With Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan and Grand Prix Madrid around the corner, I’ve turned my attention to Modern. I used to dislike Modern, but I’ve actually been enjoying it quite a bit since the most recent set of bannings. I also think it helped that Modern wasn’t a PT format, because the pros didn’t have an incentive to try to solve it. Or, maybe I’m wrong, and Modern is just in a great place. Anyway, it’s time to go to work and figure out if something broken exists.
Luckily, the most recent RPTQ weekend featured Modern, so there is a lot of inspiration to draw from. Andrea Mengucci already went over a bunch of cool looking decks in his article, and today I’ll write about another sweet deck that placed well in the Top 8 of the MTGO RPTQ. The deck I’m talking about is U/G Infect, piloted by Jacob Wilson.
When it comes to Modern, I consider Jacob to be one of the experts on the format. He lost the finals of the PT with Birthing Pod, Top 8’d another Modern PT, and was one of the main designers of the Colorless Eldrazi deck that dominated PT Oath of the Gatewatch. So when I found out that he did well with Infect, I naturally had to see how good the deck was. Today I’ll break down his deck list and talk a bit about my experience playing it.
Infect used to be one of the most popular decks in Modern, but hasn’t seen much play since Gitaxian Probe was banned. The deck relied heavily on that card as fuel for Become Immense and a source of a free information, which is very important for the combo deck.
The deck list Jacob used is a bit different from the previous versions of the deck. Before, there used to be some number of cantrips to help smooth your draws. Jacob decided to cut those and replace them with some more creatures and more pump spells. This has got to be one the most explosive decks in Modern, as you aim to win the game on turn 3-5. In game 1s, you’re a very one-dimensional deck. Just play creatures, pump them, and hope it’s enough. Post-board you get more interaction and disruption so the games tend to go longer. Let’s go over the list in detail.
First, the mana base. It’s pretty standard—21 lands including 4 Inkmoth Nexus, 2 Pendelhaven, and a single Dryad Arbor. Nexus and Pendelhaven are great utility lands in this deck. One of them is possibly the greatest infect threat in the game, and the other helps to pump your creatures. The +1/+2 bonus might seem innocuous, but when you realize most of your creatures are 1/1s and most of your pump spells add 4 extra power, achieving 10 poison in one turn gets much easier.
Dryad Arbor has summoning sickness, so sometimes you can’t keep a one-lander you otherwise would. On the other hand, it has a bunch of uses in this deck. People usually disregard their life total while playing against Infect (i.e., using fetchlands and dual lands aggressively). Dryad Arbor can punish this, especially combined with pump spells. It’s especially great against Death’s Shadow, where the threat of Arbor becomes real quickly. Another interaction that used to be common is that Arbor serves as protection against Liliana of the Veil. Liliana doesn’t see as much play as she used to, but it still can come up from time to time.
Moving to the creature base, you have the tried and tested infect creatures: Glistener Elf and Blighted Agent. Glistener is a bit more explosive as you can sometimes kill your opponent on turn 2, while Agent provides more utility thanks to being unblockable. Agent is the only blue card (apart from the 1 Echoing Truth) in the main deck, but its inclusion is well worth it.
Noble Hierarch is another centerpiece of this deck. It’s possibly the best card as it gives you extra mana and pumps your creatures at the same time. With this deck, you usually have only one threat in play so exalted is key. The last creature to round out your creature base is Ichorclaw Myr. Without extra cantrips, you need to have more creatures to ensure that you always have an infect creature, and Myr is the 3rd-best option. It’s not great, but you have to play it.
The rest of the main deck is full of pump spells. The best of which is likely Might of Old Krosa. It reliably gives a creature 4 extra power, which is huge in this deck. Even though you usually want to use it in your main phase, sometimes it can be better to hold it and respond to your opponent’s spell in combat. This can be useful against burn spells or when your opponent is already at a high poison count.
The worst pump spell, on the other hand, is Groundswell. It will be a major help in your turn-3 kills, but you can’t always rely on having landfall, which can make it mediocre from time to time. So be careful about cracking fetchlands.
Mutagenic Growth is a reminder that you can count on Phyrexian mana to be busted. With this build you aim to win as fast as possible, and Mutagenic Growth helps immensely. Like I said, a turn-2 kill is possible with this build, but not without the help of this card. It combines well with Become Immense, which is a bit weaker with the absence of Gitaxian Probe, but it still pumps for 6 and can end the games out of nowhere.
The rest of the pump spells protect your creatures. Vines of Vastwood has been an Infect staple for longer than I can remember, but Blossoming Defense is a more recent addition. Both are good at what they do, saving your creature from removal and pushing in some extra damage.
The last two spells you have are Apostle’s Blessing and Echoing Truth. Blessing has two functions: it protects you from removal and can make your creature pseudo-unblockable. Echoing Truth is more of a catch-all. There are a bunch of permanents Infect has trouble dealing with outside of creatures—cards like Blood Moon, Chalice of the Void, and Ensnaring Bridge. Luckily, all you need is one turn when they’re not on the board to go for the kill, and Echoing Truth helps to find that window.
The sideboard is pretty straightforward. You have disruption in the form of Dispel and Spell Pierce. While Dispel is a bit better against removal spells like Lightning Bolt and Fatal Push, Spell Pierce shines against the problem permanents I mentioned earlier. It also counters planeswalkers—Liliana, the Last Hope is super annoying.
Nature’s Claim, Dissenter’s Deliverance, and Viridian Corrupter all protect you from artifacts. They are all a bit better in certain situations so I like the split here. Nature’s Claim is obviously great against Blood Moon decks while Deliverance and Corrupter have more utility.
Twisted Image is still quite great even though Spellskite isn’t as popular as it used to be. There are still decks like Affinity and the Collected Company decks against which you can get the easy 2-for-1 by switching their 0-power creature.
Shapers’ Sanctuary hasn’t seen much Constructed play, but it finds a spot here. This card is helpful in those longer, grindy post-board games. If you can land it on turn 1, every single threat now replaces itself if it’s killed by a removal spell.
Sideboarding with this deck isn’t that hard. Your weakest cards are Groundswell, Ichorclaw Myr, and Mutagenic Growth. You can also safely side out Dryad Arbor on the draw and sometimes even on the play. I would never touch the other 12 creatures besides Ichorclaw Myr, though.
You should also be careful. This is, after all, a combo deck. You don’t want to add all of these reactive cards and then be unable to get your own engine online. So be cautious of that and don’t go overboard while sideboarding.
I’ve taken this deck for a test run in Magic Online Leagues and I have to admit that my results have been pretty lukewarm. The problem is that the MTGO Leagues metagame is too wide. I think this deck gets much better in GPs and RPTQs where you have more of a defined metagame. I also think practice with this deck helps a lot. It looks like a mindless deck—you play some creatures, pump them up, and attack for the win. In reality, there is a lot to play to it as you need to figure out how to navigate around your opponent’s interaction. This is one of the skills I might be lacking a little, while Jacob Wilson is an expert on this. Overall, I’d recommend this deck to you if you’re a fan of the archetype, but I wouldn’t say this deck is the next best thing in Modern. I do, however, like that it’s now a viable archetype as I’ve always been fond of Infect. You always have to be on your toes, because you never know if you’re about to die or live.