Long gone are the days where turn one Glistener Elf was among the scariest starts in Modern… or so we thought. Since the banning of Gitaxian Probe, we’ve seen blips on the radar from Blighted Agent and friends when Scale Up and Teferi, Time Raveler were printed, but neither allowed consistent success. However, in the back half of 2019, Infect has come back into its own. Here are some of the keys to its newfound success.
The New Look
I had listed Once Upon a Time as a key card for Infect back in my “Top 5 Throne of Eldraine Cards for Modern” article. Before this card came along, one of the biggest problems Infect faced was consistent access to an infect creature. Now, with four copies of Once Upon a Time, the range of keepable opening hands jumped way up. A seven-card hand with a Once Upon a Time will find one of the twelve infect creatures 73.8% of the time on turn one.
The value doesn’t stop there, either. Maybe you have an infect threat and are tight on mana, or you’re looking for protection. Good news: Once Upon a Time can also find Noble Hierarch and Spellskite! Artificially increasing threat density goes a long way toward solving one of the deck’s biggest issues and pushing it back to the top of the Modern metagame.
It should be no secret to anyone keeping up with Modern that Oko, Thief of Crowns is one of the biggest threats in the format. It’s also a great upgrade for the Infect sideboard, serving as a non-Infect threat, a source of lifegain, and a way to answer artifacts all in one card. Kitchen Finks used to be the best option in the non-Infect threat/lifegain slot, but Oko handles that while also eliminating the need for cards like Dissenter’s Deliverance. Most lists are running three copies of the Throne of Eldraine Planeswalker, which makes room for a few copies of another new addition: Veil of Summer.
Veil of Summer is a slam dunk include in the Infect sideboard. Like Once Upon a Time, this card plugs a huge hole for Infect: when you only have twelve threats in the deck, you need to protect them, especially when facing removal-heavy decks like Jund and Death’s Shadow. When Lightning Bolt was a premier removal spell in Modern, Infect has some natural protection given its density of pump spells; now that Fatal Push owns the top spot, making your creatures bigger won’t save them. Veil of Summer allows you to protect your threats for just a single green mana, generating tempo and card advantage.
We’ve seen all of the shiny new toys that Infect players have gained over the last few months, but you might still be wondering what the deck looks like these days. Here’s the list that finished in 11th place at the StarCityGames Invitational, piloted by Jacob Segal:
4 Blighted Agent
4 Glistener Elf
4 Noble Hierarch
1 Dryad Arbor
2 Breeding Pool
4 Inkmoth Nexus
1 Misty Rainforest
2 Verdant Catacombs
2 Waterlogged Grove
1 Windswept Heath
3 Wooded Foothills
1 Become Immense
2 Blossoming Defense
4 Might of Old Krosa
4 Once Upon a Time
1 Spell Pierce
4 Vines of Vastwood
2 Distortion Strike
3 Scale Up
Scale Up, Waterlogged Grove, Once Upon a Time, Mystical Dispute, Veil of Summer, and Oko, Thief of Crowns make up a whopping seventeen cards printed in 2019. Given that number, it doesn’t surprise me that Infect is starting to pop back up as a deck people are interested in playing.
Exploiting the Metagame
Gone are the days where decks like Jund (or other “good stuff” decks) topped the Modern metagame. As the power level has risen across Modern, the card quality gap begins to close as the linear decks get upgrades. The best way to gain or maintain power in the current age of Magic is to do something powerful while exploiting holes in the metagame. So, the question we should ask ourselves is, “What about Modern is Infect exploiting?”
Among the top decks in the format, we see Simic Urza, Eldrazi Tron, Mono-Green Tron, and Amulet Titan. All these decks have a relatively high curve, and they also don’t defend themselves well. Infect is a 60-card stack of raw efficiency. Its density of one-mana threats and protection allow you to win before your opponent has the chance to set up their game plan. The London mulligan rule and Once Upon a Time allow Infect to be as fast as it needs to be with alarming consistency.
Chalice of the Void and Engineered Explosives may seem like natural counters to Infect, as they both prey on decks that like to cast cheap spells. Truth be told, these cards can be problematic for Infect, especially in Game 1. However, Chalice of the Void may be too slow to stop a Glistener Elf, and Engineered Explosives can’t stop Inkmoth Nexus.
After sideboarding, Chalice of the Void, Engineered Explosives, Thoughtseize, and Fatal Push become much less potent, thanks to Ceremonious Rejection, Oko, and Veil of Summer. It’s rare that a Modern deck can answer all the cards that try to disrupt it, but that’s seemingly no problem for Infect. One reason for this is that the top decks have been so focused on beating one another that they’ve failed to account for the rest. Like many linear decks, Infect thrives in formats that least expect it.
Hopefully this has given you a better understanding of a deck that’s been flying under the Modern radar. I know that Infect will be on my short list of decks to consider for upcoming Modern tournaments, and hopefully it will also make yours as well. Do you think I missed an important piece, or just want to provide any general feedback? Let me know on Twitter at @RappaciousOne!
Michael Rapp is a Modern specialist who favors Thoughtseize decks. Magic sates his desire for competition and constant improvement.