Infect And Dredge Are Still Decks

It wouldn’t be a Friday the 13th without a scary premonition! This time, it’s Tom Ross with a solemn warning: even after the banning of Gitaxian Probe and Golgari Grave-Troll from Modern, Infect and Dredge remain powerful decks! Get updated lists from “The Boss” or ignore them at your peril!

Yeah, as you probably know by now, they’re banned in Modern as of January 9th, 2017.

Neither of these bans will outright kill any deck like banning Splinter Twin or Birthing Pod did to their namesake decks. The banning of Gitaxian Probe will affect Infect, Death’s Shadow Zoo, U/R Battle Rage, and Storm to varying degrees.

While I can’t speak for any deck other than Infect that played Gitaxian Probe, I know for sure that Infect will still be a strong deck in Modern, even without training wheels.


Let’s look at the last known list of Infect with Gitaxian Probe:

And what a deck without Gitaxian Probe might look like:

Gitaxian Probe served several functions:

  • It gave absolute information for when to go for the kill or as to what cards you needed play around/against.
  • It was the best, quickest means to get cards into your graveyard and fuel delve for Become Immense.
  • It served somewhat to resemble playing a 56-card deck. Glistener Elf and Blighted Agent are the best infect creatures available and it’s nice to draw them with slightly more frequency.

However, the loss of GItaxian Probe isn’t the end of the world. There were some opportunity costs to playing Gitaxian Probe that we now don’t have to deal with:

  • It affected mulligan decisions negatively when essentially evaluating six- or five-card cards with one or two unknown cards.
  • It reduced your overall starting life total, a huge hindrance against decks like Burn.

Now adjustments have to be made. Instead of simply replacing Gitaxian Probe with another four-of spell the entire package must be shifted accordingly.

Without Gitaxian Probe, the likelihood of an early Become Immense is lessened, so its numbers are reduced from four to two. Likewise, the numbers of Mutagenic Growth go down, as Mutagenic Growth is best on those explosive draws as well.

Without the Phyrexian mana cost of Gitaxian Probe taxing the life total, I now don’t mind a second maindeck Dismember. Infect is a deck that can put itself down to thirteen life or so on the first turn. Your life total doesn’t matter all too much, as the games are over quickly. However, a resource is a resource and every point can be valuable. All in all, I’m relieved to have fewer Phyrexian mana spells in the deck.

Apostle’s Blessing is a card that looks like it could see more play with the reduction of Phyrexian mana spells. Not going back to two Apostle’s Blessings is more affected by the addition of Blossoming Defense than anything. You want X number of protection spells (Vines of Vastwood), X number of evasion spells (Distortion Strike), and X number of spells castable off Inkmoth Nexus (Dismember). Apostle’s Blessing does all of these but isn’t a particularly strong card in general and I’m happy only playing one.

Serum Visions is a card that I experimented with a little over a year ago. Personally, I liked having it, as it bridged the combo pieces of pump spells plus creatures together nicely while helping find key sideboard cards. I think now is a good time as any to play a couple again.

A smattering of one-ofs like the maindeck Viridian Corrupter will be seen with a little more frequency in Game 1 with Serum Visions. Same goes for the Wild Defiance out of the sideboard.

The focus on an early Become Immense is farther away now, which makes me think that fetchlands aren’t as important. You still want a couple to get Forest against the Blood Moon decks and to get Dryad Arbor against Liliana of the Veil.

Botanical Sanctum is a pain-free way to cast Serum Visions or Glistener Elf on the first turn. The full four may be too many, as you want your fourth land to enter the battlefield untapped when you’re playing with Inkmoth Nexus. It comes down to how big Burn is expected to be. I think that Burn will be a force after these bannings and I’m erring on the safer side here.

I’m also back on board with Relic of Progenitus now over Grafdigger’s Cage. Before, Relic of Progenitus was a non-bo with your own Become Immense, which is less of an issue with only two and gives you the option of sideboarding out all of the Become Immenses if you want. Grafdigger’s Cage with Dryad Arbor entering the battlefield from the library could also come up in rare instances. With Dredge appearing to be on the decline, the slower anti-graveyard card in Relic of Progenitus is a better catch-all against Snapcaster Mage and Tarmogoyf decks.

Overall, we won’t see as many turn 2 kills out of Infect with the switch from Gitaxian Probe to Serum Visions. You should be able to cobble together more functional hands and fight the good fight on turn 4 or so. For a wide-open metagame like Modern should be after the bannings, I like seeing more cards per game and am happy with Serum Visions.


Again, let’s look at the most recent iteration of Modern Dredge:

Then what I would play after the banning of Golgari Grave-Troll:

It didn’t take long for Golgari Grave-Troll to be put back on the Modern banned list. It’s one of those cards that will never play fair and is safe to stay on the banned list, as it will never be simply “good” without being degenerate.

Golgari Thug looks to be the replacement for Golgari Grave-Troll. Of course, “Dredge 4” is significantly less than “Dredge 6.” I figure the Dredge decks to be less explosive and will now require more of a grindy element to survive.

Golgari Thug is a completely different card from Golgari Grave-Troll in terms of actual game text. While Golgari Grave-Troll could act as a huge regenerating creature in the late-game, Golgari Thug is castable in the early-game and works nicely to put fallen Narcomeobas on top of your library to immediately dredge over. You don’t want to have to rely on blocking to get Golgari Thug to die so Greater Gargadon reenters the mix to sacrifice Golgari Thug.

Justin O’Keefe put the Dredge hype into motion with his Modern Classic win in Baltimore at the end of July last year. He had a heavy focus on the synergy between Bridge from Below and Greater Gargadon to grind out opponents. Ross Merriam took an updated list to win the Modern Open in Syracuse in August.

These tournaments came before the release of Cathartic Reunion. Even then, people were having success using Tormenting Voice with the Greater Gargadon plus Bridge from Below combo. After Cathartic Reunion, it became consensus that the combo elements should be cut for the raw power of discarding two cards and then drawing (read: dredging) three cards. It was not uncommon to put ten or more power onto the battlefield on the second turn.

Greater Gargadon has a few added benefits beyond going off with Bridge from Below and killing off Golgari Thug. Having it suspended gives protection from removal that exiles, namely Path to Exile and Anger of the Gods. Greater Gargadon also presents another angle of attack that must be respected. A love tap from a 9/7 combined with some early chip shots with creatures or a Conflagrate will end the game in short order.

As far as the manabase goes, I’ve always prefered fetchlands to go along with Life from the Loam, as opposed to Jacob Baugh’s “fetchless” version. One previous concern was that dredging huge numbers of cards with Cathartic Reunion could lead to the lands you need ending up in the graveyard too early. With smaller dredges, this will come up less often.

For the sideboard, I’ve just gone a touch higher on the lifegain cards. I expect people to trend towards Gerry Thompson’s Burn deck post-bannings, as it’s a consistent choice is an unknown format. It’s the creature decks with relatively low interaction that’ve been affected by the bans and Burn may seem like an appealing option to those players. I know I’m considering it myself.

The Future of Infect and Dredge

The bannings hurt the Modern decks I’ve invested time and money into, but overall I’m happy with the changes Wizards of the Coast have made. Gitaxian Probe was a gross card that made Magic easy. Golgari Grave-Troll along with Cathartic Reunion made Dredge easy and a little too explosive.

Both decks will have fewer functional turn 2 wins… and that’s fine by me. I already lean towards builds of Infect and Dredge with less variance and more play when I can. Hopefully, with Infect and Dredge weakened, both decks won’t be targeted as much. Infect and Dredge are dangerous when people don’t think they’re threats.

I can’t wait until that day comes again.