The upcoming Pro Tour 25th Anniversary will feature Standard, Modern, and Legacy. While Standard gets a lot of time in the spotlight as a matter of course, you might not be quite up to speed on Magic’s Eternal formats. While there are specialists much more qualified than me to do this for Legacy, Modern is my favorite Constructed format and the one I spend the most time playing. In the lead up to the PT, I’ll be breaking down the decks that are likely to see play, and explaining the game plan, strengths, and weaknesses of the format’s major archetypes. This week, I’m looking at Infect, and you can find previous deck breakdowns here.
What Infect Does
Infect is all about explosive, non-interactive Magic. It’s about the most all-in aggressive deck in the entire Modern format. The basic game plan is simple—land an infect creature, increase its power to 10 with pump spells, and connect to win the game. This approach is so linear that Infect is often classified as a combo deck rather than an aggressive deck, as the deck’s plan A is so firmly set in stone.
Once the scourge of Modern, Infect took a back seat in the format with the banning of Gitaxian Probe. As weird as it sounds, seeing as Probe is neither an infect creature or a pump spell, Gitaxian Probe was a critical component of the deck as it allowed Infect pilots to see if the coast was clear for an all-in attack. Today, there’s a little more guesswork involved, but make no mistake—Infect can and will end games out of nowhere.
Infect has the capability to be just about the fastest deck in Modern. Capable of turn-2 kills thanks to cards such as Mutagenic Growth and Become Immense, some games are over before they’ve even properly begun. As a result, Infect remains a scary deck to sit down against, as you never know how stacked their opener might be.
Infect also plays a surprising amount of interaction for such a linear deck. Not only can Blossoming Defense and Vines of Vastwood protect creatures from removal spells, Dismember can clear blockers. Spell Pierce also dances between the main deck and sideboard, keeping opponents on their toes.
This deck has a huge amount of card redundancy, as the core of the deck is made up of infect creatures and pump spells, and drawing a sufficiently powerful combination of either will win games. In other words, it often doesn’t matter which creature or which pump spell is drawn (although some are, obviously, better than others). Given a critical mass of cards, Infect will present lethal threats with ease.
Two final strengths of this deck are Inkmoth Nexus and Noble Hierarch. Inkmoth Nexus will sneakily hang out among the lands, immune to sorcery-speed removal such as sweepers, and then get you out of nowhere when the dust has settled. Similarly, a smart pilot will deftly pivot to beating down with a Hierarch when they run out of infect creatures, and winning the old fashioned way with “real” damage.
It doesn’t take too much to undo Infect’s battle plan. A single well-timed removal spell can spell game over for Infect, especially if they play rashly or decide to “go for it” at an inopportune time. Even when played conservatively, Infect decks fare very poorly against removal spells of all kinds. Path, Bolt, Push, and the like are all excellent in this matchup.
Similarly, discard spells shine against Infect. It’s a good idea to play any card or effect that prevents Infect from leveraging a critical mass of its creatures and pump spells, so Thoughtseize, Inquisition, and Collective Brutality are terrific options to consider. Interaction in more or less every form (with the exception of counterspells, perhaps) will overperform against Infect.
Infect is also something of a one-trick pony with predictable play patterns, making it easier to outmaneuver an opponent if you’re the one with more reactive, flexible cards. Learn the Infect list in and out and you’ll generally have a good idea of what to play around and when. Taking the guesswork out of the equation will directly correlate to more wins for you.
How to Beat Infect
As discussed, commonly-played disruption is very good against Infect. Their reliance on flimsy creatures and pump spells can be broken up with relative ease, although sometimes you just have to accept the fact that they “have it”, take the loss on the chin, and move on. Use your discard and removal spells wisely, and they’ll have a tough time.
Here’s what Infect players don’t want you to know. Play your removal on your turn. Even if it’s instant speed, you should generally play it during your main phase. Why? Because as juicy as it might be to get a 2-for-1 by Bolting their creature in response to a pump spell, it’s never going to happen. A smart Infect player will play around removal and make “safe” attacks in the face of open mana.
The second reason is this: if you try to kill their creature on your turn, and they use a Blossoming Defense or Vines of Vastwood to protect it, you’ve just burnt a pump spell from their hand. Imagine if you’d waited until they attacked—not only would your removal spell do nothing, you’d be taking extra damage from the pump spell! In short: play your removal on your turn, not theirs.
Finally, be aware of the secret Hierarch beatdown mode, and take note of the fact that Infect often runs a playset of Invisible Stalkers in the board to punish decks that are heavy on spot removal. When facing Infect, many players will be fast and loose with their life total, fetching and Shocking all over the place. Don’t make it easy for them—be aware of the fact that, especially post-board, your life total may end up being under siege.
Infect has flown under the radar for quite some time in Modern. While it’s difficult to argue that it’s a real tier 1 deck, there may be those who seek to change your opinion on the matter in Minneapolis. We’ll see if Infect comes up with the goods at the next Pro Tour!