A lot of you guys have been asking me what to play in Standard right now. My standard answer-
Yes, this card is THAT good. At 4 mana, this 3/4 flash creatures HAUMPHS Delver of Secrets. It eats Blade Splicer, Geist of Saint Traft, Strangleroot Geist, and trades with Geralf’s Messenger. It makes your opponent embarrassed for holding Mana Leak up. It makes your opponent embarrassed for trying to flip their Huntmaster of the Fells. At 3/4, this sturdy evasive creature can also beat down, and beat down hard. This card does it all.
I haven’t even gotten to the blink ability. This card makes 3/3 Golems and 2/2 Wolves. It lets your Geist of Saint Traft get an extra 4 damage in. It protects you from any kind of targeted removal. This card does all that and a bag of potato chips.
Here is another short list of cards that Restoration Angel is great with- Geralf’s Messenger and Primeval Titan. That’s right. 4x Restoration Angel, the rest is your choice. It could be Delver, it could be Naya, it could be ZOMBIES or RAMP. Play this card!
Naya Aggro with Pod
Today I present to you a tournament tested Woo Brew. However, this Woo Brew is a special kind of Woo Brew. It is not a Travis Woo Brew, but an Elliott Woo Brew. That’s right, this is my brother’s deck. He recently took this deck all the way to the finals of an MTGO PTQ. The next weekend our Seattleite friend Corbett Gray Top 8ed a PTQ with the exact same list. This deck is the deck to play, and I will explain why.
Naya Aggro with Pod, by Manpanzee
If you wanted to play Delver, I wouldn’t be too mad at you. If you have a preference for blue cards, that’s fine, but I happen to have a preference for green cards. This green deck also happens to be good against Delver.
I know, this is not a crazy format breaking combo deck like you might expect from me, but sometimes you don’t need to come out of left field. This deck is powerful, lets you play your game, and is well positioned. Again, it is also not my deck, but I highly, highly endorse it.
This deck is not your average Pod deck. It is a sweet Naya Aggro deck that can work with or without Pod. Pod just happens to be a great Magic card that is great in this already great deck. We don’t need to build around it.
Why Is This Deck So Good?
This deck does powerful things, and it does them fast. It plays great when you are mana light or flooded. It is consistent. You often win games by default with Birds of Paradise into Blade Splicer into Restoration Angel on the play, or something similar.
The deck has good mana and access to the best cards from 3 colors- this also helps out a whole lot for the sideboard. It starts out good and usually gets better.
What Do Typical Starts Look Like with this Deck?
The ideal draw involves a turn 1 accelerator into a turn 2 Blade Splicer into a turn 3 Restoration Angel or Huntmaster of the Fells. From there Birthing Pod or Gavony Township can cement your advantage and take over the game.
If your accelerator dies, or your first land comes into play tapped, you can steal back tempo with your turn 2 plays of Strangleroot Geist and Arc Trail. The same cards that make this deck good when you need to be fast and aggressive make the deck good when you need to defend.
Next, let’s take a look at the build and cards that will be used against us.
I call this deck Naya Aggro with Birthing Pod and not Naya Pod because Birthing Pod is almost secondary to this deck. The deck is fully functional as a Naya Aggro deck, and Birthing Pod is sometimes even sideboarded out. I see some lists with only 2 and some lists with the full 4. I think 3 is the right number because drawing multiples can be clunky and slow, but the card is so powerful and flexible that you really want to draw 1.
We make some deckbuilding concessions in the forms of awkward 1-ofs, but not many. For example, here is a card you will not find us playing with:
We are not playing Inferno Titan. We are not playing any 6-drops at all, actually. A lot of Pod players want to have a 6 to chain up to, and some want a 7 to chain up to also. Pod being active for a few turns is going to give you a huge advantage. Each time you Pod you get value, and you don’t need a big busty 6 for that to happen.
I understand why someone would want to play a 6 or a 7, but you just don’t need it. You really don’t want to draw a card this expensive naturally when you can’t afford to play it, because this deck isn’t designed to be casting 6s.
We are not playing Dismember. Dismember is a great card. It kills a lot of things, and the most important thing it kills is Restoration Angel. However, it doesn’t stack up well against the varied threats of today’s field—Geist of Saint Traft, Geralf’s Messenger, Strangleroot Geist, Blade Splicer, Huntmaster of the Fells, and so on.
Even if it kills something dead, like a Delver of Secrets, the four life you pay is a huge drawback right now. A lot of matchups with this deck are very tempo based. Giving up four life is like giving up your last turn, and each of your turns you are usually doing something more powerful than the last. This is a good card, but it doesn’t have a place in the deck right now.
I see some people playing Kessig Wolf Run and I don’t understand it. Gavony Township is one of the main reasons to play Naya Pod over RUG Pod. I understand the Kessig Wolf Run kills Phantasmal Image, but Gavony Township plays so well with mana guys, Blade Splicers, and Huntmaster of the Fells. Gavony Township gives the deck so much gas on draws that flood out and gives you awesome things to do that aren’t casting a spell (for Huntmaster of the Fells). Playing any less than three Gavony Townships would be not only wrong, but dumb.
We are not playing Bonfire of the Damned. This card has become a staple in most red decks, either in the main or the board. The card is quite good, but inconsistent. We only have room to play a little bit of removal in our deck and the removal we play is dictated by what we are weak to. Let’s consider this card:
Gut Shot is good against us, and with Watanabe’s victory, the standard number has increased from 1 to 3, and I expect Delver decks to play no less until the rotation. All is not lost though. The Delver matchup turns out to be very tempo-oriented from their end. We are decently positioned to play a longer game, but a turn 1 Gut Shot on our Birds of Paradise followed by a Delver of Secrets can put us in a backward sliding position from the first turn. Does Bonfire of the Damned help us get out of it? Maybe if we draw it on the second turn. This is the turn we really want a removal spell though. That’s why we are playing three of this card:
Arc Trail has been mostly forgotten, but the card serves a very important role in this deck. This is the crucial turn 2 play that the deck needs against starts like Gut Shot / Delver. Arc Trail is great at rebuying lost tempo from losing the mana accelerator, where Bonfire is only good later on. Arc Trail is definitely the man for the removal job in this deck.
Arc Trail is also quite good against other decks that play mana dorks. It has the potential to eat at least 1, if not 2 small creatures, which can give a big tempo lead. It is also some much needed reach that can really mess with combat math from the opponent.
We are not playing any Cavern of Souls. Brian Kibler has been working on and writing about a list that plays the full playset, but that comes with all sorts of advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage is a (perceived) improvement of the mana. Most of the creatures in the deck are Humans, and Cavern of Souls makes those easier to cast. Also, Cavern is mostly replacing M12 lands that sometimes come into play tapped, which means that Cavern lets you play an accelerator on turn 1 more.
There are some problems that come with this though. First of all, Cavern doesn’t really help you cast Birds of Paradise, because trusty old BOP isn’t too trusty on living through the first turn right now. If your Birds dies and you have a Cavern of Souls set on Birds, that is a bad thing. We aren’t a birds deck.
Cavern of Souls is also hard to use with a variety of the non-Human mana symbols in the deck. You want to be able to cast your Arc Trail on turn 2 and you want to be able to activate your Gavony Township. Whether Cavern of Souls actually fixes your mana is questionable. It can, but that involves jumping through some hoops.
Playing with Cavern of Souls also means cutting this card:
Strangleroot Geist is important in this deck for a number of reasons. It can help steal some games on the play through pure beatdown, and can help stabilize some slow hands against beatdown from the opponent. The undying ability turns out to be really good. Also, he is important fodder for Birthing Pod. He can provide an undying stream of new Blade Splicers. If you are playing cards like Thalia in his place, podding up the chain might mean the difference between having a 3/2 in play vs. having nothing.
I am all for Cavern of Souls, but not in this build. If you wanted to play it I would play something closer to Martin Juza’s Humans deck that plays Geist-Honered Monk, although I don’t think it’s as good as this Pod list. I think you give up a little too much to play Cavern with Pod.
Let’s talk about playing against Delver of Secrets a little bit.
This matchup is a good reason to play this deck. The matchup is good. They are not well equipped to trade with your Blade Splicers, Strangleroot Geists, and Huntmaster of the Fells, so the games are generally tempo dependant on their side. If they can’t put early pressure on you, it’s going to be very hard for them to win, because each of our cards are so much more impactful than theirs.
Runechanter’s Pike builds are quite a bit better against us, because they actually have some late game oomph that most other builds lack.
Gut Shot is maybe their most important card, and Arc Trail is a good counter to that. Restoration Angel is their best blocker in this matchup. We don’t have Dismember for it, but remember, in such a tempo-oriented matchup, Dismember comes with a hefty price. When attacking into Restoration Angel, Gavony Township is very good.
We can’t block a flying creature with Sword of War and Peace on it, but that is often too slow. We are going to board some more removal options to deal with a plan like this.
Here is a common way to sideboard against this deck, although it’s usually going to be different depending on the player and the build:
A lot of Delver players will board into a more midrangey deck, given the opportunity. This makes it often worth it to hang onto a Plummet for their Consecrated Sphinx if you can, but you don’t have to. Thalia is quite good against them, and is actually probably the biggest incentive to run a Cavern of Souls version (with Thalia instead of Strangleroot Geist).
[card elesh norn, grand cenobite]Elesh Norn[/card] is a card that has declined in popularity, but you will have to play against it at some point, so let’s talk about it.
This card has a massive impact on the board, but barring a Frites player who can cough one of these guys up within the first four or five turns, we are actually pretty well positioned to straight up kill them the turn they play it. How?
The short answer is Zealous Conscripts, but we do need to plan for this card. Gavony Township is really important for growing your Huntmaster of the Fells past Elesh Norn’s ability so that we can pod for Zealous Conscripts and kapow our opponent right out of the game. Restoration Angel is also good for Podding away.
If you find yourself playing against a white control deck, plan for them to play this when they hit their seventh land. If you can’t kill them before it, try to set up a situation where you can kill them with the Conscripts the turn it comes down.
Vs. The Mirror
The main difference between our build and other builds in the mirror match is Arc Trail vs. their Dismember or Bonfire of the Damned. Bonfire of the Damned can be deadly when miracled, but Arc Trail can give us the tempo we need in the early game, and the value we need in the mid-game. Pod and Gavony Township are really important here. Lists that have extra Wolfir Silverhearts will get an advantage from that, but we will be siding more in.
Let’s take a look at the sideboard as a whole-
Celestial Purge is for Zombies and not much else. Zombies is generally pretty dependent on drawing their Geralf’s Messenger (or nowadays Podding into it). Without Geralf’s Messenger it’s kind of hard for them. Celestial Purge answers that card nicely.
Ancient Grudge is a really versatile card. It’s good against the equipment of Delver decks and it’s good against other Pod decks. It kills Pod, Golem tokens, and Swords. The card is a versatile answer to a lot of problem permanents.
Plummet is our way to kill Restoration Angel at value. It also kills Delvers and Consecrated Sphinxes. It is possible that one of the Plummets could be Crushing Vines, but Plummet has the advantage of being an additional turn two play to shut down the Delver Dream draw of Gut Shot / Delver into flipped Delver.
Wolfir Silverheart- This card is great against other creature decks. Also, our current 5-drops are a mix of good Pod targets, and after sideboard you can usually identify a couple of them that are pretty bad. Silverheart is a good way to keep our curve while improving bad 5-drops. It is a huge beating against other green creature decks. This card has a place in Standard for a long time to come.
Zealous Conscripts- when Zealous Conscripts is good game 1, it’s going to be good game 2 also. After sideboard you might find it harder to stick a Pod also, so it’s nice to be able to draw 1 of these naturally.
Sigarda, Host of Herons- Sigarda serves a few roles. It is great against Zombies, as they can’t kill it or Killing Wave it. It is also great against certain control decks that can’t kill it. However, it can’t block either Sword, so it’s usually not a great choice against Delver.
Wurmcoil Engine- Some matchups, like Zombies, you want the life gain. You actually aren’t necessarily Podding into this card all the time. Sometimes you are just going to cast it.
Phyrexian Metamorph- It’s nice to have a Clone in the board. The Clone is really versatile for doubling up on your powerful stuff, copying a Titan, or killing certain legends.
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben- Thalia is a huge boss against Delver and some other decks like Frites. Delver is pretty mana cramped and has a hard time operating against one of these. They even have to pay mana for Gut Shot. This card is the main argument for switching to a Human-heavy Cavern of Souls build, but I think the flexibility that Strangleroot Geist supplies is too important.
Stingerfling Spider- This card is awesome against Delver and Restoration Angel in general. It is a big beefy blocker that can eat a Delver of Secrets when it comes into play. It is often the best 5-drop you can play or Pod into against a Delver deck.
This Deck and the Metagame-
I know a lot of people were hoping for bans and are kind of unhappy about the Delver deck, but I don’t think that deck is too good. We are actually looking at a fairly diverse metagame with excellent game play. Creatures generally don’t trade completely off which means a lot of close race situations that come down to the wire. Those sorts of games are the most fun because they have high tension at the end, and usually result in a relieved winner, and a loser who at least played it out, rather than conceding, because he had a chance to the very end.
This deck fits really well into the metagame. It is quite good against Delver and is well positioned against the other creature decks. It has the potential to win quickly or win in the late game on the back of Birthing Pod and Gavony Township.
For everyone who has been asking me what deck to play, this is the deck to play. If you want some additional insight on it, go see what Brian Kibler has to say, and keep your ears open, because there are some other good players who are on it as well. I know it isn’t a flashy off beat deck like you might expect from me, but you don’t always need a flashy off beat deck to win.
Again, thanks to Elliott Woo, AKA Manpanzee for the decklist. You have him to thank as well. Good luck, let me know how you tune the deck for your local metagame, and let me know how you do in the tournaments!
Much love, Travis