Before my prerelease experience I reviewed Infiltration Lens. This is just a short follow-up to detail my specific experiences with the card and how playing with it has reinforced or modified my views.
In my review I outlined some general strategies the Lens would be useful in. My sealed pool only contained a smattering of creatures with infect, and I ended up putting together more of a simple aggro deck with a lot of creature removal. I did in fact have an Infiltration Lens in my pool, so I felt it was my duty (and pleasure) to run it in my deck so I could put my theorizing to the test. Over the course of the event there were several games where the Lens came out and had an impact on the game.
The first situation was the basic turn one Infiltration Lens into turn two Glint Hawk. Nothing really surprising nor that interesting. The Darksteel Axe is a much better turn one play in that situation, whereas the Lens adds nothing unless your opponent can block the Hawk on your second turn.
The second situation I found the Lens useful in were the few wars of attrition I was involved in throughout the night. Often both sides had mana Myr out with some ground force, but I had nothing really potent enough to slip through my opponent’s defenses. In one specific example I had a Moriok Rigger on board with a -1/-1 counter on it. It wasn’t much use as a 1/1, so I attached the Lens to it and gave my opponent a choice of one damage when he was already fairly low, or let me draw two from the Lens and potentially two more from the Rigger’s ability should the creature he block with not be important enough to trade with. My opponent blocked with a Plated Strider and I ended up drawing four cards for the cost of one mana and two life. Refilling my hand was definitely worth the cost at that stage of the game.
The third situation I came across was to use it as purchasing insurance on an attack. My opponent and I both had Necrogen Scudder on the battlefield but his was equipped with Darksteel Axe. As my deck was pretty solid on fliers, I was willing to trade my Scudder for his to simply use it as removal as his equipped Scudder could potentially force me into losing my smaller fliers or to take hits of five a turn. However, if I forced through three damage I better off, as my deck was solidly focused on attacking the life total while his was partly concerned with poison. So, I attached the Lens to my Necrogen Scudder as insurance against him blocking, so that should I lose the Scudder it would replace itself. He ended up chosing to block my flier and I ended up getting rid of his only threat in the air while netting two useful cards. In this case the insurance policy payed off well.
Had I been the opponent in the second or third situations, I’m not sure I would have blocked. Card advantage in a limited game, in my opinion, is a big deal with the value of a card drawn increasing with the length of the game. Giving an opponent two cards should be done with care. With that said, if you know their deck and you can eliminate the biggest threat they have, it might be worth it.
While I was initially pretty excited about Infiltration Lens, my enthusiasm has cooled a bit after playing with it. It’s not a broken card. Rather, it’s a role player in the right deck. I feel that looking at it more as an insurance plan feels about right. You’re buying a policy covering your creature dying in combat (direct damage coverage not included) and then sending him into harm’s way. I like it especially in a war of attrition where each player is simply drawing cards and passing the turn until they draw their answers to your threats. Throwing this on a chump will either let you through their defences or draw you into your answers faster. When used with care it will be advantageous.
I really like the design of this card, but unless it’s played in some Trinket Mage slash Scroll Thief deck I don’t see it being a role player in constructed. In limited it can be solid, though it’s not an auto-include by any means. In retrospect of the prerelease, I likely should have sided the Lens out in exchange for more removal in my sealed deck, such as splashing for Shatter or Sylvok Replica and only bringing it in for specific match-ups where the card advantage might make a big difference. I won’t be sorry to see it in a draft or sealed pool, but its situational nature will likely mean it’s sometimes riding the bench.