Deep Analysis - Infect

(Brokkos, Apex of Forever | Art by Filip Burburan)

Infinite Power

Did you know that EDHREC has an EDH Wiki? Go check it out, if you haven’t already. It’s written by the community for the community, and there’s a lot of cool stuff in there! Deep Analysis is a series where we learn about an archetype using its Wiki page, then apply this new knowledge to build a deck.

In today's article we'll talk about a very polarizing archetype, with some people even going as far as Rule 0'ing the number of poison counters it takes to eliminate a player. That's right, it's Infect time! There are two main ways to play Infect, so let’s see what the Wiki says about it:

Aggressive Infect

An aggressive Infect deck uses a large number of Infect creatures, such as Blighted Agent or Putrefax. These decks seek to take advantage of the small amount of damage Infect requires to eliminate other players, and attempt to deal lethal damage to enemy players before they are able to establish meaningful defenses.

Aggressive Infect decks have many of the same characteristics as traditional creature-based or even tribal decks, including a heavy reliance upon combat and an emphasis on spells that power up their creatures. Since every point of Infect is functionally equivalent to 4 points of life, boosting the power of an Infect creatures makes this strategy particularly potent.

Gradual Infect

By contrast, gradual Infect decks focus less on combat and more on the meaningful interactions between Infect and abilities such as Proliferate. By giving opponents at least one poison counter (for instance, with an Ichor Rats), they can then use abilities like Inexorable Tide and Contagion Engine to inevitably give each other player ten poison counters without risking their cards in combat.

This strategy is much slower and more methodical, and particularly specializes in remaining defensive rather than aggressive. They are likely to capitalize on Infect's ability not just to give poison counters to players, but also their ability to put -1/-1 counters on unfriendly creatures, minimizing an enemy player's ability to present a significantly threatening creature on the other side of the table.

As we can see, Infect is a diverse archetype with plenty of space to adjust for personal preferences, from the deck's overall pacing to the choice of which synergies to pursue. Each iteration has its own strengths and weaknesses, as well as a vast array of support options.


Colors

Green

Green might be the single best color for Infect. It offers plenty of threats and the means to pump and protect them.

Black

Black is a close second color; it has just as many creatures, but it also has recursion, which is invaluable for a deck that needs its creatures on the field as much as possible.

White

White offers a good deal of Aura and Equipment support and has many protection effects. Because of that, it's a great Infect support color.

Blue

Blue is a great color for Infect too. It offers plenty of defensive options and some cheap evasion that can provide a more tempo-oriented approach. Blue is also a great color for Proliferate, which means that it can cover both ends of the Infect spectrum.

Red

Red is a great Infect color specifically for aggressive decks. Its pump effects and haste enablers are great additions for combative poisoners, and looting effects can help dig through library more quickly to find key cards for the strategy to function properly.


Commander Choice

Infect is a self-contained archetype, which makes our commander choice both very flexible and highly customizable. Atraxa's Proliferate triggers are a constant source of pressure for decks that want to play a slower game, while Saskia's damage trigger is great for a more explosive take on the archetype.

Brokkos, Apex of Forever is a surprisingly good choice for an Infect shell. Since all of our creatures (except Blighted Agent) are non-Humans, Brokkos's Mutate becomes a powerful Aura-like effect that, on average, buffs a creature by +4 or +5 power, not to mention gives them trample. That's a great rate to slap onto one of our Infect threats. Combined with the fact that we're able to constantly recast it from our graveyard, this allows for a consistent supply of pump effects, which takes a lot of pressure off of the 99, since our deck no longer needs to add in tons of power-up effects to make the strategy consistent enough.

Brokkos Infect

Commander (1)
Creature (31)
Instant (14)
Artifact (3)
Enchantment (9)
Sorcery (14)
Land (28)

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer


Infect Components

Infect Threats

These are our main sources of dishing out poison counters. While some of them (well, let's be honest, several of them) might not be all that impressive, they can be quite effective when we turn them into 6/6s with trample. On their own, they can accomplish a surprising amount if they stick around for even one turn too long, edging out the final few points of poison we need to topple an enemy.

Blackcleave Goblin Phyrexian Hydra
Blight Mamba Phyrexian Swarmlord
Blighted Agent Phyrexian Vatmother
Core Prowler Plague Myr
Corpse Fur Plague Stinger
Flensermite Putrefax
Flesh-Eater Imp Rot Wolf
Glisterner Elf Septic Rats
Hand of the Preators Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon
Ichor Rats Spinebitter
Ichorclaw Myr Toxic Nim
Necropede Viral Drake
Phyrexian Crusader Viridian Corrupter
Phyrexian Digester Whispering Specter

Proliferate

Even if this is not focus of our build, Proliferate effects with other useful effects stapled onto them are great for any Infect list.

Protection

Given that creatures are the most vulnerable card type, we need to protect them fiercely. One advantage of being a fast aggressive deck is that we are able to afford the card disadvantage aspect of one-shot protection spells, like Blossoming Defense.

Pump

Our gameplan is basically a race to 10 three times, and as such, we need a little push. Our commander is a great starting point, but having a few more pumps can really help us speed the process along.

Recursion

Our deck requires us to have creatures in play to threaten our opponents. With that in mind, it's clear that we need recursion spells. The combination of these effects with our commander, which also constantly recurs itself, allows us have a very resilient deck.


Final Lessons

Let's wrap up with a final important tidbit from the EDH Wiki:

Although Infect interacts favorably with ubiquitous mechanics such as Proliferate, the pool of cards that have or grant Infect is rather limited. Many of the creatures with Infect have lower power or clunky mana costs. Dedicated Infect decks may find themselves playing cards that, apart from the Infect ability itself, are otherwise lackluster.

Dedicated Infect decks have many of the same weaknesses as other aggressive creature-based decks, namely their vulnerability to mass removal and a propensity to run out of steam as the game progresses. Aggressive Infect decks may succeed in removing a player early, but may not always be able to finish off the entire table in such quick fashion.

Infect is a separate method of eliminating a player that does not interact with other win conditions. While some players may be able to join forces to collectively attack a mutual opponent and take them down with shared strength, this is not an option for Infect players, whose method of dealing damage does not mesh with traditional combat strategies.

This is one of the biggest challenges for Infect decks. In non-singleton formats, we can have multiple copies of good Infect creatures, like Glistener Elf and Blighted Agent. In EDH, however, we need to go pretty deep into the Infect pool, which leaves us scraping by with creatures that are not all that impressive.

As an aggressive deck, we also suffer from both mass removal and from opponents ganging up on us. Board wipes we can tackle in two ways: first, we can allow ourselves not to over-commit too many creatures onto the battlefield, because our clock is very fast and our commander guarantees that even one creature is a powerful threat. Second, we can keep up powerful protection suite. Since we don't have to spend as many card slots in the 99 on pump effects, we have room to play more protection spells to keep our creatures alive and healthy.

The other problem - opponents potentially ganging up on us for playing the scary-looking poison deck - requires a bit of experience in piloting both Infect and aggressive decks. Luckily, with the addition of our recursion suite and all of our dual faced spell-lands, our deck is adapted to deal with a late-game scenario better than most aggro strategies.

However, the fact that our win condition doesn't line up with the rest of the table can be a bit worrying at times. While they're dealing damage, we're attacking on a completely different axis, which prevents us from building off the work of other players, including things like politicking to help take down a mutual enemy. It might be useful for us to go in with the mindset of a combo deck, rather than an aggro deck, to help us remember the importance of careful timing.


The End

That’s it for this article, so now I want to hear from you! Share your thoughts on this list or on Infect decks in general. Which archetype do you want to see covered next?

While this series will focus on just archetypes, there’s a ton of other cool community-built content in the Wiki. Check it out, and feel free to contribute, if you’d like!

Bernardo has been playing(on and off) since portal and somehow manage to survive mirrodin block while being a total casual(beast tribal ftw?). He loves all the shades of blue and being the one saying "nope", while holding a full grip of cards in hand.