Bringing Magic to Life — Proliferating Fear
Hello Everyone! It's Kya's once again to help you bring some Magic to your life!
Welcome to my favorite month, Fear February! Okay fine, I admit I just made that up because I'm horrible at these introductions. However it's a wonderful way to bring up one of my favorite heated EDH subjects... Infect! Oh boy here we go again! Run for the hills! First cheating in Eldrazi and now Infect? This is quite the follow-up to chaos and group hug decks? When will we finally get just a normal deck? When will it end? Well, when I end up posting all my decks I guess. That or when I get fired from EDHREC. Not sure which will come first at this rate...
EDITOR'S NOTE: One of those events can be arranged...
The Girl with the Dragon Commander
So why infect? Well, because we women are known for gracefully poisoning our victims, as opposed to just brutishly beating someone to a pulp like some barbarian. Infect was actually one of my first semi-competitive EDH decks, and as some readers may assume, it ended up causing quite a bit of drama in my community. I used to join occasional EDH tournaments with a Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon deck. It was an odd setting where it was 1v1 without the typical French ban list. 30 life and Zur the Enchanter decks as far as the eye can see. I loved my Skittles deck, but but quickly found out many didn't feel the same. For those less familiar with him, quick overview of Skittles:
Isn't he cute? In an undead, terrifying sort of way? He's one of the stronger infect cards and he was a great general that drove fear into most players. Flying, haste and regenerate are all the features girls love most in a skeleton dragon. What's not to love? Well for most part, it was the fact that if he swung 3 times, someone died. Of course my original deck was equipped with every good equipment and pump spell, so it usually ended up taking only 1-2 swings. I was very proud of my deck and some of my friends helped me prep for these tournaments. We would gather together and they'd let me borrow their more expensive cards, as I was still fairly new to collecting myself.
This deck ended up teaching me a lot about Magic: the Gathering and its community. There were a lot of great friends I made throughout my games who helped me learn how to become a wiser player. However, I also learned quickly about the very dark side of the MTG community. I discovered that if someone picked up that you were newer, they would blatantly cheat about card interactions. In one of the more ridiculous cases, someone once tried to convince me they could block my Skittles with non-flying, non-reach creatures. I also quickly discovered what it was like to play as a female in a male-dominated community. Now before anyone rolls their eyes, I am by no means a feminist or about to go into a long rant of such. Although it was at times frustrating, I often look back and laugh about the experiences. The notion that a girl can come in and invade someone's "safe bubble" of avoiding female interaction by playing Magic really drove some men to very heated emotions. This of course became expedited when I pulled my infect deck out. I remember watching players attempt to collude with others to make sure I didn't hit the top 8. Some would talk massive smack about not only my deck, but me as well throughout the matches behind my back. Some would angrily state they would burn my deck if given a chance, right before having to have a smoke break and be calmed down by a friend. These are not the exaggerations of some middle school girl, these things actually happened. Over a girl playing EDH, especially playing infect. Mono black, infect voltron... in a strange tournament setting where Zur the Enchanter was legal in 1v1. Let that sink in. Although I did much better then some, I only hit top 8 twice. Never did I actually win the tournaments. Eventually what ended up happening was people complained so much that the store raised the infect to 15 or 20. That's when I ended up quitting that tournament scene in that particular store. If I was winning outright, it would have been one thing, but all the blatant hate over this newer girl who kept losing with her Skittles deck was a bit much.
So what's the moral of this little story? I really love infect <3
Haters Gonna Hate
Now that the backstory is out of the way, let's talk about infect. I apologize in advance... for not apologizing on my stance with infect. Infect discussions can quickly devolve into dead relationships, lost loves, and pistols at dawn. I've always found the hate for infect to be a silly one, considering all the shenanigans available to the EDH scene. We live in a setting where combo is king, but a handful of normally garbage creatures cause disparity in the hearts of men. When people try and argue infect, it's usually because of the fear of being smacked for 10 out of nowhere. People claim this isn't fair that someone only needs to do 10 damage to kill someone. Which by itself, I think is a fair argument. However what about commander damage? That's a shortcut as well of the 40 life players start out with, only needing to do 21 damage. Well obviously 10 infect is like a shortcut of a shortcut, so of course it's more unfair!
However lets keep in mind what has infect usually has to offer among our choice of cards.
Woah! Slow down over there! 2/2's? 1/1's? Skittles of course being the monster at 4/4! No wonder people are so terrified! It'll take a total of 5 swings to take out someone with my Corpse Cur! There's no way someone can respond in time to this! Let's take it a step further though. Let's compare commander voltron to voltron!
Now both are pretty impressive and can end up knocking a player out in 3 swings. They both have great keywords behind them as well. But wait look! Zurgo has haste without the need of extra mana! Can't he end up killing someone faster typically? So how come Skittles is the more feared?
Well as sure someone's going to mention, of course no one is afraid of just the typically 2/2 infect creature by itself. It's pumping up that creature for a one shot out of nowhere that makes everyone jumpy. It's the support cards WITH infect that makes people really hate this theme. But wait a second, pump cards? This concept sounds familiar doesn't it?
I've seen these cards before! So have most of you, even if you've had a sheltered life away from the big bad infect players. They're staples in token and voltron decks. In fact, they're usually much better in those decks then the infect decks themselves. After all, there is a much bigger card pool for tokens and big swinging creatures. Let's not forget some of the more famous voltron commanders that have crazy evasion and power. In terms of playing to win, I'd rather be playing a token deck that can murder an entire table then trying to pump 1-2 infect creatures to just take out a single person. If it came in terms of efficiency, average token decks wipe the floor with infect decks at the same level. So why is infect so hated?
In my honest and less polite opinion, it's shortsightedness. Most players appear fixated on the infect mechanic itself then actually pulling together all the factors. The truth of the matter is infect does not have a strong card pool by itself and has to pull cards from other aggro strategies to even be viable. Even then, infect must focus on a single person at a time. Mass producing infect creatures to the point of killing the table is very difficult. Usually at the end of the day, an infect player is pulling off the exact same game ending cards we see elsewhere to end up winning. So why are people really upset about playing against infect?
It's simply power level. That should be the topic of conversation when looking at infect decks. Of course an infect deck is going to probably do better than a super casual deck. The same way a tuned token deck is going to floor that same casual deck. However, if the table is playing at a moderate level, infect is little more then a decent contender. So as an infect player, if I'm playing with super casual friends, I probably won't pull my Skittles deck out. Same way I wouldn't pull out my Zur deck. But if I'm in front of people with decently constructed decks that can also blast someone out of nowhere, I don't feel bad. After all, at the end of the day, combo and Xenagos, God of Revels shenanigans are going to be much bigger threats than my Skittles. Another argument against infect is that it's designed so someone will only kill one person off before dying. Some might find that unproductive in an EDH setting and especially become annoyed if they're the person who gets hit. That to me is an issue of play style of the user and not necessarily the deck itself. It's very little different then a voltron that behaves similarly. At the end of the day, I find the arguments against infect translate far too easily to other more accepted play styles. To find a small middle ground though, I will concede that people who just 'one and done' a single person without making a dent on the other players can be a bit annoying. One interesting flaw with infect is that if you die, your legacy doesn't live on. Infect is its own measurement and if you don't get the kill in yourself, no one will be around to continue your work. So let's find a way around that shall we?
Who Wore it Better?
Now that we got my long winded rant out of the way, let's go into building an actual infect deck! One thing I loved about Skittles is that he was mono-black and easy to pilot. However, what I quickly found out is that mono-black voltron definitely has some weaknesses. Silly 1v1 twisted tournaments aside, sitting in a pod of players with Skittles at the helm definitely didn't typically get me very far. I might end up killing 1 player, but I'm going to rightfully get ganged up on quickly after. It would be the same way as if I ended up playing a Kozilek, the Great Distortion or Rafiq of the Many deck. Being mono-black, there are not many ways to protect yourself from all sides. It was time to look for a new commander. Luckily 2016 came by and provided us some amazing options:
Now these are some very scary ladies. Of course people linked Atraxa with infect immediately thanks to her proliferate skill. Let's not forget all those keywords as well, which made her a frightening card in her own right. Saskia was not as quickly linked to infect, but she is still a decent option for the theme. The idea with her is to kill someone with an infect creature and using Saskia's effect to murder a second player as well. That's a fairly crafty way to handle infect's glaring issue of not being able to kill a table. But there can only be one queen of Infect, so which should I go?
Well for me, it's Atraxa hands down. First of all, she's an angel who was turned Phyrexian. Phyrexian being the common theme with infect. So she's an instant flavor win for infect decks. Actually, she creates an interesting Phyrexian tribal deck as well in a strange way. Also, and more importantly, she has access to blue. Now for Saskia, having access to red isn't a bad thing. Giving infect creatures haste, more damage and Chandra's Ignition shenanigans can be very helpful. Voltron typically likes red in general. If someone chose Saskia for her more aggressive nature, I wouldn't think them wrong for it. However I think the value of blue outshines everything I just mentioned. Let's look at blue's contribution, just considering infect alone:
Blue gives something infect wants very badly, creatures with evasion! Plus look at Fuel for the Cause. Are you kidding me? You know what the ultimate middle finger is? Countering someones spell and then killing them with infect by proliferating! That'll show them for thinking they can survive getting murdered! This is just one of the few blue proliferating cards that greatly assist in getting that 10 infect in without having to deal damage.
Finally, Atraxa has something that infect has always needed desperately needed. She can sit back and let her enemies wounds fester until they die. Saskia's ability helps kill multiple people as well in her own way, but Atraxa can do it better as she's not concerned with how big the pod is. She allows the infect creatures to nibble away while she finishes people off over time. One ETB of a Ichor Rats and all you have to do is sit back and relax. With the access of blue she can protect herself as the turns continue. Then, of course, with the access of other colors, she can get the occasional pump spell in on a creature for a one shot that everyone fears so much. Lastly she herself is an insane infect creature if you provide her with cards like Tainted Strike. I think she was the infect commander we've always been waiting for as she encourages a Doomsday Clock play style which I think the community as a whole finds more accepting.
As previously mentioned, I don't think a player is wrong for choosing Saskia. Both commanders give unique play styles on how you want to go infect. Do you want to be an aggressive Sith-like Darth Maul who swings ferociously with infect? Or do you want to be a more patient force sensitive Yoda? Both have their merits and I would highly recommend going for the one that fits your play style. Aside from my previous comments, I've personally seen more success in quick nibbles in early game and holding off from a distance with Atraxa. However if your meta gives you more opportunity to swing in with creatures then give Darth Saskia a try!
Kindness in Death
As I mentioned before, the real reason people have an issue with infect is really because sometimes infect doesn't fit the power level of the pod. That and the fact infect typically doesn't cause detrimental damage to the field aside from maybe the occasional 1-2 kills. This is why I like Atraxa so much, as she can get around both these issues. You can build Atraxa infect in multiple ways. You can leave the pump spells at home and build a nice Doomsday Clock Atraxa in which everything is visible. After your critters nibble, it becomes very clear to everyone how much time they have left. At this point it becomes their fault for allowing Atraxa to stay on the field long enough to kill people. It's actually not too different from Nekusar, the Mindrazer decks. The threat is very visible with the occasional cards that give his effect a boost. For example Contagion Engine works similarly for Atraxa as Liliana's Caress helps Nekusar. With this sort of play style in mind, it becomes pretty difficult to call these sort of decks anything but casual. It's shame on the player who gives the impression they're playing a casual infect deck and then goes ahead and fills it full of Hatred like pumps and evasion. But we've been combating that issue in every style of playing in terms of EDH. Below is my Atraxa deck. It's definitely not what I'd call casual infect, as my groups typical power level is more up there:
Infectious LoveView on Archidekt
I have to say that I laughed while writing out my deck list just now. It's interesting when you look at deck lists as you can tell quite a bit about its construction. Like many Atraxa players, I developed my deck from the precon. You can still see remnants of the precon that do not belong in this deck. Now I'm encouraged to improve it when I can! Does anyone else have decks like this? If you're interested in building an Atraxa Infect deck, it's super cheap for the most part. For those curious, I left Blightsteel Colossus out as I needed him elsewhere. Unless you're cheating that big boy out, it's not fun having that sit in your hand for so long if you don't have the mana. Instead I added some Praetors for flavor. I need to get extra copies of the other two missing and add them in as well! Gah, why is it so difficult owning so many decks???
Anyways, for all those looking for different types of infect decks, don't forget to check EDHREC's Theme Section Here
Gah! Wait a second! Infect is in last place? I won't stand for this! Let's start creating some infectious decks and spread our grand design across the data-verse!
She Kills Me, She Kills Me Not
I know what you're thinking. Where's the real reason everyone's reading all this? This isn't a Bringing Magic to Life segment if I don't have any props for today's article after all. I've decided that since I'm not being paid for these 3d models, I might as well charge people by suffering through my unpopular rants like being pro infect. So let's finally get down and dirty with some cool ideas to turn infect into something awesome! What's a better way then giving players a physical representation of our infectious love?
Poison Flowers! Once a player picks away their last petal, they're dead! That or if their flower fully blooms, they die! Whichever way you want to do it, it'll result in their death! As a small disclaimer, I cannot take the creative credit behind this idea. I saw a similar idea on one of my late night Googles a long time ago. Unfortunately I cannot find the image on Google to give the proper credit, but when I saw the idea I was in love. It would be a jerk move to upload 3d prints of someone else's idea, so instead I'll show you how I made mine out of stone. Finally a way someone without a 3d printer can join in on the fun!
Now the first thing we'll need is our tools and material. Because I'm not using plastic prints like I normally do, we're going to need more then just a computer. For today I'm using my Dremel, a file, and soap stone. Soap stone is a nice soft stone that allows you to shave away without much hassle. You can get these either on Amazon or at Home Depot. For this I ended up grabbing the soap stones from Home Depot as they come in nice slivers perfect for our petals. Quite honestly in terms of width and height, I didn't have to do any work.
Before I start my stone carving though, I'm going to make sure I have the proper measurements. Making pieces of a pie is a very aggravating process. You have to make sure the cuts are perfect and that they make a perfect circle with 10 pieces. Now measuring this with real stone with some trial and error would be insane. Ain't nobody got time for that. So instead I caved in and turned on my 3d software. After 2 seconds of measuring a cylinder and making squares off that, I had my pieces. A quick print allowed me to start cutting my stone slabs.
Now I can use my 3d print to trace around my soap stone. For those who do not have the same luxury of printing a prop piece to trace, keep note of how I did mine. You can rough estimate it as the width is the same as the soap stone provides. That or use other circular methods of measurement to determine the length. A piece of paper and a protractor works just as well as a 3d print. Actually now that I think about it... that would have been much easier. I broke the soap stone into several pieces and traced 10 of them. I numbered them for OCD sanity purposes and got to work!
Of course as Clementine the Safety Cat likes to enforce, safety first. I'm too cool (and foolish) to listen to my own advice, but when you Dremel do yourself a favor and wear goggles. Years of doing this has made me cocky, believing if I can handle the constant shade of some of the MTG community blowing my way, a little dust seems like nothing (jk).
A quick video for those who don't think goggles are advised. I'd keep your sound on low. Clementine the Safety Cat was not amused and quickly left to report my foolish human ways. Keep in mind if you don't have a Dremel, that's completely fine. A file works great as well. It'll just take much longer. Each piece took me about 2-4 minutes to create after the first few. A decent Dremel just so you know is fairly cheap and easy to use. If you like the idea of carving like this, I'd definitely get one. It's much cheaper then a 3d printer!
And Voila! 10 poison counters! I used the tip of my file to etch in the symbols. Of course as you've noticed in my first image, painting in those crevices wasn't the easiest thing in the world. I think you're all getting a general idea from my last articles that I hate painting. I sprayed some black paint and used green with a fine tip brush for a quick finish.
Touched by a (Phyrexian) Angel
Of course, this article wouldn't be complete without a model of the commander! Now this was something I created from long ago, but I expanded a bit on the wings. I was never, and will never, be happy with making 3D wings. She was actually the model in which I quickly discovered less detail is better for miniatures. Imagine all those spikes being accurately printed on a figurine that's not even 2 inches? My 3d printer laughed at me and provided a perfect example on why I shouldn't own a firearm.
Below is my Infect Army about to decimate a poor soul. My lovely Phyrexian Angel has summoned forth her minions to prepare for global domination!
Download Your Very Own Queen of Infect Here: Atraxa
A Small Infection to Remember Me By <3
I have to say I enjoyed making this article. It was a big step of getting out of my shell a little bit and provide some insight as to what I thought on a fairly unpopular subject. Let me know what you think of infect! I'm always up for debating the subject as well as anything when it comes to EDH. I did want to close this article on one small thing though. I mentioned in the beginning my experience as a female in a more serious MTG setting. It certainly wasn't a pleasant one in some cases, but to be completely honest, I wouldn't have traded it away if given the chance. I'm quite aware we don't live in a Utopia and the horrible behavior that was exhibited to me at times helped make me not only a stronger player, but a tougher person in general. I was always a fan of George Carlin's stand up on strengthening your immune system by exposure, and I can say that I swam in the communities Hudson River quite a number of times. Eventually I emerged out of the metaphorical waters a different person. Now I'm equipped to handle these situations as they come and I pity the poor soul who tries lashing out on me again for the decks I play or for being female. I definitely wouldn't be able to make that claim now though of it wasn't for my past experiences. I strongly back the continued efforts to made in the MTG community a friendlier place, but would encourage those afraid of the backlash to remember my words as well. At the end of the day though, the MTG, especially the EDH community, has far more good than bad. If you find yourself drowning in the filth, there will always be someone nearby to throw you a life preserver. People can be strange or rude on the net, but when drama hits the fan in stores people will instinctively help the person in distress. Never feel bad reaching out to others. That's one lesson this girl was too stubborn to learn for a long while. Don't be like me, unless you're thinking of playing infect <3
If you disagree with today's opinion, as always:
Your Phyrexian Queen,