Infect has traditionally had a poor “fair deck” matchup in Modern (Jund, Burn, Jeskai Control) while having favorable combo and big mana matchups (Storm, Ad Nauseam, TitanShift, Mono-Green Tron). As it stands, the state of Modern is learning more towards combo decks featuring Hogaak, Awakened Necropolis and Urza, High Lord Artificer. If that trend continues, it won’t be long before Infect is well-positioned, if it’s not already.
Last week I talked about various creature beatdown decks in Modern, complete with a Bant Infect list. It’s heavier on white than what we’ve previously seen out of Infect. It’s also pretty close to what I played in the Season One Invitational earlier this month.
The newest recent additions from Modern Horizons and War of the Spark have been Scale Up, Waterlogged Grove, and Teferi, Time Raveler. If you’re willing to go deeper, Giver of Runes or Wrenn and Six could also make the list.
Scale Up is a clear upgrade to Phytoburst, a card I won an Invitational Qualifier with once upon a time. Waterlogged Grove is a Horizon land that can give extra card access late-game at the cost of aggressive matchups, which you weren’t particularly good against in the first place.
Teferi, Time Raveler shuts the door on opposing instants, which can pave the way for an unimpeded one-shot attack, no matter how many Path to Exiles and Fatal Pushes the opponent has.
White has a bunch of great sideboard cards, which is some of the appeal to splashing the color. I admit, I wanted to test a long list of one-ofs, because, well, that’s kinda what I like to do. However, it’s been a little more established that a splash just for Teferi, Time Raveler is a more consistent way to build Bant Infect.
Become Immense is becoming progressively out of favor. Scale Up is the big pump boost that big Infect needs, all without needing to feed your graveyard beforehand. It’s a bit weaker against Chalice of the Void and Eidolon of the Great Revel, but the tradeoffs are looking to be worth it given Magic Online results.
Basically you can splash an additional color to Simic Infect or play Waterlogged Grove. To play the new Horizon Canopy, you sacrifice too hard on your splash-color sources. I also don’t recommend slimming down to a single Forest, as Field of Ruin, Path to Exile, and Assassin’s Trophy are big parts of the metagame and finding that extra mana source is important on the big turns.
Let’s take a look at what former Invitational Champion Max McVety (winning with Infect no less) finished in ninth place with in the latest Modern Magic Online Challenge.
The main standouts from Max’s list are the full four Scale Ups along with three copies of Waterlogged Grove. Apostle’s Blessing makes a return as an unblockable effect against a pile of black Zombies out of the Hogaak decks as well as against a pile of Thopters from Urza’s Thopter Sword, though do remember that Thopter Foundry creates blue Thopters while Sai, Master Thopterist creates colorless 1/1s.
Sometimes we see Invisible Stalker out of the sideboard and sometimes Geist of Saint Traft out of white builds. Infect is good at surprising the opponent Game 1 then has a tough time in the sideboard games. Oftentimes the opponent will take large chunks of damage knowing that it’s very difficult for you to beat them outside of infect damage.
Aaron believes Giver of Runes to be the best reason to play white and I can share the perspective. The protection spells in Blossoming Defense and Vines of Vastwood have become more obvious and thus less effective over time as Modern is getting faster and more proactive.
Giver of Runes is less like a Mother of Runes and more like a repeatable Apostle’s Blessing on a stick, so both Aaron and Max are on the right track. Teferi, Time Raveler costs a hefty three mana and can be attacked, whereas Giver of Runes does a lot of what Spellskite does and a lot of what Distortion Strike does.
Without blue for Distortion Strike or Blighted Agent, the combo of Rancor and Ichorclaw Myr is now appealing. The reasons to play Ichorclaw Myr over Lost Leonin include the mentioned Rancor interaction to squeeze them if they block or not, as well as the Pendelhaven pumps. Also, Scale Up doesn’t care about initial power or toughness, so often the extra one power is lost. Then of course there’s the time you don’t have white mana to cast Lost Leonin, while you can always cast the Ichorclaw Myr, even under a Blood Moon.
An Infect build that I’ve been mulling around but haven’t quite seemed to pull the trigger on entering into a tournament is a Temur Infect build.
Grove of the Burnwillows is a big draw here since the lifegain is unlikely to matter. Of course, the nonbasic land flex slots are a precious resource. Notably, you get some percentage points against the card Death’s Shadow to shrink it or outright kill it, which is nice since that’s one of those fair matchups that gives Infect fits.
Berserk is a key card in Legacy Infect. In Modern, the color pie has been corrected to give red that power doubling effect. Temur Battle Rage and Assault Strobe provide that effect, if you’re willing to splash for them. The math generally works out the same with a 1/1 and a +4/+4 effect. Of course, the full extra mana Temur Battle Rage and the sorcery speed and lack of trample of Assault Strobe are big downgrades. Still, I believe it’s worth exploring.
A rough sample list of Temur Infect:
Collision // Colossus is the card I immediately jumped to after losing to Bant Spirits twice in a tournament. I wanted an efficient removal spell against Spell Queller or Supreme Phantom that’s not dead in other matchups. It’s much like a kicked Vines of Vastwood that gives the evasion you need, but you don’t want to play a ton of evasive cards like Distortion Strike or Rancor since they have diminishing value in multiples.
Wrenn and Six comes in just as another axis of attack. It pings Dark Confidant, which is one of your more problematic creatures to face. It’s also great in the mirror as well as any deck packing an Aether Vial. Against control, Wrenn and Six buys back fetchlands or Inkmoth Nexus. Heck, I’ve often wished I had multiple Dryad Arbors in my deck. +1 to make a 1/1 isn’t bad on a two-mana planeswalker.
Green has good artifact removal like Nature’s Claim, Dissenter’s Deliverance, and Viridian Corrupter. Ancient Grudge is a tad bit better with its double smash. Force of Vigor probably takes care of that enchantment you care about (probably Blood Moon) while being great against artifacts too.
Infect has a lot going for it, but I think you need to change up the cards your opponent needs to be mindful of. A pile of pump spells and protection spells won’t really throw anyone off guard, especially after sideboarding. I’d tend to put a priority on graveyard interaction and artifact removal, which are things often found in Infect sideboards since the removal options aren’t as great unless you stretch it.
Infect can keep pace with the new breeds of fast combo and graveyard decks. Hogaak just has a Darkblast or two to stop a Turn 3 Blighted Agent kill. Without needing to lean on Become Immense as much, an effect like Relic of Progenitus becomes one-sided again.
It may not be the time now, but Infect is looking good over the Modern horizon.