The Pantheon’s newest member is already making his mark in a big way. At Pro Tour Fate Reforged, the majority of the team will be playing Tom “the Boss” Ross’s signature deck: Infect.
Infect is the fastest deck in Modern. It can kill its opponent on turn 3 without breaking a sweat, and even turn-2 kills are possible. A number of valuable consequences follow from this, including a few that make it a particularly appealing choice for a Pro Tour.
Pro Tours offer the highest level of competition in tournament Magic. The players lucky enough to survive to the end of the Day Two face 16 rounds of bitter competition—every opponent fighting tooth and nail to the very end. “Easy wins” are rarer than gold and far more precious. Playing with a deck as fast and brutal as Infect is the best way to earn easy wins against a tough opponent. One round you might face a favorable matchup, another round you might draw an unbeatable opening hand. In a third round your opponent might decide to tap out on turn 3 for… well… anything, and you might capitalize on the opportunity!
Playing the fastest deck in the format also means that we don’t necessarily need to come prepared with answers for each and every possible strategy. If someone is employing an unexpected game plan or seeking to assemble a powerful combo, we can always just kill them before they do it! Instead of countering our opponent’s strategy, we only need to stop their counters to our strategy, which is often a much easier task.
My teammates and I will be going into the tournament hoping for an easy win or two over the course of 10 rounds of Modern. That said, the majority will certainly still be the tough battles we’ve come to expect from the format. Which brings us to the question, how does Infect stack up against the expected field?
Recent Changes to Modern
If Infect has a weakness, it’s the color red. More specifically, it’s Lightning Bolt and its pals Electrolyze, Forked Bolt, Flame Slash, and the rest. While those cards will always be mainstays of the format, they’re likely to be played in record low numbers at Pro Tour Fate Reforged. U/R Delver has been neutered by the banning of Treasure Cruise, and Jund—which was quite a bad matchup—has been supplanted by Abzan, which is quite a good matchup.
Infect was certainly one of the greatest beneficiaries of the recent bannings, as U/R Delver and Melira Pod were the primary obstacles standing in Infect’s way. Conveniently, it also may have gained the most from the new sets.
The Pantheon quickly identified delve, even with Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time banned, as the most powerful ability in Modern. Become Immense, backed up by phyrexian mana spells like Gitaxian Probe and Mutagenic Growth, has a huge effect for a very small investment of mana–a deadly combination for such a fast deck. The presence of four copies of Become Immense makes Infect better than it’s ever been before.
At its core, Infect is most certainly a green deck. A splash color has a relatively low cost, but it could realistically be black, blue, (or both), or perhaps even red or white in order to access powerful sideboard cards. Why, for this tournament, did we settle on blue?
We predict one of the hallmark cards of PT Fate Reforged to be Lingering Souls, which poses a problem for a deck full of tiny 1/1 attackers. The ability to attack through flying blockers seemed crucial to us, which is why Blighted Agent became our creature of choice (to complement Glistener Elf and Inkmoth Nexus, which are no-brainers). Distortion Strike, and to a lesser extent Apostle’s Blessing, also round out the deck by ensuring that blocking will not be an effective defensive measure.
Blue proved a convenient splash color for other reasons as well. Noble Hierarch makes the deck because of its exalted ability, but also happens to produce blue mana (even under a Blood Moon!). We can pay life for Gitaxian Probe and Spellskite, but once in a while it does come up that you want to pay blue mana instead, particularly in a race against a deck like Zoo or Burn.
A 1-of Sleight of Hand doesn’t slow us down by much, but helps find an infect creature (of which 4 Inkmoth Nexus, 4 Glistener Elf, and 4 Blighted Agent is not a whole lot). Simultaneously it increases our ability to set up a big turn that can be both very safe for us and very deadly for the opponent.
Along those lines, Vines of Vastwood and Apostle’s Blessing are both major players in the deck. Vines of Vastwood is one more pump spell, and as mentioned, Apostle’s Blessing helps force through blockers, but these cards serve double-duty by also saving creatures from removal spells. In a game that lasts three turns, your opponent’s hopes and dreams will typically rest on a single well-placed Abrupt Decay or Path to Exile. If it works, it’s likely to shut Infect down in its tracks, but if it fails it’s lights out. Vines of Vastwood and Apostle’s Blessing ensure that Infect is on the winning side of the exchange much more often than not.
And I guess that’s really the story of Infect—you boil the game down to a single crucial turn and try to be on the winning end of the exchange. Right from turn 2, the opponent’s life can hang in the balance. The games are fast and explosive, but also complex and challenging. If the opponent makes one false step, they’re unlikely to live long enough to make another.