Brewed Up: Hammered Infect (Part 2)

Back in June we stated that Colossus Hammer was the best Modern spell out of Magic 2020. This one drop equipment in conjunction with a one drop creature and a one drop enabler allow you to close the game as early as Turn 2. We have been developing this brew long enough that we feel confident delivering a short sideboard guide and detailed verdict on the deck’s competitive viability. If you are interested in reading about the maindeck build though, look no further than yesterday’s article.

Decklist
Lands (18)
4 City of Brass
4 Gemstone Mine
1 Inspiring Vantage
4 Mana Confluence
1 Plains
2 Razorverge Thicket
2 Seachrome Coast
Creatures (20)
4 Blighted Agent
4 Giver of Runes
4 Glistener Elf
4 Kor Duelist
4 Simian Spirit Guide
Spells (18)
2 Apostle’s Blessing
4 Colossus Hammer
4 Magnetic Theft
4 Serum Visions
4 Sigarda’s Aid
4 Steelshaper’s Gift
Sideboard (15)
2 Abrade
2 Ceremonious Rejection
2 Path to Exile
2 Spell Pierce
2 Spellskite
3 Tormod’s Crypt
2 Veil of Summer
75 Cards Total

The Sideboard
The sideboard is a smattering of some of the best non-black sideboard cards in the format. The rainbow manabase allows you to consistently cast any of these extremely potent sideboard spells consistently. Abrade is great pulling double-duty against artifact decks and creature decks alike. Ceremonious Rejection ensures that troublesome artifacts like Chalice of the Void do not enter play. Path is the best unconditional removal spell in the format and helps us to deal with especially aggressive or disruptive threats. Pierce is arguably Modern’s best counterspell (I will die on that hill). Dispel is neat but too narrow, Negate is good but can be too slow.

Spellskite is probably the best card in the sideboard. It protects your weenies from damage based removal over and over. It is an artifact so it can redirect Disenchant effects away from the Hammer. Finally, in conjunction with Giver of Runes it entirely locks out removal. If they target Skite, you protect it. If they target Giver, you redirect to Skite, and then protect it. I would like to run another copy but I cannot find enough board outs against interactive decks. Veil of Summer has been great as targeted discard and counterspells are a real thorn for this deck. It protects us, the creatures, and in some cases the combo pieces all the while drawing cards; like Skite I wish I could run a third copy. Tormod’s Crypt has mostly felt unnecessary. We only want it against all-in graveyard decks and we are favored against those as is. I intend to test Grafdigger’s Cage over Crypt next as it will help with Neobrand and Devoted Druid decks. Either way, I do not really want the third copy but I have no clue what I would want over it. I do not have additional board outs for the matchups I have tested and the I am very pleased with all of the other cards so far. If you have any ideas let me know in our discussion group.

Boarding Strategy
The greater gestation period has allowed me to heavily refine sideboarding with the deck. When boarding, never touch the combo pieces or the lands. This is an all-in combo so your postboard plans should be dedicated to reinforcing that; not disrupting the opponent unnecessarily. A guide to boarding against the current Top 8 decks is as follows:

Eldrazi Tron
-2 Apostle’s Blessing, -4 Serum Visions
+2 Abrade, +2 Ceremonious Rejection, +2 Spell Pierce

In this matchup, they rely heavily on Chalice of the Void to win. We are boarding in as many answers as they have Chalices so we are well positioned. These also helps us to deal with Walking Ballista. Apostle’s Blessing is out as it protects your threats from artifacts but not colorless; unlike Giver of Runes. In addition to Chalice, they will have some mix of Dismember, Warping Wail, and Spatial Contortion so Spell Pierce is very potent. With these in mind we want to hold up our blue mana for counterspells rather than tapping it down for Serum Visions so it gets cut.

Hogvine
-4 Giver of Runes, -4 Serum Visions
+1 Path to Exile, +2 Spell Pierce, +2 Spellskite, +3 Tormod’s Crypt

This one is awkward because we have so much to board in and cannot board everything out. They have plenty of Disenchant effects for grave hate but those also come at the Hammer so we need Pierce and Skite to defend it. Tormod’s Crypt comes in but I am not sure we need a third copy; the second Path is just as good. It is a good matchup as we outspeed them and can shake off their light interaction. They do not have enough creature removal for us to want Giver and they are too fast for us to spin tire with Serum.

Humans
-2 Apostle’s Blessing, -4 Serum Visions
+2 Abrade, +2 Path to Exile, +2 Spellskite

This matchup is awfully swingy. Meddling Mage on Hammer is a beating so we board in a playset of answers for it. You are looking to end the game before Reflector Mage and Deputy of Detention are relevant so there is no time to be casting Serum Visions. They are aggressive and pack Dismember to disrupt us early though so Spellskite makes an appearance. Apostle’s Blessing is not terrible here but life payments become a bit dangerous and pro-white will not get you past a Kitesail Freebooter. Many Humans players utilize Chalice as well so do not fire off your Abrades for no reason.

Izzet Phoenix
-4 Serum Visions
+2 Spell Pierce, +2 Spellskite

Thank Hogaak that Phoenix players have been running Surgical Extraction over Gut Shot as of late. They can have fast draws so we often do not have time to cast Serum Visions. Spellskite will shake off all of their damage based removal, some even have Lava Dart now, so it earns the board in. Spell Pierce hits the vast majority of their deck so it is an easy board in. They all have Abrades coming in so Pierce and Skite both tackling it is a great place to be postboard.

Jund
-4 Simian Spirit Guide
+2 Spellskite, +2 Veil of Summer

This is a tough one and you should almost never mulligan. It does not matter if your opening hand has the combo, as they will pick it apart anyways. You need to let them do their thing and then piece your win together in the midgame. Simian comes out because the fast win is very difficult to pull off; no need to two-for-one yourself. Spellskite will help you to defend your threats from W6‘s seemingly endless pings. Veil of Summer protects you from targeted discard and your permanents from Push and Trophy. It will be a slog for sure but the matchup is certainly winnable. You could argue for Spell Pierce to come in but I am not sure what you could reasonably board out for it; perhaps Blessing?

Mono-Red Phoenix
-2 Apostle’s Blessing, -4 Serum Visions
+2 Path to Exile, +2 Spell Pierce, +2 Spellskite

This matchup is significantly more difficult than that of the Izzet build. Ping effects are the bane of our deck and this deck is mainboarding six or more of them; they can cast them when tapped out to boot. On top of this they goldfish much faster than the Izzet build so they can run us down after popping our creatures. We do not have time for Serum Visions and Apostle’s Blessings life payment is a liability. The board ins are the same as the Izzet strategy but we bring in Path as well to slow them down. Honestly though I am not certain that this is correct; we are the faster deck after all.

Thopter Sword
-2 Apostle’s Blessing, 4 Giver of Runes
+2 Abrade, +2 Ceremonious Rejection, +2 Spell Pierce

A new force in the format and one we are well positioned against. They are awfully low on targeted removal and their combo is far slower. It may be a bit too ambitious to cut all of the protection spells but it has felt correct. They typically board in discard and board wipes but the protection spells will not help with either. Abrade gives you an out to a resolved Bridge, Rejection answers most of their deck, and Pierce covers even more of it; including the few bits of interaction that they board in.

UW Control
-4 Simian Spirit Guide
+2 Spell Pierce, +2 Veil of Summer

With only a handful of targeted removal spells and a slow gameplan, we are well-suited to overwhelm them. It is tempting to keep Simian in to run them over but you have to prepare for the worst. Just hope that they do not have Force of Negation. Pierce and Veil protect your combo pieces if the game ends up going a little later than you like. Spellskite is a little narrow here but I could see an argument that it is better than Blessing as it can hold a Hammer.

The Verdict
Let’s start with the bad. As for any all-in combo deck, interaction can be rough. We can handle most targeted removal but targeted discard and counterspells (the cheap ones) are frustrating in Game 1. Veil of Summer is a godsend postboard. What we really struggle with are ping effects and in Modern they are at an all-time high. Lava Dart and W6 allow our opponent’s to pop our key threats without committing mana to the stack war. If Giver of Runes, our “free” protection, did not have two toughness we would be in a rough spot; Spellskite helps quite a bit postboard as well.

The end result is that this deck feels like a mix between traditional Infect and Neobrand. Like an Infect deck you use the combat step and are vulnerable to removal. The first question I get about this deck is “why not just play Infect?”. I love Infect but I do wish that the deck had another four copies of Glistener Elf and a set of Elvish Spirit Guide. That is what you get with this deck. The average goldfish is a full turn faster because of Kor Duelist and Simian Spirit Guide. However, we do not have an Inkmoth Nexus to sidestep counterspells and targeted discard. We do not have room for two playsets of protective growth spells. It is similar to Neobrand in that it goes all in on these turbo-speed wins. Having Hammer/Gift + Aid/Theft in your opening hand is identical odds to Neobrand Combo’s Rider/Pact + Neoform/Evolution. The difference is that we need a creature as well and that creature may be removed. Our threats die to damage based removal unlike Neobrands but we can actually try again when they fizzle our combo. Disruption and mulligans obliterate Neobrand. It is effectively a four card combo so they do not get second chances. Our deck reasonably can try again and again.

They killed our creature with the Aid trigger on the stack? That sucks but if we have a creature, we just need another Hammer or Magnetic Theft and the game is over. It is this interplay between the enablers that gives the deck a shot at fighting through interaction. The fact that they all cost a single mana is what grants the deck such tremendous speed. The redundancy and tutoring is what makes it consistent. In my experience, the matchup spread is a more polarized version of Infect. Big mana, slow control, and other combo decks get run over entirely. They are nearly free wins. Aggressive and midrange decks feel absolutely brutal though. You can still pull it out but it is less realistic than it would be with traditional Infect. The end result is a perfectly viable, degenerate combo deck.

Wrap-Up
Even though I split it into two articles, I still managed to balloon Part 2 up over 2,000 words. If you stuck with me through it all I appreciate it. We have really fallen in love with this deck. It is inexpensive, powerful, and brain-dead easy to play. You will encounter some salty opponents but I strongly recommend you give it a shot. Do you have any ideas for that fifteenth sideboard slot? Can you think of anything that we might have overlooked for the maindeck? Please share your ideas with us in our discussion group. Or if you would like to take a swing at writing content for the site you can contact us directly here. We will be back on Monday with another article for you to enjoy. Until then my friends.

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