Modern is one of the hottest formats right now, but it seems that super aggressive decks haven't been putting up the desired results. Perhaps this is simply due to a lack of innovation or the variety of decks. Zoo was the most played deck at Pro Tour Born of the Gods but has been seeing less play ever since. I want to talk about aggressive strategies that have a very specific gameplan; that is not just attacking with vanilla creatures and playing some burn spells. Infect is a strategy that fell off the radar, but seems to be making a comeback, and there are a couple variations of the deck I want to talk about.
Poisoning the opponent is a very simple strategy idea, and from a basic math standpoint, dealing 10 is of course a lot easier than 20, right? The presence of Melira, Sylvok Outcast seems to have scared many from running poison, but the deck has a lot of raw power. Poison is traditionally base-green with a touch of blue or sometimes black, but recently a Monogreen Infect has been picking up in popularity. Here is the list of mahalajr200:
The fact that this list is Monogreen may have something to do with the price of fetchlands, but hey, it is a good cheap deck, that is also very powerful. This list opts to play some poison creatures that aren't necessarily seen in other lists, as the deck can't play a card like Blighted Agent or Plague Stinger. I like playing a good amount of creatures, as it is basically impossible for the poison deck to win without a poison creature in play, which includes Inkmoth Nexus. With Inkmoth Nexus there are actually a full 21 poison creatures here, which is more than you usually see.
While Glistener Elf sees ply in most poison lists, there are some players that may not realize that the poison effect on Virulent Sliver includes itself, which makes it just as good as Glistener Elf and it can be better. I would actually think about adding Mutavault to add to the sliver count. While it's true that, aside from Inkmoth Nexus, all of these creatures are 1/1's that don't have any form of evasion, don't let that fool you. Ichorclaw Myr is very difficult to block, the counter when Necropede dies can be very relevant, and the Blight Mamba being able to regenerate can make life difficult for the opponent. Of course the deck runs a number of pump effects which also make the creatures much larger than 1/1's.
This list opts to rely on Giant Growth, Groundswell, Vines of Vastwood, and Mutagenic Growth. Groundswell may be slightly worse without fetchlands in the deck, but it still seems reasonable. The best of the pump spells is Vines of Vastwood because it can also protect a poison creature from a removal spell. The most obvious pump spell that's missing here is Might of Old Krosa, and if I were running this deck I would make room for it.
Some of the more unusual additions here are the Contagion Clasp and the Surgical Extraction. Perhaps the Surgical Extraction does get a lot of value from the surprise factor but I'm still not sure I can get behind playing it. I think these are the types of cards I would think about cutting for Might of Old Krosa. Contagion Clasp does provide a way to win the late game without needing to attack though. I do think poison as a strategy is well positioned right now, and I would think about making this version a little faster, so as to make the chance of killing an opposing Pod player that much greater, before they can find a Melira, Sylvok Outcast.
To compare Monogreen Infect to Blue-Green Infect, here is a list played by CLYDE THE GLIDE DREXLER:
The creature base here is very different from the Monogreen version. Viridian Corruptor is an interesting innovation, and seems to be a nod towards the Affinity matchup, and the potential to hit a Birthing Pod, if perhaps the Pod player isn't expecting Viridian Corruptor coming. Noble Hierarch makes the blue splash much easier, while working well with attacking with one poison creature per turn. This list does seem a bit more tuned than the other one.
Pendelhaven is a land that I think needs to be present in any infect deck. Being able to pump up the infect creatures is what makes them so good. Some of the card choices indicate that the pilot wanted to have variation in spells, perhaps to make it difficult for the opponent to anticipate what's coming. It is nice to see sweet one-ofs in Wild Defiance, Phytoburst, and Pact of Negation. In addition, while one might not think of blue having access to pump spells, Distortion Strike does seem like a good way to get through a board stall. This is a list that I have tried out for myself, and I would recommend it to anyone looking to pick up a poison deck.
Ready for yet an even more unique version of Infect? Let's see what happens if green is cut from the deck entirely. Sure this completely changes the gameplan, but perhaps that could be a good thing. Here is a Monoblack Infect list played by Kerrick_:
This version plays significantly less infect creatures than the other two, as it relies on the win conditions of Phyrexian Crusader, Phyrexian Vatmother, and Inkmoth Nexus. This deck can afford to have so few win conditions because it also has a large disruption package. The discard strategy helps clear the way to land one of the win conditions, and this could almost be called a Pox deck with all the discard it runs, though rather than playing The Rack there are infect creatures. The deck certainly attacks a unique angle in the metagame and is a deck with a lot of removal and even a good amount of card draw.
One of the cards that stands out the most is Funeral Charm, because of how relevant all of the effects are in the deck. The most obvious use for the card is as another discard effect, but it can also pump Phyrexian Crusader or Phyrexian Vatmother. That said don't forget about being able to give a guy swampwalk, as while this is the least relevant of the three effects, making a Phyrexian Vatmother unblockable is no joke. Runechanter's Pike makes it that much easier to close the game from just one or two hits from an infect creature, and is just about the best equipment or pump effect the deck could ask for.
Okay I would like to move onto another strategy that is certainly not a top tier strategy, but I would like to see tribal decks get some respect. Goblins is a deck that does have a lot of synergy going for it. Here is the list of jamtheman10:
I love being able to play four copies of Cavern of Souls in my deck for starters. This may look like a deck with just a bunch of small creatures, similar to poison, but don't underestimate what these guys can do. Many of the creatures have haste, and Goblin Bushwhacker provides a way to give to give everyone haste also. If a bunch of blockers appear then Spikeshot Elder, Mogg Fanatic, and Goblin Fireslinger can help close the deal.
What brings this strategy together is the burn package. Goblin Grenade is simply amazing, and whenever I draw two copies it becomes extremely difficult for the opponent to win. Also, being able to sacrifice Goblin Arsonist to Goblin Grenade is a really big deal. The deck of course runs Lightning Bolt, but one of the more interesting things about this list is the white splash for Boros Charm, Path to Exile, and Lightning Helix. This seems like a good way to add more quality burn and removal spells to the deck, for a relatively low cost. I would consider playing Mutavault though if it weren't for the white, and Cavern of Souls doesn't exactly work well with Mutavault.
Tribal decks shouldn't be taken lightly. Just because the deck has tribal creatures does not mean that every creature has to be a creature of that tribe. It is possible to simply have a small tribal theme in an otherwise straightforward deck, though this is relatively uncommon. To understand what I mean, I would like to talk about a Black/Red zombie deck piloted by Esella:
When looking at the deck you may wonder if this is really a Zombie deck, with only nine actual zombies in it. I think some would say that this isn't a true zombie deck. The card that does have a tribal effect and gets better the more zombies are in the deck is Gravecrawler. Gravecrawler is simply a good aggressive creature, especially when there is the potential to bring it back. This strategy is Black/Red Aggro with a zombie sub-theme, and runs a lot of the high quality creatures the colors have to offer.
It is hard to argue against playing Dark Confidant in Black/Red Aggro, as it could be argued this is the best possible archetype for him. The deck not only tops out at three, but losing life can actually be beneficial with Bloodghast, and it is usually easy to clear the way for Dark Confidant to be able to attack. The deck isn't very vulnerable to straightforward burn spells like Lightning Bolt because so many of the creatures recur themselves.
Whether it's Gravecrawler, Bloodghast, or Geralf's Messenger these creatures won't stay dead for long if put into the graveyard. That is why Path to Exile is the removal spell the deck is most worried about. The other creatures in the deck like Withered Wretch and Grim Lavamancer are cheap utility creatures that can make life very difficult for the opponent, and depending on the matchup these cards can make the all the difference in a game.
Moving away from the creatures there are a number of the typical types of burn and removal spells that one would expect from this sort of strategy. I would probably add the 4th Thoughtseize as well. Liliana of the Veil provides a non-creature threat that comes down on turn three, and is hard to attack, especially when you have already played a one and two-drop. One of the cards that stand out the most here is Profane Command, and I'm not sure how much I like it. Profane Command certainly can close a game out, but since so many creatures already return from the graveyard, I'm not sure how necessary it is to have yet another way to bring creatures back.
I am going to finish off with a list I saw pop up, and it grabbed my attention. The deck seems like it could be sweet, but it's different than what I have been looking at so far. Here is the Hunted Tokens deck of Aeon-Phoe Nix:
Been looking for a way or reason to jam those Ravnica Hunted creatures? This deck has a ton of synergy, and Illness in the Ranks, is an absolute all-star. The card kills all the tokens your opponents get from the hunted creatures, and all of the tokens are just that many more triggers from Blood Artist and Blood Seeker. Ratchet Bomb also provides the same effect as Illness in the Ranks, though it is only can be used once. Blood Artist and Blood Seeker make it so that even if the opponent has a removal spell for the hunted creature, they will still take a bunch of damage from the tokens that you actually want them to receive! The deck even runs Turn to Mist to give the opponent extra tokens from the hunted guys.
The other way of dealing with the tokens is Echoing Truth, if necessary. That said Hunted Horror has trample and Hunted Phantasm unblockable, so blocking a hunted creature is still very difficult, or impossible. Remember that while cards like Ratchet Bomb, Echoing Truth, and Illness in the Ranks are ways of dealing with the tokens from the hunted creatures, that is not their only use. A card like Illness in the Ranks can just completely stop a Splinter Twin player comboing with Deceiver Exarch. This list may still be in its early stages but I like where it is going.