by Jeff Jao

I participated in MTG Las Vegas a couple weeks ago, the first Grand Prix-like event since the start of the pandemic. I played Infect in the Modern main event, finishing second in Swiss and Top 4 overall.



This was the first Modern deck I picked up when I got back into the game of Magic. I’ve watched Tom Ross pilot the Legacy version in Grand Prix New Jersey and wondered if there was a Modern version because it looked very interesting to play. I picked up one of his articles and ran the deck even if someone had advised me not to play the deck. I thought it fit the style of Magic I’ve wanted to play and that’s what’s most important in deck selection.

I have played the deck since and I’ve also placed 25th in Grand Prix Las Vegas in 2019 where I almost went Top 8 (lost in Round 14 of 15). I chose this deck because I had a lot of experience with it, and not all players know or are prepared to play against it given it’s below 1% in the metagame.

Vegas 2021 Modern Main Event Top 4: Sultai Infect by Jeff Jao

Creatures (20)
Noble Hierarch
Ignoble Hierarch
Glistener Elf
Blighted Agent
Phyrexian Crusader

Spells (20)
Scale Up
Mutagenic Growth
Vines of Vastwood
Might of Old Krosa
Blossoming Defense
Become Immense
Lands (20)
Misty Rainforest
Windswept Heath
Verdant Catacombs
Wooded Foothills
Inkmoth Nexus
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth
Breeding Pool
Overgrown Tomb

Sideboard (15)
Force of Vigor
Surgical Extraction
Ashiok, Dream Render
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar

How does this deck win?

Ten infect damage. This is done with a combination of pump spells (Scale Up, Might of Old Krosa, Mutagenic Growth, Blossoming Defense, Vines of Vastwood) and exalted triggers (Ignoble Hierach, Noble Hierarch) with your infect creatures (Glistener Elf, Blighted Agent, Phyrexian Crusader, Inkmoth Nexus).

Sometimes you might have to go for regular damage off a Hierarch if you see an opportunity because your pump spells can get you there out of nowhere.

Card Choices


8 Fetchlands: (2 Misty Rainforest, 2 Verdant Catacombs, 2 Windswept Heath, 2 Wooded Foothills)

I have two of each to avoid Pithing Needle locking down a particular fetch. It’s not necessary to spread them out like this if you don’t have them—full playsets of two of these lands work too.

I dislike Canopy Lands because they are not fetchable and you take incremental damage for using mana. Having as many fetches is great to search for the blue or black sources needed to cast Blighted Agent or Phyrexian Crusader. Fetchlands also helps develop the cards needed for delving Become Immense much faster.

I noticed that a lot of people have thought Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth was questionable in the deck given that most of the sources were already green. But this is really to fix the Inkmoth Nexus problem. It’s rare but here is an example:

If I had two Vines of Vastwood in hand, if Yavimaya was a second copy of Breeding Pool for example, I would miss my shot for casting both with kicker on the same turn, which requires four green mana. I am trying to maximize an opportunity like this.

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth was a late add to the deck. It helps cast Phyrexian Crusader’s double black, allowing you to favor grabbing Breeding Pool instead of Overgrown Tomb for fetching.


Phyrexian Crusader has protection from red and white to dodge Lightning Bolt, Unholy Heat, Prismatic Ending, Solitude, and Fury. You might get some free wins with this card.

Blighted Agent helps in some matchups where it can be necessary to have a creature that can’t be blocked. I’ve been in situations where Crusader is being handled by a recurring Tarmogoyf via Lurrus of the Dream-Den. There’s also sometimes an Ice-Fang Coatl that will appear after you’ve pumped up Inkmoth Nexus (or Plague Stinger), which you may lose three cards in the exchange.

This is why I’m not into Plague Stinger as the popular replacement for Blighted Agent. But if you find the manabase a problem you can swap 4 Blighted Agent with 4 Plague Stinger and Breeding Pool with an Overgrown Tomb. I think Blighted Agent is too good to not include and I need all the avenues to win games.

Ignoble Hierarch and Endurance are the best Modern Horizons 2 pickups for this deck. Ignoble Hierarch helps cast Phyrexian Crusader on turn 2, has exalted, and is a host for Gemrazer. Having the full eight hierarchs gives you the best chances to cast Crusader quicker and helps fight against Blood Moon with more hierarchs in play.


I’ve tried a range of spells that include Groundswell, Wild Shape, Distortion Strike, Snakeskin Veil and found that the best spells are still four copies each of Scale Up, Might of Old Krosa, Mutagenic Growth, plus two copies each of Blossoming Defense and Become Immense.


I’ve tried looking into cards that slow down Dragon’s Rage Channeler and Murktide Regent, so I experimented with Ashiok, Dream Render. I was mixed with this addition but I eventually decided I should add it. This sometimes can act similarly to Blood Moon on turn 2 as I’ve noticed most decks run eight fetchlands in their decks. This also shuts down Chapter three searches from Urza’s Saga.

Endurance is the best card out of the sideboard. This card can flash block a lot of creatures, reset Delirium, put some resistance against mill decks, or just attack when all infect creatures are missing.

Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is a card I’ve used in the past to generate plant tokens to block big Tarmogoyfs or pump creatures to avoid Wrenn and Six -1 pings.

I generally put Surgical Extraction in against reanimate decks or if dredge was still a thing in Modern. This and Nissa seem like flex slots in the sideboard.

Force of Vigor is very good against the Hammer/Affinity matchups. Hammer might have that extra step against infect but Force of Vigor is what you really need against it.

Gemrazer acts as a Viridian Corrupter that can also hit enchantments and provide the trample to push through blockers as Rancor would. This card I picked up looking through other infect deck lists (thanks to Jacob Segal, another notable infect player). You can attach Gemrazer onto Ignoble Hierach, Glistener Elf, Phyrexian Crusader, Inkmoth Nexus, and Endurance. Ideally, you can pair it with Ignoble Hierarch on turn 2 to destroy Urza’s Saga.

I initially had four copies of Veil of Summer in the sideboard, but I’ve noticed that against the blue matchups it was just a dead card because of Teferi, Time Raveler and a lot of black decks cut down on Fatal Push. Veil seemed good to hold up against Thoughtseize or Inquisition of Kozilek, but I’d rather not play the waiting game so I cut all copies of it.


Decks with Thoughtseize or Inquisition of Kozilek present the hardest matchup. All my losses were to decks with these hand disruption cards. If your metagame is full of this, it’s not going to be easy to win. If you can stick a Phyrexian Crusader you have a chance.

Chalice of the Void shuts down a majority of the deck, but you can still pull through with Blighted Agent, Phyrexian Crusader, and Become Immense.

Blood Moon shuts down almost all your lands in the deck, most notably Inkmoth Nexus.

Fury can potentially destroy up to four creatures at once, but not Phyrexian Crusader.

Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer can be a nuisance to play against. You either have to block with a Glistener Elf, or if you have Mutagenic Growth you can block with a hierarch, which is another reason why playing eight hierarchs is great.

Mulligans can be tough. You’ll draw unlucky a few times, and sometimes you’ll lose to yourself if you keep a risky hand.

Top 4 Game 3

My opponent was able to Inquisition of Kozilek one of two Phyrexian Crusaders from my hand and Pyrite Spellbomb the resolved one. They also Thoughtseized the Gemrazer I was saving for Alpine Moon, which he later cast to choose my Inkmoth Nexus that was also in play.

As a result, I had to attack with Endurance with three Hierarch triggers to try to win through regular damage, but Lurrus of the Dream-Den was able to recur Ragavan to block every turn. The board state eventually looked like this, with my opponent at 10 life:

I needed my opponent to block with either creature to have any chance to prolong the game, but I was short for lethal. He chose no blocks knowing he would lose to Vines of Vastwood (or Become Immense) if I had in my hand, but it was Mutagenic Growth. It was a well-played game as my opponent stopped most of what I was doing.

Sideboard Guide

I generally board in 4 Endurance against the Dragon’s Rage Channeler decks with Gemrazers for Urza’s Saga/Alpine Moon/Blood Moon.

I will mostly cut Scale Up and Might of Old Krosa because it’s much harder to pull the oldest trick in the book post board.

Against Hammertime: +4 Force of Vigor, +3 Gemrazer, +1 Ashiok, Dream Render (on the play), -4 Scale Up, -4 Might of Old Krosa

I don’t quite have a definitive guide for all matchups, my sideboard was drawn to address these matchups.

Concluding Thoughts

This deck was certainly a surprise for many people. For those interested in the deck: it’s a very intricate and it’s easy to throw away a lot of games due to sequencing mistakes.

I appreciate all the people that are making noise about the deck. It was a cool weekend to play competitive paper magic. Seeing friends and meeting people in the events was great. Hope to see more in the future.

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