That Bearl Is Poison

Ken took a mean Mono-Black Infect deck to States and had a good time Lashwrithing people out of the game within minutes! If you’re looking for a fun, fast, relatively low-key deck at Baltimore, this is it.

Of course I don’t know how many people really remember that song. I referenced it at States, and the lack of reaction made me feel old. I probably should have just mentioned it to Mark Hinsz. States is a tournament that is near and dear to my heart since I won it back to back in 2002 and 2003. But I still have more room on my wall for a new plaque.

I was undecided Friday before the tournament and was even thinking about not going, but I decided to follow a strategy that has worked for me at States in the past. I looked at the good decks from the previous Block Pro Tour, Nagoya in this case. I didn’t think White Weenie or Tempered Steel was really that good, as it hadn’t done really well in the StarCityGames.com Open Series. Gaudenis Vidugiris‘ mono-black infect deck looked interesting but a little janky with Piston Sledge, Mutagenic Growth, and such. Tezzeret Control was another deck I was trying to think about, but losing Everflowing Chalice was bad for the deck.

So later on Friday, I was watching Magic TV, since Gerry Thompson was on discussing States decks, and he mentioned Mono-Black Infect. I was interested because I had thought about playing Mono Red, but everybody was probably going to be prepared for it, so I didn’t want to play it. It also made me think about how Kibler’s U/B Infect deck was pretty good earlier in the year. So I decided to buy premium membership so I could see Gerry’s article talking about the deck. Well, plus I’m excited to see GerryTV, since Gerry and I go way back.

So I played the deck for the following reasons.

Everybody is playing Doom Blade because they need to be able to kill Inkmoth Nexus and Titans, so they aren’t running Dismember or Go for the Throat, which kills your creatures.

Lashwrithe is insane! Remember all the hype about Lashwrithe when it was previewed? Well it’s that good. A couple times I killed people just attacking with a 7/7 or bigger Germ LSV token.

Inkmoth Nexus is very good right now, and having equipment for it makes it very lethal.

People consider Melira a wasted sideboard slot.

Remember when you stumbled in Scars draft, and then the poison deck just killed you? Well I was doing that in Standard all weekend.

You like making people suffer and giving them a reason to complain to their friends after they lose to you.

So without further ado, here’s the deck I played at States after splitting at the finals of FNM after going 6-1 with a loss to Birthing Pod.

The deck is a based on Gerry’s decklist and Jesse Smith, who created the deck. Plus I wanted more control elements like Kibler’s deck, which ran Inquisition of Kozilek and Despise.

3 Victim of Night/ 1 Doom Blade: Victim of Night is very good, as it kills most creatures, some notable exceptions being Stromkirk Noble and Phyrexian Crusader—which becomes really annoying when your opponent uses Phantasmal Image to copy your Phyrexian Crusader. The single Doom Blade can throw off their interpretation of how much removal you have, and you can cast it when you’re holding up an Inkmoth and Swamp.

2 Liliana of the Veil: Honestly not too impressed with this card; it’s just a good utility card and really good at baiting out counterspells. Plus I used it a lot to kill my opponent’s Liliana of the Veil, since she is really good against this deck.

1 Contagion Clasp: I wanted a card that would be good against Mono Red but decent against Control. As I never played against much aggro, this didn’t do much and was usually sided out.

3 Tezzeret’s Gambit: A lot of times you cast a creature and then don’t want to commit another creature for fear of Day of Judgment, and this fills the void nicely. It also helps you finish them off or can bait a counterspell.

4 Lashwrithe: this was covered in the intro, as it’s very good. I was never unhappy to draw two.

2 Livewire Lash: Jesse Smith advocated Trigon of Rage as an additional pump effect to make sure you don’t run out of gas. I was thinking Livewire Lash was good enough, and I might be able to finish someone with a Victim of Night on my own guy. It never mattered, and I usually sided these out. I’m thinking Darksteel Axe would just be better because of Ancient Grudge and is more explosive than this.

3 Despise / 2 Distress: Kibler’s deck had control elements, and that’s something I wanted with this deck. Otherwise, I’m just playing a Mono Red deck without direct damage. Despise and Distress let me handle Kessig Wolf Run and control decks. I think I may want it split the other way, since Distress was normally better; I played a lot of control decks.

2 Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon: Taste the rainbow of poison. Awesome finisher that I never got to do much with, as they usually countered him or Oblivion Ringed him after a hit. Sometimes he just sits in your hand, so I wouldn’t want more than two.

4 Plague Stinger: Best two-drop; the reaction you get when you play the turn 2 Plague Stinger is priceless, as they know they aren’t prepared for this deck.

4 Whispering Specter: It flies, and the ability to Mind Sludge them is very relevant.

4 Phyrexian Crusader: He slices and dices and doesn’t die except to Day of Judgment, since most people aren’t playing removal that kills him.


2 Spellskite: I wanted something against Kessig Wolf Run, and it can eat half an Ancient Grudge to hopefully get a hit in with a Lashwrithe.

3 Phyrexian Vatmother: A lot of times, against control I just wanted a big hitter to play after they cast Wrath. I considered running her maindeck, but the deck was already pretty slow. Good against Wolf Run Ramp, since she survives the removal and hits hard.

1 Doom Blade

4 Nihil Spellbomb: I often found myself siding out a Swamp when I brought all four in since the game usually goes long against Esper Control.

3 Virulent Wound: I needed something to prevent death against Mono Red. Plus I would sometimes side it in against people with Inkmoth Nexus.

2 Black Sun’s Zenith: Really good against green, since no one played Melira.

So as I was getting ready to go to States, my seven-year-old son Ryan said, “I don’t have to ask. I know you’re going to go play Magic!”

Since he likes playing games, I replied, “So when are you going to learn to play Magic?”

“Well if I did learn to play Magic, I wouldn’t play as much you do,” he replied.

So my three-almost-four-year-old son Aaron said, “Well if I learned to play Magic, I’d definitely play as much as you do, Daddy!”

Ah, I love my kids.

Round 1 Blake Patraw with Turbo Fog

Blake is a good player and had a very good weekend at the first SCG Baltimore, making top 8 and the finals.

Yeah, not the matchup I was expecting. He had Fog with Snapcaster Mage and Noxious Revival to get it back, plus Venser and Stonehorn Dignitary.

Game 1 he mulliganed to five and didn’t get anything going.

Game 2 I got stuck on two lands for a while and then couldn’t successfully break up the Venser and Stonehorn Dignitary combo.

Game 3: With him having an early Fog and Snapcaster Mage to get it back, I couldn’t land any poison on him before Venser and Stonehorn Dignitary ruined me.

I don’t feel that this matchup is an auto-lose like some people thought it was. If I can get a good start and hit with a Despise or Distress, it’s very winnable. I would definitely add Torpor Orbs if you expect people to be playing this deck, since it’s also good against Birthing Pod.

Round 2 David Yetka of PT Philadelphia fame. Esper Control with Nephalia Drownyard.

For those who don’t know, Dave cut his wrist really badly when he accidently broke a window and had to have someone shuffle for him, which led to a lot of jokes about blaming the Magic Online Shuffler when he had bad draws.

Game 1: Ah the Doom Blades, they do nothing, so I win.

Game 2: He held me off and milled me to death with two Nephalia Drownyards.

Game 3 he got stuck on land and Mana Leaked a lot of stuff, but then I wiped his hand with a Whispering Specter before he could cast Liliana of the Veil or Jace, Memory Adept.

Round 3 U/W Control

I won 2-1 since I drew too much land and lost game 2.

Round 4 No Tap-Out Control

Game 1 I got him when he didn’t expect me to draw a Lashwrithe and killed him with an Inkmoth Nexus. He had only seen Livewire Lash, so he probably forgot about Lashwrithe.

Game 2 I had a nice stream of threats, but he had the lands and counters or removal for them, so I eventually flooded out a little bit, and he cast White Sun’s Zenith for two and killed me before I could get enough gas to kill him.

Game 3: He had enough countermagic / removal to keep me from doing big things and finally Snapcaster Mage plus multiple Sword of Feast and Famine to wreck me.

Him having Inkmoth Nexus and Midnight Hauntings maindeck, plus Dismember after sideboarding, was brutal. I couldn’t get in free hits from my Nexus since he could have Midnight Haunting to blow me out when I needed the land. Then Dismember plus Snapcaster Mage to kill two Phyrexian Crusaders was a back breaker. I did have outs every game; he just always had the answer. It looked like he sided in 8-10 cards after game 1, so he was just ready for me.

Well at 2-2, I decided to play it out for a better feel of the deck and to win packs.

Round 5 RUG

Game 1 I killed him like turn 5 with a Lashwrithe plus flyer.

Game 2 I played a turn 1 Inkmoth Nexus, so I could get in a hit turn 2. He then played a Mayor of Avabruck. Since I couldn’t play my Distress on turn 2, he got to flip the Mayor. When I played the second Lashwrithe to have enough power to kill him with my Plague Stinger, he had the Mana Leak.

Game 3 he mulliganed to five and turn 3 played a Daybreak Ranger, which destroys this deck. But I made him discard his hand with Whispering Specter and wiped the board with Black Sun’s Zenith.

Round 6-8, I’ll just show you the score sheet.

Yep, I won each round 2-0 in about twelve minutes each.

Round 6-7 was against U/W or Esper Control decks.

Round 8 was against Wolf Run Ramp.

Game 1 I Despised his Garruk Relentless and a Lashwrithe + flier killed him.

Game 2 I had Phyrexian Crusader when he had two Slagstorms. He tapped out for Primeval Titan, so I made it a Victim of Night and then cast Lashwrithe to pump Crusader for the win.

Final record 6-2, 25th out of 206 people.

So at least I finished with a good record, got nine packs, and had a blast killing people with poison counters. Back in the day, I had a Marsh Viper, Fire Whip, Quirion Ranger deck that I liked playing, so it was a nice flashback to be able to poison people out.

Going forward, I’m not sure how good the deck will be; my guess is it will settle as a tier 1.5, something that will occasionally do well and will be a fun FNM deck. After this weekend, people will be prepared and will have better disruption for the deck.

It’s also possible that a U/B version may be the best going forward, since the deck does start slowly when you don’t have a Plague Stinger. Giving them an additional Doom Blade target in Blighted Agent could be worth it if people start varying their removal, which I think they will.

Fighting against the deck

Curse of Death’s Hold is insane against the deck. Well if you live that long.

Daybreak Ranger is also very good when it’s not flipped, since fighting infect creatures probably isn’t going to work out very well.

Melira, Sylvok Outcast obviously: I know a lot of people told me that they removed Melira from their sideboard like a day or even twenty minutes before the tournament.

Go for the Throat / Dismember with Snapcaster Mage: You can really get a 1-2 punch that can set this deck back and probably play something like Curse of Death’s Hold.

Big congratulations to Mike Abraham, the 2011 Minnesota State Champ. Mike is an old-school Magic player/playa raised on the mean streets of Mankato, MN.

Also I do post some Magic-related stories on the MTG Finder blog.

Ken Bearl

Kbearl and MTGFinder on Twitter