A Guide to Infect in Legacy

Feature Article from Seth Manfield
Seth Manfield
1/13/2017 11:01:00 AM
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Wait, a Legacy article? I don't write about Legacy very often; part of the reason behind this is that Legacy doesn't shift as much as other formats. For instance, at this very moment Standard and Modern are dramatically changing because of bannings, but when was the last time a card was banned from Legacy? It has been a little while. There are good and bad aspects to a format where the cards don't change much.

Legacy cards are expensive, so there is a barrier to entry. However, once buying into a deck you can play it for years and years. The Legacy metagame does shift somewhat, but many of the same types of decks that were good five years ago are still just as strong now. Since the cards don't rotate out the value of format staples rarely decrease, unless a card gets reprinted. The deck I want to talk about is the one which I have been playing for a while now, and have become pretty familiar with: Infect.

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Infect is primarily known for being a Modern powerhouse, but it also is quite strong in Legacy. Every single Legacy event I play I have chosen to play Infect, allowing me to become quite familiar with the archetype. This past weekend there was a Legacy Grand Prix in Louisville, where I finished in 19th place. Reflecting on the matches I played, I had an opportunity to maybe even win another match and get into Top 8, but it's still a solid result. Here is my weapon of choice:

The Legacy version of Infect is similar to its Modern counterpart, but this version has several clear upgrades because of a wider selection of cards to choose from in blue and green. While splashing would be easy here, there really aren't many cards in other colors the deck would want, certainly not in the main deck. I have found that in general there are enough strong sideboard cards in blue and green that the splash isn't that significant. As far as the creature base, it is identical to the modern version.

There are not that many Infect creatures that have been printed, and none of them are legal in Legacy and not Modern, so it makes sense that there would be no difference here across the two formats. There are 12 Infect threats officially, but there are ways of finding those threats, which make it seem like there are more. In Legacy, even the fair decks don't need to play that many creatures, since with all of the card filtration and draw those threats easier to find.

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The single copy of Crop Rotation can act as another copy of Inkmoth Nexus, but is also a toolbox for Pendelhaven, Wasteland and Karakas out of the sideboard. Another common occurrence is the opponent will go for Wasteland on one of your lands, and you can respond with Crop Rotation so you don't lose a land. Some versions play more than one Crop Rotation, but I have drawn more than one before and wanted to vomit; there is a risk to playing too many green cards in a deck that also has Force of Will.

There are some slots here that are open to negotiation, and others are not. The playsets of Invigorate and Brainstorm are non-negotiable. Brainstorm goes into any blue deck, and is just the best card in the format regardless of deck. Invigorate is the best pump spell, and is straight up better than the pump available in Modern. Invigorate essentially gives a creature four power for free! Considering that in order to get a free pump spell in Modern you need to play Mutagenic Growth, Invigorate is vastly superior, especially when a format is all about speed and efficiency.

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Brainstorm, Ponder and Gitaxian Probe mean that you are more likely to filter through the deck and find specific business spells. This helps contribute to the reason the Legacy version of Infect doesn't need as many actual pump spells as the Modern one. If you can draw two pump spells plus an Infect creature, those cards should be enough to deal 10 Infect already. This allows you to allocate more slots towards protecting the combo and picking and choosing the additional pump spells to play.

The two copies of Berserk are an industry standard at this point. Berserk is another pump spell that isn't Modern legal, and makes a big difference. The easiest way to win through a blocker is to give your Glistener Elf trample. The other nice thing about Berserk which rarely comes up is using it on an opponent's creature as essentially a removal spell. This is an all or nothing pump spell, so normally if you are using is on your own Infect creature the attack is lethal.

The one copy of Become Immense is the only delve spell, and goes alongside a Berserk nicely when both are Drawn Together. Many Legacy Infect decks play two Become Immense, but I have been happy with the one. Sometime the opponent will have a Deathrite Shaman munching on your graveyard, making casting Become Immense a bit more difficult. I am currently playing an additional Vines of Vastwood over a Become Immense. Right now, there are lots of Abrupt Decays being played, and Vines of Vastwood is the best way to fight through that card. I could see in the future shifting back to where two Vines of Vastwood is fine, contingent on the Sultai decks losing popularity.

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The last piece of this deck are the counters. This is the biggest difference between the Legacy version of Infect and the Modern one. In Modern, sometimes the deck plays a Spell Pierce or two in the main deck, but here we actually have eight in the main. Most of this is due to the nature of the Legacy format, and the quality of Counterspells available. Most Legacy Infect decks dedicate eight to 10 slots towards Counterspells in the main, starting with the full compliment of Daze. Daze is often amazing when on the play as a zero-mana Force Spike, and your spells are so cheap returning a land isn't a huge cost.

On the draw, Daze is going to be worse no matter what the matchup is, but we have Noble Hierarch, which means that if we have a Noble Hierarch into Daze start, we aren't really behind on mana. Daze can become a dead card later in the game, but then it can be pitched to the other primary counter, Force of Will. I actually opted to go with three Force of Will main and one sideboard, making room for a single copy of Spell Pierce main. The reason I moved a Force of Will to the sideboard is that this deck doesn't play enough blue cards to make drawing two copies of Force of Will actively good.

In the fair matchups the best thing you can do with two Force of Wills is pitch one to the other one. There aren't that many excess blue cards that will sit in hand later in the game. But Force of Will is good against the combo decks, which turns the choice of how many counters to run into the classic dilemma. This is a metagame call. In general, counters are better against the fast decks and combo strategies, while they get boarded out against midrange decks. I am playing fewer Counterspells to try and help against the fair decks.

Sideboarding Principles

I am not going to do a card-by-card breakdown here based on specific matchups. The reason is that you will always run into a matchup in Legacy which is unexpected. This is a format where what the opponent is doing can be unpredictable, in addition to the fact that there are too many decks in the format to go over specific plans against each one. Therefore, I am going to provide general guidelines which can be applied to the majority of the matchups, and it should become apparent what the gameplan is in post board situations.

My individual card choices in the sideboard are a bit different from what you will typically see, and that's fine. Most sideboards are going to be a couple cards different from each other. The one thing that I do like though is not playing too many of any one card. Singletons can be surprisingly effective, and allow you to have a sideboard with at least a couple cards that are good in every matchup.

Vs. fair decks

Right now, the fair decks in Legacy are various Delver builds, Miracles, Death and Taxes, Eldrazi, Shardless Sultai, Lands, and certain tribal decks. There are, of course, many more decks I'm not listing. You want to sideboard out countermagic in all of these matchups. This means trimming down on Daze and Force of Will, though I would still recommend always having one or two extra Daze in your deck on the play. Submerge is a card that will always come in against a green player with creatures, so it should be obvious when to bring those in. Sometimes you can take out some of Crop Rotation, Glistener Elf, Vines of Vastwood, and Gitaxian Probe based on the matchup as well.

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There are a couple cards in the sideboard that target Miracles specifically, as the post-board games can be tough. Krosan Grip is a good way to deal with Sensei's Diving Top, as is Pithing Needle. Pithing Needle comes quite often, and is actually one of the most popular sideboard cards in Legacy at the moment. Invasive Surgery and Sylvan Library are also great against Miracles, and come in against most of the other slow decks as well. I have liked one Sylvan Library main, on sideboard, and bringing the additional one in against any deck that won't pressure your life total much. As it turns out, a two-mana permanent that will draw you four extra cards and filter your draws is pretty good.

Spellskite and Dismember are fantastic in the mirror, and come in against the Sultai Midrange decks. Spellskite is another way to help protect your Infect creatures against Abrupt Decay. Dismember is good against any creature-based deck, but it is most important against Death and Taxes as a way to get Thalia, Guardian of Thraben off the board. Dryad Arbor comes in against decks with edict effects, like Diabolic Edict or Liliana, of the Veil. The Viridian Corruptor is for Chalice of the Void, equipment, Aether Vial, Baleful Strix, and any other artifacts that are annoying.

Vs. unfair decks

Against the unfair decks, the countermagic stays in. This means you need to find other cards to bring out. There are matchups where I board out Infect threats. First of all, the opponent needs to not have Wasteland in order to board out Infect threats. Opposing Wastelands mean Inkmoth Nexus isn't going to get the job done as much. The unfair decks typically don't have many creatures if any. This makes the fact that Blighted Agent is unblockable irrelevant. I am okay with boarding out up to three Blighted Agents. The other easy card to shave on is Vines of Vastwood. If the opponent doesn't have removal and you need to win quickly, Vines of Vastwood isn't the card you are looking for.

The additional sideboard counters come in for these matchups. Surgical Extraction and Pithing Needle also come in often, specifically against Griselbrand decks. Karakas is similarly strong against legendary creatures such as Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Griselbrand. The Hydroblast is here primarily for Burn but can come in against any red deck. The sideboard isn't dedicated as much to combo matchups because those matchups are generally good from the Infect side in game one.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield




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