Infect is a deck built around the (SURPRISE!!) infect mechanic, which means if a player gains 10 or more poison counters, they lose the game. The kicker here is that most infect creatures are puny little things with a single power and toughness. So, alongside them, we need to take advantage of cheap and powerful pump spells to quicken the clock, sometimes being able to kill as quickly as turn 2.
The Core of the Deck
These four cards represent the core of the deck, and are automatic 4 of’s in any competitive Infect list in modern right now. Having a critical threshold of creatures with infect is key, as that’s our main route to victory. Sometimes, dealing a natural twenty damage is necessary and is certainly possible, but it isn’t our main game plan.
Glistener Elf is a potent threat that allows for the potential of a Turn 2 kill alongside pump spells. Blighted Agent is the best creature in our deck because being unblockable makes it an immediate need-to-kill threat. Inkmoth Nexus shines in two ways. When an opponent is a control player, it helps us beat Cryptic locks and other removal. It also helps if we need another creature with evasion, and we haven’t drawn either Blighted Agent or Distortion Strike. Noble Hierarch brings the group together, because it ramps us, allowing us to double spell quicker. It also represents a pump spell itself with the exalted keyword.
The Pump Spells
This is the pump spell suite which allows us to enact our game plan. With the addition of Scale Up in Modern Horizons, we have an easier route to kill as soon as turn 2. We can pump a Glistener Elf with it alongside some combination of Might of Old Krosa, Groundswell and Mutagenic Growth. Mutagenic Growth allows for degenerate kills, but also allows us to go off from a lower base as we can pay life instead of the necessary G to cast it. As well, it helps protect us from back-breaking cards like Wrenn and Six and Lava Dart.
Become Immense needs no introduction, I’m sure, as it’s been in and out of the spotlight since its debut in Khans of Tarkir, ensuring a quick +6 power off the back of the broken delve mechanic. Distortion Strike is included in the main 60 for three reasons. It gives our creatures a valuable +1 to their power. It makes our creatures unblockable. It also does all of this TWICE with its rebound trigger, allowing us to swing through board stalls with ease.
Protection, Never Leave Home Without It
They may be few, but they are mighty.
This is our protection suite, and they allow us to fight through the inevitable removal we’re bound to face. Blossoming Defense represents a cheap way of giving our creatures hexproof while also providing a small pump. This, alongside Vines of Vastwood, allows us to fight through any removal spell in the format short of sweepers, even allowing us to “counter” spells like Abrupt Decay which would otherwise be lights out. With Vines of Vastwood, it’s also unique in regards to its kicker mechanic, which for an additional green, allows us to give our creature a mighty boost of +4 power, while also protecting it. Spellskite is the second creature in our list that doesn’t have infect, but helps progress our game plan by insulating us against removal spells with its redirect ability. Also noteworthy, killing with a Spellskite is certainly doable and sometimes necessary!
These slots add additional functionality to the deck, allowing us to fight through problematic situations and cards. I specifically chose Spell Pierce due to the prevalence of Blood Moon, Wrenn & Six, and other problematic Planeswalkers. Dismember helps us break through a board stall or kill creatures that need to die as soon as they resolve, such as opposing infect creatures, Plague Engineer, Emry, etc. Sylvan Scrying is the newest addition and one I wanted to try out when I saw it in another player’s list. I fell in love after a couple leagues. It functions as a fifth Inkmoth Nexus, as a “pump spell” by finding Pendelhaven, or even allows us to fight through Blood Moon effects by finding one of our basics.
Our mana base is fairly straightforward, but there is also room for preference. I tend to lean towards three Breeding Pools because I want as much access to both of my colors as possible in case our Noble dies, and we need to cast one of our key blue spells. Pendelhaven functions as a pump spell and sometimes allows us to hold attackers at bay by leaving it up alongside an infect creature. Waterlogged Grove is another new addition from Modern Horizons, giving our mana base three more blue duals. This allows us to dig deeper to look for that all important creature or much needed pump spell to close the game, while also fueling our Become Immense. We play six fetch lands for 5 fetchable lands, and play 19 – 20 lands in total.
Other people who’ve played Infect before will notice right away that I’ve chosen to cut the sacred cow Dryad Arbor. Why? Well, because I hate it, and it’s always my 61st card. It’s god awful in most opening hands, and, whenever I keep a hand with it, I never feel comfortable doing so. Back when Lilliana of the Veil was the best Planeswalker in Modern, I understood its inclusion, but right now, I feel it’s a liability at best.
In: 4 Tarmogoyf, 2 Nature’s Claim, Spellskite
Out: 4 Mutagenic Growth, 1 Spell Pierce, 1 Dismember, 1 Sylvan Scrying, 1 Groundswell
These two decks are Top 3 in our worse matchup hierarchy. Between infinite removal, primarily Lava Dart, Soul Scar Mage and Eidolon of Great Revel, there is a LOT to fight through but it CAN be done. I tend to mulligan fairly aggressively, looking for a Spellskite and/or a creature plus protection spell. A lot of times this deck is a “make em have it” style of deck, and that rings truer than usual in this matchup.
In: Spellskite, Spell Pierce, 2 Veil of Summer, Dismember
Out: 2 Distortion Strike, 2 Groundswell, 1 Vines of Vastwood
To finish out our Top 3 worse matchups, we have Jund. This matchup is especially bad due to the litany of removal, backed up by discard spells AND pressure in the form of Tarmogoyf and Wrenn & Six.
This matchup tends to shift in how to approach it depending on if you’re on the play or draw. If I’m on the play, I prefer to be a bit more aggressive and play my Glistener Elf on turn 1 and try to kill as quickly as possible. If I’m on the draw, I try holding up Veil of Summer or Spell Pierce before running out my infector, as Veil protects verse discard/black removal and Spell Pierce hits the need-to-answer Wrenn & Six. Obviously this is hard to accomplish sometimes, but knowing what the highest impact cards are on-curve in the first three turns of the game is going to pay huge dividends.
There’s merit to bringing in Tarmogoyf post board, as ours will usually outclass theirs, thanks to pump spells and it’s another slate of threats against a removal heavy deck. This is something I plan to explore more moving forward.
Vs Bant Snow
In: 2 Veil of Summer, 2 Mystical Dispute, 1 Spell Pierce
Out: Become Immense, 2 Distortion Strike, 1 Dismember, 1 Vines of Vastwood
Game 1 is all about speed, as you’re wanting to kill them before they can get shields up behind a wall of permission and redundant removal. Blighted Agent is one of your best cards, as that dodges the annoying Ice Fang Coatle.
Post board, we can afford to be a bit more patient but we still don’t want the game to go too long. Being able to fight back in counter wars with Veil and Dispute allows us the ability to pick a fight over Teferi, Time Raveler.
I feel this matchup is very 50/50 and knowing how to approach it, as is the case with most Modern matchups, is going to pay off in a BIG way.
In: 2 Nature’s Claim, 1 Dismember, 2 Veil of Summer, 2 Mystical Dispute, 1 Spellskite
Out: 2 Distortion Strike, 2 Groundswell, 1 Spell Pierce, 1 Become Immense, 2 Mutagenic Growth
Game 1 I tend to feel a bit unfavored between redundant Engineered Explosives via Emry draws and looping Galvanic Blasts via Mystic Sanctuary. I approach this much like Jund where I try to be as fast as possible in game 1 and be a bit more cautious in the post board games.
Post board, I think it switches since we now have the tools to fight back via Mystical Dispute helping us counter an early Emry and/or Urza and a second copy of Spellskite to soak up those Galvanic Blasts. Watch out for Blood Moon post board, as it’s a lock out piece against us.
Vs RG Midrange
In: 1 Dismember, 2 Nature’s Claim/[c], 1 [c]Spellskite, 1 Spell Pierce
Out: 2 Groundswell, 1 Become Immense, 2 Mutagenic Growth
Game 1 can be really rough, as they’re often casting 4+ mana spells on our Turn 2 via broken Elf + Utopia Sprawl sequences. Go for your basics early if you can, as Blood Moon effects via the enchantment itself and Magus of the Moon are lights out if they draw them, so Noble Hierarch is also especially important to have and protect. Distortion strike is also going to be very important as Seasoned Pyromancer does a good job of clogging up the board.
Post board we can fight back, but it’s important to mulligan aggressively for early interaction. Dismember does a nice job of answering Magus of the Moon and Glorybringer or an early elf if we can snag it before they go off. Keep Anger of the Gods and Chandra, Torch of Defiance in the back of your mind too as you sequence your spells.
Vs Death’s Shadow Variants
In: 4 Tarmogoyf, 2 Veil of Summer, 1 Dismember, 1 Spellskite, 1 Spell Pierce
Out: 4 Mutagenic Growth, 1 Become Immense, 2 Groundswell, 2 Vines of Vastwood
This matchup, I’ve found, is about trying to beat the one or two copies of Fatal Push/removal spells they’re almost certain to have game 1, and closing out the game before their Shadows get too large.
Post board, I like bringing in Tarmogoyf because it battles fairly well against Gurmag Angler, Opposing Goyfs and Shadows. Veil of Summer and Spell Pierce go a long way towards protecting us from discard and black based removal like Fatal Push and Liliana, of the Veil.
This matchup in particular is where normal damage tends to come into play more often than others, due to them hurting themselves. So don’t forget about Birds of Paradise having flying and swinging for lethal over Shadows and Anglers.
In: 2 Nature’s Claim, 1 Spellskite, 1 Dismember, 1 Spell Pierce (2 Dissenters Deliverance instead of Nature’s Claim if Eldrazi Tron)
Out: 1 Become Immense, 2 Groundswell, 2 Vines of Vastwood, 1 Sylvan Scrying
These decks are very good matchups for us, as they tend to run very little in the way of interaction and it takes multiple turns for them to set up. Against Eldrazi Tron, Dissenter’s Deliverance is important for Chalice of the Void where Nature’s Claim is important against the other decks for Dryad of the Illysian Grove and Amulet of Vigor.
Post board, watch for Force of Vigor as that can blow up our Inkmoth Nexus, and all the decks usually run somewhere between 2 and 3 Dismember, but as long as you don’t get greedy these matchups should be fairly easy to overcome.
So now that we understand what makes up the deck and how to board versus some of the more popular decks in the format, let’s dive into my most recent tournament finish, the Team Lotus Box Patreon Tournament Series, where I managed to finish as the First seed at the end of Swiss going into Top 8!
Round 1 Vs Naya Blade
Right off the bat I got tested against the deck Team Lotus Box’s Captain, Zan Syed, was pioneering all week leading up to this event. This deck aims to take advantage of the Arbor Elf + Utopia Sprawl engine to power out powerful midrange threats well ahead of curve, all of which is backed up by the Stoneforge Mystic + Equipment package.
Game 1 I’m on the draw and after a mulligan to 6, I keep a hand of Fetch, Nexus, hierarch, Distortion Strike and Might of old Krosa. Not a lightning fast hand, but it’ll do. My opp leads off on Arbor Elf, so I fetch a basic and play a Noble after drawing a redundant copy for my draw step. My opponent plays the highly frustrating Magus of the Moon on their Turn 3, which makes my keep look super bad, that said I notice my opponent’s life total is at a lowly 14 already, and I just drew Groundswell. I manage to take the game off the back of double Noble beats backed up by Distortion Strike, exalted triggers and 2 +4 effects over the next two turns.
Game 2 I keep my opening 7 of Double Fetch, Double Elf, Blighted Agent, Distortion Strike and Might of Old Krosa. A very solid hand I think, unfortunately my opponent plays a Wrenn & Six on their turn 2 and it runs away with the game unchecked.
Game 3 I keep a hand of Elf, Pendelhaven, Breeding Pool, Vines of Vastwood, Might of Old Krosa and Nature’s Claim. I’m on the play, and as I don’t want to lose my elf to a bolt, I elect to lead on a tapped Breeding Pool, with the intent of protecting my elf on Turn 2 with Vines as back up. Unfortunately, my opponent has two pieces of interaction, but one is luckily a Path to Exile, which allows me to ramp a bit. The next turn I cycle a Waterlogged Grove, finding Inkmoth Nexus[c], which double Might and a Scale up in Hand. Opponent only has a bolt as interaction and [c]Might of Old Krosa takes the game. 1-0
Round 2 Vs Uroza (Jarvis Yu)
Game 1 we are on the play and a mulligan to 5, keeping a hand of Blighted Agent, Glistener Elf, Pendelhaven, Inkmoth Nexus and Dismember. We can’t expect too much from this hand and are living on a prayer already. We manage to push a little bit of poison and kill an early Emry, but a backup Emry that recurs Engineered Explosives is just too much to overcome.
Game 2, Jarvis ends up missing a land drop for a couple turns which allows us to capitalize and let Inkmoth Nexus take the game.
Game 3 our opening hand is Noble Hierarch x2, Elf, Forest, Skite, Mystical Dispute/[c] and [c]Mutagenic Growth. Nothing awe inspiring but very solid, so we keep. We open on Noble + Elf, and Jarvis pops his EE on 1. Luckily, we draw Inkmoth and Blighted Agent. Eventually we get to a board state where he is holding up an EE on 2 for Blighted Agent and Skite, so we start attacking with Inkmoth to ensure we can push poison. We try to go for the kill with a scale up, but he Gusts it and we ship it to the top. On the following turn, I elect to swing with the Inkmoth Nexus[c] without casting scale up so I can hold up [c]Mystical Dispute in case he has some sort of interaction. He elects not to block, so I go in on my 2 Mutagenic Growths in hand, fighting through a Metallic Rebuke and double Galvanic Blast. 2-0
Round 3 Vs Dredge
Game 1 we’re on the play, and keep a 6 of Blighted Agent x2, Glistener Elf, Breeding Pool, Might of Old Krosa and Groundswell. We lead on Elf and top deck a land, allowing us to cast one of our Blighted Agents. Our opponent casts a Cathartic Reunion, and we kill them on our next turn when we hit another land, allowing us to +8 our Blighted Agent.
Game 2 our opponent has a much more explosive turn, killing us on turn 3 off the back of an insane Cathartic Reunion[c] allowing Dredgers to hit a [c]Narcomeba and triple Prized Amalgem. The Narcomeba is the key here, as we had lethal ready if they whiffed on that specific card as we can’t swing through with Inkmoth.
Game 3 we take a quick one on turn 3 off an unblockable Blighted Agent pumped with a Scale Up and Might of Old Krosa with Vines back up. Sometimes, you just got it all! 3-0
Round 4 Vs BW Taxes
Game 1 we win the roll and keep a hand of Fetch, Elf, Agent, Growth, Distortion Strike, Might of Old Krosa and Mutagenic Growth. We lead on Elf, and hit for two poison off a Distortion Strike. Our Opponent plays a Charming Prince and dies on our next turn.
Game 2 our keep is a bit greedy with Scale Up, Waterlogged Grove, Inkmoth Nexus, Spell Pierce[c], [c]Mutagenic Growth x2. It’s a Turn 3 Kill if our opponent doesn’t interact meaningfully. However, they play a Tidehollow Sculler and take our Scale up, but on our Turn 3 we draw another Scale Up and we win the match 2-0. Our Record now is a cool 4-0!
Round 5 vs Mono Green Tron
Both games go pretty much as expected, where we kill our opponent while they’re still setting up, killing with Blighted Agent on Turn 3 Game 1 and Glistener Elf on Turn 2 off the combo of Scale Up + Mutagenic Growth x2. 5-0!
Round 6 Vs 5 Color Niv Mizzet (Will Pulliam)
This 3 Game set is my first experience playing against this deck, and it was a good lesson to learn.
Game 1 I keep a 6 card hand of Waterlogged Grove x2, Sylvan Scrying, Scale Up, Mutagenic Growth and Spell Pierce. It’s a very slow hand, and it may have been right to go down to 5 but I chose to keep it. We manage to draw an Inkmoth Nexus naturally and are able to tag a Wrenn & Six on Pulliams second turn, so things are definitely looking up. We scrying for a Pendelhaven, and when he taps low on his following turn, we fire off Blossoming Defense to clear the way, plus Scale Up and Mutagenic Growth to kill on our Turn 4.
I purposely left a sideboard guide out from above for this part of the write up because I boarded incorrectly against the deck the first time I played against it.
I brought in: 1 Spell Pierce, 1 Spellskite, 2 Mystical Dispute
I took out: 2 Distortion Strike, 1 Dismember, 1 Become Immense
I should have also brought in the Veil of Summers considering their removal is mostly black based, and they bring in discard effects against us. I should have taken out 2 Groundswell as well.
Game 2 we get picked apart by Wrenn & Six killing our guys and Assassin’s Trophy killing our nexus and we quickly go to game 3.
For Game 3, our opener is Waterlogged Grove x2, Inkmoth Nexus, Might of Old Krosa, Vines of Vastwood, Blossoming Defense and Blighted Agent. A very solid hand that can beat a Wrenn & Six, so we keep. He plays the expected W&6 on turn two, killing our Blighted Agent, and we trade a Blossoming Defense on our turn 3 for the Wrenn on our next turn. I think this is wrong because Wrenn can’t interact with our Inkmoth Nexus, and had we hit him, we could have killed him on the next turn. Instead, we go into a longer game, and his Teferi stops us from protecting our Inkmoth, allowing it to get killed by a Lightning Helix and we die to Niv-Mizzit.
We take our first loss, but there are two rounds left and despite this we’re still in 3rd place in the standings. Plus, more importantly, we learn much about Niv-Mizzit and how to play against it, which becomes invaluable in the next couple rounds.
Round 7 Vs Amulet Titan (fpawlusz)
Much like our Tron matchup earlier, this game goes much like expected in that our opponent spends the first couple turns each game setting up, and we kill them before they can play to the board in a meaningful way, killing them on turn 2 in game 2.
Round 8 Vs 5 Color Niv Mizzet (Connary Mullaly)
We learn from our mistakes against Pulliam here by keeping fast hands and bringing in Veil of Summer for our post board games. We trade the first two games (Connar if you’re reading this, that Thoughtseize is still the best ever LOL) but We manage to take the match very quickly in game 3 (a recurring theme throughout this event!) and lock up the #1 seed going into Top 8!
Top 8 Vs BW Taxes
Unfortunately, this is where our tale ends, as we take some unfortunate deep mulligans both games and play two very noncompetitive games against a very skilled opponent. I think the matchup is certainly winnable, though it can be difficult. Specifically, I messed up in Game 1 by not using Blossoming Defense to protect my Blighted Agent, the most important card in the matchup, while Vial was on the stack, which would have protected it from a Wasteland Strangler. This would have allowed us to keep attacking, and possibly take Game 1 and play for a Game 3.
All in all, Team Lotus Box put on a fantastic event, and I am very much looking forward to the next one! Thanks so much to Zan and the rest of the guys for putting on these events while quarantine is in full effect.
As for me, well I’ll be slinging my trusty Infect cards on my stream (www.twitch.tv/jski_asndncy) and in any Modern event I can register for. The format is currently pretty 50/50 for us right now, with some of our best matchups running the top tables.
I hope this (rather long) primer helps shed some light on UG Infect, and if you’ve got any questions about the deck, feel free to reach out to me on my Twitter (@Kr4knb8)!
Thanks so much!