Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch is on the horizon, and sadly I’m not qualified for it. Modern is the format and teams are scrambling to figure out which decks improved now that Splinter Twin and Summer Bloom are banned and which Oath of the Gatewatch cards fit into existing decks.
Decks that had a poor Splinter Twin matchup are due to increase in popularity. Infect was one of those decks. Infect also fares well against other decks that had a poor Splinter Twin matchup, namely G/R Tron and other combo-natured decks that have low interaction like G/W Hexproof and Elves. It’s clear that Infect has improved in its metagame position. The question remains how developed the metagame will be at #PTOGW.
Infect got a few playable cards from Oath of the Gatewatch:
Slip Through Space works similarly to Distortion Strike. It’s an evasion spell that can be cycled early, digs deeper into your deck, and doesn’t cost an entire card to play. It’s a cantrip that can grow your graveyard for Become Immense and it’s a spell that targets your creature for Wild Defiance without overkilling with pump.
Oath of Nissa is a touch similar to both Green Sun’s Zenith and Serum Visions. It’s not exactly a green Ponder but it does help the consistency of the deck. Having a spell that smooths out your draw costing green instead of blue is really nice since there are four to five more untapped green sources in Infect than blue. Finding a land is useful here as Pendelhaven and Inkmoth Nexus are often cards you want to find. People have played Sylvan Scrying in Infect before, and Oath of Nissa is cheaper and a little like both Sylvan Scrying and Green Sun’s Zenith in the deck without being fully either. The downside is that it does cost a mana and doesn’t put a card into the graveyard for Become Immense.
Pulse of Murasa has a lot of life attached to a Raise Dead. I was already considering Feed the Clan in Infect for the Burn matchup. Three mana can be a lot, but the Pulse of Murasa will often be sideboarded in with Wall of Roots. Rebuying Blighted Agent will probably be its main use, but getting an Inkmoth Nexus back will come up quite a bit as well.
I don’t like Apostle’s Blessing as much as I once did. It’s nice to have as a protection spell that can be cast off colorless from Inkmoth Nexus, but the life loss and narrow usefulness has placed Apostle’s Blessing lower on the list of spells I want in Infect. Also, with Eldrazi decks on the rise Apostle’s Blessing gets even worse. Being unable to protect or attack through a Wasteland Strangler is quite a beating.
There are fewer Spellskites too and I expect the trend of Spellskites to go down among more decks, as it was one of the better cards against Splinter Twin. Still, we need to be prepared to face the card, as it remains very good against Infect, so there can’t be much skimping in the sideboard among Nature’s Claim and Twisted Image.
Wall of Roots and Pulse of Murasa are a pair I’m trying to beat Burn. The Wall of Roots soaks up damage significantly and can be used on both turns to leave up a possible Vines of Vastwood even when tapped out. I like it better than the “Nature’s Claim my own stuff” plan.
The Piracy Charm stays in for Grim Lavamancer, which you basically can’t beat. Burn does a lot of damage to itself and you will win more games through regular damage versus Burn than any other deck. The goal here is to set up a one-shot kill with a Blighted Agent. Become Immense is huge here as it gets around damage from Eidolon of the Great Revel. Be wary of Destructive Revelry and Deflecting Palm.
Jund and Abzan are typically unfavorable matchups but not by a ton. They have clunkers game 1 like Scavenging Ooze and Siege Rhino that just don’t do much against Infect. Game 2 is much worse as their deck improves drastically while Infect doesn’t gain much outside of Relic of Progenitus to keep down Tarmogoyf, Lingering Souls, and delve spells like Tasigur, the Golden Fang or Murderous Cut. They see your hand often with discard spells and you’re prone to flooding out, so a land gets sideboarded out. Dryad Arbor is for Liliana of the Veil as a surprise creature to sacrifice.
This matchup is very good. Their main way to beat you is to land a Spellskite early and buy enough time to assemble Tron. You load up on ways to remove Spellskite with more Twisted Images and the Nature’s Claims. Nature’s Claim can also hit an Expedition Map or Oblivion Stone if they tap low on mana. Be conscious of Pyroclasm and don’t let them get more than a two-for-one with it.
This matchup has been very good for me the past year as I can’t recall dropping a match against it. Twisted Image is great against Ornithopter, Signal Pest, and Spellskite, and the Nature’s Claims are instant-speed Vindicates. Affinity is roughly half a turn slower than Infect and you can beat some of their fastest draws. They will probably have Whipflare after sideboarding, so don’t overcommit into it. Try to save Nature’s Claim for Spellskite, Cranial Plating, and Ghirapur Aether Grid.
If they have Heartless Summoning, you want a couple of Nature’s Claim over the second Become Immense and the Twisted Image. Become Immense gets worse when they’re aggressively exiling your graveyard. The matchup is favorable as you’re faster than they are on average. There are so many builds of Eldrazi that it’s hard to have a concrete sideboard plan against them. You tend to stick to your maindeck a lot here.
Spellskite will be the main way to lose and I imagine other Infect decks will still be packing a few of them. The matchup revolves around evasion and creature control. You take out pump spells; since infect damage puts -1/-1 counters on creatures, they don’t save your creatures in combat. Vines of Vastwood is still good as it interacts with the opponent if they try to go for it against you. Hope to draw Blighted Agent as it’s the most evasive. I play to grind out the mirror with chip infect shots and it’s worked for me so far.
Grixis Control is one of Infect’s tougher matchups. They hardly ever tap out on their turns, and unless you see their hand with Gitaxian Probe, you’re stuck guessing which spells you need to play around. They benefit in the long game, so in general I jam and make them have it. After sideboard, Become Immense goes as it’s weak against Remand and you’re also bringing in Relic of Progenitus to fight their Snapcaster Mages, delve spells, and Kolaghan’s Command recursion. Twisted Image hits their Jaces. A Forest comes out because you’re pretty prone to flooding out and are getting hit by Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek. You thus need a reasonable saturation of spells.
Not a very interactive matchup. You’re slightly favored because you’re more consistent than they are presenting a turn 3 or 4 kill (and sometimes you get your turn 2 kill). Nourishing Shoal doesn’t keep them alive against Infect damage, so sometimes they’re behind a turn that they weren’t expecting to be.
Before #PTFRF in Washington, DC, I was working on a version of Infect that had a natural damage combo kill using two Spellskites and a Wild Defiance. Wild Defiance triggers each time a spell is redirected between the two Spellskites acting as a virtual Hatred that deals three damage for every two life you pay.
It doesn’t come up much, but it’s a combo based around cards that Infect doesn’t like playing anyway. With Slip Through Space there’s another reason to run a non-pump spell that’s noncommittal, which has me interested in giving the build another look.
With so many copies of Wild Defiance, you get more kills off your Dryad Arbor than ever before. The build still has the capability to win on turn 3 with reasonable consistency and still has the possible turn 2 with a ton of Gitaxian Probe and Become Immense and Might of Old Krosa. Turn 1 Noble Hierarch into turn 2 Inkmoth Nexus and Wild Defiance will open up a few turn 3 wins as well.
I’ll still be tweaking the combo version, but if I were playing in a Modern tournament this weekend I’d run something very close to the above first list. Infect is as good as, if not better than, before and I expect it to be considered a Tier 1 deck moving forward.
Maybe I’ll have the combo version perfected by #SCGRegionals next weekend…