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February 28, 2011


Mirrodin Besieged: Infect & Defile Review (Part 1 of 2)

by Dredd77

Again as we prepare to explore the second of the two Event Decks, the Phyrexians’ Infect & Defile, we must answer the question of how to build a successfully competitive deck within the confines of the card pool allowed. Most decks at the competitive level lean on mythics and a solid number of rares. How can decks permitted zero mythics and only seven rares hope to hold its own?

Into the Breach found one niche where a narrowly-focused deck could make a decent showing of itself: mono-Red aggro. Leaning on cards like Goblin Guide, Goblin Bushwhacker, and Lightning Bolt, it traded power for blistering speed, and will certainly steal a few wins on that account. That takes care of the Mirrans, but what about the Phyrexians? As it happens, the answer lies within the question.

It’s in niche specialisation, of course, and with infect being around for all of two sets, it doesn’t get much more niche than that. Infect & Defile takes a very intriguing and unconventional approach to the strategy, however, in that it doesn’t pack a swarm of infect creatures- in fact, it’s relatively creature-light. Instead, it plays more like an aggro-control deck, looking to resolve a few threats then back it up with denial and removal. It’s an approach well worth a look, and we’ll start with those sixteen beaters.

Cuts Like Steel

Here’s a further surprise. Those beaters? Not very robust. The all-stars of the deck are the twin Phyrexian Vatmothers and a singleton Hand of the Praetors, but from there on out its some very small fry indeed. With creatures chosen as much for utility as actual threat, the deck treats you to playsets of Plague Myr (for mana ramp), Necropede (for early congestion of the red zone to stall for time), and Corpse Curs (for recursive card advantage).

Your most favourable early play is certainly the Necropede, especially against aggressive decks like RDW and Vampires. Being able to trade with an attacker and then take out another of their weenie creatures is a very solid place to start, and it’s even good for slowing down mana development by picking off the occasional Lotus Cobra or Birds of Paradise in the more midrange decks if need be.

But that’s essentially it. Get out the Myr to accelerate your board and hope to drop a Vatmother as soon as possible. Being a one-of, the Hand is unreliable, but the good news is the deck has plenty of ways to get through your deck a little quicker than normal.

To See What Will

The rest of the deck is your noncreature control mechanism, and it does some very fundamental things. As mentioned above, this is a deck that looks to accumulate card advantage over time, and contains a couple tools to power you through your library to find those critical cards. Four Foresees give you very strong draw quality by triggering scry before you draw, while a trio of Preordains are essentially a sifting cantrip. This is a cornerstone of the deck’s “long-term plan,” defined thusly in the box’s insert: Given enough time, you’ll draw more cards, have more creatures, and cast more spells.

The ‘have more creatures’ bit is a reflection not only of the deck’s solid removal package, but its nifty little trick of blatant and outright thievery. Packing four Corrupted Consciences, Infect & Defile is delighted when your opponent plays a Grave Titan or similarly beefy menace, as it will simply steal it and grace it with infect. Like all such effects, this compounds their loss of a creature with your gaining of it, and makes it quite a bit stronger with infect.

Prefer to outright kill? There are plenty of ways to do that, too. Twin Consuming Vapors can wreck a creature-light opponent’s board. You’ll want to sideboard it out against aggro, but the deck is more than capable of engineering some truly painful Vapors against most decks. Two Smothers and a Doom Blade satisfy the need for more targeted removal, though there are probably better options available in Standard’s card pool. Finally, a pair of Contagion Clasps not only plant the first bitter seed of a -1/-1 counter, but act as a proliferation engine to hasten your opponent’s poisoned demise.

Finally, there’s a small but sturdy countermagic suite consisting of two Mana Leaks and two Deprives. Deprive is an object of personal preference- the land-recall drawback can stunt early development, so some have preferred to run Cancel instead. Pro tip: if you opt to go this route (and don’t mind dipping into the Mirran’s pool), snare Stoic Rebuttal instead. At the same cost as Cancel, it’s strictly better as you’ll have occasion to trigger metalcraft here (there are fourteen artifact cards in the deck).

Mana Leak is an interesting card, one of the small number that is significantly better in top-flight constructed than in casual. The more expert the game, the more each turn’s output is maximised, and the more opportunities you have to deploy a painful Leak. It’s decent enough here as a two-of.

The deck does have some congestion points in its mana curve, as you’ll see:

Because it’s a competitive two-colour deck, the inclusion of a pair of Drowned Catacombs is a very welcome sight. It also throws in a playset of the budget Jwar Isle Refuges to make sure you have the mana you need throughout the game.

In short, this deck wants you to set the board’s pace with removal and counters, biding time until you can drop one of your more robust infect vectors or create one with a timely Corrupted Conscience. Into the Breach was a success because of its speed, which was enough to paper over some of the inherent shortcomings presented by a deck with less competitive tools than many. We’re not so sure Infect & Defile will be as successful as it optimises in the mid-to-late game. While you’re fiddling with a Corpse Cur, your opponent just popped a Primeval Titan and engaged Operation: Valakut. It will be interesting to see how the deck holds up.

The Fatal Flaw in Every Plan

The sideboard for Infect & Defile is about as focused as it gets: additional removal and countermagic. This means that the deck is more or less happy with its game plan, but lets you fiddle with fine-tuning the knobs. No additional layers of strategy here, as was the case in Into the Breach and its Goblin Ruinblasters and Leyline of Punishment, for instance. Your opponent grinding you down with fast creatures? Take out the counters and throw in some more killspells. Your opponent creature-light? Do the opposite.

Towards that end, you have two additional Smothers, two Go for the Throats, and a Doom Blade to choose from. Not enough? Howabout a trio of Deathmarks. Or if it’s counters you’re after, why not bring in up to a playset of Negates and a trio of Flashfreezes if you’re playing against Red or Green? Although much simpler in many ways than Into the Breach’s, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sideboarding is one of the most initimidating aspects of competitive play for the newer player, and Infect & Defile’s makes it so easy it’s almost painless. Both what to put in and what to take out will often be quite obvious.

Once you’ve gotten your feet wet in your local meta, you’ll certainly want to start fine-tuning the deck to be even stronger. As with Into the Breach, it offers you the same two options: speed it up or slow it down. Speeding it up tips the balance more in favour of aggression, suggesting additional Vatmothers and Phyrexian Crusaders. This is a more creature-and-removal strategy that seeks a quick resolution to the game through rapid poison rather than the aggro-control platform of the stock deck.

Of course, you could also choose to go the other direction, and emphasize the control aspect of the deck. The insert offers suggestions like adding more countermagic, boardsweepers like Black Sun’s Zenith, and “polishing the opponent off with huge finishers like Consecrated Sphinx.” Ignore what they wrote about the Sphinx, that’s a rubbish tip. If you’re going to go with a fat flying mythic, it’d be silly to skip out on Skittles.

As said above, we’re much less confident that Infect & Defile will have the same success as Into the Breach, as the longer game means more time to expose the deck’s shortcomings. It does beg the question of how competitive these products can be going forward, because there aren’t a ton of niches or strats that can be pulled off using a weaker card pool as these do. Again, we love the ambition here, but only time will tell. We’ll put it through our own playtesting and see what we find.

18 Comments Post a comment
  1. Icehawk
    Feb 28 2011

    I look at the deck and partially love the control aspect of it then look at the creature choices. Ugh.

    This deck more than the other needs serious meddling. Overall, I’m not sure at all this can keep up with Into the Breach. Using the side deck to maximize it’s effectiveness against Breach, maybe, but I wish they would have slapped in a few rares like Phyrexian Crusader. A second Hands, maybe 1 or 2 Crusaders would have been nice touch. A few more well chosen rares for a little extra flare would have rocked. It is 25 bucks for one deck after all.

    It’s an interesting product. It’s going to be fun to see what they do with it in the future. I suspect like intro packs; it’ll only get better.

  2. Aaro
    Feb 28 2011

    I guess blue/black makes sense, and I am a fan of blue…

    Though there WAS a pretty nasty green/black/artifact infect deck that kicked my butt at a pre-release sealed tourney. The guy would put damage-boosting equipment on his rot wolves, then plow through with the additional infect damage and even throw some timely instants to buff them further. I think he took me out in 4 rounds in one game. Ouch.

    Disclaimer: Ok, ok, this was my first tourney of any kind… but still! It was nasty…

  3. Hireling
    Mar 1 2011

    I just picked up this deck after playing a few rounds against Into the Breach with the hopes that I can meddle it into a more efficient machine.

    It definitely struggles to get solid footing, even when siding in the cheaper creature removal options. Seeing the curve breakdown here I’m stunned at how crowded the 4 drops are. This is in line with what I was experiencing which was fighting to get over a very mana hungry hump.

    I’ve already stripped the counter suite out and replaced it with 4 Spell Pierce and 2 Fuel for the Cause. After removing the Corpse Curs and replacing them with Ichorclaw Myr I thought it would be okay to throw in Fuel. I like the way it curves with cheap infect creatures, and imagining having it at the ready for a Day of Judgment brings a smile to my face.

    I’m leaving in the Corrupted Consciences for now because I find infect/control very intriguing. The big question for me now is, do I change up the creatures, or increase the number sacrificing some of the removal. Or do I stick with a low number of higher quality creatures and just concentrate on landing a poison or two and then proliferate/control for the win.

    • Aaro
      Mar 1 2011

      You’ve got some tough choices there. The infect creatures I’m interested in are Plague Stingers (flying, 1/1, for 1B) and Septic Rats (2/2, 1BB, get +1/+1 when attacking if opponent is poisoned). Would help round the curve a bit…

      Also, Into the Breach actually got me thinking about adding some Signal Pests for my Infect deck. They’re cheap, hard to get rid of, and buff Infect creatures just the same.

  4. Oceanus
    Mar 2 2011

    I’ve taken it upon myself to take the decisions made my Magic and change them for the better. I believe the ball was dropped, and if I would have been given the job Wizards had, I would have made a better product.

    I have a lot to say, but instead I’ll briefly bring up my overall changes and the exact rares I picked:

    2 Phyrexian Vatmother
    2 Hand of the Praetors
    1 Consume the Meek
    1 Consuming Vapors
    1 Inkmoth Nexus

    Reasons: changed the 4 drops to be strong, shaped up the aggro. Infect is aggro/midrange (which I’m a fan of), but I was disturbed with how bad the original looked; felt like there was no connection.

    CtMeek to pair with CVapors, noticing the huge creatures, 1) so that you can sweep the board and 2) actually let CVapors shine in any game. 2 of either I believe work less than one of each. Side appropriately.

    Oh yeah, INexus. Seriously, it’s not THAT expensive. Originally, I thought I could get by without it, but it’s SO GOOD. Even a one of guarantees a sneak finisher strategy; or use as an early game trick, etc. It’s too good, and it costs… What? Roughly 1 Goblin Guide? How dare you give Kuldotha Red everything but MOpal, even CWZone and not give us our Phyrexian stuff );.

    Also, while the lands were “nice”, they were unnecessary, and they almost know it. They saw 2 color and got stuck on including a dual, but it’s not necessary because just take at the mana intensity; you need BB for Vatmother t3rd (ramp) and arguably U t1st for Preordain (which DCatacombs can’t do anyway). That’s about it. That requires running roughly 9 U and 14 B sources. Cut out 2 tapped duals as well, because aggro and a bunch of tapped lands works awful.

    Finally, Overall:
    Find goals for your colors to make them actually sensible. I decided to make Black my power color with Blue on the back in making sure that power does its job.

    So I haven’t really talked about the blue. First take out most of everything, the deck’s not control. 3 Preodains stayed to help an inconsistent deck consistent. 2 MLeak to help force your moves and check opponents, aka., Aggro/Control. The last 3 Blue manas? 3 Distortion Strike. Like I said, you have beats, so make them hit. Two turns in a row in fact. Back it up with counters to push it through, make it happen with Preordain, and give power to fatties who already evade some removal and push them through.

    Shortcommings: I kept the feel for what they tried to do with CVapors, but overall still don’t like it. I think it would be more helpful to try 2 PCrusaders, and tighten up the aggro instead of removal. I didn’t like them at first, but 2/2 Infect First Strike can do battle with ANYTHING 3/X where X is any number, not to mention evade 2 aggro deck colors.

    Also, I feel like they want no Mirran in the mb. They even hate it that they put two in the sb (btw, mb 2 GftThroat). I put in 2 Piston Sledge (gg cards). IMO, if they care about Game Day affiliation, they shouldn’t even sb off colors, sb is just as important as mb. So put good stuff in the deck overall, and advice changing it for the single Game Day it matters (by changing the 2 removal pieces and using 2… idk, Trusty Machetes instead?).

    • Hireling
      Mar 2 2011

      While I really like Hand of the Praetors and the Vatmother, I would probably opt for one or the other–not both. The reason being that I think the Vatmother lends itself better to fast aggro strategies and the Hand is more of a control piece as it drops poison on your opponent without crossing the red zone. That and they both occupy the 4 drop slot, which can get crowded fast.

      Just think of ramping with either an Everflowing Chalice or Sphere of the Suns into a turn 3 Vatmother. Better yet, wait until turn 4 and hold a Spell Pierce for their response.

      Here’s what I’m going to try as a fast aggro version:

      4 Necropede
      4 Ichorclaw Myr
      4 Phyrexian Vatmother

      4 Everflowing Chalice
      3 Sphere of the Suns
      2 Tumble Magnet

      4 Preordain
      4 Spell Pierce
      4 Distortion Strike
      4 Disfigure
      2 Black Sun’s Zenith

      4 Inkmoth Nexus
      4 Darkslick Shores
      5 Island
      8 Swamp

      • Oceanus
        Mar 5 2011

        If I had to choose, I’d go with HotPraetors. This is a lord we’re talking about here. Necropede, Ichorclaw Myr, PMyr, Inkmoth Nexus, etc., all get pumped just from it existing. Not to mention it’s rough 3/2 assaulter. This doesn’t factor in the fact that the more your slew grows, the greater the free Poison accumulates.

        However, I don’t necessarily want to choose one or the other. Vatmother is up/down depending on the opponent’s allegiance to Infect/Proliferate. But she’s still huge. Distortion Strike makes her a 2 turn clock to game over. Remove or be removed. And while you’re working that out, I’m still making a field of uglies.

    • creepymcpeepy
      Mar 25 2011

      I prefer Marsh Casualties to Consume the Meek. I figure if I’m only killing 3 drops or lower, Marsh Casualties does the same thing for the same mana, but saves my creatures. I think its a very underrated card that has a home in a lot of decks. Plus it has the advantage of being really inexpensive as an uncommon. Just my 2 cents…

  5. KonsK
    Mar 2 2011

    I think this deck is good: it is faster that what I thought, and I like all creatures having infect.

    I think that it is necessary to get as soon as possible Contagion Clasp when opponent is poisoned, this is probably the easiest way to win with this deck. Necropede and Vatmother are the star creatures, one for early-game and that first poison counter, the other for finishing the opponent.

    I feel there are two things lacking in this deck: another four-of creature like Rats for example, and another source for proliferate. Other than that, this deck is already very good, maybe Distorsion Strike could help, but I think Vatmother is already very hard to deal with.

    This is what I think after playing during one day with this deck with some friends, and in a casual environment, this deck is already very good, maybe in tournament it lacks some cards, but for casual playing, it is a great deck.

    • Oceanus
      Mar 5 2011

      Better than a draft deck at least.

    • Danae
      Oct 11 2011

      Thrummingbird, cheap, flying, proliferate (: annoying little blighters

  6. Oceanus
    Mar 5 2011

    Into the Breach beats it in every way except for one: box art. Both boxes are amazing perfections that hold a sleeved deck, sideboard with divider, and 18 mini-dice; while fitting snugly into a fatpack box and containing itself perfectly. However, Infect & Defile is a foily green compared to blue, which is slick and beautiful with Mirrodin plane tiles. Add in the colorful Plague Myr to the front and cool Phyrexian symbols, and you’ve got a gorgeous presentation to fall back on.


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