Zoo was the default aggressive deck at Pro Tour Born of the Gods given Wild Nacatl’s unbanning. Infect has been a tier 2 or 3 deck for a while as the backseat creature strategy that kills quickly. A few players played it, but not as many as I feel the deck deserved. The banning of Deathrite Shaman left Glistener Elf in a much better position than I think was accredited. Today I’d like to review the better performing Infect decks from the Pro Tour and see what we can do to approach the format with Infect going forward.
Let’s take a look at the list I recommended for Pro Tour Born of the Gods from my article a few weeks ago:
This list isn’t perfect, but I did get a few things right. Wild Defiance is incredibly powerful against the big decks in Modern, and seeing Shaun McLaren’s U/W/R Control deck win the event only solidifies my belief that it’s a great choice going forward. Lightning Bolt and Lightning Helix have become the removal spells of choice against a field full of Wild Nacatl. The banning of Deathrite Shaman has led people to play Noble Hierarch again, which increases the potency of Twisted Image in the sideboard. Affinity was shown to still be a big player in Modern, and Twisted Image also great there against Ornithopter and Signal Pest.
I have the utmost respect for Olle Rade since our playstyles are very similar. He was awesome enough to give me extremely insightful advice to help me develop Infect in Legacy. He stayed true his colors and piloted this in Valencia:
Instead of Cathedral of War, Olle played Dryad Arbor, which I imagine is more of a concession to Liliana of the Veil than it is an alternate win condition. Forgoing the Rancor in favor of Distortion Strike and Giant Growth is a nice development since they’re both well positioned with Wild Defiance. The copies of Dismember in the sideboard were probably used to combat Melira Pod, which was a popular deck at the Pro Tour. Olle chose a split between Nature’s Claim and Hurkyl’s Recall for options against Affinity, a choice that I can see going either way. It takes a bit of finesse to fire off a backbreaking Hurkyl’s Recall, but given Olle’s Hall of Fame status and mastery of the deck, he no doubt was able to pull it off.
The additional copies of Spellskite are effective against Splinter Twin variants as well as the Infect mirror and Auras and are also useful against Affinity to redirect the modular triggers from an Arcbound Ravager. It’s a tough call whether or not to bring them in against U/W/R Control since they do reduce your threat density without disrupting their main plan, only disrupting how they interact with you. In this case, Spellskite might as well be another creature with infect. Chances are that even a card like Blight Mamba may be better given its ability to regenerate.
Olle also chose to play Spell Pierce instead of Dispel, which I have to disagree with. The main spells that you care about are instants, the most powerful being Electrolyze and Cryptic Command and the most common being Path to Exile and Lightning Bolt. Pierce is situational and again has to be crafted to perfection to be used effectively. It’s possible that Spell Pierce is better, but it relies on a game state that I don’t like relying upon.
I’ve always liked the idea of splashing white in Infect because it feels so easy to do alongside Noble Hierarch. I’m also fond of the idea of switching gears and going on a strong non-poison plan post-sideboard. Nothing really seemed appealing though since the deck is so geared toward the main plan of poison that it’s tough to make a clean switch without diluting the deck. Then you have the problem of doing not enough of either plan, sometimes losing the game with the opponent at something like eight poison and five life.
Geist of Saint Traft was definitely a surprise for the opponents that Elias Watsfeldt faced. As far as impactful regular damage creatures go, Geist ranks up there, if not the best. When they know they’re playing against Infect, some decks like Jund play games 2 and 3 very liberally with their life total with cards like Dark Confidant, Dismember, and shock lands, and it’d likely take only one good hit from Geist along with pump spells to get it done.
I’m not certain what the Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is for. Storm decks aren’t winning with Brain Freeze, and there’s no Show and Tell around. If there’s simply a deck that mills that I’m missing, I’d prefer Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre instead since it’s slightly more likely to be castable. If anyone knows the reasoning behind this Emrakul, I’d love to know!
Pact of Negation is pretty sweet. Since the deck operates as a combo deck and wins on a single crafted turn, it’s perfectly acceptable to expect to never have to pay the upkeep cost of Pact of Negation, though it’s not impossible to do so if needed. It doesn’t do anything toward proactively killing them though, which I dislike. By this I mean if you have no action, Pact of Negation does nothing to progress what you want to be doing. It’s simply good under certain circumstances, which is when you’re going for the ten poison one-shot kill on a turn and have exactly no untapped mana to spare. All that said, it’s not a card that I feel is necessary to have access to in the 75.
One big difference between my list and the lists from the Pro Tour is the cutting of Gitaxian Probe. I have mixed feelings about the card. The information it provides allows you to play the next few turns with near perfectly information or be able to end the turn right on the spot given a window. However, it makes for poor mulligan decisions since Probe in your opening hand can’t be relied on as a spell or a land. Also it’s not quite a free cycle in a world of Wild Nacatl and Lightning Bolt. Overall, I feel like it’s a crutch and that with practice you’ll learn what situations are optimal to "go for it" without having to see the opponent’s hand.
With a lot of potential cards addressed, here’s what I like moving forward:
Dryad Arbor isn’t good against many decks, especially those packing removal that could lead to them Stone Raining you for one mana, so its place is in the sideboard in my opinion. The third Wild Defiance is now in the sideboard with the popularity of U/W/R Control. I like having one Island maindeck now that Blood Moon is becoming a popular card. Under that same logic, I’m sticking with three copies of Nature’s Claim in the sideboard.
This coming up weekend I’ll be at the SCG Open Series in Atlanta playing Infect in Legacy before running it back at Grand Prix Richmond in Modern. I recommend it to anyone that’s attending because it’s fast, resilient, and a ton of fun. If you’re like me and absolutely hate going to time in your rounds, give it a try!