It is no secret by now that I have been somewhat, well, struggling with this Limited format. Not that my record is necessarily bad – I’m a combined 8-4 in MSS (or whatever the name of that format is) drafts in important events – but I have the feeling that I don’t really “get it,” and the only reason I can win is because other people don’t get it either.
My biggest problem with it is that I am not really sure of when I have to commit. Generally I like to be pretty open and draft somewhat passively, but this format is very unique in a sense that some cards that are very good in an archetype but almost unplayable (or downright unplayable) in others. Of course, cards have always changed value depending on what you had, but never this drastically. Because of that, you generally have to commit a bit earlier if you want to play this kind of card, which is a very scary thought for me, because it forces me to commit before I know if what I’m committing to can actually work.
There are three ways out of this situation, as I see it. The first one is to master the format so much that you can react to the slightest change and adapt to whichever archetype works best, which would be ideal but at this point is non-practical – not like I can suddenly decide to be a master in it. The second one is to not draft infect unless it’s clearly there for you – if you never pick a green card, for example, you’ll not usually be in the bad situation where your cards are useless, since even though the other colors have different archetypes, their cards are a lot more interchangeable. The third way out is to always look forward to drafting infect, unless it is clearly not there.
I have chosen to draft infect. Of course, if I open Kuldotha Flamefiend and get passed Burn the Impure followed by Divine Offering x2, I’ll end up in RW – I am not “forcing” infect completely. If, however, I open Blightwidow and Burn the Impure, or Spread the Sickness and Burn the Impure, I will pick the BG card, even though Burn the Impure is better.
Why do I do that? Because I think infect is the best archetype. I always want to be infect, and every time I am not, I regret it. I pass infect first picks when there are 7 cards left in the pack, and I want to kill myself. I then promptly lose to the infect player. I wanna be the infect player. The goal of this article is to explain why I like infect so much, so you can see if you agree with me or not and then decide yourself, and then a little bit about the pick orders of the archetype.
What are the benefits to drafting infect?
– Infect has a high amount of commons I would be glad to first pick. If I am infect by pack two, I will be happy to first pick Grasp of Darkness, Cystbearer, Plague Stinger, Ichorclaw Myr, Sylvok Replica, or Corpse Cur. That is likely more than in any other archetype.
– Infect cards are mostly useless to anyone not playing infect, regardless of their power level in the infect deck. If someone opens Cystbearer and Plague Stinger in the same pack and they take the Cystbearer, sometimes you’ll get the Plague Stinger 8th, because no one else has any use for it. That will not happen with the top commons in the other archetypes – if someone opens Shatter and Galvanic Blast in the same pack, you will very rarely get an 8th pick Shatter unless the pack is really stacked. That, coupled with the first reason, means you get first pick quality cards very late in the draft if you’re infect and not everyone else is.
– You naturally blank some cards. Before MBS, there wasn’t much, but nowadays there is Fangren Marauder, and not losing to that card is a big bonus. Artifact removal is also a lot worse against you, as is regeneration.
– It is very hard to play against infect, especially in combat. Untamed Might, Predator’s Strike, Mirran Mettle, Instill Infection, Virulent Wound, Tainted Strike, all of those change the way your opponents should play, and if they play around one they will just lose to the other. That is not so different from playing Faeries – either they play against Mistbind Clique or Cryptic Command, and very rarely you have exactly the one they play against (as opposed to the other, none or both), but they still can’t do anything about it, they just have to hope. You can even often mindlessly attack, because if they call your bluff it’s not like you just lose your guy, theirs gets smaller too. People also cannot afford not to trade with your guys because they hit so hard, which gives a lot more value to all those tricks and to cards like Corpse Cur and Morbid Plunder.
– You get some free wins. By the nature of this format, people are likely to play late game cards such as Trigon of Thought and Hexplate Golem, because a lot of the games do go late and are decided by late game cards. They will not play many Myrs as they used to, because they’ve realized they cannot afford the dead draws later on, and they will certainly not play random bears. And they will choose to draw. infect is an approach that is aggressive enough to punish them for slow draws without going all-in – basically, sometimes you’ll just beat people with turn two Ichorclaw Myr, turn three Contagious Nim, turn four Blackcleave Goblin, turn five Untamed Might merely as a consequence of your archetype – and if that does not happen, you’re still fine and, due to proliferate, you even have more reach than most other aggro decks.
– A good infect deck is better than a good (insert any other deck here). At the same time, a bad infect deck still has a lot of chances to win. This kind of contradicts what I originally thought about this format – to me, infect was kind of the 3-0/0-3 gamble. Nowadays I think that I’d rather have a bad infect than a bad , because of those free wins that you get and no one else does. If you’re infect, you get to win games because they stumble on mana, because they play around the wrong trick, etc.
There are, of course, some reasons for you to not draft infect.
Why would you not want to draft infect?
– Because everyone else might be drafting it
– Because the packs might simply not have enough infect cards in them
Fortunately enough, those two problems will kind of “fix themselves”. If some people decide they want to draft infect (you included), then there won’t be many infect cards going on, and not a lot more people will decide to go infect. If the packs do not have enough infect cards, the same will happen – not many people will go infect, and you will get the few cards that did get opened later than you should.
The two real problems arise when:
a) People are as stubborn as you are; a table can support 2 or 3 players who would like to be infect no matter what, because those players will usually drive everyone else away from it. However, if 4 people decide they want to draft infect period (or even 3 if packs are not good), then everyone is going to end up with a bad deck. You cannot do anything about that, other than hope that packs either fuel the amount of people so that you end up with a decent deck regardless, or that you realize what is going on soon enough. It will definitely happen that you pick p1 Blightwidow over Burn the Impure, then p2 Rot Wolf over Burn the Impure, then p3 on you see no infect cards ever and curse yourself for passing the two superior cards, only to find out later in the draft that the guy took Blightwidow over Rot Wolf and Burn because he was also “forcing” infect.
b) The first pack has a lot of infect cards, hooking a lot of people, and then packs 2 and 3 are shallow but no one is willing to change archetypes. This is much more dangerous, because it creates the illusion that infect is open when it is not, and then by the point you realize it, it’s sometimes too late to go back.
What do I do when that happens?!
If it happens that you are being savagely cut off infect after the first couple picks, you will generally either abandon them completely and change colors (if situation a), or go to one of those clunky decks, likely Dinosaurs of some sort, which doesn’t necessarily have to be green but could be BR for example (situation b, and sometimes situation a). The good thing about it is that the very first picks in MBS are also interchangeable – the green guys are good defenders for Dinosaurs, and the black removal is good anywhere.
If you get hooked pack 1 and then things dry up quickly, you will at least have the small consolation that there are likely three other people in the table that are going to have the same problems you’re having, and their decks will also not be good. Then, you hope to “free win” the other four!
So, is it worth it?
Do the pros outweigh the cons? Is it worth the possibility of a train wreck because infect was just not there? I believe it is.
Even though infect supports more than one person, you should always try to play your part in making sure that the people near you are not infect. I am generally not a big fan of signaling – not that I think it is useless, but I will take the superior card regardless of what else is on the pack, because I am the one feeding so I have control – but when you go for a strategy like infect, they become a lot more important.
The reason for that is that infect is something very “precise,” so to speak. If you open Flamefiend, Red Sun’s Zenith and Burn the Impure, you can take one and then the people next to you are going to take the other and then the other, but who knows what they’re going to do with it? They could play it in RW aggro, RB control, mono-red Kuldotha, they could splash it in their infect decks, they could go UR metalcraft. One of those people, or even both, are likely going to move out of red as a main color, because the cards just won’t come.
With infect, it is different. If you pass Flesh-Eater Imp, what do you think they are going to do with it? They’ll not just share a color with you, they’ll be in the very same archetype and color combination, and they’ll want exactly the same cards – all of them. It is not that you care much about your neighbors, but you really don’t want many people on the table drafting infect, so you’d very much prefer if no one got that late Rot Wolf so they don’t start having ideas.
To solve that, first Gabe and then Web told me that they thought you had to signal on the first pack instead of taking the best card for the archetype, and I think I agree with them. This basically means that any creature with the word “infect” raises a little bit in your pick order in the first pack. Removal is still the most important thing in an infect deck, but it is not necessarily your priority pack one.
Let’s take, for example, Blightwidow against Spread the Sickness. I know most people think Blightwidow is a better card, but I disagree – in infect, I would rather have Spread the Sickness. Even if you are one of the Blightwidow supporters, pretend that you are not and that you think Spread is better. Even though that is my opinion, I’ll still take Blightwidow first, because there are many things you can do with Spread, but the Spider just screams “infect” a lot more, and you absolutely do not want to put people on infect.
This is, roughly, my pick order for commons and uncommons in pack 1 – not in order of how good I think they are, but on how early I’ll pick them if I’m planning to go infect (if I don’t care, I’ll pick Fangren Marauder over Rot Wolf for example). Of course this is not set in stone, and each pick changes with each of the previous picks, but this is roughly it:
I am relatively certain of my opinion up to Viridian Claw, but after the first picks things really get blurry, and I cannot tell you I’m sure of the specific order of the other cards, but again this is roughly it, and hopefully by the time you get to pick one of the “tier 2” cards you already know how your deck looks like – for example if your first two picks were Viridian Corrupter and Flesh-Eater Imp, I’d pick Morbid Plunder over Plague Myr. I think this is more useful to show my preference among each type of card (i.e. I’d pick Claw over Strandwalker over Sledge if I want an equipment for example) than as a list that encompasses everything.
Also I think it’s worth noting that I think Mortarpod is a little bit better in infect than Imp, but you should probably take Imp anyway, so that other people don’t get sent into infect. That was actually the example Gabe used when he explained the theory. Mortarpod is also the safer pick here, since it goes in any deck, but if you really want to go infect, as I do, then I think the other two cards are better picks.
For packs two and three, making a list is even harder, because it really does depend on what you have. You’ll probably not have much removal, so that is probably where you want to go. For that reason, I will order them inside their “categories,” and you should be able to figure out what you want depending on what your deck lacks.
In here, I think the biggest difference in conventional pick orders is Plague Stinger over Cystbearer. This is for two reasons – first, three toughness is not as much as it used to be. There are a lot more dudes with three power in MBS, and the removal also deals three damage instead of two or one. Second, there are two very good three-drops that you could have already, but no good two-drops. I could see myself picking Cystbearer over Stinger, but most of the time I will pick the Stinger nowadays. When you draft infect, you should pay big attention to your mana curve, because that is where your “free wins” come from – t2 Blight Mamba, t3 Contagious Nim, t4 Carrion Call t5 anything is a good start against most decks, and it doesn’t really involve any good cards, just a curve.
I also do not like Necropede as nearly as most people. In fact, I think I have more Necropedes in my non-infect decks than in my infect decks. Don’t get me wrong, he is good and I will play as many as I get, but I just want to be attacking, and he is not the most efficient at that, because on turn two he will just trade with any two drop without killing anything else, which means you won’t even attack most of the time, and later on he won’t be as effective as Corpse Cur.
Trigon of Infestation also moves up a lot here if you’re slow.
What about Mana Myrs?!
The more I play this format, the more I dislike Myrs in most decks. In infect, they are really bad, and other than Plague Myr, you should not ever play any. It might be possible that you end up with a lot of 4s and not many 3s, and in that case it might be interesting to run one (ONE!!) Mana Myr, but that is not the ideal scenario, and if that happens, you’ll know it.
(Acid Web Spider is here for lack of a better place to put it.)
This changes a lot depending on whether you are more aggressive or more controllish. I think Trigon is a better card than Grasp, but in a very aggressive deck I would rather have Grasp. Sylvok Replica is better than Spider in a normal deck, but if you’re very controllish I’d sometimes rather have Spider. Rust Tick could also be better than Spider, depending on your build. Throne of Geth is hard to evaluate – in some decks it’s insane, and I’ve had infect decks that couldn’t really play it – but I would generally pick it between Replica and Magnet. It is also probably the infect card that tables the most, since not all infect decks actually want it, which sometimes makes you the only person who does.
The biggest surprise here might be Contagion Clasp over Skinrender – I know a lot of pros prefer Skinrender, but in infect I like Clasp more, because of the reach it gives you, which is one of the things I like the most in infect. In general, the four first removal spells are better than any non Tangle Angler guy, and then the top infect guys are better than the rest of the removal.
Here again the biggest debate is whether you’re more controllish or more aggressive – some decks would kill for Infiltration Lens, some decks would not ever want one, but you should always know which kind of deck you are by the point you’re going to pick Infiltration Lens.
So, which is better, control or aggro infect?
I like aggro more, because of the “free wins” aspect, and my pick order reflects that. You should generally aim to go aggro, and then, if that fails, control is a solid second option. Most of the time, you want to be on the play when you’re aggro and on the draw when you’re control.
Why not white?
Rumor has it that white infect never works, and though you should never say never, it is true that it very rarely does so. The big problem is that if you go white, Arrest and Revoke Existence are the only cards you want from all of packs 2 and 3. It is certainly doable if you’re being fed either green or black, but that has no relation to you drafting white – if you’re getting a lot of green to the point where you can afford not having many white cards, then you would also be getting a lot of green for your BG deck, except you’d also have good black cards. To me, the only situation in which you’d want to be GW/BW infect is when you get absolutely zero cards of one color, it is a way out – don’t look at it like “yay, I have enough green cards, I can draft white infect now!” but more like, “damn, I don’t have a single black card, I might have to go GW.” For that matter, you can also play red or blue, even if they don’t have any infect – Corrupted Conscience and Vedalken Anatomist are better cards than any white non-rare for an infect deck, and red offers even more removal for you to splash than white does.
Well, this is it. I was going to do a draft video in which I force infect and attach to this article, but it took me so long to upload the previous one that I’d never get it in time, but maybe I do it for next week.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this, and have fun drafting infect (unless you’re at my table!)