With the World Magic Cup Qualifier coming up I’ve been playing some Modern lately to refamiliarize myself with the format. One of the decks I’ve been piloting is Infect, because while Affinity and Grixis Control were both fun and deep to play, sometimes you want to win some matches of Magic instead of just coming close. While Grixis Control makes for interactive games and Snapcaster Mage remains a messed up Magic card, its overall power level is just lower than what you want in Modern. Maybe Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy makes it better. All I know is too many games come down to digging for the right utility at the right time for my taste.
Affinity is still a very good deck, but it gets old running into what feels like maindeck Affinity hate in a number of the top decks in the format. A lot of the small edges are gone and because Affinity is a constant competitor, the opposition is universally familiar with your game plan. It’s still great, but people in the Santa Clara area are ready for it.
When playing Infect, on the other hand, I find players frequently misunderstand their role or how to use their interaction. Thanks to the general disdain for the deck, players either hoard removal thinking they can win a duel on a key turn or they overestimate how quickly the Infect deck can win and let them set up a perfect hand.
The key against Infect is to take the initiative and pressure them, either their life total or their resources via discard, constantly removing their threats or Spellskite. You want the Infect player to have to jump through as many hoops as possible so even if they have a free turn to go at you, there’s a reasonable chance they won’t be able to end the game. Kolaghan’s Command gives you an opportunity to attack a threat and their hand, don’t just hold it!
As for Infect players, many of them do a good job of setting the pace of the game. They take lines that allow them to dictate how the opponent plays the game. Simple things like whether you play Glistener Elf or Noble Hierarch on turn 1 make a big difference, so just keep in mind how quickly you want to try and win. Also, know all the text on your cards—the number of opponents that have been blown out by not knowing the full text on Vines of Vastwood or Apostle’s Blessing is pretty large.
Note that this deck is heavily molded by the local Modern metagame in the Bay Area—lots of Merfolk, Grixis, Affinity, and random blue decks. Burn waxes and wanes, and right now I haven’t seen much of it. Though this build is reasonable post-board against them.
That’s why I feel comfortable cutting Distortion Strike—I’m often not worried about blockers and Piracy Charm is a reasonable equivalent when giving islandwalk. Tom Ross has started playing a grindier build, so he’s got Serum Visions and is prepared for a different metagame than what I was tuning for.
Infect has a lot of raw power and I don’t want to dilute that too much. I didn’t really like Spell Pierce at first, but after talking with two regulars who have played the Infect deck I’ve started to come around. The reality is that you do need some amount of interaction and you don’t need the all-in spew-fest that original Infect had. I could see cutting Wild Defiance for the Serum Visions, but it really helps set up the limited amount of pump. You don’t want to play out half your hand protecting your creature against a pair of Lightning Bolts with this build. You want to take the extra turn to set up your kill and then get them.
I actually don’t think Infect is well positioned against the tier 1 decks in Modern, so bear that in mind. With that said, I’ve found Modern—even moreso than Legacy—to be based around whatever decks people have been playing for a while. Tiers don’t really shake up that often and people are drawn to whatever they know best. Which means, other than Twin, the WMCQ coming up in Santa Clara seems like a strong field for Infect even if the general metagame isn’t.
A lot of the sideboarding comes down to which hate cards you expect your opponent to have. In essence there’s only ten “core” sideboard cards, and the exact numbers and configurations switch depending on the opponent’s deck configuration.
Since you already maindeck Spell Pierce and I still have Wild Defiance (unlike Ross’s latest build) you actually have less room for your sideboard goodies. You can’t afford to cut too much simply because the combo is always a constant threat. Nature’s Claim and Dismember* should keep them honest, and otherwise you just want to pressure whenever you can. Obviously landing a Spellskite or Wild Defiance on the board is priority #1, but keeping them honest is the second.
*If you see Lavamancer it’s likely worth bringing in the 2nd Dismember.
On the draw I’ve played around with cutting Noble Hierarch for the full-on Dispel slow-grind package, but you really need a 20th land that’s not Dryad Arbor and probably another cantrip or two to make it a viable strategy.
Dismember and Twisted Image come in since the only way they really interact is Vapor Snag, Harbinger of the Tides, Tidebinder Mage (sometimes), and Spellskite. Otherwise the rest of the cards are self-explanatory. You can cut a Might for a Dispel if you want to really keep it tight against their Dismembers and Snags, but I find this is plenty. The matchup is pretty well in your favor and they need a Vial just to hold mana up. Nature’s Claim is also reasonable if you’re on the draw and want to destroy their Vials while having a Spellskite answer.
Dryad Arbor is for Liliana, Spellskite draws fire, and there’s not much else too it. Some games turn into massive grinds and in the rest you just run them over on turn 4 with a flurry of spells.
Game 1 is a straight race and Blighted Agent in any keepable hand is usually game. Post-board you may be forced into a longer game, so again you just set up to slow them down by killing their zero- and one-drops while also upping your interaction with Cranial Plating and Spellskite.
Basically, unless they keep a total slog of a hand with only one piece of interaction, the game is going to go on for a while. Piracy Charm is cute, but less effective than any of the cards you bring in and Spell Pierce loses effectiveness if the game is grindy.