The Many Pathogens of Infect Issue #1

Rob Gherrity

 

Issue #1: Simic(U/G)

Hey everyone, welcome to the first in a series of articles where I will be discussing the many ways in which you could build an infect deck and punish your opponent for not knowing the many strings in which they can be killed by poison.  We will start with the 2 color decks before moving on to 3 colors, and what not a better deck to start out with that the most common one seen in the modern scene, simic.  

Just a heads up, this will be a very in depth article where I will talk the advantages and disadvantages of each card in the 75.  The follow-on issues will only focus on the differences and why I added the new cards

But first, let’s talk about why one would play infect and the basic overall strategy associated with it.  Infect was first introduced in the set Scars of Mirrodin and only used in that block.  Infect is a keyword ability that states: “This creature deals damage to creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters and to players in the form of poison counters.” If a player at any moment has 10 or more poison counters they lose the game.  That’s right, as an infect player you are only counting to 10.  Because of this games can end as early as turn 2 but more consistently turn 3 or 4.  So, what gives us the ability to end the game so quickly, how about we take a look at the 75 from a typical Simic Infect lists.

Simic Infect

Creatures (13)

Spells (26)

Enchantments (1)

Lands (20)

Sideboard:

 

Looking through the list what stands out most is the lack of creatures, and if you dive even further into that list, you notice that the number of creatures with infect is even lower.  There are only 12 total creatures with infect, with that you can not afford to keep hands with no infect creatures and those should be pitched immediately.  Hands with only 1 infect creatures need to be played with more caution against unknown decks because you cannot risk losing it to bolt, path, dismember or any other 1 drop removal spells that your opponent will gladly throw at it to kill it.  For those hands you will want to ensure you have some form of protect, whether that be in the form of vines of vastwood or apostle’s blessing.

So let’s break down each section beginning with creatures.  Glistener Elf if what makes this deck a potential turn 2 kill.  Playing him turn 1 then following turn 2 with a land drop, 2 groundswell or might of old krosa and a mutagenic growth and that’s 11 infect to your opponent.  Some players argue whether or not you should lead with turn 1 glistener elf because it does pose that immediate threat to your opponent but also dies to any 1 drop removal in the format.  If you have the option to play noble hierarch first against an unknown deck that is usually the best route, remember this is categorized as combo not aggro and playing it as such will help your game.   Noble Hierarch has 3 roles in this deck; mana ramp, creature pump, and an attacker when all else fails.  Some laugh at the thought of losing to a noble hierarch but with all the pump you have in your deck it has the potential to close a game quite abruptly.  Once your opponent sees you are on infect they begin to disregard their own life total and the number of fetches into untapped shock lands increases.  So while they are killing themselves 3 points of damage at a time and removing your infect creatures as quickly as possible, an infect player can quickly win the game by becoming aggressive with an ignored noble hierarch.  Next up is blighted agent, the unblockable and deadliest infect creature the deck runs.  Once blighted agent hits the field you should be attacking with it every chance you get, because each attacking, barring removal or creature bounce, will result in poison counters and remember we are only counting to 10.  What’s even better is that blighted agent is only a 2 drop at 1U.  Don’t expect him to last too long though as your opponent will be gunning for him as soon as it resolves.  Those 12 creatures are standard in all variants of infect that run blue and green.  This next creature isn’t in all lists in the mainboard but is becoming more common as a 1 or 2 of, that creature is spellskite.  Spellskite is not only your worst enemy to see across the board, but also your greatest ally when on your side.  Spellskite provides the ultimate protection in that for the cost of U or 2 life you can redirect any spell or ability to target him.  And being an artifact creature you can cast him without using your colored mana.  Once spellskite hits the field your opponent usually has to wait for 2 removal spells, before committing to attack your infect creature.  The biggest mistake with trying to protect your infect creature though happens when you attempt to change a spell’s target or ability to spellskite when it is an illegal target.  For instance, if you are playing merfolk and they have an untapped aether vial with 2 counters on it and you swing in with blighted agent and attempt to pump to lethal, they can tap aether vial and play harbinger of the tides and use it’s enter the battlefield effect to bounce blighted agent to your hand before damage is dealt.  This effect cannot be redirected to spellskite if on the field unless you also attacked with spellskite because spellskite would not be an eligible target since it is untapped at the time the effect would take place.  

Now we get to the spells.  This is where a lot decks begin to show their slight differences, based on meta, personal play preferences, or something they want to try.  We will just cover spells we have listed in the mainboard for the deck above and touch on other possible cards you could run to improve how your deck runs.

Probably the most common of non pump or protection spells is Gitaxian Probe.  Gitaxian Probe is great because it cantrips and allows you to see what your opponent is playing and the route you can take over the next couple of turns.  It is very important to identify the deck so you can start to plan for what removal he may have and how you can protect that infect creature when you go to dump your hand on it for the kill.  What I really enjoy most about the card is that it doesn’t have to be cast with mana thanks to the casting cost being 1 Phyrexian Blue (pay with 2 life or U).  Another cantrip that you can see in infect is Serum Visions.  I am on the fence with this card because I see the benefit of it but I am cheap and unless you have it Turn 1 or 2, I feel it is a wasted turn.  I can see the late game benefits of it, getting another draw then scrying 2 to setup for the counter swing or getting 3 cards deep to put a threat down,  but why not just run additional pump or protection.  I am a more aggressive player though and I do not run it.  Then our last common cantrip comes in the card twisted image.  This card can be used in so many ways, its a cantrip that can kill spellskites, noble hierarchs and most walls that are run, but just as well…you can use it on your own creature just to cantrip late game, which an opponent did to me at states and ending up drawing the win.  If not mainboard, this card definitely deserves sideboard spots, potentially 2.  Finally, a creature that does double duty is Inkmoth Nexus, having flying provides it the evasion that is fatal in a format that doesn’t see a lot of flyers and also with it only being a creature on your turn, it escapes most board-wipe effects.  The major downside to it is that Inkmoth Nexus is open to other forms of removal, fulminator mage, tectonic edge, spreading seas, nature’s claim, destructive revelry, and so on.  Also if it is the only infect creature you have, it is a turn behind on the aggressive kill clock.  

U/G Infect also runs about 7 protection spells mainboard, again the number is dependant on the player and known meta.  First is Apostle’s Blessing. At 1 and a phyrexian white, this card provides a creature or artifact “you control” (key wording as it cannot be redirected to spellskite) protection from artifacts or a color of your choice.  With it being white you don’t always have to pay the 2 life for the phyrexian white since we have Noble Hierarch, but having to option to do so makes this card really good.  The other card, which is a 4 of staple in all forms of infect, Vines of Vastwood.  Vines protects target creature from spells or abilities your opponent controls.  Now read that again and start thinking a bit.  Protects target creature from spells or abilities your opponent controls.  That means 2 things: 1) Your creatures cannot be the target of their spells and 2) Their creatures cannot be the target of spells or abilities they control.  You can use this card to stop twin, stop your opponent in the mirror match, prevent an equip activation, the list goes on.  This card is already great in just that form but it is also a pump spell.  It can be kicked for an addition G and also give that creature +4/+4 until end of turn.  So now, not only are you protecting your creature, but you are also giving it +4/+4 which is huge for infect, that means your creature is halfway to killing your opponent if it goes unblocked.  

The deck also offers potential removal, though this card is not always seen in the mainboard because of the punishing effects of casting it and is normally seen in the sideboard of most builds., some decks are running a split of 1 main and 1 side.  That card is Dismember.  At 1 and 2 phyrexian black this card slays most creatures you will encounter and is 1 of only 2 potential mainboard answers for a game 1 Spellskite.  I like have this card main even though it costs 4 life to cast since we have no source of black, but when a game 1 spellskite resolves, the game is all but over.  

Now, to the meat of the deck, the pump spells.  Infect runs 21-25 forms of pump.  21-25 cards that can boost your creature to get that additional point of damage in.  I will start with what I consider the be the worst and move to the best.  Quick disclaimer, when I say worst, I don’t mean it is a bad pump spell, all of these are great, just some of them are slightly worse than others.  We begin with Might of Old Krosa.  What I don’t like about it is that when used, there is no surprise value with pumping your creature since you must cast it during main phase in order to reap the +4/+4 benefit from it.  Now there are still ways to utilize it by baiting out potential removal with other pumps in main phase 1.  Sometimes you will get the anxious opponent who wants to bolt it first thing, sometimes you can force the bolt out with other spells.  But of all our pumps I do see this as the worst.  Following Might would be Groundswell.  Groundswell gets maximum benefits from landfall, however infect normally runs only 20-21 lands.  This means late game, you may not get the full power out of Groundswell.  One trick if you want to is hold off on cracking one of your fetches.  The deck has anywhere between 8-9 fetches that can assist this tactic and should be considered when you have one in play and do not need that land before your next turn.  Next up is Distortion Strike.  Now, yes this is a sorcery, yes this only pumps +1/+0, but the fact that you just gave your creature unblockable it huge.  No need to worry about your opponent flashing in chump blockers or throwing a creature in front of it.  And then, to give that spell rebound, adds to its power in my opinion.  Potentially casting this turn after turn and poking in with infect, even if this is your only pump you are able to draw, as long as you have a creature to target, you still get rebound.  However, because I am greedy, and I like my larger pumps, I rarely include this card in decks and normally it is only a 1 or 2 of.  Next is another non-instant speed spell, and that is Rancor.  Rancor is an underrepresented card in infect, period.  This card needs to be included at least as a 1 of, should be 2, but at least 1 because that power of trample is.  Another powerful aspect of this spell is that if it is put into the graveyard from the battlefield, you return it to your hand.  Rancor is a difficult spell for an opponent to answer without counters or hand removal adding to it’s power.  A great way to abuse this is casting it on inkmoth nexus, it allows you to get in for 3, keep bigger pump in hand for potential bolt or dismember protection, and provide that constant pressure.  Pendelhaven is next on my list.  This land gives a nice +1/+2 pump but it is conditional and requires very tight sequencing to utilize, especially if noble hierarch is in play.  If you don’t want to use the ability first thing then you will need to activate it when the exalted trigger is on the stack or your creature will become an illegal target.  It is another great pump that is very difficult for opponents to deal with and provides extra power while also doubling as land.  Vines is next which we have already covered above so we will move on to the last one in our decklist which is Become Immense.  Become Immense is what made infect jump from the tier 2 to the tier 1.5 deck that it is.  With the amount of fetches and 1 drop instant speed pumps we run, this is very easily a turn 3 cast at the cost of tapping 1 or 2 lands.  Being able to pump at +6/+6 is finishing if there are no blockers or your creature has trample.  

The mana base for infect is very streamlined and the main differences you have are the number of Pendlehaven and whether or not the deck runs Dryad Arbor.  The deck only runs 2 natural forests and then 3 breeding pools on top of the fetches and inkmoth nexus’s.  If you are in a meta that heavily plays Blood Moon then I would put a basic Island in there as well.  However, with Blood Moon not being a widely popular card, it is safe to risk not having it.  

Well that will do it for this week, stay turned for the next issue where we will continue to discuss U/G Infect.  We will cover the sideboard, sideboard tech, potential cards that could be used in both the main and side, and look at a few possible opening hands to help identify a trap hand or one that will just be too slow.  So until then, sleeve up some infect and go show your local game store that they need to always remember death can occur with 18 life points.

 

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