My laptop battery is dead. I am in the air on my way back to Montreal. A lot of people tell me they write articles on their phones and I have always had doubts about the enjoyment of said exercise, but I am forced to try it right now.
My first Pro Tour experience was extremely pleasing. The venue was beautiful. The tournament was well-run. It’s definitely something I want to involve myself with again. With that said, let’s start at the beginning to see how I prepared for my biggest tournament yet.
Resurrecting Team ManaDeprived
I had won one of the earliest PTQs possible for this event, claiming top spot in an M15 Limited PTQ that took place all the way back in August of 2014. At the time, I foresaw working for the Pro Tour mostly by myself with some help from the players at my local store (Check Swing) and the writers of this very website.
I knew I would be at a huge disadvantage against the professional super teams around the world but at the same time, working largely on my own forced me to come up with my own ideas. At this point in my career, I would just be a sheep on any super team.
However, in November, friends Xavier Allegrucci and Jessica Buchanan finished in the top 8 of Grand Prix Ottawa, giving me two Pro Tour teammates for the event. Later on, Jessica invited Sam-Luca Rolph and I brought on Chris Woodall.
We were all first timers. There wasn’t any set testing plan. We just jammed Modern games and drafted together. Jessica, who is from Toronto, even decided to stay in Montreal for a week so she could get some quality games in with Xavier and me.
So how did I end up playing Infect?
Modern contains many viable decks. The only reason I started to test Infect first was due to hearing my fellow Eh Team podcast host Jeremey Schofield tell me after the bannings announcement that Become Immense possibly became the new best Delve spell in Modern. It also helped that Ari Lax called Become Immense “the real deal” in a video he did for SCG leading up to Grand Prix Omaha.
I started things off consuming everything written by the man who has made a name for himself with Infect in Tom Ross. He has written numerous articles on Infect and I recommend reading every one of them if you are interested in playing the archetype. I have to also mention that Tom Ross is a really cool guy. He actually shared a bit of his thoughts to me prior to flying out to work with CFB Pantheon and we also ended up playing an excellent match against each other on Day Two.
Here’s the last public list of his that I could find:
UG Infect by Tom Ross
I did the obvious changes to accommodate Become Immense. I went up to 4 Gitaxian Probes and cut a lot of the funky cards Tom was trying out to make room for the new Delve spell. No more need for Pact of Negation or Phytoburst!
I put the deck together and proceeded to test the list out on MTGO. I won most of my games easily and the ones that I did lose, most of the time, it was due to some misplay that I committed. I also came away impressed with the card Become Immense itself. I started with 3 in my first version and 3 has always been the number.
Jay Lansdaal, one of my writers, was concerned that Junk would be a concern. It was predicted to be the most popular deck at the Pro Tour and that would be a problem for Infect as Lingering Souls is one of the most annoying cards against us. All they honestly have to do is keep Blighted Agent in check and they are in good shape. Tom Ross had told me he felt Viridian Corrupter was now bad and that he would be considering Ichorclaw Myrs instead.
But in my head, I didn’t think Ichorclaw Myr was a good card overall. Sure they can safely attack into Lingering Soul tokens, but Junk will still be able to buy a ton of time and as the game goes long, the Junk player is favoured to take the game.
I went all the way back to Pro Tour Return to Ravnica for inspiration. Yeah, I did a lot of homework. Ari Lax had finished 9th with a BUG Infect list. You took more damage from your lands but you had the benefit of playing Plague Stinger over Ichorclaw Myr. Spirit tokens are still a problem for the Stinger but when they don’t have the 3 mana sorcery, Stinger is way more impressive than the Myr, being able to avoid Scavenging Ooze, Tarmogoyf, Siege Rhino, Tasigur, etc. The evasion from Stinger is important against other decks too.
After extensive testing with Jay, I found the Junk matchup very close but I figured that if it were to be the most popular deck, some sideboard tech would be useful and so 2 Illness in the Ranks was included to fight off their best card against me.
Outside of Junk, the deck was testing really well. It had game against Twin and it was heavily favoured against Storm and Tron. Burn was rough and UWR was a nightmare, but I thought I could live with that.
Here’s what I registered at the Pro Tour:
BUG Infect by Kar Yung Tom
I call this list my baby but there’s nothing too innovative about it. I feel my main divergence from the mainstream is my choice of which pump spell to cut to make room for Become Immense and Gitaxian Probe. I chose to cut Mutagenic Growth. Growth is able to give you these killer combo draws but because I expected Junk to be the #1 deck, I decided it was correct to take out the least individually powerful pump spell from the deck.
A lot of your Junk matches comes down to them discarding all your spells and you needing to draw a pump spell off the top to kill them with an Inkmoth Nexus or something and often enough, Mutagenic Growth would not be enough. Heavy discard strategies prey on decks that rely on synergy.
Another thing I did was add an extra fetchland which of course helps fuel Become Immense. The other reason I wanted another land was the fact that we generally sideboard into cards that need more colour sources than normal. Abrupt Decay can be a pain to cast so with the extra fetchland, I add another black source to the deck.
Unfortunately, I did not perform as I had hoped at the Pro Tour. I started off with a 1-2 record and was already feeling a bit down on myself but I had been in a similar position before at Grand Prix where I needed to rally a string of wins to make it to the second day. I rolled off the next 4 with my Infect deck, losing to Burn in the last round of Day One to finish 5-3. Reid Duke consoled me saying it took him quite a few tries to get out of Day One at the Pro Tour.
Day Two started off even worst than Day One as I ended up going 0-3 in my draft pod. With top 8 no longer in my sights, I lost the drive to play at my best and made numerous errors to finish my last five rounds 2-3 giving my Infect deck an overall performance of 6-4.
I definitely thought my Infect deck deserved more. I punted a game where I played around Lightning Bolt from Storm when no lists I ever saw had any in the main deck so instead of killing him outright, I gave him a chance to combo off. Against Jamie Parke in the Infect mirror, I brain farted and didn’t Vines of Vastwood his Blighted Agent in response to him tapping out for a Wild Defiance. In both cases, these were game punting errors. I’ve still got a long way to go when it comes to maintaining an A+ game throughout a tournament.
I found some consolation that CFB Pantheon came to the Pro Tour with the same archetype as me and according to this article by the amazing Adam Styborski, Infect was the top Day One performing deck when it came to archetypes that had more than 5 pilots.
It has become a common thing for writers to talk about how useless a sideboard guide is and they are if they aren’t backed with the reasoning behind the choices as well. I’ll try to include some insights that might not be obvious to newer players of the format.
Jay convinced me I needed Dismember in this matchup but I’m still not 100% sure as I have won many games where I just chump block my opponent’s Gofys and Oozes with my Hierarchs or Glistener Elves in order to give myself enough time to win with another Infect creature. Rhino has trample though so I can see myself needing to Dismember it.
Against decks with Lightning Bolt, Might of Old Krosa is most often your worst pump spell. Groundswell allows you to keep a fetch on your side of the table on your opponent’s turn, so that you can use it to save your creature from a Bolt effect.
Spellskite can block Etched Champion and you can use it to redirect Arcbound Ravager’s Modular trigger.
This is still really theoretical as I haven’t played against the mirror much outside of my match against Jamie Parke in the Pro Tour. Wild Defiance allows you to kill your opponent even if they have a Spellskite. The UG version plays Twisted Images and that’s one of their edges over us.
If you need help with other matchups, feel free to ask me in the comments section below the article.
If I am flying to Grand Prix Vancouver, would I play the exact same 75? I wouldn’t hate it though Burn being the second most popular deck at the Pro Tour hurt my chances of running the tables in the Modern portion of the tournament. I lost to two of them.
Searing Blaze is just too much of a blow out because even if you Apostle’s Blessing or Vines one of your creatures, you still unfortunately take 3. My deck can’t afford to run Feed the Clan, so maybe I play the white Leyline roulette?
I appreciate all the support from my friends and fans throughout the weekend. Thank YOU.
I also need to give a shout-out to Tallegrucci. The Pro Tour vacation would have been far less enjoyable without you.
I’ll be back. I promise. My boy Jay Lansdaal (who helped me the most in tweaking my Infect list) is qualified for Brussels and I’ll be damned if I won’t be there battling by his side.