Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
How Does Infect Work in Magic: The Gathering?
Infect offers a deadly Magic combat trait that applies different effects when used against a creature or an opponent. When your infect-bearing soldier clashes with an opposing monster, rather than dealing regular damage, you'll dish out an appropriate number of -1/-1 counters. This helps, since unlike standard damage, these counters persist even in future turns, gradually weakening creatures.
That trait works just like the wither ability, but unlike wither, infect also converts damage to your opponent into poison counters. Poison counters are lethal, unremovable units that will automatically force your opponent to lose when they amass 10, giving you a fierce instant-win condition. These counters are particularly useful in commander format, where you can bypass the higher starting life totals with your venomous counters. But with dozens of diseased degenerates running amok, which units reign supreme? These are the 10 best cards to infect foes in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Tainted Strike
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 1
Tainted Strike's first two benefits are its low cost (needing just one swamp's mana) and instant speed, letting you cast it after blockers have been declared and catch opponents by surprise.
Strike gives a target creature +1/+0 and infect until the end of the turn. Use this to turn regular combatants into deadly, counter-giving behemoths while slightly boosting their power, ensuring they make the most of their temporary venom.
9. Blighted Agent
Here we see a good example of a weak infected creature, with Agent being a mere 1/1 with lackluster subtypes.
However, not only does Agent bear infect, he's also unblockable, making it only a matter of time before he wins via poison counters. Use auras or equipments to boost Agent's power and let each of his undefendable attacks swing with that much more gusto.
8. Corrupted Conscience
Corrupted Conscience is a high risk, high reward aura enchantment. You'll want to attach it to an opposing creature, since not only do you seize control of it, it also gains the infect trait. In one fell swoop, your opponent is down a monster while you're up one—now ready to dole out those pesky counters.
Conscience both removes an enemy while giving it you and buffing it, but remember that as permanents, auras stay fielded, and if Conscience gets removed, your opponent will regain control of their titan (and it'll thankfully lose infect). If you can, try stealing something with haste that can attack immediately.
7. Ichorclaw Myr
Myr accepts any mana types, but more than that, his poor 1/1 stats are boosted by +2/+2 when blocked, providing a surprisingly-formidable infected beatstick. So, either your opponent is going to get some poison counters, or they're gonna be losing at least 3/3 worth of stats via three -1/-1 counters on a blocker.
Either way, you win, making Myr an easy pick for any infect deck—fortunately, he's one of today's cheapest cards, costing well under two dollars!
6. Hand of the Praetors
For an infect creature, Hand has decent 3/2 stats plus several other benefits. His flexible cost is easily splashed into multicolor decks, he has zombie synergy, he boosts your other infect units by +1/+1, and he places a poison counter onto an opponent whenever you cast another creature with infect.
Since Hand isn't legendary, try running multiple copies in non-singleton formats, letting them boost each other's stats and automatically place poison counters.
5. Grafted Exoskeleton
CMC: 4 (2 to equip)
Costing a base four mana, Grafted Exoskeleton is a bit taxing to field, but thankfully, you can attach this equipment for only two mana, letting you adorn it without much hassle. Remember, unlike auras, equipment remains fielded even if its original bearer dies, letting you reuse it on other warriors.
As a colorless card, you can fit Exoskeleton into any deck, and it gives its bearer +2/+2 as well as infect, granting any monster the ability to distribute poison counters and the strength to do it well. Now, if Exoskeleton is ever unattached from a permanent, you have to sacrifice that card, but that's a small price for such versatile infect prowess.
4. Triumph of the Hordes
Rather than deal with the generally low stats of infect combatants, use this potent forest sorcery to give the keyword to your entire army. For a reasonable four mana, this green spell provides each creature you control with +1/+1, infect, and trample until the end of the turn.
That's a wealth of awesome abilities that combo terrifically. Extra power and toughness helps land numerous poison counters while surviving against blockers, infect of course dishes out the -1/-1 counters against creatures and poison counters against opponents and trample lets excess damage against blockers pierce through to hit your opponent. This makes it stupendously difficult to prevent the incoming attacks of your army; even if you're not playing an infect-centered deck, Triumph can give you a poison counter victory in a single turn.
3. Phyrexian Crusader
Phyrexian Crusader a 2/2 who requires several black mana. However, he comes with a surprisingly vast array of abilities, and his zombie and knight subtypes offer many tribal supports.
In addition to infect, Crusader wields first strike, protection from red, and protection from white, making him invincible against two colors. First strike works especially well on infected units; on all monsters, it can potentially avoid a counterattack if you slay your foe, but with the infected, even if you don't kill your target, you'll land some -1/-1 counters that may let you survive the clash. Overall, a solid undead who is surprisingly easy to keep alive.
2. Blightsteel Colossus
Costing a whopping 12 mana, odds are strong you'll only be able to play Blightsteel Colossus with cards that can gimmick monsters onto the field for free, like "Jhoira of the Ghitu" and "Elvish Piper".
But once Blightsteel hits the field, your opponent's in for a world of hurt. Not only does this golem brandish infect, he's also packing trample and indestructible, letting him smash through blockers and disregard damage. Plus, with a fierce 11/11 stats, a single hit accumulates eleven poison counters, more than enough to inflict an instant-loss! Blightsteel automatically shuffles himself into your library if ever placed into your graveyard, so you won't be able to field him with revivals, but his terrifying effects justify the effort you'll need to cast him.
1. Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon
One of the best dragons in the game, legendary Skithiryx also makes a great infect commander in EDH format. A 4/4 with infect isn't such a bad deal for five mana, especially when accompanied by flying, letting Skithiryx soar over ground-based blockers.
Additionally, you can spend a black mana to give him haste for the turn, making it easy to swing fast, and you can pay two to regenerate him, useful in case he's hit with a removal. Powerful, quick, and wielding some nice support abilities, he's a great addition to any infect or dragon deck.
How to Support Infect Cards
To further disease your opponent, you can use the proliferate ability of cards like "Atraxa, Praetors' Voice" to force your opponent to add additional poison counters as long as one already exists (this also usefully adds loyalty counters to planeswalkers). Anything that renders your creatures unblockable helps you reliably land your infect damage, and defenses like protection and indestructible guard your generally-weak plague-carrying troops.
You can also counter infect with the legendary creature "Melira, Sylvok Outcast", who prevents you and your creatures from suffering wither and infect. But for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of poison counter-inflicting spells, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
Questions & Answers
Question: In Magic: the Gathering, is "Glistener Elf" good?
Answer: She's weak, but only costs one mana, has infect, and can combo with other elves, so she's helpful in dedicated forest decks.
© 2018 Jeremy Gill
jack on April 18, 2019:
There are obviously a lot of infect cards here, but I believe phyresis deserve at least an honorable mention here. For two mana, you can just give infect to any creature (*Cough* Nekusar *Cough*)