Today, I’m going to be covering Infect and Shardless Bant, two newcomers to the Legacy scene. For those who look forward to my metagame analyses, you can expect another one covering Legacy soon!
If you’re like me, you get really excited when a new archetype emerges in Legacy. I’m always excited to try new things and find a deck that people aren’t expecting. I’ve had the most success with Sultai Delver, and part of the reason for that was that nobody played around my Daze after I dropped a turn 1 Deathrite Shaman. That’s definitely no longer true, as Sultai Delver is now one of the tier 1 decks of the format. Playing unexpected cards gives you a very real edge, and I think that’s one reason some Sultai Delver lists are shifting towards Stifle. I’m sure Tom Ross has also gotten an insane amount of value by making a few key card changes and having his opponents fail to play around the correct spells.
Here’s Tom’s list from the recent SCG Invitational:
His SB white splash keeps his opponents guessing and brings some very powerful cards to the table. From my experience with the deck, the bad matchups were Jeskai Delver and Temur Delver. With only UG, the best answers for Delver were Dismember and Piracy Charm. Life was a real cost against the Delver decks and Piracy Charm only worked on unflipped Delvers. So, the splash for Swords to Plowshares was his way of answering that problem. Going forward, I’m sure he’ll continue to innovate and make changes on the archetype, so if you just copy his list you may just be one step behind. Instead, I’ll try to talk about the core philosophy of the deck so you can figure out which card choices you would prefer to play. Let’s go through Tom’s latest list and see what each card’s purpose is.
4 Blighted Agent – The best creature against most fair decks.
4 Glistener Elf – The best creature against the combo decks.
4 Noble Hierarch – Infect is actually fairly mana-intensive, and Hierarch serves both as an invaluable mana source and quickens the clock. Most people fail to kill Hierarch when it’s often right to limit Infect’s mana development.
1 Dryad Arbor – Insurance against Liliana of the Veil and a way to punish opponents who pay too much life to Sylvan Library etc. In addition, damage kills are not out of the question when you have multiple Invigorates/Berserks. Also works as mana acceleration with Green Sun’s Zenith.
3 Daze – I would personally run 4 of these as many games are very fast paced and you run mana acceleration to counteract the disadvantage of Daze
4 Brainstorm – Legacy’s best card is actually insane in this deck as sometimes you Brainstorm into double Invigorate and your opponent is just dead.
2 Gitaxian Probe – I personally like playing more Ponders than Probes, but Probes let you go for the throat more as you can see when the coast is clear.
4 Vines of Vastwood – Protection and death in one convenient package.
1 Crop Rotation – Primarily used to find Inkmoth Nexus and counter Wasteland, it also searches for your anti-combo land targets post sb.
2 Swords to Plowshares – Good answer for Delver/SFM/Grim Lavamancer and flying blockers.
1 Piracy Charm – Mostly used for the +2/-1 ability to deal with annoying creatures, it can also be used as a pump spell. In Magical Christmasland, you can hit your opponent’s Infernal Tutor when they cast their last ritual.
1 Karakas – Anti-Sneak and Show Crop Rotation target.
Against pure combo decks, the game is mostly about racing to the finish. Berserk is one of your MVPs, and a turn 1 Glistener Elf into turn 2 Berserk + Invigorate can race most combo decks even on the draw. Post-sideboard you usually trim Inkmoth Nexuses and bring in more countermagic.
Against fair decks though, Infect is not built around going all in and praying for the best. Rather, I find Infect mostly about getting in for bits and pieces of damage and then punishing your opponents when they sequence their removal incorrectly or tap out at inopportune moments. My friend Jd has been playing the deck for a while and he’s convinced that the actual best pump spell in the deck is not Invigorate, but Vines of Vastwood. For one green mana, it counters any removal spell (even Wasteland if you can activate your Inkmoth), and for two green mana, it takes away 40% of your opponent’s life total. Many games against fair decks revolve around playing a creature and then beating down with Pendelhavens + exalted triggers and then kicking Vines when your opponent goes for a removal spell. Against most fair decks, your best bet is to cut down on Forces and bring in other cards that interact well. Although Infect is a combo deck, it actually does a decent job of grinding down an opponent’s resources and playing fair.
Infect has a surprisingly good matchup against Miracles, and most of my losses to Miracles have been to either a quick Counterbalance lock or to Blood Moon. Every threat of ours demands an answer and it’s easy to tax their Terminuses and Swords to Plowshares. Inkmoth Nexus and Vines of Vastwood are your two MVPs, and it’s fairly difficult for Miracles to close out the match against you so you can often steal games even when they go long.
I’ve found the various Delver decks to be the hardest matchups for Infect. Sultai Delver in particular has a slew of nightmare cards to deal with: 4 Wastelands, Umezawa’s Jitte, 8 one mana removal spells and even Grim Lavamancer. A decently paced clock and an unending supply of answers to your threats make it very difficult for your little creatures to gain any traction. Temur Delver has fewer removal spells, but it has a faster clock and Submerge post-SB. I haven’t found any great solutions to these two matchups, and I’m skeptical that splashing a third color against two mana denial strategies is the best idea, but I’m ready to be proven wrong.
I would say the number one thing most players get wrong is playing their removal spells at the wrong time. Infect players will sense a removal spell and simply hold up Vines and Invigorate. In most situations, it’s better to play those instant speed removal spells as sorceries so that Vines and Invigorate get the least value possible.
Repeatable removal spells (Grim Lavamancer and Umezawa’s Jitte) are also very powerful. Burn is a fairly bad matchup for Infect, but most Burn players don’t realize that they are actually a control deck in the matchup. They should focus every single resource at making sure the Infect player doesn’t get to untap with a creature, and over a long game they will assemble twenty points of burn before the Infect player gains enough traction.
Sweepers like Pyroclasm are okay, but they’re much stronger at instant speed (Zealous Persecution and Golgari Charm come to mind). Still, they can be played around if you don’t overcommit. I had a Sultai Delver opponent untap and pass with no turn two play, which seemed really fishy against my board of Noble Hierarch and Glistener Elf. So, instead of casting another Hierarch, I simply played Pendelhaven and watch my opponent’s 2 for 1 turn into a 1 for 1.
There are more random cards that Infect has trouble beating (Night of Souls’ Betrayal anyone?), but I believe I covered the main ones. In general, if you can keep your opponent from untapping with a creature you are in good shape. Just keep in mind that they can Crop Rotation for an Inkmoth Nexus end of turn, so don’t feel too safe.
All in all, Infect is a very powerful deck that has a fine matchup versus most decks in the format. It is surprisingly difficult to pilot though, as you have to carefully consider what your opponent is representing at each stage in the game, and there are often convoluted lines. I would definitely recommend watching Tom pilot the deck as he often sees lines that most players would miss.
Another recent deck that I’ve been toying with is Shardless Bant. I split the finals of a Duel for Duals event with the deck and I think it’s a very strong choice going forward. Here’s my current list:
4 Shardless Agent – The namesake of the deck, Shardless Agent is designed to cascade into very broken spells in this deck. Shardless BUG might cascade into a Deathrite Shaman or useless discard spell, and although you might brick with Shardless Agent, hitting a Stoneforge Mystic or a Thopter Foundry can be very powerful, not to mention you also run 4 Ancestral Vision and hatebears post-sb.
4 Stoneforge Mystic – Against the fair decks you’ll almost always want to tutor for Sword of the Meek. Your opponent will probably be forced to kill Stoneforge Mystic in case you have the Batterskull anyways.
1 Vendilion Clique – A good answer for planeswalkers, Delver and combo.
1 Enlightened Tutor – I often side this card out against the fair decks as I dislike card disadvantage, but I think playing one MD is good as it tutors for either half of the combo and you play powerful hosers like Ensnaring Bridge.
1 Misdirection – Good answer to discard and Abrupt Decay from the popular BG/x decks.
1 Sensei’s Divining Top – Synergizes well with Thopter Foundry as you can draw a card and make a Thopter. Also sets up your cascades.
1 Engineered Explosives – This used to be a Detention Sphere, but I think EE might be a bit better as I’ve always wanted a sweeper maindeck.
2 Island – You run 4 basics and can play around Wasteland fairly well as you are essentially a UW deck that splashes for Shardless Agent.
1 Academy Ruins – Gives you inevitability against Abrupt Decay when they don’t have Wasteland. It can also be great to buyback Shardless Agents.
The sideboard is decently self-explanatory and mostly geared towards fighting combo as your game 1 matchup isn’t great.
1 Grafdigger’s Cage – First tutor target vs. Elves, Dredge and Reanimator.
1 Ethersworn Canonist – I bring this in against Show and Tell so that they can’t Force our Forces.
1 Humility – This card is so absurdly powerful that it can definitely be a maindeck consideration, possibly over Ensnaring Bridge. Still the 4cc makes me hesitate as I’d rather play the 3cc Ensnaring Bridge vs. Delver.
1 Seal of Cleansing – The major downside to not playing black is losing Abrupt Decay. Sadly, this is our best bet for dealing with random cards like Blood Moon, Chalice of the Void, and Rest in Peace
2 Flusterstorm – This card has been surprisingly good, but I had to make some cuts. I only side this in vs. combo and Miracles as it is a dead cascade
1 Sword of Feast and Famine – This card is strong against Elves as it lets you punch your Jitte through Visionary, as well as being a threat against other combo decks.
Shardless Bant is definitely a favorite against most of the fair decks of the format. It just has an insane amount of card advantage and a few key trumps. Elves and Sneak and Show are the most common unfair decks played on the SCG circuit, and Ensnaring Bridge and Humility are very strong against both decks.
Beating Shardless Bant
If you’re a fair deck, your best bet is to either win a short game before they can assemble ThopterSword, or have a plan for when they do assemble it. Shardless Bant does not run Abrupt Decay, so cards like Rest in Peace are actually reasonable answers to the combo as Shardless Bant only has a few ways to deal with artifacts and enchantments. Shardless Bant also has trouble with opposing planeswalkers. A quick turn 2 Liliana is very hard to deal with, and can break up your combo with the ultimate.
For unfair decks, your best bet is to understand the hate cards that Shardless Bant is packing and be prepared for them. Elves can run Krosan Grip, Sneak and Show can run bounce spells and Pyroclasm for the hatebears. Blood Moon is not particularly effective due to the presence of 4 basics, so I would probably not side that in.
I would also like to stress that the deck is quite slow, and you will have to play very quickly to avoid draws. The typical path to victory is through using Thopters, which can’t quite finish the game in extra turns as well as something like Entreat the Angels. I’ve gone to time with this deck more times than I’ve gone to time with Miracles, so be warned.
Overall though, Shardless Bant is a great choice for the current metagame as it has the tools to grind out the fair decks, and next-levels them by having a trump when the game goes long. It has the tools to beat the combo decks, but does admittedly have trouble with less popular decks such as 12Post or ANT. But, unless the SCG metagame shifts, I’d highly recommend giving the deck a try.
Let me know if you enjoyed the article and I’ll do my best to respond in the comments below. Thanks!