he current Standard format is more diverse than it has been in years. I've always played offbeat and weird strategies. Yet somehow, in the most varied Standard format in some time, I'm playing Mono-Black Infect. It may seem obvious and somewhat linear, but there are a lot of reasons to hop on the poison bandwagon.
There's something really special about poisoning opponents for me. I can't help but feel some sense of coy happiness every time I win a game with my opponent at some absurdly high life total.
The Mono-Black Infect deck has a lot going for it right now. It has some of the most explosive potential of any deck in the format, often winning games completely out of nowhere. The deck is in a unique position in which it can punish an opponent for tapping out at nearly any stage of the game. The deck gets to play a lot of removal, and you have access to the best sideboard card available right now, Curse of Death's Hold. My favorite part of the Mono-Black Infect deck is the careful dance you play in an effort to steal games out of nowhere. Not many decks are rewarded for their opponent's mistakes or mishaps as much as the Infect deck.
I like to maximize the number of land I play in these types of decks. It's important not to feel rushed with the poisoning stuff. I tend to play very conservatively until my opponent is tapped out. Then I unload as much as I can once my opponent has no mana available.
In early testing with the deck, I quickly realized that Lashwrithe was the most powerful spell in the deck. Lashwrithe is an obviously strong card in any sort of mono-black strategy, but the card is significantly more impressive when all your creatures are dealing infect damage. Most of the time, two hits from any infect creature wielding Lashwrithe will be enough to finish off anybody.
Lashwrithe was so powerful that I started looking into ways to make its effect more redundant. Trigon of Rage seemed like the most obvious inclusion. Trigon of Rage is especially strong with Inkmoth Nexus. Trigon forces your opponents to respect every attack. It's difficult for opponents to win the Inkmoth fight when you're packing a full playset of Virulent Wound. No opponent will have enough removal to weather the storm unless they've got a ridiculous package of six or seven spot removal spells and a playset of Snapcaster Mage. Even then, they're still in a very precarious position.
Standard seems to be somewhat cyclical, and we're starting to see people leaving sideboard cards for red on their binders. As a result, the red deck is having a mini-resurgence on Magic Online and its pilots have been enjoying some success. Mono-Black Infect has a very specific and powerful answer to the red decks. Phyrexian Crusader makes Game 1 a nightmare for the red deck. The Mirrodin Besieged rare is a five-turn unblockable clock against a huge portion of the Standard metagame. Phyrexian Crusader is also an incredible creature against decks that plan to react with cards like Oblivion Ring.
Whispering Specter is my favorite creature in the deck. Oftentimes, this is the first card that players want to cut from the deck, but there's a lot of play to this card and it often puts your opponent in a position where it's very difficult to win the game as early as the fourth turn. If you cast a Whispering Specter and you're able to connect with Trigon of Rage or a Lashwrithe on the following turn, then you're probably going to Searing Wind your opponent and Amnesia away their hand. I've seen a lot of Infect players not sacrifice Whispering Specter when it could be traded in for four or five of the opponent's cards. It's important to consider the implications of your opponent no longer having a hand. Yes, your Whispering Specter may be threatening lethal damage next turn, but if I haven't Gitaxian Probed my opponent to see there's nothing good in there, then I'd rather wait a turn to win and take the wind out of my opponent's offensive and defensive sails.
Plague Stinger is a deceptively powerful card. Inkmoth Nexus has proven itself to be one of the best cards in Standard, just about every deck that's presented as competitive plays at least a few copies. Plague Stinger is an Inkmoth Nexus that doesn't need to be activated. Plague Stinger is strongest against green Primeval Titan strategies, where it's able to fly over with a Lashwrithe or Trigon in the early turns while opponents are spending turns developing their mana. Once they have their own Inkmoths to block you're going to have to get a bit creative, or just use Virulent Wound and other spot removal to deal with the powerful rare land.
Speaking of Inkmoth Nexus, I've chosen to play four of them in this deck. The Inkmoth Nexus give this deck a huge amount of resilience to sorcery-speed removal and ground creatures. Two Lashwrithes should be enough to make just one attack lethal.
Virulent Wound is an excellent piece of spot removal that works exceptionally well with the cards in our deck. It clears the skies of other copies of Inkmoth Nexus, disrupts the early mana development of the green decks, and turns token strategies into somewhat clunky creations. It combos nicely with Curse of Death's Hold, allowing the enchantment to assist in killing things other than those with just 1 toughness.
Curse of Death's Hold is one of the best cards in the current Standard metagame. Everyone seems to be playing around with token based strategies and it seems like entire decks fold to a single copy of the big enchantment. I like to play one copy of Curse of Death's Hold in my main deck now because of how common Green-White tokens and the Mono-Black Infect matchup have become.
I finish the deck by adding a healthy assortment of removal spells and a single copy of Tezzeret's Gambit. The draw-two is nice, but it's rare that you'll have time to cast more than one copy. The card isn't so good that we absolutely need to be drawing it every game either. Hence, one copy is perfect because we'll sometimes draw a card that's very good in our deck, but we'll never draw multiple copies of a card we only want one of.
Here's the deck once I put it all together.
I've played a lot of matches with this deck, but I'd like to share how it plays against Green-White tokens because that's the most commonly played deck on Magic Online.
I won the roll, went to six cards, and kept Swamp, Inkmoth Nexus, Virulent Wound, Plague Stinger, Doom Blade, and Trigon of Rage. I played my Swamp and passed the turn. My opponent cast a Birds of Paradise and passed the turn. I cast Virulent Wound targeting the Birds of Paradise on my opponent's end step. I drew a Swamp, cast Plague Stinger, and passed the turn. My opponent played a Gavony Township and passed the turn. I drew another Swamp, activated Inkmoth Nexus, and attacked for two poison counters. My opponent cast a Mirran Crusader and passed the turn. I drew a Tribute to Hunger, cast Trigon of Rage, attacked for four poison counters, and passed the turn. My opponent attacked for 4, cast Oblivion Ring on my Trigon of Rage, and passed the turn. I drew a Swamp, played it, activated my Inkmoth Nexus, attacked for two poison, cast Tribute to Hunger targeting my opponent to get rid of the Mirran Crusader, and passed the turn. My opponent had no way to answer Inkmoth Nexus and Plague Stinger, and we were on to Game 2.
Games 2 and 3 with this match-up are basically countdowns to Curse of Death's Hold coming down. I sideboard out my Skithiryx, the Blight Dragons and one Victim of Night to bring in the additional three copies of Curse of Death's Hold.
I kept 2 Inkmoth Nexus, 3 Swamp, Curse of Death's Hold, and Virulent Wound. My opponent started things off with an Avacyn's Pilgrim. I drew a Victim of Night, cast Virulent Wound on the Avacyn's Pilgrim, and passed the turn. My opponent played a land and cast Birds of Paradise. I drew another Curse of Death's Hold, played a Swamp, and passed the turn. This encouraged my opponent to cast a Hero of Bladehold instead of a Mirran Crusader; I also didn't want to spend a removal spell on a 1-toughness guy past the third turn because I had a pair of Curses to deal with those problems. My opponent bit and cast Hero of Bladehold, and I cast Victim of Night on the end step. I drew a Tezzeret's Gambit, played my third land, cast Tezzeret's Gambit, drew a Trigon of Rage and a Lashwrithe, and passed the turn. My opponent played a Gavony Township, cast Elspeth Tirel, made three tokens, and passed the turn. I drew a third Inkmoth Nexus, played my fourth land, activated an Inkmoth Nexus, attacked my opponent for one poison in the air, cast Trigon of Rage, and passed the turn. My opponent activated Elspeth again, zeroing her out, attacked for 3, cast another Elspeth, and made another three tokens. I untapped and cast Curse of Death's Hold, and my opponent conceded.
It may seem crazy, but the format is REALLY soft to Curse of Death's Hold right now. It's certainly bad against some decks, but against the mirror or token-based decks it really is a haymaker.
This deck performs incredibly well against green Wolf Run decks, red decks, token-based strategies, and the mirror. The deck has trouble with Birthing Pod decks, Blue-Black Control, and some Solar Flare variants.
Luckily, the current Magic Online metagame is completely bereft of Birthing Pod decks. Even Blue-Black and Solar Flare have become somewhat abnormal. Most Magic Online grinders have picked up Green-White Tokens, and I'm assuming they'll be holding onto it for some time.
I feel compelled to speak for a moment about this deck's "budget-ness." It's very difficult right now to build a worthwhile Constructed deck without at least some number of cards that are relatively difficult to acquire. I've made a conscious decision to value the quality of my decks over their accessibility. The decklists I present are still significantly easier to find the cards for than other mainstream decks. Most importantly, these decks are very capable of winning tournaments and letting you have a good time while playing and learning the tenets of deck building. These decks still qualify as budget. Budget is a subjective concept, and I feel it's unreasonable to give it a concrete value.
It seems like now is the perfect time to be poisoning your opponents in Constructed. Recent Magic Online tournament results are in, and this seems like a perfect solution to the metagame.
Next week I'm going to further explore the applications of Heartless Summoning. This card is one of the most interesting cards from Innistrad, and I'm sure it hasn't been used to its fullest potential yet.