silence efficiently, however, is an entirely different ball game.
Both variants of Affinity can have some very fast kills, but it seems like the combo-oriented Scales list goes all-in slightly more often and slightly earlier than its traditional counterpart. I'll have to test the list some more before I can make that statement with a bit more certainty, but at a minimum it has some very incredible and explosive early kills. Arcbound Ravager gaining an extra counter when it enters, whenever it sacrifices something, and when its modular trigger resolves is nothing short of nutty.
I'm interested to see what happens with this archetype in the long run. I'm tempted to say that it will stick around, but my confidence in that evaluation is too low for me to make a commitment. In the short term, I'm sure its MOCS performance will boost the archetype's player-base and general attention it receives, which may lead to even more finely tuned and powerful lists.
I hope you enjoy the matches as usual, and I'm interested to hear what kind of content you'd like to see moving forward so I can continue to evolve and improve my videos. Let me know what you would like to see! If you want similar content, check out my Twitch channel for some more live Modern.