This past weekend, I took down a PTQ with an updated Melira list. I still feel the deck is one of the best in Modern, as well as one of the most fun things you can be doing. Every game ends up playing out differently, and you have a bunch of sweet 1-ofs that make you work to extract maximum value.

My deck list:

[deck]Main Deck:
4 Birds of Paradise
3 Deathrite Shaman
2 Viscera Seer
3 Melira, Sylvok Outcast
1 Wall of Roots
1 Cartel Aristocrat
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Spellskite
4 Kitchen Finks
1 Eternal Witness
1 Orzhov Pontiff
2 Murderous Redcap
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Ranger of Eos
1 Reveillark
1 Sigarda, Host of Herons
2 Thoughtseize
4 Birthing Pod
3 Chord of Calling
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Misty Rainforest
3 Forest
1 Swamp
2 Overgrown Tomb
1 Godless Shrine
1 Temple Garden
3 Razorverge Thicket
3 Gavony Township
1 Woodland Cemetary
1 Shriekmaw
3 Lingering Souls
1 Kataki, War's Wage
1 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
1 Aven Mindcensor
1 Harmonic Sliver
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
1 Obstinate Baloth
1 Thoughtseize
2 Abrupt Decay
2 Dismember[/deck]

This list is fairly similar to the list I took to Grand Prix Toronto, so if you’re curious about any individual card choices, check out my tournament report.

What I’m here to do today is tell you about the differences between that list and this one, and give you some insight on how to play and sideboard with this deck.

A few of the one-ofs have changed, mostly due to the rise of UWR and [card]Electrolyze[/card]. The third Deathrite has been added to the main deck over the first [card]Noble Hierarch[/card], for its 2 toughness. I’m willing to accept that Electrolyze is going to be good against my deck full of 1- and 2-toughness creatures, but that doesn’t mean that I’ll just let them 3-for-1 me!

[card]Cartel Aristocrat[/card] has made an appearance as a one-of to tutor for when you need a sacrifice outlet but are short enough mana to [card]Ranger of Eos[/card] and cast the [card]Viscera Seer[/card]. It also is very nice to have a creature that you can be sure is going to be able to block opposing [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card]s. It’s still worse than Seer because scry 1 is actually valuable both as a fringe benefit to them removing your other creatures and when you’re going off with infinite life against decks that can infinitely combo you back.

The other change to the creature base was letting [card]Ethersworn Canonist[/card] go, in favor of [card]Sigarda, Host of Herons[/card]. This was mostly because Storm has fallen off the radar after the banning of [card]Seething Song[/card], but it also illustrates just how good I think Sigarda is.

I previously had [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card] in the five mana “giant creature” slot, but both UWR and Jund have basically no way to deal with Sigarda. It can block all their creatures aside the very largest [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]s and is basically impossible for them to remove with how few Wraths are being played in Modern these days.

Moving [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] to the sideboard in favor of [card]Thoughtseize[/card] is another reaction to the rise of [card]Electrolyze[/card]-based control decks. They often present very few favorable targets for Decay, while Thoughtseize can help you craft a plan and punish them for sitting on counterspells.

Cool Tricks!

There are a lot of sweet tricks that some of these cards enable that might not be intuitive at first glance, so I figured I’d cover the ones that come up more often.

[draft]orzhov pontiff[/draft]

[card]Orzhov Pontiff[/card] is one of the weirder cards they’ve printed, thanks to the quirkiness of haunt. A trick that comes up surprisingly often is sacrificing Pontiff in response to his first -1/-1 trigger, then haunting an opponent’s x/1 creature so that when the first -1/-1 trigger resolves, haunt will trigger and you can give their team an additional -1/-1. This comes up most often against Geist decks where you can hopefully kill a Geist and a Snapcaster in one go. Also, don’t forget that Pontiff can pump your team! There are a lot of games you can win by using Pontiff and a sacrifice outlet to give your guys +2/+2 until end of turn.

phyrexian metamorph[/draft]

There’s also a second combo built into the deck with [card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card] and [card]Reveillark[/card]. With ‘lark in play and a Metamorph copying it, you can sacrifice the Metamorph and have it return itself and another 2-power creature. This means that with [card]Eternal Witness[/card], [card]Murderous Redcap[/card], or [card]Orzhov Pontiff[/card] in the graveyard you can trigger their abilities infinite times, as well as scrying until you find exactly the card you need for next turn. With a [card]Kitchen Finks[/card] in play, you can copy the Finks with the Metamorph half of the time to gain infinite life!

The other Metamorph trick may seem obvious but I’ll mention it anyway—when you’re copying a persist creature with Metamorph, you can have it persist as the opponent's legendary creatures to kill them. This came up twice for me during the PTQ, once where I was able to kill an opponent’s Elesh Norn with my persisting Metamorph, and once when I had a sacrifice outlet and was able to kill an opponent’s [card]Goryo’s Vengeance[/card]’d creature at instant speed by sacrificing the Metamorph.

[draft]chord of calling[/draft]

Another play tip is that it’s often correct to just fire off a [card]Chord of Calling[/card] for x=3 when given a reasonable opportunity. This can get [card]Eternal Witness[/card], which can return the Chord. Typically this sets up a Chord later in the game for [card]Reveillark[/card], which can then return the Witness and let you basically have infinite blockers.

Cards I’m Not Playing

[draft]restoration angel[/draft]

Resto is a great card, and super powerful in the Naya Pod deck, but I’m still not interested. It’s actually a pretty good card to draw naturally in this deck, but there are very few scenarios where you would be willing to actually Pod for it. Metamorph does a great impression if you’re just looking to gain a bunch of life with Finks, and Redcap and [card]Ranger of Eos[/card] tend to be better value and cover almost every other scenario that comes up during actual gameplay.

[draft]master biomancer
phantasmal image[/draft]

I tried out a blue splash when Biomancer first came out, and was unimpressed. It was actually pretty similar to Restoration Angel in that it’s a perfectly fine card to cast from your hand, but you’d be pretty hard pressed to actually ever Pod or Chord for it. Image is much closer to being a card I’m interested in, but I think the cost of adding a 4th color is just too high. [card]Gavony Township[/card] is one of the best cards in the deck in most post-board games, and having to cut even a single one to cast Image is just not worth it.

Sideboarding and Matchup Advice

Sideboarding with this deck is incredibly fluid. You really want to react to what you expect your opponents to do. If you think they have a ton of Pod/Chord hate (mostly in the form of [card]Torpor Orb[/card] and [card]Grafdigger’s Cage[/card]), it’s perfectly fine to board down to very few of these effects and try to kill them with [card]Lingering Souls[/card] beatdown. Against most other fair decks, I tend to board out quite a few combo pieces—typically 2 Melira, a [card]Viscera Seer[/card], and a few [card]Chord of Calling[/card]s. It’s important to realize that in post-board games, people will generally be better able to interact with your combo, so Chording for x=1 or 2 will happen a lot less often, making Chord typically very expensive and a lot less desirable.

Against Jund and UWR, I typically want to set up my deck to grind them out over a long game. Souls is awesome against both decks, and combo'ing is pretty unimportant in games 2 and 3. Metamorph stays in the deck because they both have scary legends in the form of Geist and Olivia. The main difference in sideboarding is the value of removal. Jund has Deathrite and [card]Dark Confidant[/card], which means that your removal in the form of [card]Dismember[/card] [card]and Abrupt[/card] Decay is really valuable. Meanwhile, UWR has very few creatures that removal can answer profitably. Sure, you can Abrupt Decay a [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card], but you’re not winning a lot of games that way.

Against a lot of combo decks, you just become a disruptive aggro deck that can also combo them. You’ll typically want to use your Pods to assemble the correct hate creature and a [card]Spellskite[/card] to protect it. Of the popular combo decks, only Scapeshift really cares if you gain infinite life, so some number of [card]Kitchen Finks[/card] can usually come out. [card]Thoughtseize[/card] obviously shines in these matchups, and it’s often correct to try and cast as many as possible with the help of Eternal Witness. If you’re having trouble with combo matchups, adding more hate creatures and [card]Entomber Exarch[/card] to the sideboard could help.

The Pod mirror is a strange animal. Both decks usually are trying to attack the opponent’s life total while also scrounging to assemble their combo. Often whoever plays the second Pod is favored, because they can go get a creature that destroys the opposing Pod. This is the matchup where Metamorph copying your own Pod is most important, as it can leave you with a Pod intact after the fighting is over. [card]Kitchen Finks[/card] is also somewhat expendable in sideboarding, because infinite life isn’t going to win you the game, although the infinite scrying will be very good.

Melira is a great choice for upcoming PTQs and one of the most fun decks available. My last piece of advice is that when Podding, try to be as conservative as you feel you can afford to be. If you have a [card]Birthing Pod[/card] active, you’re probably winning by a lot so you can afford to play it extra safe. Think of the worst thing they could do to you next turn, and what you can Pod for to help make that as painless as possible. Thanks for reading and feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments!

Sam Pardee
@Smdster on Twitter