Techstop 10 K - The hype is real
I wrote most of this article a while ago, had a bit of a burn out and decided to take a bit of time off from brewing and playing to get to play some rest. It ultimately didn’t work out the way I wanted it to but the rest was good.
Take that in mind when reading the following words.
So it is a little over a week before the 10k in Bloem and the hype is getting to me, I have a fever, a magic fever. I am super hyped! I can’t sleep and I’m in full brewing mode, I have rehashed lists and rehashed lists until I have what I think is 3 fairly unique builds of decks. I am tired, but that all goes part in parcel with the goals I have set out for myself.
Out of the 3 decks I have played in Bloemfontein, the one that has been attached to my name in in more than one conversation is Infect. Much like TB, this infection of being associated with infect is not easily going away. But here’s the thing, I kinda like infect and for good reason. Remember when I wrote about Gifts Control, I said that you need to play with something you are familiar with? Well back when standard had infect, I pilotted it in very many tournaments, including a few larger tournaments overseas and on local shores.
Infect is and always has been a deck I am comfortable pilotting. I understand the small nuances of the deck and I know how it plays out best. It almost always beats combo decks and has a really decent game against most other decks. It can even out race burn.
So like a plague on the world I have been testing this list:
|19 Lands||14 Creatures||27 Spells|
|4 Inkmoth Nexus||1 Dryad Arbor||4 Might of Old Krosa|
|2 Pendelhaven||1 Viridian Corrupter||2 Ground Swell|
|2 Forest||4 Blighted Agent||3 Become Immense|
|1 Misty Rainforest||4 Noble Hierarch||4 Blossoming Defense|
|2 Verdant Catacomb||4 Glistener Elf||4 Vines of Vastwood|
|3 Wooded Foothill||1 Rancor|
|3 Windswept Heath||1 Distortion Strike|
|2 Breeding Pool||2 Apostle’s Blessing|
|4 Mutagenic Growth|
|2 Spell Pierce|
|2 Kitchen Finks|
|1 Grafdigger’s Cage|
|2 Nature’s Claim|
|2 Aether Tunnel|
|2 Dissenter’s Deliverance|
|2 Vapor Snag|
|2 Carrion Call|
Understanding the Deck
For the newer players, infect is a deck that allows your creatures to do poison damage. Almost all your creatures deal poison damage. And because of this your opponent’s life total is essentially half, because poison ends the game at 10 damage. This makes the deck extremely fast and this is the appeal of playing it.
With this in mind....
If I was to ask you, what type of deck is infect, is it Control, Combo or Beatdown?
Most people play it and treat it like a beatdown, and in those players hands infect works but it is not played to its full potential. You will win lots of matchups against other players playing combo and beatdown but against control the “beatdown” infect player will lose more than they win.
So what is the correct way to look at infect? Well infect is a Beatdown/Combo deck. Against control you only “combo-off” if you know for sure that they can’t do anything to stop you. And this is why the loss of Gitaxian Probe was such a big hit. It allowed you to know exactly what was going on in your opponent's hand without using any resources.
So now instead of playing it on autopilot you have to focus on what’s going on in the game. You have to understand your role and you have to constantly read the game state to make progress.
In magic there are always 3 distinct roles any player can play; beatdown, control or combo. When facing off against certain opponents your role can shift. If you are playing against a deck that plays creatures a little lower on the mana curve to yours, you can become the control deck in the matchup even though you are a beatdown deck yourself.
It is in this, where most players lose games. In every Match, you have to look at your opponent’s deck analyse the cards and play pattern and determine, if the deck plays creatures faster than yours, then maybe you are the control deck and trading creature for creature is the way to go, or if you are playing infect and your opponent is playing Humans, you become the beatdown and he becomes the control.
And this is the nuance of playing infect, at every point you have to shift gears. Sometimes chipping for 2-3 poison is the way to go. Sometimes Jamming a dude, playing all the pump the following turn is the way to go. But this is ever changing and nothing should ever be set in stone.
So how do you play the deck in certain matches?
I’m going to list a few decks that you should play against in the 10k and I’m going to explain how to play against each one and what is the most important things you need to take into account when playing against each deck.
Burn, by far, is the hardest matchup. Every turn you have to constantly shift gears, every turn you have to re-evaluate your position, the real issue you have is that most of their strength comes in the fact that they pack their deck with 1 and 2 mana removal spells that once your threats are dealt with can go to the face. The match is a constant jockey for position, hand and board position. Untapping with a creature in play is when you know you are on the winning end of the game, but even then Deflecting Palm is gross.
So you need to understand what is important. Firstly, your life total is important, secondly your creatures are important and finally, your handsize is important.
When playing the matchup, play a creature only if you have mana open to protect it. And keep your Spell Pierce’s to protect your creatures and only use them on a face burn if they are about to kill you.
So the obvious ones are the Kitchen Finks and the Spellkite, They both act as speed-bumps and lightning rods for the burn player, buying you valuable time to push damage through. But the Vapor Snag’s on the other hand are tricky to use, sometimes you use them to protect your face from a gobbo and sometimes you use them to protect your creature from a spell. I chose vapor snag over unsummon because often you can find yourself racing with real damage in some matchups and the extra point of damage could be useful but in this matchup it is a negative more than positive because bouncing your creature to save it from burn can also lose you that game winning point of life.
The Humans deck is a also not the easiest matchup, I put it at 50/50 with skill edging it by 5% either way, you have to play the beatdown roll, and you have to commit to it. When you get a opening, you have to go for the jugular and you can’t afford to flinch. The humans deck has so many blockers that when you eventually get a shot at their face, you have to use everything you have to get them.
Things to be wary of,
And that is about it, but if you stagger your pump spells (leaving the one you play to resolve before you play another one) then you should be okay.
So truth be told, on Magic Online, I have played so many people who flamed me to hell and back because they lost to Aether Tunnel, but it is par for the course when you find a card that people don’t use to accomplish goals that you need to do. I identified a problem, against Humans, mono green stompy and any other creature deck, they can just block your guy repeatedly while they are chipping your life total down. But with these 2 cards you can permanently get through. There are other spells that allow you to make your creature unblockable but this one is permanent. And I have found myself to be happy with it in the more grindy matches and not really needing anything else.
The Vapor Snag and Dismember are there to clear blockers.
The deck is pretty much sorted against control, I find myself being pretty happy with the overall build. The only card I would change is maybe a Spellskite in place of a Distortion Strike, it just gives you another “counter” to their targeted removal.
The matchup for the first few turns plays out with you playing a threat, they try and remove threat on their turn and you try and kill them on yours. If your pump isn't lethal then you wait another turn keeping your pump for next time round.
The biggest problem with the matchup is that if you opponent gets an early Terminus and you don’t have a Spell Pierce or a Inkmoth Nexus then you can often get blown out.
Another Card that can be absolutely backbreaking for them to deal with is Carrion Call
It allows you to add creatures at the end of the your opponent’s turn and sometimes it allows you to go over the Wrath effects.
I’m not going into too much detail on exactly how to play this matchup because it is simple, get yours before they get theirs. The matchups against non red combos is very easy, just go for it.
I was planning on writing an article on my third deck choice for the 10k but the point is a bit moot, instead I want to write about 2 of my losses at the 10k because they were interesting. And both show you that sometimes making the right choice at a moment can be the wrong choice in the game.
So in game three of my match against Pierre I run out of creatures to play and get an early dryad down, this becomes one of those weird situations where I was doing actual damage because he had removed all the other threats I had played before and I couldn’t afford to wait on pump spells because the longer the game goes the worse it gets for me. He has something like 5 lands in play but only one untapped. The previous turn I pumped my guy with all my lands and he did nothing so I figured he was either holding back or he didn’t have a removal, the following turn he played Opt and other draw spells and then played a land and passed the turn. So my reading was that you don’t play a bunch of draw spells unless you are looking for something and he even bottomed the scry with the last Opt and this led me to believe that he really didn’t have anything. So I went for the kill the following turn and he played a Path to Exile.
All in all after reviewing the matchup in my head I have come to the conclusion, that playing for the win in that moment was the correct thing to do, giving your opponent more and more turns in the control matchup is very bad. Also, knowing how vigorously he was searching for an answer I realized that he was definitely removal light. Pierre later revealed that he had in fact drawn the Path with the last Opt that last chance he could.
The second game loss I want to talk about was against Johannes Bothma. I was on the draw and he on the play, on turn he played a land but because he had used a Path to Exile and a Fatal Push already that game I figured he would not have more than 2 removal spells left in his hand.
Also I know that this is the critical turn, if he has a Gifts Ungiven in his hand then he can win next turn if I don’t force something out of him. So he has 4 cards in hand I figure that at most, 2 removal spells and a Gifts and a land. Johannes is at 5 Poison.
Even if he has 3 removal spells, then I have enough in my hand to go for it. So I play Blossoming Defence and he responds with a Fatal Push, I respond with a Kicked Vines of the Vastwood, he responds with another Path to Exile, I respond with another unkicked Vines, he responds with yet another Fatal Push, so in what I thought was a victory spell I play an Apostles Blessing and he responds with a Negate.
If you do the math, you know he is extremely unlikely to have 3 removals and a counterspell in his hand especially if his deck is playing 24/25 lands, especially if he played a Path to exile and a Fatal Push a earlier in the game.
Both of these instances I was the one in the winning seat if variance had fallen my way. Both Pierre and Johannes had used bunches of removal spells before and both were moving to the phase of the game that infect has a difficult time winning.
This is the whole thing about Magic, losing matches is a part of the game. You have many chances to win and sometimes losing is just that, losing…
I used to take losing badly.
Back in the day, I lost a match for the 3rd time in finals of a PPTQ, I was distraught. Roelf drove us home that night, and I pretty much sat staring out the window of the car wondering why I could come so far every time and not win. I wrote into a segment on the Mothership website where I basically asked him why I should continue, because I wanted to quit.
I got a response, from hall of famer Raphael Levy. I later pushed through and made it to the pro tour. It took another year or so but I made it.
I couldn't find the original post but I did find this written by Raph himself…
Anyway, losing is a part of Magic. Does it sting when I lose a game I feel I should win? A little, but not sitting quiet in a car for 4 hours on the road back to Bloemfontein brooding over every play kind of sadness.
Thanks again for reading through this deck tech.
Stay tuned for more. :P
I've been playing Magic since 1997, on and off professionally to spend more time with my family. As a six-time Pro Tour qualifier, I want to take you on a journey and hopefully teach you some Old School Magic along the way.