I had been planning on going to Las Vegas for the StarCityGames.com Open since mid-September. My buddy had a time-share we could stay at, and so the only expense was really gas and food. Coming from Los Angeles, this wasn’t that bad. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to play exactly, but I knew it was going to be something off the radar. Everyone would prepare for the various Wolf Run, Control, and Token strategies, so I wanted a deck that could earn surprise wins or just cause my opponents to play poorly because they do not know the matchup.
After States, I saw a few Tezzeret builds pop up in Top 8 lists. These immediately caught my attention because I hadn’t really seen a Standard Tezzeret build since last Spring, and I knew this was a deck that people would not see coming. Most of the builds I saw were controlling, with Ludevic’s Test Subject and sometimes Grand Architect. These decks seemed alright, but then I remembered the Infect Tezzeret decks of old. Mono-black had a good showing at States, and I knew the power of Phyrexian Crusader in a Doom Blade heavy meta. I decided then to combine Tezzeret and infect again. Here is my list!
Here is an explanation of my card choices:
This is the namesake card of the deck and probably the most powerful engine. Given that there are 17 artifacts maindeck, his +1 ability almost always nets you an artifact and usually a choice between a few. His -1 is one of the best ways to punish a player for tapping out. If there is an Inkmoth or even just a Plague Myr/Necropede, this surprise 5/5 can end a game quickly combined with the proliferate effects in the deck. His ultimate is really only useful against aggro in this build, although I did win a few games in testing through regular damage.
This is my main motivation to run infect with Tezz. He is one of the best possible cards against red decks, and he is awesome against most creature decks in general. The only removal that realistically will kill him is Beast Within/Dismember because no one really plays Go for the Throat. He was excellent, providing an awesome attacker/blocker when needed and just hosing decks relying on red removal.
In order for Tezz to really be a win condition, artifact infectors are necessary, and Necropede is one of the best. He’s cheap, and he provides value. He is an awesome roadblock against aggro decks, and he threatens to 2-for-1 a lot of decks like G/W Tokens. He can chump Mirran Crusader and then still put a counter on him to set up for a proliferate kill. He is also awesome with Throne of Geth, since he acts as removal. By sacrificing Necropede to the Throne, you can put two -1/-1 counters on a creature at instant speed. This interaction is invaluable for dealing with opposing Inkmoth Nexus.
This is the other artifact infect creature of choice because he can pump out a turn 2 Tezz, as well as provide extra mana later to proliferate with Contagion Clasp or cast multiple spells a turn. If you can’t turn 3 Tezz, Plague Myr often allows you to either cast two spells the following turn—since this deck is filled with two-drops—or get in for one poison and then cast a Crusader or Gambit. The ramp is very handy since this deck has a lot of action in the early game and only runs 24 land.
This is the second most powerful engine in the deck behind Tezz himself. This card is absolutely nuts! It provides a clock and inevitability if not dealt with. Against control, this one of the best cards to sneak under counterspells, since it basically makes them have to race the Throne. Getting the first poison counter on an opponent sometimes is hard, but with all the early drops and Inkmoth, it happens most of the time, especially since no one ever wants to block Necropede. I’d say that you win something like 60-70% of all games because of this card, and it’s a card you never dislike seeing. It interacts really well with the rest of the deck and isn’t even bad in multiples since it can sac itself.
This is probably the weakest card in the deck and where you would look if you wanted to open some slots. It does nothing by itself, but it interacts very well with the throne and even Tezz. Because you need some critical number of artifacts to make Tezz’s +1 good, this card is maindeckable. It’s not a bad card by any means, but it is only really good in long games where you can get full value. It is the first card out every time you are not playing against control. This could maybe be replaced by Tumble Magnet or some other utility artifact, but since black allows for better removal and aggro is generally a good match for this deck anyway, slots for this card seemed a little better. Also, sometimes it just becomes a 5/5 that your opponent does not want to kill.
This was added to the deck about a week before the tournament. I originally tried Forbidden Alchemy to dig for the necessary combo pieces and provide a little more late game, but you have so much to do early on that this card wasn’t really ever being cast early. Also, I was never really flashing it back against control because I usually had better plays. People I talked to suggested Clasp, and it was actually a very good inclusion. The -1/-1 counter makes it good against aggro, and the proliferate ability gave more inevitability against control. It only really comes out against Solar Flare or U/B Control because Snapcaster is the only real target, and he usually flashes in to chump a 5/5 or Phyrexian Crusader anyway. Speaking of Crusaders, Clasp provided an additional out to Mirran Crusader, which can sometimes be a real problem for this deck.
This card is like Wellspring because it is only truly amazing against control and weaker against the aggro/creature decks. In control matchups though, it is basically a divination that takes away a tenth of each player’s life. That’s a good trade if you’re the more aggressive deck. It’s the second best follow up to a turn 2 creature besides Phyrexian Crusader if you’re not accelerating anything out, and it is only really a bad card if you’re behind against an aggro deck.
I’m not sure I can say anything about this card that is new and different. Counterspells are good catchalls and are excellent when you’re ahead on board. This is also one of the best ways to interact with ramp strategies since, without disruption, their kill is usually quicker. I tried Corrupted Resolve, but it wasn’t reliable enough, and the early game is the most important for this deck anyway.
Black gives access to a lot of quality removal, but each shines in different situations. I think Doom Blade is still the best since it removes almost everything you care about and is only really bad against other infect decks or Solar Flare with Grave Titan. Go for the Throat is really good against the infect decks and not terrible elsewhere although artifact creatures are somewhat common. Tempered Steel is the match that GftT is really terrible against, but even then it could randomly kill a Hero of Bladehold or Mikaeus game 1. Dismember is the best removal spell against infect strategies, including most decks with Inkmoth. It also provides a mind game for your opponent since if it is cast once, they will suspect it every time you have 1 mana open. At an FNM one week before the event, my opponent cast Surgical Extraction targeting Dismember, after seeing it in games 1 and 2. Needless to say, he did not get value.
The sideboard should be fairly straightforward, but I’ll briefly talk about it.
Virulent Wound is great against any deck with small creatures. Its number one targets are Birds of Paradise, Stromkirk Noble, and Delver of Secrets. It is pretty good at removing Snapcaster before he can block, and it can be used in conjunction with Throne of Geth to kill bigger creatures. If you run Infect, these should always be in your 75.
Flashfreeze is good against the ramp strategies and sometimes red decks with Koth. This is a fairly used sb, so I think that’s all that really needs to be said.
Black Sun’s Zenith is awesome against tokens and aggressive decks. Basically any deck that swarms with creatures is vulnerable to it. It is also good against Hexblade since it can kill hard to deal with creatures like Geist of Saint Traft and Mirran Crusader.
Ratchet Bomb is awesome against tokens as well, acting as a one-sided Day of Judgment. It’s also decent against aggro, especially some builds of U/R with Delver of Secrets, Stromkirk Noble, and/or Grim Lavamancer. It can also be an answer to hexproof creatures as well, and leaving it at three deals with Geist of Saint Traft, Mirran Crusader, swords, and even their O-Rings.
As you could probably guess, Steel Sabotage is for any deck with a substantial number of artifacts. It can counter a Shrine of Loyal Legions or Mortarpod on the draw and can kill a Blade Splicer token. Other times it just provides tempo by bouncing an Inkmoth that was activated to block or attack. I think it’s the best artifact hate available in U/B.
Nihil Spellbomb is the control hate because it makes Snapcaster bad and removes opposing card advantage outlets. It’s better than Surgical Extraction in this deck because it can cantrip and be found with Tezz.
Doom Blade/Go for the Throat just provide more removal against matchups that need it. They both come in against aggro and otherwise just come in when their targets are abundant. For example, GftT is better against Solar Flare usually since they may have Grave Titan but are not likely to leave Wurmcoil Engine in if they see you’re infect.
That’s basically the gist of the deck and the cards within. I piloted it to a 7-3 record, placing 29th out of 417 competitors. Here is a brief summary of each round and my thoughts on each matchup.
Round 1: U/R Delver of Secrets
I honestly never played against this deck before, but I think it’s favorable because of Crusader and all the X/1 hate available to us. Game 1 I just removed his threats while slowly poisoning him with Necropedes he refused to block. Eventually Tezz landed, and he was forced to chump 5/5s until he couldn’t. Game 2 he had double Chandra’s Phoenix and recurred them both twice. It was close, but his double Phoenix took the game. Game 3 was pretty miserable for him since he didn’t have access to blue mana turn two, and I resolved a turn 3 Crusader. He drew no Vapor Snag, and I proceeded to win.
Round 2: U/B Control
This is a favorable match since Crusader is hard to deal with, and it’s hard for them to answer every little threat. Usually a Necropede or Plague Myr slips through their countermagic/removal and then you just grind them out with Throne or small beats. I rarely resolve Tezzeret, but if you can, they have almost no answer. In addition to this, my opponent got mana flooded twice, and I took the match without much resistance.
Round 3: Wolf Run Green
This plays out like most Wolf Run matchups, and counterspells are crucial. My opponent mulled to six on the play in game 1 and kept an iffy hand. From there, I landed a few creatures and then beat down behind countermagic. I Mana Leaked his turn 5 Slime, and then when his Primeval Titan resolved the turn after, I cast Tezz and Inkmothed him out. Game 2 wasn’t much closer as I had two Mana Leaks and a Flashfreeze to stop him from doing much. He did 2-for-1 with Ancient Grudge (best card against this deck), but he couldn’t answer a Crusader or Tezzeret.
Round 4: U/R Delver of Secrets
My opponent this round had a much more aggressive build than my previous. He ran Stromkirk Noble instead of Lavamancer and cut Koth altogether. Game 1, he mulled to six but then started with Stromkirk. I played the turn 2 Necropede and traded with his Vamp. He cast a Phoenix, but I had the Doom Blade, and then he pretty much was out of gas. I fought through counterspells but eventually landed Tezz and started digging. Two turns later, I ultimated Tezz with five artifacts to put the game out of his reach.
Games 2 and 3 he just tempoed me out. Game 3 especially, he went turn 1 Stromkirk and then countered my Necropede on turn 2. I played another Necropede turn 3, but all it did was remove two counters from the Stromkirk. Turn 5 I cast Phyrexian Crusader, and when he tried to Leak, I Leaked back. Then on his turn, he main phase Vapor Snagged my Crusader and attacked. On my turn, I recast the Crusader and Plague Myr, but he Snapcasted his Snag back to bounce my Zombie again. He then played Manic Vandal to kill my Myr and attacked again. On my turn I finally stuck the Crusader, but he had done enough damage that he could attack that turn and then burn me out. Disappointing.
Round 5: G/W Tokens
This match is really close, and I think it’s unfavorable pre-board but then favorable post. My opponent was also really competent and seemed to play around my cards that he hadn’t seen. For example, there was never a point I could surprise Tezz into Inkmoth favorably. He took game 1 after resolving a turn 2 Shrine.
Game 2 I had a hand full of action, and he kept a slow opener. His first play was turn 3 Blade Splicer, but I was able to bounce the Golem with Steel Sabotage and force in damage with my Crusader and Inkmoth. I basically just removed his blockers every turn and rode my Crusader + Inkmoth Nexus to victory.
Game 3 I kept a hand of Inkmoth, Inkmoth, Darkslick, Tezz, Plague Myr, Throne, Necropede. There were two separate times I could have ripped a colored land to cast Tezz and Inkmoth him out, but I never drew one. I ended the game with Darkslick being my only colored land looking at two Tezzerets and a Crusader in hand. Sucked.
Round 6: G/W/r Wolf Run
I played a friend of mine who had also driven out to Vegas from Los Angeles. He’s a solid player and piloted Valakut a lot pre-rotation so he knew his deck fairly well. Game 1 was close until he landed a big Garruk I could not answer. Three turns later he was swinging with 13 6/6 Wurms while he was sitting on eight infect. If I had played first that game, I am sure I would have won. In game 2, I Virulent Wounded his turn 1 Birds and then went Plague Myr into Tezz. I applied so much pressure and counterspelled/removed his attempts to stop me.
Game 3 he had to mulligan to four. He missed his 3rd land drop and started Green Sunning for Birds, but I removed each one with a Wound or Clasp. I was also swinging with Plague Myr and Crusader through this, and he was so far behind, he scooped. It felt bad beating a friend like that and would rather have had three close games, but such is Magic.
Round 7: G/W Tokens
This played out almost exactly the same as round 5, except my opponent got stuck on 3 lands. Game 1, he played first and resolved an early Shrine of Loyal Legions. I could not race it, as he popped it with eight counters and then pumped with Gavony Township on his turn. I was at 14 by then and couldn’t block everything.
Game 2, I got a good start and just answered his defenses while beating down. By the time he stabilized, I just blocked and Throned him out.
Game 3 I removed an early Birds and landed a Crusader. Then, I started applying pressure by playing creatures and killing his accelerants when he started missing lands. By the time he made his fourth land drop, I had him at a high enough poison count to proliferate him out again.
Round 8: Wolfball (Robot Ramp)
This matchup felt really good. It didn’t have access to DoJ or Slagstorm, and all of its ramp came from creatures. Viridian Emissary is much better against Doom Blade/Crusader than Palladium Myr is. Game 1, I landed a Plague Myr turn 2, and he played his Palladium Myr turn 3. A friend of mine top 8ed States with Wolfball so I knew what to expect, and played another Plague Myr with Mana Leak backup instead of slamming Tezz. On his turn he tapped out for a Battlesphere, which I leaked. On my turn I played Tezz and swung for six infect. I also had an Inkmoth out, so he would need to answer my 5/5 Plague Myr and Inkmoth/Tezz to avoid death. He could not. Game 2 was a similar beating, as I leaked his turn 3 Palladium Myr and then landed Crusader. I then continuously removed his blockers. It was the final dagger when he tapped out for Wurmcoil on turn 7 and my draw step gave me Steel Sabotage. He was at eight poison.
Round 9: Heartless U/B
This was a feature match, but game 1 was not recorded. This is unfortunate since game 1 was the closest and most interactive. Ironically, it started with him mulling to four and me snap keeping seven. We each played some U/B duals, and he resolved Heartless Summoning on turn 2. He then proceeded to Solemn + Metamorph both turn 3 and 4, essentially fixing his mull. Furthermore, he was drawing cards from chumping my Crusaders and eventually landed two Frost Titans. By this time though, I had forced in about six infect, and so I could play defense and ride my Thrones to victory.
Game 2 he kept a double Heartless Summoning Hand, and I kept a hand with no counterspells. By turn 5 or so he had already cast two Rune-Scarred Demons and a Sphinx of Uthuun. The second three-mana Sphinx the next turn prompted my concession.
Game 3 he drew only three spells the entire game and got poisoned out around turn 6. Unfortunately, these massacres were the games that were recorded, neither one being remotely close.
I was in 17th place entering into the final round. Unfortunately, this meant I had no chance of getting top 8 since only a single X-2 would make it, and I was in the middle of the pack in terms of breakers. My opponent was in 18th with similarly mediocre breakers, and so we couldn’t even draw into the 16, so we played it out.
Round 10: U/W Delver of Secrets/Illusions
Just like the U/R version, I had no experience playing this deck. I think that’s the main reason I lost. I saw U/W dual lands and was playing around counterspells because I knew the red version ran them, but I didn’t see a single Leak in any game. Basically my play was poor against his deck, and he drew nutty hands both games.
Game 1, he flipped his Delver turn 2 and then cast Snapcaster at my end step just as an additional attacker. I was at twelve when I made my third land drop, and he just Vapor Snagged my Crusader after it resolved to put the game out of reach.
In game 2, I kept a hand with several Necropedes and a Tezz but with no removal. After blocking my first Necropede with a flashed in Snapcaster, he bounced my second one with Aether Adept turn 3. I drew another Necropede and cast two of them turn 4 to try and apply pressure. On his turn 4, he played Phantasmal Image copying Adept into Phantasmal Image copying Adept to bounce both my insects. On my turn I missed my land drop and cast both Necropedes again, thinking they’d be good against his Illusions. On his turn 5, he played Phantasmal Image copying Adept into Phantasmal Image copying Adept. HE HAD 4 IMAGES IN HAND!!! His last two cards in hand were Snapcaster Mage and Vapor Snag so I had no chance. His draws were truly remarkable.
My final loss was disheartening since I would have ended up in 10th or 11th place and with twice as much money in my pocket if I had won, but oh well. I had a lot of fun playing a deck that no one expected. Also I was in Vegas, so I ended up going out with a group of friends and having an awesome night as well. All in all, it was an excellent trip, and I would recommend this deck to someone looking to play something less conventional. I feel it has solid matchups across the board and is extremely fun and interactive, so give it a try!