Crucible of Words – Skithiryx Transmitted Infection by Cyrus Bales

2027
Crucible of Words: Extended in the New Year by Cyrus Bales

 

Today I’ll be looking at the different ways in which competitive Infect decks are being built in the current standard environment. This powerful mechanic is clearly becoming a force to be reckoned with, and I’m sure that come October it’ll easily be one of the decks to beat, but until then, it’s still a very strong strategy.

First off, when Infect first appeared in Scars of Mirrodin a lot of people went down the black and green route, using things like Adventuring Gear and Vines of Vastwood to pump small creatures like Plague Stinger. Whilst a few of these decks did occasionally do well, they were by no means good decks, and the same still rings true. Nowadays, when it comes to poison counters, blue and black are the colours to be in.

 

Aggro Infect.

Here’s a list that’s been doing well recently on some online events:

4 Hand of the Praetors
4 Ichor Rats
4 Phyrexian Crusader
4 Phyrexian Vatmother
4 Plague Myr
4 Plague Stinger
(24)

2 Go for the Throat
4 Vampire’s Bite
4 Distortion Strike
2 Livewire Lash
(12)

4 Inkmoth Nexus
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Drowned Catacomb
2 Creeping Tar Pit
10 Swamp
(24)

SIDEBOARD(15)
2 Doom Blade
2 Duress
2 Go For The Throat
3 Ratchet Bomb
3 Jace Beleren
3 Inquisition of Kozilek

As you can see, this list comes out swinging and can quickly clock up ten poison counters. Whilst the list has been successful, it’s not too difficult to improve it further. Playing slightly more blue sources would enable Jace, the Mind Sculptor, who is perfect at removing blockers, as well as digging for pump spells etc. There’s also a lack of removal which concerns me. Go for the Throat is also a bad choice in a world with Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas around. Whilst this deck has some incredibly plays, I feel that removal in place of the Vampire’s Bite and Livewire Lash could serve a similar function in terms of getting past blockers, and whilst it makes the clock a bit slower, the interaction it brings helps a great deal. And yes, playing blue without Jace, The Mind Sculptor is almost always a mistake.

 

Control Infect.

This version of Infect runs at a slower pace, usually it’s only ways to poison opponent’s are Inkmoth Nexus, Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon and Phyrexian Crusader. Each of these cards has evasion, and useful abilities, allowing the infect player to fill the rest of the deck with the usual control spells such as Inquisition of Kozilek, Mana Leak and rounding it off with Contagion Clasp to provide inevitability. Brian Kibler recently piloted this type of deck to a third place finish at a Star City Games open, here’s his list:

2 Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon
4 Phyrexian Crusader
4 Necropede
(10)

1 Deprive
1 Into the Roil
4 Mana leak
(6)

4 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Preordain
(8)

2 Jace Beleren
4 Contagion Clasp
4 Tumble Magnet
(10)

4 Inkmoth Nexus
4 Creeping Tar Pit
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Island
6 Swamp
(26)

SIDEBOARD(15)
3 Phyrexian Vatmother
3 Disfigure
2 Doom Blade
2 Flashfreeze
1 Go For The Throat
1 Into the Roil
1 Jace Beleren
2 Duress

There’s a lot to take in from this list, it’s playing Necropede as a card that slowly clocks, but can trade two-for-one against a lot of aggro decks. Tumble Magnet is also a very interesting choice, however I fear it is the wrong one for this deck. Running four Jace, The Mind Sculptor is a more pressing concern, having four of those, along with the Contagion Clasps can lead to a similar situation as tumble magnet, where Jace can continually bounce a guy and stop their attack, whilst the Clasp not only refills his lost counter, but clocks his opponent. Sure, Tumble Magnet can do similar things with a Clasp, but has no way of refilling itself, unlike the card advantage machine that is Jace, The Mind Sculptor, I think it’s better to run your four Jace, then if you have room, add in a couple of Tumble Magnets. To me, this is a massive hole in his list. I understand him running Jace Beleren to stop opposing Jace’s from hitting the field, but with only two, and no Jace, The Mind Sculptor’s of his own, I feel he is wasting a strong opportunity. Also, there is a lack of removal, relying on Tumble Magnet, counterspells and a single bounce spell, it’s not buying him enough time to put the clock onto his opponent since he runs so few win conditions.

A better approach would be to start with a basic UB control shell, but run Phyrexian Crusaders instead of Sea-Gate Oracle and Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon instead of Grave Titan. Once you tie it together with Inkmoth Nexus over Tectonic Edge and some Contagion Clasps, you have a very solid deck indeed.

His sideboard is a little unrefined, the lack of Memoricide and Spell Pierce or another universal counterspell are a little confusing, since one is an essential tool against Valakut, The molten pinnacle decks, and the other fantastic against control. I feel that once he strips his list down to become more like the UB control decks we’ve seen, it’ll be a much stronger build, and become the control deck of the future. Something more like this list of mine perhaps:

 

Cyrus’ Poison Control.

2 Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon
4 Phyrexian Crusader
(6)

1 Stoic Rebuttal
2 Doom Blade
1 Go For the Throat
4 Mana Leak
(8)

2 Black Sun’s Zenith
3 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Duress
4 Preordain
(10)

2 Tumble Magnet
4 Jace, The Mind Sculptor
4 Contagion Clasp
(9)

4 Inkmoth Nexus
1 Marsh Flats
1 Scalding Tarn
4 Creeping Tar Pit
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Swamp
4 Island
(26)

SIDEBOARD(15)
3 Disfigure
2 Memoricide
2 Jace Beleren
2 Ratchet Bomb
1 Stoic Rebuttal
2 Flashfreeze
3 Phyrexian Vatmother

The above list works in a similar way to UB control decks, except your opponent has half their life total, they can’t gain any of that life back, and you get to play an artifact that not only puts them on an inevitable clock but keeps your Tumble Magnets and Jace with enough counters. It’s biggest soft spot is Luminarch Ascension, but hey, that’s nothing new for UB control decks, and Ratchet bomb is still in your 75 cards.

 

Tezz-Infect.

The last type of Infect deck is one that uses Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. A card that allows any artifact creature with infect to become a two turn monster. Myself and another player recently both qualified for nationals off of the back of my own Tezz-Infect list, but there are other lists starting to emerge out there. To read about my list, click here.

Here’s a top 16 list from a recent Star City Games open:

3 Pilgrim’s Eye
4 Necropede
4 Phyrexian Crusader
(11)

4 Inquisition of Kozilek
(4)

4 Jace, The Mind Sculptor
4 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
(8)

1 Sword of Body and Mind
2 Ratchet Bomb
2 Throne of Geth
3 Mortarpod
4 Tumble Magnet
(12)

2 Drowned Catacomb
4 Creeping Tar Pit
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Inkmoth Nexus
4 Island
7 Swamp
(25)

SIDEBOARD(15)
1 Ratchet Bomb
2 Plague Myr
2 Doom Blade
2 Go For The Throat
4 Duress
4 Memoricide

This list is quite curious, by not playing the full 8 two drop artifact infect creatures, the list loses a lot of power of Tezzeret, and without main deck Plague Myr, there is no way to pull off the turn four wins, which can be devastating.

Pilgrim’s Eye is a very peculiar choice, it’s here to make Tezzeret’s +1 ability hit more often, and it can be sacrificed to the Throne of Geth whilst blocking a Squadron Hawk, but it’ll rarely do as much as a Plague Myr would. The lack of Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon seems like an error since 90% of the time, the turn you cast Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon is the turn you win the game. The lack of main deck removal and the running of Sword of Body and mind over Sword of Feast and Famine seems like a further oversight. Nevertheless, the deck has performed quite well, and shows the power that lies within, even if not built to it’s optimum level.

Of course, we still have another set of Scars of Mirrodin block to come, New Phyrexia. This means more Infect creatures are likely, which can only mean an even greater rise to power for these decks, one decent artifact infect creature could push the Tezz-Infect list into the top dog of the format. It could only be a matter of time before normal combat damage is a thing of the past for top tier decks.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing.

Cyrus

 

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