I consider modern to be a combo format. Everyone is trying to either get your life total to 0 as fast as possible by either going off with a silly combo or attempting to play it fair and get those beats (Looking at you Humans!). For the latest Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier event at Phoenix Gaming Lounge I decided to keep it to the deck I know best and play Infect.
My reason for choosing Infect as my deck of choice is that I believe it’s easier to count 10 than 20. I also don’t care about your life total *most* of the time. The reason I say most is because some players do get greedy with their life total when playing against a deck that typically doesn’t care about it. During those moments I can potentially punish you by end of turn fetching for a Dryad Arbor or if I have a Noble Hierarch or two out then it makes things a little bit easier by pumping my non-infect creatures and hopefully being able to close the game out quickly.
I usually enjoy playing a UG variant of Infect, but I decided to go Bant for this PPTQ. A bunch of my friends always ask “Why play something else when you’re so experienced with this one deck? And by the way the deck is bad.” The deck may be bad in some players’ eyes but I’ve always thought it was well positioned regardless of the Gitaxian Probe banning. Luckily, today, I managed to get 7th in a 52 player event.
Here’s the list I was running!
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Glistener Elf
4 Blighted Agent
1 Dryad Arbor
4 Mutagenic Growth
4 Might of Old Krosa
4 Vines of Vastwood
3 Blossoming Defense
2 Become Immense
1 Spell Pierce
1 Apostle’s Blessing
1 Slip Through Space
1 Distortion Strike
1 Twisted Image
1 Livewire Lash
4 Inkmoth Nexus
4 Wooded Foothills
3 Verdant Catacombs
2 Windswept Heath
2 Breeding Pool
1 Temple Garden
4 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Path to Exile
2 Nature’s Claim
1 Dissenter’s Deliverance
1 Blessed Alliance
1 Disdainful Stroke
1 Shaper’s Sanctuary
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
Looking at the list you probably notice a bunch of weird cards you may have never heard of. Let’s talk about Livewire Lash.
The reason for playing Livewire Lash is that if it is equipped to a creature it gains the ability “Whenever this creature is targeted by a spell, deal to damage to any target”. You’re probably wondering “Well why is that relevant with Infect creatures?” The way this interacts with Infect creatures is when that creature is target while having the Livewire Lash on it instead of doing 2 normal damage to any target, it will deal 2 damage of Infect to any target. You can essentially get a ‘free’ win out of it and just pump your creature 5 times and do 10 Infect to your opponent.
We will talk quickly about the other one of cards in the deck.
Slip Through Space is a personally favorite of mine as it works well with Glistener Elf and makes it unblockable. It also draws you another card for a single blue mana. Twisted Image got put back into this list because activating a Pendelhaven to target a creature and switching the power and toughness is sometimes relevant and can get you in for that last 1 point of damage.
The sideboard plan was based off of Aaron Barich’s list from the SCG Invitational in Roanoke. 4 Geist of Saint Traft was mainly there because my friends were saying how bad it was in this deck and that Invisible Stalker was strictly better. I disagreed as usual and decided to try out Geist since I haven’t played with him in any of my Infect lists prior to this tournament. I would say it performed well for me as it managed to get me to Top 8 and locking myself in as the 6th seed.
I brought back playing 2 copies of Path to Exile because I wanted more ways to remove creatures without having to damage my own life total by playing more Dismembers. Blessed Alliance is another favorite that can come in against almost any match-up. I had to play the mirror today during round 3 and he attacked me for lethal while tapped out I just made him sacrifice his creature and managed to take the win the following turn. Everything else in the board are cards you normally see throughout the Modern format other than Shaper’s Sanctuary. It goes well against any deck that has a bunch of removal and wants to get rid of your creatures by letting you draw a card and possibly drawing that 1 of Spell Pierce or Dispel.
The matches I faced today and what the results were:
Round 1: I got to play my friend Erik Wong who was on Black-Red Vengivne. I ended up stealing game 1 away by getting out a early Blighted Agent and getting in there with his unfortunate draws. Game 2 I lost to I believe a Vengvine and some 2/2 Zombies. Game 3 I was on the play for the first time out of the games and lead off with a Glistener Elf and unfortunately when it came down to the turn on whenever or not I would draw another pump spell I drew the Shaper’s Sanctuary and lost. 1-2 Erik Wins.
Round 2: I get paired against another friend who was Dana Cordova who was on Humans! We both lead off with a Noble Hierarch. On my turn 2 I play a Inkmoth Nexus into Blighted Agent and pass. I play a pump spell and get in for 6. Following turn I play another pump spell and we are on our way to game 2. Game 2 demolishes me with the quick Mantis Rider beats. Game 3 I go the old classic turn 1 fetch take 3 play a Noble Hierarch. When he passes back to me after a Vial. I follow it up with the Nexus, and Agent. He Dismember’s on his turn to attempt to kill the Agent and I was able to protect it and get in there for lethal. 2-1 in my favor.
Round 3: I got to face the mirror against a player I haven’t met before or have seen at any of the PPTQ events. He was very nice and we both follow off with Noble Hierarchs. The only reason I knew he was on Infect right away was because he led off with the Pendelhaven and got stuck on mana unfortunately. When he went to go pump a creature I would Vines his guy so it would fizzle his spells and potentially follow it up with a couple spells and try to take the win. For those that want to know how to play the mirror, to me personally I believe that Inkmoth Nexus is the card that you have to be scared of and the reasons why is that your Elf blocks their Elf and the Agents are typically getting removed by a Dismember or Vines to prevent them from winning. You just want to go over the top with the Nexus and having more mana in this match IS an advantage. 2-0 my favor.
Round 4: I’m 2-1 and feeling confident in how I am playing today and feeling a little bit lucky this round. I sit down and get ready to play. I won the die roll and kept my opening 7. It was pretty loose I believe it was Fetch, Agent, and 5 different pump spells. I start off with the fetch and pass. He puked his entire hand out and was on traditional Affinity. I draw didn’t find a land and pass. He attacks for 9 and passes. I draw and concede. Going to the board I bring in 2 Path’s, 1 Blessed Alliance, 2 Nature’s Claim, 1 Dissenter’s Deliverance, 1 Spellskite and 1 Dispel. I start to dread and think I don’t have a chance since I haven’t ever been able to beat Affinity while on Infect in modern, it’s my boogie man of the format. I managed to sneak away a quick win game 2 with a Blighted Agent on turn 2. Game 3 I grind it out a little bit and was able to sneak away the win and break my curse! 2-1 in my favor.
Round 5: I’m getting nervous as this is my ‘win and in’ round. I go to my seat and I am greeted by another friend who was “Top 8” Tate! We roll and unfortunately I lose the roll. I once again dreed seeing a Mausoleum Wanderer as it is one of my most feared cards because it’s a counter on a creature and can hit any of my pump spells. I got super lucky during match one though and had the single Rancor and managed to Infect over for lethal game 1. Game 2 I get Spell Quellered and fell short. Game 3 I got the Agent out turn 2 with a Nexus and pass. I then follow it with a pump spell while holding protection and pass. Draw a Blossoming Dense and hopefully seal my Top 8 spot. 2-1 in my favor.
Round 6: As we wait for the pairings to be posted I see that I am in 5th place right now but we have 6 X-1’s and 2 players with 10 points making it really awkward for a clean split. I get paired against another friend who was Phillip Nicley. We both go to our chair and sit down and decide that we think we have to play because one of us is potentially being knocked out of Top 8. We get our decks out shuffle them up and present. Before either of us cut I ask “Do you just want to gamble and draw and see if we can both make it?” We settle on a gambled draw!
During the round we are watching the top matches occur and talk about who we need to win for us to secure our spots. Our luck paid off and we were still in the races!
Top 8 Quarter Finals: I am in 6th place and get paired against another friend who happened to win the tournament and that was Riley Kimminau. He was on KCI as he has been the entire season and I feel excited as well begin our matches. He’s on the play as 3rd seed and somehow I managed to take the win game 1 with a early Blighted Agent. Game 2 I stumbled on lands and wasn’t able to protect my Blighted Agent and he won with a Sai, Master Thopterist and his little army of 1/1’s. Game 3 I get hasty and Dissenter’s Deliverance a Engineered Explosives on 2 to force him to use his mana in response to a KCI coming out. It ended up costing me the game but I didn’t have another threat out and he ended up stopping me from continuing on with the tournament. Congratulations to Riley for PPTQ win for the day and I wish him luck at the RPTQ this coming December.
Thank you to Will Levin for judging the event and thank you to the Phoenix Gaming Lounge staff for hosting the event. Also thank you readers as you took the time out of your day to read this article. I hope to see you in future PPTQ’s and at local events!