Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
How Does Infect Work in Magic?
Magic players fear the dreaded infect ability. Like wither, it lets creatures deal damage to other creatures as -1/-1 counters—unlike regular damage, these don't wear off at the end of each turn. Even worse, infect deals damage to players as poison counters, and a player loses once they have ten (regardless of their life total).
Some creatures naturally carry infect, but today we'll examine non-creature spells that can apply the trait to other monsters, apply poison counters, or create infected tokens. But which of these rare cards reign supreme? Here are the ten best artificial infect cards in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Trigon of Infestation
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 4
This artifact accepts any mana to cast, but since one of its effects requires green, only green or partial-green commander decks can use it. Either way, Trigon enters the field with three charge counters, and you can spend two mana and tap it to create a 1/1 insect token with infect.
While weak, these guys can still be a nuisance, especially in swarms. And you can give Trigon an additional charge counter by spending two green and tapping it, or by proliferating (which conveniently increases the number of opposing -1/-1 and poison counters).
9. Virulent Wound
This instant doesn't actually give infect, but it places a -1/-1 counter on a creature. And if that creature dies during the turn, its owner gets a poison counter. To ensure they get the counter, either use Wound on a one-toughness weakling to kill it, or cast it during combat after blockers have been declared, where you can be confident who will die during the round.
8. Glistening Oil
For two black mana, this aura gives any creature infect. The downside is that the unit gets a -1/-1 counter at your upkeep, gradually weakening it, but it's still a powerful boost. Plus, when Oil enters the graveyard from the field, you return it to your hand, ensuring you'll get numerous uses from it.
A handy substitute to Oil, Phyresis offers another two-cost aura that gives infect to any creature, but this time, they won't get -1/-1 counters at your upkeep. That said, you don't get to return Phyresis to your hand when it's sent to the graveyard, but it's still a worthy alternative, especially since it only needs one black mana.
6. Snake Cult Initiation
Yet another black aura, Initiation doesn't technically provide infect, instead giving a creature poisonous three. This means that whenever the creature deals combat damage to a player, they gets three poison counters in addition to the regular damage.
I like how this works towards both regular and poison-based losses, and it blends well with low-cost unblockable cards. Just remember that poisonous three doesn't place -1/-1 counters on blockers like infect does.
5. Triumph of the Hordes
Great for a game-ending combat phase, Triumph of the Horders gives all creatures you control infect, trample, and +1/+1 for the turn. It's as simple as that; three boosts in one that combo well, making it almost impossible for foes to avoid poison counters that round.
4. Corrupted Conscience
This aura has two nasty effects. First, it seizes control of a creature, letting you steal an enemy unit and use it as your own. Then, it grants them infect, making them even deadlier under your command.
Like other creature-stealing auras, your opponent regains control if Conscience leaves the field, but it's still a devastating two-for-one that can really turn the tide of a match.
3. Tainted Strike
This inexpensive instant gives a creature +1/+0 and infect for the turn. While temporary, that's a lot of power for a single-cost spell, especially since you can cast it during combat after blockers (or lack thereof) have already been finalized.
A great way to score some unexpected poison counters, Tainted Strike is a frequent member of my own decks and surprisingly cheap, costing less than a single dollar!
2. Inkmoth Nexus
Compared to most lands, Nexus can only tap for less-useful colorless mana. But it compensates by letting you spend one mana (at any time) to have it become a 1/1 token with flying and infect until the end of the turn.
Against ground-based decks, this lands easy poison counters for little mana. If the timing isn't right, simply use Nexus for mana and wait for an opening.
1. Grafted Exoskeleton
CMC: 4 (2 to equip)
Exoskeleton needs four mana to cast but just two to equip, making it easy to reattach. Its recipient gets +2/+2 and infect, turning anyone into a menacing threat. That said, you have to sacrifice the creature if Exoskeleton becomes unattached, meaning you'll lose your unit if something destroys your equipment.
While not without risk, Exoskeleton provides two tempting benefits in one and suits any faction thanks to its colorless nature. To reduce its downside, try adhering it to low-cost creatures you can afford to lose—just in case.
Poison Counters in Magic
Today's spells offer great ways to enhance any creature with infect, placing you only ten damage away from a win. You can also directly apply poison counters with spells like "Decimator Web" and "Virulent Wound", avoiding the hassle of scoring combat damage.
Infect's always dangerous because of its long-term penalties; blocking an infected creature leads to permanent stat loss, while letting it through puts an opponent dangerously close to losing (especially when foes start proliferating). But for now, as we await future infect spells, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill