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I am making a modern affinity deck with all the usual cards, Arcbound Ravager, Etched Champion, Inkmoth Nexus and the like.

The problem is I can't afford the Mox Opals - they're over £200 for the play set and that's just crazy.

Mox Opals are used both for early mana ramp and mana colour fixing, not to mention thay are zero cost artifacts that power Metalcraft.

Basically I need a card or cards to replace the 4 Mox Opal missing from the deck that will replicate their function as best as possible.

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Can you edit in a link to a particular decklist? Affinity is a tried-and-true paradigm but the deck may change significantly when someone runs across this question in 2016. –  Alex P Apr 17 at 3:56
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2 Answers 2

Start by accepting that your deck won't be as straight-up competitive as it could be without Mox Opal — it's a staple, and cutting staples, especially for budget reasons, inevitably involves giving away some percentage points here or there. Maybe you can gain some improvements in unusual matchups, though.

What does Mox Opal do for you?

Consider what Affinity does, in general:

  • Affinity is a fast aggressive creature deck
  • Generally, Affinity is an "all-in" deck. The Affinity player wants to dump their hand onto the battlefield as quickly possible in order to power up a card like Cranial Plating. The deck mainly relies on speed to blank a lot of your opponent's card. You have a few cards to dig you out of a stall (Etched Champion, Thoughtcast) but you really aren't trying to grind down an opponent slowly.
  • It plays a bit like a combo deck, sacrificing individual card power for massive synergy.
  • There's significant redundancy in kill conditions. Cranial Plating, Ravager + Inkmoth, Signal-Pest-powered beatdown, &c. But your deck generally sucks if you don't have one of your key cards out.

So, what does Mox Opal do in that deck?

  • It's an accelerator. You can use it to put a Cranial Plating or an Arcbound Ravager down on the field on turn 1.
  • It's color-fixing in a deck that plays lots of colorless lands (up to 12) and 2-4 colors of spells. Don't underestimate the value of being able to make BB to move Cranial Plating around at instant speed, as well!
  • It's an artifact. It ups your artifact count for Cranial Plating, Thoughtcast, and Etched Champion. You can sac it to Ravager. It'll keep your Glimmervoid from dying.
  • It's free. You can dump an Opal onto the field without disrupting the flow of the rest of your turn.
  • It's a non-creature artifact so it'll survive sweepers (besides the ones people sideboard specifically to hose you). I don't think that's as important right now, ever since Zoo pushed Pyroclasm out of the format.

That's a tough act to follow!

Suggested alternatives

Here's my best shot.

The most important thing is to remember that consistently executing the deck's overall concept is more important than finding a direct functional replacement for the mana rock.

  • The closest thing to Mox Opal in functionality is Springleaf Drum. You should be playing a playset of these already, though.
  • You can also just add lands. Replacing 4 Opals with 4 lands won't do good things for your deck, of course, but you could totally add 1-2 lands. Gemstone Mine (already a staple) and City of Brass/Mana Confluence are decent picks for multicolor support.
  • Paradise Mantle is a 0-cost card that's basically a worse Springleaf Drum. It's a bit harder to get explosive starts with it due to summoning sickness. The main knock against it, though, is that doubling up on Springleaf Drums stretches your creature base pretty thin. I'd playtest 2 rather than the full 4.
  • Gitaxian Probe is a 0-cost cantrip. You can run these in the hopes of just getting to your other cards quicker. (It is way better for this purpose than Mishra's Bauble, which is an artifact but pretty terrible.)
  • Chromatic Star is a bit slow for this deck but it might be a decent color-fixer in a pinch. It cantrips if you feed it to a Ravager, and it counts for Thoughtcast's affinity even if you sac it to make blue mana for the spell (because you calculate costs first, then pay them).
  • Many Affinity decks already play a singleton Welding Jar. So try 1-2 and see how far that takes you. It's great for pushing through an Inkmoth kill.
  • You can always just up the creature count and play it more like a beatdown deck. Affinity typically runs some mix of "lords" like Signal Pest, Steel Overseer, and Master of Etherium. Just add the one you don't have already. (If you have all of those already: did you take out Vault Skirge or something? Try putting that Vault Skirge back in.)
  • You can experiment with maindecking hate cards, especially if you play in a relatively small and cozy environment where you know what decks you'll face:
    • Spellskite and Phyrexian Revoker are nifty creatures that can mess up a lot of decks (Ethersworn Canonist, too, but you're cutting color depth so I'd stay away from colored artifacts).
    • Relic of Progenitus is a great non-creature pick, since it cantrips and gives you splash hate against decks that run Goyf and Snapcaster.
    • Pithing Needle and Grafdigger's Cage can also work if you really, really know your metagame well.
    • Another way to maindeck hate is to add targeted discard in the form of Thoughtseize, Duress, or maybe Inquisition of Kozilek. Essentially you're accepting that your deck will be just a bit slower than the typical shell, but you're planning to make up for it by disrupting opponents more. You'll want to rejigger your mana to support more black sources to make this work, of course.

To reiterate: you'll probably want to add a land! Even if you go the Paradise Mantle route, none of these cards are quite as fast and flexible as Mox Opal, so you really do just want the extra land to smooth out mana production.

Note that you may need to adjust other cards if you're changing your ability to produce mana — not playing Mox Opal basically guarantees that you can't play the greediest of the Affinity lists.

Above all else, remember that, since there's no drop-in "next best" replacement, you're going to have to test and tune your deck.

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(Prices below are approximations for singles, not playsets, using TCGPlayer prices as of 4/16/2014)

Fellwar Stone relies on your opponent having color-producing lands. ~$0.50

Star Compass relies on you having color-producing lands. ~$0.25

Coldsteel Heart comes into play tapped and produces only one color (chosen as it enters the battlefield). ~$1.50

Lotus Bloom takes 3 turns to enter the battlefield and sacrifices itself, although it produces 3 mana. Note: You can recur Lotus Bloom (with something like Salvaging Station) without waiting 3 turns. ~$5.00

Paradise Mantle can turn any of your creatures into a Birds of Paradise. ~$1.25

Springleaf Drum produces similar results to Paradise Mantle, without equip costs or caring about summoning sickness. ~$0.50

The Talisman cycle (Talisman of Dominance, etc.) and the Signet cycle (Azorius Signet, etc.) are both options as well, though each only produces 2 colors. The Signet cycle, while a net gain in mana, requires another mana source to use. The Talisman cycle requires taking damage in order to get colored mana. ~$0.25

All that said, none of the above is really going to compare to any mox, even Mox Opal, the baby of the group. There's a reason Opal costs so much more!

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-1 A lot of the picks in this answer don't really account for what Affinity (a hyper-aggro archetype) is doing with Mox Opal. It's not a deck that wants to be casting two-drop mana rocks. (Paradise Mantle and Springleaf Drum are both reasonable.) –  Alex P Apr 16 at 19:50
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@AlexP, That's the problem; there aren't any very good alternatives to Opal. That's why it costs so much. –  Brian S Apr 16 at 19:57
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@AlexP Unless there are some other ideas out there that are missing here, it seems like a reasonable answer - it gives you a pretty good idea how much better Mox Opal is than the substitutes. Sometimes the answer is that there is no answer. –  Jefromi Apr 17 at 2:35
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@Jefromi Affinity's not an archetype that needs mana acceleration, though. It just plays some because Mox Opal is AMAZEBALLS in a deck with 30+ cheap artifacts. But you don't necessarily want another mana rock to replace it. Imagine this question was "What should I play in my Jund deck now that they banned Deathrite Shaman?" -- the answer is to find another cheap card that fulfills the needs of the deck, not a mana dork that doesn't. –  Alex P Apr 17 at 5:45
    
@AlexP Fair, I suppose; I just think that while this might not be the best possible answer it's not really bad, just maybe doesn't focus in quite the right places. –  Jefromi Apr 17 at 5:50
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