I’ve been searching for a good aggro deck in Modern for a while. There are plenty of non-[card]Wild Nacatl[/card] Zoo cards to play, and I was never been a huge fan of [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card] in older formats. I tried messing around with the [card]Slippery Bogle[/card] auras deck, and found it to be a neat angle to approach the format. As a test on Magic Online, I took out all the hexproof creatures and replaced them with normal creatures like [card]Loam Lion[/card] and [card]Student of Warfare[/card]. The results were about the same.

The next step I was curious to take was a semi-transformational sideboard plan, taking out my hexproof creatures for infect creatures in anticipation of my opponents siding out their targeted removal. In theory, it halves the clock, but at that point, why not run Infect?

I had a PTQ here in Baton Rouge, and was set on playing Infect, but what version? The BUG build offers [card]Plague Stinger[/card] and discard in the form of [card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/card] and [card]Thoughtseize[/card] at the slight, but real cost of less consistent mana and dealing additional self-inflicted damage to yourself.

[draft]thoughtseize[/draft]

I felt the biggest impact of a card like [card]Thoughtseize[/card] wasn’t entirely disruption, as your plan is still to poison them for 10 by the 3rd turn, it was the aspect of seeing their hand so you know exactly what and how much you can go for at any given time. There was also a resurgence of of red/green aggro that spawned from the Standard deck, almost exclusively due to the potency of [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card]. I tested on Magic Online with the BUG version, and was losing the race by only a few points of damage.

After switching to straight blue/green, I was winning at 1 or 2 points of life, exactly where I wanted to be. For an in-depth analysis of the RG deck, check out Carrie Oliver’s article.

[draft]gitaxian probe[/draft]

I knew I wanted [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card]s in my list. Knowing what’s going on is worth a card on its own in many cases, as now you shouldn’t ever get 2-for-1’d.

[draft]apostle’s blessing
ranger’s guile[/draft]

The next question was what kind of split between [card]Apostle’s Blessing[/card] and [card]Ranger’s Guile[/card] I wanted. They are functionally similar cards that fill the same role. The pros of [card]Apostle’s Blessing[/card] are that you can cast it off [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card] mana and push an attacker past blockers. [card]Ranger’s Guile[/card]’s are the power/toughness boost, and the ability to cast it while an opposing [card]Spellskite[/card] is in play, since they can’t redirect it as [card]Ranger’s Guile[/card] is restricted to creatures you control.

[draft]rancor
distortion strike[/draft]

The next decision was between two other competing cards in [card]Rancor[/card] and [card]Distortion Strike[/card]. I felt that [card]Rancor[/card] was more of a necessity than ever because of the the switch from [card]Plague Stinger[/card] to [card]Ichorclaw Myr[/card]—the Myr and [card]Glistener Elf[/card] can be chumped fairly easily. [card]Ichorclaw Myr[/card] definitely looks worse on paper until they cast [card]Lingering Souls[/card].

I wanted my version to be as sleek and consistent as possible. The last maindeck slot went to 1 [card]Sleight of Hand[/card] as a simple hedge to bring all the parts together. The deck’s primary goal is to play as a combo deck that assembles a 1/1, two +4/+4 effects between [card]Groundswell[/card] and [card]Might of Old Krosa[/card], and something that gives it another +1 power boost, which is either [card]Ranger’s Guile[/card], [card]Noble Hierarch[/card], [card]Pendelhaven[/card], or sometimes [card]Mutagenic Growth[/card] for an “overkill.”

With the easier mana requirements, 3 maindeck [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card]s, and the 1 [card]Sleight of Hand[/card], the deck can now function well off 18 lands. Here’s what I ran:

[deck]Main Deck:
3 Verdant Catacombs
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Breeding Pool
3 Forest
2 Pendelhaven
4 Inkmoth Nexus
4 Glistener Elf
4 Ichorclaw Myr
4 Blighted Agent
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Vines of Vastwood
4 Might of Old Krosa
4 Groundswell
4 Mutagenic Growth
3 Ranger’s Guile
3 Gitaxian Probe
1 Sleight of Hand
3 Rancor
Sideboard
3 Dismember
4 Spellskite
4 Nature’s Claim
1 Hurkyl’s Recall
2 Dispel
1 Gitaxian Probe[/deck]

[card]Dispel[/card]s were in the sideboard to counter [card]Electrolyze[/card] and [card]Cryptic Command[/card]. I liked having access to all 4 [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card]s, since some decks just don’t care at all about your life total, and playing a 56-card deck is where you want to be if you can do so freely. 4 [card]Nature’s Claim[/card] is there because it’s such an efficient spell. The sideboard could operate with only 3, but it’s too good to pass up on the 4th. The [card]Hurkyl’s Recall[/card] slot was a [card]Relic of Progenitus[/card] for awhile, but it turns out neither are important enough for a sideboard slot.

I won’t give an entire tournament report, but it turned out that Red/White/Blue midrange and Grixis control with [card]Lightning Bolt[/card], [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card], and [card]Electrolyze[/card] were a large part of the metagame, and are matchups that are overall harder than I’d like to face as often as I did. Also, cards like [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] (having 2 toughness to fend off [card]Glistener Elf[/card]), [card]Dark Confidant[/card]’s card advantage being practically a freeroll, and [card]Dismember[/card] being the best card ever all felt quite unfair. To combat such a format, something has to change.

Onward to the deck that ended up winning my PTQ, piloted by Orrin Swift:

[deck]Main Deck:
2 Breeding Pool
1 Hinterland Harbor
4 Inkmoth Nexus
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Pendelhaven
4 Verdant Catacombs
3 Forest
4 Blighted Agent
4 Glistener Elf
3 Ichorclaw Myr
4 Noble Hierarch
1 Spellskite
3 Apostle’s Blessing
2 Distortion Strike
2 Gitaxian Probe
4 Groundswell
4 Might of Old Krosa
3 Mutagenic Growth
4 Vines of Vastwood
2 Wild Defiance
Sideboard
4 Nature’s Claim
3 Dismember
3 Twisted Image
2 Carrion Call
2 Spellskite
1 Wild Defiance[/deck]

The problem with Infect in Modern right now is that the deck is very sensitive to [card]Lightning Bolt[/card], and especially to [card]Electrolyze[/card]. To solve this issue, this version runs maindeck [card]Wild Defiance[/card] to serve as both a shield against burn effects and additional pump.

[draft]wild defiance[/draft]

The idea of Wild Defiance crossed my mind, but with only 18 lands my “sleek” version couldn’t quite support it. With 20 lands, it’s much more realistic. There’s more blue sources in the deck too, and mana can never be too consistent. During the PTQ, I had several 1-land hands with a [card]Noble Hierarch[/card] that were just unreliable. [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card] and [card]Sleight of Hand[/card] aren’t 100% dependable for finding a 2nd land.

[draft]spellskite[/draft]

The one-of [card]Spellskite[/card] may look strange, but acts as more protection and sometimes really throws a wrench into opposing plans like Infect or Auras or Splinter Twin. The deck tends to mulligan well, and although a Spellskite in the opening hand has the potential to be a virtual mulligan against some decks game 1, you are favored against those decks anyway.

[draft]carrion call[/draft]

[card]Carrion Call[/card] is a nice inclusion that fights decks that try to attrition you out. Infect doesn’t have a source advantage in any way, and sometimes you need to play around things like [card]Pyroclasm[/card] or them holding up counterspell/removal mana on your turn. [card]Carrion Call[/card] starts the action on their turn, forcing them to react and giving yourself more freedom to work during your turn.

[draft]twisted image[/draft]

[card]Twisted Image[/card] blew my mind when I first saw it. You don’t know for sure how many Spellskites your opponent is bringing in against you. Before, you’d have to bring in some number of [card]Nature’s Claim[/card] and [card]Dismember[/card] out of respect for the possibility, and sideboarding those in always comes at a cost of business spells. Not only is Twisted Image the perfect Spellskite answer, it hits a reasonable number of other things like [card]Noble Hierarch[/card], [card]Signal Pest[/card], [card]Ornithopter[/card], and [card]Doran, the Siege Tower[/card]. You can comfortably side them in knowing that if [card]Twisted Image[/card] isn’t useful in a given board state, it can always be cycled for a card. Sometimes, you can cast it after using [card]Pendelhaven[/card] on a creature to get in an extra point of power.

The [card]Distortion Strike[/card]s combo extremely well with the [card]Wild Defiance[/card] plan. Similarly, with [card]Wild Defiance[/card], the additional +1/+1 from [card]Ranger’s Guile[/card] becomes much less relevant and thus pushes [card]Apostle’s Blessing[/card] into the [card]Turn Aside[/card] variant of choice.

In general I still feel like Infect is the best deck in Modern, at least for my playstyle. At the time of writing I have 1 more PTQ to play in Arkansas this season, and intend to play an updated version there. Orrin said the worst matchup was Red/White/Blue, and I tend to agree with him. The card choices he made to solve those problems paid off with an invite.

Moving forward, I’d like to see 4 [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card]s still within the 75, but other than that everything looks great. Also, that Hinterland Harbor should 100% be another Breeding Pool.

For those interested in playing the deck here are some tips:

– Mulligan aggressively. Anything without an Infect creature is unkeepable.
– Use [card]Vines of Vastwood[/card] wisely. It counters many things you wouldn’t think of at first. This includes a [card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card]’s bloodlust or a [card]Arcbound Ravager[/card]’s modular trigger. And don’t forget to activate your [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card] and shroud it up if they try to [card]Tectonic Edge[/card] or [card]Ghost Quarter[/card] it.
– Be patient. If they’re leaving up open mana and you suspect something don’t go for it. People are terrified of Infect and for good reason, it can kill out of nowhere. If you don’t walk into whatever spell they have they WILL have to continue leaving mana open until you do. For an aggro deck, you have more inevitability than you realize, just assemble the pieces and strike when you’re good and ready.

For those interested in beating Infect I’ll let you in on the #1 best card against it:

[draft]Gut Shot[/draft]

And the biggest blowout against Infect for those who can support it:

[draft]Slaughter Pact[/draft]

-Tom Ross

UPDATE:

[deck]1 Cathedral of War
3 Verdant Catacombs
2 Misty Rainforest
4 Breeding Pool
3 Forest
2 Pendelhaven
4 Glistener Elf
4 Inkmoth Nexus
4 Blighted Agent
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Vines of Vastwood
4 Might of Old Krosa
4 Groundswell
4 Mutagenic Growth
3 Apostle’s Blessing
4 Ichorclaw Myr
3 Gitaxian Probe
3 Rancor
2 Dismember
2 Spellskite
4 Nature’s Claim
1 Dispel
2 Twisted Image
2 Carrion Call
1 Wild Defiance
1 Gitaxian Probe[/deck]

I played this list in the Arkansas PTQ yesterday at Game Zone Alpha. I finished X-1 after swiss, putting me in second after standings, with a deck that’s heavily dependant upon the die roll. I lost in Top 4 to a guy from Turkey, piloting the UW value control deck that was apparently the hot deck for the weekend.

I was very happy with the list. Carrion Call played its role perfectly as a response to decks with [card]Path to Exile[/card]. 4 [card]Mutagenic Growth[/card] is correct, as it gives you the highest “nut draw” potential, and even though it gets sided out a lot for better cards, that’s just the role it plays.

4 [card]Breeding Pool[/card] and less fetchlands was the plan against opposing [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] and was relevant in the one time I played Jund in swiss.

[card]Twisted Image[/card] was awesome, especially with the higher numbers of [card]Wall of Omens[/card] running around. Going 0 for 0 doesn’t sound amazing, but it does the trick better than any other card could.

Sadly, I started my Pro Tour season (and year for that matter) only 2 weeks ago at GP Charlotte, where I finished 11th, and now the season is all but over. The switch from DCI rating to Planeswalker Points hurt me, as much or more than anyone else, as it put me from qualified on rating and first in the state to dead last. I was over 2050 composite before, and after the GP and PTQ Top 4, I wouldn’t be surprised to see over 2100, but it is what it is. A fresh year with 4 Pro Tours starts in 2 weeks and I plan to hustle my way back, starting with Day 1.